The narrative of the death and sufferings of Christ is more
particularly and fully recorded by all the four evangelists than any part of his
history; for what should be determine, and desire to know, but Christ, and him
crucified? And this chapter begins that memorable narrative. The year of the
redeemed was now come, the seventy weeks determined were now accomplished, when
transgression must be finished, reconciliation made, and an everlasting
righteousness brought in, by the cutting off of Messiah the Prince, Dan. 9:24,
26. That awful scene is here introduced, to be read with reverence and holy
fear. In this chapter, we have, I. The preliminaries, or prefaces, to Christ's
sufferings. 1. The previous notice given by him to his disciples (v. 1, 2). 2.
The rulers' conspiracy against him (v. 3-5). 3. The anointing of his head at a
supper in Bethany (v. 6-13). 4. Judas's bargain with the priests to betray
him (v. 14-16). 5. Christ eating the passover with his disciples (v. 17-25).
6. His instituting the Lord's supper, and his discourse with his disciples
after it (v. 26-35). II. His entrance upon them, and some of the particulars
of them. 1. His agony in the garden (v. 36-46). 2. The seizing of him by the
officers, with Judas's help (v. 47-56). 3. His arraignment before the chief
priest, and his condemnation in his court (v. 57-68). 4. Peter's denying him
Here is, 1. The notice Christ gave his disciples of the near
approach of his sufferings, v. 1, 2. While his enemies were preparing trouble
for him, he was preparing himself and his followers for it. He had often told
them of his sufferings at a distance, now he speaks of them as at the door; after
two days, Note, After many former notices of trouble we still have need of
fresh ones. Observe,
(1.) The time when he gave this alarm; when he had
finished all these sayings. [1.] Not till he had finished all he had to say.
Note, Christ's witnesses die not till they have finished their testimony. When
Christ had gone through his undertaking as a prophet, he entered upon the
execution of his office as a priest. [2.] After he had finished these sayings,
which go immediately before; he had bid his disciples to expect sad times, bonds
and afflictions, and then tells them, The Son of man is betrayed; to
intimate that they should fare no worse than he should, and that his sufferings
should take the sting out of theirs. Note, Thoughts of a suffering Christ are
great supports to a suffering Christian, suffering with him and for him.
(2.) The thing itself he gave them notice of; The Son of man
is betrayed. The thing was not only so sure, but so near, that it was as
good as done. Note, It is good to make sufferings that are yet to come, as
present to us. He is betrayed, for Judas was then contriving and
designing to betray him.
2. The plot of the chief priests, and scribes, and elders of the
people, against the life of our Lord Jesus, 5:3-5. Many consultations had been
held against the life of Christ but this plot was laid deeper than any yet, for
the grandees were all engaged in it. The chief priests, who presided in
ecclesiastical affairs; the elders, who were judges in civil matters, and the
scribes, who, as doctors of the law, were directors to boththese composed the
sanhedrim, or great council that governed the nation, and these were confederate
against Christ. Observe (1.) The place where they met; in the palace
of the high priest, who was the centre of their unity in this wicked
project. (2.) The plot itself; to take Jesus by subtlety, and kill him;
nothing less than his blood, his life-blood, would serve their turn. So cruel
and bloody have been the designs of Christ's and his church's enemies. (3.)
The policy of the plotters; Not on the feast-day. Why not? Was it in
regard to the holiness of the time, or because they would not be disturbed in
the religious services of the day? No, but lest there should be an uproar
among the people. They knew Christ had a great interest in the common
people, of whom there was a great concourse on the feast-day, and they would be
in danger of taking up arms against their rulers, if they should offer to lay
violent hands on Christ, whom all held for a prophet. They were awed, not by the
fear of God, but by the fear of the people; all their concern was for their own
safety, not God's honour. They would have it done at the feast; for it was a
tradition of the Jews, that malefactors should be put to death at one of the
three feasts, especially rebels and impostors, that all Israel might see and
fear; but not on the feast-day.
In this passage of story, we have,
I. The singular kindness of a good woman to our Lord Jesus in
anointing his head, v. 6, 7. It was in Bethany, a village hard by
Jerusalem, and in the house of Simon the leper. Probably, he was one who
had been miraculously cleansed from his leprosy by our Lord Jesus, and he would
express his gratitude to Christ by entertaining him; nor did Christ disdain to
converse with him, to come in to him, and sup with him. Though he was cleansed,
yet he was called Simon the leper. Those who are guilty of scandalous
sins, will find that, though the sin be pardoned, the reproach will cleave to
them, and will hardly be wiped away. The woman that did this, is supposed to
have been Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. And Dr. Lightfoot thinks it
was the same that was called Mary Magdalene. She had a box of ointment
very precious, which she poured upon the head of Christ as he sat at
meat. This, among us, would be a strange sort of compliment. But it was then
accounted the highest piece of respect; for the smell was very grateful, and the
ointment itself refreshing to the head. David had his head anointed, Ps.
23:5; Lu. 7:46. Now this may be looked upon,
1. As an act of faith in our Lord Jesus, the Christ, the
Messiah, the anointed. To signify that she believed in him as God's anointed,
whom he had set king, she anointed him, and made him her king. They shall appoint
themselves one head, Hos. 1:11. This is kissing the Son.
2. As an act of love and respect to him. Some think that this
was he who loved much at first, and washed Christ's feet with her
tears (Lu. 7:38, 47); and that she had not left her first love, but was now
as affectionate in the devotions of a grown Christian as she was in those of a
young beginner. Note, Where there is true love in the heart to Jesus Christ,
nothing will be thought too good, no, nor good enough, to bestow upon him.
II. The offence which the disciples took at this. They had
indignation (v. 8, 9), were vexed to see this ointment thus spent, which
they thought might have been better bestowed.
1. See how they expressed their offence at it. They said, To
what purpose is this waste? Now this bespeaks,
(1.) Want of tenderness toward this good woman, in interpreting
her over-kindness (suppose it was so) to be wastefulness. Charity teaches us to
put the best construction upon every thing that it will bear, especially upon
the words and actions of those that are zealously affected in doing a good
thing, though we may think them not altogether so discreet in it as they
might be. It is true, there may be over-doing in well-doing; but thence we must
learn to be cautious ourselves, lest we run into extremes, but not to be
censorious of others; because that which we may impute to the want of prudence,
God may accept as an instance of abundant love. We must not say, Those do too
much in religion, that do more than we do, but rather aim to do as much as they.
(2.) Want of respect to their Master. The best we can make of
it, is, that they knew their Master was perfectly dead to all the delights of
sense; he that was so much grieved for the affliction of Joseph, cared
not for being anointed with the chief ointments, Amos 6:6. And therefore
they thought such pleasures ill bestowed upon one who took so little pleasure in
them. But supposing that, it did not become them to call it waste, when
they perceived that he admitted and accepted it as a token of his friend's
love. Note, We must take heed of thinking any thing waste, which is bestowed
upon the Lord Jesus, either by others or by ourselves. We must not think that
time waste, that is spent in the service of Christ, or that money waste, which
is laid out in any work of piety; for, though it seem to be cast upon the
waters, to be thrown down the river, we shall find it again, to
advantage, after many days, Eccl. 11:1.
2. See how they excused their offence at it, and what pretence
they made for it; This ointment might have been sold for much, and given to
the poor. Note, It is no new thing for bad affections to shelter themselves
under specious covers; for people to shift off works of piety under colour of
works of charity.
III. The reproof Christ gave to his disciples for the offence at
this good woman (v. 10, 11); Why trouble ye the woman? Note, It is a
great trouble to good people to have their good works censured and misconstrued;
and it is a thing that Jesus Christ takes very ill. He here took part with a
good, honest, zealous, well-meaning woman, against all his disciples, though
they seemed to have so much reason on their side; so heartily does he espouse
the cause of the offended little ones, ch. 18:10.
Observe his reason; You have the poor always with you.
1. There are some opportunities of doing and getting good which
are constant, and which we must give constant attendance to the improvement of.
Bibles we have always with us, sabbaths always with us, and so the poor, we
have always with us. Note, Those who have a heart to do good, never need
complain for want of opportunity. The poor never ceased even out of the land of
Israel, Deu. 15:11. We cannot but see some in this world, who call for our
charitable assistance, who are as God's receivers, some poor members of
Christ, to whom he will have kindness shown as to himself.
2. There are other opportunities of doing and getting good,
which come but seldom, which are short and uncertain, and require more peculiar
diligence in the improvement of them, and which ought to be preferred before the
other; "Me ye have not always, therefore use me while ye have me."
Note, (1.) Christ's constant bodily presence was not to be expected
here in this world; it was expedient that he should go away; his real
presence in the eucharist is a fond and groundless conceit, and contradicts what
he here said, Me ye have not always. (2.) Sometimes special works of
piety and devotion should take place of common works of charity. The poor must
not rob Christ; we must do good to all, but especially to the household of
IV. Christ's approbation and commendation of the kindness of
this good woman. The more his servants and their services are cavilled at by
men, the more he manifests his acceptance of them. He calls it a good work
(v. 10), and says more in praise of it than could have been imagined;
1. That the meaning of it was mystical (v. 12); She did it
for my burial. (1.) Some think that she intended it so, and that the
woman better understood Christ's frequent predictions of his death and
sufferings than the apostles did; for which they were recompensed with the
honour of being the first witnesses of his resurrection. (2.) However, Christ
interpreted it so; and he is always willing to make the best, to make the most
of his people's well-meant words and actions. This was as it were the
embalming of his body; because the doing of that after his death would be
prevented by his resurrection, it was therefore done before; for it was fit that
it should be done some time, to show that he was still the Messiah, even when he
seemed to be triumphed over by death. The disciples thought the ointment wasted,
which was poured upon his head. "But," saith he, "If so much
ointment were poured upon a dead body, according to the custom of your country,
you would not grudge it, or think it waste. Now this is, in effect, so; the body
she anoints is as good as dead, and her kindness is very seasonable for that
purpose; therefore rather than call it waste, put it upon that score."
2. That the memorial of it should be honourable (v. 13); This
shall be told for a memorial. This act of faith and love was so remarkable,
that the preachers of Christ crucified, and the inspired writers of the history
of his passion, could not choose but take notice of this passage, proclaim the
notice of it, and perpetuate the memorial of it. And being once enrolled in
these records, it was graven as with an iron pen and lead in the rock for
ever, and could not possibly be forgotten. None of all the trumpets of fame
sound so loud and so long as the everlasting gospel. Note, (1.) The story of the
death of Christ, though a tragical one, is gospel, glad-tidings, because he died
for us. (2.) The gospel was to be preached in the whole world; not in Judea
only, but in every nation, to every creature. Let the disciples take notice of
this, for their encouragement, that their sound should go to the ends of the
earth. (3.) Though the honour of Christ is principally designed in the gospel,
yet the honour of his saints and servants is not altogether overlooked. The
memorial of this woman was to be preserved, not by dedicating a church to her,
or keeping an annual feast in honour of her, or preserving a piece of her broken
box for a sacred relic; but by mentioning her faith and piety in the preaching
of the gospel, for example to others, Heb. 6:12. Hereby honour redounds to
Christ himself, who in this world, as well as in that to come, will be glorified
in his saints, and admired in all them that believe.
Immediately after an instance of the greatness kindness done to
Christ, follows an instance of the greatest unkindness; such mixture is there of
good and bad among the followers of Christ; he hath some faithful friends, and
some false and feigned ones. What could be more base than this agreement which
Judas here made with the chief priests, to betray Christ to them?
I. The traitor was Judas Iscariot; he is said to be one of
the twelve, as an aggravation of his villany. When the number of the
disciples was multiplied (Acts 6:1), no marvel if there were some among them
that were a shame and trouble to them; but when there were but twelve, and one
of them was a devil, surely we must never expect any society perfectly
pure on this side heaven. The twelve were Christ's chosen friends, that had
the privilege of his special favour; they were his constant followers, that had
the benefit of his most intimate converse, that upon all accounts had reason to
love him and be true to him; and yet one of them betrayed him. Note, No bonds of
duty or gratitude will hold those that have a devil, Mk. 5:3, 4.
II. Here is the proffer which he made to the chief priests; he went
to them, and said, What will ye give me? v. 15. They did not send for him,
nor make the proposal to him; they could not have thought that one of Christ's
own disciples should be false to him. Note, There are those, even among Christ's
followers, that are worse than any one can imagine them to be, and want nothing
but opportunity to show it.
Observe, 1. What Judas promised; "I will deliver him
unto you; I will let you know where he is, and undertake to bring you to
him, at such a convenient time and place that you may seize him without noise,
or danger of an uproar." In their conspiracy against Christ, this was it
they were at a loss about, v. 4, 5. They durst not meddle with him in public,
and knew not where to find him in private. Here the matter rested, and the
difficulty was insuperable; till Judas came, and offered them his service. Note,
Those that give up themselves to be led by the devil, find him readier than they
imagine to help them at a dead lift, as Judas did the chief priests. Though the
rulers, by their power and interest, could kill him when they had him in their
hands, yet none but a disciple could betray him. Note, The greater profession
men make of religion, and the more they are employed in the study and service of
it, the greater opportunity they have of doing mischief, if their hearts be not
right with God. If Judas had not been an apostle, he could not have been a
traitor; if men had known the way of righteousness, they could not have abused
I will deliver him unto you. He did not offer himself, nor
did they tamper with him, to be a witness against Christ, though they wanted
evidence, v. 59. And if there had been any thing to be alleged against him,
which had but the colour of proof that he was an impostor, Judas was the
likeliest person to have attested it; but this is an evidence of the innocency
of our Lord Jesus, that his own disciple, who knew so well his doctrine and
manner of life, and was false to him, could not charge him with any thing
criminal, though it would have served to justify his treachery.
2. What he asked in consideration of this undertaking; What
will ye give me? This was the only thing that made Judas betray his Master;
he hoped to get money by it: his Master had not given him any provocation,
though he knew from the first that he had a devil; yet, for aught that
appears, he showed the same kindness to him that he did to the rest, and put no
mark of disgrace upon him that might disoblige him; he had placed him in a post
that pleased him, had made him purse-bearer, and though he had embezzled the
common stock (for he is called a thief, Jn. 12:6), yet we do not find he
was in any danger of being called to account for it; nor does it appear that he
had any suspicion that the gospel was a cheat: no, it was not the hatred of his
Master, nor any quarrel with him, but purely the love of money; that, and
nothing else, made Judas a traitor.
What will ye give me? Why, what did he want? Neither bread
to eat, nor raiment to put on; neither necessaries nor conveniences. Was not he
welcome, wherever his Master was? Did he not fare as he fared? Had he not been
but just now nobly entertained at a supper in Bethany, in the house of Simon the
leper, and a little before at another, where no less a person than Martha
herself waited at table? And yet this covetous wretch could not be content, but
comes basely cringing to the priests with, What will ye give me? Note, It
is not the lack of money, but the love of money, that is the root
of all evil, and particularly of apostasy from Christ; witness Demas, 2 Tim.
4:10. Satan tempted our Saviour with this bait, All these things will I give
thee (ch. 4:9); but Judas offered himself to be tempted with it; he asks, What
will ye give me? as if his Master was a commodity that stuck on his hands.
III. Here is the bargain which the chief priests made with him; they
covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver; thirty shekels, which in
our money is about three pounds eight shillings, so some; three pounds fifteen
shillings, so others. It should seem, Judas referred himself to them, and was
willing to take what they were willing to give; he catches at the first offer,
lest the next should be worse. Judas had not been wont to trade high, and
therefore a little money went a great way with him. By the law (Ex. 21:32),
thirty pieces of silver was the price of a slavea goodly price, at which
Christ was valued! Zec. 11:13. No wonder that Zion's sons, though comparable
to fine gold, are esteemed as earthen pitchers, when Zion's King himself was
thus undervalued. They covenanted with him; esteµsan-appenderuntthey
paid it down, so some; gave him his wages in hand, to secure him and to
IV. Here is the industry of Judas, in pursuance of his bargain
(v. 16); he sought opportunity to betray him, his head was still working
to find out how he might do it effectually. Note, 1. It is a very wicked thing
to seek opportunity to sin, and to devise mischief; for it argues the heart
fully set in men to do evil, and a malice prepense. 2. Those that are in,
think they must on, though the matter be ever so bad. After he had made
that wicked bargain, he had time to repent, and to revoke it; but now by his
covenant the devil has one hank more upon him than he had, and tells him that he
must be true to his word, though ever so false to his Master, as Herod must
behead John for his oath's sake.
We have here an account of Christ's keeping the passover.
Being made under the law, he submitted to all the ordinances of it, and to this
among the rest; it was kept in remembrance of Israel's deliverance out of
Egypt, the birth-day of that people; it was a tradition of the Jews, that in the
days of the Messiah they should be redeemed on the very day of their coming out
of Egypt; and it was exactly fulfilled, for Christ died the day after the
passover, in which day they began their march.
I. The time when Christ ate the passover, was the usual time
appointed by God, and observed by the Jews (v. 17); the first day of the
feast of unleavened bread, which that year happened on the fifth day of the
week, which is our Thursday. Some have advanced a suggestion, that our Lord
Jesus celebrated the passover at this time of day sooner than other people did;
but the learned Dr. Whitby has largely disproved it.
II. The place where, was particularly appointed by himself to
the disciples, upon their enquiry (v. 17); they asked, Where wilt thou that
we prepare the passover? Perhaps Judas was one of those that asked this
question (where he would eat the passover,) that he might know the better how to
lay his train; but the rest of the disciples asked it as usual, that they might
do their duty.
1. They took it for granted that their Master would eat the
passover, though he was at this time persecuted by the chief priests, and his
life sought; they knew that he would not be put by his duty, either by
frightenings without or fears within. Those do not follow Christ's example who
make it an excuse for their not attending on the Lord's supper, our gospel
passover, that they have many troubles and many enemies, are full of care and
fear; for, if so, they have the more need of that ordinance, to help to silence
their fears, and comfort them under their troubles, to help them in forgiving
their enemies, and casting all their cares on God.
2. They knew very well that there must be preparation made for
it, and that it was their business, as his servants, to make preparation; Where
wilt thou that we prepare? Note, Before solemn ordinances there must be
3. They knew that he had no house of his own wherein to eat the
passover; in this, as in other things, for our sakes he became poor.
Among all Zion's palaces there was none for Zion's King; but his kingdom was
not of this world. See Jn. 1:11.
4. They would not pitch upon a place without direction from him,
and from him they had direction; he sent them to such a man (v. 18), who
probably was a friend and follower of his, and to his house he invited himself
and his disciples.
(1.) Tell him, My time is at hand; he means the time of
his death, elsewhere called his hour (Jn. 8:20; 13:1); the time, the
hour, fixed in the counsel of God, which his heart was upon, and which he had so
often spoken of. He knew when it was at hand, and was busy accordingly; we know
not our time (Eccl. 9:12), and therefore must never be off our watch; our
time is always ready (Jn. 7:6), and therefore we must be always ready.
Observe, Because his time was at hand, he would keep the passover
Note, The consideration of the near approach of death should quicken us to a
diligent improvement of all our opportunities for our souls. Is our time at
hand, and an eternity just before us? Let us then keep the feast with the
unleavened bread of sincerity. Observe, When our Lord Jesus invited himself
to this good man's house, he sent him this intelligence, that his time was at
hand. Note, Christ's secret is with them that entertain him in their hearts.
Compare Jn. 14:21 with Rev. 3:20.
(2.) Tell him, I will keep the passover at thy house.
This was an instance of his authority, as the Master, which it is likely
this man acknowledged; he did not beg, but command, the use of his house for
this purpose. Thus, when Christ by his Spirit comes into the heart, he demands
admission, as one whose own the heart is and cannot be denied, and he gains
admission as one who has all power in the heart and cannot be resisted; if he
saith, "I will keep a feast in such a soul," he will do it; for he
works, and none can hinder; his people shall be willing, for he makes them so. I
will keep the passover with my disciples. Note, Wherever Christ is welcome,
he expects that his disciples should be welcome too. When we take God for our
God, we take his people for our people.
III. The preparation was made by the disciples (v. 19); They
did as Jesus had appointed. Note, Those who would have Christ's presence
with them in the gospel passover, must strictly observe his instructions, and do
as he directs; They made ready the passover; they got the lamb killed in
the court of the temple, got it roasted, the bitter herbs provided, bread and
wine, the cloth laid, and every thing set in readiness for such a sacred solemn
IV. They ate the passover according to the law (v. 20); He
sat down, in the usual table-gesture, not lying on one side, for it was not
easy to eat, nor possible to drink, in that posture, but sitting upright, though
perhaps sitting low. It is the same word that is used for his posture at other
meals, ch. 9:10; Lu. 7:37; ch. 26:7. It was only the first passover in Egypt, as
most think, that was eaten with their loins girded, shoes on their feet, and
staff in their hand, though all that might be in a sitting posture. His
sitting down, denotes the composedness of his mind, when he addressed himself to
this solemnity; He sat down with the twelve, Judas not excepted. By the
law, they were to take a lamb for a household (Ex. 12:3, 4), which were
to be not less than ten, nor more than twenty; Christ's disciples were his
household. Note, They whom God has charged with families, must have their houses
with them in serving the Lord.
V. We have here Christ's discourse with his disciples at the
passover-supper. The usual subject of discourse at that ordinance, was the
deliverance of Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 12:26, 27); but the great Passover is
now ready to be offered, and the discourse of that swallows up all talk of the
other, (Jer. 16:14, 15). Here is,
1. The general notice Christ gives his disciples of the
treachery that should be among them (v. 21); One of you shall betray me.
Observe, (1.) Christ knew it. We know not what troubles will befal us, nor
whence they will arise: but Christ knew all his, which, as it proves his
omniscience, so it magnifies his love, that he knew all things that should befal
him, and yet did not draw back. He foresaw the treachery and baseness of a
disciple of his own, and yet went on; took care of those that were given him,
though he knew there was a Judas among them; would pay the price of our
redemption, though he foresaw some would deny the Lord that bought them;
and shed his blood, though he knew it would be trodden under foot as an
unholy thing. (2.) When there was occasion, he let those about him know it.
He had often told them that the Son of man should be betrayed; now he tells them
that one of them should do it, that when they saw it, they might not only be the
less surprised, but have their faith in him confirmed, Jn. 13:19; 14:29.
2. The disciples' feelings on this occasion, v. 22. How did
they take it?
(1.) They were exceeding sorrowful. [1.] It troubled them
much to hear that their Master should be betrayed. When Peter was first told of
it, he said, Be it far from thee; and therefore it must needs be a great
trouble to him and the rest of them, to hear that it was very near to
him. [2.] It troubled them more to hear that one of them should do it. It would
be a reproach to the fraternity, for an apostle to prove a traitor, and this
grieved them; gracious souls grieve for the sins of others, especially of those
that have made a more than ordinary profession of religion. 2 Co. 11:29. [3.] It
troubled them most of all, that they were left at uncertainty which of them it
was, and each of them was afraid for himself, lest, as Hazael speaks (2 Ki.
8:13), he was the dog that should do this great thing. Those that
know the strength and subtlety of the tempter, and their own weakness and folly,
cannot but be in pain for themselves, when they hear that the love of many
will wax cold.
(2.) They began every one of them to say, Lord, is it I?
[1.] They were not apt to suspect Judas. Though he was a
thief, yet, it seems, he had carried it so plausibly, that those who were
intimate with him, were not jealous of him: none of them so much as looked upon
him, much less said, Lord, is it Judas? Note, It is possible for a
hypocrite to go through the world, not only undiscovered, but unsuspected; like
bad money so ingeniously counterfeited that nobody questions it.
[2.] They were apt to suspect themselves; Lord, is it I?
Though they were not conscious to themselves of any inclination that way (no
such thought had ever entered into their mind), yet they feared the worst, and
asked Him who knows us better than we know ourselves, Lord, is it I?
Note, It well becomes the disciples of Christ always to be jealous over
themselves with a godly jealousy, especially in trying times. We know not how
strongly we may be tempted, nor how far God may leave us to ourselves, and
therefore have reason, not to be high-minded, but fear. It is observable
that our Lord Jesus, just before he instituted the Lord's supper, put his
disciples upon this trial and suspicion of themselves, to teach us to examine
and judge ourselves, and so to eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
3. Further information given them concerning this matter (v. 23,
24), where Christ tells them, (1.) That the traitor was a familiar friend; He
that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, that is, One of you that are now
with me at the table. He mentions this, to make the treachery appear the more
exceeding sinful. Note, External communion with Christ in holy ordinances is a
great aggravation of our falseness to him. It is base ingratitude to dip with
Christ in the dish, and yet betray him. (2.) That this was according to the
scripture, which would take off the offence at it. Was Christ betrayed by a
disciple? So it was written (Ps. 61:9); He that did eat bread with me, hath
lifted up his heel against me. The more we see of the fulfilling of the
scripture in our troubles, the better we may bear them. (3.) That it would prove
a very dear bargain to the traitor; Woe to that man by whom the Son of man is
betrayed. This he said, not only to awaken the conscience of Judas, and
bring him to repent, and revoke his bargain, but for warning to all others to
take heed of sinning like Judas; though God can serve his own purposes by the
sins of men, that doth not make the sinner's condition the less woeful; It
had been good for that man, if he had not been born. Note, The ruin that
attends those who betray Christ, is so great, that it were more eligible by far
not be at all than to be thus miserable.
4. The conviction of Judas, v. 25. (1.) He asked, Is it I?
to avoid coming under the suspicion of guilt by his silence. He knew very well
that it was he, and yet wished to appear a stranger to such a plot. Note, Many
whose consciences condemn them are very industrious to justify themselves before
men, and put a good face on it, with, Lord, is it I? He could not but
know that Christ knew, and yet trusted so much to his courtesy, because he had
hitherto concealed it, that he had the impudence to challenge him to tell: or,
perhaps, he was so much under the power of infidelity, that he imagined Christ
did not know it, as those who said, The Lord shall not see (Ps. 94:7),
and asked, Can he judge through the dark clouds? (2.) Christ soon
answered this question; Thou hast said, that is, It is as thou hast said.
This is not spoken out so plainly as Nathan's Thou art the man; but it
was enough to convict him, and, if his heart had not been wretchedly hardened,
to have broken the neck of his plot, when he saw it discovered to his Master,
and discovered by him. Note, They who are contriving to betray Christ, will,
some time or other, betray themselves, and their own tongues will fall upon
We have here the institution of the great gospel ordinance of
the Lord's supper, which was received of the Lord. Observe,
I. The time when it was institutedas they were eating.
At the latter end of the passover-supper, before the table was drawn, because,
as a feast upon a sacrifice, it was to come in the room of that ordinance.
Christ is to us the Passover-sacrifice by which atonement is made (1 Co. 5:7); Christ
our Passover is sacrificed for us. This ordinance is to us the passover-supper,
by which application is made, and commemoration celebrated, of a much greater
deliverance than that of Israel out of Egypt. All the legal sacrifices of
propitiation being summed up in the death of Christ, and so abolished, all the
legal feasts of rejoicing were summed up in this sacrament, and so abolished.
II. The institution itself. A sacrament must be instituted; it
is no part of moral worship, nor is it dictated by natural light, but has both
its being and significancy from the institution, from a divine institution; it
is his prerogative who established the covenant, to appoint the seals of it.
Hence the apostle (1 Co. 11:23, etc), in that discourse of his concerning this
ordinance, all along calls Jesus Christ the Lord, because, as Lord,
as Lord of the covenant, Lord of the church, he appointed this ordinance. In
1. The body of Christ is signified and represented by bread; he
had said formerly (Jn. 6:35), I am the bread of life, upon which metaphor
this sacrament is built; as the life of the body is supported by bread, which is
therefore put for all bodily nourishment (ch. 4:4; 6:11), so the life of the
soul is supported and maintained by Christ's mediation.
(1.) He took bread, esteµsanthe
loaf; some loaf that lay ready to hand, fit for the purpose; it was,
probably, unleavened bread; but, that circumstance not being taken notice of, we
are not to bind ourselves to that, as some of the Greek churches do. His taking
the bread was a solemn action, and was, probably, done in such a manner as to be
observed by them that sat with him, that they might expect something more than
ordinary to be done with it. Thus was the Lord Jesus set apart in the counsels
of divine love for the working out of our redemption.
(2.) He blessed it; set it apart for this use by prayer
and thanksgiving. We do not find any set form of words used by him upon this
occasion; but what he said, no doubt, was accommodated to the business in hand,
that new testament which by this ordinance was to be sealed and ratified. This
was like God's blessing the seventh day (Gen. 2:3), by which it was
separated to God's honour, and made to all that duly observe it, a blessed
day: Christ could command the blessing, and we, in his name, are emboldened to
beg the blessing.
(3.) He brake it; which denotes, [1.] The breaking of
Christ's body for us, that it might be fitted for our use; He was bruised
for our iniquities, as bread-corn is bruised (Isa. 28:28); though a
bone of him was not broken (for all his breaking did not weaken him), yet
his flesh was broken with breach upon breach, and his wounds were
multiplied (Job 9:17; 16:14), and that pained him. God complains that he is
broken with the whorish heart of sinners (Eze. 6:9); his law broken, our
covenants with him broken; now justice requires breach for breach (Lev.
24:20), and Christ was broken, to satisfy that demand. [2.] The breaking of
Christ's body to us, as the father of the family breaks the bread to the
children. The breaking of Christ to us, is to facilitate the application; every
thing is made ready for us by the grants of God's word and the operations of
(4.) He gave it to his disciples, as the Master of the
family, and the Master of this feast; it is not said, He gave it to the
apostles, though they were so, and had been often called so before this, but
to the disciples, because all the disciples of Christ have a right to
this ordinance; and those shall have the benefit of it who are his disciples
indeed; yet he gave it to them as he did the multiplied loaves, by them to be
handed to all his other followers.
(5.) He said, Take, eat; this is my body, v. 26. He here
[1.] What they should do with it; "Take, eat; accept
of Christ as he is offered to you, receive the atonement, approve of it, consent
to it, come up to the terms on which the benefit of it is proposed to you;
submit to his grace and to his government." Believing on Christ is
expressed by receiving him (Jn. 1:12), and feeding upon him, Jn.
6:57, 58. Meat looked upon, or the dish ever so well garnished, will not nourish
us; it must be fed upon: so must the doctrine of Christ.
[2.] What they should have with it; This is my body, not outosthis
bread, but toutothis eating
and drinking. Believing carries all the efficacy of Christ's death to our
souls. This is my body, spiritually and sacramentally; this signifies and
represents my body. He employs sacramental language, like that, Ex. 12:11. It
is the Lord's passover. Upon a carnal and muchmistaken sense of these
words, the church of Rome builds the monstrous doctrine of Transubstantiation,
which makes the bread to be changed into the substance of Christ's body, only
the accidents of bread remaining; which affronts Christ, destroys the nature of
a sacrament, and gives the lie to our senses. We partake of the sun, not by
having the bulk and body of the sun put into our hands, but the beams of it
darted down upon us; so we partake of Christ by partaking of his grace, and the
blessed fruits of the breaking of his body.
2. The blood of Christ is signified and represented by the wine;
to make it a complete feast, here is not only bread to strengthen, but wine to make
glad the heart (v. 27, 28); He took the cup, the grace-cup, which was
set ready to be drank, after thanks returned, according to the custom of the
Jews at the passover; this Christ took, and made the sacramental-cup, and so
altered the property. It was intended for a cup of blessing (so the Jews
called it), and therefore St. Paul studiously distinguished between the cup of
blessing which we bless, and that which they bless. He gave
thanks, to teach us, not only in every ordinance, but in every part of the
ordinance, to have our eyes up to God.
This cup he gave to the disciples,
(1.) With a command; Drink ye all of it. Thus he welcomes
his guests to his table, obliges them all to drink of his cup. Why should he so
expressly command them all to drink, and to see that none let it pass them, and
press that more expressly in this than in the other part of the ordinance?
Surely it was because he foresaw how in after-ages this ordinance would be
dismembered by the prohibition of the cup to the laity, with an express non
obstantenotwithstanding to the command.
(2.) With an explication; For this is my blood of the New
Testament. Therefore drink it with appetite, delight, because it is so rich
a cordial. Hitherto the blood of Christ had been represented by the blood of
beasts, real blood: but, after it was actually shed, it was represented by the
blood of grapes, metaphorical blood; so wine is called in an Old-Testament
prophecy of Christ, Gen. 49:10, 11.
Now observe what Christ saith of his blood represented in the
[1.] It is my blood of the New Testament. The Old
Testament was confirmed by the blood of bulls and goats (Heb. 9:19, 20;
Ex. 24:8); but the New Testament with the blood of Christ, which is here
distinguished from that; It is my blood of the New Testament. The
covenant God is pleased to make with us, and all the benefits and privileges of
it, are owing to the merits of Christ's death.
[2.] It is shed; it was not shed till next day, but it
was now upon the point of being shed, it is as good as done. "Before you
come to repeat this ordinance yourselves, it will be shed." He was now
ready to be offered, and his blood to be poured out, as the blood of the
sacrifices which made atonement.
[3.] It is shed for many. Christ came to confirm a
covenant with many (Dan. 9:27), and the intent of his death agreed. The
blood of the Old Testament was shed for a few: it confirmed a covenant, which (saith
Moses) the Lord has made with you, Ex. 24:8. The atonement was made only for
the children of Israel (Lev. 16:34): but Jesus Christ is a propitiation for
the sins of the whole world, 1 Jn. 2:2.
[4.] It is shed for the remission of sins, that is, to
purchase remission of sins for us. The redemption which we have through his
blood, is the remission of sins, Eph. 1:7. The new covenant which is
procured and ratified by the blood of Christ, is a charter of pardon, an act of
indemnity, in order to a reconciliation between God and man; for sin was the
only thing that made the quarrel, and without shedding of blood is no
remission, Heb. 9:22. The pardon of sin is that great blessing which is, in
the Lord's supper, conferred upon all true believers; it is the foundation of
all other blessings, and the spring of everlasting comfort, ch. 9:2, 3. A
farewell is now bidden to the fruit of the vine, v. 29. Christ and his disciples
had now feasted together with a deal of comfort, in both an Old Testament and a
New Testament festival, fibula utriusque Testamentithe connecting tie of
both Testaments. How amiable were these tabernacles! How good to be here!
Never such a heaven upon earth as was at this table; but it was not intended for
a perpetuity; he now told them (Jn. 16:16), that yet a little while and they
should not see him: and again a little while and they should see him, which
explains this here.
First, He takes leave of such communion; I will not drink
henceforth of this fruit of the vine, that is, now that I am no more in the
world (Jn. 17:11); I have had enough of it, and am glad to think of leaving it,
glad to think that this is the last meal. Farewell this fruit of the vine,
this passover-cup, this sacramental wine. Dying saints take their leave of
sacraments, and the other ordinances of communion which they enjoy in this
world, with comfort, for the joy and glory they enter into supersede them all;
when the sun rises, farewell the candles.
Secondly, He assures them of a happy meeting again at last.
It is a long, but not an everlasting, farewell; until that day when I drink
it new with you. 1. Some understand it of the interviews he had with them
after his resurrection, which was the first step of his exaltation into the
kingdom of his Father; and though during those forty days he did not
converse with them so constantly as he had done, yet he did eat and drink
with them (Acts 10:41), which, as it confirmed their faith, so doubtless it
greatly comforted their hearts, for they were overjoyed at it, Lu. 24:41. 2.
Others understand it of the joys and glories of the future state, which the
saints shall partake of in everlasting communion with the Lord Jesus,
represented here by the pleasures of a banquet of wine. That will be the
kingdom of his Father, for unto him shall the kingdom be then delivered up; the
wine of consolation (Jer. 16:7) will there be always new, never flat or
sour, as wine with long keeping; never nauseous or unpleasant, as wine to those
that have drank much; but ever fresh. Christ will himself partake of those
pleasures; it was the joy set before him, which he had in his eye, and
all his faithful friends and followers shall partake with him.
Lastly, Here is the close of the solemnity with a hymn (v.
30); They sang a hymn or psalm; whether the psalms which the Jews usually
sang at the close of the passover-supper, which they called the great hallel,
that is, Ps. 113 and the five that follow it, or whether some new hymn more
closely adapted to the occasion, is uncertain; I rather think the former; had it
been new, John would not have omitted to record it. Note, 1. Singing of psalms
is a gospel-ordinance. Christ's removing the hymn from the close of the
passover to the close of the Lord's supper, plainly intimates that he intended
that ordinance should continue in his church, that, as it had not its birth with
the ceremonial law, so it should not die with it. 2. It is very proper after the
Lord's supper, as an expression of our joy in God through Jesus Christ, and a
thankful acknowledgment of that great love wherewith God has loved us in him. 3.
It is not unseasonable, no, not in times of sorrow and suffering; the disciples
were in sorrow, and Christ was entering upon his sufferings, and yet they could
sing a hymn together. Our spiritual joy should not be interrupted by outward
When this was done, they went out into the mount of Olives.
He would not stay in the house to be apprehended, lest he should bring the
master of the house into trouble; nor would he stay in the city, lest it should
occasion an uproar; but he retired into the adjacent country, the mount of
Olives, the same mount that David in his distress went up the ascent of,
weeping, 2 Sa. 15:30. They had the benefit of moon-light for this walk, for
the passover was always at the full moon. Note, After we have received the Lord's
supper, it is good for us to retire for prayer and meditation, and to be alone
We have here Christ's discourse with his disciples upon the
way, as they were going to the mount of Olives. Observe,
I. A prediction of the trial which both he and his disciples
were now to go through. He here foretels,
1. A dismal scattering storm just arising, v. 31.
(1.) That they should all be offended because of Christ that
very night; that is, they would all be so frightened with the sufferings,
that they would not have the courage to cleave to him in them, but would all
basely desert him; Because of me this night, en
emoi en teµ nykti tauteµbecause of me, even because of this
night; so it might be read; that is, because of what happens to me this
night. Note, [1.] Offences will come among the disciples of Christ in an hour of
trial and temptation; it cannot be but they should, for they are weak; Satan is
busy; God permits offences; even they whose hearts are upright may sometimes be
overtaken with an offence. [2.] There are some temptations and offences, the
effects of which are general and universal among Christ's disciples; All
you shall be offended. Christ had lately discovered to them the treachery of
Judas; but let not the rest be secure; though there will be but one traitor,
they will be all deserters. This he saith, to alarm them all, that they might
all watch. [3.] We have need to prepare for sudden trials, which may come to
extremity in a very little time. Christ and his disciples had eaten their supper
well together in peace and quietness; yet that very night proved such a night of
offence. How soon may a storm arise! We know not what a day, or a night, may
bring forth, nor what great event may be in the teeming womb of a little time,
Prov. 27:1. [4.] The cross of Christ is the great stumbling-block to many that
pass for his disciples; both the cross he bore for us (1 Co. 1:23), and that
which we are called out to bear for him, ch. 16:24.
(2.) That herein the scripture would be fulfilled; I will
smite the Shepherd. It is quoted from Zec. 13:7. [1.] Here is the smiting of
the Shepherd in the sufferings of Christ. God awakens the sword of his wrath
against the Son of his love, and he is smitten. [2.] The scattering of the
sheep, thereupon, in the flight of the disciples. When Christ fell into the
hands of his enemies, his disciples ran, one one way and another another; it was
each one's care to shift for himself, and happy he that could get furthest
from the cross.
2. He gives them the prospect of a comfortable gathering
together again after this storm (v. 32); "After I am risen again, I will
go before you. Though you will forsake me, I will not forsake you; though
you fall, I will take care you shall not fall finally: we shall have a meeting
again in Galilee, I will go before you, as the shepherd before the sheep."
Some make the last words of that prophecy (Zec. 13:7), a promise equivalent to
this here; and I will bring my hand again to the little ones. There is no
bringing them back but by bringing his hand to them. Note, The captain of our
salvation knows how to rally his troops, when, through their cowardice, they
have been put into disorder.
II. The presumption of Peter, that he should keep his integrity,
whatever happened (v. 33); Though all men be offended, yet will I never be
offended. Peter had a great stock of confidence, and was upon all occasions
forward to speak, especially to speak for himself; sometimes it did him a
kindness, but at other times it betrayed him, as it did here. Where observe,
1. How he bound himself with a promise, that he would never be
offended in Christ; not only not this night, but at no time. If this promise had
been made in a humble dependence upon the grace of Christ, it had been an
excellent word. Before the Lord's supper, Christ's discourse led his
disciples to examine themselves with, Lord, is it I? For that is
our preparatory duty; after the ordinance, his discourse leads them to an engaging
of themselves to close walking, for that is the subsequent duty.
2. How he fancied himself better armed against temptation than
any one else, and this was his weakness and folly; Though all men shall be
offended yet will not I. This was worse than Hazael's, What! is thy
servant a dog? For he supposed the thing to be so bad, that no man would do
it. But Peter supposes it possible that some, nay that all, might
be offended, and yet he escape better than any. Note, It argues a great degree
of self-conceit and self-confidence, to think ourselves either safe from the
temptations, or free from the corruptions, that are common to men. We should
rather say, If it be possible that others may be offended, there is danger that
I may be so. But it is common for those who think too well of themselves, easily
to admit suspicions of others. See Gal. 6:1.
III. The particular warning Christ gave Peter of what he would
do, v. 34. He imagined that in the hour of temptation he should come off better
than any of them, and Christ tells him that he should come off worse. The
warning is introduced with a solemn asseveration; "Verily, I say unto
thee; take my word for it, who know thee better than thou knowest thyself."
He tells him,
1. That he should deny him. Peter promised that he would not be
so much as offended in him, not desert him; but Christ tells him that he will go
further, he will disown him. He said, "Though all men, yet not I;" and
he did it sooner than any.
2. How quickly he should do it; this night, before
to-morrow, nay, before cock-crowing. Satan's temptations are compared
to darts (Eph. 6:16), which wound ere we are aware; suddenly doth he
shoot. As we know not how near we may be to trouble, so we know not how near
we may be to sin; if God leave us to ourselves, we are always in danger.
3. How often he should do it; thrice. He thought that he
should never once do such a thing; but Christ tells him that he would do it
again and again; for, when once our feet begin to slip, it is hard to recover
our standing again. The beginnings of sin are as the letting forth of water.
IV. Peter's repeated assurances of his fidelity (v. 35); Though
I should die with thee. He supposed the temptation strong, when he said, Though
all men do it, yet will not I. But here he supposeth it stronger, when he
puts it to the peril of life; Though I should die with thee. He knew what
he should dorather die with Christ than deny him, it was the condition
of discipleship (Lu. 14:26); and he thought what he would donever be
false to his Master whatever it cost him; yet, it proved, he was. It is easy to
talk boldly and carelessly of death at a distance; "I will rather die than
do such a thing:" but it is not so soon done as said, when it comes to the
setting-to, and death shows itself in its own colours.
What Peter said the rest subscribed to; likewise also said
all the disciples. Note, 1. There is a proneness in good men to be
over-confident of their own strength and stability. We are ready to think
ourselves able to grapple with the strongest temptations, to go through the
hardest and most hazardous services, and to bear the greatest afflictions for
Christ; but it is because we do not know ourselves. 2. Those often fall soonest
and foulest that are most confident of themselves. Those are least safe that are
most secure. Satan is most active to seduce such; they are most off their guard,
and God leaves them to themselves, to humble them. See 1 Co. 10:12.
Hitherto, we have seen the preparatives for Christ's
sufferings; now, we enter upon the bloody scene. In these verses we have the
story of his agony in the garden. This was the beginning of sorrows to our Lord
Jesus. Now the sword of the Lord began to awake against the man that
was his Fellow; and how should it be quiet when the Lord had given it a charge?
The clouds had been gathering a good while, and looked black. He had said, some
days before, Now is my soul troubled, Jn. 12:27. But now the storm began
in good earnest. He put himself into this agony, before his enemies gave him any
trouble, to show that he was a Freewill offering; that his life was not forced
from him, but he laid it down of himself. Jn. 10:18. Observe,
I. The place where he underwent this mighty agony; it was in
a place called Gethsemane. The name signifies, torculus oleian
olive-mill, a press for olives, like a wine-press, where they trod the
olives, Mic. 6:15. And this was the proper place for such a thing, at the
foot of the mount of Olives. There our Lord Jesus began his passion; there it
pleased the Lord to bruise him, and crush him, that fresh oil might flow to all
believers from him, that we might partake of the root and fatness of that good
Olive. There he trod the wine-press of his Father's wrath, and trod it
II. The company he had with him, when he was in this agony.
1. He took all the twelve disciples with him to the garden,
except Judas, who was at this time otherwise employed. Though it was late in the
night, near bed-time, yet they kept with him, and took this walk by moonlight
with him, as Elisha, who, when he was told that his master should shortly be
taken from his head, declared that he would not leave him, though he led
him about; so these follow the Lamb, wheresoever he goes.
2. He took only Peter, and James, and John, with him into that
corner of the garden where he suffered his agony. He left the rest at some
distance, perhaps at the garden door, with this charge, Sit ye here, while I
go and pray yonder; like that of Abraham to his young men (Gen.
22:5), Abide ye here, and I will go yonder and worship. (1.) Christ went
to pray alone, though he had lately prayed with his disciples, Jn. 17:1. Note,
Our prayers with our families must not excuse us from our secret devotions. (2.)
He ordered them to sit here. Note, We must take heed of giving any disturbance
or interruption to those who retire for secret communion with God. He took these
three with him, because they had been the witnesses of his glory in his
transfiguration (ch. 17:1, 2), and that would prepare them to be the witnesses
of his agony. Note, Those are best prepared to suffer with Christ, that have by
faith beheld his glory, and have conversed with the glorified saints upon the
holy mount. If we suffer with Christ, we shall reign with him; and if we
hope to reign with him, why should we not expect to suffer with him?
III. The agony itself that he was in; He began to be
sorrowful, and very heavy. It is called an agony (Lu. 22:44), a conflict. It
was not any bodily pain or torment that he was in, nothing occurred to hurt him;
but, whatever it was, it was from within; he troubled himself, Jn. 11:33. The
words here used are very emphatical; he began en
emoi en teµ nykti tauteµto be sorrowful, and in a
consternation. The latter word signifies such a sorrow as makes a man
neither fit for company nor desirous of it. He had like a weight of lead upon
his spirits. Physicians use a word near akin to it, to signify the disorder a
man is in in a fit of an ague, or beginning of a fever. Now was fulfilled, Ps.
22:14, I am poured out like water, my heart is like wax, it is melted;
and all those passages in the Psalms where David complains of the sorrows of his
soul, Ps. 18:4, 5; 42:7; 55:4, 5; 69:1-3; 88:3; 116:3, and Jonah's complaint,
ch. 2:4, 5.
But what was the cause of all this? What was it that put him
into his agony? Why art thou cast down, blessed Jesus, and why
disquieted? Certainly, it was nothing of despair or distrust of his Father,
much less any conflict or struggle with him. As the Father loved him because he
laid down his life for the sheep, so he was entirely subject to his Father's
will in it. But,
1. He engaged in an encounter with the powers of darkness; so he
intimates (Lu. 22:53); This is your hour, and the power of darkness: and
he spoke of it just before (Jn. 14:30, 31); "The prince of this world
cometh. I see him rallying his forces, and preparing for a general assault;
but he has nothing in me, no garrisons in his interest, none that
secretly hold correspondence with him; and therefore his attempts, though
fierce, will be fruitless: but as the Father gave me commandment, so I do;
however it be, I must have a struggle with him, the field must be fairly fought;
and therefore arise, let us go hence, let us hasten to the field of
battle, and meet the enemy." Now is the close engagement in single combat
between Michael and the dragon, hand to hand; now is the judgment of this
world; the great cause is now to be determined, and the decisive battle
fought, in which the prince of this world, will certainly be beaten and cast
out, Jn. 12:31. Christ, when he works salvation, is described like a
champion taking the field, Isa. 59:16-18. Now the serpent makes his fiercest
onset on the seed of the woman, and directs his sting, the sting of death, to
his very heart; animamque in vulnere ponitand the wound is mortal.
2. He was now bearing the iniquities which the Father
laid upon him, and, by his sorrow and amazement, he accommodated himself to his
undertaking. The sufferings he was entering upon were for our sins; they were
all made to meet upon him, and he knew it. As we are obliged to be sorry for our
particular sins, so was he grieved for the sins of us all. So Bishop Pearson, p.
191. Now, in the valley of Jehoshaphat, where Christ now was, God gathered
all nations, and pleaded with them in his Son, Joel 3:2, 12. He knew
the malignity of the sins that were laid upon him, how provoking to God, how
ruining to man; and these being all set in order before him, and charged upon
him, he was sorrowful and very heavy. Now it was that iniquities took
hold on him; so that he was not able to look up, as was foretold
concerning him, Ps. 40:7, 12.
3. He had a full and clear prospect of all the sufferings that
were before him. He foresaw the treachery of Judas, the unkindness of Peter, the
malice of the Jews, and their base ingratitude. He knew that he should now in a
few hours be scourged, spit upon, crowned with thorns, nailed to the cross;
death in its most dreadful appearances, death in pomp, attended with all its
terrors, looked him in the face; and this made him sorrowful, especially because
it was the wages of our sin, which he had undertaken to satisfy for. It is true,
the martyrs that have suffered for Christ, have entertained the greatest
torments, and the most terrible deaths, without any such sorrow and
consternation; have called their prisons their delectable orchards, and a bed of
flames a bed of roses: but then, (1.) Christ was now denied the supports and
comforts which they had; that is, he denied them to himself, and his soul
refused to be comforted, not in passion, but in justice to his undertaking.
Their cheerfulness under the cross was owing to the divine favour, which, for
the present, was suspended from the Lord Jesus. (2.) His sufferings were of
another nature from theirs. St. Paul, when he is to be offered upon the
sacrifice and service of the saints' faith, can joy and rejoice with them
all; but to be offered a sacrifice, to make atonement for sin, is quite a
different case. On the saints' cross there is a blessing pronounced, which
enables them to rejoice under it (ch. 5:10, 12); but to Christ's cross there
was a curse annexed, which made him sorrowful and very heavy under it. And his
sorrow under the cross was the foundation of their joy under it.
IV. His complaint of this agony. Finding himself under the
arrest of his passion, he goes to his disciples (v. 38), and,
1. He acquaints them with his condition; My soul is
exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death. It gives some little ease to a
troubled spirit, to have a friend ready to unbosom itself to, and give vent to
its sorrows. Christ here tells them, (1.) What was the seat of his sorrow; it
was his soul that was now in an agony. This proves that Christ had a true human
soul; for he suffered, not only in his body, but in his soul. We had sinned both
against our own bodies, and against our souls; both had been used in sin, and
both had been wronged by it; and therefore Christ suffered in soul as well as in
body. (2.) What was the degree of his sorrow. He was exceedingly sorrowful,
perilyposcompassed about with
sorrow on all hands. It was sorrow in the highest degree, even unto death;
it was a killing sorrow, such sorrow as no mortal man could bear and live. He
was ready to die for grief; they were sorrows of death. (3.) The duration of it;
it will continue even unto death. "My soul will be sorrowful as long as it
is in this body; I see no outlet but death." He now began to be
sorrowful, and never ceased to be so till he said, It is finished; that
grief is now finished, which began in the garden. It was prophesied of Christ,
that he should be a Man of sorrows (Is. 53:3); he was so all along, we
never read that he laughed; but all his sorrows hitherto were nothing to this.
2. He bespeaks their company and attendance; Tarry ye here,
and watch with me. Surely he was destitute indeed of help, when he entreated
theirs, who, he knew, would be but miserable comforters; but he would hereby
teach us the benefit of the communion of saints. It is good to have, and
therefore good to seek, the assistance of our brethren, when at any time we are
in an agony; for two are better than one. What he said to them, he saith
to all, Watch, Mk. 13:37. Not only watch for him, in expectation of his
future coming, but watch with him, in application to our present work.
V. What passed between him and his Father when he was in this
agony; Being in an agony, he prayed. Prayer is never out of season, but
it is especially seasonable in an agony.
Observe, 1. The place where he prayed; He went a little
further, withdrew from them, that the scripture might be fulfilled, I
have trod the wine-press alone; he retired for prayer; a troubled soul finds
most ease when it is alone with God, who understands the broken language of
sighs and groans. Calvin's devout remark upon this is worth transcribing, Utile
est seorsim orare, tunc enim magis familiariter sese denudat fidelis animus, et
simplicius sua vota, gemitus, curas, pavores, spes, et gaudia in Dei sinum
exoneratIt is useful to pray apart; for then the faithful soul develops
itself more familiarly, and with greater simplicity pours forth its petitions,
groans, cares, fears, hopes and joys, into the bosom of God. Christ has
hereby taught us that secret prayer must be made secretly. Yet some think that
even the disciples whom he left at the garden door, overheard him; for it is
said (Heb. 5:7), they were strong cries.
2. His posture in prayer; He fell on his face; his lying
prostrate denotes, (1.) The agony he was in, and the extremity of his sorrow.
Job, in great grief, fell on the ground; and great anguish is expressed
by rolling in the dust, Mic. 1:10. (2.) His humility in prayer. This
posture was an expression of his, eulabeiahis
reverential fear (spoken of Heb. 5:7), with which he offered up these
prayers: and it was in the days of his flesh, in his estate of
humiliation, to which hereby he accommodated himself.
3. The prayer itself; wherein we may observe three things.
(1.) The title he gives to God; O my Father. Thick as the
cloud was, he could see God as a Father through it. Note, In all our addresses
to God we should eye him as a Father, as our Father; and it is in a special
manner comfortable to do so, when we are in an agony. It is a pleasing string to
harp upon at such a time, My Father; whither should the child go, when
any thing grieves him, but to his father?
(2.) The favour he begs; If it be possible, let this cup pass
from me. He calls his sufferings a cup; not a river, not a sea, but a
cup, which we shall soon see the bottom of. When we are under troubles, we
should make the best, the least, of them, and not aggravate them. His sufferings
might be called a cup, because allotted him, as at feasts a cup was set
to every mess. He begs that this cup might pass from him, that is, that
he might avoid the sufferings now at hand; or, at least, that they might be
shortened. This intimates no more than that he was really and truly Man, and as
a Man he could not but be averse to pain and suffering. This is the first and
simple act of man's willto start back from that which is sensibly grievous
to us, and to desire the prevention and removal of it. The law of
self-preservation is impressed upon the innocent nature of man, and rules there
till overruled by some other law; therefore Christ admitted and expressed a
reluctance to suffer, to show that he was taken from among men (Heb.
5:1), was touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Heb. 4:15), and tempted
as we are; yet without sin. Note, A prayer of faith against an affliction,
may very well consist with the patience of hope under affliction. When David had
said, I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it; his very
next words were, Remove thy stroke away from me, Ps. 39:9, 10. But
observe the proviso; If it be possible. If God may be glorified, man
saved, and the ends of his undertaking answered, without his drinking of this
bitter cup, he desires to be excused; otherwise not. What we cannot do with the
securing of our great end, we must reckon to be in effect impossible; Christ did
so. Id possumus quod jure possumusWe can do that which we can do lawfully.
We can do nothing, not only we may do nothing, against the truth.
(3.) His entire submission to, and acquiescence in, the will of
God; Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. Not that the human
will of Christ was adverse or averse to the divine will; it was only, in its
first act, diverse from it; to which, in the second act of the will, which
compares and chooses, he freely submits himself. Note, [1.] Our Lord Jesus,
though he had a quick sense of the extreme bitterness of the sufferings he was
to undergo, yet was freely willing to submit to them for our redemption and
salvation, and offered himself, and gave himself, for us. [2.] The reason
of Christ's submission to his sufferings, was, his Father's will; as thou
wilt, v. 39. He grounds his own willingness upon the Father's will, and
resolves the matter wholly into that; therefore he did what he did, and
did it with delight, because it was the will of God, Ps. 40:8. This he had often
referred to, as that which put him upon, and carried him through, his whole
undertaking; This is the Father's will, Jn. 6:39, 40. This he sought (Jn.
5:30); it was his meat and drink to do it, Jn. 4:34. [3.] In conformity
to this example of Christ, we must drink of the bitter cup which God puts into
our hands, be it ever so bitter; though nature struggle, grace must submit. We
then are disposed as Christ was, when our wills are in every thing melted into
the will of God, though ever so displeasing to flesh and blood; The will of
the Lord be done, Acts 21:14.
4. The repetition of the prayer; He went away again the
second time, and prayed (v. 42), and again the third time (v. 44), and all
to the same purport; only, as it is related here, he did not, in the second and
third prayer, expressly ask that the cup might pass from him, as he had done in
the first. Note, Though we may pray to God to prevent and remove an affliction,
yet our chief errand, and that which we should most insist upon, must be, that
he will give us grace to bear it well. It should be more our care to get our
troubles sanctified, and our hearts satisfied under them, than to get them taken
away. He prayed, saying, Thy will be done. Note, Prayer is the offering
up, not only of our desires, but of our resignations, to God. It amounts to an
acceptable prayer, when at any time we are in distress, to refer ourselves to
God, and to commit our way and work to him; Thy will be done. The third
time he said the same words, eulabeiathe
same word, that is the same matter or argument; he spoke to the same
purport. We have reason to think that this was not all he said, for it should
seem by v. 40 that he continued an hour in his agony and prayer; but,
whatever more he said, it was to this effect, deprecating his approaching
sufferings, and yet resigning himself to God's will in them, in the
expressions of which we may be sure he was not straitened.
But what answer had he to this prayer? Certainly it was not made
in vain; he that heard him always, did not deny him now. It is
true, the cup did not pass from him, for he withdrew that petition, and did not
insist upon it (if he had, for aught I know, the cup had passed away); but he
had an answer to his prayer; for, (1.) He was strengthened with strength in
his soul, in the day when he cried (Ps. 138:3); and that was a real answer,
Lu. 22:43. (2.) He was delivered from that which he feared, which was, lest by
impatience and distrust he should offend his Father, and so disable himself to
go on with his undertaking, Heb. 5:7. In answer to his prayer, God provided that
he should not fail or be discouraged.
VI. What passed between him and his three disciples at this
time; and here we may observe,
1. The fault they were guilty of; that when he was in his agony,
sorrowful and heavy, sweating and wrestling and praying, they were so little
concerned, that they could not keep awake; he comes, and finds them asleep,
v. 40. The strangeness of the thing should have roused their spirits to turn
aside now, and see this great sightthe bush burning, and yet not consumed;
much more should their love to their Master, and their care concerning him, have
obliged them to a more close and vigilant attendance on him; yet they were so
dull, that they could not keep their eyes open. What had become of us, if Christ
had been now as sleepy as his disciples were? It is well for us that our
salvation is in the hand of one who neither slumbers nor sleeps. Christ
engaged them to watch with him, as if he expected some succour from them, and
yet they slept; surely it was the unkindest thing that could be. When David wept
at this mount of Olives, all his followers wept with him (2 Sa. 15:30); but when
the Son of David was here in tears, his followers were asleep. His enemies, who
watched for him, were wakeful enough (Mk. 14:43); but his disciples, who should
have watched with him, were asleep. Lord, what is man! What are the best of men,
when God leaves them to themselves! Note, Carelessness and carnal security,
especially when Christ is in his agony, are great faults in any, but especially
in those who profess to be nearest in relation to him. The church of Christ,
which is his body, is often in an agony, fightings without and fears within; and
shall we be asleep then, like Gallio, that cared for none of these things;
or those (Amos 6:6) that lay at ease, and were not grieved for the affliction
2. Christ's favour to them, notwithstanding. Persons in sorrow
are too apt to be cross and peevish with those about them, and to lay it
grievously to heart, if they but seem to neglect them; but Christ in his agony
is as meek as ever, and carries it as patiently toward his followers as toward
his Father, and is not apt to take things ill.
When Christ's disciples put this slight upon him,
(1.) He came to them, as if he expected to receive some
comfort from them; and if they had put him in mind of what they had heard from
him concerning his resurrection and glory perhaps it might have been some help
to him; but, instead of that, they added grief to his sorrow; and yet he came to
them, more careful for them than they were for themselves; when he was most
engaged, yet he came to look after them; for those that were given him, were
upon his heart, living and dying.
(2.) He gave them a gentle reproof, for as many as he loves he
rebukes; he directed it to Peter, who used to speak for them; let him now
hear for them. The reproof was very melting; What! could ye not watch
with me one hour? He speaks as one amazed to see them so stupid; every word,
when closely considered, shows the aggravated nature of the case. Consider, [1.]
Who they were; "Could not ye watchye, my disciples and
followers? No wonder if others neglect me, if the earth sit still, and be at
rest (Zec. 1:11); but from you I expected better things." [2.] Who he
was; "Watch with me. If one of yourselves were ill and in an agony,
it would be very unkind not to watch with him; but it is undutiful not to watch
with your Master, who has long watched over you for good, has led you, and fed
you, and taught you, borne you, and borne with you; do ye thus requite him?"
He awoke out of his sleep, to help them when they were in distress (ch. 8:26);
and could not they keep awake, at least to show their good-will to him,
especially considering that he was now suffering for them, in an agony for
them? Jam tua res agitureI am suffering in your cause. [3.] How small a
thing it was that he expected from themonly to watch with him. If he
had bid them do some great thing, had bid them be in an agony with him, or die
with him, they thought they could have done it; and yet they could not do it,
when he only desired them to watch with him, 2 Ki. 5:13. [4.] How short a
time it was that he expected itbut one hour; they were not set upon
the guard whole nights, as the prophet was (Isa. 21:8), only one hour.
Sometimes he continued all night in prayer to God, but did not then
expect that his disciples should watch with him; only now, when he had but one
hour to spend in prayer.
(3.) He gave them good counsel; Watch and pray, that ye enter
not into temptation, v. 41. [1.] There was an hour of temptation drawing on,
and very near; the troubles of Christ were temptations to his followers to
disbelieve and distrust him, to deny and desert him, and renounce all relation
to him. [2.] There was danger of their entering into the temptation, as into a
snare or trap; of their entering into a parley with it, or a good opinion of it,
of their being influenced by it, and inclining to comply with it; which is the
first step toward being overcome by it. [3.] He therefore exhorts them to watch
and pray; Watch with me, and pray with me. While they were sleeping, they
lost the benefit of joining in Christ's prayer. "Watch yourselves,
and pray yourselves. Watch and pray against this present temptation to
drowsiness and security; pray that you may watch; beg of God by
his grace to keep you awake, now that there is occasion." When we are
drowsy in the worship of God, we should pray, as a good Christian once did,
"The Lord deliver me from this sleepy devil!" Lord, quicken thou me
in thy way, Or, "Watch and pray against the further temptation you may
be assaulted with; watch and pray lest this sin prove the inlet of many
more." Note, When we find ourselves entering into temptation, we have need
to watch and pray.
(4.) He kindly excused for them; The spirit indeed is
willing, but the flesh is weak. We do not read of one word they had to say
for themselves (the sense of their own weakness stopped their mouth); but then
he had a tender word to say on their behalf, for it is his office to be an
Advocate; in this he sets us an example of the love which covers a multitude
of sins. He considered their frame, and did not chide them, for he
remembered that they were but flesh; and the flesh is weak, though the spirit
be willing, Ps. 78:38, 39. Note, [1.] Christ's disciples, as long as they
are here in this world, have bodies as well as souls, and a principle of
remaining corruption as well as of reigning grace, like Jacob and Esau in the
same womb, Canaanites and Israelites in the same land, Gal. 5:17,
24. [2.] It is the unhappiness and burthen of Christ's disciples, that their
bodies cannot keep pace with their souls in works of piety and devotion, but are
many a time a cloud and clog to them; that, when the spirit is free and disposed
to that which is good, the flesh is averse and indisposed. This St. Paul laments
(Rom. 7:25); With my mind I serve the law of God, but with my flesh the law
of sin. Our impotency in the service of God is the great iniquity and
infidelity of our nature, and it arises from these sad remainders of corruption,
which are the constant grief and burthen of God's people. [3.] Yet it is our
comfort, that our Master graciously considers this, and accepts the willingness
of the spirit, and pities and pardons the weakness and infirmity of the flesh;
for we are under grace, and not under the law.
(5.) Though they continued dull and sleepy, he did not any
further rebuke them for it; for, though we daily offend, yet he will not always
chide. [1.] When he came to them the second time, we do not find that he said
any thing to them (v. 43); he findeth them asleep again. One would have
thought that he had said enough to them to keep them awake; but it is hard to
recover from a spirit of slumber. Carnal security, when once it prevails, is not
easily shaken off. Their eyes were heavy, which intimates that they
strove against it as much as they could, but were overcome by it, like the
spouse; I sleep, but my heart waketh (Cant. 5:2); and therefore their
Master looked upon them with compassion. [2.] When he came the third time, he
left them to be alarmed with the approaching danger (v. 45, 46); Sleep on
now, and take your rest. This is spoken ironically; "Now sleep if you
can, sleep if you dare; I would not disturb you if Judas and his band of men
would not." See here how Christ deals with those that suffer themselves to
be overcome by security, and will not be awakened out of it. First,
Sometimes he gives them up to the power of it; Sleep on now. He that will
sleep, let him sleep still. The curse of spiritual slumber is the just
punishment of the sin of it, Rom. 11:8; Hos. 4:17. Secondly, Many times
he sends some startling judgment, to awaken those that would not be wrought upon
by the word; and those who will not be alarmed by reasons and arguments, had
better be alarmed by swords and spears than left to perish in their security.
Let those that would not believe, be made to feel.
As to the disciples here, 1. Their Master gave them notice of
the near approach of his enemies, who, it is likely, were now within sight or
hearing, for they came with candles and torches, and, it is likely, made a great
noise; The Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. And again, He
is at hand that doth betray me. Note, Christ's sufferings were no surprise
to him; he knew what, and when, he was to suffer. By this time the extremity of
his agony was pretty well over, or, at least, diverted; while with an undaunted
courage he addresses himself to the next encounter, as a champion to the combat.
2. He called them to rise, and be going: not, "Rise, and let us flee from
the danger;" but, "Rise, and let us go meet it;" before he had
prayed, he feared his sufferings, but now he had got over his fears. But, 3. He
intimates to them their folly, in sleeping away the time which they should have
spent in preparation; now the event found them unready, and was a terror to
We are here told how the blessed Jesus was seized, and taken
into custody; this followed immediately upon his agony, while he yet spake;
for from the beginning to the close of his passion he had not the least
intermission or breathing-time, but deep called unto deep. His trouble
hitherto was raised within himself; but now the scene is changed, now the
Philistines are upon thee, thou blessed Samson; the Breath of our nostrils,
the Anointed of the Lord is taken in their pits, Lam. 4:20.
Now concerning the apprehension of the Lord Jesus, observe,
I. Who the persons were, that were employed in it. 1. Here was Judas,
one of the twelve, at the head of this infamous guard: he was guide to
them that took Jesus (Acts 1:16); without his help they could not have found
him in this retirement. Behold, and wonder; the first that appears with his
enemies, is one of his own disciples, who an hour or two ago was eating bread
with him! 2. Here was with him a great multitude; that the scripture
might be fulfilled, Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! Ps.
3:1. This multitude was made up partly of a detachment out of the guards, that
were posted in the tower of Antonia by the Roman governor; these were Gentiles, sinners,
as Christ calls them, v. 45. The rest were the servants and officers of the High
Priest, and they were Jews; they that were at variance with each other, agreed
II. How they were armed for this enterprise.
1. What weapons they were armed with; They came with swords
and staves. The Roman soldiers, no doubt, had swords; the servants of the
priests, those of them that had not swords, brought staves or clubs. Furor
arma ministratTheir rage supplied their arms. They were not regular
troops, but a tumultuous rabble. But wherefore is this ado? If they had been ten
times as many, they could not have taken him had he not yielded; and, his hour
being come for him to give up himself, all this force was needless. When a
butcher goes into the field to take out a lamb for the slaughter, does he raise
the militia, and come armed? No, he needs not; yet is there all this force used
to seize the Lamb of God.
2. What warrant they were armed with; They came from the
chief priests, and elders of the people; this armed multitude was sent by
them upon this errand. He was taken up by a warrant from the great sanhedrim, as
a person obnoxious to them. Pilate, the Roman governor, gave them no warrant to
search for him, he had no jealousy of him; but they were men who pretended to
religion, and presided in the affairs of the church, that were active in this
prosecution, and were the most spiteful enemies Christ had. It was a sign that
he was supported by a divine power, for by all earthly powers he was not only
deserted, but opposed; Pilate upbraided him with it; Thine own nation and the
chief priests delivered thee to me, Jn. 18:35.
III. The manner how it was done, and what passed at that time.
1. How Judas betrayed him; he did his business effectually, and
his resolution in this wickedness may shame us who fail in that which is good.
(1.) The instructions he gave to the soldiers (v. 48); He
gave them a sign; as commander of the party in this action, he gives the
word or signal. He gave them a sign, lest by mistake they should seize
one of the disciples instead of him, the disciples having so lately said, in
Judas's hearing, that they would be willing to die for him. What abundance of
caution was here, not to miss himThat same is he; and when they had
him in their hands, not to lose himHold him fast; for he had sometimes
escaped from those who thought to secure him; as Lu. 6:30. Though the Jews, who
frequented the temple, could not but know him, yet the Roman soldiers perhaps
had never seen him, and the sign was to direct them; and Judas by his kiss
intended not only to distinguish him, but to detain him, while they came behind
him, and laid hands on him.
(2.) The dissembling compliment he gave his Master. He came
close up to Jesus; surely now, if ever, his wicked heart will relent; surely
when he comes to look him in the face, he will either be awed by its majesty, or
charmed by its beauty. Dares he to come into his very sight and presence, to
betray him? Peter denied Christ, but when the Lord turned and looked upon
him, he relented presently; but Judas comes up to his Master's face, and
betrays him. Me mihi (perfide) prodis? me mihi prodis?Perfidious man,
betrayest thou me to thyself? He said, Hail, Master; and kissed him.
It should seem, our Lord Jesus had been wont to admit his disciples to such a
degree of familiarity with him, as to give them his cheek to kiss after they had
been any while absent, which Judas villainously used to facilitate this treason.
A kiss is a token of allegiance and friendship, Ps. 2:12. But Judas, when he
broke all the laws of love and duty, profaned this sacred sign to serve his
purpose. Note, There are many that betray Christ with a kiss, and Hail,
Master; who, under pretence of doing him honour, betray and undermine the
interests of his kingdom. Mel in ore, fel in cordeHoney in the mouth, gall
in the heart. Kataphilein ouk esti philein.
To embrace is one thing, to love is another. Philo Judaeus. Joab's kiss
and Judas's were much alike.
(3.) The entertainment his Master gave him, v. 50.
[1.] He calls him friend. If he had called him villain,
and traitor, raca, thou fool, and child of the devil, he had not miscalled
him; but he would teach us under the greatest provocation to forbear bitterness
and evil-speaking, and to show all meekness. Friend, for a friend he had
been, and should have been, and seemed to be. Thus he upbraids him, as Abraham,
when he called the rich man in hell, son. He calls him friend,
because he furthered his sufferings, and so befriended him; whereas, he
called Peter Satan for attempting to hinder them.
[2.] He asks him, "Wherefore art thou come? Is it
peace, Judas? Explain thyself; if thou come as an enemy, what means this kiss?
If as a friend, what mean these swords and staves? Wherefore art thou come?
What harm have I done thee? Wherein have I wearied thee? ephÕ
hoµ pareiWherefore art thou present? Why hadst thou not so
much shame left thee, as to keep out of sight, which thou mightest have done,
and yet have given the officer notice where I was?" This was an instance of
great impudence, for him to be so forward and barefaced in this wicked
transaction. But it is usual for apostates from religion to be the most bitter
enemies to it; witness Julian. Thus Judas did his part.
2. How the officers and soldiers secured him; Then came they,
and laid hands on Jesus, and took him; they made him their prisoner. How
were they not afraid to stretch forth their hands against the Lord's Anointed?
We may well imagine what rude and cruel hands they were, which this barbarous
multitude laid on Christ; and how, it is probable, they handled him the more
roughly for their being so often disappointed when they sought to lay hands on
him. They could not have taken him, if he had not surrendered himself, and been delivered
by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, Acts 2:23. He who said
concerning his anointed servants, Touch them not, and do them no harm
(Ps. 105:14, 15), spared not his anointed Son, but delivered him up for us
all; and again, gave his strength into captivity, his glory into the
enemies' hands, Ps. 78:61. See what was the complaint of Job (ch. 16:11), God
hath delivered me to the ungodly, and apply that and other passages in that
book of Job as a type of Christ.
Our Lord Jesus was made a prisoner, because he would in all
things be treated as a malefactor, punished for our crime, and as a surety under
arrest for our debt. The yoke of our transgressions was bound by the Father's
hand upon the neck of the Lord Jesus, Lam. 1:14. He became a prisoner, that he
might set us at liberty; for he said, If ye seek me, let these go their way
(Jn. 18:8); and those are free indeed, whom he makes so.
3. How Peter fought for Christ, and was checked for his pains.
It is here only said to be one of them that were with Jesus in the garden;
but Jn. 18:10, we are told that it was Peter who signalized himself upon this
(1.) Peter's rashness (v. 51); He drew his sword. They
had but two swords among them all (Lu. 22:38), and one of them, it seems, fell
to Peter's share; and now he thought it was time to draw it, and he laid about
him as if he would have done some great matter; but all the execution he did was
the cutting off an ear from a servant of the High Priest; designing, it is
likely, to cleave him down the head, because he saw him more forward than the
rest in laying hands on Christ, he missed his blow. But if he would be striking,
in my mind he should rather have aimed at Judas, and have marked him for a
rogue. Peter had talked much of what he would do for his Master, he would lay
down his life for him; yea, that he would; and now he would be as good as
his word, and venture his life to rescue his Master: and thus far was
commendable, that he had a great zeal for Christ, and his honour and
safety; but it was not according to knowledge, nor guided by discretion;
for [1.] He did it without warrant; some of the disciples asked indeed, Shall
we smite with the sword? (Lu. 22:49) But Peter struck before they had an
answer. We must see not only our cause good, but our call clear, before we draw
the sword; we must show by what authority we do it, and who gave us that
authority. [2.] He indiscreetly exposed himself and his fellow-disciples to the
rage of the multitude; for what could they with two swords do against a band of
(2.) The rebuke which our Lord Jesus gave him (v. 52); Put up
again thy sword into its place. He does not command the officers and
soldiers to put up their swords that were drawn against him, he left them to the
judgment of God, who judges them that are without; but he commands Peter to put
up his sword, does not chide him indeed for what he had done, because done out
of good will, but stops the progress of his arms, and provides that it should
not be drawn into a precedent. Christ's errand into the world was to make
peace. Note, The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but spiritual;
and Christ's ministers, though they are his soldiers, do not war after the
flesh, 2 Co. 10:3, 4. Not that the law of Christ overthrows either the law
of nature of the law of nations, as far as those warrant subjects to stand up in
defence of their civil rights and liberties, and their religion, when it is
incorporated with them; but it provides for the preservation of public peace and
order, by forbidding private persons, qua talesas such, to resist the
powers that are; nay, we have a general precept that we resist not evil (ch.
5:39), nor will Christ have his ministers propagate his religion by force of
arms, Religio cogi non potest; et defendenda non occidendo, sed moriendoReligion
cannot be forced; and it should be defended, not by killing, but by dying.
Lactantii Institut. As Christ forbade his disciples the sword of justice (ch.
20:25, 26), so here the sword of war. Christ bade Peter put up his sword, and
never bade him draw it again; yet that which Peter is here blamed for is his
doing it unseasonably; the hour was come for Christ to suffer and die, he knew
Peter knew it, the sword of the Lord was drawn against him (Zec. 13:7),
and for Peter to draw his sword for him, was like, Master, spare thyself.
Three reasons Christ give to Peter for this rebuke:
[1.] His drawing the sword would be dangerous to himself and to
his fellow-disciples; They that take the sword, shall perish with the sword;
they that use violence, fall by violence; and men hasten and increase their own
troubles by blustering bloody methods of self-defence. They that take the sword
before it is given them, that use it without warrant or call, expose themselves
to the sword of war, or public justice. Had it not been for the special care and
providence of the Lord Jesus, Peter and the rest of them had, for aught I know,
been cut in pieces immediately. Grotius gives another, and a probable sense of
this blow, making those that take the sword to be, not Peter, but the officers
and soldiers that come with swords to take Christ; They shall perish
with the sword. "Peter, thou needest not draw they sword to punish
them. God will certainly, shortly, and severely, reckon with them." They
took the Roman sword to seize Christ with, and by the Roman sword, not long
after, they and their place and nation were destroyed. Therefore we must
not avenge ourselves, because God will repay (Rom. 12:19); and
therefore we must suffer with faith and patience, because persecutors will be
paid in their own coin. See Rev. 13:10.
[2.] It was needless for him to draw his sword in defence of his
Master, how, if he pleased, could summon into his service all the hosts of
heaven (v. 53); "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and
he shall send from heaven effectual succours? Peter, if I would put by these
sufferings, I could easily do it without thy hand or thy sword." Note, God
has no need of us, of our services, much less of our sins, to bring about his
purposes; and it argues our distrust and disbelief of the power of Christ, when
we go out of the way of our duty to serve his interests. God can do his work
without us; if we look into the heavens, and see how he is attended there, we
may easily infer, that, though we be righteous, he is not beholden to us,
Job 35:5, 7. Though Christ was crucified through weakness, it was a voluntary
weakness; he submitted to death, not because he could not, but because he would
not contend with it. This takes off the offence of the cross, and proves Christ
crucified the power of God; even now in the depth of his sufferings he could
call in the aid of legions of angels. Now, artiyet;
"Though the business is so far gone, I could yet with a word speaking turn
the scale." Christ here lets us know,
First, What a great interest he had in his Father; I can
pray to my Father, and he will send me help from the sanctuary. I can parakalesaidemand
of my Father these succours. Christ prayer as one having authority.
Note, It is a great comfort to God's people, when they are surrounded with
enemies on all hands, that they have a way open heavenward; if they can do
nothing else, they can pray to him that can do every thing. And they who are
much in prayer at other times, have most comfort in praying when troublesome
times come. Observe, Christ saith, not only that God could send him such a
number of angels, but that, if he insisted upon it, he would do it. Though he
had undertaken the work of our redemption, yet, if he had desired to be
released, it should seem by this that the Father would not have held him to it.
He might yet have gone out free from the service, but he loved it, and would
not; so that it was only with the cords of his own love that he was bound to the
Secondly, What a great interest he had in the heavenly
hosts; He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels,
amounting to above seventy-two thousand. Observe here, 1. There is an innumerable
company of angels, Heb. 12:2. A detachment of more than twelve legions might
be spared for our service, and yet there would be no miss of them about the
throne. See Dan. 7:10. They are marshalled in exact order, like the
well-disciplined legions; not a confused multitude, but regular troops; all know
their post, and observe the word of command. 2. This innumerable company of
angels are all at the disposal of our heavenly Father, and do his pleasure, Ps.
103:20, 21. 3. These angelic hosts were ready to come in to the assistance of
our Lord Jesus in his sufferings, if he had needed or desired it. See Heb. 1:6,
14. They would have been to him as they were to Elisha, chariots of fire, and
horses of fire, not only to secure him, but to consume those that set upon
him. 4. Our heavenly Father is to be eyed and acknowledged in all the services
of the heavenly hosts; He shall give them me: therefore angels are not to
be prayed to, but the Lord of the angels, Ps. 91:11. 5. It is matter of comfort
to all that wish well to the kingdom of Christ, that there is a world of angels
always at the service of the Lord Jesus, that can do wonders. He that has the
armies of heaven at his beck, can do what he pleases among the inhabitants of
the earth; He shall presently give them me. See how ready his Father
was to hear his prayer, and how ready the angels were to observe his orders;
they are willing servants, winged messengers, they fly swiftly. This is
very encouraging to those that have the honour of Christ, and the welfare of his
church, much at heart. Think they that they have more care and concern for
Christ and his church, than God and the holy angels have?
[3.] It was no time to make any defence at all, or to offer to
put by the stroke; For how then shall the scripture be fulfilled, that thus
it must be? v. 54. It was written, that Christ should be led as a lamb to
the slaughter, Isa. 53:7. Should he summon the angels to his assistance, he
would not be led to the slaughter at all; should he permit his disciples to
fight, he would not be led as a lamb quietly and without resistance; therefore
he and his disciples must yield to the accomplishment of the predictions. Note,
In all difficult cases, the word of God must be conclusive against our own
counsels, and nothing must be done, nothing attempted, against the fulfilling of
the scripture. If the easing of our pains, the breaking of our bonds, the saving
of our lives, will not consist with the fulfilling of the scripture, we ought to
say, "Let God's word and will take place, let his law be magnified and
made honourable, whatever becomes of us." Thus Christ checked Peter, when
he set up for his champion, and captain of his life-guard.
4. We are next told how Christ argued the case with them that
came to take him (v. 55); though he did not resist them, yet he did reason with
them. Note, It will consist with Christian patience under our sufferings, calmly
to expostulate with our enemies and persecutors, as David with Saul, 1 Sa.
24:14; 26:18. Are ye come out, (1.) With rage and enmity, as against a
thief, as if I were an enemy to the public safety, and deservedly suffered
this? Thieves draw upon themselves the common odium; every one will lend a hand
to stop a thief: and thus they fell upon Christ as the offscouring of all
things. If he had been the plague of his country, he could not have been
prosecuted with more heat and violence. (2.) With all this power and force, as
against the worst of thieves, that dare the law, bid defiance to public justice,
and add rebellion to their sin? You are come out as against a thief, with swords
and staves, as if there were danger of resistance; whereas ye have killed the
just One, and he doth not resist you, Jam. 5:6. If he had not been willing
to suffer, it was folly to come with swords and staves, for they could not
conquer him; had he been minded to resist, he would have esteemed their iron
as straw, and their swords and staves would have been as briars before a
consuming fire; but, being willing to suffer, it was folly to come thus armed,
for he would not contend with them.
He further expostulates with them, by reminding them how he had
behaved himself hitherto toward them, and they toward him. [1.] Of his public
appearance; I sat daily with you in the temple teaching. And, [2.] Of
their public connivance; Ye laid no hold on me. How comes then this
change? They were very unreasonable, in treating him as they did. First,
He had given them no occasion to look upon him as a thief, for he had taught in
the temple. And such were the matter, and such the manner of his teaching, that
he was manifested in the consciences of all that heard him, not to be a bad man.
Such gracious words as came from his mouth, were not the words of a thief, nor
of one that had a devil. Secondly, Nor had he given them occasion to look
upon him as one that absconded, or fled from justice, that they should come in
the night to seize him; if they had any thing to say to him, they might find him
every day in the temple, ready to answer all challenges, all charges, and there
they might do as they pleased with him; for the chief priests had the custody of
the temple, and the command of the guards about it; but to come upon him thus
clandestinely, in the place of his retirement, was base and cowardly. Thus the
greatest hero may be villainously assassinated in a corner, by one that in open
field would tremble to look him in the face.
But all this was done (so it follows, v. 56) that the
scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. It is hard to say, whether
these are the words of the sacred historian, as a comment upon this story, and a
direction to the Christian reader to compare it with the scriptures of the Old
Testament, which pointed at it; or, whether they are the words of Christ
himself, as a reason why, though he could not but resent this base treatment, he
yet submitted to it, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled, to
which he had just now referred himself, v. 54. Note, The scripture are in the
fulfilling every day; and all those scriptures which speak of the Messiah, had
their full accomplishment in our Lord Jesus.
5. How he was, in the midst of this distress, shamefully
deserted by his disciples; They all forsook him, and fled, v. 56.
(1.) This was their sin; and it was a great sin for them who had
left all to follow him, now to leave him for they knew not what. There was
unkindness in it, considering the relation they stood in to him, the favours
they had received from him, and the melancholy circumstances he was now in.
There was unfaithfulness in it, for they had solemnly promised to adhere to him,
and never to forsake him. He had indented for their safe conduct (Jn. 18:8); yet
they could not rely upon that, but shifted for themselves by an inglorious
flight. What folly was this, for fear of death to flee from him whom they
themselves knew and had acknowledged to be the Fountain of life? Jn.
6:67, 68. Lord, what is man!
(2.) It was a part of Christ's suffering, it added affliction
to his bonds, to be thus deserted, as it did to Job (ch. 19:13), He hath put
my brethren far from me; and to David (Ps. 38:11), Lovers and friends
stand aloof from my sore. They should have staid with him, to minister to
him, to countenance him, and, if need were, to be witnesses for him at his
trial; but they treacherously deserted him, as, at St. Paul's first answer,
no man stood with him. But there was a mystery in this. [1.] Christ, as a
sacrifice for sins, stood thus abandoned. The deer that by the keeper's arrow
is marked out to be hunted and run down, is immediately deserted by the whole
herd. In this he was made a curse for us, being left as one separated to evil.
[2.] Christ, as the Saviour of souls, stood thus alone; as he needed not, so he
had not the assistance of any other in working out our salvation; he bore all,
and did all himself. He trod the wine-press alone, and when there was none
to uphold, then his own arm wrought salvation, Isa. 63:3, 5. So the
Lord alone did lead his Israel, and they stand still, and only see this
great salvation, Deu. 32:12.
We have here the arraignment of our Lord Jesus in the
ecclesiastical court, before the great sanhedrim. Observe,
I. The sitting of the court; the scribes and the elders were
assembled, though it was in the dead time of the night, when other people were
fast asleep in their beds; yet, to gratify their malice against Christ, they
denied themselves that natural rest, and sat up all night, to be ready to fall
upon the prey which Judas and his men, they hoped, would seize.
See, 1. Who they were, that were assembled; the scribes,
the principal teachers, and elders, the principal rulers, of the Jewish
church: these were the most bitter enemies to Christ our great teacher and
ruler, on whom therefore they had a jealous eye, as one that eclipsed them;
perhaps some of these scribes and elders were not so malicious at Christ as some
others of them were; yet, in concurrence with the rest, they made themselves
guilty. Now the scripture was fulfilled (Ps. 22:16); The assembly of the
wicked have enclosed me. Jeremiah complains of an assembly of treacherous
men; and David of his enemies gathering themselves together against him,
2. Where they were assembled; in the palace of Caiaphas the
High Priest; there they assembled two days before, to lay the plot (v. 3),
and there they now convened again, to prosecute it. The High Priest was Ab-beth-dinthe
father of the house of judgment, but he is now the patron of wickedness; his
house should have been the sanctuary of oppressed innocency, but it is become
the throne of iniquity; and no wonder, when even God's house of prayer was
made a den of thieves.
II. The setting of the prisoner to the bar; they that had laid
hold on Jesus, led him away, hurried him, no doubt, with violence, led him
as a trophy of their victory, led him as a victim to the altar; he was brought
into Jerusalem through that which was called the sheep-gate, for that was
the way into town from the mount of Olives; and it was so called because the
sheep appointed for sacrifice were brought that way to the temple; very fitly
therefore is Christ led that way, who is the Lamb of God, that takes away the
sin of the world. Christ was led first to the High Priest, for by the law all
sacrifices were to be first presented to the priest, and delivered into his
hand, Lev. 17:5.
III. The cowardice and faint-heartedness of Peter (v. 58); But
Peter followed afar off. This comes in here, with an eye to the following
story of his denying him. He forsook him as the rest did, when he was seized,
and what is here said of his following him is easily reconcilable with his
forsaking him; such following was no better than forsaking him; for,
1. He followed him, but it was afar off. Some sparks of
love and concern for his Master there were in his breast, and therefore he
followed him; but fear and concern for his own safety prevailed, and therefore
he followed afar off. Note, It looks ill, and bodes worse, when those that are
willing to be Christ's disciples, are not willing to be known to be so. Here
began Peter's denying him; for to follow him afar off, is by little and little
to go back from him. There is danger in drawing back, nay, in looking back.
2. He followed him, but he went in, and sat with the
servants. He should have gone up to the court, and attended on his Master,
and appeared for him; but he went in where there was a good fire, and sat with
the servants, not to silence their reproaches, but to screen himself. It was
presumption in Peter thus to thrust himself into temptation; he that does so,
throws himself out of God's protection. Christ had told Peter that he could
not follow him now, and had particularly warned him of his danger this night;
and yet he would venture into the midst of this wicked crew. It helped David to
walk in his integrity, that he hated the congregation of evil doers, and
would not sit with the wicked.
3. He followed him, but it was only to see the end, led
more by his curiosity than by his conscience; he attended as an idle spectator
rather than as a disciple, a person concerned. He should have gone in, to do
Christ some service, or to get some wisdom and grace to himself, by observing
Christ's behaviour under his sufferings: but he went in, only to look about
him; it is not unlikely that Peter went in, expecting that Christ would have
made his escape miraculously out of the hands of his persecutors; that, having
so lately struck them down, who came to seize him, he would now have struck them
dead, who sat to judge him; and this he had a mind to see: if so, it was folly
for him to think of seeing any other end than what Christ had foretol
IV. The trial of our Lord Jesus in this court.
1. They examined witnesses against him, though they were
resolved, right or wrong, to condemn him; yet, to put the better colour upon it,
they would produce evidence against him. The crimes properly cognizable in their
court, were, false doctrine and blasphemy; these they endeavoured to prove upon
him. And observe here,
(1.) Their search for proof; They sought false witness
against him; they had seized him, bound him, abused him, and after all have
to seek for something to lay to his charge, and can show no cause for his
commitment. They tried if any of them could allege seemingly from their own
knowledge any thing against him; and suggested one calumny and then another,
which, if true, might touch his life. Thus evil men dig up mischief, Prov.
16:27. Here they trod in the steps of their predecessors, who devised devices
against Jeremiah, Jer. 18:18; 20:10. They made p[proclamation, that, if any
one could give information against the prisoner at the bar, they were ready to
receive it, and presently many bore false witness against him (v. 60); for is a
ruler hearken to lies, all his servants are wicked, and will carry false
stories to him, Prov. 29:12. This is an evil often seen under the sun, Eccl.
10:5. If Naboth must be taken off, there are sons of Belial to swear against
(2.) Their success in this search; in several attempts they were
baffled, they sought false testimonies among themselves, others came in to help
them, and yet they found none; they could make nothing of it, could not take the
evidence together, or give it any colour of truth or consistency with itself,
no, not they themselves being judges. The matters alleged were such palpable
lies, as carried their own confutation along with them. This redounded much to
the honour of Christ now, when they were loading him with disgrace.
But at last they met with two witnesses, who, it seems, agreed in
their evidence, and therefore were hearkened to, in hopes that now the point was
gained. The words they swore against him, were, that he should say, I am able
to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days, v. 61. Now by
this they designed to accuse him, [1.] As an enemy to the temple, and one that
sought for the destruction of it, which they could not bear to hear of; for they
valued themselves by the temple of the Lord (Jer. 7:4), and, when they
abandoned other idols, made a perfect idol of that. Stephen was accused for speaking
against this holy place, Acts 6:13, 14. [2.] As one that dealt in
witchcraft, or some such unlawful arts, by the help of which he could rear such
a building in three days: they had often suggested that he was in league with
Beelzebub. Now, as to this, First, The words were mis-recited; he said, Destroy
ye this temple (Jn. 2:19), plainly intimating that he spoke of a temple
which his enemies would seek to destroy; they come, and swear that he said, I
am able to destroy this temple, as if the design against it were his. He
said, In Three days I will raise it upegeroµ
auton, a word properly used of a living temple; I will raise it to
life. They come, and swear that he said, I am able, oikodomeµsaito
build it; which is properly used of a house temple. Secondly, The
words were misunderstood; he spoke of the temple of his body (Jn. 2:21),
and perhaps when he said, this temple, pointed to, or laid his hand upon,
his own body; but they swore that he said the temple of God, meaning this
holy place. Note, There have been, and still are, such as wrest the
sayings of Christ to their own destruction, 2 Pt. 3:16. Thirdly,
Make the worst they could of it, it was no capital crime, even by their own law;
if it had been, no question but he had been prosecuted for it, when he spoke the
words in a public discourse some years ago; nay, the words were capable of a
laudable construction, and such as bespoke a kindness for the temple; if it were
destroyed, he would exert himself to the utmost to rebuild it. But any thing
that looked criminal, would serve to give colour to their malicious prosecution.
Now the scriptures were fulfilled, which said, False witnesses are risen up
against me (Ps. 27:12); and see Ps. 35:11. Though I have redeemed them,
yet they have spoken lies against me, Hos. 7:13. We stand justly accused,
the law accuseth us, Deu. 27:26; Jn. 5:45. Satan and our own consciences
accuse us, 1 Jn. 3:20. The creatures cry out against us. Now, to discharge us
from all these just accusations, our Lord Jesus submitted to this, to be
unjustly and falsely accused, that in the virtue of his sufferings we may be
enabled to triumph over all challenges; Who shall lay any thing to the charge
of God's elect? Rom. 8:33, 34. He was accused, that he might not be
condemned; and if at any time we suffer thus, have all manner of evil, not only
said, but sworn, against us falsely, let us remember that we cannot
expect to fare better than our Master.
(3.) Christ's silence under all these accusations, to the
amazement of the court, v. 62. The High Priest, the judge of the court, arose in
some heat, and said, "Answerest thou nothing? Come, you the prisoner
at the bar; you hear what is sworn against you, what have you now to say for
yourself? What defence can you make? Or what please have you to offer in answer
to this charge?" But Jesus held his peace (v. 63), not as one
sullen, or as one self-condemned, or as one astonished and in confusion; not
because he wanted something to say, or knew not how to say it, but that the
scripture might be fulfilled (Isa. 53:7); As the sheep is dumb before the
shearer, and before the butcher, so he opened not his mouth; and that
he might be the Son of David, who, when his enemies spoke mischievous things
against him, was as a deaf man that heard not, Ps. 38:12-14. He was
silent, because his hour was come; he would not deny the charge, because
he was willing to submit to the sentence; otherwise, he could as easily have put
them to silence and shame now, as he had done many a time before. If God had
entered into judgment with us, we had been speechless (ch. 22:12), not
able to answer for one of a thousand, Job 9:3. Therefore, when Christ was
made sin for us, he was silent, and left it to his blood to speak, Heb.
12:24. He stood mute at this bar, that we might have something to say at God's
Well, this way will not do; aliâ
aggrediendum est viâ
must be had to some other expedient.
2. They examined our Lord Jesus himself upon an oath like that ex
officio; and, since they could not accuse him, they will try, contrary to
the law of equity, to make him accuse himself.
(1.) Here is the interrogatory put to him by the High Priest.
Observe, [1.] The question itself; Whether thou be the
Christ, the Son of God? That is, Whether thou pretend to be so? For they
will by no means admit it into consideration, whether he be really so or no;
though the Messiah was to be the Consolation of Israel, and glorious
things were spoken concerning him in the Old Testament, yet so strangely
besotted were they with a jealousy of any thing that threatened their exorbitant
power and grandeur, that they would never enter into the examination of the
matter, whether Jesus was the Messiah or no; never once put the case, suppose he
should be so; they only wished him to confess that he called himself so, that
they might on that indict him as a deceiver. What will not pride and malice
carry men to?
[2.] The solemnity of the proposal of it; I adjure thee by
the living God, that thou tell us. Not that he had any regard to the living
God, but took his name in vain; only thus he hoped to gain his point with our
Lord Jesus; "If thou hast any value for the blessed name of God, and
reverence for his Majesty, tell us this." If he should refuse to answer
when he was thus adjured, they would charge him with contempt of the blessed
name of God. Thus the persecutors of good men often take advantage against them
by their consciences, as Daniel's enemies did against him in the matter of his
(2.) Christ's answer to this interrogatory (v. 64), in which,
[1.] He owns himself to be The Christ the Son of God. Thou
hast said; that is, "It is as thou hast said;" for in St. Mark it
is, I am. Hitherto, he seldom professed himself expressly to be the
Christ, the Son of God; the tenour of his doctrine bespoke it, and his miracles
proved it: but now he would not omit to make a confession of it, First,
Because that would have looked like a disowning of that truth which he came into
the world to bear witness to. Secondly, It would have looked like
declining his sufferings, when he knew the acknowledgment of this would give his
enemies all the advantage they desired against him. He thus confessed himself,
for example and encouragement to his followers, when they are called to it, to confess
him before men, whatever hazards they run by it. And according to this
pattern the martyrs readily confessed themselves Christians, though they knew
they must die for it, as the martyrs at Thebais, Euseb. Hist. 50.8,
100.9. That Christ answered out of a regard to the adjuration which Caiaphas had
profanely used by the living God, I cannot think, any more than that he
had any regard to the like adjuration in the devil's mouth, Mk. 5:7.
[2.] He refers himself, for the proof of this, to his second
coming, and indeed to his whole estate of exaltation. It is probable that they
looked upon him with a scornful disdainful smile, when he said, "I am;"
"A likely fellow," thought they, "to be the Messiah, who is
expected to come in so much pomp and power;" and to that this nevertheless
refers. "Though now you see me in this low and abject state, and think it a
ridiculous thing for me to call myself the Messiah, nevertheless the day
is coming when I shall appear otherwise." Hereafter, apÕ
modoshortly; for his exaltation began in a few
days; now shortly his kingdom began to be set up; and hereafter ye shall see
the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, to judge the world; of
which his coming shortly to judge and destroy the Jewish nation would be a type
and earnest. Note, The terrors of the judgment-day will be a sensible conviction
to the most obstinate infidelity, not in order to conversion (that will be then
too late), but in order to an eternal confusion. Observe, First, Whom
they should see; the Son of man. Having owned himself the Son of God,
even now in his estate of humiliation, he speaks of himself as the Son of man,
even in his estate of exaltation; for he had these two distinct natures in one
person. The incarnation of Christ has made him Son of God and Son of man; for he
is Immanuel, God with us. Secondly, In what posture they should
see him; 1. Sitting on the right hand of power, according to the prophecy
of the Messiah (Ps. 110:1); Sit thou at my right hand; which denotes both
the dignity and the dominion he is exalted to. Though now he stood at the bar,
they should shortly see him sit on the throne. 2. Coming in the clouds of
heaven; this refers to another prophecy concerning the Son of man
(Dan. 7:13, 14), which is applied to Christ (Lu. 1:33), when he came to destroy
Jerusalem; so terrible was the judgment, and so sensible the indications of the
wrath of the Lamb in it, that it might be called a visible appearance of
Christ; but doubtless it has reference to the general judgment; to this day
he appeals, and summons them to an appearance, then and there to answer for what
they are now doing. He had spoken of this day to his disciples, awhile ago, for
their comfort, and had bid them lift up their heads for joy in the
prospect of it, Lu. 21:27, 28. Now he speaks of it to his enemies, for their
terror; for nothing is more comfortable to the righteous, nor more terrible to
the wicked, than Christ's judging the world at the last day.
V. His conviction upon this trial; The High Priest rent his
clothes, according to the custom of the Jews, when they heard or saw any
thing done or said, which they looked upon to be a reproach to God; as Isa.
36:22; 37:1; Acts 14:14. Caiaphas would be thought extremely tender of the glory
of God (Come, see his zeal for the Lord of hosts); but, while he
pretended an abhorrence of blasphemy, he was himself the greatest blasphemer; he
now forgot the law which forbade the High Priest in any case to rend his
clothes, unless we will suppose this an excepted case.
Observe, 1. The crime he was found guilty of; blasphemy. He
hath spoken blasphemy; that is, he hath spoken reproachfully of the living
God; that is the notion we have of blasphemy; because we by sin had reproached
the Lord, therefore Christ, when he was made Sin for us, was condemned as
a blasphemer for the truth he told them.
2. The evidence upon which they found him guilty; Ye have
heard the blasphemy; why should we trouble ourselves to examine witnesses
any further? He owned the fact, that he did profess himself the Son of God;
and then they made blasphemy of it, and convicted him upon his confession. The
High Priest triumphs in the success of the snare he had laid; "Now I think
I have done his business for him." Aha, so would we have it. Thus
was he judged out of his own mouth at their bar, because we were liable
to be so judged at God's bar. There is no need of witnesses against us; our
own consciences are against us instead of a thousand witnesses.
VI. His sentence passed, upon this conviction, v. 66.
Here is, 1. Caiaphas's appeal to the bench; What think ye?
See his base hypocrisy and partiality; when he had already prejudged the cause,
and pronounced him a blasphemer, then, as if he were willing to be advised, he
asks the judgment of his brethren; but hide malice ever so cunningly under the
robe of justice, some way or other it will break out. If he would have dealt
fairly, he should have collected the votes of the bench seriatimin order,
and begun with the junior, and delivered his own opinion last; but he knew that
by the authority of his place he could sway the rest, and therefore declares his
judgment, and presumes they are all of his mind; he takes the crime, with regard
to Christ, pro confessoas a crime confessed; and the judgment, with
regard to the court, pro concessoas a judgment agreed to.
2. Their concurrence with him; they said, He is guilty of
death; perhaps they did not all concur: it is certain that Joseph of
Arimathea, if he was present, dissented (Lu. 23:51); so did Nicodemus, and, it
is likely, others with them; however, the majority carried it that way; but,
perhaps, this being an extraordinary council, or cabal rather, none had notice
to be present but such as they knew would concur, and so it might be voted nemine
contradicenteunanimously. The judgment was, "He is guilty of
death; by the law he deserves to die." Though they had not power now to
put any man to death, yet by such a judgment as this they made a man an outlaw
among his people (qui caput gerit lupinumhe carries a wolf's head;
so our old law describes an outlaw), and so exposed him to the fury either of a
popular tumult, as Stephen was, or to be clamoured against before the governor,
as Christ was. Thus was the Lord of life condemned to die, that through him
there may be no condemnation to us.
VII. The abuses and indignities done to him after sentence
passed (v. 67, 68); Then, when he was found guilty, they spat in his
face. Because they had not power to put him to death, and could not be sure
that they should prevail with the governor to be their executioner, they would
do him all the mischief they could, now that they had him in their hands.
Condemned prisoners are taken under the special protection of the law, which
they are to make satisfaction to, and by all civilized nations have been treated
with tenderness; sufficient is this punishment. But when they had passed
sentence upon our Lord Jesus, he was treated as if hell had broken loose upon
him, as if he were not only worthy of death, but as if that were too good
for him, and he were unworthy of the compassion shown to the worst malefactors.
Thus he was made a curse for us. But who were they that were thus
barbarous? It should seem, the very same that had passed sentence upon him. They
said, He is guilty of death, and then did they spit in his face. The priests
began, and then no wonder if the servants, who would do any thing to make sport
to themselves, and curry favour with their wicked masters, carried on the humour.
See how they abused him.
1. They spat in his face. Thus the scripture was
fulfilled (Isa. 50:6), He hid not his face from shame and spitting. Job
complained of this indignity done to him, and herein was a type of Christ (Job
31:10); They spare not to spit in my face. It is an expression of the
greatest contempt and indignation possible; looking upon him as more despicable
than the very ground they spit upon. When Miriam was under the leprosy, it was
looked upon as a disgrace to her, like that of her father spitting in her
face, Num. 12:14. He that refused to raise up seed to his brother, was to
undergo this dishonour, Deu. 25:9. Yet Christ, when he was repairing the decays
of the great family of mankind, submitted to it. That face which was fairer
than the children of men, which was white and ruddy, and which angels
reverence, was thus filthily abused by the basest and vilest of the children of
men. Thus was confusion poured upon his face, that ours might not be filled with
everlasting shame and contempt. They who now profane his blessed name, abuse his
word, and hate his image in his sanctified ones; what do they better than spit
in his face? They would do that, if it were in their reach.
2. They buffeted him, and smote him with the palms of their
hands. This added pain to the shame, for both came in with sin. Now the
scripture was fulfilled (Isa. 50:6), I gave my cheeks to them that plucked
off the hair; and (Lam. 3:30), He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth
him; he is filled with reproach, and yet keepeth silence (v. 28); and
(Mic. 5:1), They shall smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek;
here the margin reads it, They smote him with rods; for so errapisan
signifies, and this he submitted to.
3. They challenged him to tell who struck him, having first
blindfolded him; Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, who is he that smote thee?
(1.) They made sport of him, as the Philistines did with Samson; it is grievous
to those that are in misery, for people to make merry about them, but
much more to make merry with them and their misery. Here was an instance
of the greatest depravity and degeneracy of the human nature that could be, to
show that there was need of a religion that should recover men to humanity. (2.)
They made sport with his prophetical office. They had heard him called a prophet,
and that he was famed for wonderful discoveries; this they upbraided him with,
and pretended to make a trial of; as if the divine omniscience must stoop to a
piece of children's play. They put a like affront upon Christ, who
profanely jest with the scripture, and make themselves merry with holy things;
like Belshazzar's revels in the temple bowls.
We have here the story of Peter's denying his Master, and it
comes in as a part of Christ's sufferings. Our Lord Jesus was now in the High
Priest's hall, not to be tried, but baited rather; and then it would have been
some comfort to him to see his friends near him. But we do not find any friend
he had about the court, save Peter only, and it would have been better if he had
been at a distance. Observe how he fell, and how he got up again by repentance.
I. His sin, which is here impartially related, to the honour of
the penmen of scripture, who dealt faithfully. Observe,
1. The immediate occasion of Peter's sin. He sat without in
the palace, among the servants of the High Priest. Note, Bad company is to many
an occasion of sin; and those who needlessly thrust themselves into it, go upon
the devil's ground, venture into his crowds, and may expect either to be
tempted and ensnared, as Peter was, or to be ridiculed and abused, as his Master
was; they scarcely can come out of such company, without guilt or grief, or
both. He that would keep God's commandments and his own covenant, must say to
evil-doers, Depart from me, Ps. 119:115. Peter spoke from his own
experience, when he warned his new converts to save themselves from that
untoward generation; for he had like to have ruined himself by but going
once among them.
2. The temptation to it. He was challenged as a retainer to
Jesus of Galilee. First one maid, and then another, and then the rest of the
servants, charged it upon him; Thou also wert with Jesus of Galilee, v.
69. And again, This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth, v. 71. And again
(v. 73), Thou also art one of them, for thy speech betrayeth thee to be a
Galilean; whose dialect and pronunciation differed from that of the other Jews.
Happy he whose speech betrays him to be a disciple of Christ, by the holiness
and seriousness of whose discourse it appears that he has been with Jesus!
Observe how scornfully they speak of Christ-Jesus of Galilee, and of
Nazareth, upbraiding him with the country he was of: and how disdainfully
they speak of PeterThis fellow; as if they thought it a reproach to
them to have such a man in their company, and he was well enough served for
coming among them; yet they had nothing to accuse him of, but that he was with
Jesus, which, they thought, was enough to render him both a scandalous and a
3. The sin itself. When he was charged as one of Christ's
disciples, he denied it, was ashamed and afraid to own himself so, and would
have all about him to believe that he had no knowledge of him, nor any kindness
or concern for him.
(1.) Upon the first mention of it, he said, I know not what
thou sayest. This was a shuffling answer; he pretended that he did not
understand the charge, that he knew not whom she meant by Jesus of Galilee,
or what she meant by being with him; so making strange of that which his
heart was now as full of as it could be. [1.] It is a fault thus to misrepresent
our own apprehensions, thoughts, and affections, to serve a turn; to pretend
that we do not understand, or did not think of, or remember, that which yet we
do apprehend, and did think of, and remember; this is a species of lying which
we are more prone to than any other, because in this a man is not easily
disproved; for who knows the spirit of a man, save himself? But God knows
it, and we must be restrained from this wickedness by a fear of him, Prov.
24:12. [2.] It is yet a greater fault to be shy of Christ, to dissemble our
knowledge of him, and to shift off a confession of him, when we are called to
it; it is, in effect, to deny him.
(2.) Upon the next attack, he said, flat and plain, I know
not the man, and backed it with an oath, v. 72. This was, in effect, to say,
I will not own him, I am no Christian; for Christianity is the knowledge of
Christ. Why, Peter? Canst thou look upon yonder Prisoner at the bar, and say
thou dost not know him? Didst not thou quit all to follow him? And hast thou not
been the man of his counsel? Hast thou not known him better than any one else?
Didst thou not confess him to be the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? Hast thou
forgotten all the kind and tender looks thou hast had from him, and all the
intimate fellowship thou hast had with him? Canst thou look him in the face, and
say that thou dost not know him?
(3.) Upon the third assault, he began to curse and to swear,
saying, I know not the man, v. 74. This was worst of all, for the way of sin
is down-hill. He cursed and swore, [1.] To back what he said, and to gain credit
to it, that they might not any more call it in question; he did not only say
it, but swear it; and yet what he said, was false. Note, We have reason
to suspect the truth of that which is backed with rash oaths and imprecations.
None but the devil's sayings need the devil's proofs. He that will not be
restrained by the third commandment from mocking his God, will not be kept by
the ninth from deceiving his brother. [2.] He designed it to be an evidence for
him, that he was none of Christ's disciples, for this was none of their
language. Cursing and swearing suffice to prove a man no disciple of Christ; for
it is the language of his enemies thus to take his name in vain.
This is written for warning to us, that we sin not after the
similitude of Peter's transgression; that we never, either directly or
indirectly, deny Christ the Lord that bought us, by rejecting his offers,
resisting his Spirit, dissembling our knowledge of him, and being ashamed of him
and his words, or afraid of suffering for him and with his suffering people.
4. The aggravations of this sin, which it may be of use to take
notice of, that we may observe the like transgressions in our own sins.
Consider, (1.) Who he was: an apostle, one of the first three, that had been
upon all occasions the most forward to speak to the honour of Christ. The
greater profession we make of religion, the greater is our sin if in any thing
we walk unworthily. (2.) What fair warning his Master had given him of his
danger; if he had regarded this as he ought to have done, he would not have run
himself into the temptation. (3.) How solemnly he had promised to adhere to
Christ in this night of trial; he had said again and again, "I will
never deny thee; no, I will die with thee first;" yet he broke these
bonds in sunder, and his word was yea and nay. (4.) How soon he fell into this
sin after the Lord's supper. There to receive such an inestimable pledge of
redeeming love, and yet the same night, before morning, to disown his Redeemer,
was indeed turning aside quickly. (5.) How weak comparatively the
temptation was; it was not the judge, nor any of the officers of the court, that
charged him with being a disciple of Jesus, but a silly maid or two, that
probably designed him no hurt, nor would have done him any if he had owned it.
This was but running with the footmen, Jer. 12:5. (6.) How often he
repeated it; even after the cock had crowed once he continued in the temptation,
and a second and third time relapsed into the sin. Is this Peter? How art
Thus was his sin aggravated; but on the other hand there is this
to extenuate it, that, what he said he said in his haste, Ps. 116:11. He
fell into the sin by surprise, not as Judas, with design; his heart was against
it; he spoke very ill, but it was unadvisedly, and before he was aware.
II. Peter's repentance for this sin, v. 75. The former is
written for our admonition, that we may not sin; but, if at any time we be
overtaken, this is written for our imitation, that we may make haste to repent.
1. What it was, that brought Peter to repentance.
(1.) The cock crew (v. 74); a common contingency; but,
Christ having mentioned the crowing of the cock in the warning he gave
him, that made it a means of bringing him to himself. The word of Christ can put
a significancy upon whatever sign he shall please to choose, and by virtue of
that word he can make it very beneficial to the souls of his people. The crowing
of a cock is to Peter instead of a John Baptist, the voice of one calling to
repentance. Conscience should be to us as the crowing of the cock, to put us in
mind of what we had forgotten. When David's heart smote him the cock
crew. Where there is a living principle of grace in the soul, though for the
present overpowered by temptation, a little hint will serve, only for a
memorandum, when God sets in with it, to recover it from a by-path. Here was the
crowing of a cock made a happy occasion of the conversion of a soul. Christ
comes sometimes in mercy at cock-crowing.
(2.) He remembered the words of the Lord; this was it
that brought him to himself, and melted him into tears of godly sorrow; a sense
of his ingratitude to Christ, and the slight regard he had had to the gracious
warning Christ had given him. Note, A serious reflection upon the words of the
Lord Jesus will be a powerful inducement to repentance, and will help to break
the heart for sin. Nothing grieves a penitent more than that he has sinned
against the grace of the Lord Jesus and the tokens of his love.
2. How his repentance was expressed; He went out, and wept
(1.) His sorrow was secret; he went out, out of the High Priest's
hall, vexed at himself that ever he came into it, now that he found what a snare
he was in, and got out of it as fast as he could. He went out into the porch
before (v. 71); and if he had gone quite off then, his second and third denial
had been prevented; but then he came in again, now he went out and came in no
more. He went out to some place of solitude and retirement, where he might bemoan
himself, like the doves of the valleys, Eze. 7:16; Jer. 9:1, 2. He went
out, that he might not be disturbed in his devotions on this sad occasion. We
may then be most free in our communion with God, when we are most free
from the converse and business of this world. In mourning for sin, we find the
families apart, and their wives apart, Zec. 12:11, 12.
(2.) His sorrow was serious; He wept bitterly. Sorrow for
sin must not be slight, but great and deep, like that for an only son. Those
that have sinned sweetly, must weep bitterly; for, sooner or later, sin will be
bitterness. This deep sorrow is requisite, not to satisfy divine justice (a sea
of tears would not do that), but to evidence that there is a real change of
mind, which is the essence of repentance, to make the pardon the more welcome,
and sin for the future the more loathsome. Peter, who wept so bitterly for
denying Christ, never denied him again, but confessed him often and
openly, and in the mouth of danger; so far from ever saying, I know not the
man, that he made all the house of Israel know assuredly that this same
Jesus was Lord and Christ. True repentance for any sin will be best
evidenced by our abounding in the contrary grace and duty; that is a sign of our
weeping, not only bitterly, but sincerely. Some of the ancients say, that as
long as Peter lived, he never heard a cock crow but it set him a weeping. Those
that have truly sorrowed for sin, will sorrow upon every remembrance of it; yet
not so as to hinder, but rather to increase, their joy in God and in his mercy