Matthew 26:20
Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.
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(20) He sat down with the twelve.—Reserving special Notes for the Gospels which contain the narratives, we may call to mind here the words of strong emotion with which the feast was opened (Luke 22:15), the dispute among the disciples, probably connected with the places which they were to occupy at the table (Luke 22:24), and our Lord’s practical reproof of that dispute in washing His disciples’ feet (John 13:1-11). Picturing the scene to ourselves, we may think of our Lord as reclining—not sitting—in the centre of the middle table, St. John next to Him, and leaning on His bosom (John 13:23), St. Peter probably on the other side, and the others sitting in an order corresponding, more or less closely, with the three-fold division of the Twelve into groups of four. Upon the washing of the feet followed the teaching of John 13:12-20, and then came the “blessing” or “thanksgiving” which opened the meal. This went on in silence, while the countenance of the Master betrayed the deep emotion which troubled His spirit (John 13:21), and then the silence was broken by the awful words which are recorded in the next verse.

Matthew 26:20-25. And when the even was come — At the proper hour; he sat down with the twelve — To taste first, according to the custom of those days, the unleavened bread and the bitter herbs, before the lamb was served up. After which they proceeded as is related in the note on Matthew 26:2. And as they did eat he said — One of you shall betray me — He had before told them, namely, Matthew 17:22, that the Son of man should be betrayed; he now comes to acquaint them, that one of them would be the traitor, and to point out the guilty person. And they were exceeding sorrowful — They were sorrowful that he should be betrayed by any one, but more so that one of themselves should be the instrument of so horrible a crime: and began every one to say, Lord, is it I, that am this guilty creature? They do not appear to have asked this question because they mistrusted themselves, not knowing to how great a wickedness their hearts might lead them; but because each of them wanted to be freed from the suspicion of such an iniquity. He answered, He that dippeth, &c. — “Grotius and others think this implies that Judas had placed himself so near his Master as to eat out of the same dish with him. But their way of lying on couches at meat must have made it inconvenient for two or more persons to eat in that manner. It is more probable that the disciples, being in the deepest distress, had left off eating, only Judas, to conceal his guilt, continued the meal, and was dipping his meat in a kind of a sauce named haroseth, (which they used on these occasions,) when Jesus happened to be putting his into it; which sauce, according to custom, was served up in a separate dish.” — Macknight. The Son of man goeth through sufferings to glory, as it is written of him — In the Scriptures; and determined in the divine counsels. See note on Acts 2:23. Yet this was no excuse for him that betrayed him: but wo to that man, &c. — In pronouncing this wo upon the man by whom he should be betrayed, our Lord manifestly shows that the foreknowledge and prediction that he should suffer, and that by the treachery of Judas, laid no antecedent necessity upon Judas of doing this action, for if it had, it not only would have lessened the wo due to him, but would have taken away all his guilt. For no guilt can attach to any action which a man is laid under an absolute necessity of doing, and which to him is unavoidable. All that the prediction of Judas’s treachery implies is, that God with certainty foreknew how his will, left entirely to its own freedom, would determine on this occasion: and, it must be observed, it would have determined in the same way, if such determination had neither been foreknown nor foretold. See note on 1 Peter 1:2. It had been good for that man if he had not been born — May not the same be said of every man that finally perishes? But who can reconcile this, if it were true of Judas alone, with the doctrine of universal salvation? For, if the torments of hell were not eternal, but, after suffering in them, though it might be millions of millions of years, guilty sinners should be rescued from them and brought to the enjoyment of heavenly blessedness, it still would be good for them that they had been born, inasmuch as they would still have a never-ending state of felicity before them. Then Judas, who betrayed him — Who had in fact already betrayed him, Matthew 26:15, and was now waiting for an opportunity to deliver him privately into the hands of the chief priests, answered, Master — Gr. Rabbi, or teacher, Is it I? — The other disciples, in asking the same question, said each of them, κυριε, Lord, is it I? a title implying greater reverence than Judas was disposed to show his Master. As Judas was conscious of what he had already done, and was resolved still further to do, in betraying and delivering up his Divine Master, and could not but know that his whole conduct, and the very secrets of his heart, lay open to his inspection, he manifests by this question unparalleled impudence, as well as excessive hardness of heart. One would almost suppose, that he intended to insult Christ’s prescience as well as long-suffering. He, Jesus, said unto him, Thou hast said — That is, It is as thou hast said: thou art the guilty person. Before this, when Christ discovered that he should be betrayed, he only told it in John’s ear, that Judas would be the traitor: and John told it to Peter, (see John 13:23-26;) but the rest knew nothing of it. Now Jesus plainly points him out before them all; which, impudent as he was, evidently confounded and struck him speechless. But whether he immediately left the company, as some infer from John 13:30; or whether that passage refers to what happened at a former supper, as others think, is a question which it is not easy to decide. One thing seems clear: if he withdrew at this time, he must have soon returned, as it appears, from Luke 22:21, that he was present when the Lord’s supper was instituted.26:17-25 Observe, the place for their eating the passover was pointed out by Christ to the disciples. He knows those hidden ones who favour his cause, and will graciously visit all who are willing to receive him. The disciples did as Jesus had appointed. Those who would have Christ's presence in the gospel passover, must do what he says. It well becomes the disciples of Christ always to be jealous over themselves, especially in trying times. We know not how strongly we may be tempted, nor how far God may leave us to ourselves, therefore we have reason not to be high-minded, but to fear. Heart-searching examination and fervent prayer are especially proper before the Lord's supper, that, as Christ our Passover is now sacrificed for us, we may keep this feast, renewing our repentance, our faith in his blood, and surrendering ourselves to his service.When the even was come - The lamb was killed "between the evenings," Exodus 12:6 (Hebrew) - that is between three o'clock, p. m., and nine in the evening. The Jews reckoned two evenings - one from three o'clock p. m. to sunset, the other from sunset to the close of the first watch in the night, or nine o'clock p. m. The paschal supper was commonly eaten after the setting of the sun, and often in the night, Exodus 12:8.

He sat down - At first the supper was eaten standing, with their loins girded and their staff in their hand, denoting the haste with which they were about to flee from Egypt. Afterward, however, they introduced the practice, it seems, of partaking of this as they did of their ordinary meals. The original word is, "he reclined" - that is, he placed himself on the couch in a reclining posture, in the usual manner in which they partook of their meals. See the notes at Matthew 23:6. While reclining there at the supper, the disciples had a dispute which should be the greatest. See the notes at Luke 22:24-30. At this time, also, before the institution of the Lord's supper, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, to teach them humility. See the notes at John 13:1-20.

Mt 26:17-30. Preparation for and Last Celebration of the Passover Announcement of the Traitor, and Institution of the Supper. ( = Mr 14:12-26; Lu 22:7-23; Joh 13:1-3, 10, 11, 18-30).

For the exposition, see on [1362]Lu 22:7-23.

See Poole on "Matthew 26:25". Now when the even was come,.... The second evening, when the sun was set, and it was dark, and properly night; for

"on the evenings of the passovers near the Minchah, a man might not eat , "until it was dark" (p).''

This was according to the rule, Exodus 12:8,

he sat down with the twelve, his twelve disciples; so the Vulgate Latin, and all the Oriental versions, and Munster's Hebrew Gospel; and which also adds, "at table"; even all the twelve apostles, who were properly his family, and a sufficient number for a passover lamb (q): for

"they do not kill the passover for a single man, according to the words of R. Judah, though R. Jose permits it: yea, though the society consists of an hundred, if they cannot eat the quantity of an olive, they do not kill for them: nor do they make a society of women, servants, and little ones?''

Judas was now returned again, and took his place among the disciples, as if he was as innocent, and as friendly, as any of them: this he might choose to do, partly to avoid all suspicion of his designs; and partly that he might get intelligence where Christ would go after supper, that he might have the opportunity he was waiting for, to betray him into the hands of his enemies. "He sat, or lay down with them", as the word signifies; for the posture of the Jews, at the passover table especially, was not properly sitting, but reclining, or lying along on coaches, not on their backs, nor on their right side, but on their left; See Gill on John 13:23. The first passover was eaten by them standing, with their loins girt, their shoes on, and staves in their hands, because they were just ready to depart out of Egypt: but in after passovers these circumstances were omitted; and particularly sitting, or lying along, was reckoned so necessary to be observed, that it is said (r), that

"the poorest man in Israel might not eat, , "until he lies along", or leans;''

that is, as some of their commentators (s) note, either upon the couch, or on the table, after the manner of free men, and in remembrance of their liberty: and another of them (t) says,

"we are bound to eat, "lying along", as kings and great men eat, because it is a token of liberty.''

Hence they elsewhere say (u),

"it is the way of servants to eat standing; but here (in the passover) to eat, "sitting", or "lying along", because they (the Israelites) went out of bondage to liberty. Says R. Simon, in the name of R. Joshua ben Levi, that which a man is obliged to in the passover, though it be but the quantity of an olive, he must eat it, "lying along".''

The account Maimonides gives of this usage, is in these words (w):

"even the poorest man in Israel may not eat until he "lies along": a woman need not lie; but if she is a woman of worth and note, she ought to lie: a son by a father, and a servant before his master ought to lie: "but a disciple before his master does not lie, except his master gives him leave" (as Christ did his); and lying on the right hand is not lying; and so he that lies upon his neck, or upon his face, this is not lying; and when ought they to lie? at the time of eating, the quantity of an olive, of unleavened bread, and at drinking of the four cups; but at the rest of eating and drinking, if he lies, lo! it is praiseworthy: but if not, there is no necessity.''

This custom was so constantly and uniformly observed at the passover, that it is taken particular notice of in the declaration, or showing forth of the passover by the master of the family, when he says (x), "how different is this night from all other nights", &c. and among the many things he mentions, this is one;


Now when the even was come, he {h} sat down with the twelve.

(h) Because the Law appointed them to be wearing footwear, and to have their staffs in their hands, as though they were is haste, therefore it is to be gathered that they did not sit down when they ate the Passover, but stood, for normally when they went to eat they took off their shoes: therefore he speaks here in this place, not of the Passover, but of the supper which was celebrated after the Passover was solemnly done.

Matthew 26:20. Ἀνέκειτο] for the enactment (Exodus 12:11) requiring the Passover lamb to be eaten standing, staff in hand, and in travelling attire, had been subsequently superseded by the necessity of reclining. See Hieros Pesachim f. 37. 2 : “Mos servorum est, ut edant stantes, at nunc comedant recumbentes, ut dignoscatur, exisse eos e servitute in libertatem.” See Usteri, Comment. Joh. ev. genuin. esse. 1823, p. 26 ff.

It was considered desirable that no Passover party should ever consist of fewer than ten guests (Joseph. Bell. vi. 9. 3), for the lamb had to be entirely consumed (Exodus 12:4; Exodus 12:43 ff.)Matthew 26:20-25. The presence of a traitor announced (Mark 14:18-21, Luke 22:21-23).20. he sat down with the twelve] Rather, reclined with. This posture had not only become customary at ordinary meals, but was especially enjoined in the passover ritual. The Paschal ceremonial, so far as it bears on the Gospel narrative, may be described as follows:

(a) The meal began with a cup of red wine mixed with water: this is the first cup mentioned, Luke 22:17. After this the guests washed their hands. Here probably must be placed the washing of the disciples’ feet, John 13.

(b) The bitter herbs, symbolic of the bitter bondage in Egypt, were then brought in together with unleavened cakes, and a sauce called charoseth, made of fruits and vinegar, into which the unleavened bread and bitter herbs were dipped. This explains “He it is, to whom I shall give a sop,” John 13:26.

(c) The second cup was then mixed and blessed like the first. The father then explained the meaning of the rite (Exodus 13:8). This was the haggadah or “shewing forth,” a term transferred by St Paul to the Christian meaning of the rite (1 Corinthians 11:26). The first part of the “hallel” (Psalms 113, 114) was then chanted by the company.

(d) After this the paschal lamb was placed before the guests. This is called in a special sense “the supper.” But at the Last Supper there was no paschal lamb. There was no need now of the typical lamb without blemish, for the antitype was there. Christ Himself was our Passover “sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). He was there being slain for us—His body was being given, His blood being shed. At this point, when according to the ordinary ritual the company partook of the paschal lamb, Jesus “took bread and blessed it, and gave it to his disciples” (Matthew 26:26).

(e) The third cup, or “cup of blessing,” so called because a special blessing was pronounced upon it, followed: “after supper he took the cup” (Luke). “He took the cup when he had supped” (Paul). This is the “cup” named in Matthew 26:27.

(f) After a fourth cup the company chanted (see Matthew 26:30) the second part of the “hallel” (Psalms 115-118). (Lightfoot Hor. Hebr. Dr Ginsburg in Kitto’s Encycl., Dr Edersheim Temple Services.)

20–30. The Last Supper

Mark 14:17-26; Luke 22:14-38, where the dispute as to who should be the greatest is recorded, and the warning to Peter related as happening before Jesus departed for the Mount of Olives. St John omits the institution of the Eucharist, but relates the washing of the disciples’ feet by our Lord, and has preserved the discourses of Jesus, chs. 13–17 end. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; where the institution of the Eucharist is narrated nearly in St Luke’s words.Verses 20-25. - The last Supper. Jesus announces his betrayer. (Mark 14:17-21 Luke 22:14, 21-23; John 13:21-30.) Verse 20. - When the even was come; i.e. according to Jewish reckoning, the beginning of the 14th of Nisan; with us, the Thursday evening - the eve of Good Friday. He sat down; he was reclining at table. Originally, the Passover was ordered to be eaten standing, in reference to the circumstances of its first institution (Exodus 12:11); but after the settlement in Canaan the posture had been changed to that of reclining in token of rest alter a weary pilgrimage. The rule that obtained concerning the number in one company of partakers of the Paschal feast was that it never should be less than ten, nor more than the lamb would suffice to feed, though a morsel of the flesh was considered to satisfy all requirements. He sat down (ἀνέκειτο)

But this rendering misses the force of the imperfect tense, which denotes something in progress. The Evangelist says he was sitting or reclining, introducing us to something which has been going on for some time.

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