The narrative of the death and sufferings of Christ is more particularly and fully recorded by all the four evangelists than any part of his history; for what should be determine, and desire to know, but Christ, and him crucified? And this chapter begins that memorable narrative. The year of the redeemed was now come, the seventy weeks determined were now accomplished, when transgression must be finished, reconciliation made, and an everlasting righteousness brought in, by the cutting off of Messiah the Prince, Dan. 9:24, Dan. 9:26 . That awful scene is here introduced, to be read with reverence and holy fear. In this chapter, we have, I. The preliminaries, or prefaces, to Christs sufferings. 1. The previous notice given by him to his disciples (v. 1, v. 2). The rulers conspiracy against him (v. 3-5). The anointing of his head at a supper in Bethany (v. 6-13). Judass bargain with the priests to betray him (v. 14-16). Christ eating the passover with his disciples (v. 17-25). His instituting the Lords supper, and his discourse with his disciples after it (v. 26-35). II. His entrance upon them, and some of the particulars of them. 1. His agony in the garden (v. 36-46). The seizing of him by the officers, with Judass help (v. 47-56). His arraignment before the chief priest, and his condemnation in his court (v. 57-68). Peters denying him (v. 69-75).
Verses 1-5 Here is, 1. The notice Christ gave his disciples of the near approach of his sufferings, v. 1, v. 2. While his enemies were preparing trouble for him, he was preparing himself and his followers for it. He had often told them of his sufferings at a distance, now he speaks of them as at the door; after two days, Note, After many former notices of trouble we still have need of fresh ones. Observe,(1.) The time when he gave this alarm; when he had finished all these sayings. [1.] Not till he had finished all he had to say. Note, Christs witnesses die not till they have finished their testimony. When Christ had gone through his undertaking as a prophet, he entered upon the execution of his office as a priest. [2.] After he had finished these sayings, which go immediately before; he had bid his disciples to expect sad times, bonds and afflictions, and then tells them, The Son of man is betrayed; to intimate that they should fare no worse than he should, and that his sufferings should take the sting out of theirs. Note, Thoughts of a suffering Christ are great supports to a suffering Christian, suffering with him and for him.(2.) The thing itself he gave them notice of; The Son of man is betrayed. The thing was not only so sure, but so near, that it was as good as done. Note, It is good to make sufferings that are yet to come, as present to us. He is betrayed, for Judas was then contriving and designing to betray him.2. The plot of the chief priests, and scribes, and elders of the people, against the life of our Lord Jesus, 5:3-5. Many consultations had been held against the life of Christ but this plot was laid deeper than any yet, for the grandees were all engaged in it. The chief priests, who presided in ecclesiastical affairs; the elders, who were judges in civil matters, and the scribes, who, as doctors of the law, were directors to boththese composed the sanhedrim, or great council that governed the nation, and these were confederate against Christ. Observe (1.) The place where they met; in the palace of the high priest, who was the centre of their unity in this wicked project. (2.) The plot itself; to take Jesus by subtlety, and kill him; nothing less than his blood, his life-blood, would serve their turn. So cruel and bloody have been the designs of Christs and his churchs enemies. (3.) The policy of the plotters; Not on the feast-day. Why not? Was it in regard to the holiness of the time, or because they would not be disturbed in the religious services of the day? No, but lest there should be an uproar among the people. They knew Christ had a great interest in the common people, of whom there was a great concourse on the feast-day, and they would be in danger of taking up arms against their rulers, if they should offer to lay violent hands on Christ, whom all held for a prophet. They were awed, not by the fear of God, but by the fear of the people; all their concern was for their own safety, not Gods honour. They would have it done at the feast; for it was a tradition of the Jews, that malefactors should be put to death at one of the three feasts, especially rebels and impostors, that all Israel might see and fear; but not on the feast-day.
Verses 6-13 In this passage of story, we have,I. The singular kindness of a good woman to our Lord Jesus in anointing his head, v. 6, v. 7. It was in Bethany, a village hard by Jerusalem, and in the house of Simon the leper. Probably, he was one who had been miraculously cleansed from his leprosy by our Lord Jesus, and he would express his gratitude to Christ by entertaining him; nor did Christ disdain to converse with him, to come in to him, and sup with him. Though he was cleansed, yet he was called Simon the leper. Those who are guilty of scandalous sins, will find that, though the sin be pardoned, the reproach will cleave to them, and will hardly be wiped away. The woman that did this, is supposed to have been Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. And Dr. Lightfoot thinks it was the same that was called Mary Magdalene. She had a box of ointment very precious, which she poured upon the head of Christ as he sat at meat. This, among us, would be a strange sort of compliment. But it was then accounted the highest piece of respect; for the smell was very grateful, and the ointment itself refreshing to the head. David had his head anointed, Ps. 23:5 ; Lu. 7:46 . Now this may be looked upon,1. As an act of faith in our Lord Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed. To signify that she believed in him as Gods anointed, whom he had set king, she anointed him, and made him her king. They shall appoint themselves one head, Hos. 1:11 . This is kissing the Son. 2. As an act of love and respect to him. Some think that this was he who loved much at first, and washed Christs feet with her tears (Lu. 7:38, Lu. 7:47 ); and that she had not left her first love, but was now as affectionate in the devotions of a grown Christian as she was in those of a young beginner. Note, Where there is true love in the heart to Jesus Christ, nothing will be thought too good, no, nor good enough, to bestow upon him.II. The offence which the disciples took at this. They had indignation (v. 8, v. 9), were vexed to see this ointment thus spent, which they thought might have been better bestowed.1. See how they expressed their offence at it. They said, To what purpose is this waste? Now this bespeaks,(1.) Want of tenderness toward this good woman, in interpreting her over-kindness (suppose it was so) to be wastefulness. Charity teaches us to put the best construction upon every thing that it will bear, especially upon the words and actions of those that are zealously affected in doing a good thing, though we may think them not altogether so discreet in it as they might be. It is true, there may be over-doing in well-doing; but thence we must learn to be cautious ourselves, lest we run into extremes, but not to be censorious of others; because that which we may impute to the want of prudence, God may accept as an instance of abundant love. We must not say, Those do too much in religion, that do more than we do, but rather aim to do as much as they.(2.) Want of respect to their Master. The best we can make of it, is, that they knew their Master was perfectly dead to all the delights of sense; he that was so much grieved for the affliction of Joseph, cared not for being anointed with the chief ointments, Amos. 6:6 . And therefore they thought such pleasures ill bestowed upon one who took so little pleasure in them. But supposing that, it did not become them to call it waste, when they perceived that he admitted and accepted it as a token of his friends love. Note, We must take heed of thinking any thing waste, which is bestowed upon the Lord Jesus, either by others or by ourselves. We must not think that time waste, that is spent in the service of Christ, or that money waste, which is laid out in any work of piety; for, though it seem to be cast upon the waters, to be thrown down the river, we shall find it again, to advantage, after many days, Eccl. 11:1 .2. See how they excused their offence at it, and what pretence they made for it; This ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. Note, It is no new thing for bad affections to shelter themselves under specious covers; for people to shift off works of piety under colour of works of charity.III. The reproof Christ gave to his disciples for the offence at this good woman (v. 10, v. 11); Why trouble ye the woman? Note, It is a great trouble to good people to have their good works censured and misconstrued; and it is a thing that Jesus Christ takes very ill. He here took part with a good, honest, zealous, well-meaning woman, against all his disciples, though they seemed to have so much reason on their side; so heartily does he espouse the cause of the offended little ones, ch. 18:10 .Observe his reason; You have the poor always with you. Note,1. There are some opportunities of doing and getting good which are constant, and which we must give constant attendance to the improvement of. Bibles we have always with us, sabbaths always with us, and so the poor, we have always with us. Note, Those who have a heart to do good, never need complain for want of opportunity. The poor never ceased even out of the land of Israel, Deu. 15:11 . We cannot but see some in this world, who call for our charitable assistance, who are as Gods receivers, some poor members of Christ, to whom he will have kindness shown as to himself.2. There are other opportunities of doing and getting good, which come but seldom, which are short and uncertain, and require more peculiar diligence in the improvement of them, and which ought to be preferred before the other; "Me ye have not always, therefore use me while ye have me. Note, (1.) Christs constant bodily presence was not to be expected here in this world; it was expedient that he should go away; his real presence in the eucharist is a fond and groundless conceit, and contradicts what he here said, Me ye have not always. (2.) Sometimes special works of piety and devotion should take place of common works of charity. The poor must not rob Christ; we must do good to all, but especially to the household of faith. IV. Christs approbation and commendation of the kindness of this good woman. The more his servants and their services are cavilled at by men, the more he manifests his acceptance of them. He calls it a good work (v. 10), and says more in praise of it than could have been imagined; particularly,1. That the meaning of it was mystical (v. 12); She did it for my burial. (1.) Some think that she intended it so, and that the woman better understood Christs frequent predictions of his death and sufferings than the apostles did; for which they were recompensed with the honour of being the first witnesses of his resurrection. (2.) However, Christ interpreted it so; and he is always willing to make the best, to make the most of his peoples well-meant words and actions. This was as it were the embalming of his body; because the doing of that after his death would be prevented by his resurrection, it was therefore done before; for it was fit that it should be done some time, to show that he was still the Messiah, even when he seemed to be triumphed over by death. The disciples thought the ointment wasted, which was poured upon his head. "But, saith he, "If so much ointment were poured upon a dead body, according to the custom of your country, you would not grudge it, or think it waste. Now this is, in effect, so; the body she anoints is as good as dead, and her kindness is very seasonable for that purpose; therefore rather than call it waste, put it upon that score.2. That the memorial of it should be honourable (v. 13); This shall be told for a memorial. This act of faith and love was so remarkable, that the preachers of Christ crucified, and the inspired writers of the history of his passion, could not choose but take notice of this passage, proclaim the notice of it, and perpetuate the memorial of it. And being once enrolled in these records, it was graven as with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever, and could not possibly be forgotten. None of all the trumpets of fame sound so loud and so long as the everlasting gospel. Note, (1.) The story of the death of Christ, though a tragical one, is gospel, glad-tidings, because he died for us. (2.) The gospel was to be preached in the whole world; not in Judea only, but in every nation, to every creature. Let the disciples take notice of this, for their encouragement, that their sound should go to the ends of the earth. (3.) Though the honour of Christ is principally designed in the gospel, yet the honour of his saints and servants is not altogether overlooked. The memorial of this woman was to be preserved, not by dedicating a church to her, or keeping an annual feast in honour of her, or preserving a piece of her broken box for a sacred relic; but by mentioning her faith and piety in the preaching of the gospel, for example to others, Heb. 6:12 . Hereby honour redounds to Christ himself, who in this world, as well as in that to come, will be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe.
Verses 14-16 Immediately after an instance of the greatness kindness done to Christ, follows an instance of the greatest unkindness; such mixture is there of good and bad among the followers of Christ; he hath some faithful friends, and some false and feigned ones. What could be more base than this agreement which Judas here made with the chief priests, to betray Christ to them?I. The traitor was Judas Iscariot; he is said to be one of the twelve, as an aggravation of his villany. When the number of the disciples was multiplied (Acts. 6:1 ), no marvel if there were some among them that were a shame and trouble to them; but when there were but twelve, and one of them was a devil, surely we must never expect any society perfectly pure on this side heaven. The twelve were Christs chosen friends, that had the privilege of his special favour; they were his constant followers, that had the benefit of his most intimate converse, that upon all accounts had reason to love him and be true to him; and yet one of them betrayed him. Note, No bonds of duty or gratitude will hold those that have a devil, Mk. 5:3, Mk. 5:4 .II. Here is the proffer which he made to the chief priests; he went to them, and said, What will ye give me? v. 15. They did not send for him, nor make the proposal to him; they could not have thought that one of Christs own disciples should be false to him. Note, There are those, even among Christs followers, that are worse than any one can imagine them to be, and want nothing but opportunity to show it.Observe, 1. What Judas promised; "I will deliver him unto you; I will let you know where he is, and undertake to bring you to him, at such a convenient time and place that you may seize him without noise, or danger of an uproar. In their conspiracy against Christ, this was it they were at a loss about, v. 4, v. 5. They durst not meddle with him in public, and knew not where to find him in private. Here the matter rested, and the difficulty was insuperable; till Judas came, and offered them his service. Note, Those that give up themselves to be led by the devil, find him readier than they imagine to help them at a dead lift, as Judas did the chief priests. Though the rulers, by their power and interest, could kill him when they had him in their hands, yet none but a disciple could betray him. Note, The greater profession men make of religion, and the more they are employed in the study and service of it, the greater opportunity they have of doing mischief, if their hearts be not right with God. If Judas had not been an apostle, he could not have been a traitor; if men had known the way of righteousness, they could not have abused it.I will deliver him unto you. He did not offer himself, nor did they tamper with him, to be a witness against Christ, though they wanted evidence, v. 59. And if there had been any thing to be alleged against him, which had but the colour of proof that he was an impostor, Judas was the likeliest person to have attested it; but this is an evidence of the innocency of our Lord Jesus, that his own disciple, who knew so well his doctrine and manner of life, and was false to him, could not charge him with any thing criminal, though it would have served to justify his treachery.2. What he asked in consideration of this undertaking; What will ye give me? This was the only thing that made Judas betray his Master; he hoped to get money by it: his Master had not given him any provocation, though he knew from the first that he had a devil; yet, for aught that appears, he showed the same kindness to him that he did to the rest, and put no mark of disgrace upon him that might disoblige him; he had placed him in a post that pleased him, had made him purse-bearer, and though he had embezzled the common stock (for he is called a thief, Jn. 12:6 ), yet we do not find he was in any danger of being called to account for it; nor does it appear that he had any suspicion that the gospel was a cheat: no, it was not the hatred of his Master, nor any quarrel with him, but purely the love of money; that, and nothing else, made Judas a traitor.What will ye give me? Why, what did he want? Neither bread to eat, nor raiment to put on; neither necessaries nor conveniences. Was not he welcome, wherever his Master was? Did he not fare as he fared? Had he not been but just now nobly entertained at a supper in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, and a little before at another, where no less a person than Martha herself waited at table? And yet this covetous wretch could not be content, but comes basely cringing to the priests with, What will ye give me? Note, It is not the lack of money, but the love of money, that is the root of all evil, and particularly of apostasy from Christ; witness Demas, 2 Tim. 4:10 . Satan tempted our Saviour with this bait, All these things will I give thee ch. 4:9 ); but Judas offered himself to be tempted with it; he asks, What will ye give me? as if his Master was a commodity that stuck on his hands.III. Here is the bargain which the chief priests made with him; they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver; thirty shekels, which in our money is about three pounds eight shillings, so some; three pounds fifteen shillings, so others. It should seem, Judas referred himself to them, and was willing to take what they were willing to give; he catches at the first offer, lest the next should be worse. Judas had not been wont to trade high, and therefore a little money went a great way with him. By the law (Ex. 21:32 ), thirty pieces of silver was the price of a slavea goodly price, at which Christ was valued! Zec. 11:13 . No wonder that Zions sons, though comparable to fine gold, are esteemed as earthen pitchers, when Zions King himself was thus undervalued. They covenanted with him; estesan -appenderuntthey paid it down, so some; gave him his wages in hand, to secure him and to encourage him.IV. Here is the industry of Judas, in pursuance of his bargain (v. 16); he sought opportunity to betray him, his head was still working to find out how he might do it effectually. Note, 1. It is a very wicked thing to seek opportunity to sin, and to devise mischief; for it argues the heart fully set in men to do evil, and a malice prepense. Those that are in, think they must on, though the matter be ever so bad. After he had made that wicked bargain, he had time to repent, and to revoke it; but now by his covenant the devil has one hank more upon him than he had, and tells him that he must be true to his word, though ever so false to his Master, as Herod must behead John for his oaths sake.
Verses 17-25 We have here an account of Christs keeping the passover. Being made under the law, he submitted to all the ordinances of it, and to this among the rest; it was kept in remembrance of Israels deliverance out of Egypt, the birth-day of that people; it was a tradition of the Jews, that in the days of the Messiah they should be redeemed on the very day of their coming out of Egypt; and it was exactly fulfilled, for Christ died the day after the passover, in which day they began their march.I. The time when Christ ate the passover, was the usual time appointed by God, and observed by the Jews (v. 17); the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, which that year happened on the fifth day of the week, which is our Thursday. Some have advanced a suggestion, that our Lord Jesus celebrated the passover at this time of day sooner than other people did; but the learned Dr. Whitby has largely disproved it.II. The place where, was particularly appointed by himself to the disciples, upon their enquiry (v. 17); they asked, Where wilt thou that we prepare the passover? Perhaps Judas was one of those that asked this question (where he would eat the passover,) that he might know the better how to lay his train; but the rest of the disciples asked it as usual, that they might do their duty.1. They took it for granted that their Master would eat the passover, though he was at this time persecuted by the chief priests, and his life sought; they knew that he would not be put by his duty, either by frightenings without or fears within. Those do not follow Christs example who make it an excuse for their not attending on the Lords supper, our gospel passover, that they have many troubles and many enemies, are full of care and fear; for, if so, they have the more need of that ordinance, to help to silence their fears, and comfort them under their troubles, to help them in forgiving their enemies, and casting all their cares on God.2. They knew very well that there must be preparation made for it, and that it was their business, as his servants, to make preparation; Where wilt thou that we prepare? Note, Before solemn ordinances there must be solemn preparation.3. They knew that he had no house of his own wherein to eat the passover; in this, as in other things, for our sakes he became poor. Among all Zions palaces there was none for Zions King; but his kingdom was not of this world. See Jn. 1:11 .4. They would not pitch upon a place without direction from him, and from him they had direction; he sent them to such a man (v. 18), who probably was a friend and follower of his, and to his house he invited himself and his disciples.(1.) Tell him, My time is at hand; he means the time of his death, elsewhere called his hour (Jn. 8:20 Jn. 13:1 ); the time, the hour, fixed in the counsel of God, which his heart was upon, and which he had so often spoken of. He knew when it was at hand, and was busy accordingly; we know not our time (Eccl. 9:12 ), and therefore must never be off our watch; our time is always ready (Jn. 7:6 ), and therefore we must be always ready. Observe, Because his time was at hand, he would keep the passover Note, The consideration of the near approach of death should quicken us to a diligent improvement of all our opportunities for our souls. Is our time at hand, and an eternity just before us? Let us then keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity. Observe, When our Lord Jesus invited himself to this good mans house, he sent him this intelligence, that his time was at hand. Note, Christs secret is with them that entertain him in their hearts. Compare Jn. 14:21 with Rev. 3:20 .(2.) Tell him, I will keep the passover at thy house. This was an instance of his authority, as the Master, which it is likely this man acknowledged; he did not beg, but command, the use of his house for this purpose. Thus, when Christ by his Spirit comes into the heart, he demands admission, as one whose own the heart is and cannot be denied, and he gains admission as one who has all power in the heart and cannot be resisted; if he saith, "I will keep a feast in such a soul, he will do it; for he works, and none can hinder; his people shall be willing, for he makes them so. I will keep the passover with my disciples. Note, Wherever Christ is welcome, he expects that his disciples should be welcome too. When we take God for our God, we take his people for our people.III. The preparation was made by the disciples (v. 19); They did as Jesus had appointed. Note, Those who would have Christs presence with them in the gospel passover, must strictly observe his instructions, and do as he directs; They made ready the passover; they got the lamb killed in the court of the temple, got it roasted, the bitter herbs provided, bread and wine, the cloth laid, and every thing set in readiness for such a sacred solemn feast.IV. They ate the passover according to the law (v. 20); He sat down, in the usual table-gesture, not lying on one side, for it was not easy to eat, nor possible to drink, in that posture, but sitting upright, though perhaps sitting low. It is the same word that is used for his posture at other meals, ch. 9:10 ; Lu. 7:37 ; ch. 26:7 . It was only the first passover in Egypt, as most think, that was eaten with their loins girded, shoes on their feet, and staff in their hand, though all that might be in a sitting posture. His sitting down, denotes the composedness of his mind, when he addressed himself to this solemnity; He sat down with the twelve, Judas not excepted. By the law, they were to take a lamb for a household (Ex. 12:3, Ex. 12:4 ), which were to be not less than ten, nor more than twenty; Christs disciples were his household. Note, They whom God has charged with families, must have their houses with them in serving the Lord.V. We have here Christs discourse with his disciples at the passover-supper. The usual subject of discourse at that ordinance, was the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 12:26, Ex. 12:27 ); but the great Passover is now ready to be offered, and the discourse of that swallows up all talk of the other, (Jer. 16:14, Jer. 16:15 ). Here is,1. The general notice Christ gives his disciples of the treachery that should be among them (v. 21); One of you shall betray me. Observe, (1.) Christ knew it. We know not what troubles will befal us, nor whence they will arise: but Christ knew all his, which, as it proves his omniscience, so it magnifies his love, that he knew all things that should befal him, and yet did not draw back. He foresaw the treachery and baseness of a disciple of his own, and yet went on; took care of those that were given him, though he knew there was a Judas among them; would pay the price of our redemption, though he foresaw some would deny the Lord that bought them; and shed his blood, though he knew it would be trodden under foot as an unholy thing. (2.) When there was occasion, he let those about him know it. He had often told them that the Son of man should be betrayed; now he tells them that one of them should do it, that when they saw it, they might not only be the less surprised, but have their faith in him confirmed, Jn. 13:19 Jn. 14:29 .2. The disciples feelings on this occasion, v. 22. How did they take it?(1.) They were exceeding sorrowful. [1.] It troubled them much to hear that their Master should be betrayed. When Peter was first told of it, he said, Be it far from thee; and therefore it must needs be a great trouble to him and the rest of them, to hear that it was very near to him. [2.] It troubled them more to hear that one of them should do it. It would be a reproach to the fraternity, for an apostle to prove a traitor, and this grieved them; gracious souls grieve for the sins of others, especially of those that have made a more than ordinary profession of religion. 2 Co. 11:29 . [3.] It troubled them most of all, that they were left at uncertainty which of them it was, and each of them was afraid for himself, lest, as Hazael speaks (2 Ki. 8:13 ), he was the dog that should do this great thing. Those that know the strength and subtlety of the tempter, and their own weakness and folly, cannot but be in pain for themselves, when they hear that the love of many will wax cold. (2.) They began every one of them to say, Lord, is it I? [1.] They were not apt to suspect Judas. Though he was a thief, yet, it seems, he had carried it so plausibly, that those who were intimate with him, were not jealous of him: none of them so much as looked upon him, much less said, Lord, is it Judas? Note, It is possible for a hypocrite to go through the world, not only undiscovered, but unsuspected; like bad money so ingeniously counterfeited that nobody questions it.[2.] They were apt to suspect themselves; Lord, is it I? Though they were not conscious to themselves of any inclination that way (no such thought had ever entered into their mind), yet they feared the worst, and asked Him who knows us better than we know ourselves, Lord, is it I? Note, It well becomes the disciples of Christ always to be jealous over themselves with a godly jealousy, especially in trying times. We know not how strongly we may be tempted, nor how far God may leave us to ourselves, and therefore have reason, not to be high-minded, but fear. It is observable that our Lord Jesus, just before he instituted the Lords supper, put his disciples upon this trial and suspicion of themselves, to teach us to examine and judge ourselves, and so to eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 3. Further information given them concerning this matter (v. 23, v. 24), where Christ tells them, (1.) That the traitor was a familiar friend; He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, that is, One of you that are now with me at the table. He mentions this, to make the treachery appear the more exceeding sinful. Note, External communion with Christ in holy ordinances is a great aggravation of our falseness to him. It is base ingratitude to dip with Christ in the dish, and yet betray him. (2.) That this was according to the scripture, which would take off the offence at it. Was Christ betrayed by a disciple? So it was written (Ps. 61:9 ); He that did eat bread with me, hath lifted up his heel against me. The more we see of the fulfilling of the scripture in our troubles, the better we may bear them. (3.) That it would prove a very dear bargain to the traitor; Woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed. This he said, not only to awaken the conscience of Judas, and bring him to repent, and revoke his bargain, but for warning to all others to take heed of sinning like Judas; though God can serve his own purposes by the sins of men, that doth not make the sinners condition the less woeful; It had been good for that man, if he had not been born. Note, The ruin that attends those who betray Christ, is so great, that it were more eligible by far not be at all than to be thus miserable.4. The conviction of Judas, v. 25. (1.) He asked, Is it I? to avoid coming under the suspicion of guilt by his silence. He knew very well that it was he, and yet wished to appear a stranger to such a plot. Note, Many whose consciences condemn them are very industrious to justify themselves before men, and put a good face on it, with, Lord, is it I? He could not but know that Christ knew, and yet trusted so much to his courtesy, because he had hitherto concealed it, that he had the impudence to challenge him to tell: or, perhaps, he was so much under the power of infidelity, that he imagined Christ did not know it, as those who said, The Lord shall not see (Ps. 94:7 ), and asked, Can he judge through the dark clouds? (2.) Christ soon answered this question; Thou hast said, that is, It is as thou hast said. This is not spoken out so plainly as Nathans Thou art the man; but it was enough to convict him, and, if his heart had not been wretchedly hardened, to have broken the neck of his plot, when he saw it discovered to his Master, and discovered by him. Note, They who are contriving to betray Christ, will, some time or other, betray themselves, and their own tongues will fall upon them.
Verses 26-30 We have here the institution of the great gospel ordinance of the Lords supper, which was received of the Lord. Observe,I. The time when it was institutedas they were eating. At the latter end of the passover-supper, before the table was drawn, because, as a feast upon a sacrifice, it was to come in the room of that ordinance. Christ is to us the Passover-sacrifice by which atonement is made (1 Co. 5:7 ); Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. This ordinance is to us the passover-supper, by which application is made, and commemoration celebrated, of a much greater deliverance than that of Israel out of Egypt. All the legal sacrifices of propitiation being summed up in the death of Christ, and so abolished, all the legal feasts of rejoicing were summed up in this sacrament, and so abolished.II. The institution itself. A sacrament must be instituted; it is no part of moral worship, nor is it dictated by natural light, but has both its being and significancy from the institution, from a divine institution; it is his prerogative who established the covenant, to appoint the seals of it. Hence the apostle (1 Co. 11:23 , etc), in that discourse of his concerning this ordinance, all along calls Jesus Christ the Lord, because, as Lord, as Lord of the covenant, Lord of the church, he appointed this ordinance. In which,1. The body of Christ is signified and represented by bread; he had said formerly (Jn. 6:35 ), I am the bread of life, upon which metaphor this sacrament is built; as the life of the body is supported by bread, which is therefore put for all bodily nourishment ch. 4:4 ; 6:11), so the life of the soul is supported and maintained by Christs mediation.(1.) He took bread, estesan the loaf; some loaf that lay ready to hand, fit for the purpose; it was, probably, unleavened bread; but, that circumstance not being taken notice of, we are not to bind ourselves to that, as some of the Greek churches do. His taking the bread was a solemn action, and was, probably, done in such a manner as to be observed by them that sat with him, that they might expect something more than ordinary to be done with it. Thus was the Lord Jesus set apart in the counsels of divine love for the working out of our redemption.(2.) He blessed it; set it apart for this use by prayer and thanksgiving. We do not find any set form of words used by him upon this occasion; but what he said, no doubt, was accommodated to the business in hand, that new testament which by this ordinance was to be sealed and ratified. This was like Gods blessing the seventh day (Gen. 2:3 ), by which it was separated to Gods honour, and made to all that duly observe it, a blessed day: Christ could command the blessing, and we, in his name, are emboldened to beg the blessing.(3.) He brake it; which denotes, [1.] The breaking of Christs body for us, that it might be fitted for our use; He was bruised for our iniquities, as bread-corn is bruised (Isa. 28:28 ); though a bone of him was not broken (for all his breaking did not weaken him), yet his flesh was broken with breach upon breach, and his wounds were multiplied (Job. 9:17 Job. 16:14 ), and that pained him. God complains that he is broken with the whorish heart of sinners (Eze. 6:9 ); his law broken, our covenants with him broken; now justice requires breach for breach (Lev. 24:20 ), and Christ was broken, to satisfy that demand. [2.] The breaking of Christs body to us, as the father of the family breaks the bread to the children. The breaking of Christ to us, is to facilitate the application; every thing is made ready for us by the grants of Gods word and the operations of his grace.(4.) He gave it to his disciples, as the Master of the family, and the Master of this feast; it is not said, He gave it to the apostles, though they were so, and had been often called so before this, but to the disciples, because all the disciples of Christ have a right to this ordinance; and those shall have the benefit of it who are his disciples indeed; yet he gave it to them as he did the multiplied loaves, by them to be handed to all his other followers.(5.) He said, Take, eat; this is my body, v. 26. He here tells them,[1.] What they should do with it; "Take, eat; accept of Christ as he is offered to you, receive the atonement, approve of it, consent to it, come up to the terms on which the benefit of it is proposed to you; submit to his grace and to his government. Believing on Christ is expressed by receiving him (Jn. 1:12 ), and feeding upon him, Jn. 6:57, Jn. 6:58 . Meat looked upon, or the dish ever so well garnished, will not nourish us; it must be fed upon: so must the doctrine of Christ.[2.] What they should have with it; This is my body, not outos this bread, but touto this eating and drinking. Believing carries all the efficacy of Christs death to our souls. This is my body, spiritually and sacramentally; this signifies and represents my body. He employs sacramental language, like that, Ex. 12:11 . It is the Lords passover. Upon a carnal and muchmistaken sense of these words, the church of Rome builds the monstrous doctrine of Transubstantiation, which makes the bread to be changed into the substance of Christs body, only the accidents of bread remaining; which affronts Christ, destroys the nature of a sacrament, and gives the lie to our senses. We partake of the sun, not by having the bulk and body of the sun put into our hands, but the beams of it darted down upon us; so we partake of Christ by partaking of his grace, and the blessed fruits of the breaking of his body.2. The blood of Christ is signified and represented by the wine; to make it a complete feast, here is not only bread to strengthen, but wine to make glad the heart (v. 27, v. 28); He took the cup, the grace-cup, which was set ready to be drank, after thanks returned, according to the custom of the Jews at the passover; this Christ took, and made the sacramental-cup, and so altered the property. It was intended for a cup of blessing (so the Jews called it), and therefore St. Paul studiously distinguished between the cup of blessing which we bless, and that which they bless. He gave thanks, to teach us, not only in every ordinance, but in every part of the ordinance, to have our eyes up to God.This cup he gave to the disciples,(1.) With a command; Drink ye all of it. Thus he welcomes his guests to his table, obliges them all to drink of his cup. Why should he so expressly command them all to drink, and to see that none let it pass them, and press that more expressly in this than in the other part of the ordinance? Surely it was because he foresaw how in after-ages this ordinance would be dismembered by the prohibition of the cup to the laity, with an express non obstantenotwithstanding to the command.(2.) With an explication; For this is my blood of the New Testament. Therefore drink it with appetite, delight, because it is so rich a cordial. Hitherto the blood of Christ had been represented by the blood of beasts, real blood: but, after it was actually shed, it was represented by the blood of grapes, metaphorical blood; so wine is called in an Old-Testament prophecy of Christ, Gen. 49:10, Gen. 49:11 .Now observe what Christ saith of his blood represented in the sacrament.[1.] It is my blood of the New Testament. The Old Testament was confirmed by the blood of bulls and goats (Heb. 9:19, Heb. 9:20 ; Ex. 24:8 ); but the New Testament with the blood of Christ, which is here distinguished from that; It is my blood of the New Testament. The covenant God is pleased to make with us, and all the benefits and privileges of it, are owing to the merits of Christs death.[2.] It is shed; it was not shed till next day, but it was now upon the point of being shed, it is as good as done. "Before you come to repeat this ordinance yourselves, it will be shed. He was now ready to be offered, and his blood to be poured out, as the blood of the sacrifices which made atonement.[3.] It is shed for many. Christ came to confirm a covenant with many (Dan. 9:27 ), and the intent of his death agreed. The blood of the Old Testament was shed for a few: it confirmed a covenant, which (saith Moses) the Lord has made with you, Ex. 24:8 . The atonement was made only for the children of Israel (Lev. 16:34 ): but Jesus Christ is a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, 1 Jn. 2:2 .[4.] It is shed for the remission of sins, that is, to purchase remission of sins for us. The redemption which we have through his blood, is the remission of sins, Eph. 1:7 . The new covenant which is procured and ratified by the blood of Christ, is a charter of pardon, an act of indemnity, in order to a reconciliation between God and man; for sin was the only thing that made the quarrel, and without shedding of blood is no remission, Heb. 9:22 . The pardon of sin is that great blessing which is, in the Lords supper, conferred upon all true believers; it is the foundation of all other blessings, and the spring of everlasting comfort, ch. 9:2, ch. 9:3 . A farewell is now bidden to the fruit of the vine, v. 29. Christ and his disciples had now feasted together with a deal of comfort, in both an Old Testament and a New Testament festival, fibula utriusque Testamentithe connecting tie of both Testaments. How amiable were these tabernacles! How good to be here! Never such a heaven upon earth as was at this table; but it was not intended for a perpetuity; he now told them (Jn. 16:16 ), that yet a little while and they should not see him: and again a little while and they should see him, which explains this here.First, He takes leave of such communion; I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, that is, now that I am no more in the world (Jn. 17:11 ); I have had enough of it, and am glad to think of leaving it, glad to think that this is the last meal. Farewell this fruit of the vine, this passover-cup, this sacramental wine. Dying saints take their leave of sacraments, and the other ordinances of communion which they enjoy in this world, with comfort, for the joy and glory they enter into supersede them all; when the sun rises, farewell the candles.Secondly, He assures them of a happy meeting again at last. It is a long, but not an everlasting, farewell; until that day when I drink it new with you. 1. Some understand it of the interviews he had with them after his resurrection, which was the first step of his exaltation into the kingdom of his Father; and though during those forty days he did not converse with them so constantly as he had done, yet he did eat and drink with them (Acts. 10:41 ), which, as it confirmed their faith, so doubtless it greatly comforted their hearts, for they were overjoyed at it, Lu. 24:41 . Others understand it of the joys and glories of the future state, which the saints shall partake of in everlasting communion with the Lord Jesus, represented here by the pleasures of a banquet of wine. That will be the kingdom of his Father, for unto him shall the kingdom be then delivered up; the wine of consolation (Jer. 16:7 ) will there be always new, never flat or sour, as wine with long keeping; never nauseous or unpleasant, as wine to those that have drank much; but ever fresh. Christ will himself partake of those pleasures; it was the joy set before him, which he had in his eye, and all his faithful friends and followers shall partake with him.Lastly, Here is the close of the solemnity with a hymn (v. 30); They sang a hymn or psalm; whether the psalms which the Jews usually sang at the close of the passover-supper, which they called the great hallel, that is, Ps. 113, and the five that follow it, or whether some new hymn more closely adapted to the occasion, is uncertain; I rather think the former; had it been new, John would not have omitted to record it. Note, 1. Singing of psalms is a gospel-ordinance. Christs removing the hymn from the close of the passover to the close of the Lords supper, plainly intimates that he intended that ordinance should continue in his church, that, as it had not its birth with the ceremonial law, so it should not die with it. 2. It is very proper after the Lords supper, as an expression of our joy in God through Jesus Christ, and a thankful acknowledgment of that great love wherewith God has loved us in him. It is not unseasonable, no, not in times of sorrow and suffering; the disciples were in sorrow, and Christ was entering upon his sufferings, and yet they could sing a hymn together. Our spiritual joy should not be interrupted by outward afflictions.When this was done, they went out into the mount of Olives. He would not stay in the house to be apprehended, lest he should bring the master of the house into trouble; nor would he stay in the city, lest it should occasion an uproar; but he retired into the adjacent country, the mount of Olives, the same mount that David in his distress went up the ascent of, weeping, 2 Sa. 15:30 . They had the benefit of moon-light for this walk, for the passover was always at the full moon. Note, After we have received the Lords supper, it is good for us to retire for prayer and meditation, and to be alone with God.
Verses 31-35 We have here Christs discourse with his disciples upon the way, as they were going to the mount of Olives. Observe,I. A prediction of the trial which both he and his disciples were now to go through. He here foretels,1. A dismal scattering storm just arising, v. 31.(1.) That they should all be offended because of Christ that very night; that is, they would all be so frightened with the sufferings, that they would not have the courage to cleave to him in them, but would all basely desert him; Because of me this night, en emoi en te nykti taute because of me, even because of this night; so it might be read; that is, because of what happens to me this night. Note, [1.] Offences will come among the disciples of Christ in an hour of trial and temptation; it cannot be but they should, for they are weak; Satan is busy; God permits offences; even they whose hearts are upright may sometimes be overtaken with an offence. [2.] There are some temptations and offences, the effects of which are general and universal among Christs disciples; All you shall be offended. Christ had lately discovered to them the treachery of Judas; but let not the rest be secure; though there will be but one traitor, they will be all deserters. This he saith, to alarm them all, that they might all watch. [3.] We have need to prepare for sudden trials, which may come to extremity in a very little time. Christ and his disciples had eaten their supper well together in peace and quietness; yet that very night proved such a night of offence. How soon may a storm arise! We know not what a day, or a night, may bring forth, nor what great event may be in the teeming womb of a little time, Prov. 27:1 . [4.] The cross of Christ is the great stumbling-block to many that pass for his disciples; both the cross he bore for us (1 Co. 1:23 ), and that which we are called out to bear for him, ch. 16:24 .(2.) That herein the scripture would be fulfilled; I will smite the Shepherd. It is quoted from Zec. 13:7 . [1.] Here is the smiting of the Shepherd in the sufferings of Christ. God awakens the sword of his wrath against the Son of his love, and he is smitten. [2.] The scattering of the sheep, thereupon, in the flight of the disciples. When Christ fell into the hands of his enemies, his disciples ran, one one way and another another; it was each ones care to shift for himself, and happy he that could get furthest from the cross.2. He gives them the prospect of a comfortable gathering together again after this storm (v. 32); "After I am risen again, I will go before you. Though you will forsake me, I will not forsake you; though you fall, I will take care you shall not fall finally: we shall have a meeting again in Galilee, I will go before you, as the shepherd before the sheep. Some make the last words of that prophecy (Zec. 13:7 ), a promise equivalent to this here; and I will bring my hand again to the little ones. There is no bringing them back but by bringing his hand to them. Note, The captain of our salvation knows how to rally his troops, when, through their cowardice, they have been put into disorder.II. The presumption of Peter, that he should keep his integrity, whatever happened (v. 33); Though all men be offended, yet will I never be offended. Peter had a great stock of confidence, and was upon all occasions forward to speak, especially to speak for himself; sometimes it did him a kindness, but at other times it betrayed him, as it did here. Where observe,1. How he bound himself with a promise, that he would never be offended in Christ; not only not this night, but at no time. If this promise had been made in a humble dependence upon the grace of Christ, it had been an excellent word. Before the Lords supper, Christs discourse led his disciples to examine themselves with, Lord, is it I? For that is our preparatory duty; after the ordinance, his discourse leads them to an engaging of themselves to close walking, for that is the subsequent duty.2. How he fancied himself better armed against temptation than any one else, and this was his weakness and folly; Though all men shall be offended yet will not I. This was worse than Hazaels, What! is thy servant a dog? For he supposed the thing to be so bad, that no man would do it. But Peter supposes it possible that some, nay that all, might be offended, and yet he escape better than any. Note, It argues a great degree of self-conceit and self-confidence, to think ourselves either safe from the temptations, or free from the corruptions, that are common to men. We should rather say, If it be possible that others may be offended, there is danger that I may be so. But it is common for those who think too well of themselves, easily to admit suspicions of others. See Gal. 6:1 .III. The particular warning Christ gave Peter of what he would do, v. 34. He imagined that in the hour of temptation he should come off better than any of them, and Christ tells him that he should come off worse. The warning is introduced with a solemn asseveration; "Verily, I say unto thee; take my word for it, who know thee better than thou knowest thyself. He tells him,1. That he should deny him. Peter promised that he would not be so much as offended in him, not desert him; but Christ tells him that he will go further, he will disown him. He said, "Though all men, yet not I; and he did it sooner than any.2. How quickly he should do it; this night, before to-morrow, nay, before cock-crowing. Satans temptations are compared to darts (Eph. 6:16 ), which wound ere we are aware; suddenly doth he shoot. As we know not how near we may be to trouble, so we know not how near we may be to sin; if God leave us to ourselves, we are always in danger.3. How often he should do it; thrice. He thought that he should never once do such a thing; but Christ tells him that he would do it again and again; for, when once our feet begin to slip, it is hard to recover our standing again. The beginnings of sin are as the letting forth of water. IV. Peters repeated assurances of his fidelity (v. 35); Though I should die with thee. He supposed the temptation strong, when he said, Though all men do it, yet will not I. But here he supposeth it stronger, when he puts it to the peril of life; Though I should die with thee. He knew what he should dorather die with Christ than deny him, it was the condition of discipleship (Lu. 14:26 ); and he thought what he would donever be false to his Master whatever it cost him; yet, it proved, he was. It is easy to talk boldly and carelessly of death at a distance; "I will rather die than do such a thing: but it is not so soon done as said, when it comes to the setting-to, and death shows itself in its own colours.What Peter said the rest subscribed to; likewise also said all the disciples. Note, 1. There is a proneness in good men to be over-confident of their own strength and stability. We are ready to think ourselves able to grapple with the strongest temptations, to go through the hardest and most hazardous services, and to bear the greatest afflictions for Christ; but it is because we do not know ourselves. 2. Those often fall soonest and foulest that are most confident of themselves. Those are least safe that are most secure. Satan is most active to seduce such; they are most off their guard, and God leaves them to themselves, to humble them. See 1 Co. 10:12 .