Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples,Ch. Matthew 26:1-5. Wednesday, Nisan 12. The Approach of the Passover. Jesus again Foretells His Death. The Sanhedrin meet
Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:1-2.
Cp. John 11:55-57, where we read that “the chief priests and Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him.”
That Jesus should be able for so many days to “speak openly in the Temple” and shew Himself to the people without fear of capture is a proof of the deep hold He had taken on the enthusiasm and affection of His fellow-countrymen. The words of St John (quoted above) imply a combination of the priestly and aristocratic party—the Sadducees—with the democratic Pharisees, against the despised Galilæan, and yet it requires treachery of the deepest dye and a deed of darkness to secure Him.
Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.2. the passover] (1) The word is interesting in its (a) Hebrew, (b) Greek, and (c) English form. (a) The Hebrew pesach is from a root meaning “to leap over,” and, figuratively, to “save,” “shew mercy.” (b) The Greek pascha represents the Aramaic or later Hebrew form of the same word, but the affinity in sound and letters to the Greek word paschein, “to suffer,” led to a connection in thought between the Passover and the Passion of our Lord: indeed, some of the early Christian writers state the connection as if it were the true etymology. (c) Tyndale has the merit of introducing into English the word “passover,” which keeps up the play on the words in the original Hebrew (Exodus 12:11; Exodus 12:13). Before Tyndale the word “phase” (for pascha) was transferred from the Vulgate, with an explanation: “For it is phase, that is, the passyng of the Lord” (Wyclif).
the feast of the passover commemorated the deliverance of Israel from the Egyptian bondage. The ordinances of the first Passover are narrated Exodus 12:1-14, but some of those were modified in later times. It was no longer necessary to choose the lamb on the 10th of Nisan. The blood was sprinkled on the altar, not on the door-post, those who partook of the paschal meal no longer “stood with loins girded, with shoes on their feet, with staff in hand,” but reclined on couches, as at an ordinary meal; it was no longer unlawful to leave the house before morning (Exodus 12:22). The regular celebration of the Passover was part of the religious revival after the return from Captivity. During the kingly period only three celebrations of the Passover are recorded; in the reigns of Solomon, of Hezekiah and of Josiah. For the relation of the Last Supper to the Passover and for further notes on the paschal observance, see below.
The date of this Passover was probably April 3 (old style), a. d. 33 (Mr J. W. Bosanquet in Trans. Soc. Bib. Arch. vol. iv. 2). See note, ch. Matthew 2:1.
is betrayed] either (1) the present for the future, denoting greater certainty or (2) the full relative present “is now being betrayed;” the treacherous scheme of Judas is already afoot.
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,3. the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders] i. e. the Sanhedrim or Synedrion (Greek), or Sanhedrin (the later Hebrew form of the word), the supreme council, legislative and administrative, of the Jewish people.
A. The history of the Sanhedrin. Many learned Rabbis endeavoured to trace the origin of the Sanhedrin to the council of 70 elders whom Moses, by the advice of Jethro, appointed to assist him. But it is improbable that this council existed before the Macedonian conquest. (1) The name is Greek, not Hebrew. (2) It finds its equivalent among the political institutions of Macedonia. Finally, (3) no allusion to the Sanhedrin is to be found in the Historical Books or in the Prophets.
B. Constitution. The President or Nasi (prince) was generally, but not always, the high priest; next in authority was the vice-president or Ab Beth Dîn (father of the house of judgment); the third in rank was the Chacham (sage or interpreter). The members were 71 in number, and consisted (1) of the chief priests or heads of the priestly “courses” (see Luke 1:5); (2) the scribes or lawyers; (3) the elders of the people or heads of families, who were the representatives of the laity.
C. Authority and functions. The Sanhedrin formed the highest court of the Jewish commonwealth. It originally possessed the power of life and death, but this power no longer belonged to it; John 18:31, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death,” a statement which agrees with a tradition in the Talmud, “forty years before the temple was destroyed judgment in capital causes was taken away from Israel.”
All questions of the Jewish law, and such as concerned the ecclesiastical polity, religious life of the nation and discipline of the priests fell under the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrin.
D. Place of meeting. In the present instance the Sanhedrin met at the high priest’s house; from ch. Matthew 27:6 we may conjecture that the Temple was sometimes the place of meeting, but their usual house of assembly at this particular epoch was called the “Halls of Purchase,” on the east of the Temple Mount (Dr Ginsburg in Kitto’s Encyc. Bib. Lit. and Lightfoot’s Hor. Hebr.).
Caiaphas] Joseph Caiaphas, the son-in-law of Annas, was appointed high priest by the Procurator Valerius Gratus a. d. 26, and was deposed a. d. 38. The high priesthood had long ceased to be held for life and to descend from father to son; appointments were made at the caprice of the Roman government. Annas who had been high priest was still regarded as such by popular opinion, which did not recognise his deposition. St Luke says, “Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests.”
And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him.4. consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty] It was no longer possible (1) to entrap Him by argument (Matthew 22:46); (2) to discredit Him with the Roman government (Matthew 22:22); or (3) to take Him by force.
But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.5. on the feast day] Better, during the feast, including the Passover and the seven days of unleavened bread.
lest there be an uproar among the people] The great danger at the time of the Passover, when the people, numbering hundreds of thousands, filled the city and encamped in tents outside the walls like a vast army. At a Passover, less than 30 years before, the people, partly to avenge the death of two Rabbis, rose against Archelaus, and were cruelly repressed with a slaughter of 3000 men (Joseph. Ant. xvii. 9. 3); see also xvii. 10. 2, where a similar rising against Sabinus, during the feast of Pentecost, is described.
Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,6. Simon the leper] i. e. he had been a leper. St John, in the parallel passage, says “they made him a supper, and Martha served; but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.” Nothing further is known of Simon. He was evidently a disciple of Jesus and probably a near friend of Lazarus and his sisters.
6–13. The Feast in the house of Simon the Leper
Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8St John’s narrative places this incident on the evening of the Sabbath—the last Sabbath spent by Jesus on earth—before the triumphal entry. St Matthew has here disregarded the strictly chronological order.
Compare a similar act of devotion on the part of a “woman that was a sinner” (Luke 7:36-39).
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.7. a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment] “Then took Mary a pound of ointment, very costly” (John). “Ointment of spikenard, very precious” (Mark). The “alabaster box” was “a flask of fragrant oil;” the special kind of ointment named by the Evangelists—nard or spikenard—was extracted from the blossoms of the Indian and Arabian nard-grass (Becker’s Gallus).
These alabastra or unguent-flasks were usually made of the Oriental or onyx alabaster, with long narrow necks, which let the oil escape drop by drop, and could easily be broken (Mark 14:3). But the shape and material varied. Herodotus (iii. 20) mentions an “alabastron of fragrant oil”—the precise expression in the text—sent among other royal gifts of gold and purple by Cambyses to the king of Æthiopia.
The costliness of Mary’s offering may be judged from this. The other Evangelists name three hundred pence or denarii as the price; (St Mark says, “more than three hundred pence”). Now a denarius was a day’s wages for a labourer (see ch. Matthew 20:2); equivalent, therefore, to two shillings at least of English money; hence, relatively to English ideas, Mary’s offering would amount to £30. It was probably the whole of her wealth.
But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?8. when his disciples saw it, they had indignation] “There were some that had indignation” (Mark); “Then said one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot” (John).
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.10. When Jesus understood it] The murmurings had been whispered at first. St Mark says, “had indignation within themselves, and said, &c.”
a good work] Rather, a noble and beautiful work, denoting a delicate and refined, almost artistic, sense of the fitness of things, which was lacking to the blunter perception of the rest.
The Lord passes a higher commendation on this than on any other act recorded in the N.T.; it implied a faith that enabled Mary to see, as no else then did, the truth of the Kingdom. She saw that Jesus was still a King, though destined to die. The same thought—the certainty of the death of Jesus—that estranged Judas made her devotion more intense.
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.12. for my burial] For this use of perfumes cp. 2 Chronicles 16:14, “They laid him (Asa) in the bed which was filled with sweet odours and divers kinds of spices prepared by the apothecaries’ art.”
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,14–16. The Treachery of Judas
Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6St Mark, like St Matthew, connects the treachery of Judas with the scene in Simon’s house. His worldly hopes fell altogether at the thought of “burial.” It is a striking juxtaposition: as Mary’s is the highest deed of loving and clear-sighted faith, Judas’ is the darkest act of treacherous and misguided hate.
The motive that impelled Judas was probably not so much avarice as disappointed worldly ambition. Jesus said of him that he was a “devil” (diabolus or Satan), the term that was on a special occasion applied to St Peter, and for the same reason. Peter for a moment allowed the thought of the earthly kingdom to prevail; with Judas it was the predominant idea which gained a stronger and stronger hold on his mind until it forced out whatever element of good he once possessed. “When the manifestation of Christ ceased to be attractive it became repulsive; and more so every day” (Neander, Life of Christ, Bohn’s trans., p. 424).
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.15. covenanted with him] Rather, weighed out for him; either literally or= “paid him.”
thirty pieces of silver] i. e. thirty silver shekels. St Matthew alone names the sum, which= 120 denarii. The shekel is sometimes reckoned at three shillings, but for the real equivalent in English money see note on Matthew 26:7. Thirty shekels was the price of a slave (Exodus 21:32); a fact which gives force to our Lord’s words, Matthew 20:28, “The Son of man came … to minister (to be a slave), and to give his life a ransom for many.”
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?17. the first day of the feast of unleavened bread] This was the 14th of Nisan, which commenced after sunset on the 13th; it was also called the preparation (paraskeué) of the passover. The feast of unleavened bread followed the passover, and lasted seven days, from the 15th to the 21st of Nisan. Hence the two feasts are sometimes included in the term “passover,” sometimes in that of “unleavened bread.” On the evening of 13th of Nisan every head of the family carefully searched for and collected by the light of a candle all the leaven, which was kept and destroyed before midday on the 14th. The offering of the lamb took place on the 14th at the evening sacrifice, which on this day commenced at 1.30; or if the preparation fell on a Friday, at 12.30. The paschal meal was celebrated after sunset on the 14th, i. e. strictly on the 15th of Nisan.
The events of the Passover are full of difficulty for the harmonist. It is however almost certain that the “Last Supper” was not the paschal meal, but was partaken of on the 14th, that is after sunset on the 13th of Nisan. It is quite certain, from John 18:28, that Jesus was crucified on the preparation, and although the synoptic narratives seem at first sight to disagree with this, it is probably only the want of a complete knowledge of the facts that creates the apparent discrepancy.
The order of events in the “Passion” was as follows: when the 14th commenced, at sunset, Jesus sent two disciples to prepare the feast for that evening, instead of for the following evening. A sign of hastening on the meal may be detected in the words “my time is at hand,” Matthew 26:18, cp. Luke 22:15, “with desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.” The supper follows, which bears a paschal character, and follows the paschal ceremonial. Early in the morning of the 14th of Nisan the irregular sitting of the Sanhedrin took place. Then followed the formal sitting of the Sanhedrin, and the trial before Pilate, the “remission” to Herod, and, finally, the Crucifixion. This view meets the typical requirements of our Lord’s death completely. During the very hours when our Great High Priest was offering Himself as a sacrifice for our sins upon the cross, the Jewish people were engaged in slaying thousands of lambs in view of the paschal feast about to commence.
17–19. Preparations for the Last Supper
Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13Nisan 13—from the sunset of Wednesday to the sunset of Thursday—Jesus seems to have passed in retirement; no events are recorded.
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.18. to such a man] “To a certain man” (one who is known, but not named), with whom the arrangements had been previously made. He was doubtless a follower of Jesus. It was usual for the inhabitants of Jerusalem to lend guestchambers to the strangers who came to the feast.
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.20. he sat down with the twelve] Rather, reclined with. This posture had not only become customary at ordinary meals, but was especially enjoined in the passover ritual. The Paschal ceremonial, so far as it bears on the Gospel narrative, may be described as follows:
(a) The meal began with a cup of red wine mixed with water: this is the first cup mentioned, Luke 22:17. After this the guests washed their hands. Here probably must be placed the washing of the disciples’ feet, John 13.
(b) The bitter herbs, symbolic of the bitter bondage in Egypt, were then brought in together with unleavened cakes, and a sauce called charoseth, made of fruits and vinegar, into which the unleavened bread and bitter herbs were dipped. This explains “He it is, to whom I shall give a sop,” John 13:26.
(c) The second cup was then mixed and blessed like the first. The father then explained the meaning of the rite (Exodus 13:8). This was the haggadah or “shewing forth,” a term transferred by St Paul to the Christian meaning of the rite (1 Corinthians 11:26). The first part of the “hallel” (Psalms 113, 114) was then chanted by the company.
(d) After this the paschal lamb was placed before the guests. This is called in a special sense “the supper.” But at the Last Supper there was no paschal lamb. There was no need now of the typical lamb without blemish, for the antitype was there. Christ Himself was our Passover “sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). He was there being slain for us—His body was being given, His blood being shed. At this point, when according to the ordinary ritual the company partook of the paschal lamb, Jesus “took bread and blessed it, and gave it to his disciples” (Matthew 26:26).
(e) The third cup, or “cup of blessing,” so called because a special blessing was pronounced upon it, followed: “after supper he took the cup” (Luke). “He took the cup when he had supped” (Paul). This is the “cup” named in Matthew 26:27.
(f) After a fourth cup the company chanted (see Matthew 26:30) the second part of the “hallel” (Psalms 115-118). (Lightfoot Hor. Hebr. Dr Ginsburg in Kitto’s Encycl., Dr Edersheim Temple Services.)
20–30. The Last Supper
Mark 14:17-26; Luke 22:14-38, where the dispute as to who should be the greatest is recorded, and the warning to Peter related as happening before Jesus departed for the Mount of Olives. St John omits the institution of the Eucharist, but relates the washing of the disciples’ feet by our Lord, and has preserved the discourses of Jesus, chs. 13–17 end. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; where the institution of the Eucharist is narrated nearly in St Luke’s words.
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?22. they were exceeding sorrowful] St John (John 13:22) has the graphic words “then the disciples looked on one another, doubting of whom he spake.” It is this moment of intense and painful emotion which Leonardo da Vinci has interpreted by his immortal picture, so true to the spirit of this scene, so unlike the external reality of it.
And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.23. He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish] “He it is to whom I shall give a sop when I have dipped it,” John 13:26; here we have the words of the disciple who heard the reply of Jesus, which was probably whispered and not heard by the rest.
dippeth his hand … in the dish] i. e. in the charoseth, see above, Matthew 26:20 (b).
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.24. good for that man if he had not been born] A familiar phrase in the Rabbinical Schools, used here with awful depth of certainty.
Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.25. Thou hast said] This is a formula of assent both in Hebrew and Greek, and is still used in Palestine in that sense. These words seem also to have been spoken in a low voice inaudible to the rest.
The special mention of Judas is omitted by St Mark and St Luke.
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.26. this is my body] The exact Greek is “this is the body of me;” St Luke adds, “which is being given for you;” St Paul, “which is being broken for you;” the sacrifice had begun, the body of Christ was already being offered. The expression may be paraphrased: “This—the bread—and not the paschal lamb, represents—is to the faithful—the body of Me, who am even now being offered a sacrifice for you.” Without entering on the great controversy of which these four words have been the centre, we may note that; (1) the thought is not presented now for the first time to the disciples. It was the “hard saying” which had turned many from Christ, see John 6:51-57; John 6:66. (2) The special form of the controversy is due to a mediæval philosophy which has passed away leaving “the dispute of the sacraments” as a legacy. St Luke and St Paul have the addition, “this do in remembrance of me”—now, as a memorial of Me, not of the Passover deliverance.
And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;27. he took the cup] Accurately, according to the highest MS. authority, “a cup,” see note Matthew 26:20 (e).
For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.28. this is my blood] The blood of the sacrifice was the seal and assurance of the old covenant, so wine is the seal of the new covenant, under which there is no shedding of blood.
new testament] The word “new” is omitted in the most ancient MSS. here and in Mark.
testament] The Greek word means either (1) a “covenant,” “contract,” or (2) “a will.” The first is the preferable sense here, as in most passages where the word occurs in N.T. the new covenant is contrasted with “the covenant which God made with our fathers,” Acts 3:25. It need hardly be remarked that the title of the New Testament is derived from this passage.
for many] i. e. to save many; “for” is used in the sense of dying for one’s country.
many] See note ch. Matthew 20:28.
for the remission of sins] “For” here marks the intention, “in order that there may be remission of sins.” These words are in Matthew only.
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.29. when I drink it new with you] The reference is to the feast, which is a symbol of the glorified life, cp. Luke 22:30. The new wine signifies the new higher existence (ch. Matthew 9:17), which Christ would share with His Saints. The expression may also symbolize the Christian as distinguished from the Jewish dispensation, and be referred specially to the celebration of the Eucharist, in which Christ joins with the faithful in the feast of the Kingdom of God on earth.
And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.30. when they had sung a hymn] Properly, “the hymn,” the second part of the hallel. See note on Matthew 26:20 (f).
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.31–35. All shall be offended
Mark 14:26-31; Luke 22:32-34. Cp. John 16:3231. I will smite the shepherd] Zechariah 13:7. The words do not literally follow the Hebrew. The context describes the purification of Jerusalem in the last days—“in that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem”—the discomfiture of the false prophets, and the victory of Jehovah on the Mount of Olives.
It may be fitly remembered that the Valley of Jehoshaphat (in N.T. the Valley of Kedron) according to the most probable view derived its name—the Valley of the Judgment of Jehovah—not from the king of Judah, but from the vision of Joel (Matthew 3:2; Matthew 3:9-17), of which the prophecy of Zechariah is the repetition in a later age. If so, there is deep significance in the words recurring to the mind of Christ, as He trod the very field of Jehovah’s destined victory. Nor is it irreverent to believe that the thought of this vision brought consolation to the human heart of Jesus as He passed to His Supreme self-surrender with the knowledge that He would be left alone, deserted even by His chosen followers.
But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.32. The expression, I will go before you, lit., I will lead you as a shepherd, falls in with the thought of the quotation.
Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.
Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.34. before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice] “This day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice” (Mark). A curious difficulty has been raised here from the fact that it was unlawful for Jews to keep fowls in the Holy City. Such rules, however, could not be applied to the Romans.
Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.35. Though I should die with thee] Accurately, Even if I shall be obliged to die with thee.
Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.36. Gethsemane]=the oil press; “over the brook Cedron, where was a garden” (John).
36–46. The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane
Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1In St Luke’s account Matthew 26:43-44 are peculiar to his Gospel. The use of the rare word “agony” by the same evangelist has given the title to this passage.
St Luke also relates that “there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.” There is, however, some reason for doubting the genuineness of these verses.
And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.37. Peter and the two sons of Zebedee] See ch. Matthew 17:1 and Mark 5:37. The Evangelist, St John, was thus a witness of this scene; hence, as we should expect, his narrative of the arrest of Jesus is very full of particulars.
very heavy] The Greek word conveys the impression of the deepest sorrow; it is used of “maddening grief.”
Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.38. My soul] This is important as the one passage in which Jesus ascribes to Himself a human soul.
watch with me] The Son of man in this dark hour asks for human sympathy.
with me] Only in Matthew.
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.39. went a little further] The paschal full moon would make deep shadow for the retirement of Jesus.
O my Father] St Mark has the Aramaic Abba as well as the Greek word for Father.
this cup] See note, ch. Matthew 20:22. Were these words overheard by the sons of Zebedee? If so, the thought of their ambition and of their Master’s answer would surely recur to them (ch. Matthew 20:20-23).
not as I will] In the “Agony,” as in the Temptation, the Son submits Himself to His Father’s will.
And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?40. saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch] Note that the verb is in the plural. As Peter took the lead in the promise of devotion, Jesus singles him out for rebuke. St Mark has “Simon (the name of the old life), sleepest thou? Couldest not thou watch one hour?”
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.41. the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak] The touch of clemency mingled with the rebuke is characteristic of the gentleness of Jesus.
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.
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.44. saying the same words] This repetition of earnestness must be distinguished from the vain repetitions of ch. Matthew 6:7.
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.45, 46. Sleep on now … Rise, let us be going] The sudden transition may be explained either (1) by regarding the first words as intended for a rebuke, or else (2) at that very moment Judas appeared, and the time for action had come. The short, quick sentences, especially as reported by St Mark, favour the second suggestion.
Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.
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.47–56. The Arrest of Jesus
St Mark 14:43-50; St Luke 22:47-53; St John 18:3-1147. a great multitude with swords and staves] St John more definitely, “having received a (strictly, the) band (of men) and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees” (Matthew 18:3). The band of men here = the company of Roman soldiers, placed at the service of the Sanhedrin by the Procurator. The same word is used Acts 10:1; Acts 21:32; Acts 27:1. St Luke names the “captains of the temple” (Luke 22:52). Hence the body, guided by Judas, consisted of (1) a company (speira) of Roman soldiers; (2) a detachment of the Levitical temple-guard (Luke); (3) certain members of the Sanhedrin and Pharisees.
with swords and staves] St John has “with lanterns and torches and weapons.” Staves, rather, clubs; different from the travellers’ “staves” of ch. Matthew 10:10, where another Greek word is used.
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.49. Hail, master] Rather, Rabbi.
kissed him] The Greek verb is forcible, kissed him with fervour or repeatedly.
And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.50. Friend, wherefore art thou come?] The Greek word denotes, not friendship, but companionship. It is used in rebuke, ch. Matthew 20:13 and Matthew 22:12. Here the word is relative to the Rabbi, Matthew 26:49, “thou, my disciple.”
St Luke preserves a further answer to Judas, “betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?”
Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus] St John, who does not mention the kiss of Judas, sets the self-surrender of Jesus in a clear light: “I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way.”
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.51. one of them] This was St Peter, named by St John, but not by the earlier Evangelists, probably from motives of prudence.
his sword] Probably a short sword or dirk, worn in the belt.
a servant] Rather, the servant, or rather slave; St John gives his name, Malchus. St Luke alone records the cure of Malchus.
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.52. all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword] To this reason for non-resistance Christ added another, “The cup which my Father has given me shall I not drink it?” (John).
take the sword] i. e. against rightful authority. The truth of this saying was exemplified by the slaughter of nearly a million and a half of Jews, who “took the sword” against Rome a. d. 67–70.
52–54. These verses are peculiar to Matthew; each Evangelist has recorded sayings unnoticed by the others. It is easy to understand that in these exciting moments each bystander should perceive a part only of what was said or done.
Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?53. presently] = “immediately”; see ch. Matthew 21:19.
twelve legions of angels] It is characteristic of this gospel that the authority and kingly majesty of Jesus should be suggested at a moment when every hope seemed to have perished.
legions] In contrast to the small company of Roman soldiers.
But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?54. But how then] Rather, how then, omit “but.”
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.55. a thief] Rather, a robber; see St John 10:1, whence the two words are distinguished. See note, ch. Matthew 21:13.
According to St Luke these words were addressed to “the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and elders,” where it appears that some members of the Sanhedrin had in their evil zeal joined in the capture. The same Evangelist adds, “this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53).
But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.56. all this was done, &c.] These are probably the words of Christ, and not a reflection by the Evangelist (cp. Mark 14:49); if so, they were, for most of the disciples, their Master’s last words.
And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.57–68. Jesus is brought before Caiaphas. The first and informal Meeting of the Sanhedrin
St Mark 14:53-65; St Luke 22:54; Luke 22:63-65St Luke reports this first irregular trial with less detail than the other synoptists, but gives the account of the second formal sitting at greater length.
It is not clear whether the private examination, related by St John 18:19-23, was conducted by Annas or Caiaphas. Probably Jesus was first taken to Annas, whose great influence (he was still high priest in the eyes of the people) would make it necessary to have his sanction for the subsequent measures. The examination, narrated John 18:19-23, according to this view, was by Annas; “had sent,” Matthew 26:24, should be translated “sent.”
The subjoined order of events is certainly not free from difficulties, but is the most probable solution of the question:
(1) From the garden Gethsemane Jesus was taken to Annas; thence, after brief questioning (St John 18:19-23),
(2) To Caiaphas, in another part of the Sacerdotal palace, where some members of the Sanhedrin had hastily met, and the first irregular trial of Jesus took place at night; Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:52-65; Luke 22:54 and Luke 22:63-65.
(3) Early in the morning a second and formal trial was held by the Sanhedrin. This is related by St Luke ch. Luke 22:66-71; and is mentioned by St Matthew ch. Matthew 27:1; and in St Mark 15:1.
(4) The trial before Pontius Pilate, consisting of two parts: (a) a preliminary examination (for which there is a technical legal phrase in St Luke 23:14); (b) a final trial and sentence to death.
(5) The remission to Herod, recorded by St Luke only, Matthew 23:7-11; between the two Roman trials, (a) and (b).
The question is sometimes asked, Was the trial of Jesus fair and legal according to the rules of Jewish law? The answer must be that the proceedings against Jesus violated both (1) the spirit, and (2) the express rules of Hebrew jurisdiction, the general tendency of which was to extreme clemency.
(1) The Talmud states: “the Sanhedrin is to save, not to destroy life.” No man could be condemned in his absence, or without a majority of two to one; the penalty for procuring false witnesses was death; the condemned was not to be executed on the day of his trial. This clemency was violated in the trial of Jesus Christ.
(2) But even the ordinary legal rules were disregarded in the following particulars: (a) The examination by Annas without witnesses. (b) The trial by night. (c) The sentence on the first day of trial. (d) The trial of a capital charge on the day before the Sabbath. (e) The suborning of witnesses. (f) The direct interrogation by the High Priest.
But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest's palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.58. servants] “Attendants,” “retinue.”
Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death;59. sought false witness] See above (1): to seek witnesses at all was against the spirit of the law.
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.61. I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days] The actual words of Jesus spoken (John 2:19) in the first year of his ministry were, “Destroy” (a weaker Greek verb, and not “I am able to destroy”) “this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” (the word is appropriate to raising from the dead, and is quite different from the verb “to build”). The attempt was to convict Jesus of blasphemy in asserting a superhuman power.
And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?
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.64. Thou hast said] See note Matthew 26:25.
Hereafter shall ye see] Cp. Daniel 7:13; ch. Matthew 16:27, Matthew 24:30, Matthew 25:31.
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.65. rent his clothes] This act was enjoined by the Rabbinical rules. When the charge of blasphemy was proved “the judges standing on their feet rend their garments, and do not sew them up again.” Clothes in the plural, because according to Rabbinical directions all the under-garments were to be rent, “even if there were ten of them.”
What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.66. He is guilty of death] i. e. “has incurred the penalty of death.” The Sanhedrin do not pass sentence, but merely re-affirm their foregone conclusion, and endeavour to have sentence passed and judgment executed by the Procurator.
Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,67. buffeted him] Struck Him with clenched fist.
Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?68. Prophesy unto us] Observe the coarse popular idea of prophecy breaking out, according to which prophecy is a meaningless exhibition of miraculous power. A similar vein of thought shews itself in the second temptation (ch. Matthew 4:6).
Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.69. in the palace] Rather, in the court. In Oriental houses the street door opens into an entrance hall or passage: this is the “porch” of Matthew 26:71; beyond this is a central court open to the sky and surrounded by pillars. The reception rooms are usually on the ground floor, and are built round the central court. Probably the hall or room in which Jesus was being tried opened upon the court. Thus Jesus was able to look upon Peter.
69–75. The Denial of Peter
St Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:55-62; John 18:15-18; John 18:25-27The accounts differ slightly, and exactly in such a way as the evidence of honest witnesses might be expected to differ in describing the minor details (which at the time would appear unimportant) in a scene full of stir and momentous incidents. Discrepancies of this kind form the strongest argument for the independence of the different gospels. St Luke mentions that “the Lord turned and looked upon Peter.” St John states that the third question was put by a kinsman of Malchus.
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.
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.73. thy speech bewrayeth thee] Peter was discovered by his use of the Galilæan dialect. The Galilæans were unable to pronounce the gutturals distinctly, and they lisped, pronouncing sh like th. Perhaps Peter said, “I know not the ith,” instead of, “I know not the ish” (man).
To bewray, from the Anglo-Saxon wreian, to accuse, then, to point out, make evident,—the literal meaning of the Greek words.
“Here comes the queen, whose looks bewray her anger.”
Shaks. 3 Henry VI. 1. 1. (Bible Word-Book.)
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.