Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Matthew 24:1), and continued till he came to Bethany (see ver. 6). They were spoken, it would seem, publicly, while the sentence following was privately spoken "unto his disciples" (ver. 2). The matter of this sentence is intrinsically intensely interesting, and it is interesting also from its relation to the consultation of the Sanhedrin next mentioned (vers. 3-5). The subject remarkably illustrates two things, viz. -
I. THAT GOD'S PLANS ARE WISE AND BENEFICENT.
1. Here note the prescience of Jesus.
(1) He clearly and circumstantially foretells his death. Mark the contrast in his revelations: "The Son of man shall come in his glory" (ch. 25:31); "The Son of man is delivered up to be crucified." The literal fulfilment of the latter pledges the certainty of the former.
(2) He had already very particularly foretold his death (see Matthew 16:21; Matthew 20:17; Mark 10:32-34). Now he precisely indicates the time: "After two days," i.e. on the third day, or with one full day intervening (cf. Hosea 6:2). This was Wednesday; on Thursday night he was betrayed by Judas; Friday morning he was condemned by the Sanhedrin, and two hours later crucified by Pilate.
2. This prescience is clearly Divine.
(1) The chief priests and rulers had for some time meditated his death, and it was within the range of probability that they might accomplish their purpose. But what human forecast could have seen the circumstances and the time of the event?
(2) These particulars, as he anticipated them, were against human probability. The plot was to destroy Jesus secretly, and therefore the execution of the purpose was to be deferred until after the feast (ver. 5). Then the multitude would have dispersed, and the Galilaeans in particular would have returned to their homes.
(3) It was not until Judas made his overture that the plotters altered their plans, and resolved to risk the "tumult among the people." But the treachery of Iscariot was fully within the prescience of Jesus (see vers. 21-25).
3. It is the prescience of wisdom and beneficence.
(1) Jesus was sacrificed at the Feast of the Passover as the antitype of the Paschal lamb.
(a) This God distinguishes as especially his: "My sacrifice" (see Exodus 23:18), viz. because it was instituted by him to be a special type of "the LAMB OF GOD that beareth away the sin of the world" (see 1 Corinthians 5:7).
(b) The Paschal lamb was "a male of the first year," the symbol of excellence in its prime. So was Jesus, in the prime of his peerless manhood, when offered up.
(c) It was "without blemish." He was immaculate in his birth, and in his life and death he fulfilled all righteousness.
(2) Wisdom is also seen in the time.
(a) The word here construed "betrayed" is in the New Version rendered "delivered up," the reference being to the setting apart of the lamb rather than to the treachery of Judas. It refers to something accomplished. The lamb was taken on the tenth day of the first month (see Exodus 12:1-3); and on this day Jesus entered Jerusalem (see John 12:1, 12, 13).
(b) The lamb was then to be kept "until the fourteenth day of the same month" (see Exodus 12:6). On this day the true Paschal Lamb was sacrificed. There is reason to believe that in this case, two days were kept, and the right day was that upon which Jesus was offered up.
(c) The time of the day also was exact, viz. "between the two evenings" (see Exodus 12:6, margin), i.e. between the sun's declining west, at noon, and his setting, at about six in the afternoon. Jesus was crucified at noon, and expired three hours later, exactly between the evenings (see Matthew 27:46-50).
(3) The beneficence of this wisdom is seen in the purposes. As the blood of the Paschal lamb redeemed Israel from Egypt, and redeemed his firstborn from the sword of the destroyer, so are we redeemed from sin and death by the sacrificial blood of Christ.
II. THAT HE MAKES MAN'S PLOTS SUBSERVIENT TO THEM,
1. We see God's purposes in the assembly.
(1) Who are they? "The chief priests ... and the elders of the people." Little did they think that they were giving effect to the truth of prophecy; for it is written that "the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his Christ" (see Psalm 2:2; Psalm 41:7). It is also specified that the Paschal lamb should be offered by the whole congregation: "The whole assembly of the congregation shall kill it" (Exodus 12:6). Here was the very Sanhedrin.
(2) What a lesson of human depravity is here! "The chief priests," and probably Caiaphas the high priest at the head of them. Sacredness of office is no security against rascality. "The rulers," who were members of the great Sanhedrin because of their influence, whether of wealth, or birth, or abilities. Men the most reputable as seen by their fellows, may be the most odious as seen by God.
2. We see God's purposes in their measures.
(1) Their policy is to have Jesus secretly killed. This was manifestly from the devil, who would give sceptics the pretext to say, "This thing was done in a corner." The Sanhedrin feared the uproar of the people.
(2) But the devil outwits himself. Iscariot appears upon the scene, and his proposals induce them to hazard the bolder policy. It was customary at festivals to execute malefactors publicly, "that all Israel might see and fear" (see Deuteronomy 17:13; Acts 12:4).
(3) Thus, then, the Passion of Christ became a matter of the utmost celebrity. He suffers openly amidst thousands of witnesses. His death was notorious, which gave emphasis to the notoriety of the subsequent event of the glorious resurrection from the dead.
(4) Thoughts of the suffering Christ sustain the suffering Christian, suffering for him and with him. And "if we suffer with him, we shall be also glorified together." - J.A.M.
John 11:47-53). But it proved to be a much more difficult matter than they imagined, and weeks passed and found them no nearer to the accomplishment of their purposes. At last they were set upon securing their end by assassination. They tried to devise some way of "taking him by subtlety and killing him."
I. WHY WERE THEY SET UPON NEW DEVICES? Because not only had all their previous devices failed, but they had failed in such ways as had humiliated and angered those who devised them. They could not get an accusation, they could not secure his Person, they would not leave him alone.
1. They tried open arrest; their officers were so impressed by him that they dare not touch him.
2. They tried to make him say such things as they could twist into accusations; they only succeeded in entangling themselves, and humiliating themselves before the people.
3. They had been made the object of our Lord's fiercest denunciations, and this they felt to be so intolerable that they resolved not to lose an hour in seeking their revenge. When men are humbled, they give up their self willed ways. When men are humiliated, they push their wilful ways through to the bitter end.
II. WHAT DIFFICULTIES HAD THEY YET TO OVERCOME? Two special ones.
1. The good will of the people, and especially of the visitors to the feast. If they attempted public arrest, there would be a rescue that would mean a riot, and it would bring down on them the vigorous hand of the Romans, and give Pilate another chance of showing his hatred.
2. The approaching feast time. It was hardly possible to get a good plan arranged before the feast; nothing could be done during the least; and Jesus would slip away from the city after the feast. We can imagine their delight when the difficulties were got over by the treachery of Judas.
III. WHAT REVELATIONS ARE MADE BY THESE DEVICES? They show up both the times and the people.
1. They reveal the estimate formed of our Lord by the people. They always delight in a man who can fearlessly resist official scheming and wickedness.
2. They reveal the prejudiced, malicious, and unreasonable character of the priest party. Personal feeling was allowed to carry away judgment.
3. They reveal the character of Christ. He could not be dealt with as a criminal. - R.T.
I. ONE WHO TRULY LOVES CHRIST WILL RECKON NO GIFT TOO COSTLY TO BE OFFERED TO HIM. Mary's adoration was prompted by adequate motives. She had often sat at the feet of Jesus, and she had learned to appreciate his goodness as far as any human being could do so. Her brother had just been restored to her from the grave by this wonderful Friend. Jesus had dropped dark hints of his approaching departure. Then all her love and adoration were gathered up in an enthusiasm of devotion for this last typical act. The reason why the incident is so exceptional is that the Marys of Bethany are rare. The real wonder is that the Church of Christ should be so slow to pour out her treasures at his feet, that calculating economy and grudging meanness should cripple the efforts of any Christian people in sacrificing themselves and giving their offerings for the glory of their Lord.
II. JESUS CHRIST ACCEPTS COSTLY OFFERINGS GIVES TO HIMSELF. The hypocritical objection of Judas was cleverly invented. The traitor knew the simplicity and unselfishness of his Master, and he knew that the heart of Jesus was always with the needy. Why, then, did not our Lord take the same view of his enthusiastic disciple's action? Because he would not hurt the feelings of Mary, would not grieve her love. Still, even that painful course must have been taken if her conduct had been unacceptable to Christ on account of any blameworthy extravagance. It is plain that he did accept adoration. This was seen on Palm Sunday, when he received the "Hosannas!" of the multitude, and defended the children from the rebukes of the interfering Jews. It is right to give honour to Christ, for he is good and great; but above his human excellence his Divine glory makes this homage supremely fitting.
III. WE SHALL BEST SERVE OUR FELLOW MEN WHEN WE ARE MOST DEVOTED TO CHRIST. He was not robbing the poor in order to accept a luxury for himself, as Judas rudely insinuated. We must set this incident over against our Lord's recently spoken words about the kindness shown to others being really given to himself (Matthew 25:40). There is no rivalry between the two kinds of gifts. Mary would not be the less charitable to her neighbours because of her expenditure on her Master. It is more likely that her heart would flow out in richer kindness towards them. Devotion to Christ is the greatest inspiration for sympathy with suffering fellow men. What is spent on the cause of religion does not detract from the help of the poor. The reason is that the fund of possible generosity is never exhausted. We have not such a limited amount to give away. Few contribute a tithe of what they ought to give. But when the heart is moved to offer directly to Christ, its new warmth of love will prompt it to be more liberal in giving to all other good objects. It is not a fact that, for the most part, those people who refuse to help religious objects are the most generous in charity to their neighbours. The poor would not be grateful to be handed over to the tender mercies of the Judases. On the other hand, we find that those men who are foremost in supporting the cause of Christ are most earnest in human charity. The very people who maintain foreign missions do most for the suffering poor at home. - W.F.A.
Matthew 11:5), and became a disciple of the great Physician. Bishop Newcome has admirably harmonized the accounts of the anointing at Bethany given by the evangelists Matthew, Mark, and John. This Simon prepared a supper, to which he invited Lazarus, his neighbour if not also his relative, who by the same glorious Worker had been raised from the dead. The sisters of Lazarus also were present (John 12:2, 3).
I. MARY FIGURES IN THIS HISTORY AS A BEAUTIFUL TYPE OF GOODNESS.
1. In her love to Christ.
(1) It was love to him as a personal Friend. He had been intimate in the house of her brother (see John 11:1-44). Blessed is that family in whose home Jesus is a familiar, welcome, and beloved Guest? Love to a Person. Let us beware of sinking the personal Jesus in abstractions, however admirable. His Personality is not the less real because he is invisible to us and in the heavens (see John 20:29; 1 Peter 1:8).
(2) It was love overflowing with gratitude. Her heart was especially bound to him by that miracle of grace in which he restored to her family circle her estimable brother alive from the tomb (see John 11:2-5). Pure and beautiful is the love of a grateful heart.
(3) It was love exalted by reverence. She had precious opportunities of estimating his wonderful character, every human attribute of which was radiated by the splendours, and exalted and intensified by the tenderness, of the Divine. We also have our precious opportunities. He is with us in his Word and in his Spirit. Mary, in her improvement of her opportunities, is an example to us.
2. In the expression of that love.
(1) She had a pound of ointment of spikenard, very precious, contained in an alabaster cruse or flask. This vessel she brake or opened, and poured the contents upon her gracious Lord, first anointing his head and then his feet, wiping them with her hair, the odor of the ointment filling the house.
(2) Note here the unselfish profuseness of heart love to Christ. Nothing is too precious to be expended upon the Blessed One who has shed his most precious blood for us. In Mary's just appreciation of his infinite worthiness, there was no place for the cold and nice calculations as to what good might otherwise be done with this costly nard.
"Were the whole realm of nature mine, (3) Note also the indefinable spiritual insight and foresight or presentiment which works in an exalted love to Christ. Jesus himself brings this out, as his own Holy Spirit works it in: "Against the day of my burying bath she kept this" (John 12:7); "She is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying" (Mark 14:8); "In that she poured this ointment upon my body, she did it to prepare me for burial;" "None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand" (Daniel 12:10). 3. In the influence of that love. (1) The fragrance of Mary's love filled more than the house of Simon. Deeds of love to Christ come into every godly family as a delightful odour. So likewise do they come into the Churches, or brotherhoods of the saints. "Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there this that this woman hath done shall be told." So far reaching is the perfect love. (2) "Shall be told for a memorial of her." The loving are immortalized by their intimate association with the immortal Christ of God. (3) Note here a manifestation of the Divinity of our Lord. We see it: (a) In his prescience of the wide notoriety of this action of Mary. (b) In the providence which ensured it. (c) In the inspiration which moved the evangelists to record it. II. YET SHE ENCOUNTERED TROUBLERS EVEN IN THE MEMBERSHIP OF THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH. 1. Foremost amongst these was Judas Iscariot. (1) To him the fragrance of Mary's spikenard was nauseous. All the virtue he could discover in it was its commercial value. "Three hundred pence!" As a typical Jew, he knew the price. "To what purpose is this waste?" So lightly did he value the Son of God, that he could bargain away his life for thirty pieces of silver, or about £4 10s. - the miserable price of a slave. (2) This man of commerce had no heart to see what Mary saw so clearly, viz. that nothing can be "waste" that is lovingly done to the honour of the gracious Saviour of mankind. Any demur to this great truth came as a trouble to her noble heart. It is ever a pain to a generous soul to be denied the opportunity of doing good, or when a proffered kindness is refused. (3) Judas had no eyes to see - which perhaps Mary in her modesty had not thought of, but which Jesus saw so clearly - that this action of hers had a moral significance which made it worthy of the attention of the universe and of the ages. The material commercialist is blind to spiritual values. His arithmetic cannot weigh the soul against the world (see ch. 16:26). (4) Judas set up the general claims of the poor in opposition to the personal claims of Christ, as though these claims were inimical. Who has done most for the poor - Judas or Jesus? Is not Jesus, even in his absence, ever present representatively in the poor? Are not the poor eared for by his true disciples for their Lord's sake? (5) But this plea for the poor was a cover for covetousness. "This said he, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein" (John 12:6). How commonly do the covetous evade appeals, say for foreign missions, by suggesting the counterclaims of the "heathen at home," or of "poor relations," or vaguely "so many calls," none of which are, in fact, considered! How Judas-like! 2. With Iscariot were others who came under his evil influence. (1) Some think that Judas was the sole troubler of Mary. They contend that the plural is in this narrative to be taken as singular, according to a Hebraistic usage (cf. Matthew 27:44, where "the thieves also" is put for one thief; and Matthew 28:17, where "some doubted" means one - Thomas). So "when his disciples saw it, they had indiguation," is taken to mean one of them - Judas. (2) No doubt Judas was the chief offender. Hence John speaks of Judas only as troubling Mary, which was sufficient for his purpose; but it must be noted that, in quoting the words of Jesus in the sequel, the plural is used as in the other evangelists. (3) The persistent use of the plural throughout the narrative in Matthew and in Mark can scarcely be explained away upon the principle of an enallage, as the rhetoricians call this substitution of the plural for the singular. (4) While, then, it may well be doubted that the whole college of the apostles were compromised in this unenviable distinction of being troublers of the gentle and loving Mary - John, at the least, may be excepted - yet that some of them so came under the evil influence of Judas as to share with him in Christ's rebuke is evident. Are there not still in our Churches many too easily imposed upon by representatives of the covetous traitor, who artfully plead specious pretexts of charity to the grieving and troubling of the spiritual kindred of Mary? (5) There is this great difference, however, between Judas and those apostles who sided with him, viz. they were moved by a real though misplaced concern for the poor, while his only concern was to gratify the greed of his thievish heart. Let us beware how we listen to those who affect to set up philanthropy to the disparagement of religion. Let us beware how we depreciate or discredit the services of the people of God whose methods may differ from our own. - J.A.M.
(3) Note also the indefinable spiritual insight and foresight or presentiment which works in an exalted love to Christ. Jesus himself brings this out, as his own Holy Spirit works it in: "Against the day of my burying bath she kept this" (John 12:7); "She is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying" (Mark 14:8); "In that she poured this ointment upon my body, she did it to prepare me for burial;" "None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand" (Daniel 12:10).
3. In the influence of that love.
(1) The fragrance of Mary's love filled more than the house of Simon. Deeds of love to Christ come into every godly family as a delightful odour. So likewise do they come into the Churches, or brotherhoods of the saints. "Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there this that this woman hath done shall be told." So far reaching is the perfect love.
(2) "Shall be told for a memorial of her." The loving are immortalized by their intimate association with the immortal Christ of God.
(3) Note here a manifestation of the Divinity of our Lord. We see it:
(a) In his prescience of the wide notoriety of this action of Mary.
(b) In the providence which ensured it.
(c) In the inspiration which moved the evangelists to record it.
II. YET SHE ENCOUNTERED TROUBLERS EVEN IN THE MEMBERSHIP OF THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH.
1. Foremost amongst these was Judas Iscariot.
(1) To him the fragrance of Mary's spikenard was nauseous. All the virtue he could discover in it was its commercial value. "Three hundred pence!" As a typical Jew, he knew the price. "To what purpose is this waste?" So lightly did he value the Son of God, that he could bargain away his life for thirty pieces of silver, or about £4 10s. - the miserable price of a slave.
(2) This man of commerce had no heart to see what Mary saw so clearly, viz. that nothing can be "waste" that is lovingly done to the honour of the gracious Saviour of mankind. Any demur to this great truth came as a trouble to her noble heart. It is ever a pain to a generous soul to be denied the opportunity of doing good, or when a proffered kindness is refused.
(3) Judas had no eyes to see - which perhaps Mary in her modesty had not thought of, but which Jesus saw so clearly - that this action of hers had a moral significance which made it worthy of the attention of the universe and of the ages. The material commercialist is blind to spiritual values. His arithmetic cannot weigh the soul against the world (see ch. 16:26).
(4) Judas set up the general claims of the poor in opposition to the personal claims of Christ, as though these claims were inimical. Who has done most for the poor - Judas or Jesus? Is not Jesus, even in his absence, ever present representatively in the poor? Are not the poor eared for by his true disciples for their Lord's sake?
(5) But this plea for the poor was a cover for covetousness. "This said he, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein" (John 12:6). How commonly do the covetous evade appeals, say for foreign missions, by suggesting the counterclaims of the "heathen at home," or of "poor relations," or vaguely "so many calls," none of which are, in fact, considered! How Judas-like!
2. With Iscariot were others who came under his evil influence.
(1) Some think that Judas was the sole troubler of Mary. They contend that the plural is in this narrative to be taken as singular, according to a Hebraistic usage (cf. Matthew 27:44, where "the thieves also" is put for one thief; and Matthew 28:17, where "some doubted" means one - Thomas). So "when his disciples saw it, they had indiguation," is taken to mean one of them - Judas.
(2) No doubt Judas was the chief offender. Hence John speaks of Judas only as troubling Mary, which was sufficient for his purpose; but it must be noted that, in quoting the words of Jesus in the sequel, the plural is used as in the other evangelists.
(3) The persistent use of the plural throughout the narrative in Matthew and in Mark can scarcely be explained away upon the principle of an enallage, as the rhetoricians call this substitution of the plural for the singular.
(4) While, then, it may well be doubted that the whole college of the apostles were compromised in this unenviable distinction of being troublers of the gentle and loving Mary - John, at the least, may be excepted - yet that some of them so came under the evil influence of Judas as to share with him in Christ's rebuke is evident. Are there not still in our Churches many too easily imposed upon by representatives of the covetous traitor, who artfully plead specious pretexts of charity to the grieving and troubling of the spiritual kindred of Mary?
(5) There is this great difference, however, between Judas and those apostles who sided with him, viz. they were moved by a real though misplaced concern for the poor, while his only concern was to gratify the greed of his thievish heart. Let us beware how we listen to those who affect to set up philanthropy to the disparagement of religion. Let us beware how we depreciate or discredit the services of the people of God whose methods may differ from our own. - J.A.M.
kept after so good a use for it came into view. For there is a waste in keeping idle and useless, as well as a waste in spending, and losing by spending. Whether it is or it is not waste to give depends on -
I. THE OBJECT THE GIVER HAS IN VIEW. Mary had a most distinct object before her. It was one that glorified her act. She wanted to find suitable expression for her thankfulness to him who had brought back her brother from the dead; and for her personal love to him who had been to her the dearest and noblest of friends. Words would not suffice her; she wanted something that had self-surrender in it. Her treasured perfume was not wasted when it did so much.
II. THE WAY IN WHICH THE RECEIVER TAKES THE GIRT. Jesus did not think it waste. To him it seemed richer with meanings and affections than even Mary thought it was. She had, unconsciously, fitted to his mood of feeling. It could be no waste that comforted Jesus in that sad hour.
III. THE POINT OF VIEW FROM WHICH THE OBJECTOR CRITICIZED THE GIFT. He thought the only poor folk were those persons who had no money. Christ was "poor" in a far higher sense. The gift was given to the poor. Impress:
1. Mary gave up what she prized.
2. Mary gave up without reserve.
3. Mary gave up in order to find expression for thankful love. - R.T.
1. Our Lord indicated that among the disciples there was a traitor. Unable to detect the conscious look of guilt in the face of any of his companions, each, conscious of the deep, unfathomed capacity for evil in his own heart, can but frankly ask the Master, "Lord, is it I?" But there was one of them who did not join in the question.
2. Jesus answered, "He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me." The circle of suspicion is thus narrowed.
3. Almost simultaneously with this Peter beckons to John, who puts at last, in a whisper, the definite question, "Who is it?" and Jesus, in the ear of the beloved disciple, whispers the reply, "He it is," etc. (John 13:26). The look that accompanies the giving of the sop, as well as the act itself, shows Judas that his treachery is discovered. He therefore mechanically takes up, in a somewhat colder form, the question of the rest and says "Master, is it I?" His fear subdues his voice to a whisper, heard only by John and the Lord, and the answer, "Thou hast said. That thou doest do quickly," is equally unobserved by the rest. The sin of Judas presents us with one of the most perplexed problems of life and character. Let us, first of all, look at the connection of this betrayal with the life of Christ. Why might Jesus not have been taken without the help of a traitor? Possibly the reason was that it was needful that Jesus should be made perfect through suffering, that so he might be's merciful High Priest. He had already suffered in a variety of ways in body and mind; but till he was brought into close contact with a man who could accept his love, eat his bread, press his hand with assurance of fidelity, and then sell him, he did not know the misery that one human being can inflict on another. In conjecturing the character of Judas, we must start from the idea that with extraordinary capacity for wickedness he had also more than ordinary leanings to what was good. He was an apostle, and had been called to that office by Christ. He was himself so impressed with Christ as to follow him. It is possible he may have hoped to receive wealth and honor in the new kingdom, but this motive mingled with the attachment to Christ's Person which all the apostles had. That Judas was trusted by the other apostles is manifest. Even to the end he is unsuspected by them, and to the end he has an active conscience. He is overwhelmed with remorse and shame; his sense of guilt is stronger even than the love of money that had hitherto been his strongest passion: he judges himself fairly, sees what he has become, and goes to "his own place." If we ask what precisely it was in the crime of Judas that makes us so abhor it, manifestly its most hateful ingredient was its treachery. It is also invested with a horror altogether its own by the fact that this Person whom he betrayed was the Son of God and the Saviour of the world - the best beloved of God and every man's Friend. After three years' acquaintanceship and observation of the various ways in which Christ could bless people, this was all he could get from him. And there are still such men - men who can find nothing in Christ that they sincerely care for, though calling themselves his followers.
I. The sin of Judas teaches us the great power and danger of the love of money. It infallibly eats out of the soul every generous emotion and high aim. It can be so easily and continuously gratified, and it is notoriously difficult to extirpate. Covetousness is more a sin of the will than sins of the flesh or of a passionate nature. There is more choice in it, and therefore it above all others is called idolatry, because it above all others proves that the man is in his heart choosing the world and not God.
II. Disappointment in Christ is not an unknown thing among ourselves. Men attach themselves to Christ in a loose, conventional way. They are not wholly and heartily his, but merely seek to derive some influences from him. The result is that they one day find that through all their religious profession and apparently Christian life their characteristic sin has actually been gaining strength. And finding this, they become aware that they have lost both this world and the next. They find that the reward of double-mindedness is the most absolute perdition.
III. The most comprehensive lesson is the rapidity of sin's growth, and the enormous proportions it attains when the sinner is sinning against light. The position Judas enjoyed and by which he might have been forever enrolled among the foremost of mankind, one of the twelve foundations of the eternal city, he so skilfully misused that the greatest sinner feels glad that he has yet not been left to commit the sin of Judas. We may, then, walk with Christ, and yet be no Christians after all. Frequently we think and act as if the knowledge of our duty and the occasional good feelings and impulses that we enjoy were themselves saving, whereas it is this that makes our sin and our danger so much the greater. It is possible that the only result of our knowing Christ may be that we betray him. - D.
I. CHARACTER OF JUDAS. Though Judas had extraordinary capacity for crime, he must also have had more than ordinary leanings to what was good. He was an apostle. This implies on Christ's part discernment of some qualities in Judas likely to make him useful to the Church. It implies on Judas's part a willingness at least to put himself in the way of what was good. It is true he might follow Jesus as a speculation, expecting advancement and wealth as the result. But this motive mingled to some extent in the discipleship of all the apostles. And probably along with this unworthy motive there was in him, as in them, some mixture of higher purpose. He may have felt the elevating influence of Christ's fellowship, and may have wished to feel it more. And it is something in his favour that he remained so long in Christ's company. Yet this man, with his intelligence, his occasional good impulses, his feeling of affection for Christ, his favouring circumstances, committed the greatest crime it has been possible for any to commit.
II. HEINOUSNESS OF HIS CRIME. The most hateful element in the crime is its treachery. Caesar defended himself till struck by the dagger of a friend; then he covered his face, and accepted his fate. One can forgive the open blow of a declared enemy, but the man who lives with you on terms of intimacy, and thus learns your past history, your ways and habits, and the state of your affairs, the man you so confide in that you communicate to him what you keep hidden from others, and who, while you still think well of him, uses his knowledge of you to blacken your character, damage your prospects, and ruin your family, - this man is a criminal of a different dye. So Judas used his knowledge of Christ's habits - his hour and place of prayer, etc. The circumstance, too, that he made money by his treachery is an aggravation. The best use he could think of to put Jesus to was to sell him for five pounds. After all be had seen and known of Jesus, this was all the benefit he thought he could derive from him.
III. ATTEMPTED PALLIATIONS OF HIS CRIME. So diabolical does the crime seem, so difficult is it to believe that any one who had known and lived with Jesus could find it in his heart to give him up to his enemies, that attempts have been made to account for the act on less damning motives. Especially it has been urged that it was the purpose of Judas merely to force the hand of Jesus - to compel him to resort to force in self-defence, and erect the standard of the new kingdom. He was weary of the inactivity of Jesus, and sought to bring matters to a crisis. Some plausibility is given to this view by the subsequent remorse and suicide of Judas. This, it is said, proves that he did not intend the death of his Master. But to argue thus is to forget that in all cases sin committed looks very different from sin in prospect. Doubtless Judas did not clearly foresee the terrible guilt of giving up his Master to death; but this does not imply that he did not intend to give him up to death. Before we sin, it is the gain we see; after we sin, the guilt.
IV. SOURCES OF THE CRIME. His discipleship bad put him in the way of temptation. He had carried the bag of the small community. His covetousness had increased upon him. And now he saw clearly that no great scope for money making was to be found in the company of Jesus. He was a disappointed, embittered man. He felt he must break with Christ, but in doing so would win what he could, and would revenge himself on those who had kept him poor, and at the same time, by exploding the society and annihilating it, would justify his own conduct in deserting the cause. Infer:
1. The power and danger of the love of money. All that we do in the world day by day has a more or less direct reference to money. This passion of covetousness is therefore always appealed to. Other evil propensities allow intervals of freedom, periods of repentance and amendment; but this is constant. Judas's fingers were always in the bag; it jingled as he walked; it lay under his pillow as he slept.
2. The enormous growth a sin makes when committed against light. Everything in Judas's position to win him from worldliness. But the uuworldliness of his company only led him to take greater advantage, and did not infect him with generosity. Had he passed his days as a small trader in Kerioth, he could only have reached the minor guilt of adulterating his goods and giving them out in false measures; but in Christ's company his sin acquired abnormal proportions. Inducements to righteousness and opportunities of good provoke in the sinner a strong and determined bent to sin. - D.
meanness of his trying to make a little money out of the treachery. It is this that reveals the man, and shows the covetousness which, for Judas, was the worm at the root. Loyalties, reverences, and friendships were nothing to him if only he could make a little money. "The history of his base and appalling lapse is perfectly intelligible. He had joined the discipleship of Jesus, as the other apostles also did, in the hope of taking part in a political revolution, and occupying a distinguished place in an earthly kingdom. It is inconceivable that Jesus would have made him an apostle if there had not at one time been some noble enthusiasm in him, and some attachment to himself. That he was a man of superior energy and administrative ability may be inferred from the fact that he was made the purse bearer of the apostolic company. But there was a canker at the root of his character, which gradually absorbed all that was excellent in him, and became a tyrannical passion. It was the love of money. He fed it on the petty peculations which he practised on the small sums which Jesus received from his friends for the necessities of his company, and for distribution among the poor with whom he was daily mingling. He hoped to give it unrestrained gratification when he became chancellor of the exchequer in the new kingdom" (Stalker). Illustrate by the tiny mountain spring swelling into the flooding river; or by the taint in the blood producing a spot on the skin, this growing into a boil, then developing into a virulent, deadly carbuncle.
2. THE CHIME OF JUDAS IN ITS FAINT BEGINNINGS. Self was more interesting than Christ. To get gave more pleasure than to serve. This was the trickle through the reservoir-bank which would grow into a flood. Safety lies in putting Christ first, and counting serving him best. The root wrong, was interest in the mere possession of money. To have money for use is healthy? to have money to possess breeds moral disease.
II. THE CRIME OF JUDAS IN ITS STAGES OF GROWTH.
1. It fashioned unreasonable expectations.
2. It was annoyed by delay in their realization.
3. It was fostered by acts of petty unfaithfulness.
4. It made personal advantage appear to be the thing of supreme value.
III. THE CRIME OF JUDAS PROVING TO BE FOLLY AS WELL AS CRIME. For it was the ruin of Judas, and the blasting of all the schemes on which he had set his heart. Covetous Judas ruined himself. - R.T.
1 Corinthians 5:6-8). The two sacraments of Christianity express all that was expressed in the entire circle of the ceremonial law, and more. All the washings are embodied in the sacrament of baptism; all the sacrifices and feasts in the Eucharist. Consider -
I. THE JEWISH PASSOVER.
1. The lamb typified Christ.
(1) It was a male of the first year, to set forth the excellence and the maturity of his humanity. He was "the Son of David," viz. that Son in comparison with whom the other sons of David are nowhere. He was "the Son of man," viz. in comparison with whom no other son of Adam may be named.
(2) It was "without blemish." He was in his birth immaculate, in his life and death perfectly righteous. In all points unique in purity, wisdom, and goodness.
(3) It was taken from the flock, to show that the humanity of Christ was to be real. It was accordingly no phantom. He was "bone of our bone."
2. Its sacrifice foreshadowed his Passion.
(1) "Taken from the flock" in order to be sacrificed, it became a vicarious victim. It became the substitute for those that were spared in consequence of its selection. So Christ, having identified himself with our race, was "taken" as our Substitute.
(2) In the original institution the blood of the lamb sacrificed, and sprinkled in faith upon the door posts and lintels of the houses, protected the inmates from the sword of the destroyer. So is there life and salvation where by a sure faith the blood of the Lamb of God is sprinkled.
(3) The place of the sacrifice was ordained to be that which the Lord should choose. Jerusalem was that chosen place.
3. The feast anticipated his communion.
(1) The Egyptian had no right to the Passover. It was not for the idolater, but for the believer. So neither are the blessings of redemption in Christ designed for the obstinate sinner, but for the humble believer.
(2) It was to be eaten with unleavened bread. Leaven, being a kind of corruption, was an emblem of insincerity and falsehood. The faith which saves is not that of the hypocrite, but that of the true man (see 1 Corinthians 5:8).
(3) It was to be eaten "with bitter herbs." The unleavened bread and bitter herbs together made the "bread of affliction." So if the sinner would commune with Christ, he must come with contrition and repentance.
II. THE CHRISTIAN INSTITUTE.
1. The elements of the sacrament.
(1) Bread. This was to represent, signify, or be an emblem of the body of Christ.
(b) Bread signifies all food which supports the life of the body. So is the body of Christ, discerned by faith, the sufficient and necessary food of the spirit.
(2) Wine. This was to represent his blood.
(a) "This is" cannot be literally taken. For in Luke (Luke 22:20) the words are, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood," which it will not be contended is to be literally taken. The drinking of literal sacrificial blood was a custom amongst idolaters. But this was never practised in the service of Jehovah (see Psalm 16:4).
(b) Blood, viz. of the vegetable kind is chosen to set forth the life of the resurrection of Christ, which is that in which the true Christian has communion with him.
2. The treatment of the elements.
(1) The blessing. This was observed both in respect to the bread and the wine. This was no miracle of transubstantiation. It was, as explained in the evangelists, "giving thanks." The cup used was the "cup of blessing" of the Passover. Christ, as Man heading the table of the redeemed, gives God thanks. True believers will all say "Amen" to this benediction and thanksgiving.
(2) The breaking of the bread and pouring out of the wine vividly call to remembrance the prominent features of the Passion. And forasmuch as Christ himself broke the bread and poured the wine, he evinced the voluntariness of his suffering for us. But that this breaking of the bread and pouring of the wine was not the actual suffering of Christ as the transubstantiationist must maintain, is evident, for Christ said," With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer' (see Luke 22:15).
(3) The participation. This set forth the believer's communion with Christ, his assimilation to Christ, his incorporation with Christ, and his union in spirit with the Lord. He gave the elements to his "disciples" - mark, not as apostles, which they were, but as disciples, viz. that "all" disciples might claim this privilege. Bread to strengthen; wine to gladden. The cup is by Ignatius called ἄγαπη, as it was the symbol of love. By Paul it is called the "communion" (see 1 Corinthians 10:16).
(4) The description. "My blood of the covenant." It is the sign and seal of the "better promises" of the "new," or excellent, and "everlasting" covenant.
(5) The hymn. Praise at such time is to us most fitting. "Christ, removing the hymn from the close of the Passover to the close of the Lord's Supper, plainly intimates that he intended that the ordinance should continue in his Church, that is, it had not its birth with the ceremonial law, so it should not die with it" (Henry).
(6) The departure, immediately afterwards, to the Mount of Olives, was also significant. For he was destined thence, after his actual Passion, to ascend into heaven to receive for us the blessing of the covenant.
3. The admonitory incident.
(1) "As they were eating, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me." As at its institution the Passover separated between Israel and Egypt in mercy and judgment, so now at its transformation into the Christian sacrament, mercy and judgment were to separate between the spiritual and sordid Israel. Judas was the type of his nation also when his wickedness recoiled upon him, as the wickedness of the Egyptians had recoiled upon them.
(2) The presence of treachery in the Church is an occasion of sorrow to the true believer. "They were exceeding sorrowful:" for the Lord, that his great love should be requited with villainy; for their college, that its credit and influence should be compromised.
(3) It is also an occasion for heart searching. "They began to say unto him every one, Is it I, Lord?' The search of true self-examination is particular and special. The evil concealed in us can be fully discovered to us only by the Lord. "He that dippeth," etc. (ver. 23; cf. Psalm 41:9). External communion with Christ in his ordinances is an aggravation of treachery to him.
(4) "The Son of man," etc. (ver. 24). It had been foretold that Messiah should suffer (cf. Isaiah 53:3; Daniel 9:26). But though Divine mercy brought infinite good out of that suffering, those who inflicted it were none the less criminal. How resolute is the devil of hypocrisy! "Judas answered and said, Is it I, Rabbi?" - J.A.M.
I. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR A DISCIPLE OF CHRIST TO BETRAY HIS MASTER. We might have thought that the spell of Christ's presence would have effectually prevented such a fall. That there should be a Judas in the college of the apostles is a startling fact.
1. Jesus does not hold any by force. This is not a case for considering the scope of omnipotence. Here we trench on the awful region of the human will. God does not override that mysterious power. If he did, he would destroy the man himself; he would crush the personality in which alone true service can be rendered to God.
2. It is possible to know much of Christ, and yet to escape from his influence. Judas appears to have been a man of great intelligence. He had heard the wonderful teachings of One who "spake as never man spake," yet they had made no final impression on his character. We are not saved by our knowledge of Christ. We may be disciples without being Christians; scholars in the school of Jesus, and yet not saints in his household.
II. NO CHRISTIAN CAN BE SURE THAT HE WILL NEVER BETRAY HIS MASTER. It is pathetic to see these humble men each putting the anxious question, "Is it I, Lord?" But the very utterance of the question suggests the wisdom of those who breathed it. We do not know ourselves. There are volcanic depths which may reveal themselves in sudden explosions, fires that slumber far beneath the green fields and the flowery gardens. The rose and the lily bloom on the surface; but who shall say what will happen when the eruption takes place? No one has fathomed the depth of the hidden possibilities of evil in his own heart; and no one can tell what force of temptations he will be called upon to face. For aught we know, any one of us might become a Judas.
III. THE ONLY SECURITY AGAINST BETRAYING CHRIST IS TO BE FOUND IN A HUMBLE TRUST IN HIS GRACE. The disciples acted wisely in uttering their anxious question This was the best way to get a negative answer. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed, lest he fall." The very fear of falling will be a help against falling, by inducing a spirit of watchfulness.
1. We need to be on our guard against unfaithfulness The danger comes when it is least expected. He who is anxious lest he shall betray his Master will be the first to detect the temptation that points the way of treason.
2. Christ can keep his people faithful. We are not left to be the victims of chance, nor are we entirely committed to the charge of our own wayward wills. Christ will not keep any from falling by force, apart from the concurrence of their own will. But he can and he does preserve those who seek his grace and trust his aid. He is able to keep such from falling (Jude 1:24). - W.F.A.
himself, and you hear them asking, one after another, 'Lord, is it I?' Peter, Bartholomew, John, James, Thomas, each speaks for himself, and the quick questions come pouring in out of their simple hearts, 'Lord, is it I?' Certainly there is something that is strange in this. These men were genuine. There could not be any affectation in their question. A real, live fear came over them at Jesus' prophecy. And it was a good sign, no doubt, that the first thought of each of them was about the possibility of his own sins." This, however, is what lies on the surface; closer study of character reveals something that is not so commendable. The turning of these disciples to question their Lord concerning themselves illustrates the constant disposition of men to shift their responsibilities, and especially the responsibility of searching into and duly appraising themselves. No doubt, self-examination is difficult work, unpleasant, humbling work; but if a man is to be a man, he will have to do it. Over the Greek temple they wrote, "Know thyself." It is man's hardest, it is man's noblest, work.
I. REFERENCE TO CHRIST OF WHAT WE CANNOT DECIDE OURSELVES IS GOOD. It would have been all right if these disciples had done a little self-examination first, and then, bewildered and uncertain, had sought their Lord's help. Instead of that, impulsively, inconsiderately, exciting one another, hardly knowing what they said, they all said the same thing at once.
II. CHRIST WILL BE SURE TO THROW SUCH QUESTIONERS AS THESE BACK ON THEMSELVES. There was no answer for each one. There was a general answer for all. "He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish." But they all did that. That told nothing save to a very keen observer, who might notice that Judas's hand went into the dish at the same moment as the hand of Jesus. Jesus, in effect, bade them ask themselves the question which they were so impulsively asking him.
III. DISCIPLES MIGHT HAVE ANSWERED THEIR QUESTIONS THEMSELVES. Suppose they had begun to examine their own motives, what would the eleven have found? and what would Judas have found? The eleven might have gained satisfaction; for treachery was no natural fruitage of the relations in which they were standing with their Master. - R.T.
I. THE CHRISTIAN FEEDS UPON CHRIST.
1. Christ himself. These elements do not represent abstract doctrines or moral precepts; the theory of redemption or the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount. They represent Jesus. He is our Life.
2. Christ received as food. We eat the bread and drink the wine. Christ is the Bread of life. We must personally participate in Christ, and receive him into our lives, in order to profit by his grace.
3. Christ as every day food. Jesus chose the common bread and wine of the country, such as were always at hand. He does not wish to be a rare luxury for wedding feasts and kings' banquets. He will be the poor man's bread, and his daily bread. Yet this is what is most essential. Some people look for rare delicacies in Christ, but they will not make him their daily Bread. Then they will starve. We must live upon Christ.
II. CHRIST BECOMES AS FOOD TO OUR SOULS IS HIS INCARNATION. These elements do not represent the soul of Jesus. They stand for his body and his blood. Strange speculations have risen around this fact, and some have imagined that the properties of the spiritual, of the Divine nature itself, were transferred to the body of our Lord. It is straining the words of Jesus, and putting an unnatural meaning on his language, to suppose any such miraculous transformation of his body to have taken place. In a simpler way we may understand that it is through his incarnation that he becomes our food. Food must be in some way like what feeds on it in order that it may be fully assimilated and absorbed. Christ becomes one with us in his incarnation. We can come near to him in his earthly life. We can touch him, and sympathise with him, and understand him in some degree. Thus we feed on his body and blood, and so receive him.
III. CHRIST GIVES HIMSELF TO US IN HIS DEATH. The bread is broken; the wine is poured out; and these two elements are taken separately. Thus our Lord sets before us the thought of his death. He could not be our Life if he had not given up his own life. It is not the body of Christ in his earthly ministry, it is the body on the cross, that feeds us. It is not the blood in the veins, it is the blood shed, that saves us. The Lord's Supper was instituted on the night before Jesus was betrayed. It pointed on to the cross. It is now the great memorial of Christ in his sacrifice for us. In conclusion, let us consider how we may approach this sacred feast. We cannot eat and drink "worthily" if we are to be worthy of Christ or free from all sin before we come. This is impossible, and it is not required of us; for Christ is himself the Saviour from sin. What we want is to recognize him as our Life, to trust in him as our Saviour, to surrender to him as our Lord. Then we can come to his table at his own invitation, and refresh our souls with his grace. - W.F.A.
Isaiah 53.; in the institution of his Supper our Lord distinctly sets it forth. Before this he spoke of his life being given as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28), and he called himself the good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:15).
I. JESUS SPEAKS WITH STRANGE EMPHASIS OF HIS BLOOD. In the present day some people shrink from all reference to the blood of Christ. They are disgusted with the coarse and unmeaning language of a certain class of preachers to whom the mere physical image seems to be more than the truth typified. But our Lord himself directs us to the subject in the wine of the Communion. We must interpret his meaning in the light of Jewish ideas. The Jew taught that the blood was the life (Leviticus 17:11). Then Christ gives us his essential life. The blood was shed in the sacrifice of the victim at the altar. Christ is the great Sacrifice for our sins, and as such he sheds his blood; i.e. the blood signifies Christ dying for us; and then, beyond the mere act of dying, it signifies the preciousness of his life given to us.
II. THE BLOOD OF CHRIST SEALS HIS NEW COVENANT. He was instituting a new order, a fresh relationship between man and God. The old covenant of the Jewish Law was obsolete. Men had outgrown it, and were ready to receive something larger and more spiritual. Jesus himself teaches that he institutes the fresh relation. As a covenant signifies certain terms and arrangements, this new covenant of Christ's has its new conditions. His whole teaching about the kingdom of heaven is expository of his covenant. Preparations in prophecy (e.g. Jeremiah 31:31) and explanations in apostolic writings help us further to understand it.
1. It is for all nations, not only for Jews.
2. It is of grace, not of law.
3. It is spiritual, not of "carnal ordinances."
III. THIS NEW COVENANT BRINGS REMISSION OF SINS.
1. Christ forgives sins. By exercising his right to do so our Lord roused early antagonism among the defenders of the old religion. But the world has since seen that here lay the very root and core of his work. Here is the essence of the gospel for us today - it promises forgiveness of sins.
2. This forgiveness springs from the death of Christ. We may find it difficult to trace the connection; but it is not an invention of human speculation, for we find our Lord himself speaking of it. It is Christ's own teaching that our sins are forgiven through the shedding of his blood.
IV. THE REMISSION OF SINS IS OF WIDE APPLICATION. Jesus says it is "for many." He did not die merely to save an elect few. He had large aims, and he will not "see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied" until he has brought many souls out of darkness into light. Therefore the very institution of the Lord's Supper is an encouragement for the penitent to seek the pardon which Christ is so bountiful in bestowing. - W.F.A.
Exodus 24:4-8. Moses sealed the covenant between God and the people by sprinkling the representative pillars and altar with blood, which involved the life of a victim. So Jesus undertook to negotiate between God and the people, in order to secure the remission of sins. He conducted that negotiation; he brought it to a satisfactory conclusion; he secured the acceptance of the covenant; he sealed it, signed it, in the name of God and in the name of man, with his own blood. Jesus was the Mediator of the new covenant, as Moses had been mediator of the old. Moses could not seal his covenant with his own blood. He sealed it with the representative blood of living creatures. Jesus could, and did, seal his covenant with his own blood. He could, for God and for man, pledge life upon faithfulness.
I. COVENANTS BETWEEN GOD AND MAN ARE MADE THROUGH MEDIATORS. See cases - Noah, Abraham, Moses. So Christ mediated a covenant.
II. COVENANTS INVOLVE THE TAKING OF MUTUAL PLEDGES. In the new covenant, the pledge on God's side is forgiveness and life; on man's side, the obedience of faith. Christ took the pledges, both in the name of God and in the name of man.
III. BLOOD WAS THE PROPER SEAL OF THE COVENANT. It meant the dedication of the life to faithful keeping of the covenant. Christ stamps the seal in his bloodshedding; his yielding life in keeping covenant.
IV. DRINKING THE WINE IS SYMBOLICAL RENEWAL OF COVENANT. This is needed only on man's side. We take, ever afresh, the solemn pledge that we will stand to the covenant Christ has made in our name. - R.T.
I. IN JESUS WE SEE THE ENSHRINEMENT OF DIVINE STRENGTH.
1. In his all-comprehensive knowledge.
(1) What was "written" was perfectly familiar to him. He was supremely "mighty in the Scriptures." The "Sword of the Spirit" is a trusty weapon, both for defence in parrying the thrusts of Satan and for offence in putting the armies of the aliens to the rout.
(2) He knew himself to be the "Shepherd" of Israel. That Shepherd is Jehovah (see Psalm 23:1; Psalm 80:1). That Shepherd is Messiah (see Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:23; Zechariah 13:7). Jesus identifies himself as that glorious Personage (see John 10:11; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4). As the Shepherd here is the "Fellow" of the "Lord of hosts," he only can be intended who is "equal with God."
(3) He knew everything about his sheep. He could foretell the incident of the denial by Peter. He could oppose the limit before the second cock-crowing of that night to Peter's "never." He could forecast his desertion by "all." He knows us infinitely better than we know ourselves.
(4) Knowledge is power. Perfect knowledge can never be taken at a disadvantage. It cannot be surprised. It has boundless resources.
2. In his all-enduring compassion.
(1) With what patience does he endure the unfaithfulness of his disciples! Though he knew they would desert him, yet does he not spurn them from his presence. His kind heart can see, even in the excess of their self-confidence, a sincere and warm affection. The case is different from that of Judas. His sin was deliberate; Peter's was a sin of surprise. That of Judas arose from the state of his heart; the act of Peter was against his habitual feelings and principles. Though he foresaw that all the disciples would leave him to tread the winepress alone, his gentleness made no rejoinder to their protestations of devotion to him even to the death.
(2) The Shepherd submits to be smitten for the sheep. For himself he had no need to die. The formidableness of that "sword" of Divine justice now "awaking" from its slumber of forbearance was fully in his view. He saw the malignity of those human hands into which it was given to be wielded against him. Yet did he not seek to evade its edge. He could already see those "wounds in his hands" with which he was to be "wounded in the house of his friends" (see Zechariah 13:6). He could have avoided them; but his sheep must be redeemed.
(3) The "scattered" ones must again be gathered into their fold. To this end the smitten Shepherd must rise again from the dead. "But after I am raised up I will go before you into Galilee." This implies that he would deliver himself out of the hands of his enemies and theirs. "I will go before you," equivalent to "I will bring my hand again to the little ones" (see Zechariah 13:7). "I will go before you," viz. as the Shepherd before his gathered flock (see John 10:4). "Into Galilee." He even mentioned the particular hill which was to be the place of their meeting (see Matthew 28:16).
(4) We have "strong consolation" in the "mercy" which "endureth forever."
II. IN THE DISCIPLES WE SEE AN EMBODIMENT OF WEAKNESS,
1. Their weakness appears in their self-confidence.
(1) Peter had more faith in himself than he had in the Scriptures of God. They anticipated the offence which the sheep were to take when the Shepherd should be smitten. In the face of this Peter said, "If all shall be offended in thee, I will never be offended." It is easy to talk boldly and carelessly of death at a distance.
(2) "If all shall be offended." Those who think too well of themselves are apt to be suspicious of others (see Galatians 6:1).
(3) Peter's self-confidence grew with his unbelief. For when Jesus said unto him," Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter saith unto him, Even it I must die with thee, yet will I not deny thee." He should have been diffident in respect to words which never failed when the most stupendous miracles depended on them.
(4) The foremost in self-confidence are the first to fall. Such was the case with Peter. Then -
"Beware of Peter's word, Man's wisdom is to seek 2. Their weakness appears in their unbelief. (1) They could see that Jesus was in peril of his life. This they inferred rather from their knowledge of the hostility of the rulers than from their faith in the Scriptures of prophecy or from the prophetic words of Christ. They could not see who it was that was in peril. Had they seen the Father in the Son, the peril would not have affrighted them. Note: Offences will come among the disciples of Jesus in times of peril. The cross of Christ is evermore the stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:23). Satan is busy when our faith is weak. (2) They could not see what it truly is to die with Christ. To die with him is to die to self and the world - voluntarily to crucify our entire evil nature. Because, for lack of faith, they were unprepared thus to die with Jesus, they "forsook him, and fled." The heart can await the hour of temptation when the truth is rooted in it. (3) They could not see that their Lord would rise again from the dead. This unbelief was not for want of being told about the Resurrection, either by the prophets or by Christ himself. They were foolish in the slowness of their hearts to believe (see Luke 24:25, 26). Had they understood and realized the resurrection of Christ on the third day after his Passion, their faith would have steadied them (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:58). (4) If all the apostles forsook their Lord, who has not reason to fear? Did not the apostles represent all the flock which they were afterwards to bring together? Who can boast? The Lord permits us to be tried, that we may see ourselves as we are, and be humbled by our experience. The strength of pride is but for a moment. - J.A.M.
Man's wisdom is to seek 2. Their weakness appears in their unbelief. (1) They could see that Jesus was in peril of his life. This they inferred rather from their knowledge of the hostility of the rulers than from their faith in the Scriptures of prophecy or from the prophetic words of Christ. They could not see who it was that was in peril. Had they seen the Father in the Son, the peril would not have affrighted them. Note: Offences will come among the disciples of Jesus in times of peril. The cross of Christ is evermore the stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:23). Satan is busy when our faith is weak. (2) They could not see what it truly is to die with Christ. To die with him is to die to self and the world - voluntarily to crucify our entire evil nature. Because, for lack of faith, they were unprepared thus to die with Jesus, they "forsook him, and fled." The heart can await the hour of temptation when the truth is rooted in it. (3) They could not see that their Lord would rise again from the dead. This unbelief was not for want of being told about the Resurrection, either by the prophets or by Christ himself. They were foolish in the slowness of their hearts to believe (see Luke 24:25, 26). Had they understood and realized the resurrection of Christ on the third day after his Passion, their faith would have steadied them (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:58). (4) If all the apostles forsook their Lord, who has not reason to fear? Did not the apostles represent all the flock which they were afterwards to bring together? Who can boast? The Lord permits us to be tried, that we may see ourselves as we are, and be humbled by our experience. The strength of pride is but for a moment. - J.A.M.
2. Their weakness appears in their unbelief.
(1) They could see that Jesus was in peril of his life. This they inferred rather from their knowledge of the hostility of the rulers than from their faith in the Scriptures of prophecy or from the prophetic words of Christ. They could not see who it was that was in peril. Had they seen the Father in the Son, the peril would not have affrighted them. Note: Offences will come among the disciples of Jesus in times of peril. The cross of Christ is evermore the stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:23). Satan is busy when our faith is weak.
(2) They could not see what it truly is to die with Christ. To die with him is to die to self and the world - voluntarily to crucify our entire evil nature. Because, for lack of faith, they were unprepared thus to die with Jesus, they "forsook him, and fled." The heart can await the hour of temptation when the truth is rooted in it.
(3) They could not see that their Lord would rise again from the dead. This unbelief was not for want of being told about the Resurrection, either by the prophets or by Christ himself. They were foolish in the slowness of their hearts to believe (see Luke 24:25, 26). Had they understood and realized the resurrection of Christ on the third day after his Passion, their faith would have steadied them (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:58).
(4) If all the apostles forsook their Lord, who has not reason to fear? Did not the apostles represent all the flock which they were afterwards to bring together? Who can boast? The Lord permits us to be tried, that we may see ourselves as we are, and be humbled by our experience. The strength of pride is but for a moment. - J.A.M.
I. SELF-KNOWLEDGE CAN NEVER BE GOT AT IMPULSIVELY. Impulse can only express a passing mood or feeling; and that may have its explanation in temporary circumstances and excitements. A man acting or speaking on impulse may act or speak in strict harmony with his real self. He may; but it is equally true that he may act or speak otherwise than he would if he could quietly resolve. Impulse is good, but it is perilous. Distinguish from the power of quick judgment and decision. Impulses tell the hour; they seldom tell the real man.
II. SELF-KNOWLEDGE CALLS FOR CAREFUL THOUGHT. We find great differences in characters. Some are easy to read, they belong to recognized classes. Some are very difficult to read; we must watch them a long time; their individuality is more marked than their classification. And men find similar variety in themselves. Some may read themselves easily. St. Peter might, if he had tried. Some never feel quite sure that they know themselves.
III. SELF-KNOWLEDGE IS ALWAYS SUBJECT TO DIVINE CORRECTIONS. The apostle thought he knew himself when he made his stout assertion. But he came into Divine correction. This is often given us by the discipline of disappointment and failure; and often by the providence which offers us work for which we could not have thought that we were fitted.
IV. DIVINE CORRECTIONS SHOULD LEAD TO A RE-READING OF OURSELVES IS THE NEW LIGHT. If we fail to do this, we shall have to go on with St. Peter, and learn to know ourselves through a bitter experience. - R.T.
oil presses. Here he entered upon a scene the moral grandeur of which is only exceeded by that of Calvary. The olive in the oil press, like the grape in the wine press, was trodden (see Micah 6:15). The sufferings of the Lord in the garden were purely mental; those on the cross were physical also. Meditate upon the trouble of his soul -
I. IN ITS TERRIBLE SEVERITY.
1. This is expressed in his references to it.
(1) A few days earlier he said, "Now is my soul troubled" (John 12:27); but here the storm of temptation sets in in earnest.
(2) The expression, "to be sorrowful" (ver. 37), conveys the idea of horror. The "horror of great darkness" (see Genesis 15:12). This was the setting in of that last and darkest cloud of temptation which finally descended so low as to darken the earth at the Crucifixion (see Matthew 27:45).
(3) The word rendered "to be very heavy" (New Version, "sore troubled") implies the loss of pleasure derived from other things. This is characteristic of very deep human grief. Our Lord was truly human.
(4) The suffering increases. "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." The nature of this sorrow also was human, but its severity was beyond all human comprehension. For the love from which he contended was Divine love for the whole human race. What must have been the agony of that sense of death!
2. It is expressed in the agony of his prayer.
(1) "He fell on his face." Great anguish is expressed as rolling in the dust (see Micah 1:10). Job, in his great grief, fell on the ground.
(2) His prayer was importunate. "If it be possible." Mark gives it thus: "Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee" (Mark 14:36). To God all things are not morally, though physically all things are, possible. "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." Here is the human will of Christ, in the extremest circumstances, deferring to his Divine will.
(3) His supplication was with "strong crying and tears" to be saved from this fearful death sorrow (see Hebrews 5:7). These cries reached the hearing of the disciples, and they observed his tears when he came to them in the moonlight.
(4) The petition was thrice repeated. Paul expresses his own importunity in the words, "I besought the Lord thrice" (see 2 Corinthians 12:8). Perhaps the iteration of the prayer of Jesus implied as many distinct temptations. They were, however, related to the same "cup."
II. IN ITS VARIOUS SOURCES.
1. It partly arose from the contradiction of sinners. (See Hebrews 12:3.)
(1) The treachery of Judas was working to its issue. He sorely felt the ingratitude of that "familiar friend in whom" once he worthily "trusted," but who was now desperately fallen (el. Psalm 41:9; John 13:18; Acts 1:25).
(2) The treachery of the Jews was working with Judas, their type. This also afflicted his patriotic heart. See that wonderful description in the hundred and ninth psalm of the sorrows of Messiah in connection with the treachery of Judas and of the Jews.
(3) The wickedness of the world at large was also before him in all its enormity. A specimen of that enormity was soon to be displayed in the conduct of the Roman governor and his men of war. For this he felt acutely, as having taken upon him that humanity which is common to all.
2. It partly arose from the weakness of his disciples.
(1) They were slow of heart to believe fully in him. This, notwithstanding all the pains he had taken to instruct them, notwithstanding all the miracles to confirm his teaching which they had seen.
(2) But they were full of self-assertion. This he had that day witnessed in their professions of readiness to die with him. And though he, in the spirit of prophecy, rebuked it, still they remained self-confident; for they slept when they should have watched.
(3) When David wept at this Mount of Olives, all his followers wept with him (see 2 Samuel 15:30); but when the Son of David was there in tears, his followers were asleep. Yet was not their sleep without sorrow (see Luke 22:45). Still it was open to rebuke. "He saith unto Peter," who had been foremost in promising to die with him, "What, could ye not watch with me one hour?"
(4) This evidence of their weakness Jesus uses to press upon them the urgent need of their watching and praying, that they might not yield to the approaching temptation. If prayer against the hour of temptation was needful for the Master, how much more so for the servants! "Prayer without watching is hypocrisy; and watching without prayer is presumption" (Jay).
(5) "Sleep on now." This is the same as "Why sleep ye?" as it is given in Luke 22:46; a rebuke, e.g. "I no longer enjoin upon you to watch; the season is now past for that duty, the time of trial for which watching and praying would have prepared you has arrived." He watched and prayed, and received strength to drink the bitter cup (cf. Luke 12:43; Hebrews 5:7); they slept away the precious moments, and the hour of trial found them without strength.
3. It partly arose from the malignity of Satan.
(2) The devil was in the Jews. The prevalence of demoniacal possession at the time of Christ's sojourn amongst them was a sign of the condition of the nation.
(3) The devil was in the Gentile nations. He was, and still is, to a fearful extent, "the god of this world."
(4) That was emphatically "the hour of the power of darkness" - the crisis in which Satan was permitted to put forth all his strength in his conflict with the "Seed of the woman." For the sufferings on the cross were but the complement and sequel of those in the garden.
4. It principally arose from the anger of God. We may here make the general observation, viz. that the terrible "cup" which Jesus had to drink was given to him by the hand of his Father (cf. ver. 39; John 18:11). The subject will be more particularly considered as we meditate further upon the trouble of the soul of our Lord.
III. IN ITS AWFUL VICARIOUSNESS.
1. He shares his sorrows with those he loves best.
(1) To the college of the apostles he said, "Sit ye here, while I go yonder and pray." Rome are able to go only so far with Christ in his sufferings.
(2) "And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee" to whom he said, "Abide ye here, and watch with me." "Sit ye here" (ver. 36), and "Abide ye here" (ver. 38), mark a law of progression in following.
(3) To these he said, "Watch with me." Watch while I watch. Watch as I watch. The temptations directed against Christ are those directed against his Church.
(4) But who were these? They were the three formerly chosen to be the witnesses of the Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:1). Those are best prepared to suffer with Christ who have seen his glory. So likewise those who suffer with him may expect to reign with him. The sons of Zebedee had offered themselves to drink of his cup (see Matthew 20:20-23).
2. But there is a limit to their companionship.
(1) "Tarry ye here." Beyond this the best and most perfected cannot go. Christ had lately prayed with his disciples (see John 17:1); now he prays alone. Note: Our prayers with our families must not be pleaded to excuse the neglect of secret devotions.
(2) But why did he now pray and suffer apart? Because his sufferings now were vicarious, and in these he could have no sharer, for he only was sinless, and he only was Divine. In his pleadings he makes no mention of his virtues, for he was suffering as the Sin bearer for the world.
(3) That this agony in the garden was for us is evident, else One so great and glorious as he was would never have "feared" as he did. His fear was not for the loss of natural life to himself. That, to one who on the third day after his death was to rise again, is clearly out of the question. His "godly tear" (see Hebrews 5:7, New Version) was for the loss of spiritual and eternal life to the whole world. May it not also have been lest, if the death sorrow in the garden should prove fatal, the fulfilment of the Scriptures in respect to his death by crucifixion might be imperilled?
(4) The "cup" was the Passion which was now beginning, but had to be completed on the cross. The allusion may be to the poison cup given to criminals. To this Paul possibly alludes when he says, "Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death forevery man" (Hebrews 2:9). Here the whole world is represented as standing guilty and condemned before the tribunal of God. Into every man's hand is placed the deadly cup, and he is required to drink off the poison. But Jesus enters, takes every man's cup out of his hand, drinks off the poison, and thus tastes or suffers the death which every man otherwise must have suffered (see A. Clarke, in loc.). - J.A.M.
I. WE GAIN IDEAS CONCERNING OUR LORD'S HUMANITY. It was Divine-humanity, so we may expect to find some unusual elements. But it was veritable humanity, so we may expect to find more likeness to us than diversity from us. Brotherliness of feeling and experience is seen:
1. In the restlessness of Christ's spirit. We know what it is to be restless when we have forebodings of coming calamity.
2. In our Lord's desire to be alone, and yet longing to have some one to be present and sympathize with him.
3. In our Lord's resistance of anticipated physical sufferings.
4. In his gentle way of dealing with disciples who were weak rather than wilful, and therefore failed to watch. Gethsemane helps us to feel "he was in all points tempted like as we are."
II. WE GAIN IDEAS CONCERNING THE CAUSE OF OUR LORD'S SUFFERINGS. No doubt he felt, as no one ever felt before,
(1) the separation between God and man; and
(2) the hatefulness of sin.
And he estimated, as no one else ever has, the awful curse and penalty which wilful sin has brought upon humanity. The woe he had so seen to pass through seemed to reveal the penalty to him. This made the burden of deliverance so heavy - made it involve so much. It all crowded on his mind and heart, and forced the earnest cry and prayer.
III. WE GAIN IDEAS CONCERNING OUR LORD'S WILLINGNESS TO SUFFER. The soul offering - the will offering for sin - was made in Gethsemane. God required the full sacrifice of a completed, tested obedience. Calvary completed the testing. Christ was a perfect offering. He freely, willingly, gave himself unto God. - R.T.
Isaiah 53:3), it would be wrong to suppose that there was no gladness in the life of Christ. He spoke of his joy (John 15:11), and he delighted to do the will of God (Psalm 40:8). So pure a life spent in doing good to men must have had a gladness which no earthly pleasure could bestow. Yet Jesus had sorrows which no man can measure. It is easier to understand the glory of the Transfiguration than the agony of the garden.
I. THE GREATNESS OF THE SORROWS. Many bitter ingredients entered into the cup of anguish which it was the Father's will that Jesus should drink.
1. The horror of death. Jesus was young and in health; it was natural for him to shrink from a premature and violent death.
2. The dread of shame. Jesus was of the most refined and sensitive nature; in his Passion he was to face insult and ignominy.
3. Apparent failure. He came to set up his kingdom, to redeem Israel, to save the world; and his mission was rejected. Instead of the throne, he was to have the cross. All his efforts seemed to be ending in darkness. This was the earthly aspect of them. During his humiliation he must have felt it.
4. The faithlessness of friends. One had betrayed him; another was about to deny him; nearly all would flee in selfish cowardice.
5. Spiritual depression. At last Jesus seemed to be deserted by God.
II. THE SOURCE OF THE SORROWS. We must look deeper than these immediate occasions of the grief of Christ. The fundamental source is beneath and behind all of them.
1. The world's sin. They all result from sin. The world's sin rose up against God's Holy One, and smote him with all its fury. It was the dark cloud of this mass of sin that hid from him the vision of God. Jesus was bearing the load of sin, and it was breaking his heart.
2. The goodness of Christ. Bad men do not feel the world's sin very acutely.
(1) The holiness of Jesus was horrified at its black and hideous enormity.
(2) The love of Christ was grieved at its shocking cruelty towards himself, and at its own fatal and suicidal influence in the world. He saw it as the cause of misery and ruin and death.
III. THE ENDURANCE OF THE SORROWS. HOW did Jesus meet them?
1. With natural shrinking. He was no fanatical lover of martyrdom. He proved his humanity by feeling acutely and desiring to escape. Therefore he can sympathize with sufferers.
2. With prayer. The Gethsemane of agony is Christ's most sacred oratory. He teaches us to bring our griefs to God. His example shows that prayer is the soul's consolation in trouble.
3. With trustful submissions. He desired God's will to be done, whatever that might be. He prayed for deliverance, but he never complained, much less did he rebel. Here he is the example for us whose greatest sorrows never approach the tragic terror of his.
IV. THE FRUIT OF THE SORROWS.
1. Christ's victory. He triumphed by submission. In obedience to God, he attained to the desire of his heart. Through his Passion and crucifixion he won the "Name which is above every name." His sorrows led to his glory. By the via dolorosa he reached his throne.
2. The world's salvation. No selfish motive of personal gain inspired our Lord's endurance. His very reward was to see the world saved. His suffering was all for others; if the world may rejoice in hope, this is owing to the fact that Jesus suffered in the darkness of a dreadful death. - W.F.A.
I. THE CONFLICT OF LIFE IS REALLY A CONFLICT OF WILLS. God is the supreme will; and his will ought to be supreme with his creatures. But to man has been entrusted a limited free will. That free will man has exercised until it has become masterful, and is constantly setting itself against God's will. Bodily conditions, the slavery of the senses, the attractions of the seen and temporal, all help to the strengthening of man's will, man's wilfulness, so that the fight sometimes becomes severe. Our Lord, in taking on himself our human nature, took on him our sense-conditioned human will. And this in Gethsemane tried a wrestling with the will of God.
II. THE TRIUMPH IN THE CONFLICT OF LIFE IS YIELDING OUR WILL TO GOD'S WILL. This is the triumph of Gethsemane. Our Lord did not want the Divine will to be altered. He wanted to gain the full surrender of his whole nature - body, mind, soul - to the acceptance of the will. Man never gives up his will save as the issue of a fierce struggle. What force can renew and strengthen man's will so that it shall accept God's will, and make it his?
1. The truth as it is in Jesus.
2. The work wrought through for us by Jesus.
3. The grace won for us and given to us by Jesus.
4. The actual present power exerted on us by Jesus.
5. The constrainings of the love of Jesus.
Christ came to make the will of God infinitely attractive to us. He is the gracious Persuader of the human will. - R.T.
I. WHEN AN INTENTION IS A MERE SENTIMENT, IT IS WRONG. It need not be wrong as a sentiment; it is wrong if it is treated as an intention, and its acceptance is expected as such. It is a mere sentiment when there is
(1) no resolve of will in relation to it; and
(2) when there is no watching for opportunity of carrying it out.
Our intentions are revealed as mere sentiments whenever we let the chance of fulfilling them pass. This we are constantly doing, and this fact has created the proverb.
II. WHEN AN INTENTION IS A REAL PURPOSE, IT IS RIGHT. Then it is thought. fully, not impulsively, formed. Due account is taken of circumstances and abilities. Fitting occasion is watched for, and energy is shown in overcoming difficulties.
III. AN INTENTION IS NOT MADE WRONG BY BEING HINDERED IN EXECUTION. People often mistake by assuming that failure shows our purpose to have been wrong. But there are other things to take into account beside our intentions. We can always have this assurance, God knows whether we would have done what we intended if we could. - R.T.
thou? the sudden panic among the captors; and the violence of Peter.
I. This arrest is THE RESULT OF CHRIST'S EFFORTS TO DO GOOD. His conduct had been conciliatory to the point of meekness. He had been wise, gentle, patient, and persistently beneficent. And this is the result. And every one who has new truth to declare, new methods to employ, reforms to introduce, should recognize that he will be opposed by the combined forces of ignorance, pride, self-interest, and sloth. It is the consolation and encouragement of those who endeavour to improve matters around them, and meet with contempt and ill-treatment for doing so, that they share the lot of him whose reward for seeking to bless mankind was that he was arrested as a common felon.
II. THE MAGNAMIMITY OF CHRIST UNDER ARREST, as shown by his healing Malchus and shielding his disciples. When efforts to help other men have only brought calamity on one's self, there is strong provocation to resentment and bitterness. It is only the few who, when misinterpreted and ill used by ignorance and malignity, can retain any loving care for others.
III. Observe how the various elements of THE DOCTRINE OF THE ATONEMENT find an actual place in the life of Christ.
1. His substitution is pictured in his now giving himself up and shielding his disciples. The Jews clearly understood that he was the head of the movement. Peter's obtrusive violence did not divert their attention for a moment. He was not the kind of man to lead a great movement. Jesus was the dangerous Person. And on his side Jesus acknowledged they were right. It was he who had gathered these men together. But for him, they would have been dreaming at their nets on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus therefore steps to the front, and takes upon himself all the responsibility. And in this the disciples see a picture of his whole work of substitution. This night in the garden represents to them the hour of darkness; and always in every hour of darkness they see Jesus stepping to the front, and saying, If ye seek me, let these go their way."
2. The voluntariness of his sacrifice is also brought out. It was at this point it was especially brought out whether or not he was willing to die, whether he would flee, hide, fight, or surrender himself. Everything is proof of his willingness - his going that night as usual to the garden, his definite resignation to God's will, his meeting his captors, his avowal that he was the Person they sought, his refusal to allow Peter to defend him. Voluntariness was an essential element in his work of atonement. In order to atone for our sin, he had to submit himself to the penalty of sin, to accept as righteously inflicted what was due to sin. Obviously it was needful that he should be a perfectly free agent in doing so. Had his death been compulsory, we could not know whether he was accepting it as righteously inflicted or not. - D.
John 18:4). "Behold, he is at hand. that betrayeth me. And while he yet spake, lo, Judas," etc. Note here, and admire -
I. THE SUBMISSION OF JESUS TO JUDAS.
1. He might have avoided him.
(1) He knew of his coming (see vers. 45, 46). Every particular of the tragedy was vividly presented to his prophetic spirit.
(2) The Miracle worker had not lost his resources. On a former occasion, when hurried by an infuriated rabble to the brow of the hill at Nazareth, that they might throw him headlong, he knew how to pass through the midst of them (see Luke 4:30). How he did this we are not informed - whether he shut their eyes or overawed them by the sense of his majesty. But Judas knew the fact, and was probably influenced by the recollection of it when he nervously said, "Hold him fast." Instead of avoiding the traitor:
2. He endured his kiss.
(1) A kiss is the token of allegiance and friendship (see Psalm 2:12).
(2) With Judas the token of friendship was made the sign of treachery. The kiss of Judas came to be an expression for the greatest of all hypocrisies - the betrayal of innocence by simulated love. The "angel of light" seeks hellish ends in heavenly means.
(3) By enduring that infamous kiss Jesus permitted the traitor to show himself up. God's permission is judicially given to the sinner to sin. "Do that for which thou art come." Sin is its own chastiser.
3. He called him "friend," or "companion."
(2) He was "one of the twelve." The vilest wretches lurk in the best company.
(3) Once, probably, Judas had been as sincere a friend to Jesus as Ahithophel had been to David. The Heart searcher would not have chosen him for a disciple and promoted him to the apostolate unless he had then been a true man.
(4) But how fearfully bad he fallen! A leader of the flock of Christ has become the leader of a mob of ruffians against his life. Apostates from religion become its bitterest foes. Julian and Judas are notable examples.
(5) There is truth in the irony of the term "friend." The working out of the redemption and salvation of men was the great purpose cherished in the heart of Christ. Judas, therefore, unwittingly befriended him in furthering his sufferings. Jesus called Peter "Satan" for hindering him (see Matthew 16:22, 23). God brings good out of the evil working of the wicked.
II. THE SUBMISSION OF JESUS TO THE RABBLE.
1. He might have resisted them.
(1) With what authority did he drive the throng of sacrilegious traders from the temple (see Matthew 21:12, 13)!
(2) He was the same Miracle-worker still. At the utterance of the words, "I am he," they were so overpowered that "they went backward, and fell to the ground" (see John 18:6). They never could have approached him without his consent. The power that restored the ear of Malchus could not have been controlled by that of Malchus and his company.
(3) He might have had "more than twelve legions of angels." Note:
(a) The "innumerable company of angels" are marshalled into ranks.
(c) If a single angel could destroy a hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians at a stroke (2 Kings 19:35), what might not "twelve legions" do?
2. He forbade an appeal to the sword.
(1) Had he made such an appeal, there would have been a popular response. The people were disposed even forcibly to make Jesus their Warrior-King (see John 6:15). They readily followed false Christs who relied upon the sword. Peter was in sympathy with his nation when he weilded the sword.
(2) But Jesus rebuked the impetuosity of Peter. He struck without asking, "Shall we smite with the sword? "(see Luke 22:49). Peter did not intend evil, but intemperate zeal is often evil in its results.
(3) He reproved him for appealing to the sword.
(a) It was needless, for Christ could have received succour from his Father. God has no need of our sins to bring about his purposes.
(b) It was dangerous, viz. both to himself and his fellow disciples. For "he that; takes the sword shall perish by the sword."
(c) It evinced ignorance of the Scriptures. They teach that the way to glory is through suffering rather than through fighting. Peter would have the end without the means
(d) Peter's unsanctified zeal was another step toward his fall, by increasing his subsequent fear of detection.
3. Instead of resisting, he reasoned.
(1) "Are ye come out as against a robber, with swords and staves?" Judaea at this time was infested with thieves, and every one will lend a hand to stop a thief.
(2) The "swords" were those of the "cohort" of the chiliarch, or "chief captain" - probably Roman soldiers from the Tower of Antonia (cf. ver. 45; John 18:12). The "slaves" were those of the creatures of the high priest. These classes were usually at variance; but, like Pilate and Herod, they find a point of agreement in hostility to Christ.
(3) Thus they treated as a robber him that came to "restore" that he "took not away" (see Psalm 69:4). He became a prisoner that he might set us at liberty. "If therefore ye seek me, let these go their way" (see John 18:8, 9).
(4) "I sat daily in the temple teaching, and ye took me not." How comes this change in your conduct? Is it not unreasonable and inconsistent? Why come clandestinely in the night? Who looks most like the criminal?
III. THE SUBMISSION OF JESUS TO GOD.
1. For the vindication of his truth.
(1) "How then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?" Jesus carried the Law of God in his heart.
(2) They were "a great multitude" that came to arrest him, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled which saith, "Lord, how are they increased that trouble me!" (Psalm 3:1).
(3) By being pursued as a thief, "he was numbered with the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12). This Scripture met a further accomplishment when he was afterwards crucified between two malafactors (see Mark 15:27, 28).
(4) He was shamefully deserted by his disciples. In their conduct they evinced
(5) The Scripture must be fulfilled that Christ should be "led as a lamb to the slaughter" (Isaiah 53:7). Had he summoned the angels, he would not have been so led. Note: Nothing must be done against the fulfilment of the Scriptures.
2. For the vindication of his goodness.
(1) The sword of the Lord was drawn against Christ (see Zechariah 13:7). The Great One had to be smitten that the "little ones" might go free.
(2) The Redeemer of mankind had afterwards to become the Intercessor for the salvation of believers.
(3) He had to become the Example of the triumph of patience, of the victories of suffering. He accordingly denounced the human doctrine of victory by the sword, by asserting the converse, viz. "All they that take the sword shall perish by the sword."
(4) History has given its verdict. The Jews who put our Lord to death by the sword of the Romans perished by the same Roman sword. The Romans who used the sword against Christ perished by the sword of the Goths. The doom of persecuting Churches and of persecutors also is pre-written here (see Revelation 13:10). Reflect: Are there not still found among the disciples:
1. Those who betray Christ and his cause?
2. Who deny him and his people?
3. Who abandon him, his cause, his people, and his truth? - J.A.M.
I. THE CAUSE OF CHRIST CANNOT BE ADVANCED BY THE SWORD. Mohammedanism is its very opposite in this respect. Charles the Great made a fatal blunder when he drove the Saxons into the water of baptism by a charge of his fierce warriors.
1. Christ aims at inward conviction. A religion of external observances may be imposed by force; but you cannot compel a man to believe as you wish. The persuasion of force may induce a particular course of action to be followed; it will never spread the idea it champions.
2. Christ desires to win love. He has not conquered a soul if he has only brought it to silent submission. He seeks much more. He would have the hearts of his people. But the use of force is directly opposed to any such results. You cannot make a man love you by half killing him with sword thrusts. This method might advance a superstition of fear; it could never aid a gospel of love.
II. THE RIGHTS OF CHRIST CANNOT BE DEFENDED BY THE SWORD. At first sight it might seem to be reasonable to defend Christian truths and institutions by force, even although they could not be planted in this way. Constantine thought so, when he brought the whole machinery of the state to support the Nicene party in its opposition to the Arians. But the subsequent change of his own policy, and the long triumph and tyranny of Arianism, proved that he was mistaken. Here is the fatal error of the persecutor in all ages. Nothing is so injurious to a religious cause as the forcible suppression of its enemies. The religion that persecutes exchanges the love and devotion with which it may once have been regarded for horror and aversion. The dreadful Marian persecutions did more to destroy the power of the pope in England than all the assaults of the Protestants. The same fate would follow the same policy if it were pursued in defence of the purest form of the gospel of Christ.
III. THE WORLD AT LARGE SUFFERS IMMENSELY FROM THE SWORD. Occasionally there is a righteous war, as that which resulted in the suppression of slavery in America. But in the vast majority of cases, a war is an almost unmitigated evil to all who are engaged in it. It causes immeasurable sufferings, and it encourages the worst passions. The words of Christ are true in a deeper sense than superficial readers discover. Not only is the fighting man liable to be killed in battle. His behaviour endangers his better nature. The spirit of hate and revenge is fatal to all that is good in him. Thus he perishes by the sword - not alone by the sword of his antagonist, which he provokes, but by the sword which he wields in his own hand. He is a suicide. In defending his body, too often he kills his own soul. - W.F.A.
I. THE SHEATH IS NOT ALWAYS THE PLACE FOR THE SWORD. We may wish that it could be kept there, but while human nature is what it is; while society finds it needful to guard itself against itself; and while nations will press claims against other nations, the sword can neither be kept in its sheath nor turned into a ploughshare. We can see three types of persons who must still, on occasion, take the sword out of its sheath.
1. The executioner, who carries out the decisions of the law in relation to criminals, disturbers of the public peace, who have been fairly tried and honourably condemned.
2. The vindicator, who must take the sword out of its sheath to avenge public wrongs, ill treatment of ambassadors, etc., as lately at Manipur.
3. The defender, who meets the foe who would rifle his home or imperil his nation's liberty.
II. THE SHEATH IS ALWAYS THE PLACE FOR THE CHRISTIAN SWORD. The "weapons of our warfare are not carnal." We triumph by submission, not by resistance. "In whatever other cause it may be lawful to use carnal weapons, it is not wise or right to draw the sword for Christ and his truth" (Plumptre). Christ's law is "Resist not evil." Christianity has found a strange, but a triumphant, method of dealing with evil. It lets it do its worst. This was our Lord's way. He yielded, gave himself up, endured, let evil show itself fully; and the consequence is, the whole world knows how utterly bad and base evil is. - R.T.
1. How much wrong we may inflict upon Christ by resisting conviction.
2. How much wrong we may do him in ignorance - by adopting the judgments passed upon him by others, and declining the duty of considering his claims ourselves. - D.
I. ITS COUNCILORS ARE MURDERERS.
1. They had beforehand plotted the death of Jesus.
(1) The faithfulness of his preaching had mortified their pride. The spirit of murder was in the hatred and resentment which they cherished toward him.
(2) After the raising of Lazarus, they consulted together what they must do to the Miracle worker, and Caiaphas gave forth his memorable decision. In advising assassination, be prophesied under an inspiration which he did not understand. His accomplices understood him only as he intended. "So from that day forth they took counsel that they might put Jesus to death" (see John 12:45-53). "Man proposeth; God disposeth."
(3) Fear from the popularity of Jesus alone prevented them from procuring his assassination without even the semblance of a trial (see Luke 20:19; Luke 22:2). How questionable is the virtue that is fostered by fear!
2. They assembled to carry their plot into effect.
(1) They first resolve to ruin Jesus, then seek out the means to do it. So notorious was this that it is recorded as an historic fact (cf. ver. 59; Acts 6:11-13).
(2) There is murder in their haste. The Jewish canons enjoin that "Capital causes should be tried in the day, and punished in the day. But with indecent haste, in the same night that their treachery succeeded in seizing Jesus, the court is gathered. They were evidently waiting for the summons. And he is condemned in the night. It was the hour" as well as "the power of darkness."
(3) Note: That gate of the city looking toward Gethsemane was called "the sheep gate," because the animals appointed for sacrifice were led that way. Admire the providence which ordained that through this gate also the very Lamb of God should be led to the slaughter. The Law prescribed that the victims for sacrifice should be led to the priest (see Leviticus 18:5). Herein also is a prophecy. One evangelist records that Jesus was first led to Annas (see John 18:13). This was to honour Annas, and to gain time for the assembling of the council. God makes the subtlety of the devil in men to praise him.
II. THE WITNESSES ARE LIARS.
1. They cannot give a consistent testimony.
(1) No man could be legally condemned upon the testimony of a single witness (see Deuteronomy 17:6). The witnesses must also agree in their testimony. They must speak with "one mouth." The unsupported testimony of a single witness is stronger than the conflicting testimony of many.
(2) The number of the witnesses against Jesus was sufficient. The retainers of the priests knew that "they sought false witness against Jesus, that they might put him to death," and "many false witnesses" accordingly "came" (cf. vers. 59, 60; Psalm 27:12; Psalm 35:11; Mark 14:56).
(3) But their testimony was conflicting. Suborned men are bound to say something for their hire. But "the legs of the lame are not equal." This would be evident under cross-examination from Joseph of Arimathaea; and possibly Nicodemus also was found to be a protestant (see Luke 23:50, 51; John 19:39).
2. They fail to prove an offence against the Law.
(1) Blasphemy was an offence against the Law, punishable with death (see Leviticus 24:16). But what is blasphemy? To speak evil of God, or maliciously to rail against or deny his work.
(2) The Jews had a traditional disposition to account it blasphemy to predict the destruction of the temple (cf. Jeremiah 26:11, 12; Acts 6:13, 14). The Pharisees also confounded their traditions with the Law.
(3) By means of this tradition, then, they sought to fasten the crime of blasphemy upon Jesus. Two witnesses deposed, "This Man said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days." Here note:
(b) This allegation was, in effect, a falsity; for it suppressed some words of Christ, with the action which explained them, and added words he had not spoken. False testimony lays hold on some basis of truth. Half-truths are often the most vicious lies.
(c) In perverting the meaning of the words of Jesus, his enemies unconsciously bring about their fulfilment.
3. The judges themselves became lying witnesses.
(1) Jesus had maintained a dignified silence while the other witnesses gave their evidence. It was too manifestly frivolous and malicious to require explanation or refutation. "There is a time to speak, and a time to keep silence."
(2) Caiaphas then sought to make Jesus a witness against himself (see ver. 62). Still he held his peace (see Psalm 38:12-14; Isaiah 53:7). The personal Word, like the written Word, declines to answer questions that are idle and insincere.
(3) Unable to make the testimony matter for the charge of blasphemy, Caiaphas had to shift his ground. He now had recourse to adjuration. This was the refuge of rage at the rebuke of that silence which stung him to the quick. What a temper in which to make an appeal to the living God!,
(4) Jesus now at length responded. For
(a) had he refused to answer when adjured, they would have accused him of contempt for the Name of God. Note: Persecutors take advantage of the consciences of good men.
(b) He responded for an example to others of reverence for such a solemn form.
(c) He answered because now it was no longer a question of admitting or denying a false accusation, but of admitting or denying a great truth - to confess whether he were the Christ or not (ver. 64). The "nevertheless" should rather be "moreover: Not only do I confess myself the Christ, but you yourselves will have to confess it when he who now appears before you as in weakness will be revealed in power" (see Revelation 1:7).
(5) Then came the climax of rage when he was adjudged worthy of death for speaking blasphemy" (see vers. 65, 66).
III. THE JUDGMENT IS INIQUITOUS.
1. It ignored the reasons of the claims of Jesus.
(1) The Jews expected their Messiah to be the Son of God. In so expecting they were justified by prophecy (see Psalm 2:7, 12). The terms of the adjuration acknowledged this. And they understood the title to express Divinity. To call himself the Son of God was, in their estimation, to make himself equal with God (see John 10:33).
(2) Therefore, unless Jesus were Divine, he could not have been the Christ. Otherwise his claim to be "the Christ, the Son of God," would indeed have been a blasphemy. But he had vindicated his claim by infallible proofs. He verified in himself the prophecies concerning Messiah, and wrought many miracles, as his judges very well knew (see John 11:47).
(3) Before proceeding to condemn him, it was their duty to answer the argument from prophecy and miracle. But this they never attempted. Rage and violence were their substitutes for justice and truth.
(4) And they aggravated their crime by delivering the Blessed One to the insolence of their myrmidons, who blindfolded him and smote him, and asked him to prophesy as to whose fist was lifted against him (cf. ver. 67; Isaiah 50:5, 6; Luke 22:64). He well knew; but he refuses to prophesy when men close their ears against the truth. The wretches also spat in his face, which was a mark of the most profound contempt (see Numbers 12:4; Job 16:10; Job 30:10; Isaiah 1.6; Micah 5:1).
2. It will be reviewed at another tribunal.
(1) "What contrasts are here! The Deliverer in bonds! The Judge of all attainted! The Prince of glory scorned! The Holy One condemned for sin! The Son of God accused of blasphemy! The Resurrection and the Life sentenced to die! The High Priest forever condemned by the high priest for a year!" (Steir).
(2) To the eternal confusion of the unrighteous council, God ordered it that our Lord should be condemned on the very evidence of his own innocence, purity, and truth. In accusing him of blasphemy they were the blasphemers.
(3) They will yet have to answer before him for their injustice and cruelty. He will one day come with the clouds of heaven, as the Prophet Daniel has described him (cf. Daniel 7:13, 14). The terrors of that judgment day will be a sensible conviction to the most obstinate infidel. - J.A.M.
I. THE ADJURATION. Caiaphas charged Jesus, on oath, to declare whether he was the Christ, the Son of God.
1. It is most important to know what Jesus Christ claims to be. We have an interest in the high priest's question quite apart from the judicial process. Our religion is centred in Christ. It is mere than an outgrowth of his life and teaching. It rests upon his Person; it lives in him; it is what he is. We cannot wholly disregard him without abandoning Christianity itself. An imperfect knowledge of Christ may be found with a true and saving faith in him. Still, the faith must be in him, and therefore we must know enough of him to trust him.
2. The greatest question about Christ is as to his Divinity and Messiahship.
(1) Is he the Christ? If he is, he is able to save; if he is, he has a right to claim a loyal following.
(2) Is he the Son of God? If he is, he comes to us clad with Divine power. Then we may trust that he cannot fail, and we have the best of all reasons for submitting to his kingly rule. Such questions as these about his nature and authority cannot be set aside as of merely speculative interest.
II. THE REPLY. Jesus did not usually assert his Messiahship; much less did he directly confess his Divine nature, except on certain rare occasions. But he was now at the end of his life, and therefore his revelation of his nature and office could not hinder his work. Moreover, the high priest had a legal right to test his claims, and Jesus never opposed the execution of the law.
1. Jesus accepted the highest names ascribed to him. Could he do this if he did not know they were his by right? He was calm and reasonable, simple and humble, generous and unselfish. Yet he consented to be called "the Christ, the Son of God."
2. Jesus foresaw and predicted his own second advent. It is wonderful that a peasant from Galilee should speak thus before the greatest dignitary of his nation, amid all the pomp and splendour of the high priest's palace, and in view of his own rejection and death.
III. THE RESULT. Caiaphas took the words of Christ as if they were blasphemy and on this account pronounced him to be worthy of death.
1. His conduct was determined by an unjust prejudice. He assumed that the claims of Christ could not be true, and therefore he judged them to be blasphemous. Thus he approached Christ with a closed mind. If we have already made up our minds adversely to the claims of Christ, it is useless for us to examine them. but the only fair method is to approach him with an open mind, ready to weigh all he teaches, ready to accept all that he may give us good warrant for believing.
2. On his own assumption he was right. If the high claims of Christ were false, he was guilty of blasphemy. Caiaphas was more consistent than those people are who reject the Divine claims of Christ, and yet honour him as the best of men. - W.F.A.
I. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR ONE WHO LOVES CHRIST TO DENY HIM. In the case of Judas we have seen that knowledge does not prevent treason; here we see that love does not secure one against the weakness of denial. The disciple betrayed his great Teacher, the friend denied his beloved Saviour. The offences were utterly different. Yet St. Peter's is distressing because it overcame the loyalty of love. The emotional and impetuous are in an especial danger of lulling before sudden temptations.
II. SELF-CONFIDENCE INVITES TEMPTATION. We pray, "Lead us not into temptation." Yet St. Peter boldly walked into it. His love for his Master kept him near to Jesus. While almost all the rest of the disciples - all but St. John - had fled, Peter hung on to the outskirts of the procession as Jesus was carried off under arrest to Jerusalem. For this we admire him. He was braver than the apostles who had not a chance of denying their Lord, because they had escaped from the dangerous scenes. It is not just, therefore, to say that he wilfully put himself in the way of danger. But if his heart drew him near to Christ, his humility and self-distrust should have warned him to be on his guard. Our loyalty to Christ may call us into difficult places; but then we should recognize that they are difficult, and pray for grace that we may walk circumspectly in them.
III. COURAGE IN EXCITING DANGERS IS OFTEN FOLLOWED BY COWARDICE UNDER QUIETER CIRCUMSTANCES. in the garden St. Peter was brave as a]ion, slashing at the high priest's servant with his sword. In the palace courtyard he cowers before a waiting maid's joke. It is a great man's house, and St. Peter is an uncouth fisherman; Christ has been seized, and his cause is apparently lost; the watch is long, the night chill, the disciple weary. All these things tend to undermine courage. But it is among such circumstances that we most need to be on our guard. Then there is no excitement of the battle to sustain us. In the hour of depression our danger is great.
IV. ONE FALL LEADS TO ANOTHER. If St. Peter can deny his Master once, it is not at all wonderful that he should deny him thrice. The descent to evil is an inclined plane, which grows steeper as we proceed along it. Therefore it is most needful to resist the tempter at his first onslaught. Like St. Peter, Christ was thrice attacked by the tempter. But unlike his servant, he worsted the foe at the first attack, and met him with the added strength of victory at the subsequent assaults.
V. THE TRUE CHRISTIAN WILL REPENT OF HIS UNFAITHFULNESS. The crowing cock reminds St. Peter of his Master's warning. Then his repentance is sudden and bitter. Christ's servant cannot sin without suffering. But his tears are healing. Though he fall, he shall rise again. - W.F.A.
I. SINS ARISE FROM UNSUSPECTED QUALITIES IN US. Peter, the bold, venturesome, straightforward disciple, fell by cowardice and lying; as Moses the meek by anger, and Solomon the wise by folly. Often our most flagrant transgressions arise from parts of our character we have not suspected. We have thought ourselves truthful and honest, and we are betrayed into prevarication and double dealing. We thought ourselves staunch friends, and have fallen into selfish and inconsiderate actions. We considered ourselves cool, almost phlegmatic, but some mastering combination of circumstances arrived, and we spoke the word or wrote the letter which has broken our life past mending.
II. SIN MUST EXPRESS ITSELF IN ORDER TO ITS ERADICATION. These sins that so distress and perplex us disclose unthought of evils, and put us on our guard. Peter was to become a leader in the Church, but he would have misled the Church had he not had this self-confidence rooted out. His self-confidence is here allowed to betray him, to bring him to what is most fitted to destroy it, to shame and a sense of weakness.
III. CRITICAL CONDITION OF THE SINNER THUS BETRAYED. All depends on the course we adopt when we are thus betrayed into unexpected sin. All men are so betrayed at one time or other; the difference arises in the manner in which we deal with ourselves after such sin. As John Morley has said, with characteristic wisdom, "The deepest part of us shows in the manner of accepting consequences." Can we accept the situation; can we humbly own that since evil has appeared in our life it must first have been in ourselves? "I did not think I was capable of such wickedness; but now I see what I am." Can we thus go out with Peter and weep bitterly? Thus to face the truth is the beginning of all good. Without this we can come to no good. We must start here, with a clear acknowledgment of our actual character. To blind ourselves to our true character is not to alter it.
IV. DIFFICULTY OF THUS HUMBLING OURSELVES. We say to ourselves, "We have been deceived by circumstances" - "betrayed into sin." Peter would say, "Why did not Jesus look at me before I sinned, and so prevent it? Why had I no inkling of the enormity of the sin till it was committed. My reputation is now gone. May I not as well go back to my fishing and renounce all these perplexing spiritualities?" But Peter was man enough to reject these fancies. He saw that he was a sinner, and that he must not run away from his sin, but face it and defeat it.
V. PETER'S SPECIAL SIN WAS MORAL COWARDICE. A weakness rather than a sin, and yet it is probably as prolific of great crime as any of the more vigorous passions of our nature. The natures it is found in are often in other respects admirable - sensitive, sympathetic, intelligent, inoffensive, kindly. The circumstances it is displayed in: man in business finds his expenditure exceeding his income, but is unable to bear the shame of frankly knowing his position and curtailing his expenses, and so, to keep up appearances, is led into dishonest practices; or a minister, finding his faith diverging from the Creed he has subscribed, is yet unable to proclaim this change of opinion, because he cannot face the public astonishment, the severe denunciation of one party, and the equally distasteful because ignorant and canting sympathy of the other; or a parent cannot bear to lose the good will of his child, and refrains from punishing him as he ought; or the schoolboy, afraid to be thought soft and unmanly, stands by and sees cruelty, or lying, or wickedness perpetrated without a word of manly rebuke. - D.
I. THAT PRIDE COMETH BEFORE A FALL.
1. Some men are constitutionally self-reliant. Within proper limits, self-reliance is an admirable quality.
(1) It conduces to nobleness. For it saves men from the meanness of hanging on to their fellows.
(2) It inspires enterprise. Nothing can be accomplished that is not undertaken. The achievements of the strong are the astonishment of the weak.
(3) It is an element of greatness. The weak will submit to the strong. The feeble will serve the mighty. Where self-reliance is strong, other things being equal, there you have a leader of men.
2. But such are especially in danger of presumption.
(1) Self-assertion may be immoderate, ungenerous, and invidious. "Though all men forsake thee, yet will not I;" "I will never be offended;" "Even if I must die with thee, yet will I not deny thee" (see vers. 33-35).
(2) Excessive sell-confidence leads to the neglect of prayer. Peter's sense of self-security blinded him to his need of Divine help. So he slept in the garden when he should have prayed. Even when exhorted by his Lord to pray, still he slept.
(3) It leads to rashness in action. Peter's pride led him rashly to support his strong professions by volunteering the use of his sword. So was he as wanting in watchfulness as he was in prayer. He so looked in as to neglect to look up and look around.
(4) After proving his weakness by his shameful flight, his presumption still carried him after his Master into the place of trial, "to see the end." But he "followed at a distance," fearful of being discovered. This dallying with his fears increased them. His case is a standing warning to Christ's disciples never without a call to run into dangers which they may not have strength to meet.
II. THAT SIN MAKES OCCASION FOR SINNING.
1. One sin leads to another.
(1) Peter was found in questionable company. Having followed Jesus "afar off," he fell in with the "officers" of the high priest and of other enemies of his Master. "Evil communications corrupt good manners." Bad company leads to bad deeds (see Psalm 119:115). He was now in the arena of temptation.
(2) Here a maid came unto him, saying, "Thou also wast with Jesus the Galilaean." Here was a noble opportunity for Peter to have shown zeal for the Truth suffering under insolence. But he missed it and disgraced himself. It is a disgrace to miss an opportunity of doing right. It leads to the further disgrace of doing wrong.
(3) "He denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest." The strong man is thrown over by the breath of a maid. "A damsel," literally, one damsel. And probably wishing him no harm. But how great was the sin which sprang from so slight a cause! The publicity of this denial was an aggravation of the sin.
(4) The temptation was slight so far as the girl's question went, but greater in regard to the bystanders. We all wield unconscious influence. They probably had no desire to imperil Peter. The careless ones of this world often do more harm or good to the saints than they imagine.
2. The progress of sin is accelerating.
(1) In the first instance, we find Peter giving the simple emphatic denial, his words being equivalent to "What thou sayest is utterly false" (cf. Luke 22:57). In how few words may one commit a grievous sin (see Matthew 12:24; Acts 5:8)! Peter now went into the porch, or portico (ver. 71), doubtless to secure himself from further observation, being now also ashamed of his weakness, if not of his sin. For the enormity of sin is hidden from the conscience by fear and carnal policy. No man gains strength to resist greater by complying with lesser evils.
(2) In the second instance, Peter added an oath to his denial. The damsel's pride being now stirred by having the lie turned upon her, she appears to have confided her mortification or indignation to "another maid," with whom she followed Peter into the portico; In his hearing this second maid said, "This man also was with Jesus of Nazareth," upon which a man of the company laid the accusation directly against him (cf. Mark 14:69; Luke 22:58). "And again he denied with an oath, I know not the Man." The liar, by the suspicion he naturally has, having forfeited his self respect, that his testimony is not credited, is induced to swear.
(3) In the third instance, Peter added cursing to swearing. Probably he had been addicted to swearing before he came under the influence of John the Baptist and of Christ. Old habits are readily revived. Between the second and third temptations an hour elapsed. But time spent without prayer brings no strength to the soul. The charge is now brought close home to him. It is generally preferred by "those that stood by," who marked his Galilaean accent. The rabbins say that the speech of the Galilaeans was broad and rustic. Some say it inclined to the Samaritan and Syriac, and that they did not pronounce gutturals well, and changed sh into th. Better would it have been for Peter had he held his tongue. But the kinsman of Malchus increased his terror by calling to his remembrance his act in cutting off the ear (see John 18:26). His denial, therefore, becomes more vehement as the accusation proceeds. To curse is to imprecate Divine vengeance on himself if he spoke falsely, and the profanity of swearing added to this cursing is the language of passion and of the enemies of Christ. "None but the devil's sayings need the devil's proofs" (Henry).
(4) An apostle fallen! How great that fall! Lucifer in hell! In the fall of Peter we are admitted to a view of our own tendency to fall, and consequent need of watchfulness and prayer.
III. THAT THE SEQUEL IS DESTRUCTION OR REPENTANCE.
1. In the case of Judas it was destruction (see succeeding homily).
2. In the case of Peter it was repentance.
(1) When he had the third time denied his Lord, "straightway the cock crew." During the long hours in which he waited in the palace, his memory and conscience slept until startled by "the cock's shrill clarion." The words of Christ now rushed into his mind and pierced his heart, and made the crowing of the cock a very John the Baptist to the sinner. Note: The mercy of Christ comes sometimes at the cock crowing. Since Peter fell through fear of a maid, let us never think contemptibly of the feeblest tempter. Since he rose through the crowing of a cock, let us never think contemptibly of the humblest means of grace.
(2) When the cock crew, "the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter" (see Luke 22:61). Note here the kindness of Christ. Being in bonds, he could not, without a miracle, have gone to speak with Peter. Had he called to him, the disciple would have been discovered to the malice of his tempters. The glance is sufficient. Peter's denial comes in as a part of Christ's sufferings. Nothing more deeply grieves a genuine penitent than the reflection that he has grieved his Lord.
(3) Peter "went out," viz. from the scene of his temptation and humiliation, deeply sorrowing that he had ever entered into it, and that he might "mourn apart (cf. Zechariah 12:11, 12).
(4) He wept bitter tears of repentance for his presumptuous sin. Mark says, When he thought thereon he wept" (Mark 14:72). Those who have sinned sweetly must weep bitterly, if not in penitence, in despair; for sin is bitterness itself. The more bitter the tears of repentance, the sweeter the delight of the regenerated life. His grief and weeping were of long duration (see Mark 16:7). Tradition says he never heard a cock crow but it set him weeping.
(5) Peter afterwards confessed Christ openly, and made all the house of Israel know what he thought of him. He confessed him openly both in life and death with watchfulness and prayer. - J.A.M.
I. THAT HE WAS PHYSICALLY OVERWROUGHT. Long hours of watching and anxiety must have wearied him out; and that sleep in the garden was not refreshing. Body prepared a way for temptation.
II. THAT HE WAS DOING A VERY VENTURESOME THING. Making his way actually into the court of the palace, and among the high priest's guard and servants. It was a noble thing to do, but it was a very perilous one. He did not know whether the scheme against the Master included the servants; but he risked the danger because of his longing to see what became of the Lord he loved. No doubt he thought that showing a bold front was the best way to escape observation, he would have managed well if it had not been for his Galilaean brogue.
III. THAT HE WAS DISAPPOINTED IN HIS HOPES CONCERNING JESUS. He had thought that an earthly kingdom was to be set up; the arrest of Jesus dashed that hope to pieces forever. He was in the hands of his foes. This did not affect Peter's personal feeling toward Christ, but it did suggest that he had better not profess open connection with him.
1. There is a test time forevery man.
2. It is a self-revelation.
3. It is a culture.
4. The test time is precisely relative to every man.
5. The relativity is the thing to discover. - R.T.
look, only a look, but we can imagine the wealth of pitying that was in the look. It went right home; it recalled warning words; it revealed, as by a lightning flash, the darkness into which Peter had fallen; and he rushed out of the place, and could not restrain the tears that told of bitterest shame and humiliation. What does this penitence tell concerning Peter?
I. HIS SENSITIVENESS. When we see how quickly he responded to Christ's "look," we begin to understand how he came to respond so readily to the peril which the maid's question brought him. He was too sensitive; he responded too soon; he was always in danger of speaking and acting before he had time to criticize his own impressions. There are many among us like him. They feel too soon. They respond too quickly. And they respond to evil suggestion and to calamity as readily as to good and success. We call it highly nervous organization.
II. HIS AFFECTIONATENESS. We must keep in mind how truly he was attached to his Lord; and how open that attachment made him to all influences exerted on him by Christ. It was his safeguard in that sad time, that he had personal love to Christ. That disposition often brings men round right again after they have gone astray. Fathers and mothers know the anchor hold that a child's affectionate disposition gives to them. But there is a gushing and impulsive penitence that is not good. Sometimes there is too easy confession of sin - confession before the really humbling sense of sin is felt. Easy penitence is little more than regret; and it is usually very gushing in expression. Easy penitence has little force on the moral nature. Penitence needs to be made deep and searching by the help of serious thinking. - R.T.