And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples,Matthew 26:1-2. When Jesus had finished all these sayings — The sayings or discourses which he began to deliver on his leaving the temple, (Matthew 24:1,) and continued, till he had declared all that is contained in the two preceding chapters; He said unto his disciples, Ye know, &c. — When he sat down on the mount of Olives, he was so far on his way to Bethany, and before he rose up to depart, he thought fit to add a word or two concerning his own death. For, as the greatest trial that his disciples were ever to meet with was now approaching, in their Master’s humiliation and sufferings; therefore, to prepare them for this scene, he foretold those sufferings, together with the particular time and manner of them; and thus proved, that he perfectly knew whatever was to befall him, and that his sufferings were all voluntary and necessary. After two days is the passover — The manner wherein this was celebrated gives much light to several circumstances that follow. The master of the family began the feast with a cup of wine, which, having solemnly blessed, he divided among the guests, (Luke 22:17.) Then the supper began with the unleavened bread and bitter herbs; which when they had all tasted, one of the young persons present, (according to Exodus 12:26,) asked the reason of the solemnity. This introduced the showing forth, or declaration of it: in allusion to which we read of showing forth the Lord’s death, (1 Corinthians 11:26.) Then the master rose up and took another cup, before the lamb was tasted. After supper, he took a thin loaf or cake, which he broke and divided to all at the table, and likewise the cup, usually called the cup of thanksgiving, of which he drank first, and then all the guests. It was this bread and this cup, which our Lord consecrated to be a standing memorial of his death.
Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.
Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,Matthew 26:3-5. The chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders — They together constituted the sanhedrim, or great council, which had the supreme authority both in civil and ecclesiastical affairs. Assembled together unto the palace of the high-priest — Namely, to deliberate how they might take Jesus, and put him to death; and consulted how they might take him by subtlety — Privately, by some artifice, without giving an alarm to his friends. But they said, Not on the feast-day — This was the result of human wisdom. But when Judas came, they changed their purpose. So the counsel of God took place, and the true paschal Lamb was offered up on the great day of the paschal solemnity.
And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him.
But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.
Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,Matthew 26:6-13. When Jesus was in the house of Simon the leper — That is, who had been a leper, but, as seems highly probable, had been healed by Jesus. At least, it is not to be thought that he was now a leper, for in that case he would not have been suffered to live in a town, nor would any Jew have come to an entertainment in his house. There came a woman — Probably Mary, the sister of Lazarus, for it is highly probable, as Dr. Doddridge has shown, that the anointing of Jesus here mentioned, is the same with that recorded John 12:1. Having an alabaster box, &c. — Being deeply affected with the many instances that Christ had given her and her sister Martha of his love, and especially by his late mercy in recovering her dear brother Lazarus from the grave, she was therefore solicitous to give some uncommon token of her gratitude to so excellent a person. She brake the box, says Mark, and poured the precious ointment, or rich balsam, on his head. See note on John 12:3. When the disciples saw it, they had indignation — Several of them were angry, though none so much so as Judas, saying, To what purpose is this waste? — Such a quantity of this rich balsam poured out to so little purpose. For this ointment might have been sold for much — The disciples being sensible that their Master was not delighted with luxuries of any kind, were grieved, and murmured against the woman, says Mark, for throwing away so much money idly, as they imagined. But they expressed themselves so as to cast a tacit reflection on Jesus himself. Jesus said, Why trouble ye the woman? — Why do ye grieve and distress the good woman, of whose piety and friendship we have had so long an experience? For she hath wrought a good work upon me — Hath given a great proof of her faith, gratitude, and love; and therefore deserves to be commended rather than to be blamed. For with respect to what has been now suggested, in favour of the poor, ye have them always with you — By the wise and gracious providence of God, it does, and always will happen, that objects needing your compassion and charity shall always be with you, that you may always have opportunities of relieving their wants, and so of laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven. But me ye have not always — I am soon to leave you, and to be placed beyond the reach of your kindness. In that she hath poured this ointment on my body — On my feet as well as my head; see John 12:4. She did it for my burial — As it were, for the embalming of my body. Indeed this was not her design; but our Lord puts this construction upon it, to confirm thereby what he had before said to his disciples concerning his approaching death. Verily, wheresoever this gospel — That is, this part of the gospel history; shall be preached, this that this woman hath done shall be told, &c. — To make them further sensible of their folly in blaming her for this expression of her love to him, he assured them that however much she might be condemned by them, she should be highly celebrated for this action through the world, and live in the memory of all ages.
There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.
But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?
For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.
For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.
For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.
Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.
Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,Matthew 26:14-16. Then one of the twelve — Judas Iscariot, having been more forward than the rest (John 12:4) in condemning the woman, thought himself, as it appears, peculiarly affronted by the rebuke which Jesus now gave to all his apostles. Rising up, therefore, he went straightway into the city to the high-priest’s palace, where doubtless he had received some previous information that the council would be assembled, and finding them there accordingly, he said unto them, What will ye give me — Words that show he was influenced to the infamous action partly, at least, by the love of filthy lucre; and I will deliver him unto you? — I will undertake to put him into your hands, at a time and place in which you may effectually secure him, without the danger of giving any alarm to the people. And they covenanted — Or, bargained, with him for thirty pieces of silver — That is, (reckoning each piece to be of the value of 2 Samuel 6 d.) for 3l. 15s. sterling, the price of a slave, Exodus 21:32. A goodly price that he was prized at of them! Zechariah 11:13. The sum was so trifling that it would be unaccountable that he should have been influenced in any degree by it, to betray to death his friend and Master, had it not been that, as Luke observes, Luke 22:3, Satan at this time entered into him, which doubtless he was permitted to do to punish him for giving way to a worldly, covetous spirit, and probably for other sins, and especially his not improving the great privilege he had enjoyed for about three years, in statedly attending upon Christ’s ministry, hearing all his divine discourses, and being a constant spectator of his holy life and astonishing miracles, and having the high honour of being called to be one of his apostles. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him — Namely, as Luke observes, in the absence of the multitude, and that officers from the high- priest and his council might come upon him and apprehend him privately.
And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.
And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.
Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?Matthew 26:17. On the first day of unleavened bread — Being Thursday, the fourteenth day of the first month, Exodus 12:6; Exodus 12:15. The disciples came, saying, Where wilt thou that we prepare the passover? — They meant at what house. And he said, Go into the city to such a man — This implies that Jesus named the person to whom they were sent, though the evangelists have not thought it of importance to mention his name. He told them further, that on their entrance into the city they should find one of the man’s servants in the street, bearing a pitcher of water. This person he ordered them to follow, without saying any thing to him, because as he was carrying the water home he would lead them straight to his master’s house, with which, it seems, the disciples were not acquainted. This direction, and some others, mentioned Mark 14:14-15; Luke 22:11-12, (where see the notes,) were given by Jesus to his disciples, and these predictions were uttered to show them how completely he foreknew every thing that should befall him, and to convince them that his sufferings were all predetermined of God; and that, on his part, they were all submitted to voluntarily. The disciples did as Jesus had appointed — and found every thing to happen exactly as Jesus had foretold, which doubtless would tend no little to confirm their faith in him, and prepare them for the trial they would so soon have to pass through.
And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.
And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.
Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.Matthew 26:20-25. And when the even was come — At the proper hour; he sat down with the twelve — To taste first, according to the custom of those days, the unleavened bread and the bitter herbs, before the lamb was served up. After which they proceeded as is related in the note on Matthew 26:2. And as they did eat he said — One of you shall betray me — He had before told them, namely, Matthew 17:22, that the Son of man should be betrayed; he now comes to acquaint them, that one of them would be the traitor, and to point out the guilty person. And they were exceeding sorrowful — They were sorrowful that he should be betrayed by any one, but more so that one of themselves should be the instrument of so horrible a crime: and began every one to say, Lord, is it I, that am this guilty creature? They do not appear to have asked this question because they mistrusted themselves, not knowing to how great a wickedness their hearts might lead them; but because each of them wanted to be freed from the suspicion of such an iniquity. He answered, He that dippeth, &c. — “Grotius and others think this implies that Judas had placed himself so near his Master as to eat out of the same dish with him. But their way of lying on couches at meat must have made it inconvenient for two or more persons to eat in that manner. It is more probable that the disciples, being in the deepest distress, had left off eating, only Judas, to conceal his guilt, continued the meal, and was dipping his meat in a kind of a sauce named haroseth, (which they used on these occasions,) when Jesus happened to be putting his into it; which sauce, according to custom, was served up in a separate dish.” — Macknight. The Son of man goeth through sufferings to glory, as it is written of him — In the Scriptures; and determined in the divine counsels. See note on Acts 2:23. Yet this was no excuse for him that betrayed him: but wo to that man, &c. — In pronouncing this wo upon the man by whom he should be betrayed, our Lord manifestly shows that the foreknowledge and prediction that he should suffer, and that by the treachery of Judas, laid no antecedent necessity upon Judas of doing this action, for if it had, it not only would have lessened the wo due to him, but would have taken away all his guilt. For no guilt can attach to any action which a man is laid under an absolute necessity of doing, and which to him is unavoidable. All that the prediction of Judas’s treachery implies is, that God with certainty foreknew how his will, left entirely to its own freedom, would determine on this occasion: and, it must be observed, it would have determined in the same way, if such determination had neither been foreknown nor foretold. See note on 1 Peter 1:2. It had been good for that man if he had not been born — May not the same be said of every man that finally perishes? But who can reconcile this, if it were true of Judas alone, with the doctrine of universal salvation? For, if the torments of hell were not eternal, but, after suffering in them, though it might be millions of millions of years, guilty sinners should be rescued from them and brought to the enjoyment of heavenly blessedness, it still would be good for them that they had been born, inasmuch as they would still have a never-ending state of felicity before them. Then Judas, who betrayed him — Who had in fact already betrayed him, Matthew 26:15, and was now waiting for an opportunity to deliver him privately into the hands of the chief priests, answered, Master — Gr. Rabbi, or teacher, Is it I? — The other disciples, in asking the same question, said each of them, κυριε, Lord, is it I? a title implying greater reverence than Judas was disposed to show his Master. As Judas was conscious of what he had already done, and was resolved still further to do, in betraying and delivering up his Divine Master, and could not but know that his whole conduct, and the very secrets of his heart, lay open to his inspection, he manifests by this question unparalleled impudence, as well as excessive hardness of heart. One would almost suppose, that he intended to insult Christ’s prescience as well as long-suffering. He, Jesus, said unto him, Thou hast said — That is, It is as thou hast said: thou art the guilty person. Before this, when Christ discovered that he should be betrayed, he only told it in John’s ear, that Judas would be the traitor: and John told it to Peter, (see John 13:23-26;) but the rest knew nothing of it. Now Jesus plainly points him out before them all; which, impudent as he was, evidently confounded and struck him speechless. But whether he immediately left the company, as some infer from John 13:30; or whether that passage refers to what happened at a former supper, as others think, is a question which it is not easy to decide. One thing seems clear: if he withdrew at this time, he must have soon returned, as it appears, from Luke 22:21, that he was present when the Lord’s supper was instituted.
And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?
And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.
The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.
Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.Matthew 26:26. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread — The bread, or cake, which the master of the family used to divide among them, after they had eaten the passover. This custom our Lord now transferred to a nobler use. This bread is, that is, signifies or represents, my body, according to the style of the sacred writers. Thus Genesis 40:12, The three branches are three days. Thus Galatians 4:24, St. Paul, speaking of Sarah and Hagar, says, These are the two covenants. Thus in the grand type of our Lord, Exodus 12:11, God says of the paschal lamb, This is the Lord’s passover. Now Christ, substituting the holy communion for the passover, follows the style of the Old Testament, and uses the same expressions the Jews were wont to use in celebrating the passover. “When I consider,” says Dr. Doddridge, “that, on the same foundation on which the Papists argue for transubstantiation from these words, they might prove from Ezekiel 5:1-5, that the prophet’s hair was the city of Jerusalem; from John 10:9; John 15:1, that Christ was literally a door and a vine; from Matthew 26:27-28, and 1 Corinthians 11:25, that the cup was his blood, and that Christ commanded his disciples to drink and swallow the cup; I cannot but be astonished at the inference they would deduce from hence. Had Irenæus or Epiphanius reported such a thing of any sect of ancient heretics, now extinct, one would have been so candid to human nature as to suppose the historian misinformed. As it is, one is almost tempted to suspect it to be the effect of arrogance rather than error; and to consider it as a mere insolent attempt to show the world, in the strongest instance they could invent, what monstrous things the clergy should dare to say, which the wretched laity should not dare to contradict; nay, which they should be forced to pretend they believed. In this view the thought is admirable, and worthy the most malicious wit that ever lorded it over the heritage of God. But it may deserve some serious reflection, whether it be not an instance of infatuation to which God has given them up, that it may be a plain mark to all, that will use common sense, of the grossest error in a church which claims infallibility; and may not be intended by Providence as a kind of antidote against the rest of its poison.”
And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;Matthew 26:27-28. And he took the cup — Called by the Jews the cup of thanksgiving; which the master of the family used likewise to give to each after supper. And gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of this — That is, of the wine which it contains. For this is my blood — That is, the sign of my blood; of the new testament — Whereby the new testament, or covenant, is procured or confirmed; which is shed for many — Even as many as spring from Adam; for the remission of sins — Namely, That as many as truly repent, bringing forth fruit worthy of repentance, and believe in me with their hearts unto righteousness, may receive from the mercy of my Father, in a way consistent with his holiness and justice, the free and full remission of all their past sins. See note on Romans 3:24-26. “I apprehend,” says the last-mentioned divine, “this ordinance of the eucharist to have so plain a reference to the atonement or satisfaction of Christ, and to do so solemn an honour to that fundamental doctrine of the gospel, that I cannot but believe, that while this sacred institution continues in the church, (as it will undoubtedly do to the end of the world,) it will be utterly impossible to root that doctrine out of the minds of plain, humble Christians, by all the little artifices of such forced and unnatural criticisms as those are by which it has been attacked. Unprejudiced and honest simplicity will always see the analogy this ordinance has to eating the flesh of the Son of God, and drinking his blood; and will be taught by it, to feed on him as the Lamb that was slain by the gracious appointment of God, to take away the sin of the world. The enemies of this heart-reviving truth might as well hope to pierce through a coat of mail with a straw, as to reach such a truth, defended by such an ordinance as this, by any of their trifling sophistries.” For further information respecting the Lord’s supper, see notes on Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-34.
For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.Matthew 26:29. But I well not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, &c. — He had made the same declaration concerning the passover-cup, Luke 22:18; and therefore, it is probable, his meaning upon the whole was, that he would neither partake of the passover nor of the sacrament, till he had the satisfaction to see the things signified by these institutions fulfilled in the gospel dispensation, which therefore was nigh at hand. Or we may interpret the words in a more general sense, thus: that he would not partake of any joy till he rejoiced with them in the communications of the Holy Spirit, which were to be bestowed plentifully on them as soon as the gospel dispensation began. Others, however, understand the words thus: I will taste no more wine till I drink wine of quite another kind in the glorious kingdom of my Father; and of this you also shall partake with me.
And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.Matthew 26:30-32. And when they had sung a hymn — Which was constantly sung at the close of the passover. It consisted of six psalms, from the 113th to the 118th. See the contents of Psalms 113. They went out into the mount of Olives — That is, after some other facts had occurred, and some other instructions, advices, and warnings, see Luke 22:24-28; John 13:31-38; and the divine discourse recorded John 14. had been delivered to the eleven disciples: the sermon contained in the 15th and 16th chapters of the same gospel, it seems, being preached on the mount of Olives, where also Christ offered to his Father his intercessory prayer, in chap. 18. Then saith Jesus — After they arrived on the mount of Olives. All ye shall be offended because of me this night — Notwithstanding all the faith you have professed in me, and all the affection which you bear me, yet, not only one, or another, but all of you shall be so terrified by the distress befalling me in your presence, and by a view of the sufferings which I am beginning to pass through, that it shall prove the sad occasion of your giving way to unbelief and sin, and of your forsaking me, your master and friend. For it is written, Zechariah 13:7, I will smite the shepherd, &c. — I am that shepherd, and you the timorous sheep, that will be scattered by the assault made on your keeper. But, as it is afterward added there, by way of encouragement, I will turn my hand upon the little ones, namely, to reduce and recover them from this dispersed state; so likewise, I assure you for your comfort, that after I am risen from the dead, as I soon shall be, I will go before you, as a shepherd before his sheep, into Galilee, and there give not only to you, my apostles, but to all my disciples, the amplest demonstration both of my resurrection and my love; whereby your hearts shall be established in the firmest adherence to me; for though you forsake me, I will not for this forsake you.
Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.
But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.
Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.Matthew 26:33-35. Peter answered and said — According to Luke 22:31, our Lord had warned Peter before they left the house, of a violent assault which would be made upon him by Satan; and on Peter’s declaring his readiness to go with Christ to prison and death, Christ had warned him that he would be overcome by the temptation, and would fall. Peter, therefore, now recollecting what Christ had said to him before, and being grieved afresh to find his Master still entertaining such thoughts of him, the vehemence of his temper hurried him to boast a second time of his courageous and close attachment to Jesus. He answered, Though all men shall be offended, &c. — In this protestation, Peter, no doubt, was sincere. Nevertheless, he was greatly to blame for not paying a due attention to his Master’s repeated predictions of his fall; for the preference which he gave himself above his brethren; and for leaning to his own strength, instead of begging assistance of him from whom all human sufficiency is derived. Wherefore, to make him sensible of the pride of his heart, his self- confidence, and carnal security, which Jesus knew would produce unwatchfulness and neglect of prayer, he thought fit to forewarn him of his danger again, and in stronger terms, saying, Verily, this night, before the cock crow — Or rather, before the cock-crowing, that is, before three in the morning, the usual time of cock-crowing; although one cock was heard to crow once after Peter’s first denial of his Lord. Peter — However, not convinced of his weakness, or that any temptation could make him guilty of such base conduct, said — with still greater confidence and vehemence; Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee — And, doubtless, so he thought. Likewise said all the disciples — They all joined Peter in professing their fixed resolution of suffering death, rather than they would deny their Master; yet the event was exactly as Jesus had foretold, and foreknew it certainly would be; nevertheless such was his tenderness, that he would not aggravate their sin by making any reply. From this circumstance we learn how ignorant men frequently are of themselves, and that to be pious and virtuous, it is not sufficient to form the strongest resolutions.
Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.
Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.Matthew 26:36-38. Then cometh Jesus to a place called Gethsemane — A garden, lying, it seems, at the foot of the mount of Olives, which had its name, probably, from its soil and situation, the word, from גיא שׂמנים, signifying, the valley of fatness. And saith to the disciples, Sit ye here — Probably near the garden door, within, for John says the disciples went into the garden with him: while I go and pray yonder — In a retired place, at a little distance. Doubtless he intended that they should be employed as he was, in watching and prayer. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, who had been witnesses of his transfiguration and glory, and were now to be witnesses of his humiliation and agony: and began to be sorrowful and very heavy — Gr. Δυπεισθαι και
αδημονειν, to be penetrated with the most exquisite sorrow, and overwhelmed with deep anguish. This was probably from the arrows of the Almighty sticking fast in his soul, while God laid on him the iniquities of us all. Who can tell what painful and dreadful sensations were then impressed on him by the immediate hand of God? Then saith he, My soul is exceeding sorrowful — Gr. Περιλυπος, surrounded with sorrows on every side; even unto death — “This expressions,” says Dr. Campbell, “is rather indefinite, and seems to imply a sorrow that would continue till death; whereas the import of the original is such a sorrow as was sufficient to cause death.” He therefore renders the clause, My soul is overwhelmed with a deadly anguish. Castalio translates it, In tanto sum animi dolore ut emoriar, “I am in such trouble of mind that I shall die.” He evidently meant, that his sorrow was so great that the infirmity of his human nature must immediately sink under it without some extraordinary relief and support; for which he was about to pray, and for which he wished them to pray, adding, Tarry ye here and watch with me — Had these disciples done as Christ here directed, they would soon have found a rich equivalent for their watchful care, in the eminent improvement of their graces by this wonderful and edifying sight. For Christ was now sustaining those grievous sorrows in his soul, by which, as well as by his dying on the cross, he became a sin-offering, and accomplished the redemption of mankind.
And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.Matthew 26:39. And he went a little further — Luke says, He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, so that the apostles could still both see and hear him; and fell on his face — It seems he first knelt down, Luke 22:41, and then, as the ardour of his soul increased, prostrated himself on his face to the ground, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible — That is, if it be consistent with the salvation of the world; let this cup — Of bitterness and terror, pass from me — And it did pass from him soon; for when he cried unto God with strong cries and tears, he was heard in that which he feared, Hebrews 5:7. God took away the terror and severity of that inward conflict. That it was not the fear of dying on the cross which made our Lord speak and pray in the manner here related, is evident from this, that to suppose it would be to degrade his character infinitely. Suppose his sufferings to be as terrible as possible, clothe them with all the aggravating circumstances imaginable; yet if no more was included in them than the pains of death, inasmuch as his human nature was strengthened far beyond the natural pitch by its union with the divine, for Jesus to have shrunk at the prospect of them, would have shown a weakness which many of his followers were strangers to, encountering more terrible deaths without the least emotion. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt — Here we see, that though his prayer was most fervent, yet it was accompanied with due expressions of entire resignation.
And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?Matthew 26:40. And he cometh unto the disciples — Unto the three from whom he had withdrawn himself a little way; and findeth them asleep — Notwithstanding the distress they saw him in, and the strict command that he had given them to watch. It seems a supernatural heaviness had fallen upon them. And saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? — According to Mark, (who must be considered as peculiarly accurate in what relates to Peter, his gospel having been revised by that apostle,) Christ addressed himself especially to Peter, saying, Simon, sleepest thou? couldst not thou watch one hour? — Thou, who so lately boastedst of thy courage and constancy in my service, couldst thou not keep thyself awake for one hour, when I was in such an agony? Doubtless, however, Jesus also addressed the others, as Matthew signifies. As if he had said, And you, who were so ready to join with Peter in the same profession, could neither of you be mindful of me? and in this time of my extreme distress, could none of you perform your resolution, so as to watch one single hour with me? Watch and pray — As I must again exhort you with the greatest earnestness; that ye enter not into temptation — That ye do not yield to and fall by that dangerous temptation which is now approaching, and of which I so lately gave you notice. The spirit indeed is willing — You, in spirit, are ready to express the dutiful regard that you have for me, and I know your resolutions of adhering to me are very sincere; but the flesh — Your nature; is weak — As your present experience may convince you. How gentle a rebuke was this, and how kind an apology! especially at this time, when our Lord’s own mind was so weighed down with sorrow.
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.Matthew 26:42-45. He went away again the second time — For the sorrow of his soul still continued; and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup, &c. — If it be necessary, in pursuance of the great end for which I came into the world, that I should endure these grievous sufferings, thy will be done — I acquiesce in thy appointment, how painful soever it may be to flesh and blood: and he came and found them asleep again — He returned thus frequently to his disciples, that by reading his distress in his countenance and gesture, they might be witnesses of his passion. Our Lord’s pains on this occasion were intense beyond expression, for he went away the third time to pray, saying the same words as before, that is, offering petitions to the same effect, and in the same spirit of intense desire and perfect resignation. It appears, however, from Luke, that his inward conflict was greater than before, for notwithstanding that an angel was sent from heaven to strengthen his human nature, left to suffer, it seems, without its usual support from the divine, yet the sense of his sorrows so increased, that he was thrown into an agony, and his whole body was strained to such a degree, that his blood was pressed through the pores of his skin along with his sweat, and fell down in great drops to the ground: a circumstance which was the more extraordinary as he was now in the open air, and that in the cool of the night. “Some, indeed, have interpreted Luke’s expression, his sweat was as it were great drops of blood, in a metaphorical sense; fancying that, as those who weep bitterly are said to weep blood, so they may be said to sweat blood who sweat excessively by reason of hard labour or acute pain. But others more justly affirm that our Lord’s sweat was really mixed with blood to such a degree, that its colour and consistency was as if it had been wholly blood.” — Macknight. Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith, Sleep on now, &c. — For by your watching you can show no further kindness and concern for me, who am now to be delivered into the hands of my enemies. Some late interpreters translate this with an interrogation thus, Do ye still sleep on and take your rest? This appears at first to suit better the words which follow, Arise, let us be going. “I cannot, however,” says Dr. Campbell, “help favouring the more common, which is also the more ancient, translation.” Nor is there any inconsistency between this order, which contains an ironical reproof, very natural in such circumstances, and the exhortation which follows, Arise, behold, the hour is at hand — The long-expected hour, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners — “The Greek word, αμαρτωλων, expresses more here than is implied in the English term sinners. Our Lord thereby signified, that he was to be consigned to the heathen, whom the Jews called, by way of eminence, αμαρτωλοι, because they were idolaters. See Galatians 2:15. For a similar reason they were also called ανομοι, lawless, impious, as destitute of the law of God.”
And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.
And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.Matthew 26:46-49. Rise, let us be going — Namely, to meet those who are coming to arrest me, and to go along with them whithersoever they shall lead us. Behold, he is at hand that doth betray me — Though they had not come within sight, our Lord perfectly knew the precise moment of their approach, and gave his disciples notice of it. And while he yet spake, Judas came — Judas found Christ in the most heavenly and excellent employment when he came to apprehend him. O how happy is it when our sufferings find us in God’s way, engaged in his service, and engaging his assistance by fervent supplication! Thus did our Lord’s sufferings meet him; may ours so meet us! And with him a great multitude — The chief priests and elders being informed by Judas that the proper time of apprehending his Master was come, sent a band of soldiers along with him, and servants — Υπηρετας, (John 18:3,) carrying lanterns and torches to show them the way, because, though it was always full moon at the passover, the sky was dark by reason of the clouds, and the place whither they were going was shaded with trees. At the same time, a deputation of their number accompanied the band, to see that every one did his duty, (Luke 22:52,) for they were exceedingly anxious to get Jesus into their hands. He that betrayed him gave them a sign, &c. — As the soldiers probably had never seen Jesus before, and it was now night, and there were twelve persons together, probably dressed much alike, Judas found it necessary to point him out to them by some such sign as he now gave: a sign, the design of which was less to be suspected by his other disciples, as it was a Jewish custom, after a long absence, or at departing from each other, to make use of the ceremony of a kiss. They used it likewise as a sign of affection to their equals, and as a mark of homage and reverence to their superiors. See Psalm 2:12; Luke 7:45. It is very probable that our Lord, in great condescension, had used, agreeably to this custom, to permit his disciples thus to salute him when they returned, after having been any time absent. And forthwith he came to Jesus — Here we see it was the portion of our blessed Redeemer to be betrayed into the hands of his mortal enemies by the treachery of a false and dissembling friend, whose sin was greatly aggravated by the eminence of his place and station, and by the peculiar honour done him and trust reposed in him. For he bare the bag; that is, he was, as it were, almoner and steward of Christ’s family, to take care for the necessary accommodations of Christ and his apostles; and yet this man, thus called, thus honoured, thus respectfully treated by Christ, for the lucre of a little money, perfidiously betrays him! “O whither,” says Burkitt, “will not a bad heart and busy devil carry a man?” Hail, Master, and kissed him — “Here was honey on the tongue, and poison in the heart. This treacherous kiss enhanced his crime beyond expression. O vilest of hypocrites, how durst thou approach so near thy Lord in the exercise of so much baseness and ingratitude! But none sin with so much impudence as hypocrites and apostates.”
And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people.
Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.
And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.
And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.Matthew 26:50-54. Jesus said, Friend Gr. εταιρε, companion; wherefore — Gr. εφ’ ω, For what, or against whom, art thou come? — Against me, thy Teacher, Saviour, and Lord? And to put me into the hands of murderers? Our Lord also added, (see Luke 22:48,) Betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss? — Art thou so vile a hypocrite as to betray thy Lord and Master by that which all men use as the symbol either of love or homage, making it the signal of thy treachery? The heroic behaviour of the blessed Jesus, in the whole period of his sufferings, will be observed by every attentive eye, and felt by every pious heart: although the sacred historians, according to their usual but wonderful simplicity, make no encomiums upon it. With what composure does he go forth to meet the traitor! With what calmness receive that malignant kiss! With what dignity does he deliver himself into the hands of his enemies! Yet plainly showing his superiority over them, and even then leading, as it were, captivity captive!
And one of them which were with Jesus — Namely, Peter; struck a servant of the high-priest — Probably the person that seized Jesus first, or was showing greater forwardness than the rest in this business. This servant’s name was Malchus, John 18:10. But why did not Peter draw his sword upon Judas, rather than Malchus? Doubtless because Judas had concealed his purpose so well from the disciples, that Peter did not suspect him, nor understand the treacherous design of his kiss. Though this might seem a courageous action of Peter, it was really very imprudent; and had not Christ, by some secret influence, overawed their spirits, it is very probable that not only Peter, but the rest of the apostles, might have been cut to pieces. Accordingly, Jesus ordered him to sheath his sword, telling him that his unseasonable and imprudent defence might prove the occasion of his destruction; or rather, as Grotius interprets it, that there was no need of fighting in his defence, because God would punish the Jews for putting him to death. See Revelation 13:10; where this very expression, they that take the sword shall perish with the sword, is used in predicting the destruction of the persecutors of true Christians. Christ told him, likewise, that his rash conduct implied both a distrust of the divine providence, which can always employ a variety of means for the safety of his servants, and gross ignorance of the Scriptures. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father — Who heareth me always; and he shall give me more than twelve legions of angels — “The legion was a Roman military term, and as the band which now surrounded them was a Roman cohort, our Lord might make use of this term by way of contrast, to show what an inconsiderable thing the cohort was, in comparison of the force he could summon to his assistance; — more than twelve legions, not of soldiers, but of angels — Instead of twelve deserting, timorous disciples! How dreadfully irresistible would such an army of angels have been, when one of these celestial spirits was able to destroy 185,000 Assyrians at one stroke!
2 Kings 19:35.” Peter, it must be observed, had not only wounded the ear of the high-priest’s servant, but had actually cut it off. Jesus, however, repaired this injury; He touched his ear and healed him, Luke 22:51; either putting the ear on again, which was cut off, or creating a new one in the place of it: or if he performed the cure in any other way, he equally demonstrated both his goodness and power; and it is surprising that such a miracle, done in such circumstances, made no impression on those that came to apprehend him, especially as he put them in mind, at the same time, of his other miracles. For,
And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear.
Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?
But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?
In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.Matthew 26:55-56. In that same hour, Jesus said to the multitude — And particularly unto the chief priests and elders, &c, Luke 22:52, Are ye come out as against a thief, &c. — Or robber, that would make a desperate resistance, armed in this way with swords and staves, as if you came to seize me at the hazard of your lives? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple — When you had opportunities in abundance to have secured me, if there had been any crime with which you could have charged me: yet then you laid no hold on me — Ye took me not; so Mark. All this was done, &c. — I know the reason of all this better than you yourselves do: you have hitherto been kept under a secret restraint, which is now removed; and this is your hour, in which God has let you loose against me, and the power of darkness is now permitted to rage with peculiar violence, Luke 22:53; for it is under the instigation of Satan and his infernal powers that you now act, with whatever pious names you may affect to consecrate the deed. That the Scriptures might be fulfilled — That is, hereby those predictions of the prophets are fulfilled which were uttered under an infallible prescience that all these things would be done. “This,” says Dr. Doddridge, “was a consideration which, if duly applied, might have prevented his disciples from being offended at his sufferings: and it strongly intimated that he still kept up the claim, which he had formerly made, of being the Messiah; and that what he was now to go through was so far from being at all inconsistent with that claim, that, on the whole, it was absolutely necessary, in order to make it out to full satisfaction.” Then all the disciples forsook him and fled — Immediately, it seems, as soon as they saw him in the hands of his enemies, notwithstanding that they might have followed him with safety, as the priests had no design against them. “Perhaps, however, they were afraid that the action of Peter would be imputed to them all, and might bring their lives into danger. But, whatever they apprehended, their precipitate flight in these circumstances was the basest cowardice and ingratitude, considering not only how lately they had been warned of their danger, and what solemn promises they had made of a courageous adherence to Christ; but also what an agony they had just seen him in; what zeal he had a few moments before showed in their defence, what amazing power he had exerted to terrify his enemies into a compliance with that part of his demand which related to the safety of his friends, John 18:6-8; and especially that his prophecy of their continued usefulness in his church was equivalent to a promise of their preservation, whatever danger they might now meet with.” But thus our Lord’s prediction concerning their being offended and forsaking him, Matthew 26:31, was fulfilled; and by his permitting them to act in this false and cowardly manner, we may learn not to depend too confidently on the friendship and fidelity even of the very best of men.
But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.
And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.Matthew 26:57-58. And they led him away to Caiaphas — From Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, to whom they had carried him first; where the scribes and the elders — Or chief members of the sanhedrim; were assembled — Doubtless by a summons from Caiaphas, and were waiting for Jesus to be brought before them. But Peter followed him afar off — Variously agitated by conflicting passions: love constrained him to follow his Master; fear made him follow him afar off. Unto the high-priest’s palace — Or, the court of the high-priest’s house, as Campbell translates it. From Matthew 26:69, as well as from what we are told in the other gospels, it is evident that Peter was only in the court without, which, though enclosed on all sides, was open above, nor was it any wise extraordinary to kindle a fire in such a place. And went in and sat with the servants — Των υπηρετων, rather, with the officers, the servants of the public, or official servants of those in authority, as the word commonly means. These were unfit companions for Peter, as the event showed.
But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest's palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.
Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death;Matthew 26:59-60. The chief priests, and all the council, sought false witness — “When the council found that Jesus declined answering the questions, whereby they would have drawn from him an acknowledgment of his being the Messiah, they examined many witnesses to prove his having assumed that character; for it appears, by what happened afterward, that they considered such a pretension as blasphemy in his mouth, who, being nothing but a man, as they supposed, could not, without affronting the majesty of God, take the title of God’s Son, which of right belonged to the Messiah. But, in examining the witnesses, they acted like interested and enraged persecutors, rather than impartial judges; for they formed their questions after such a manner as, if possible, to draw from them expressions which they might pervert into suspicions of guilt, whereupon they might condemn Jesus. But found none, though many false witnesses came — Notwithstanding they were at the utmost pains to procure such a proof as in the eye of the law would justify the sentence which they were resolved at all hazards to pass upon Jesus, they exerted themselves to no purpose. Because, though they suborned many witnesses, these, in giving their testimony, contradicted one another; a circumstance which the most illiterate person in the court could not but be sensible invalidated their evidence.” “As this was a great proof of Christ’s innocence, so it is a singular instance of the power of God over men’s minds, that, for all the rewards these great men could offer, no two consistent witnesses could be procured to charge him with any gross crime. Possibly, the exertion of his miraculous power, in striking to the ground those that were most forward to seize him, might intimidate the spirits of some who might otherwise have been prevailed upon.” At last came two false witnesses — Such they were, although part of what they said was true, because our Lord did not speak some of the words they mentioned at all; nor any of them in the sense in which they represented them as being spoken. See Macknight and Doddridge.
But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses,
And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.
And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?Matthew 26:62-64. And the high-priest arose, (Mark, stood up in the midst,) and said, Answerest thou nothing? — When the high-priest found that Jesus took little notice of the things which the witnesses alleged against him, he rose from his seat in a passion, supposing that our Lord intended to put an affront upon the council, and desired him to give the reason of his conduct. But finding this in vain, in order to cut the trial short and insnare him, he adjured him, or required him to answer upon oath, whether or not he was the Christ. I adjure thee — Εξορκιζω σε. “This appears to have been the Jewish manner of administering an oath. The Hebrews השׂכיע, which in the Old Testament is commonly, by our interpreters, rendered, to make one swear, is justly translated by the LXX. ορκιζω, or εξορκιζω. Thus, Genesis 24:3, where we have an account of the oath administered by Abraham to his steward, which is rendered in our Bible, I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven, &c., is thus expressed in the LXX., εξορκιω σε Κυριον τον Θεον του ουρανου, &c. I adjure thee by Jehovah, the God of heaven and earth. After such adjuration by a magistrate, or lawful superior, the answer returned by the person adjured was an answer upon oath: a false answer was perjury; and even the silence of the person adjured was not deemed innocent.” He was under the necessity of giving an explicit answer, and of speaking the whole truth without disguise. Compare Exodus 22:11; Leviticus 5:1; and Proverbs 29:24. See Campbell. “The craft of the question lay in this, that if Jesus answered it in the affirmative, they were ready to condemn him as a blasphemer; but if in the negative they proposed to punish him as an impostor, who, by accepting the honours and titles of the Messiah from the people, had deceived them.” Jesus saith, Thou hast said, that is, as Mark expresses it, I am. Being put upon oath, or, according to Jewish customs, adjured by the magistrate, he no longer declines answering. And he adds, Nevertheless, Gr. πλην, moreover, I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man — He speaks in the third person, modestly, yet plainly: sitting on the right hand of power — That is, of God: and coming in the clouds of heaven — As he is represented by Daniel 7:13-14. Our Lord looked very unlike that person now! But nothing could be more awful, more majestic, and becoming, than such an admonition in such circumstances! The sending down of the Holy Ghost, the wonderful progress of the gospel, the destruction of Jerusalem, of the temple, and of the Jewish state, were unquestionable proofs and demonstrations shown forth by Jesus Christ of the infinite power wherewith he was invested at the right hand of God.
But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.
Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.Matthew 26:65. Then the high-priest rent his clothes — Though the high-priest was forbidden to rend his clothes, (that is, his upper garments,) in some cases, where others were allowed to do it, (Leviticus 10:6; and Leviticus 21:10;) yet in case of blasphemy, or any public calamity, it was thought allowable, 2 Kings 19:1; 1Ma 11:71; Caiaphas, therefore, by this action, expressed in the strongest and most artful manner, his horror at hearing so mean and vile a person as he thought Jesus to be, claiming the sovereignty over Israel, and a seat at the right hand of God, and this when adjured upon oath on so solemn an occasion.
What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.
Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,Matthew 26:67-68. Then did they spit in his face, &c. — Spitting in the face was the greatest contempt and disgrace which could possibly be shown. See Numbers 12:14. Buffeting, or striking a person with the fist on the temples, was esteemed one of the most disgraceful punishments by the Greeks, from whom the Romans might have adopted it. Smiting with the open palm of their hands, was such a dishonour as none but a slave ought to endure. “Because Matthew here says, that they who condemned Jesus spit in his face, and buffeted him: and Mark 14:65, mentions the indignities which the servants in particular put upon him; it appears that he was smitten, blindfolded, and buffeted even by some of the council; who, to ridicule him for having pretended to be the great prophet foretold by Moses, bade him exercise his prophetical gift in guessing who it was that struck him; Prophesy unto us, thou Christ — It was hardly possible for those miscreants to invent any thing more expressive of the contempt in which they held our Lord’s pretensions to be the Messiah. Thus was the Judge of the world placed at the bar of his own creatures, falsely accused by the witnesses, unjustly condemned by his judges, and insulted by all. Yet, because it was agreeable to the end of his coming, he patiently submitted, though he could with a frown have made his judges, his accusers, and those who had him in custody, all to drop down dead in a moment, or to shrivel into nothing.” — Macknight.
Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?
Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.Matthew 26:69-70. Now Peter, &c. — Our Lord’s trial in the high-priest’s palace, and Peter’s denying him, being contemporary events, either of them might be related first, as the historian might think most proper. Matthew and Mark describe the trial first, as being the principal fact, but Luke introduces it after Peter’s denials. John has preserved the exact natural order, for he begins with the first denial, because it happened immediately after Peter entered the palace; then gives the history of the trial, as the principal fact, and concludes with the subsequent denials. The apostles, no doubt, were in great consternation when their Master was apprehended, as appears from their forsaking him and fleeing. Some of them, however, recovering out of the panic that had seized them, followed the band at a distance, to see what the end would be. Of this number was Peter, and another disciple, whom John has mentioned without giving his name, and who, therefore, is generally supposed to have been John himself, it being his manner to speak of himself in the third person. See John 13:23; John 21:10. “Matthew and Mark seem to differ in the account which they give of the place where Peter first denied his Master. Matthew’s words are, Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, &c. Mark says, Mark 14:66, the denial happened as Peter was beneath in the palace. To reconcile this difference, some suppose that the high- priest’s palace was built so as to form a court; that the fire at which the servants sat was lighted in the court; and that Jesus was examined in the porch, called by Matthew πυλων, and by Mark προαυλιον. Accordingly they think persons in the court might be said to have been (εξω) without, in the palace, that is, without in respect of the covered buildings; and (κατω) beneath in the palace with respect to the porch, which was higher than the level of the court. But it appears from John 18:25, that Peter was with the servants at the fire when he denied his Master the third time; and from Luke 22:61, that Jesus looked upon Peter just as he was pronouncing the words of the third denial. Our Lord, therefore, and his disciple, were not, the one in the court and the other in the porch of the palace during his trial, but they were together in one room, Jesus with his judges at the upper end of it, and Peter with the servants at the fire in the other. According to this disposition, Peter might be said to have been without in the hall, that is, without in relation to the crowd of judges, witnesses, and soldiers around Jesus; but in relation to the place where the council sat, he was beneath in the hall, a way of speaking common even in our own language. Further, John says, Matthew 26:18, that Peter, after the first denial, stood with the officers at the fire; whereas Matthew and Luke tell us, when he first denied his Master he sat by the fire. It seems, the maid’s words had put him into such confusion, that before he answered her he rose from the seat which the servants had given him on his first coming in.” — Macknight. According to John, the maid who attacked Peter, was the damsel who kept the door. It seems, after having admitted him, she followed him to the fire, and spoke to him in an angry tone, having been informed that it was he who had cut off her fellow-servant’s ear, see John 18:26. Thou also wast with Jesus — She meant when he was apprehended in the garden. This blunt attack threw Peter into such confusion, that he flatly denied his having any thing to do with Jesus, saying, I know not what thou sayest — I do not understand what thou meanest by speaking to me in this manner. Here we see that apostle, who had formerly acknowledged his Master to be the Messiah, who was honoured with the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and who had most confidently boasted of fortitude, and a firm attachment to him in the greatest dangers, proved a very coward upon trial.
But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.
And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.Matthew 26:71-72. When he was gone out into the porch — Or portico, as Dr. Doddridge renders it, who observes, “I apprehend that the word προαυλιον, (used by Mark here.) most exactly answers to the Latin word vestibulum, by which many interpreters render it. And, considering the magnificence of the Jewish buildings at this time, it is reasonable to conclude that this, which belonged to the high-priest’s palace, was some stately piazza, or colonnade; and therefore I choose rather to render it, portico, than porch, a word applicable to the meanest buildings of that kind.” Another maid saw him, and said, This fellow was also with Jesus — Whatever he may pretend to the contrary, and how positively soever he may deny it. And again he denied with an oath — A sin to which possibly he was not unaccustomed before our Lord called him. Saying, I do not know the man — Jesus was so public a person, and so well known to thousands, not at all in his interest, that this additional falsehood was most unnecessary; and, as it frequently happens when people allow themselves to transgress the bounds of truth, it was more likely to entangle and discover him than to clear him. A learned divine conjectures, that Peter was suffered to fall more foully than any of the rest of the apostles, except Judas the traitor, and to make more remarkable mistakes in his conduct, that we might thus be cautioned against that extravagant regard which would afterward be demanded to him and his pretended successors. How must these people, before whom Peter denied his Lord, be surprised when they saw, as no doubt some of them did, this timorous disciple, within the compass of a few weeks, when he was brought with John before the council, not only maintaining the cause and honour of Jesus, but boldly charging the murder of this Prince of life on the chief men of the nation, and solemnly warning them of their guilt and danger in consequence of it. Acts 4:5-12. Perhaps when it is said there, Matthew 26:13, that they took knowledge of Peter and John that they had been with Jesus, the meaning may be, that some of them, or their attendants, remembered Peter and John as the two persons who had followed Jesus thus far, when the rest had forsaken him. See Clarke’s Seventeen Sermons, p. 236, and Doddridge.
And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.
And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.Matthew 26:73-74. And after a while came they that stood by, &c. — When the servants at the fire heard Peter deny the charge, which John has mentioned, they drew near and supported it by an argument drawn from the accent with which he had pronounced his answer: Surely thou art one of them, for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Η λαλια σου δηλον σε τοιει, thy manner of speech (meaning the Galilean dialect or pronunciation) maketh thee manifest — Or, as Mark expresses it, Thou art a Galilean, and thy speech agreeth thereto. Peter, being thus pressed from different quarters, and having now quite lost the reins, the government of himself; in order to give his lie the better colour, he profaned the name of God by swearing, and wished the bitterest curses on himself if he was telling a falsehood. Perhaps he hoped by these acts of impiety to convince them effectually that he was not the disciple of the holy Jesus. And immediately the cock crew — All the evangelists say, that the cock crew immediately after Peter pronounced the words of the third denial, which they themselves have related. But upon comparing the things said when this third attack was made, it appears that the speeches, at least which John has recorded, did not come from the persons mentioned by the other evangelists. Wherefore the third denial was occasioned by different attacks made in succession; unless the men spoke all at once, which is not very probable. It is more natural to think, that when Peter denied his Master to them who first attacked him, the others, who stood by, supported the charge, with an argument drawn from his dialect or pronunciation, which proved him to be a Galilean. However, as in either case the succession of his answers must have been very quick, the veracity of the evangelists remains unshaken, because thus the cock crew immediately after Peter pronounced the words which they have severally related. Thus through the mere fear of man, a principle from which have sprung many denials of Christ and his truth in different ages, Peter denied his Master three sundry times with many aggravating circumstances, forgetting the vehement protestations he had made a few hours before. He was permitted to fall in this manner to teach mankind several important lessons: as, 1st, That no dependance can be placed on any mere human strength, or on any resolutions man can form, without supernatural aid. 2d, That whatever a person’s attainments may have been formerly, if once he give way to temptation, so as to commit known and actual sin, he frequently, perhaps it may be said commonly, proceeds from bad to worse, one sin naturally drawing on another; for which reason the very least appearance of evil ought always to be dreaded, and the greatest humility and self-diffidence maintained. 3d, The goodness wherewith Jesus treated his fallen apostle, teaches us that no sinner whatever needs to despair of mercy who truly repents.
Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.
And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.Matthew 26:75. And Peter — Immediately upon hearing the cock crow, remembered the words of Jesus — The crowing of the cock reminding him of them. Thus, at the same time that Jesus predicted his fall, by mentioning that it would happen before the cock crew, he provided the means of his recovery, and by this little circumstance the fallen apostle is awakened and brought to repentance. Such weak and contemptible means does God sometimes use to open the eyes of sinners, and bring them to a sense of their danger and their duty! This, however, was not the only means of Peter’s restoration. Luke informs us, that immediately upon Peter’s denying Christ the third time, and the crowing of the cock, the Lord turned and looked upon Peter, and that, upon his so doing, Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice. “The members of the council,” it appears, “who examined Jesus, sat at the upper end of the hall; in the other, were the servants with Peter at the fire. Wherefore, if Christ was placed on some footstool or bench, that his judges, who were many in number, might hear and see him, he could easily look over the heads of those who stood around him, and observe what was doing at the fire; particularly he could see Peter, who was then denying him with imprecations, and in the vehemency of his passion was speaking loud enough to be heard at the upper end of the room. But he had no sooner denied his Master the third time, than the cock crew, and awakened in him the first conviction of his sin; or at least made him look to his Master, in order, perhaps, to see if he were taking notice of what had happened. But at the same instant Jesus, turning about, fixed his eyes on his cowardly disciple. The look pierced him, and with the crowing of the cock, brought his Master’s prediction afresh into his mind. He was stung with deep remorse, and being unable to contain himself, he covered his face with his garment (see note on Mark 14:72) to conceal the confusion he was in, and going out he wept most bitterly;” experiencing that godly sorrow which worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of.
Before we dismiss this melancholy subject of Peter’s fall, it may not be unprofitable to notice, as a warning to ourselves, two particulars therein: First, the gradual progress of sin in him, and the various gradations by which it advanced to this depth of wickedness. From self-confidence, which was the source of the whole mischief, he proceeded, 1st, To disbelieve and disregard Christ’s warnings; and therefore: 2d, Neglected to watch and pray. 3d, When alarmed by the unexpected coming of the band to apprehend Jesus, he gave way to his own spirit, and drew his carnal weapon to defend his heavenly Master. 4th, Immediately upon being convinced of his error in this, he passed from rash courage to unreasonable cowardice, and instantly forsook his Master and fled. 5th, When, recollecting himself, he followed, it was afar off. 6th. Having unthinkingly ventured into the company of Christ’s enemies, when he had the fairest opportunity of confessing his Master, and an evident call to do it, he denied him, first, it seems, equivocating and shuffling, then telling a plain and direct lie, and confirming it by an oath, and, last of all, to gain it still greater credit, cursing and swearing. The aggravations of his sin are, secondly, deserving of our notice: 1st, He was guilty of this base, cowardly, and false conduct in the presence of Christ’s enemies, the high-priest, scribes, and elders, and their servants, who, doubtless, rejoiced at it; and were confirmed in their unbelief, after witnessing the treachery of one of Jesus’s disciples in selling him for money, to hear another of them denying him through fear. 2d, He thus denied his Master, told these lies, and uttered these oaths and curses within his Master’s view, and in his hearing. 3d, The time when Peter behaved in this manner was a peculiar aggravation of his sin. It was within a few hours after his gracious Master had most solemnly and repeatedly warned him of his danger, and he had been a witness of his conflict and bitter sorrow in the garden: it was when his Lord, of whose transfiguration and glory on the mount he had been an astonished and admiring spectator, was beginning to be most unjustly and cruelly treated by the persecutors of God’s truth, and the enemies of all righteousness, for his unspeakable love to Peter himself, and others of the human race, whom he was about to redeem and save. “The time,” says Saurin, “when Peter denied Christ, makes his crime great indeed! The time of the Lord’s looking at him illuminates his looks! At the very time when Jesus was giving the tenderest marks of his love, Peter discovered the blackest ingratitude to him; while Jesus redeemed Peter, Peter denied Jesus! While Jesus yielded to the bloody death of the cross for Peter, Peter refused to confess him! But — Jesus looks at him! My brethren, what do these looks say? how eloquent are those eyes! Never was a discourse so effectual; never did an orator express himself with so much force! It is the man of griefs complaining of a new burden, while he is ready to sink under what he already bears. It is the beneficent Redeemer of mankind pitying a soul ready to be lost! It is the apostle of our profession preaching in chains! In fine, it is the Sovereign of the hearts of men, the Almighty God of love, curbing the efforts of the devil, and taking his conquest away!”