Matthew 20:22
But Jesus answered and said, You know not what you ask. Are you able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say to him, We are able.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(22) Ye know not what ye ask.—The words come to us as spoken in a tone of infinite tenderness and sadness. That nearness to Him in His glory could be obtained only by an equal nearness in suffering. Had they counted the cost of that nearness?

To drink of the cup that I shall drink of.—The words that follow, “to be baptised with the baptism that I am baptised with,” are not found in many of the best MSS., and have probably been added to bring St. Matthew’s narrative into harmony with St. Mark’s. For the sake of completeness, however, they will be examined here. And (1) we have the question, How did the two disciples understand our Lord’s words? We are familiar with their meaning. Was it equally clear to them? As far as the cup is concerned, there can be little doubt that any reader of the Old Testament would at once recognise it as the symbol of a good or evil fortune. There was the “cup running over” of Psalm 23:5, the “wine-cup of fury” of Jeremiah 25:15, the “cup of astonishment and desolation” of Ezekiel 23:33. The meaning of the “baptism” was, perhaps, less obvious (see Note on Matthew 20:29, on our Lord’s use of the symbolism), yet here also there were the overwhelming “proud waters” of Psalm 124:5, the “waves and billows” of Psalm 42:7. The very verb, “to baptize” (i.e., to plunge into the deep), was used by Josephus for the destruction of a city (Wars, iv. 3, § 3), by the LXX. for “terrifying” in Isaiah 21:4. Our Lord Himself had already used it in dim mysterious reference to His coming passion (Luke 12:50, where see Note). There was enough, then, to lead them to see in their Master’s words an intimation of some great suffering about to fall on Him, and this is, indeed, implied in the very form of their answer. “We are able,” they say, in the tone of those who have been challenged and accept the challenge. That their insight into the great mystery of the passion went but a little way as compared with their Master’s, lies, of course, in the very nature of the case. When the beloved disciple, in after years, taught by his own experience and by his brother’s death (Acts 12:2), thought over the words, “Let this cup pass from Me” (26:39), he must have seen somewhat more clearly into its depth of meaning.

20:20-28 The sons of Zebedee abused what Christ said to comfort the disciples. Some cannot have comforts but they turn them to a wrong purpose. Pride is a sin that most easily besets us; it is sinful ambition to outdo others in pomp and grandeur. To put down the vanity and ambition of their request, Christ leads them to the thoughts of their sufferings. It is a bitter cup that is to be drunk of; a cup of trembling, but not the cup of the wicked. It is but a cup, it is but a draught, bitter perhaps, but soon emptied; it is a cup in the hand of a Father, Joh 18:11. Baptism is an ordinance by which we are joined to the Lord in covenant and communion; and so is suffering for Christ, Eze 20:37; Isa 48:10. Baptism is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace; and so is suffering for Christ, for unto us it is given, Php 1:29. But they knew not what Christ's cup was, nor what his baptism. Those are commonly most confident, who are least acquainted with the cross. Nothing makes more mischief among brethren, than desire of greatness. And we never find Christ's disciples quarrelling, but something of this was at the bottom of it. That man who labours most diligently, and suffers most patiently, seeking to do good to his brethren, and to promote the salvation of souls, most resembles Christ, and will be most honoured by him to all eternity. Our Lord speaks of his death in the terms applied to the sacrifices of old. It is a sacrifice for the sins of men, and is that true and substantial sacrifice, which those of the law faintly and imperfectly represented. It was a ransom for many, enough for all, working upon many; and, if for many, then the poor trembling soul may say, Why not for me?Ye know not what ye ask - You do not know the nature of your request, nor what would be involved in it.

You suppose that it would be attended only with honor and happiness if the request was granted, whereas it would require much suffering and trial.

Are ye able to drink of the cup ... - To drink of a cup, in the Scriptures, often signifies to be afflicted, or to be punished, Matthew 26:39; Isaiah 51:17, Isaiah 51:22; Psalm 73:10; Psalm 75:8; Jeremiah 25:15; Revelation 16:9. The figure is taken from a feast, where the master of a feast extends a cup to those present. Thus God is represented as extending to his Son a cup filled with a bitter mixture - one causing deep sufferings, John 18:11. This was the cup to which he referred.

The baptism that I am baptized with - This is evidently a phrase denoting the same thing. Are ye able to suffer with me - to endure the trials and pains which shall come upon you and me in endeavoring to build up my kingdom? Are you able to bear it when sorrows shall cover you like water, and you shall be sunk beneath calamities as floods, in the work of religion? Afflictions are often expressed by being sunk in the floods and plunged in deep waters, Psalm 69:2; Isaiah 43:2; Psalm 124:4-5; Lamentations 3:54.

Mt 20:17-28. Third Explicit Announcement of His Approaching Sufferings, Death, and Resurrection—The Ambitious Request of James and John, and the Reply. ( = Mr 10:32-45; Lu 18:31-34).

For the exposition, see on [1331]Mr 10:32-45.

Mark hath the same, Mark 10:38,39. Our Saviour gently reproves them for their unadvised petition, and again minds them, that he was first to suffer, and then to enter into his glory, and that by much tribulation they also must enter into the kingdom of God; which was a thing fitter for their present thoughts, than sitting at his right hand and left hand, for we must suffer with him, if we will be glorified together, Romans 8:17. How ready are we to ask we know not what!

Are ye able to drink of the cup, & c.: the sense is, Are you able to suffer what I am to suffer? Hereby our Saviour intimates that those who are the freest and greatest sufferers for Christ shall have the greatest rewards from him. Christ here expresses his sufferings under the notion of drinking of a cup, and being baptized with a baptism. A cup is an ordinary metaphor in holy writ, by which a man’s portion in this life is expressed, whether it be a portion of good things or evil, Psalm 11:6 Isaiah 51:17 Jeremiah 25:15 Lamentations 4:21 Matthew 26:39,42Jo 18:11. Drinking of a cup is usually put for suffering, Jeremiah 49:12 Ezekiel 23:32 Obadiah 1:16. The metaphor being, as some think, taken from a custom in some nations, to put malefactors to death by giving them a cup of poison to drink; or, as others think, from the lewd custom, at competitions to force men to drink off their cups. To be

baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with hath the same import: see Luke 12:50. Afflictions are ordinarily compared in Scripture to waters: to be baptized, is to be dipped in water; metaphorically, to be plunged in afflictions. I am, saith Christ, to be baptized with blood, overwhelmed with sufferings and afflictions; are you able to be so?

They say unto him, We are able. This was as rashly spoken as the other. How little do we know our own strength! When Christ was apprehended, they all forsook him and fled, Matthew 26:56. But Jesus answered, and said,.... To her two sons,

ye know not what ye ask. They were ignorant of the nature of Christ's kingdom, which is spiritual, and not of this world: or they would never have asked such a question, or sued for that which will never be enjoyed by any and supposing that Christ's kingdom had been such as they imagined, yet in asking for honours and riches, they might not know what they asked for; they might promise themselves much pleasure and happiness in the enjoyment of them, and yet, if indulged with them, might be disappointed, and find unexpected troubles and uneasiness. It would have been much more proper and seasonable, on hearing of Christ's being mocked, scourged, spit upon, and crucified, if they had put such a question to themselves, Christ here directs to,

are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with? meaning his reproaches, sorrows, sufferings, and death; which because of the disagreeableness of them, he compares to a bitter cup of vengeance, wrath, fury, and indignation; and because they were appointed to him, and allotted for him, they were his portion, therefore he expresses them by a "cup"; and because they were so many and great, of such an overwhelming nature, that he seemed to be plunged into them, and covered with them, therefore he likens them to a "baptism" and which the ordinance of water baptism, performed by immersion, is a lively representation of. Now Christ suggests to these disciples, that instead of indulging their ambitious desires of worldly grandeur, that they would do well to consider what a bitter cup he had to drink of, and what a sea of sorrows and sufferings he was about to be plunged into, and drenched in; and whether they could think of enduring anything of the like kind, for his sake, which was most likely to be in a short time, what they would be called unto, and not to honours, ease, and pleasure; and what they must be sure, more or less, to undergo, before they entered the everlasting kingdom of glory:

they say unto him, we are able; not considering the nature of these sufferings, and their own weakness; but partly through ignorance of themselves, and a vain confidence which possessed them; and chiefly through a vehement desire of the places in his kingdom, they asked for, and which they thought drinking his cup, and being baptized with his baptism, were the condition, and the means of enjoying; and so rashly affirm their ability, and which includes their willingness to comply herewith.

But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to {d} drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the {e} baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.

(d) Taking the cup is figurative speech for that which is contained in the cup. And again, the Hebrews understand by the word cup, sometimes the manner of punishment which is rendered to sin, as Ps 11:6, or the joy that is given to the faithful, as Ps 23:5, and sometimes a lot or condition, as Ps 16:5.

(e) This is in reference to afflictions, as David commonly uses.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 20:22. Οὐκ οἴδατε, κ.τ.λ.] You do not understand what is involved in your request; you do not seem to be aware that the highest stages of συμβασιλεύειν (2 Timothy 2:12; 1 Corinthians 4:8) in my kingdom cannot be reached without previously sharing in such sufferings as I have to endure. Jesus addresses the two disciples themselves.

δύνασθε] said with reference to moral ability.

τὸ ποτήριον] פּוֹם, figurative description of his fate generally, and of his sufferings in particular. See the exposition of Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 49:12; Martyr. Polyc. 14.Matthew 20:22. Jesus meets this bold petition as He met the scribe’s offer of discipleship (Matthew 8:19), aiming at disenchantment by pointing out what it involved: throne and suffering going together.—τὸ ποτήριον, the cup, emblem of both good and evil fortune in Hebrew speech (Psalm 11:6; Psalm 23:5); here of suffering.—δυνάμεθα, we are able; the prompt, decided answer of the two brothers to whom Jesus had addressed His question. Had they then laid to heart what Jesus had said shortly before concerning His passion, and subsequent resurrection, and made up their minds to share His sufferings that they might so gain a high place in the kingdom? Had they already caught the martyr spirit? It is possible. But it is also possible that they spoke without thinking, like Peter on the hill.22. Ye know not] Observe, Jesus addresses the sons, not the mother.

what ye ask] There is some force in the middle voice of the original, “ask for yourselves,” or “cause to be asked.”

the cup that I shall drink of] “The destiny in store for me.” Cp. among other passages, Isaiah 51:17, “Thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out,” and Psalm 75:8; the idea of vengeance, of God’s wrath against sin, is paramount in the prophets. When the disciples afterwards recalled the image it would signify to them the mediation of Christ, who by His passion and death drank for man the cup of God’s wrath. Maldonatus suggests the thought of “the poison cup,” the cup of death. For the image, cp. “quot bella exhausta canebat.” Verg. Aen. iv. 14.

and to be baptized, &c.] These words are omitted in the most ancient MSS. They are probably an insertion from St Mark. The crucifixion was the baptism through which Jesus passed to the new life after the Resurrection. Our Christian baptism is a crucifixion by which the old man dies that the new man may live. See Romans 6:6; Galatians 5:24; Colossians 3:3; Colossians 3:5; Colossians 3:10.Matthew 20:22. Εἶπεν, said) gravely, and with pity.—οὐκ οἴδατε, ye do not know) Ye do not know what My glory is, what it is to sit on My right hand and on My left, to whom it is given, and what is required beforehand.—τί αἰτεῖσθε, what ye ask) sc. what it is that ye ask.[890]—ΔΎΝΑΣΘΕ; can ye?) He replies to the sons, instead of the mother, Are you equal to this?—τὸ ποτήριον, the cup) In St Mark He speaks also of “the baptism;” see the Gnomon on Mark 10:38-39. Some copies of Matthew have the clause concerning baptism, others are without it.[891]—ὁ ἐγὼ, which I) Jesus already as it were then dwelt on His passion, and draws His discourse from it; and the speech of those two, whom He thus directs to follow Him, was, as it were, outstripping not only their ten fellow-disciples, but also the Lord Himself.[892]—δυνάμεθα, we are able) They did not even know sufficiently what they were answering; the Lord, however, bears with them, and accepts their confession;[893] cf. ch. Matthew 24:39; Matthew 24:37.

[890] One ought to know this, who wishes to ask.—V. g.

[891] In his Apparatus Criticus, Bengel says on this passage—

[892] What Beng. seems to mean is, The request of the two sons of Zebedee, as it were, went before even Himself, not to say the ten disciples, in proceeding to the Kingdom at once, whereas He was dwelling on the intermediate Passion: He therefore urges them to follow after Him, not to take the lead of Him, and to bear the Cross of His followers before receiving the Crown.—ED.

[893] Intending subsequently to perfect in them those things, which at that time were above their own comprehension.—V. g.

22 ) Comp. Aug. 1, 2; Colb. 5 et Colb. n. 4112; Cypr. Laud. 2, 4; M. 1, 2; Wo. 1, 2, et e Classe ii. undecim alii, pluresve, Pers. Rus. Syr. καὶ Er. et al. E. Marco. ¶ ἢ τὸ usq. βαπτισθῆναι) edd. MSS. Arab. Hebr. Pers. Bus. Syr. Chrys., Opus imperf. Basilius Sel. Theophyl. (\) Origenes, Epiphanius, Æth. Copt. Lat. et inde Cant. Colbert. n. 2467, Steph. η. Sax. Ambr. Hilar. Hieron., Tr. de Bapt. inter opera Cypriani.—(I. B.)

Rec. Text with C adds after πίνειν, (καὶ) τὸ βαπτισμα ὁ ἐγὼ βαπτίζομαι βαπτισθῆναι. But BDLZbc Vulg. Memph. Theb. Orig. 3,717c, 719b (ascribing the words to Mark), Hil. 709, omit the words.—ED.

However the margin of Ed. 2 reckons that clause concerning the baptism among the readings better established in the following verse than in this verse.—E. B.

Rec. Text adds in Matthew 20:23, with C, καὶ τὸ βάπτισμα ὁ ἐγὼ βαπτίζομαι βαπτισθησεσθε. But BDLZabc, and the others quoted in note, Matthew 20:22, reject the words.—ED.Verse 22. - Ye know not what ye ask. Jesus addresses, not the mother, but the two brothers who had prompted and virtually made the request. They indeed merited a rebuke for their preposterous demand; but the Saviour deals mildly with them. They had spoken ignorantly, perhaps fancying that some favour might be shown to them on the ground of their relationship to the Virgin Mary, or because of their nearness to Jesus, and certainly not in the least realizing the nature of the kingdom, the qualifications of its inheritors, or the difficulties that have to be surmounted by those who would win eminent positions therein. Things that we deem most desirable would often be the very worst for our spiritual progress; and in praying for really good things, we are apt to forget to count the cost we must pay for their attainment. Jesus sets before the ambitious brethren the obstacles that would meet them. Are ye able to drink of the cup? Joy and sorrow, blessing and affliction, in Holy Scripture are often denoted under the metaphor of a cup (comp. Psalm 11:6; Psalm 23:5; Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 25:15). Here the cup signifies the internal, mental, and spiritual sufferings which Christ endured (Matthew 26:39, 42). That I shall drink of; ο{ ἐγὼ μέλλω πίνειν: which I am about to drink; or am purposing to drink. Christ expresses his voluntary intention of suffering bitterly, and asks if they are prepared to do the same. To he baptized, etc. The baptism is significant of the external pains and persecutions, in the sea of which he was to be sunk (comp. Psalm 69:2, 15). The cup and the baptism adumbrate the two sacraments by which we are made one with Christ. Many of the best manuscripts, the Vulgate and other versions, omit this last clause, and the corresponding one in the following verse; and many modern editors, with the Revised Version, expunge it also. It is supposed to have been introduced from the parallel passage in St. Mark. There it is undoubtedly genuine; so we have good warrant to believe that our Lord spoke the words, whether St. Matthew really reported them or not. We are able. They came forward now and answered in simplicity, not understanding that to which they pledged themselves. They loved their Master, they knew that trials awaited him, and they were willing to share his lot. Ere long they were put to the proof, and in the end came out victorious.
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