Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE TREASON OF JUDAS. (Vers. 1-6.) The Sanhedrin was in session, anxious to seize on Jesus and get him removed; for they feared that an attached populace would declare for him rather than for the old leaders. It was a vain fear. The people were fickle, and as ready to cry out for his crucifixion as they had been to cry "Hosanna!" Yet the fear of losing popularity goaded the Church leaders to desperation. Being beaten in debate by the Master-Mind who tabernacled among them, they can only expect by treachery to secure their purpose. They find their ready instrument in Judas. And here consider:
1. The worldliness of Judas. He had evidently joined the cause of Jesus in hope of a place in a world-kingdom. But our Lord's prophecies of his speedy suffering and death have blighted all these hopes. How can he best make his peace with the world, which is getting the upper hand, and before which Jesus is going down? Judas believes that he can best do this by betraying Jesus to his enemies, and, to make the transition the easier for himself, he consents to do the shameful work for thirty pieces of silver - the mean price of the life of a slave! It was not covetousness pure and simple which led Judas to such a bargain, but astute worldliness. He was making his peace with the world on the most liberal terms.
2. Notice the Satanic inspiration under which Judas acted. It is evident that Scripture represents the sphere of evil as under the domination of a great personality called Satan. He can enter into men and take possession of them. But we are not to suppose that he has the same intimate access to the human spirit which God the Holy Ghost enjoys We have reason to believe that Satan moves men by presenting in all their attractiveness the worldly motives such as we have noticed. Further, the Satanic impulse is such as in no way to relieve the subject of it from responsibility. No one will be able to plead "not guilty" on the ground of Satanic temptation.
3. Notice the mean prudence under which the traitor acted. Had the band come in open day, when the entranced populace hung upon the lips of Jesus, there would have been a dangerous emeute, and life been lost. Accordingly, Judas seeks to betray Jesus "in the absence of the multitude." There is a meanness and cowardice about most of the diabolic wickedness which goes on in the world; a cowardice, moreover, which is generally overtaken by just and terrible retribution.
II. PREPARATIONS FOR THE LAST PASSOVER. (Vers. 7-13.) Jesus meanwhile directs the two disciples, Peter and John, to make ready the Passover. He so times the celebration as to have it over on the Thursday night of the Passover week, and without haste, to secure the further preparation which his spirit required. And here we have the facts set before us
(1) that he owed accommodation to the consideration of a stranger; and
(2) that his supernatural knowledge guided the disciples in their quest of a guest-chamber. There, then, in the guest-chamber of a stranger, without taking the lamb to the temple, but in the primitive fashion, the two faithful men made ready for their Master. It was a recurrence to the primitive ritual.
III. THE PASSOVER FEAST. (Vers. 14-18.) With the twelve accordingly he comes at the appointed hour, and sits down to the significant feast. He tells them with what desire he had contemplated this last Passover before he should suffer. He will not again eat of it till it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God. The order of celebration was first the passing round of the wine-cup; next, the bitter herbs, dipped, as salad would be, in a red sauce made of almonds, nuts, figs, and other fruits; next, another wine-cup, after which the father of the family explained the nature of the rite; then came the morsel of unleavened bread and the piece of the roast lamb, made palatable by the aforesaid sauce; the last act was the passing round of a third wine-cup (cf. Godet, in loc.). It must have been a touching and tender type in the eyes of him who was so soon to be offered. We should have listened to his explanations on that occasion with peculiar interest. His references must have been somewhat veiled in presence of the betrayer, yet sufficiently explicit to have broken ordinary hearts. It was a marvellous feast - the Paschal Lamb himself partaking of the Passover; the Antitype experiencing a special benefit through the study of the type! What a solemnity, moreover, is thrown over the whole scene through his indication that it is all shortly to be fulfilled!
IV. THE INSTITUTION OF THE LORD'S SUPPER. (Vers. 19, 20.) Upon the more formidable feast, which is to pass away on fulfilment, Jesus founds a simpler feast, to be celebrated till he comes again. It is to consist of bread and wine, two of the elements there at the table. The bread is to represent his body, which is to be broken for his people; and the wine his blood, which is for them to be shed. In this way a memorial more lasting than brass or marble is to be reared, and his gracious presence is to be experienced in the Christian Church. The new institution was a promise of the most gracious kind, regarding the season when he would be absent from them.
V. THE INTIMATION OF THE BETRAYAL. (Vers. 21-23.) Along with the solemn joy there is dashed profoundest sorrow at the intimation of betrayal by one of the apostolic band. A traitor is there, and they should know it. Good sign in that each man suspects himself! They all, except Judas, ask Christ if it is he. Last of all, it would seem, came the inquiry of the real traitor. But this unearthing of the false one does not shake him from his foul purpose. Christ could not do more for him than he here does, even though it does not saw him. How salutary is self-suspicion! How dangerous self-confidence! - R.M.E.
immediate instruments of it; the Jewish populace were only the blind agents of it; but these scribes and chief priests were the guilty instigators of it: they brought it about. It was they who first conceived the idea; it was they who suggested and urged it; it was they who ceased not to agitate and direct until the dark deed was done. How came they to go so far astray? How came it to pass that while "all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple for to hear him" (Luke 21:38), thus bearing witness to the sincerity of their discipleship and their desire to know the truth he taught, they, the leaders of the land - scribes who were familiar with every letter of the Law, priests who were daily occupied in the services of the sanctuary, learned doctors, and pious ministrants - were actively and earnestly compassing his death? The fact is that -
I. RELIGIOUS PEDANTRY MAY BE VERY LEARNED, AND YET WHOLLY WRONG. These men knew their Scriptures with a fullness and nicety of detail that surpasses the knowledge we have of our sacred writings; and they had also a perfect familiarity with the teachings of traditional lore. They despised the ignorance of the common people in these respects (see John 7:47). Yet they were not wise with the wisdom of God; they entirely failed to understand the Divine will and the way to eternal life. The religion they taught and lived was utterly heartless; it was a service without any soul in it, a mechanism without any life in it; it was an elaborate error, a great and sad misconception of the mind of God; it was a surrender of freedom that did man no good and gave God no pleasure; it was a toilsome and torturing imposition that neither satisfied the intellect, nor cleansed the heart, nor elevated the life. And it so perverted the judgment that, when the Truth himself came to reveal the Father, these learned but unwise leaders, instead of being eager to hear him like the people (Luke 21:38), were "seeking how they might kill him."
II. RELIGIOUS FORMALISM WILL GO TO GREAT LENGTHS OF WRONG-DOING. If the scribes were men of pedantry, the chief priests represented the evil and error of religious formalism; and the latter were in no way behind the former in either spiritual blindness or malevolence. They, too, failed to recognize their Messiah, and were actively engaged in compassing his murder. In every age and land religious formalism has been blind and cruel; it has failed to recognize the reformer when he has come to speak in God's name; and it has been forward to accuse and to slay him. Such has been its spirit and its course, that the home of love and mercy has been converted into the hotbed of hatred and of cruelty. It is another illustration of the truth that the corruption of the best becomes the worst of all; the piety that runs into ordinances, utterances, abstinences, formalities, will in time degenerate into utter error and shameful wrong. This is a truth which applies to many more Churches than one; it is, indeed, more or less applicable to all religious circles. There lies a deep-seated tendency in our nature which accounts for the facts in our Lord's time and in every age since then. Let us, therefore, learn that -
III. TRUE PIETY IS FOUND IN RECTITUDE OF HEART AND LIFE. Not in holding and professing certain correct formulae; not in going through certain ceremonies or observing a number of rules and regulations. These have their place in the kingdom of God, but they do not by any means assure us of our place in it. It is rightness of heart toward God our Father and our Savior, and consequent integrity of life, which make us to "stand before God" as his loyal subjects now, and will make us "worthy to stand before the Son of man" when he shall call us to his nearer presence. - C.
Matthew 26:24; John 17:12). The text suggests to us -
I. THAT OUR DEEPEST WOUNDS ARE THOSE WE RECEIVE AT THE HAND OF OUR NEAREST FRIENDS. How much force is there in the parenthesis, "being of the number oft he twelve! What deep pathos is in those sad words of the Lord, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me" (Matthew 26:21)! This was a "sword that entered into his soul," a keen distress, one of the very bitterest of all the sorrows of the Son of man. That one whom he had admitted to his intimate fellowship, of whom he had made a friend, who had partaken of his confidence and shared his strong affection, - that he should be the one to betray him to his foes! There is no trouble possible to us so great as that which lies open to us on the side of our purest and strongest affections. It is not our avowed enemy, nor the man to whom we are indifferent, but it is our dearest friend, who has it in his power to lacerate our soul with the sharpest thrust, and to spoil our life by throwing over it the darkest shadow (see Psalm 41:9).
1. Be slow to admit to the inner sanctuary of the heart; for he who has entrance there holds your happiness in his own right hand.
2. Realize the responsibility of intimate friendship; it is not only a privilege, but an obligation; it gives you power to gladden and to bless, but also opportunity to mar and to destroy.
II. THAT MONEY PLAYS A LARGE PART, FOR GOOD OR EVIL, IN HUMAN LIFE. They "covenanted to give him money." It seems hardly credible that any man who had lived in the society of Jesus Christ, and had witnessed his kindness and his purity, should take money for betraying him. Other motives - those of resentment or ambition- are far less shocking and revolting than this mercenary one. To betray his Master, his Friend, for thirty pieces of silver, fills us with wonder and excites the deepest reprobation. But for what has not money been responsible in human history? How large a part it plays in the great drama! What untold good it is instrumental in effecting! What admirable virtues it is the means of illustrating I To what deeds of folly and even of infamy the desire to obtain it has conducted! It is clear that men who have been trained to hate immoral and criminal behavior with an intense hatred have been induced to part with every principle they have honored, and to do the worst deeds they have denounced, in order to obtain money, when they have found themselves pressed for its possession. Probably no man who has not felt it knows the deadly force of the temptation. Who shall say that he is safe from this powerful snare? It is probable that to obtain money more evil deeds have been done than under any other inducement whatever. Therefore let every man beware lest he subjects himself to this strong and fell temptation. Let neither an overweening ambition nor extravagance of habit lead where the possession of more money becomes an imperative demand. Moderation in desire and economy in habit save men from a temptation in which, it may be, their souls would be entangled and their very life taken away.
III. THAT EARNESTNESS IS SURE TO SEEK ITS OPPORTUNITY UNTIL IT FINDS IT. He "sought opportunity to betray him." By whatever motives inspired, Judas was intent on compassing the act he had undertaken. And he did not wait idly until an opportunity offered itself. He sought it. If evil is thus in earnest, how much more so should righteousness and mercy be! These should surely be about their holy and loving work "with both hands earnestly." Opportunity to raise, to help, to redeem, to restore, - this is not to be passively waited for, but to be actively sought out. There is a very marked difference between readiness to work when we are invited and even urged to do so, and that noble zeal which will not be contented without finding material for activity. It is the difference between a goodness that you do not blame and a goodness that you admire; between a life that will not stand condemned and a life that will be crowned with victory and honor. If there are those who, in the interest of error and of evil, will set about diligently to promote these ends. shall we not put forth our utmost energy on behalf of truth and heavenly wisdom? If men can be found who will "seek opportunity" to betray, shall not we with deeper devotedness "seek opportunity" to honor our Lord? - C.
I. As IT LOOKED TO OUR LORD WHEN HE WAS APPROACHING IT. It was to him a terrible trial, which he was eager to reach and pass through. "With desire he desired" the time to arrive when he should suffer and should complete his work. He did not wish to escape it; he was not looking about for an alternative; he knew that he could not save himself if he would save the world; and he longed for the trial-time to come and to be passed. Here was the heroic, and here was also the human. Here was the determination to endure, and, at the same time, the natural, human anxiety to know the worst and to exchange an almost intolerable suspense for the suffering that awaited him.
1. Having chosen the path of self-sacrifice, and having entered upon and pursued it, it behoved him to continue and to complete his appointed work. He could not turn back without suffering defeat; he accepted the dark future that was before him as a sacred duty. From it there must be no turning aside to other ends; and there was none. He never wavered in his purpose from beginning to end. "This shall not be unto thee," from Peter, appears to have been. a strong shock of temptation to him (Matthew 16:21-23). But nothing induced him to turn aside by a single step from the path of sacrificial service.
2. Yet we have here a glimpse of the extreme severity of the trial he underwent. He knew that his "suffering" would immediately follow this Passover, and he "earnestly desired" that Passover to come, that the sufferings might follow. With perfect reverence we may say that he could not realize what they would include, for they had never before been experienced; they stood absolutely by themselves, and could not be known until they were actually felt. And this element of suspense and uncertainty must have added a great weight of trouble to the sorrows of our Lord. "How bitter that cup no heart can conceive;" not even his heart did conceive until it was in his hands.
(1) Like our Lord, we should go on without faltering to the darkest future which we feel it becomes us to face.
(2) As with him, the uncertainty of the actual elements of our grief may oppress our spirit and fill us with eager desire for its coming (see also ch. 12:50).
(3) We shall find, as he found, all needful Divine help when the hour does actually arrive.
II. AS HE WOULD HAVE US REGARD IT NOW. That is, as a completed work of redeeming love. That last Passover has been "fulfilled in the kingdom of God." All that the Passover prophesied has been fulfilled. The "Lamb of God" has been slain - that Lamb "which taketh away the sin of the world." Everything in the way of sacred endurance, of Divine preparation, is now completed, and the way into the kingdom is open. Those sufferings to which Jesus was so eagerly looking forward, to which he had now come, with nothing between them and him but that Passover Feast, had to he endured (see Luke 24:26); and now they have been endured. Everything predicted in sacred rite or solemn utterance has been "fulfilled," and we wait for nothing more. We sit down to no predictive Passover Feast, because "Christ, our Passover, is slain for us." What we have to do is gratefully and eagerly to avail ourselves of the "finished" work of our redeeming Lord; to let that suffering, that death, that sacrifice,
(1) evoke our humility;
(2) call forth our faith;
(3) kindle our love and command our obedience;
(4) inspire us with sacred and abiding joy, inasmuch as his "sorrow unto death" is the source of our eternal life. - C.
I. THE NEAR PRESENCE OF OUR LORD. Not in the elements but presiding over the company. It is a table at which he entertains his friends; and can he, the Divine Host, himself be absent?
"Around a table, not a tomb, II. CHRIST OUR STRENGTH AND OUR JOY. The chosen elements are bread and wine, the sources of strength and of gladness. He, our Lord, is the one constant Source of our spiritual nourishment and strength, of the joy with which our hearts are for ever glad. III. CHRIST OUR PROPITIATION. The broken bread, the outpoured wine - of what do these speak to our hearts? Of the "marred visage," of the weariness, of the poverty and privation, of the toilfulness and loneliness of that troubled life, of the griefs and pains of that burdened and broken heart, of the shame and the darkness and the death of the last closing scene. We stand with bowed head and reverent spirit at that cross and see - "Sorrow and love flow mingled down." And our hearts are full as we ask - "Did e'er such love and sorrow meet; IV. OUR INDIVIDUAL APPROPRIATION OF OUR LORD'S GREAT WORK. Each one eats of that bread and drinks of that cup. As he does so, in and by that act he declares his own personal need of a Divine Savior; he affirms his conviction that the sacrifice was offered for him; he renews his faith in the Divine Redeemer; he recognizes the claim of him that loved him unto death; he rededicates himself to Jesus Christ and to his service; he rejoices, in spirit, in his reconciled Father, in his Divine Lord and Friend. V. HAPPY AND HOLY COMMUNION WITH ONE ANOTHER. Gathered round one table, in the felt presence of our common Lord, all invited to drink of the same cup (Matthew 26:27), we are drawn to one another in the bonds of Christian love. We realize our oneness in him as a strong bond which triumphs over all the separating influences of the world. Faith, joy, love, are kindled and" burn within us;" and we are strengthened and sanctified, built up, enabled to "abide in him." - C.
II. CHRIST OUR STRENGTH AND OUR JOY. The chosen elements are bread and wine, the sources of strength and of gladness. He, our Lord, is the one constant Source of our spiritual nourishment and strength, of the joy with which our hearts are for ever glad.
III. CHRIST OUR PROPITIATION. The broken bread, the outpoured wine - of what do these speak to our hearts? Of the "marred visage," of the weariness, of the poverty and privation, of the toilfulness and loneliness of that troubled life, of the griefs and pains of that burdened and broken heart, of the shame and the darkness and the death of the last closing scene. We stand with bowed head and reverent spirit at that cross and see -
"Sorrow and love flow mingled down." And our hearts are full as we ask - "Did e'er such love and sorrow meet; IV. OUR INDIVIDUAL APPROPRIATION OF OUR LORD'S GREAT WORK. Each one eats of that bread and drinks of that cup. As he does so, in and by that act he declares his own personal need of a Divine Savior; he affirms his conviction that the sacrifice was offered for him; he renews his faith in the Divine Redeemer; he recognizes the claim of him that loved him unto death; he rededicates himself to Jesus Christ and to his service; he rejoices, in spirit, in his reconciled Father, in his Divine Lord and Friend. V. HAPPY AND HOLY COMMUNION WITH ONE ANOTHER. Gathered round one table, in the felt presence of our common Lord, all invited to drink of the same cup (Matthew 26:27), we are drawn to one another in the bonds of Christian love. We realize our oneness in him as a strong bond which triumphs over all the separating influences of the world. Faith, joy, love, are kindled and" burn within us;" and we are strengthened and sanctified, built up, enabled to "abide in him." - C.
"Did e'er such love and sorrow meet; IV. OUR INDIVIDUAL APPROPRIATION OF OUR LORD'S GREAT WORK. Each one eats of that bread and drinks of that cup. As he does so, in and by that act he declares his own personal need of a Divine Savior; he affirms his conviction that the sacrifice was offered for him; he renews his faith in the Divine Redeemer; he recognizes the claim of him that loved him unto death; he rededicates himself to Jesus Christ and to his service; he rejoices, in spirit, in his reconciled Father, in his Divine Lord and Friend. V. HAPPY AND HOLY COMMUNION WITH ONE ANOTHER. Gathered round one table, in the felt presence of our common Lord, all invited to drink of the same cup (Matthew 26:27), we are drawn to one another in the bonds of Christian love. We realize our oneness in him as a strong bond which triumphs over all the separating influences of the world. Faith, joy, love, are kindled and" burn within us;" and we are strengthened and sanctified, built up, enabled to "abide in him." - C.
1 Corinthians 11:23) - the institution of the greatest privilege with the commission of the darkest crime. Oar Lord's demeanour on this occasion is well worthy of our most reverent thought.
I. JESUS AND JUDAS.
1. His length of sufferance. After knowing that Judas was seeking to betray him (ver. 6), Jesus might well have expelled him from his society. He might have done so, acting judicially, as being no longer worthy to be classed among his apostles. He might have done so, acting prudentially, as one
(1) whom it was not wise to admit to his counsels and his plans; and as one
(2) whose association with the eleven would be a source of evil. He might very appropriately have declined to acknowledge him as an officer and a friend. But Jesus did not press his right. On the contrary, he let him continue as one of the twelve, he let him come under the same roof with himself, he permitted him to share the Paschal feast: the hand of him that was betraying him was "with him on the table." To such a length as that his longsuffering went.
2. His dignity in rebuke. He did not break forth into passionate invective; he did not use words of natural and permissible vehemence; he quietly said, "Woe unto that man," etc.! Matthew tells us that he added, "It had been good for that man if he had not been born." What a transcendent calmness and serenity of spirit we have here! What a contrast between two children of men! One man preparing to betray his Teacher, his Friend, his Master; the other compassionating his betrayer for the depth of his fall and the sadness of his doom. Jesus went on to his sacrificial death and to his throne; Judas went out into the night (John 13:30) - into the dark night of guilt, of shame, of despair, of death.
II. ONE LORD AND OURSELVES.
1. The wrong against our Lord it is still open to us to commit. We cannot betray him as Judas did; yet may we do that which answers to, and is almost if not quite as deplorable as that sad and shameful act. Let us consider that:
1. We know more about Jesus than Judas then did; for we have all the light of his resurrection and of the teaching of his apostles.
2. He has granted to us mercies as many and as great in intrinsic value as those he bestowed on Judas.
3. Owing him as much as Judas did, we may do even greater injury to his cause than the traitor did. The act of Iscariot ultimately issued in the all-sufficient sacrifice; this did not extenuate or lessen his guiltiness by a simple grain; but it nullified the mischief of the crime. We may do incalculable and irreparable mischief to the cause of our Master by our unfaithfulness, our infidelity, our disobedience, our criminal negligence.
4. By such disloyalty we may wound and grieve his Spirit almost as severely as his betrayer did. Wherefore let us:
(1) Be humble-minded. "Let him that thinketh he standeth," etc. If we could find the man who has smitten Christ and his cause the severest blow that was ever struck, it is probable that we might easily find an hour in that man's history when he would have shrunk with holy horror from such a guilty act.
(2) Be prayerful; ever looking heavenward with the supplication, "Hold thou me up," etc.
(3) Be diligent in the field of earnest Christian work. It is the idler in the vineyard whom the tempter will assail. It is the faithful workman who is in a position to say, after his Lord and Leader, "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me" (John 14:30). - C.
I. APOSTOLIC FAILURE. When the apostles of our Lord came to look back on this most memorable evening, how pained and how ashamed they must have felt as they recollected this unseemly contest (ver. 24)! At the very hour when their Lord was manifesting his love and his forethought for his Church in two most striking and touching ways - at the very hour when his heart was torn with distracting sorrow by the desertion and treachery of one of his chosen band, and when he might well have been looking for some consolation in the attachment and the obedience of the others, they must needs show their unlikeness to himself and their unworthiness of their position by an untimely dispute about their own importance in connection with that condescending service of their Lord's, how small such a controversy seems! And in connection with such a trial as that through which he was passing, how unbecoming and ill-timed was any anxiety about their own affairs! It was in their power to render to Jesus Christ a most helpful sympathy, and, instead of doing that, they grieved him by the exhibition of a contentious and an ambitious spirit. It was a sad failure on their part. How often do his disciples fail him now! How often do they let the opportunity of loving and effective service pass unused! When the hour strikes for faithfulness, or for courage, or for self-sacrifice, or for humility, or for energetic action, is there not found unfaithfulness, or timidity, or selfish time-serving, or pride, or a culpable inactivity, that loses everything and leaves behind nothing but failure and regret?
II. WORLDLY VANITY. (Ver. 25.) What a poor thing indeed is mere official dignity, or even arbitrary power, or servile flattery! Official dignity without moral worth is a miserably hollow thing. Arbitrary power, exercised in caprice and apart from a pure desire to do good and to enrich, is an evil thing; it is injurious to the possessor and it is burdensome to the objects of it. Servile flattery is a false thing. It is simply contemptible on the part of those who pay it; it is morally ruinous to those who accept it. Let the "Gentiles" act thus if they must; but "ye shall not be so." Ye who care to be true, to be loving, to be humble - ye shall not sit on that seat of honor, ye shall not run into that serious temptation, ye shall not pursue such a worthless prize. Other and better things are within your reach; for you there is -
III. CHRISTIAN GREATNESS. (Vers. 26, 27.)
1. Jesus Christ, the greatest One, was the Servant of all. He came to serve; it was his holy, heavenly errand; he came to seek and to save the lost. He lived to serve. That act of menial service in which he had just been engaged (John 13:1-5) was only a picture and illustration of the whole spirit and substance of his life; to bear the burden of others was the law of his life (Galatians 6:2). He lived to heal, to help, to comfort, to enlighten, to redeem; his life from end to end was a loving ministry, a gracious and generous service (Mark 10:45). He suffered to serve. He died to serve. He had a perfect right to say,, I am among you as he that serveth."
2. We are nearest to our Lord as we live to serve; we rise towards the spiritual stature of Jesus Christ as we are filled with this his spirit and as we live this his life. There is a path for ambition to tread in the kingdom of Christ; but it is not the path that leads to high office and official dignity and popular applause: these things may come unsought, and be used for good. But the one road along which true Christian greatness travels is the way of self-forgetting service. To be touched and moved by the sorrows and the sins of our fellow-men; to be stirred to helpful, earnest, sacrificial effort on their behalf; to pity the poor and needy; to seek and to save the lost; to breathe the air and to do the work of an unpretentious but effective kindness, to have the right to say, "I am among you as he that serveth; "that is greatness after Christ himself. - C.
I. THE SPIRIT OF SERVICE. (Vers. 24-27.) Now, the world's idea is that it is noble to exercise authority, to be able to order people about. In fact, the world has come to call men "benefactors" who have done nothing but command other people. What tributes are paid to princes, who have done nothing all their lives but issue orders and receive the homage and service of other people! A blear-eyed world is ready, as Christ here shows, to pronounce such princes the benefactors of their age and country. But he has come into the world to ennoble the opposite idea. Here at this very feast he has been as one that serveth. His whole life, moreover, has been a public service. Everywhere he has just considered how he could serve others. To minister, not be ministered unto, was his continual care. To make the service of others glorious in the eyes of discerning men was one great purpose of his earthly life. This reveals also the very spirit of the Divine life. God is Lord of all because Servant of all. He sustains all, as he has created all; and his greatness is the greatness of ministration. It is only Oriental barbarism which supposes greatness to consist in indolent and luxuriant state. Here, then, is the field of genuine ambition. Let us try to be first in the field of service; let us do our best and most for the benefit of all about us; and then alone shall we become noble and Christ-like.
II. CHRIST INDICATES THE RESULTANT INFLUENCE. (Vers. 28-30.) To these disciples, who continue with Christ in his temptations, he appoints a kingdom. In this kingdom they are to have thrones, and to be judges of the twelve tribes of Israel. In this way our Lord indicates the influence which these men, who entertain his spirit of service, will acquire. And when we consider the history of Christianity, we see that even in the world of humanity these humble servants of God and mankind have become kings and judges. It is by their deliverances in the primitive age that men are judging themselves and being judged. The apostles are pre-eminently the sovereigns of this new and better time. And this posthumous influence on earth is only a faint reflection of their influence in heaven. Now, is not this to encourage every serviceable soul? Let each of us be only content to serve, to do whatever a brother needs, and by our service we acquire influence and kingship. The world is really ruled by obliging, serviceable, meek, and earnest men.
III. CHRIST NEXT POINTS OUT TO PETER HIS DANGER, RECOVERY, AND CONSEQUENT USEFULNESS. (Vers. 31-34.) For, strange to say, temptation is overruled as well as service to the creation of influence. There is in Peter's nature a good deal of pride and vain-glory to be winnowed out. There is wheat within him, but also chaff. Now, Satan had set his mind upon the fall of Peter; but Jesus has already prayed for him that his faith may not fail. Here was Peter's safeguard in the timely intercession of his Master. ( How watchful the Lord was and is for souls! Oh, how our want of watchfulness stands rebuked! Yet Peter was permitted to fall under temptation; but he was won back again, converted the second time, so to speak, by the loving look of Jesus; and thus destined to become a strengthener of the brethren. So that our Lord's prayers for us may be that, through permitted humiliations and tears and penitence, we may pass on to power. It is only when self-confidence, as in Peter's case, has been purged out of us by humiliating discoveries of our personal weakness, that we are in a position to undertake the care and strengthening of brethren. Broken-hearted Simon becomes, after Pentecost, the reliable Rock-man, worthy of the new name, Peter.
IV. THE CONTRASTED POLICIES OF CONFIDENCE AND OF PRUDENCE. (Vers. 35-38.) In sending the disciples out on their first missions, Jesus relied on the hospitality of the people as a fitting support for his agents. Going to the people as philanthropists, working miracles, preaching the advent of Messiah, they would meet with such support as would be all-sufficient. This was the policy of confidence - the reliance on the people for entire support. But when the world turned against Christ, and realized how opposed he was to its worldliness, then the disciples would require to exercise all possible prudence. They would require to look out for themselves, and even to fight for their own hand. That is to say, there are times when we may trust the world, and times when we are warranted in distrusting it. When is it, we are inclined to ask, that the prudential temper must take the place of confidence? When the world is determined on injustice. Thus at this time the world is about to reckon Christ among the transgressors, and to do him manifest injustice. The fit of unfairness was upon it, and the disciples should then stand in self-defence. But other days would dawn again, when disciples will be warranted in pursuing a policy of public confidence, and thus giving the world the chance of compensation. Let us wisely consider the "signs of the times," and act accordingly. Christ will guide us to the policy which is best, if we prayerfully ask him. - R.M.E. ]PGBR>
I. THE MAJESTIC CONFIDENCE OF OUR LORD. "I appoint [bequeath] unto you a kingdom... that ye may sit on thrones." And who is this thus calmly disposing of kingdoms and thrones? - a reigning emperor, a brilliant conqueror? Only a poor, homeless, soldierless Prophet! One who knew that he was about to be taken, tried, convicted, scourged, crucified! Yet he meant it all. What majestic confidence in God, in the power of his gospel, in his own integrity ] With what reverent homage shall we bow before him who could make such royal offers when the shadow of the cross already rested on his path! And what nobler sight is there to be seen among men than that of one (missionary, minister, teacher, reformer, etc.) calmly going on his way when every one and when everything is against him, confident in the triumph of the cause for which he pleads] Taking these words of Christ in connection with the preceding verses, we see -
II. THE QUICKNESS WITH WHICH HE PASSED FROM CORRECTION TO COMMENDATION. Seeing that his apostles were not only silenced, but humbled by the rebuke he had administered to them (vers. 24-26), and wishing to reassure and revive them, our Lord turned to the fidelity they had shown toward himself, and spoke words of praise and of promise. "You are wrong altogether in your spirit and behavior in this matter; I blame you for this. But be not cast down; I do not forget your constancy toward me in all my times of trial, and I will reward you." Such was, such is, the gracious, considerate, generous Master.
"His anger is so slow to rise. III. THE REWARD OF FIDELITY IN THE MASTER'S SERVICE. Our Lord wished to assure his disciples that he was by no means unmindful or unappreciative of their faithfulness; and he found the best proof of this in their constancy toward himself in his times of trouble. Through all poverty, all persecution, all desertion, all apparent failure, they had been true and loyal - they had shared his sorrows, had kept step with him through the dark shadows; they had ministered to his bodily necessities (John 4:8), and (so far as they could) had sympathized with him in his spiritual conflicts. "Ye are they who have continued with me in my trials." And what a reward he was prepared to give them (vers. 29, 30)! Not understanding these words literally, we take it that their Lord held out before them: 1. Fulness of joy. "Eat and drink at my table." 2. Signal honor. "Sit on thrones." 3. Large and abiding power and influence. I appoint unto you a kingdom. This promise has been already fulfilled, though in a different form from that which they then expected - in the exalted privilege of being the first to publish the gospel of his grace to mankind; in the glorious work of writing those memorials and letters which show no sign of age and are esteemed the one absolutely invaluable literature of the world; in the celestial joy, dignity, influence, which they have long inherited. (1) What are the best proofs of loyalty we can give? These are (a) showing tender sympathy and untiring helpfulness towards his people (see Matthew 25:40); (b) having continual regard to his will in all the duties and details of our life (see John 14:15, 21, 23); (c) being practically concerned for the progress of his kingdom. (2) What is the reward he will grant us? A goodly measure of joy, - of sacred joy in worship, fellowship, work, life; of honor, - the esteem which purity and love rarely, if ever, fail to win; of quiet power, - the holy and blessed influence which spiritual beauty and earnest testimony exert on heart and life, which they transmit from generation to generation. This reward here; and hereafter joy, honor, power, such as we must wait to see and must resolve to experience. - C.
III. THE REWARD OF FIDELITY IN THE MASTER'S SERVICE. Our Lord wished to assure his disciples that he was by no means unmindful or unappreciative of their faithfulness; and he found the best proof of this in their constancy toward himself in his times of trouble. Through all poverty, all persecution, all desertion, all apparent failure, they had been true and loyal - they had shared his sorrows, had kept step with him through the dark shadows; they had ministered to his bodily necessities (John 4:8), and (so far as they could) had sympathized with him in his spiritual conflicts. "Ye are they who have continued with me in my trials." And what a reward he was prepared to give them (vers. 29, 30)! Not understanding these words literally, we take it that their Lord held out before them:
1. Fulness of joy. "Eat and drink at my table."
2. Signal honor. "Sit on thrones."
3. Large and abiding power and influence. I appoint unto you a kingdom. This promise has been already fulfilled, though in a different form from that which they then expected - in the exalted privilege of being the first to publish the gospel of his grace to mankind; in the glorious work of writing those memorials and letters which show no sign of age and are esteemed the one absolutely invaluable literature of the world; in the celestial joy, dignity, influence, which they have long inherited.
(1) What are the best proofs of loyalty we can give? These are
(a) showing tender sympathy and untiring helpfulness towards his people (see Matthew 25:40);
(b) having continual regard to his will in all the duties and details of our life (see John 14:15, 21, 23);
(c) being practically concerned for the progress of his kingdom.
(2) What is the reward he will grant us? A goodly measure of joy, - of sacred joy in worship, fellowship, work, life; of honor, - the esteem which purity and love rarely, if ever, fail to win; of quiet power, - the holy and blessed influence which spiritual beauty and earnest testimony exert on heart and life, which they transmit from generation to generation. This reward here; and hereafter joy, honor, power, such as we must wait to see and must resolve to experience. - C.
Luke 22:31, 32 (first part)
I. THE DESIGNS THAT ARE LAID AGAINST US. It was evidently in a very solemn and earnest strain that Jesus said, "Satan desired to have you [plural], that he may sift," etc. The evil one longed with eagerness, and strove with strength, to pass the apostles of Christ through the sieve of temptation, that he might compass their overthrow. And Peter, at a later hour, tells us that that is his attitude and habit in regard to all Christian disciples (1 Peter 5:8). We may take it that:
1. All the unholy intelligences of the spiritual realm are bent on securing our overthrow.
2. In this malign intention they are supported by human agents. And this, not only because evil naturally propagates evil, and because the wicked feel stronger and more secure as they are more numerous, but because they recognize the value of one human spirit and the advantage secured by gaining it to their side. Hence there is a deliberate and determined design often made upon the individual man by the forces of evil. This is a fact by no means to be overlooked. As we go on our heavenward way there may be an ambush laid for us at any point; at any time strong spiritual foes may do their utmost to contrive our fall. The possibilities of evil and of ruin are manifold. We may fall by error and unbelief, by pride, by selfishness, by worldliness and vanity, by intemperance or impurity, by departure in spirit from the fear and love of God. There is room, there is reason, for vigilance on the part of him who believes himself well on the way toward or even nearing the gates of the celestial city.
II. THE SOLICITUDE OF OUR SAVIOUR ON OUR BEHALF. "I have prayed for thee." The strain of our Lord's address, "Simon, Simon," and the fact of his interceding on Peter's behalf, speak of a tender solicitude on his part for his disciple. Jesus knew well all Peter's infirmities; but he also knew how ardently he could love, how devotedly he could serve, how much he could be. Hence the intensity of his desire that he would not be overcome. And for this reason we may be sure that our Lord is regarding us all with a Divine interest. He knows the worth of any and every human spirit - how much it can know and can enjoy; whom and what it can love; what graces it can illustrate, and what truth adorn; what influence it can instil; what good, and even great, work it can accomplish for God and man. He knows also what sorrow it may bring upon itself, what shame, what ruin; and also what irreparable injury it may do. We need not hesitate, but should accustom ourselves to think that Jesus Christ is regarding us with a very tender interest; is following the choices we are making and the course we are pursuing with holy and loving solicitude; is grieved when he sees us wander from the way of wisdom, rejoices in us and over us when he sees us take the upward path.
III. THE REALITY OF OUR HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY. Jesus Christ prayed that Peter's faith might not fail. And it did not - we should naturally expect. But in part it did. It did not utterly break down as that of Judas did, but it failed to keep him loyal in a very trying hour. It did not save him from the act of denial and from the sorrow which succeeded the sin. It did not in any way relieve the apostle of his individual responsibility. He continued to "bear his own burden," as every man must. Not the very highest privilege, not even the intercession of the Lord himself, will relieve us of that. It must rest with us, in the last resort, whether we will strive and win, or whether we wilt yield and be lost. - C.
Luke 22:32 (latter part)
I. OUR NEED OF STRENGTHENING POWER. Such are the manifold and effective forces opposed to us, invisible as well as visible and human (see Ephesians 6:12); so strong and so subtle are the temptations that beset us on every side; that we urgently need, not only the presence of resisting principles within us, but the aid of friendly and helpful auxiliaries around us. We want, indeed, the help which is from above; that is the first thing to seek. And, having besought that, we do well to avail ourselves of all the strength we can gain from other sources. For the battle is severe, and we are often hard pressed by our vigilant and relentless foes.
II. THE HELP WE CAN FIND IN MAN. God is, as stated, the Source of spiritual strength. He renews our strength by the direct communications of his Divine Spirit. But man helps us also. "A man shall be as an hiding-place... as rivers of water... as the shadow of a great rock." Paul went through the region of Galatia, "strengthening the disciples" (Acts 18:23). Peter was to "strengthen his brethren." We can and we should do much to strengthen one another, to build one another up on our holy faith. We can do this:
1. By the force of a beautiful and attractive example.
2. By the utterance of invigorating truth.
3. By the inspiration of a cheerful, hopeful, loving spirit.
III. THE INCOMPETENCE OF INEXPERIENCE. Peter was not in a position to afford spiritual strength then. He was too inexperienced. He had not yet learned what the fierceness of the fire of temptation meant. He did not then understand where his true strength lay. He had not yet graduated in the school of experience. It is they, and only they, who know what spiritual struggle means who can impart to others the help they need. We must have passed through the waters before we can undertake to teach others how to swim the strong stream of trial and temptation.
IV. THE UNFITNESS OF UNFAITHFULNESS. Peter was about to fall. A few hours would find him in the power of the adversary. Before another day dawned he would have to reproach himself as a disloyal disciple. He was about to rest under the shadow of great guilt, and he would have to wait until he came forth from that shadow. Not until he "was converted," not until the spirit of overweening self-confidence had given place to that of humble trust in God, not until the knowledge of Christ "after the flesh" had passed, had risen into a knowledge of him that was truly spiritual and real, - not till then would he be fitted to "strengthen his brethren." His case was strikingly parallel with that of David (see Psalm 51:11-13). We have similar experiences now. When the Christian disciple loses ground spiritually and morally, it becomes him to "return unto the Lord" himself, and "then to teach transgressors" the way of God; it becomes him to undergo a change of spirit, to be "renewed in the spirit of his mind," and then to speak the helpful and sustaining truth of Christ. Unfaithfulness to our Lord, departure and distance from him, - this has no teaching function; its first duty is penitential; then it may think of useful work. But we should understand that all true usefulness rests on the foundation of spiritual integrity; it can find no other footing.
V. THE PRIVILEGE OF CHRISTIAN MATURITY. Peter was to look forward to a not distant future, when, having learnt truth by what he suffered, he should strengthen his brethren in all that was true and wise and good. This he did, and in this he found a noble heritage. To this we may look forward as the reward of spiritual struggle, as the goal of earthly good. What better portion can we ask for than to be the source of spiritual strength to our brethren and sisters as they bear the burdens and fight the battles of their life? - C.
Luke 22:33, 34 (with Luke 22:55-62)
I. HOW IGNORANT OF HIMSELF EVEN A GOOD MAN MAY PROVE! (Ver. 33.) Peter believed himself to be capable of daring and enduring the very last extremity in the cause of his Master. He would have utterly ridiculed the idea that the sneer of a servant-girl could draw from him a denial of his Lord. The event showed how entirely he mistook himself. We ought to know ourselves well; but, in fact, we do not. We suppose ourselves to be strong and steadfast, when we are feeble and unreliable; or to be humble-minded, when we are proud of heart; or to be generous, when we are essentially self-seeking; or to be devout, when we are really unspiritual; to be near to God, when we are afar off (Revelation 3:17; 1 Corinthians 10:12; Psalm 19:12, 13; Psalm 139:23, 24).
II. How PERFECT THE KNOWLEDGE OUR MASTER HAS OF OUR HEART AND LIFE! (Ver. 34.) Jesus knew how weak his disciple was, and he foresaw his speedy failure. He knows us altogether. He knows our heart; how sincere is our purpose, how frequent are our efforts, how many our disappointments, how faulty is our nature, how wounded and weak is our spirit. He knows also our life. He sees it as it lies before his all-beholding eye; he "knows the way we take," the path we are about to pursue. It is to One who has a thorough and complete knowledge of us that we belong, and it is to him we draw nigh in our best hours.
III. FROM WHAT A HEIGHT a GOOD MAN MAY FALL! This erring one is no other than the Apostle Peter, the very man who had made the great confession, and upon whom or upon whose testimony Christ would build his Church (Matthew 16:13-19). It is he who had been admitted to such close fellowship with Christ, and been allowed the high privilege of rendering him constant personal service. There is no office, however high it may be in the Christian Church, which will ensure to its occupant spiritual integrity. And even he who has been "raised up to heavenly places," and has known even the raptures of an exalted spiritual experience, may fall under the power of temptation. It is not the lofty but the lowly that stand on safe ground in the kingdom of God.
IV. How STEEP IS THE DESCENT OF SIN! From a presumptuous and blind self-confidence Peter fell to a half-hearted following (ver. 54); from that he fell to untruthfulness and denial of his Lord (ver. 57); from that to a more deliberate and repeated denial (vers. 58, 59), accompanied even (as Matthew tells us) with profanity. Sin is a slope which seems slight at the summit, but it becomes steeper and yet steeper as we go on our downward way. And it too often happens that we reach a point where we cannot arrest ourselves, but are compelled against our own desire to continue. Shun the first step in the downward course!
V. HOW MERCIFUL IS CHRIST'S METHOD OF CONVICTION[(Ver 61.) Not a blow that smote him to the ground; not even burning words of condemnation that should sound ever afterwards in his soul; but one reproachful glance - the look of wounded love. So merciful and so pitiful is our Lord when we are unfaithful or disloyal to him now. He bears long with us; he seeks to win us back through added privilege and multiplied mercy; he deals very patiently and gently with us; only when other and milder methods fail does he mercifully afflict us, that in some way and by some means he may redeem us from folly and from ruin.
VI. WHITHER CHRIST SEEKS TO LEAD THE ERRING. (Ver. 62.) He seeks to lead us, as by his reproving glance be led his fallen disciple, to a pure and saving penitence. He would have our hearts filled with a worthy and a cleansing shame, with a purifying sorrow; that this may lead us into a condition of
(1) abiding humility, of
(2) living faith, of
(3) thorough reconsecration to himself and to his cause. - C.
I. CONTEMPORARY MISUNDERSTANDING.
1. By the apostles themselves.
(1) On this occasion their Lord wished to intimate to them, in strong and forcible language, that to whatever perils and straits they had been exposed before, the time was now at hand when, he himself being taken from their side and the saddest foreshadowings being fulfilled, they would be subjected to far severer trials, and would be (in a sense) cast on their own defences. The apostles, mistaking his meaning, put a literal interpretation on his words, and produced a couple of swords, as perhaps meeting the emergency!
(2) On a previous occasion (Matthew 16:5-8) the Lord warned them against "the leaven of the Pharisees;" and they supposed him to refer to their neglect in forgetting the bread!
(3) They completely failed to apprehend his meaning when he foretold his own sufferings and death (Luke 18:31-34).
2. By his disciples generally.
(1) They could not comprehend what he meant by "eating his flesh and drinking his blood (John 6:60).
(2) They completely misunderstood the end he had in view, the character of that "kingdom of heaven" of which he spoke so much.
(3) They did not enter into the great redeeming purpose for which he came.
3. By his enemies.
(1) In so small a matter as his saying recorded in John 2:19;
(2) in so great a matter as that recorded in John 18:37.
II. SUBSEQUENT MISUNDERSTANDING. In how many ways has the Church of Christ, since apostolic days, misunderstood its Lord! It has done so in regard to the meaning of particular words; and in regard to the great end he had in view (the nature of his kingdom); and in regard to the means and methods he would have his friends employ. How pitifully and how painfully has it misunderstood him when it has interpreted his reference to the sword of the text (ver. 36), and his use of the word "compel" (Luke 14:23) as justifying every conceivable cruelty in the furtherance of his cause!
III. MODERN MISUNDERSTANDING. Judging from what we know has been, we conclude that it is likely enough that we also misunderstand our Master.
1. We may fail to reach the true significance of his words; we may find out, further on, that they have another and a larger meaning than that we have been ascribing to them.
2. We may mistake his will as to the object we should work for, or as to the right and the wise methods we should adopt to secure our end.
3. We may be wrong in our judgment of what Christ is doing with ourselves and with our life; we may misread his Divine purpose concerning us. There are three principles which we shall do well to keep in mind in our endeavor to understand the Divine Teacher. The thought of Christ is
(1) profound rather than superficial:
(2) spiritual rather than sensuous;
(3) comprehensive and far-seeing (reaching through time to immortality) rather than narrow and time-bounded. - C.
Gethsemane," we pass into the "holy place," the nearest of all to "the holy of holies" - that is, to Calvary itself. Thither our Lord went on this most memorable evening; and "his disciples followed him" - the eleven who remained faithful to him. But even of these only three were counted worthy to attend him into the secret place of prayer and struggle, and to witness his agony. Such sorrow as he was then to know seeks the secret place and chooses only the very closest and dearest friendship for its ministry. Then fell upon our Divine Lord a sorrow and a temptation; an agitation and agony of soul for which our language has no name, our heart no room, our life no experience. We ask - What was that intolerable and overwhelming anguish, which the Savior asked might pass from him, and which had so marvellous and so terribly significant an effect on his bodily nature (vers. 42-44)? Our completest answer leaves much to be said, much to be explained.
1. We barely touch the outer line of the whole circle of truth when we speak of the apprehension of coming torture and death as events in the natural, physical sphere. It is an irreverent and wholly unworthy conception that what many men - many who have not even been good men - have faced without flinching, our Lord and Master shrank from with an overmastering dread.
2. We come nearer to the center of the truth when we think that the whole shadow of the cross, with its spiritual darkness and desolation, then began to rest upon him... Something of that shadow had been darkening his path before (Mark 10:38; Luke 12:50; John 12:27). And this shadow darkened and deepened as he drew near to the dread hour itself. At this point the cross immediately confronted him in all its awful severity, and he knew that this was the time when he must finally resolve to endure everything or to retrace his steps. This, then, was the critical hour; then was "the crisis of the world." Great and terrible was the temptation to decline the fearful future now at hand; it was a temptation he struggled against with a spiritual violence that showed itself in the drops of blood; it was a temptation he only overcame by tearful supplications to the Eternal Father for his prevailing succor (Hebrews 5:7).
3. But we miss our true mark if we do not include the thought that he was then bearing something of the burden of human sin. Whatever was intended by "bearing our sins in his own body," by "making his soul an offering for sin," and by expressions similar to these, we believe that Jesus Christ was then in the very act of fulfilling these predictions when he thus strove and suffered in the garden. As we look upon him there we see "the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world." The scene may teach us very varied lessons and affect us in many ways; but it is certainly well fitted to be -
I. AN ATTRACTION TO SOULS STILL DISTANT FROM THE SAVIOUR. It says, "Behold how he loved you!"
II. AN INVITATION TO PRAYER FOR FAITHFULNESS IN THE HOUR OF TRIAL. Both before and after, the Master exhorted his disciples to pray that "they entered not into temptation" (vers. 40, 46). He himself triumphed through the strong efficacy of prayer (ver. 41). Prayer, appropriate at all times, is urgently needed as we enter the shadow of temptation; but it is positively indispensable when the greater trials of our life assail us.
III. A SUMMONS TO STRENUOUS AND UNFALTERING PERSEVERANCE. Christian pilgrim, Christian workman, do you weary of your way or of your work? Does the one seem long and thorny, or the other tedious and unsuccessful? Do you think you must sleep as the disciples did, or that you must put down the cup as their Master did not? Do you talk about giving up the journey, about retiring from the field? Consider him who went quite through the work the Father game him to do, who strove and suffered to the very last; consider him, the agonizing but undaunted, the suffering but resolving Savior; consider him, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
"Go, labor on, spend and be spent,
John 14., he led the disciples out through the vineyards, where most likely John 15. was delivered to them, and John 16., until he reached his usual rendezvous in Gethsemane, part of the Mount of Olives. Here let us suppose the high-priestly prayer given in John 17. took place, which being ended, he retired to an adjacent and secluded place for further prayer. Gethsemane was thus his preparation for suffering and death, as the Transfiguration had been for work. And here we have to notice -
I. HIS DREAD OF THE DENOUEMENT WAS NOT A DREAD OF PHYSICAL PAIN AND DEATH. His cry for escape, if possible, was not prompted by physical fear. He always showed himself brave before danger of a mere physical kind. Socrates seems the braver man before he drank the hemlock, but this was because Socrates could not see the issues that were before him as Christ foresaw his fate. The cup he shrank from was not like that of Socrates. It was no literal cup, but the apprehension of isolation from his Father. Not the trial, nor the mockery, nor the physical pain, but the isolation from God, the sense of forsakenness, the constraint to cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" which prompted the cry to escape. Now, the very elevation of his being rendered the dread of separation even for the shortest season from his Father intensely painful. Vulgar souls can take separation from others quietly, but the elect souls pass through deepest pains in consequence. That darkness which came on when Son was separated from Father because of the sin-bearing was what Jesus dreaded, and would gladly have escaped. Want of fellowship with the Father seemed to this holy Child Jesus something to be escaped if at all possible.
II. THE INTENSITY AND EFFICACY OF HIS PRAYER. Just as Jacob had to wrestle at Peniel to obtain the blessing, so had the Saviour in the garden. He was in an agony of earnestness, and was in consequence bathed in a bloody sweat. Time after time he prayed thus earnestly. And we are expressly told, "He was heard in that he feared" (Hebrews 5:7). His prayer was efficacious. Now, let us consider what he prayed for. It was for deliverance from isolation from God - deliverance from death without a sense of the Divine fellowship. And when we consider the sequel, we find that he was heard, and his prayer answered. For
(1) he enjoyed an angelic visit and was strengthened by it (ver. 43);
(2) he was granted light and fellowship with the Father before death supervened; and
(3) he was saved from death by resurrection. In these ways the Father undoubtedly heard and answered the cry of Christ in Gethsemane.
III. NOTICE THE DISCIPLES' SLEEP OF SORROW. For sorrow often induces sleep, while at other times it makes sleep impossible. In the present case the disciples ought to have been praying for Jesus, for themselves, seeking preparation for the trial he had forewarned them was at hand. Instead of doing so they slept. Here we have to notice:
1. Opportunity for showing spiritual sympathy was missed. Jesus, as we know, was most anxious they should watch with him. He needed and he sought their sympathy; but they, in thoughtlessness, denied it to him. It would be well it deepest consideration were exhibited for noble souls that are greatly tried.
2. Opportunity for private preparation was missed. They themselves needed spiritual help more than Christ. They could less afford than he to meet the crisis prayerlessly. Yet this was their condition when the trial fell upon them.
3. Physical effort was their only resource when the crisis came. They could lay on with the sword. It does not take much prayer to help men to fight. But other and better weapons were needed than Peter's sword, but they could only be taken out of the armoury by prayer.
IV. THE BETRAYAL. Judas and his band were upon them before the sleepy disciples had time to pray. He had planned the capture as only a coward can. He betrays Christ with the semblance of friendship, trying to give the Master the usual kiss. To this offer Jesus simply replies, "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?" Force behind deceit is apparently overpowering the spirituality which had its home in that place of prayer.
V. THE DEFENCE OF THE DISCIPLES AND THE MIRACLE OF THE MASTER, The disciples, spiritually off guard, betake themselves to the carnal weapon, and Peter lays round him with the sword. He succeeds in cutting off the right ear of the high priest's servant. Here is fresh trouble created. If this servant has to go back thus wounded, a warrant will soon be out for the disciples, and the whole issue thrown into perplexity. Our Lord accordingly interposes, heals the sufferer's ear, and advises Peter to put up his sword. In this way Jesus rescues the disciples from the liability incurred through their own imprudence. It was a wonderful consideration manifested when his own troubles were rising to their height.
VI. THE REBUKE ADMINISTERED TO HIS ENEMIES. Why had they come out against him as against a thief? Had he not confronted them time after time in open day? They had not dared to lay hands upon him then. He thus convicted them of cowardice. It was "their hour, and the power of darkness." A deed of darkness dare not be done in open day. Thus was it that our Lord bravely met his adversaries. He was prepared, though the disciples were not. - R.M.E.
Luke 22:42 (latter part)
I. THE ESSENTIAL NATURE OF SIN. Where shall we find the root of sin? Its manifold fruits we see around us in all forms of irreligion, of vice, of violence. But in what shall we find its root? In the preference of our own will to the will of God. If we trace human wrong-doing and wrong-being to its ultimate point, we arrived that conclusion. It is because men are not willing to be what God created them to be, not willing to do what he desires them to do; it is because they want to pursue those lines of thought and of action which he has forbidden, and to find their pleasure and their portion in things which he has disallowed, - that they err from the strait path and begin the course which ends in condemnation and in death. The essence of all sin is in this assertion of our will against the will of God. We fail to recognize the foundation truth that we are his; that by every sacred tie that can bind one being to another we are bound, and we belong to him from whom we came and in whom we live, and move, and have our being. We assume to be the masters of our own lives and fortunes, the directors of our own selves, of our own will; we say, "My will, not thine, be done." Thus are we radically wrong; and being radically wrong, the issues of our hearts are evil. From this fountain of error and of evil the streams of sin are flowing; to that we trace their origin.
II. THE HOUR AND ACT OF SPIRITUAL SURRENDER. When does the human spirit return to God, and by what act? That hour and that act, we reply, are not found at the time of any intellectual apprehension of the truth. A man may understand but little of Christian doctrine, and yet may be within the kingdom of heaven; or, on the other hand, he may know much, and yet remain outside that kingdom. Nor at the time of keen sensibility; for it is possible to be moved to deep and to fervent feeling, and yet to withhold the heart and life from the Supreme. Nor at the time of association with the visible Church of Christ. It is the hour at which and the act by which the soul cordially surrenders itself to God. When, in recognition of the paramount claims of God the Divine Father, the gracious Savior of mankind, we yield ourselves to God, that for all the future he may lead and guide us, may employ us in his holy service; when we have it in our heart to say, "Henceforth thy will, not ours, be done;" - then do we return unto the Lord our God, and then does he count us among the number of his own.
III. THE HIGHEST ATTAINMENT OF CHRISTIAN ENDEAVOUR. When do we reach our highest point? Not when we have fought our fiercest battle, or have done our most fruitful work, or have gained our clearest and brightest vision of Divine truth; but when we have reached the point in which we can most cheerfully and most habitually say, after Christ our Lord, "Not my will, but thine, be done;" when under serious discouragement or even sad defeat, when after exhausting pain or before terrible suffering, when under heavy loss or in long-continued loneliness, or in prospect of early death, we are perfectly willing that God should do with us as his own wisdom and love direct. - C.
I. THE UNSEEMLINESS OF VIOLENCE USED AGAINST JESUS CHRIST AND HIS DISCIPLES. It is true that there was something worse than the weapons of violence in that garden; the traitor's kiss was very much worse. We may be sure that Jesus was conscious of a Far keener wound from those false lips of Judas than he would have been from the hands of those armed men had they struck him with their strength. The subtle schemes and the soft but treacherous suggestions of false friends are deadlier in their issue, if not in their aim, than the hard blows of open adversaries. But:
1. How unseemly was open violence shown to Jesus Christ! To come with sword and stick against the Gentle One from heaven; against him who never used his omnipotence to harm a single adversary; against him who "would not break the bruised reed" among the children of men; against him who had been daily employing his power to relieve from pain, to raise from weakness, to remove privation, to restore from death!
2. How unseemly is such violence shown to Christ's true disciples! His true disciples, those who are loyal and obedient to their Lord, are men and women in whom a patient and loving spirit is prevailing; they are peace-makers among their brothers and sisters; they have "put away bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, railing;" they walk in love; they seek to win by a gentle manifestation and by a gracious utterance of the truth. How entirely inappropriate and unseemly is violence shown to them! And it may be added, how useless is such violence employed against the cause they advocate! It has never happened yet that sword and stave have crushed the living truth. They have smitten its champions to the ground, but they have only brought out into the light the heroic courage and noble unselfishness which that truth inspires. "So that those things [those persecutions] have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel." Cruelty strikes at its enemy, and smites itself.
II. THE UNLAWFULNESS OF VIOLENCE EMPLOYED ON BEHALF OF CHRISTIANITY. How vain and how foolish the act of "smiting with the sword" (ver. 49)! It was an act of intemperate and ill-considered zeal; it was calculated to do much more harm than good. Its effects had to be undone by the calm interposition and the healing power of Christ (ver. 51). It was rebuked by the Master in decided terms (Matthew 26:52). And from that hour to the end of apostolic history the use of physical violence disappears. Well would it have been for the cause and kingdom of our Lord if it had never been revived. The sword and the stave have no place in the Christian armoury. The weapons of its warfare are not carnal. Such instruments do not, they cannot, serve it; they gain a momentary victory at the sad and great expense of entirely misrepresenting the spirit and the method of Jesus Christ. Compulsion is utterly out of place in connection with the Church of Christ; it loses immeasurably more than it gains by that resource. Let the disciples of Christ be assured that
(1) the utterance of Divine truth, especially the truth that relates to the redeeming love of the Savior himself;
(2) living a life of blamelessness and beauty, of integrity and kindness;
(3) dependence on the aid of the Divine Spirit to make the spoken Word and the living influence effectual and mighty; - that these are the weapons which will conquer the enemies of Christ, and will place him upon the throne of the world. - C.
(1) that the hour of his enemies' triumph had arrived - the brief hour of their outward success and inward exultation, the dark hour of his humiliation and visible defeat; and
(2) that this passing hour was simultaneous with the prevalence of the power of darkness. Wicked men were to triumph because the forces of guilty error were for the time prevailing. We look at -
I. THE POWER OF DARKNESS.
1. Its spiritual nature. It is a state of spiritual blindness. We may not, with a great Greek philosopher, resolve all evil into error; but we may say that sin is continually, is universally, springing from inward blindness. Men do not see the truth; they call good evil, and evil good; they have the most false imaginations concerning all objects, from the Divine Being himself to the lowliest human duty; and hence they go far astray.
2. Its most glaring manifestations. It lays its unholy hand on innocence, on Divine Love itself, and leads it away to trial and crucifixion. It conducts the devoted servant of Christ to the brutal judge, to the shameful scaffold, to the devouring flame. It arms a vast multitude of men and leads them forth to a vain and useless strife, shedding human blood and wasting human labor, as if Christ would be pleased or could be served by such means as these. It covers with the sacred name of religion a system that holds millions of human beings in a degrading bondage. It sanctions all the sinful institutions the world has seen and suffered from.
3. Its most deplorable effects. These are not found in the deeds and the sufferings of men, but rather in their souls; the worst issue of spiritual misconception is in the utter darkness of spirit in which it ends. "If the light that is in us be darkness, how great must that darkness be!" It means -
(1) False thoughts. Here were men who should have known better thinking the worst things of Jesus Christ - judging him to he a criminal, to be a traitor, to be a blasphemer; and there are men amongst us who, under the power of error, think altogether wrong thoughts of God and of the Savior - thoughts which do him wrong, which misrepresent him to the mind, which repel rather than attract the soul.
(2) Bad feelings. Here were men indulging in feelings of positive and perfect hatred against Jesus Christ; and there are men, misled by the power of darkness, hating instead of loving the Father of spirits, repelled from instead of being drawn towards good and true souls whom they have grievously misunderstood.
(3) Wrong purposes of heart. Under this malignant influence men are purposing to injure their fellow-men. Instead of resolving to rescue, to raise, to ennoble them,-they determine to put them down or to hold them down, to lay a hard hand upon them and keep them harmless because helpless. It is in the blinding, misleading, deteriorating effects upon the soul itself that the very worst results of darkness are to be seen.
II. OUR HOPE CONCERNING IT. The "power of darkness" was coincident with "the hour" of the enemies of our Lord. And that was but an hour; it was limited to the brief period of the Passion. Then came Christ's glorious hour - the hour of his resurrection; the hour of his ascent to the right hand of Power. The prevalence of this evil power of darkness is limited in time; it will not last for ever. Innocence, purity, truth, love, righteousness, may be led away to trial and death, as they were then in the Person of Jesus Christ; but the hour of their resurrection and their triumph will arrive. Let faithful labor do its noble part, and let calm and Christian patience bring its priceless contribution, and another hour will strike than that of the foes of Christ, and another power than that of moral darkness will take the scepter and rule the world. - C.
1. In this we find something that was commendable. The impulsive and energetic Peter did not exhaust his zeal in that unfortunate sword-stroke of his; nor was it quenched by the rebuke of his Master. Though it was far from an ideal discipleship to "follow afar off," it was discipleship still. We do not read that the others did as much as that; they probably sought their own safety by complete retirement. Peter could not do that; his attachment to Christ did not allow him to disconnect himself any further than was involved in a distant following. But:
2. In this we find something that was incomplete. The disciple desired to be near enough to his Master to know what the end would be, but he wished to be far enough off to be secure from molestation. He took counsel of his fears, and was so far from the scene that he was showing no sympathy with his Friend, and was running no risk from his enemies. It is not at all unlikely that this timidity, from which he succeeded in partially and momentarily shaking himself, was the beginning and the explanation of his subsequent failure.
I. GENUINE DISCIPLESHIP. this is found in following Christ.
1. Owning his claim as Lord and Leader of the soul; owning it by a willing and entire submission of our will to his will, a consecration or our life to his service, a perfect readiness of heart to say, "Lord, I will follow thee."
2. Endeavouring to walk even as he walked - in reverence, in righteousness, in love.
3. Striving to live this Christian life not only after him, but unto him.
II. DISTANT DISCIPLESHIP. We follow "afar off" when we are:
1. Lacking in devotion, lie who is only found irregularly and infrequently with God, in the attitude of praise and prayer, and in the act of studying his holy will, must be at a great distance from that "beloved Son" who spent so much time with his Father, and found so much strength in his conscious presence and loving sympathy.
2. Wanting in purity, lie whose spirit is much entangled with the cares, absorbed in the pursuits and prizes, hungering and thirsting for the pleasures of this world, and certainly he whose soul is to any considerable degree affected and tainted by the lower temptations of the flesh, - is a long way behind the holy Savior; is far off from him who was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sin," from him "in whose mouth no guile was found."
3. Failing in generous and practical kindness. He who is only sparingly offering his resources, spiritual or material, to the cause of human comfort and elevation, who is drawing the line of his service at the point of self-sacrifice, and declines to go across it, - is surely a very distant follower of that gracious and generous Friend of man who suffered the very last and the very worst that he might redeem us from sin and restore us to truth, to holiness, to God. This distant discipleship is, in every aspect, to be deplored.
(1) It is unfaithfulness to ourselves. A departure from the position we took when we first "yielded ourselves unto God, as those alive from the dead."
(2) It is perilous to our own souls. That way failure lies; and failure here means utter and disastrous defeat; it means suffering and shame; it may even mean death.
(3) It is disappointing to our Divine Lord. He looks for a close following on our part; he wants us to be at his side, to be serving him with all our strength, to be like him in spirit and in character and in life. And when he sees us "afar off," he is grieved with us instead of rejoicing in us.
(1) Let those who have been abiding in him, and there-fore following him closely, be watchful and prayerful that they do not "drift away" and lag behind;
(2) and let those who have to reproach themselves as distant disciples draw near to their Lord in renewed penitence and devotedness of spirit. - C.
I. PETER'S TEMPTATION. (Vers. 54-60.) It was identification with a lost cause. Here is Jesus down; no hope apparently lingers about him; he cannot now be saved. What use is there in further identifying himself with Jesus? Instead of responding boldly to the challenge and confessing Christ, he is tempted to deny him. And the denials are repeated, the last time with an oath. Peter's distant view of his Master and of his cause leads him to the fatal conclusion that it is safest to cut the connection and deny that he has ever known him. It is, alas! the temptation of men still. In the blazing light of society, when worldliness seems so strong and comfortable, it is convenient to ignore the Master and his cause. Peter's temptation is constantly repeated, and his fall has its counterpart continually in the cowardice of souls.
II. PETER'S RECOVERY AND REPENTANCE. (Vers. 61, 62.) The Master in warning him had given him a sign, that of the cock-crow. It acts as an alarum upon the dull ear of Peter. Along with this there comes the look ineffable of the loving Lord. The great heart is broken, and Peter passes out to weep bitterly. We have a great contrast between the sorrow of Peter and that of Judas. It is the sorrow of the world which worketh death in the one case; it is the sorrow which is godly and saving in the other. As Gerok, in an admirable discourse upon the subject, says,
(1) Peter's sorrow proceeds upon his sin, Judas's upon the consequences of his sin;
(2) Peter's sorrow turns him from the world, Judas's turns him towards the world; and
(3) Peter's sorrow leads him to life, Judas's leads him to death. Peter's repentance was thus the consequence of his Master's love, and the sign of his recovery. How sensible he must have been of the mighty wrong he had done the Master! Jesus knew when Peter slunk away out of the palace that he was safe in his bitter sorrow, and that he would come forth from it a better man. Our Lord's trial through Peter's faithlessness terminated when the disciple's heart was broken.
III. THE BUFFET-GAME. (Vers. 63-65.) The heavy hours till morning must be spent, and so the soldiers determine to get some amusement out of their notable Prisoner. They make Jesus, consequently, the centre in what is now known as the buffet-game. Blindfolding him, they proceed to strike him, and call upon him to tell who has inflicted the blows. They are terrible liberties they thus take with the Son of God. But they are unable to irritate this meek and lowly Man. Their blows are lost upon his magnificent meekness. They must have been struck at the majestic carriage of the Prisoner under their brutal horse-play. Yet the blows of the soldiers were less a trial, we may be sure, than the faithlessness of the disciple. But we are surely taught how essentially degrading it is to manufacture mirth out of the humiliation of others! The soldiers never were so brutal as when they treated Jesus in the style they did.
IV. HIS TRIAL BEFORE THE SANHEDRIN. (Vers. 66-71.) In the morning the Jewish authorities assembled, and their line of examination was as to the nature of his Messiahship. As we have seen, it was not a Divine, but a military Messiah the Jews desired. To their question he replies first that they will not believe him if he answers them truthfully. They will only believe what they like. In other words, faith is largely a matter of the will as influenced by emotion. They were not prepared to accept truth and follow it to its consequences. After this preliminary, Jesus goes on to declare, "From henceforth shall the Son of man be seated at the right hand of the power of God" (Revised Version). That is to say, his Messiahship is to be a heavenly reign, not an earthly and temporal one. At once they saw in this a claim to Divine Sonship. Hence they challenge him upon the point, and get his manly reply that he is. On this ground they condemn him. It is plain, therefore, that this Divine Messiah was not what suited their fancy. It was not deliverance from such impalpable foes as sin and anxiety and suffering they desired, but from the Romans. They wanted a military leader - a pasha; and when God gave them his Son as their heavenly King, they condemned him to an ignominious death. It is thus that men despise their greatest blessings, and do their best to put them out of the way. - R.M.E.
I. HIS LOOK OF PENETRATION. We read of one of the earliest disciples being convinced by our Lord's discernment of him under the thick foliage of the fig tree; he was then told to look for greater things than that (John 1:50). And surely one of those greater things was found in that penetration which saw through the thicker covering of the human flesh and of human speech and demeanour to the very thought of the mind, to the very desire of the heart, to the inmost secrets of the soul. He knew what was in man. It was his knowledge of men that directed him in his varying treatment of them; it is his penetrating insight into men now that determines his dealing with us all.
II. HIS LOOK OF COMPASSION. What did the sick and the suffering, the fevered and the paralyzed and the leprous, the men and women who had left afflicted ones behind them at their homes - what depths of tender compassion did these sons and daughters of Israel see in the eyes of Jesus Christ? And what inexhaustible fullness of pity, what unbounded sympathy, may not the stricken and the sorrowing souls who are badly bruised and wounded on life's highway still find in "the face of Jesus Christ"!
III. HIS LOOK OF SAD REPROACH. Sometimes there was that in the glance of Jesus Christ from which the guilty shrank. When "he looked round about on them with anger," we may be sure that his baffled enemies quailed before his glance. And when "the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter," what keen sorrowful reproach was then apparent in the face of Jesus Christ! how that look gathered up all possible words and tones of solemn expostulation, of sad disappointment, of bitter sorrow! It was a look which wrought great things in the apostle's soul, the remembrance of which, we may be sure, he carried with him to the end. Christ has all too many occasions now to turn toward us that reproachful glance.
1. When we fail to keep the promises we made him at the time of our self-surrender.
2. When we fail to pay the vows we made him in some hour of discipline.
3. When we fall seriously short of the allegiance which all his disciples owe to him - in reverence, in obedience, in submission. Let us, who are professing to follow him, ask ourselves what we should see in his countenance if we stood face to face with him to-day. Would it be the benign look of Divine commendation? or would it be the pained look of sorrowful reproach? To those who are inquiring their way to life it is a source of blessed encouragement that they will see, if they regard their Lord -
IV. HIS LOOK OF TENDER INTEREST. When the rich young man came and made his earnest inquiry of the great Teacher, he was not yet in the kingdom, and was not yet fully prepared to enter it; but he was a sincere and earnest seeker after God, and "Jesus, beholding him, loved him" (Mark 10:21). With such tender regard, with such loving interest, does he look down on every true suppliant who looks up to him with the vital question on his lips, "Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" - C.
I. A PICTURE OF SUPREME ENDURANCE. How much our Lord was called upon to endure, we shall be best able to realize when we consider:
1. The greatness of which he was conscious (see ver. 70). He knew and felt that he had a right to the most reverent homage of the best and highest, and was thus treated by the worst and lowest.
2. The power which he knew he wielded: with what perfect ease could he have extricated himself from these cruel insults!
3. The character of the men who were maltreating him - the lowest amongst the low.
4. The nature of the indignities to which they subjected him; these went from bad to worse - from binding him to beating him, from beating him to spitting upon him, from this most shameful indignity to the yet more cruel sneer at his holy mission," Prophesy unto us," etc. They vented upon him the very last extremes of human contumely and shame.
II. A PICTURE OF SUBLIME PATIENCE. He bore it all with perfect calmness. Here shone forth in its full lustre "the meekness of Jesus Christ." "When he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not;" "As a sheep before her shearers," etc. And wherein shall we find the source and explanation of this sublime patience?
1. He was bent on bearing, to the full and to the end, his Father's will.
2. He was determined to complete the work he had undertaken, and of that work those sufferings were a part. He was then "wounded for our trangressions," then he was "bruised for our iniquities," and by those "stripes were we healed."
1. Like our Divine Master, we ore called upon to endure. In doing those things we believe to be right of which others do not feel the obligation, also in abstaining from those things we feel to be wrong, which other people allow, we come into conflict, we excite displeasure, we incur odium, we suffer censure, opposition, ridicule; we "bear his reproach." Thorough loyalty to our Lord and to our own convictions means exposure to the assaults and indignities of the world.
2. We have the highest incentives to endure.
(1) As with our Master, it is the Father's will that we should suffer.
(2) As with Christ, it is an important part of the testimony we are to bear and the work we are to do in this world.
(3) Only thus can we completely follow our great Leader; he who does not go with Christ into the valley of humiliation does not follow him all the way he trod.
(4) So doing, we are building up a strong Christian character, and are thus preparing for fuller and higher service.
(5) Then are we especially, pleasing our Master, and "great is our reward in heaven" (Matthew 5:10-12). - C.