Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples,13. The Passion of the King.
1. His Death Planned. (Matthew 26:1-5.) 2. Mary of Bethany Anointing the King.(Matthew 26:6-13.) 3. The Betrayal. (Matthew 26:14-16.) 4. The Last Passover.(Matthew 26:17-25.) 5. The Lord's Supper Instituted.(Matthew 26:26-29.) 6. Peter's Denial Announced and the Scattered Sheep.(Matthew 26:30-35.) 7. In Gethsemane. (Matthew 26:36-46.) 8. Judas and His Deed. The Arrest of the King. (Matthew 26:47-56.) 9. Before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. (Matthew 26:57-68.) 10. Peter's Denial. (Matthew 26:69-75.)
2. Mary of Bethany Anointing the King.(Matthew 26:6-13.)
3. The Betrayal. (Matthew 26:14-16.)
4. The Last Passover.(Matthew 26:17-25.)
5. The Lord's Supper Instituted.(Matthew 26:26-29.)
6. Peter's Denial Announced and the Scattered Sheep.(Matthew 26:30-35.)
7. In Gethsemane. (Matthew 26:36-46.)
8. Judas and His Deed. The Arrest of the King. (Matthew 26:47-56.)
9. Before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. (Matthew 26:57-68.)
10. Peter's Denial. (Matthew 26:69-75.)
The great last discourse of the King being ended there remains now nothing else to record than the story of His passion, His suffering, death and resurrection. This is the record of the remaining three chapters of the first Gospel. Two of these are the longest in the whole book. He had foretold in His great prophecy in the Olivet discourse the future of the Jews, the Christian profession and the future of the nations. Now He is to go and fulfill all the predictions concerning His sufferings and death, as written in Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. The twenty-sixth chapter, which we shall follow briefly, is one of contrasts. Here we behold Him in all His wonderful perfection again. With what calmness and dignity He enters upon that great work, which the Father gave Him to do. On the other hand we see wickedness and Satanic powers revealed which now cast themselves in all their fury upon the holy One. What a wonderful story it is which we have followed in this first Gospel. How marvelous the events and how perfect and divine the entire arrangement! Man could never have written such an account.
This chapter tells us of seven events, which we hope to follow in their order. These are the following:
1. -- The last prediction of His suffering and death (Matthew 26:1-5).
2. -- His anointing in the house of Simon, the leper, in Bethany (Matthew 26:6-13).
3. -- Judas betrays Him for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16).
4. -- The account of the passover meal and the institution of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:17-35).
5. -- The agony in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46).
6. -- His capture and the accusations and sufferings before Caiaphas, the high priest (Matthew 26:47-68).
7. -- The denial of Peter (Matthew 26:69-75).
“And it came to pass when Jesus had finished all these sayings, He said to His disciples, Ye know that after two days the Passover takes place and the Son of Man is delivered up to be crucified. Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together to the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and took counsel together, in order that they might seize Jesus by subtlety and kill Him; but they said, Not in the feast, that there be not a tumult among the people” (Matthew 26:1-5).
We notice first of all the last prediction of His death. This is the fourth time He predicts His death in this Gospel. He not only predicts the manner of His death, but now also the time; He is to be crucified at the time of the Passover. All this manifests His Deity. He knew all beforehand. Let none think that all that which was before Him dawned upon Him gradually; He knew every one of the sufferings and all that which was now to come upon His holy head. But what calmness breathes in these words, in which He predicted His coming crucifixion! There is no anxiety, no concern about anything, but to do the will of Him that sent Him and to give Himself as the true passover Lamb.
No sooner is this announcement made and heard from His lips than the enemy becomes also busy. He would hinder this divine purpose that the great sacrifice should be brought at the predicted time. If he could not keep Him from going to the cross, he would attempt, at least, to mar the fullest meaning of that death. The chief priests and the elders are now together in counsel. The men who have appeared so often upon the scene of this Gospel appear once more, and through them the enemy utters his advice “not in the feast.” But this much is decided, the King, the Prince of Life, is to be killed. They must get rid of Him, and so wicked hands are getting ready to crucify and to slay Him, as later the Holy Spirit declared “Him ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” All the wickedness, hatred of man and the sinfulness of sin, as well as Satanic power, is now to be revealed in the sufferings of Christ. And here He is the perfect One in perfect love and obedience, to do the Father’s will, who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.
And now the second scene. It takes place in the house of Simon, the leper, most likely called by that name because he had been afflicted with leprosy. The beautiful incident, full of precious lessons, is followed by the murmuring of the disciples, especially from the side of Judas, as we learn from the Gospel of John.
“But Jesus being in Bethany, in Simon, the leper’s house, a woman having an alabaster flask of very precious ointment, came to Him and poured it out upon His head as he lay at table. But the disciples seeing it became indignant, saying, To what end was this waste? for this might have been sold for much and been given to the poor. But Jesus knowing it said to them, Why do ye trouble the woman? for she has wrought a good work toward me. For ye have the poor always with you, but me ye have not always. For in pouring out this ointment on my body, she has done it for my burial. Verily I say to you, Wheresoever these glad tidings may be preached in the whole world, that also which this woman has done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her” (Matthew 26:6-13).
The woman who did this blessed work for the Lord is not named here. From the Gospel of John we learn that it was none other than Mary, the sister of Martha. To fully understand the scene here the account in the Gospel of John must be taken in consideration (Chapter 12). There we read the details of the feast which was made for Him in the house and that Lazarus was also present. How devoted Mary was to her Lord. We first see her at His feet listening to His words. “One thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen that good part,” He had said then. She had acknowledged Him in His office as Prophet. In John 11:1-57 we see her again at His feet. There she is weeping on account of the death of Lazarus; a little while later He weeps with her. She knew Him as the sympathizing One, as He is now our Priest. And here she anoints Him, and does it for His burying. In faith she realizes the near approach of that death, of which He had spoken. She believed He, the Lamb of God, would soon die; she understood more of that death than all the other disciples. Perhaps when she sat at His feet He had spoken to her about His coming death and burial and resurrection. But some readers of the Bible have a difficulty. Here in our Gospel she anoints His head, but in the Gospel of John she is at His feet and anoints them, wiping His feet with her hair. Critics and infidels who deny the inspiration of the Bible have pointed this out as one of the glaring contradictions, while others have thought of two different occasions when the anointing took place. There is, however, no difficulty here at all. She anointed both His feet and His head. The Holy Spirit reports the anointing of the head of the Lord in Matthew, because this is in harmony with the object of the Gospel. He is the King, and while He is the rejected King, her faith no doubt looked beyond death and burial. In John the Holy Spirit gives the anointing of the feet and leaves out the anointing of the head, because the King is the Son of God; as such he is described in the Gospel of John, and that attitude of Mary before His feet anointing them is in fullest harmony with the fourth Gospel.
It was an alabaster flask she brought full of ointment of spikenard, very costly. These flasks contained about a pound of this costly ointment; the probable value was 300 denarii, or about $50. It was a very large sum of money in that time, when we remember that a day laborer received only one dinar wages a day. Three hundred denarii was at that time as much as three hundred dollars to-day. How did she obtain so costly an alabaster flask with spikenard? Most likely it had been stored away from bye-gone days. It must have been the most costly she possessed. A heart filled with love and devotion prompted her to bring this costly ointment and pour it over the body of her Lord. To honor Him was her sole object, and that at a time when He was about to be rejected and forsaken by all. And let us not forget that she had learned this devotion and love to Him, manifested in the outpouring of the precious ointment, at His feet. Her heart occupation with the Lord, her anticipation in faith of what was before Him, led her on to do what she did. She had no eyes for what was around her, nor had she ears for the criticism of those who watched her deed. He and He alone was her object.
It should be so with us, and it will be so if we truly abide in Him. We, too, will bring our best to Him. May all we do, yea, the smallest act, be the result of the deepest appreciation of Himself, our wonderful Saviour and Lord.
And much more might be said by way of application of this most blessed incident. For instance from the Gospel of John we learn that the odor of the ointment filled the house. “Thy name is as ointment poured forth,” we read in Solomon’s song; well may we think of that precious ointment poured forth with its fragrant smell as a type of His death. In the same song we read “while the King sitteth at his table my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.” How it must have delighted and refreshed His heart when that ointment enveloped Him with its fragrance.
And now the murmuring. No doubt Judas was the leader of it, as we see in the Gospel of John. Some of the others were influenced by him. “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor. This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the bag and bare what was put therein” (John 12:5-6). Why this waste, What a state of heart these few words reveal! How different from her, who ever must remain the highest type of Christian discipleship -- Mary. She gave him the very best she had. The others thought of it as waste, as if anything devoted to the Christ of God, the One altogether lovely, could be waste. These two classes among disciples are still present; but how few the Mary-type in heart devotion.
The words He spoke in appreciation of her service and her gift have come blessedly true. Her act will never be forgotten. Beautifully has a saint written on this occurrence: we quote a part of it:
“Reader, whoever you are, or however you are engaged, ponder this. See that you keep your eye directly upon the Lord in all you do. Make Jesus the immediate object of every little act of service, no matter what. Seek so to do your every work as that He may be able to say, ‘It is a good work upon me.’ Do not be occupied with the thoughts of men as to your path or as to your work. Do not mind their indignation or their misunderstanding, but pour your alabaster box of ointment upon the person of your Lord. See that your every act of service is the fruit of your heart’s appreciation of Him; and be assured He will appreciate your work and vindicate you before assembled myriads. Thus it was with the woman of whom we have been reading. She took her alabaster box, and made her way to the house of Simon the leper, with one object in her heart, namely, Jesus and what was before Him. She was absorbed in Him. She thought of none beside, but poured her precious ointment on His head. And note the blessed issue. Her act has come down to us, in the gospel record, coupled with His blessed Name. No one can read the gospel without reading also the memorial of her personal devotedness. Empires have risen, flourished, and passed away into the region of silence and oblivion. Monuments have been erected to commemorate human genius, greatness and philanthropy -- and these monuments have crumbled into dust; but the act of this woman still lives, and shall live for ever. The hand of the Master has erected a monument to her, which shall never, no never, perish. May we have grace to imitate her; and, in this day, when there is so much of human effort in the way of philanthropy, may our works, whatever they are, be the fruit of our heart’s appreciation of an absent, rejected, crucified Lord!”
Mary’s devotion was the cause of the failure of the plans of the enemies that the death of the Lord should not take place in the feast. It stirred up the traitor to action. This no doubt is the reason why the Holy Spirit gives the record of the anointing out of its chronological order. Judas’ dark deed we behold next. “Then one of the twelve, he was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, What are ye willing to give me, and I will deliver Him up to you? And they appointed to him thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought a good opportunity that he might deliver Him up” (Matthew 26:14-16).
Who was Judas? His surname is given here. Iscariot is composed of two words “Ish” and “Kerioth;” translated “the man of Kerith.” He was the only Judean disciple among the twelve, the rest were all from Galilee. This is significant and shows the apostasy of Judah, this man of Kerioth being the heading up of it as ere long there will be another heading up, in the man of sin and the son of perdition, the personal antichrist, who will be a Jew. (We desire to caution our readers against a fanciful teaching, which lacks scriptural support, that Judas will be raised up during the great tribulation and will be that man of sin, the antichrist foretold in 2Thessalonians 2:1-17. Such teaching coming from otherwise reputable teachers of the Bible does much harm.) In Luke we have the information that Satan entered into him. That mighty enemy, who tempted our Lord and found nothing in Him, who took hold of Peter and used him as mouthpiece when he said, “Be it far from thee, Lord,” now takes actual possession of the one, who was indeed his own, for Judas had never believed in Christ. Peter may deny Him and the rest of the disciples forsake their Lord, yet Satan could never enter into them, for they were saved, had life and the power of God kept them. The Lord knew that wicked one among His disciples. “But there are some of you who believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would deliver Him up” (John 6:64). “He knew him that delivered Him up; on account of this He said, Ye are not all clean” (John 13:11. Furthermore, all this had been predicted in the Old Testament. See Zechariah 11:12; Psalm 41:9; Psalm 69:25; Psalm 109:8. And the price for which Judas betrayed the King was the price of a servant, a slave, according to Exodus 21:32.
And now the great event, the complete fulfillment of His own predictions concerning His sufferings and His death, draws nearer. He was not taken by surprise in anything. In the calmest dignity He moves on, knowing His Father’s will He had come to do and that the mighty work could never fail, but would be accomplished. He is ready to pay the purchase price, to give all, to die for the nation, to obtain the treasure and the field and the one pearl of great price likewise. And now we follow Him and the disciples to the feast.
“Now on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, the disciples came to Jesus, saying, Where wilt thou that we prepare for Thee to eat the Passover? And He said, Go into the city unto such a one, and say to him, The Teacher says, My time is near, I will keep the passover with my disciples in thy house. And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the passover. And when the evening was come He lay down at table with the twelve. And as they were eating He said, Verily I say to you, that one of you shall deliver Me up. And being exceedingly grieved they began to say to Him, each of them, Is it I, Lord? But He answering said, He that dips his hand with Me in the dish, he it is that shall deliver Me up. The Son of Man goes indeed according as it is written concerning Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is delivered up; it were good for that man if he had not been born. And Judas, who delivered Him up, answering said, Is it I, Rabbi? He says to him, Thou hast said” (Matthew 26:17-25).
Is it not the purpose of our exposition to compare the different Gospel records, and so we shall not refer to the different accounts, which certainly are not conflicting. The first day of the feast of the unleavened bread was the day on which the passover was to be killed (Luke 22:7). It is, therefore, clear that He and His disciples commemorated then the Jewish Paschal Supper. He Himself does the ordering and manifests Himself as Lord throughout. Once more He announces the nearness of His passion -- “My time is near.” What a moment that was! They had attempted before to take His life. That was impossible. The time is now near, His time, when the King was to lay down His life. Directly we see Him at the table with the twelve, and while they were eating He announces the fact of one of them being the traitor. What follows in that conversation may well be taken for a last warning to Judas. The Lord had seen him turning to the chief priests and knew of his bargaining with them. He read the whole dark story in that heart, which was before Him, the omniscient One, as an opened book. “Verily I say to you, that one of you shall deliver me up.” This must have been aimed at the conscience of Judas Iscariot. Did he also show surprise? Did his face turn red or into paleness as he saw the innermost thoughts of his heart revealed? Each of them, with the exception of Judas, asks the question, Is it I, Lord? Judas is silent. Under the power of that awful being, Satan, who held him in his grasp, he hardens his heart. But more than that the Lord speaks. “He that dips his hand with me in the dish, he it is who shall deliver me up.” The more detailed account of all this we find in the Gospel of John. While here we have only the fact stated of the betrayer dipping his hand into the dish, in John we read that the Lord gave him a sop. And Judas could take that morsel, a token of the love of the Lord whom he had rejected and was about to betray. It was a silent offer from the side of the Lord to give even to him, but he would not. He rejects that offer. Again we have the record for the second time that Satan entered into him (John 13:27). It was right after he had taken the morsel. The last offer was rejected, and now Satan gains a still firmer hold upon him and possesses him fully. At last these closed lips open. What awful, satanic hypocrisy he utters! “Is it I, Rabbi?” Such hypocrisy in the presence of Him who is the Truth can only be explained by the presence of that being in Judas, who is the father of lies. It is also a significant fact that Judas did not say “Lord” but he used the word “Rabbi” instead. This is evidence that he never had received Him as Lord and believed on Him as the Lord. He had power conferred on him to drive out the demons and to heal the sick -- messianic power, coming from the King, but he was nevertheless an unbeliever. “Rabbi” he said, because Satan had entered into him, and Satan refuses to call Him Lord. Yet the time will come when all knees, including Judas, must bow at (not in) the names of Jesus and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. For thus it is written: “Wherefore also God highly exalted Him, and granted Him a name, which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of heavenly and earthly and infernal beings and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to God the Father’s glory” (Philippians 2:9-11). From the lips of the Lord he hears the “Woe,” and, according to the Gospel of John, “he went out immediately and it was night.” He went out into a night without a morning, into eternal night, the blackness of darkness forever (Jude 1:13). And all who reject that Lord, who wilfully close their hearts against Him and refuse His authority, go into that night.
In connection with this solemn scene we find the description of another scene. We have now the record of the institution of that great and blessed memorial, generally called the Lord’s supper.
“And as they were eating, Jesus, having taken the bread and blessed, broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat, this is my body. And having taken the cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it. For this is my blood, that of the new covenant, that is shed for many for remission of sins. But I say to you that I will not at all drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in the kingdom of my Father. And having sung a hymn, they went out to the mount of Olives” (Matthew 26:26-30).
What the passover feast of the Jews commemorated is so well known that it does not need further mention here. And now the true passover Lamb is about to be slain and He institutes another feast, a great and blessed memorial of His mighty work, of His sacrificial death upon the cross. “On that night the Jewish dispensation came to an end. The Passover, its great institution, had fulfilled its purpose; the Paschal Lamb it prepared for and prefigured was the next day to be slain. The same night saw the inauguration of a new feast which embodies the fundamental truth of Christianity, as the Passover embodied the fundamental truth of Judaism.” (Weston in the Genesis of the New Testament.)
How fearfully the words of our blessed Lord have been misused, what blasphemous doctrines have been built upon the simple language of the Lord and how this blessed memorial has become the occasion for strife, violence and even bloodshed, we do not care to follow in our exposition. It would take hundreds of pages to record all that. The Roman dogma of the transubstantiation is a downright blasphemy. Hundreds of saints have been tortured and killed for stating thus the lie of transubstantiation, and, if Rome could, she would do the same in the present day. This transubstantiation claims that the bread and wine are changed into the real body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. And then there is the consubstantiation, the doctrine that the body and blood of Christ coexists in and with the bread and wine, although they retain their nature as bread and wine. This is more or less the teaching of the Lutheran church.
But we refrain from following the different teachings concerning the Lord’s supper. What can be more evident than that the new feast He instituted is a memorial? The Passover feast was a feast of remembrance, and what He does here on that solemn night was a simple meal to commemorate the giving of His body and the shedding of His blood. The account given here of the institution of the Lord’s supper is in harmony with the character of this first Gospel. The Holy Spirit gives the record to show the blood of the new covenant, which the lamb of God shed for many, in contrast to the Jewish Passover, the old covenant which was exclusively only for the Jewish people. If we turn to the Gospel of Luke, which is wider in its scope than the Gospel of Matthew, we read the words, which give to the Lord’s supper decidedly the character of a memorial. “Do this in remembrance of Me.” It is then simply this to remember Him, not to receive anything, but to remember Him and His love. This is still more enforced by another record which we have of this great memorial. We find a record outside of the Gospels altogether. This record was given by revelation to the Apostle Paul: “For I received from the Lord, that which I also delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was delivered up, took bread, and having given thanks broke it, and said, This is my body, which is for you; this do in remembrance of Me. In like manner also the cup after having supped, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood, this do, as often as ye shall drink it in remembrance of Me. For as often as ye shall eat this bread, and drink the cup ye announce the death of the Lord until He come” (1Corinthians 11:23-26). And what better way could there be than the way He has shown in this request to remember Him, in this simple ceremony of breaking the bread and partaking of it and drinking from the cup? No doubt this request was fulfilled by the Saints of earliest date on every Lord’s day; Acts 20:7 certainly gives one that impression; yet there is no law about it. The soul that is occupied with Him will ever long to fulfill that request He left in that night ere He was delivered up. “Till He comes” up to the time when we shall see Him face to face in the Father’s house. It ever keeps Him, His death for us and His coming again as a bright and blessed reality before the heart.
“See the feast of Love is spread, Drink the wine and break the bread; Sweet memorials -- till the Lord Call us around His heavenly board; Some from earth, from Glory some, Severed only till He come.”
But we return to the words of the Lord in this Gospel. Significant is the statement “But I say unto you, that I will not at all drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in the kingdom of my Father.” These words are characteristic to this Gospel. In Luke and Mark we read that He speaks of Himself as not drinking of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God has come. But here He speaks of that day when not only He will drink it anew but when He will drink it anew with His disciples in the kingdom of His Father. The words are beautifully in order in this Gospel, which, as we have learned, tells us so much of the kingdom. There is a day coming when that Kingdom will come in power and in Glory. It is the day of His return. Then His own will be associated with Him in heavenly Glory. For a deeper knowledge of that drinking anew with Him, the wine, the fullest joy in that mighty coming Manifestation, we have to wait till that day of Glory breaks. Dispensationally we see the King separated from His own people till the hour strikes when His Kingdom comes.
And now they leave the room after they had sung a hymn. This has been and is still the custom of the Jews in connection with the passover feast. Indeed it would be interesting and helpful to mention here the passover customs of the Jews; they are full of significant ceremonies. However this would lead us too far. Suffice it to say that the hymn they sang consisted of Psalm 115:1-18; Psalm 116:1-19; Psalm 117:1-2; Psalm 118:1-29. In the Jewish ritual they are called the great Hallel. With what emotion of soul He must have sung with His disciples! What encouragement it must have been for Him! These Psalms contain such blessed and full messianic predictions. “The stone, which the builders refused, is become the head of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing, it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Save now, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord.” These words come in at the close of that hymn they sung, and while the disciples sang them as they had done so often before as pious Jews, for Him it meant so much. A little while longer, just a few hours, and the builders would reject Him. A few days more and by resurrection from the dead He would be the head of the corner, the chief stone, and in that shout, “Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord,” He saw in the distant future a welcome from the remnant of His people, at the time of His Second Coming. And so the blessed One even then saw the travail of His soul and was satisfied.
The last notes have died away and He speaks again. “Then said Jesus to them, All ye shall be offended in me during this night. For it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered abroad; but after that I shall be risen, I will go before you to Galilee. And Peter answering said to Him, If all shall be offended in Thee, I will never be offended. Jesus said to him, Verily I say to thee, that during this night, before the cock shall crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter saith to Him, If I should need die with Thee, I will in nowise deny Thee. Likewise said all the disciples also” (Matthew 26:31-35). He revealed thus what was before them. The Scripture to which He refers is found in Zechariah. They were His sheep and He the shepherd, as He speaks of Himself in the Gospel of John, the good shepherd, who gives His life for the sheep. But the smiting of the shepherd, the smiting of Him who is called in that prophecy of Zechariah the fellow of God (Zechariah 13:7), what was that to be? The cry of the forsaken One on the cross gives us the answer. He knew all that was before Him. (The teaching of the so-called critics, so strong today throughout the professing church, a school which claims that the Lord had no full knowledge of what the Scriptures contained, this teaching must be branded as wickedness.) And again we notice His calmness, His dignity through all this, which to a mere man would have been an almost unbearable ordeal. Then He announces His resurrection and that He would go before them to Galilee. Later we shall find the risen One there with His disciples, announcing the fact that He has all power in heaven and on earth. There is no mention made of His ascension. Peter now looms up. Once more poor Peter acts in self confidence in his own strength. The Lord had told Him before, “Where I go thou canst not follow me now, but thou shalt follow me after” (John 13:36). What significant words these were. They remind one of the third chapter of Joshua, of the record of the passing over Jordan. There was to be a space of two thousand cubits between the ark of the covenant and the people. The ark of the covenant of the Lord, typifying Christ, was alone by itself and had to make way for the people, and they followed after. So Peter would follow Him and die with Him, but he could not. Afterwards at the Lake of Tiberias the risen Christ tells him that he should indeed follow, revealing the time and the manner of his death, a death which the grace of God, the strength of the Lord made alone possible. Here he acts in the flesh, and in spite of the Lord’s warning, he maintains that attitude, the attitude of self-confidence. The Lord announces his soon coming denial, the record of which we find at the close of our chapter.
“Then Jesus comes with them to a place called Gethsemane, and says to the disciples, sit here until I go away and pray yonder. And taking with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and deeply depressed. Then He says to them, My soul is very sorrowful even unto death; remain here and watch with Me. And going forward a little He fell upon His face, praying and saying, My Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from Me; but not as I will, but as Thou wilt. And He comes to the disciples and finds them sleeping, and says to Peter, Thus ye have not been able to watch one hour with Me? Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak. Again going away a second time He prayed, saying, My Father, if this cannot pass from Me unless I drink it, Thy will be done. And coming He found them again sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And leaving them He went away again and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then He comes to the disciples and says to them, Sleep on now and take your rest; behold the hour has drawn nigh, and the Son of man is delivered up into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us go; behold he that delivers me up has drawn nigh.” (Matthew 26:36-46)
What a holy scene it is that is now before us! We are face to face with the most solemn event in the life of the Son of God, save that hour when He hung on the cross, forsaken by God. It is a Scripture which we approach with the greatest caution; the words are ringing in our ears, the words which Moses heard when he stood in divine presence “put off thy shoes from off thy feet for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” It is a scene which draws out the heart in worship and adoration for it was for us He passed through this deep agony, for us that He, the mighty Creator fell on His face, into the dust of earth, He had created.
Hark! what sounds of bitter weeping, From yon lonesome garden sweep? ‘Tis the Lord His vigil keeping, Whilst His followers sink in sleep. Ah, my soul, He loved thee, Yes, He gave Himself for me. He is speaking to His Father, Tasting deep that bitter cup, Yet He takes it, willing rather For our sakes to drink it up. Oh what love! He loved me! Gave Himself, my soul, for thee.
Even so, He loved me and gave Himself for me. Oh Thou blessed Lord, what agony Thou didst go through for the sake of having us poor, vile, miserable, lost sinners with Thee and share Thy presence and Glory throughout eternity. And how little we appreciate, honor and adore Thee! Much rather would we write in the strain of devotion and worship than to attempt by feeble human words a closer study of Gethsemane. Of an exposition of the events of that night we dare not speak. The suffering of our Lord in the garden is beyond the ken of any saint; no saint of God will ever be able to fathom the deep mystery of the sufferings of the holy One. If we could fully grasp His marvelous personality, how holy, how absolutely holy He was and absolutely perfect in Himself, we might be able to enter deeper into the agony of our Lord. Only the right estimate of His Person can give us, at least in part, a little of the meaning of His deep sorrow unto death.
But alas! just into this holy scene man with his reason and wrong conception has intruded and by attempting to solve the mystery of the suffering of the Lord has put dishonor upon His person. Different interpretations are about, which belittle and dishonor Him. We would rather pass these by, but it is expedient that we do not.
But recently, in a leading Christian magazine, the following appeared from the pen of a well known preacher:
“The second interpretation is, that He prayed literally to be delivered from death, then and there; that the severity of His agony was such that His physical nature was unable to bear it, and, unless sustained miraculously, life would have become extinct in the Garden of Gethsemane; that the conflict with Satan was so intense and prolonged that His human nature would have given way but for the Father’s help. In this aspect, this was the gravest crisis of His dependence and need, and the Father did support and sustain, so that, instead of dying in Gethsemane, He was enabled and strengthened to go on to the greater agony and crisis of Calvary. We confess that our own minds turn absolutely and instinctively to the latter of these interpretations as the more rational, scriptural, and satisfactory.”
We do not deny, that this interpretation is rational, but it is far from being scriptural. Indeed it has the elements of wicked doctrine in it. If it is true “that the conflict with Satan was so intense and prolonged that His human nature would have given way but for the Father’s help” then Satan must have had the power to slay the Prince of Life. The reader will see at once to what such a conception must lead us. This interpretation likewise speaks of the agony His physical nature was unable to bear unless sustained miraculously and the possibility of His life becoming extinct in the garden. He, instead of dying on the cross, dying in Gethsemane. All this dishonors our Lord. We cannot tolerate such a thought for a moment. His life could never become extinct in Gethsemane ; there was no such danger of His death. At no time was our blessed Lord in danger of death. His body was not mortal but immortal. Death is the result of sin; where there is no sin death has no claim. Our Lord could never die under the attacks of the enemy. On the cross where He, who knew no sin was made sin for us, He gave His life; then as our substitute He died. His death could never take place till that solemn moment had come, when He was made sin for us on the cross. Furthermore He said: “Therefore doth my Father love Me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down myself, I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17-18). Another view has recently been advanced. A brother wrote us about this as follows: “Have you seen anywhere that in Gethsemane, our Lord was delivered from death which he feared, according to Hebrews 5:1-14; and was strengthened to go on to the death on the cross, at which He aimed, and for which He came? His willingness to stop short of His finished work, and let all that He had accomplished thus far go if the Father so willed it, is the greatest instance of submission on record.” The first statement is not true, as He was not delivered from death and the second statement is inconceivable. How could He be willing to stop short of His finished work, when He entered into the world for that very purpose and all depended on that work? How could He be willing to stop short of it after His own Spirit in the prophets had spoken of His sufferings and the accomplishment of this work of atonement? Such a conception is highly fanciful and full of mysticism. We refrain from pointing out other difficulties connected with this theory of His sufferings in the garden. But did He perhaps shrink from the physical sufferings of the cross, as others have maintained? Assuredly not, for He had announced so often, as we have seen in this Gospel, His rejection, suffering and death. And if it was not all that which is suggested in these different interpretations of His agony, what was it then? What was that cup which He dreaded? What was that sorrow unto death? It was this very fact we stated before, that He the Holy, the Spotless One, the One who is the image of God, was soon to be made sin and to stand in the presence of God, no longer as the Beloved One, but in the sinner’s stead. God’s face upon which He had ever gazed which had ever smiled upon Him was soon to be hid. That eternal love He enjoyed was to be no longer upon Him, but in its place judgment and wrath of God. And what was it when at last He was made sin for us? That awful cry from the cross gives us the answer, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” But oh! what did that cry mean for that Holy One? Shall we ever know its depths and the awful suffering the Holy One, made sin for us, had to pass through, when thus He cried? From this His holy soul shrank. His holiness and perfection even made this shrinking necessary. He could do nothing else but shrink from it, and yet He bows in perfect submission and obedience to the Father’s will. Not my will but Thy will be done. This was before Him in the garden in that dark night of agony and sorrow. And here we would rest. But all praise and adoration to Thee our blessed Saviour and Lord for all Thine agony and sorrow and for Thine obedience unto the death of the cross!
Two Scriptures, one from the Old Testament, the other from the New, may be mentioned as giving further light on Gethsemane. The one hundred and second Psalm may be rightly termed “The Gethsemane Psalm.” Its superscription is, “A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before God.” It begins with the deepest distress and ends with the eternal Glory of the One who was in such sorrow. In the first part of this Psalm we find the great sorrow. Well may one think here of that pathetic outburst found elsewhere in the Word, “Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow” (Lamentations 1:12). First we hear His cry, “Hide not Thy face from Me in the day when I am in trouble.” Then He speaks of His days being consumed; His bones burned, His heart smitten and withered like grass; He is alone in His weeping and crying. Then again we hear the voice of the sufferer. “He weakened my strength in the way; He shortened my days. I said oh my God, take me not away in the midst of my days...” The words which follow are not addressed by the agonizing sufferer to God, but God addresses them to the sufferer, who is prostrated before Him. No one could have ever had this conception if the Holy Spirit had not given us the key. In the first chapter of Hebrews the closing words of the Psalm are quoted and there they are given as addressed by God Himself to the Son. As in the twenty-second Psalm, the deepest humiliation and then the exaltation of the One who suffered so we find it in the Gethsemane Psalm. The last verses of the one hundred and second Psalm are God’s answer to the One who is bowed down in deepest sorrow.
The other passage we have in mind is the familiar one in the Epistle to the Hebrews. “Who in the days of His flesh, having offered up both supplications and entreaties to Him who was able to save Him out of death, with strong crying and tears (and having been heard because of His piety); though He were Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:7-8). There is no doubt but these words refer us back to the Gethsemane scene. The supplications and entreaties with strong crying and tears took place in Gethsemane ; yea, even more than that, the sweat as if it were great drops of blood. But it does not say that He was saved “from” death. It is often assumed that He cried to be saved from death and upon this some of these Christ dishonoring conceptions are formed. He cried to Him who was able to save Him out of death. And He was heard. The answer came in His resurrection from the dead. But to return to the scene in the garden.
Where do we find His disciples? Three He had taken with Him and told them to remain there and watch with Him. Soon they were asleep. They were on the holy mountain with Him, eyewitnesses of His Glory. And did they sleep then? Luke 9:32 gives us the answer. “But Peter and they that were with Him were heavy with sleep; and when they were awake, they saw His Glory, and the two men that stood with Him.” This manifests what the flesh is, which is fully exhibited in the disciples. Their Lord in tender love, appearing almost as if He looked for their sympathy, had requested them to watch with Him. Instead they sleep. How could they have looked into His loving face, with the solemn feeling upon them of great events soon to come and then going to sleep! Did that show love for Him? And He had spoken to them about not falling into temptation. They did not realize their need and their danger. And what tenderness and grace He manifests toward His disciples, who had failed! Oh the Glory of Himself even in that dark hour; how it shines forth! After He had prayed the third time He said to them, “Sleep on now and take your rest; behold, the hour is nigh, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.” Marvelous words of grace, calmness and dignity. The Shepherd is ready to give His life for the sheep, that they might have life and rest. The sword is soon to be unsheathed and fall upon the Shepherd, the man called by God “my fellow” (Zechariah 13:7). The Lamb of God is ready to take away the sin of the world, ready to go to the slaughter as a lamb and as a sheep dumb before her shearers. Yea, the Holy One, the adorable, blessed One is ready to be stricken and smitten of God. What a path was His! Humbling Himself, He became obedient even unto death, and that the death of the cross. The last part of that path is now before Him. What a theme it is! What food for our souls and what exercise of soul it brings to contemplate Him who for the joy set before Him endured the cross and despised the shame.
What other applications of this touching scene in Gethsemane might be made. How it teaches us submission and obedience and the highest prayer, the sweetest prayer as well to our Loving Father “Not my will but thy will be done.” We leave these meditations to our readers with the prayer that He Himself may speak to each heart. Oh Lord, our Lord, we cannot fathom Thy Being, we cannot fully understand what Thou wast, but we know Thy love for us! We praise and adore Thee. Make Thyself a greater reality to our hearts. Amen.
And what a story it is which we have before us, the story of the passion of the King. And who could be able to follow the Lamb of God and fathom the depths of His sorrow! What it must have been for Him, the Holy, spotless One, to be thus delivered into the hands of sinners! Again we say that it is quite impossible to write an exposition of all these solemn events connected with the suffering and death of our Lord. Much of what might be written by way of application we must leave unsaid; it would take volumes to do that.
It was while He was still speaking to His disciples that the enemies came to take hold of Him, to take the Beloved of the Father captive. “And while He was yet speaking, Behold Judas, one of the twelve came, and with him a great crowd with swords and sticks” (Matthew 26:47). It seems that Judas made good use of his time since he left the room where the feast was kept. The Lord had said to him, knowing the thoughts of his dark heart, “What thou doest, do quickly.” Possessed by Satan, he had rushed forth into the dark night, and, in feverish haste, led on by the evil one, he had succeeded in all his plans. The officers and a detachment of Roman soldiers, most likely several hundred, were put at his disposal. These carried swords and other weapons, besides lanterns and torches. These were Gentiles; perhaps of different countries, such which Rome had conquered. But there were others, and they carried sticks. The temple guard had turned out in full force; these were the hirelings of the chief priests and elders. The rabble of the street no doubt was also represented, for it was a great crowd. What a scene! Gentiles and Jews come to lay their hands on the Prince of Life, the Lord of Glory, ready to commit the greatest sin. All the sinfulness of sin is now to be manifested. But why such a great multitude and such precaution to capture one man, who was “meek and lowly”? What a testimony after all to His power, which they feared and yet what blindness.
Judas appears first on the scene. Behold Judas! What a surprise it must have been for the disciples, aroused from sleep, to find him present who had withdrawn from them under such mysterious circumstances. From the Gospel of Luke we learn that he was not only the leader of the great crowd but he walked ahead of them. What a subtle plan he had laid, and in it the cunning of that same Serpent which was in that garden, in which the first Adam had been placed. How cunning and yet how blunt. All had been arranged so as to make His escape impossible. The traitor was to kiss Him so that the Lord might be known and likewise become detached from the disciples; then they were to press at once upon Him and capture Him. All was carefully premeditated. Judas by his action and his plan shows that he did not believe in the Lord as the Son of God; he knew His power. When he walked before them he may have cunningly aimed at the hiding of his satanic deed.
And now he reaches the side of Him whom he still calls “Rabbi.” The first word he utters was a word of joy. “Oh, the joy! Rabbi” -- thus it reads in literal translation. Then he kissed Him eagerly. The symbol of love, devotion and faithfulness so much used in the Orient is used by the traitor. What must the Holy One have suffered, when the one who had been in His loving company came up and had uttered that word, “Oh, the Joy”? What suffering must have passed through that loving heart when He felt the vile lips of that one upon His cheeks!
And to think that He who rebuked the sea and it obeyed His voice, whose omnipotent word had healed the sick and raised the dead, should thus be delivered up. Oh, what a story it is!
“But Jesus said to him, Friend, for what purpose art thou come?” What calm and gentle answer to the Satan-possessed Judas Iscariot. Should not this tender question have touched the conscience of the traitor? He was beyond hope. It is significant that the Lord addresses him with the word, Friend. Yet it is a different word which the Lord used in calling His disciples as recorded in John 15:1-27. The word He uses here signifies “companion.” Judas had been a companion of the Lord, He had beheld His mighty works, and had by Him messianic power to heal the sick conferred upon himself. This is the last word that wicked man ever heard addressed to himself by the Lord. The next time we behold him is when he is filled with remorse, casting the pieces of silver in the temple; then he went and hanged himself.
And now they laid hands upon the Lord and seized Him. The rough hands of the inhuman Roman soldiers, the cruel hands of the hating Jewish mob took hold of that sinless body of the Lamb of God. All were energized by Satan who stands behind all this and that which follows; it is the hour of darkness and the manifestation of the power of darkness upon Him, the willing sacrifice.
But far different is the description of His betrayal in the Gospel of John. Not a word is said in that Gospel of His agony in the garden. As Son of God, described in the fourth Gospel, no such record would be in order. And when they come to take Him, He meets them with a calm, “Whom seek ye?” His majestic answer “I am,” makes the whole multitude of Roman soldiers, temple guards and the mob fall down. “They went backward and fell to the ground.” All He needed to do was to walk away and disappear between the trees of the garden. There is, of course, no discrepancy here. The Gospel of John simply shows the divine side of that scene. He allowed Himself bound, and that with the condition “let these go away.” He surrenders Himself; His own are free. Blessed hint of that precious Gospel of the Son of God.
An incident is connected with this great event which is full of instruction. The hasty action of Peter, as we learn from the Gospel of John, almost marred the gracious scene, and only the Lord’s hand could overrule the serious consequences of that action and bring good out of it. The confusion of the disciples must have been great when their beloved Master was taken captive. To see how the meek One, whom they had followed, at whose feet they had sat, in whom they believed as the Christ of God, was taken by these rough men, was too much for them. They had between themselves two swords. The words of the Lord about “Selling his garment and buying a sword” had been taken literally by them. Simon Peter possessed one of these swords, and had he not said he would be willing to lay down his life for the Lord? Now the opportunity had come to show his willingness to redeem his promise and his loyalty to his Master. In fearful rashness he draws the sword and strikes the one next to him. He strikes with the intent to kill. The one hit is the servant of the High Priest by name of Malchus. The mercy of the Lord prevented the worst and Peter only takes off the ear of the servant. Surely it was courage in Peter to do this. To attack such a large body of people was fearlessness; loyalty to Christ was the cause of the action. And yet how it belittled the Lord! Did He who had said just the word “I am” and his enemies had fallen into the dust, need such a defense? Did He who willingly stretched out His hands, the willing captive, need Peter’s interference to make Him free? Upon the holy mount Peter had quite lost sight of the dignity of Him whom he called Lord and classed Him with Moses and Elias, and here he errs in the same manner. The Lord has to remind him of his mistake. “Return thy sword to its place; for all who take the sword shall perish by the sword. Or thinkest thou that I cannot now call upon my Father, and He will furnish me more than twelve legions of angels? How then should the Scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be?” (Matthew 26:52-54). If it were a case of self-help how easy it would have been for Him to summon the angels. Peter stood in all probability in the attitude of defiance, ready to strike again if he should be attacked in return. He is told to put up the sword. Though loyal to the Lord, he had dishonored Him and not manifested the graciousness and mind of Him, whom He tried to defend. Alas! how many of us have followed impulsive Peter in this action.
The Scriptures had to be fulfilled, and from now on we see indeed the fulfillment of Scripture. Elsewhere we read that the Lord touched the ear of the wounded servant and healed him. It was the last miracle of healing the Lord performed before He went to the cross, and that was done to an enemy. In the tumult and confusion of the hour the act of Peter passed unnoticed.
“In that hour said Jesus to the crowds, Are ye come out against a robber with swords and sticks to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple and ye did not seize me? But all this is come to pass that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled. Then all the disciples left Him and fled” (Matthew 26:55-56). The word He had spoken was now fulfilled, “All ye shall be offended because of Me this night; for it is written, I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” The Shepherd is left alone. We pass over the account found only in the Gospel of Mark about the young man who followed clad in a linen garment.
Alone and forsaken the blessed Lord is taken away captive. What a scene it must have been! The fleeing disciples disappearing in the darkness of the night, the mob leading Him hence; no doubt they buffeted Him with blasphemous curses dragging Him along and so soon Gethsemane, the place of that solemn drama, is enshrouded in the stillness of the night. But oh, what it was that took place there. The mighty Creator, the Son of God, the Holy One in His agony and sinful man laying hold of the Lord of Glory!
We will be obliged as we pass on in meditating on the passion of our Saviour to confine ourselves strictly to the Gospel, which we study. We do not write an exposition of the entire story of His suffering and what was done to the Man of Sorrows, but only as the Holy Spirit has recorded these events in the first Gospel. And in doing this, we shall point out only the leading features.
First we see Him before Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. They expected Him to be brought in. What triumph must there have been upon their faces, when at last in that memorable night, the One whom they hated and despised was brought securely bound into their presence, under arrest in the hands of the Gentiles.
He must appear before the ecclesiastical council first; He must be tried there. But what can they say against Him? What evil had He done? They had watched Him closely. Deputations, one after another, had tried to ensnare Him. Pharisees and Sadducees, as we have seen in our study of this Gospel, had come to tempt Him. They found nothing in Him. He had asked the question in one of His great discourses, which they had heard. Which of you convinces Me of sin? There was no answer. He was the sinless One, the perfect and holy One. But it is their hour and the power of darkness. Thus we read: “And the chief priests and the elders and the whole Sanhedrin sought false witness against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death.” But did they succeed? “And they found none, though many false witnesses came forward.” They could find nothing. Therefore, He ought to be freed. “But at the last two false witnesses came forward and said, He said I am able to destroy the temple of God, and in three days build it.” But this was a wrong quotation of His words and a wrong application. Besides this, as we learn from the Gospel of Mark, the witnesses did not agree amongst themselves. It was impossible to convict Him on such a charge. He had not a word to say. They look upon Him with their awful hatred. The high priest attempts to get Him to answer. “Answereth Thou nothing?” “But Jesus was silent.” It is obvious they could not convict Him. The charge against Him was blasphemy. They had miserably failed in proving anything whatever against the Lord. But condemned to death, He must be. He must die.
There remained just one thing to be done, and that was to put a question to Him directly, a question, which He could not refuse to answer. Why did they not do this at once? He had first to be shown as the Holy One, the Lamb of God, without spot or blemish. The moment has come. Most likely the High priest in his excitement had arisen from his seat. The silent victim stands immediately before Him. They are face to face. The furious, heated face of Caiaphas looks into the loving tender eyes of the Lord. Did this high priest and his associates know that this lowly One, standing bound in their presence, is the Son of God, the promised Messiah? They knew that He had given the witness to that effect throughout His public ministry. He had not only given the self-witness, that He and the Father are one, that He is the Son of God, but His works had fully established His Deity. The last question the Lord put to the Pharisees concerning the Christ, whose son He is, (Chap, 22) had been answered by Him in a way they all understood. There was no doubt, they knew Him, even as the Lord had said in the parable, “He is the Heir; come let us kill Him”. The high priest knew he would succeed if he put that question concerning His Sonship to Him. But little he knew what he was doing; the blessed One could not be condemned by false witnesses. His own confession of who He was, the confession of the truth alone could bring about His condemnation. “And the high priest answering said to Him, I adjure Thee by the living God that Thou tell us if Thou art the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus says to Him, Thou hast said. Moreover, I say to you, From henceforth ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:63-64.)
Under that oath He could not be silent. For this moment He was waiting to witness that good confession. He confesses Himself the Christ, the Son of God and witnesses to His future Glory at the right hand of power, and His visible manifestation at the time of His Coming again in the clouds of heaven. What a confirmation of the fact that He is the willing sacrifice of the Holy One, who will drink that bitter cup and fulfill the Scriptures. “They all heard it -- and, as the Law directed when blasphemy was spoken, the high priest rent both his outer and inner garment, with a rent that might never be repaired. But his object was attained. Christ would neither explain, modify, nor retract His claims. They all had heard it. What use was there of witnesses.” Behold now ye have heard the blasphemy. “Then turning to those assembled, he put to them the usual question which preceded the formal sentence of death. As given in the rabbinic original it is: ‘What think ye gentlemen? And they answered, If for life, “For Life.” If for death: “For death.”‘ But the formal sentence of death, which if it had been a regular meeting of the Sanhedrin, must now have been spoken by the president, was not pronounced.” (Edersheim)
“What think ye? And they answering said, He is liable to the penalty of death.” (Matthew 26:66). What a justice! Satanic, fiendish injustice rather. But there He stands, the silent Lamb of God. What a picture! Oh that we might behold Him once more as He stood before this company of His enemies. What calmness. “Majestic in His silence, majestic in His speech; unmoved by threats to speak, unmoved by threats when He had spoken.”
And now affecting the scene, which follows. His confession set the powers of darkness loose and the undefending Christ, the Son of God is tasting a little of the cup He had to drink. Oh to think of it! They spit in His face! That face, which in loving tenderness had gazed with compassion upon the multitudes, yea, that face, the image of the invisible God, was covered with vile spittle of men. How He must have suffered! They buffeted Him, struck Him with the palms of their hands, mocked Him. And not a word, not a murmur came from His blessed lips. “When reviled, He reviled not again, when suffering, He threatened not.” And reader! it was all for such vile sinners as we are! He loved us and gave Himself for us. What a Saviour! How little we think of Him; how little that which He did for us is before our hearts and has a governing power over our lives. Oh Lord! Thou art worthy of all. And then to think that such a Saviour is rejected of those for whom He suffered thus, dishonored, His mighty work denied among those who profess His name.
The last paragraph of this solemn chapter concerns Peter. Peter had followed Him at a distance, even to the palace of the high priest and entering in, sat with the officers to see the end. Perhaps when they all had fled, he remembered his promise to the Lord and so at a distance he followed. Far better it would have been for Peter if he had not followed at all.
“Now Peter sat without in the court, and a maiden came unto him and said, Thou also wast with Jesus, the Galilean. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And when he had gone out into the entrance, another saw him, and said unto those that were there, this man also was with Jesus, the Nazarene. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. But after a little while, they that stood by came and said unto Peter: Of a truth thou art also of them, for even thy speech discovereth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus that He had spoken, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And going out, he wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:69-75).
Poor Peter has to learn the depths of his own self. In self assertion and self confidence, he had boasted to lay his life down for the Lord. His Lord knew him; he was a true believer, but did not know the weakness of himself. That weakness had to be uncovered, he had to be sifted as the Lord had told him. Far different was the case of Judas. He was not a believer at all, only a professing one, and the wickedness of the flesh is manifested in his case.
Peter, as a true believer, did not know what the flesh was, as alas so many believers are ignorant of the true nature of the flesh. There was no willingness in Peter to sin; he wanted to do that which he had told the Lord, but he was ignorant of his own weakness. Step by step he had approached this sad and sorrowful moment. He did not plunge suddenly into the out and out denial of the Lord; he never meant to say what he did say. Had any one told him, “Peter, you are going to curse and swear, declaring, I know not the man”, he would have shuddered in horror and vowed, he could never do such a thing. Gradually he had been drawn towards this awful denial. “Watch and pray” the Lord had said “that ye enter not into temptation.” Peter had slept; he had neglected prayer. He could not watch an hour with His Lord. Here the first step was made. Because he was ignorant of the real character of the flesh, that old nature, he did not pray. If he had known what the flesh is he would have cast himself upon the Lord and watched and prayed. And this is the cause of every denial of our blessed Lord; and how numerous these are!
What sad repetitions of Peter’s fall in the lives of God’s people. The absolute worthlessness of the flesh is learned and learned over and over again by many a sad experience. The consciousness of our utter weakness in ourselves must ever lead us into a closer fellowship in prayer with Himself. But over this sad scene of failure and denial was the gracious, loving praying Lord. Peter was His own; he could not go the way Judas went. He had foreseen all. Ere it happened He told Peter what he would do and how Satan’s power linked with the flesh would result in his denial. But more than that the Lord had prayed for him. “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” Where would have Peter been, if it had not been for that prayer of the Lord. And so His loving eye watched him, and when the sin was committed and the right moment came, there was not a word spoken to Peter, but the Lord looked upon Peter. Their eyes met. That was enough. What was in that look? An angry reminder what Peter had done? A frown which showed displeasure? Far from that. It must have been a tender, loving, sad look. It went home to Peter’s heart. He remembers now. The horror of his denial breaks upon him. Had he not been the Lord’s own, had he not known the Lord, Satan who had led him gradually on, would have rushed him into despair. But we see him rushing out and behold him in the night, the dawning morning in the East, convulsed with bitter weeping. What a weeping it was, the tears of repentance, self judgment flowed freely. Broken in heart and broken in spirit with that tender look burning in his soul, he weeps and weeps. Reader do you know anything of such tears? You do if you walk with the Lord. Another one rushes out too when that morning had come. He went out and -- hanged himself. Satan claims his own. Oh what a loving Saviour and Lord we have. How He dealt with Peter. How He has dealt with us and still cares for His own, prays for them and keeps them and restores them to service as He did with His denying Peter.