Christ anointed at Bethany. (1-11) The passover, Jesus declares that Judas would betray him. (12-21) The Lord's supper instituted. (22-31) Christ's agony in the garden. (32-42) He is betrayed and taken. (43-52) Christ before the high priest. (53-65) Peter denies Christ. (66-72)
Verses 1-11 Did Christ pour out his soul unto death for us, and shall we think any thing too precious for him? Do we give him the precious ointment of our best affections? Let us love him with all the heart, though it is common for zeal and affection to be misunderstood and blamed; and remember that charity to the poor will not excuse any from particular acts of piety to the Lord Jesus. Christ commended this woman's pious attention to the notice of believers in all ages. Those who honour Christ he will honour. Covetousness was Judas' master lust, and that betrayed him to the sin of betraying his Master; the devil suited his temptation to that, and so conquered him. And see what wicked contrivances many have in their sinful pursuits; but what appears to forward their plans, will prove curses in the end.
Verses 12-21 Nothing could be less the result of human foresight than the events here related. But our Lord knows all things about us before they come to pass. If we admit him, he will dwell in our hearts. The Son of man goes, as it is written of him, as a lamb to the slaughter; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed! God's permitting the sins of men, and bringing glory to himself out of them, does not oblige them to sin; nor will this be any excuse for their guilt, or lessen their punishment.
Verses 22-31 The Lord's supper is food for the soul, therefore a very little of that which is for the body, as much as will serve for a sign, is enough. It was instituted by the example and the practice of our Master, to remain in force till his second coming. It was instituted with blessing and giving of thanks, to be a memorial of Christ's death. Frequent mention is made of his precious blood, as the price of our redemption. How comfortable is this to poor repenting sinners, that the blood of Christ is shed for many! If for many, why not for me? It was a sign of the conveyance of the benefits purchased for us by his death. Apply the doctrine of Christ crucified to yourselves; let it be meat and drink to your souls, strengthening and refreshing your spiritual life. It was to be an earnest and foretaste of the happiness of heaven, and thereby to put us out of taste for the pleasures and delights of sense. Every one that has tasted spiritual delights, straightway desires eternal ones. Though the great Shepherd passed through his sufferings without one false step, yet his followers often have been scattered by the small measure of sufferings allotted to them. How very apt we are to think well of ourselves, and to trust our own hearts! It was ill done of Peter thus to answer his Master, and not with fear and trembling. Lord, give me grace to keep me from denying thee.
Verses 32-42 Christ's sufferings began with the sorest of all, those in his soul. He began to be sorely amazed; words not used in St. Matthew, but very full of meaning. The terrors of God set themselves in array against him, and he allowed him to contemplate them. Never was sorrow like unto his at this time. Now he was made a curse for us; the curses of the law were laid upon him as our Surety. He now tasted death, in all the bitterness of it. This was that fear of which the apostle speaks, the natural fear of pain and death, at which human nature startles. Can we ever entertain favourable, or even slight thoughts of sin, when we see the painful sufferings which sin, though but reckoned to him, brought on the Lord Jesus? Shall that sit light upon our souls, which sat so heavy upon his? Was Christ in such agony for our sins, and shall we never be in agony about them? How should we look upon Him whom we have pierced, and mourn! It becomes us to be exceedingly sorrowful for sin, because He was so, and never to mock at it. Christ, as Man, pleaded, that, if it were possible, his sufferings might pass from him. As Mediator, he submitted to the will of God, saying, Nevertheless, not what I will, but what thou wilt; I bid it welcome. See how the sinful weakness of Christ's disciples returns, and overpowers them. What heavy clogs these bodies of ours are to our souls! But when we see trouble at the door, we should get ready for it. Alas, even believers often look at the Redeemer's sufferings in a drowsy manner, and instead of being ready to die with Christ, they are not even prepared to watch with him one hour.
Verses 43-52 Because Christ appeared not as a temporal prince, but preached repentance, reformation, and a holy life, and directed men's thoughts, and affections, and aims to another world, therefore the Jewish rulers sought to destroy him. Peter wounded one of the band. It is easier to fight for Christ than to die for him. But there is a great difference between faulty disciples and hypocrites. The latter rashly and without thought call Christ Master, and express great affection for him, yet betray him to his enemies. Thus they hasten their own destruction.
Verses 53-65 We have here Christ's condemnation before the great council of the Jews. Peter followed; but the high priest's fire-side was no proper place, nor his servants proper company, for Peter: it was an entrance into temptation. Great diligence was used to procure false witnesses against Jesus, yet their testimony was not equal to the charge of a capital crime, by the utmost stretch of their law. He was asked, Art thou the Son of the Blessed? that is, the Son of God. For the proof of his being the Son of God, he refers to his second coming. In these outrages we have proofs of man's enmity to God, and of God's free and unspeakable love to man.
Verses 66-72 Peter's denying Christ began by keeping at a distance from him. Those that are shy of godliness, are far in the way to deny Christ. Those who think it dangerous to be in company with Christ's disciples, because thence they may be drawn in to suffer for him, will find it much more dangerous to be in company with his enemies, because there they may be drawn in to sin against him. When Christ was admired and flocked after, Peter readily owned him; but will own no relation to him now he is deserted and despised. Yet observe, Peter's repentance was very speedy. Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall; and let him that has fallen think of these things, and of his own offences, and return to the Lord with weeping and supplication, seeking forgiveness, and to be raised up by the Holy Spirit.
Mark 14:1-11 . THE CONSPIRACY OF THE JEWISH AUTHORITIES TO PUT JESUS TO DEATH--THE SUPPER AND THE--ANOINTING AT BETHANY--JUDAS AGREES WITH THE CHIEF PRIESTS TO BETRAY HIS LORD. ( = Matthew 26:1-16 Luke 22:1-6 John 12:1-11 ).
The events of this section appeared to have occurred on the fourth day (Wednesday) of the Redeemer's Last Week.
Conspiracy of the Jewish Authorities to Put Jesus to Death ( mark 14:1 mark 14:2 ).
1. After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread--The meaning is, that two days after what is about to be mentioned the passover would arrive; in other words, what follows occurred two days before the feast.
and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death--From Matthew's fuller account ( Matthew 26:1-75 ) we learn that our Lord announced this to the Twelve as follows, being the first announcement to them of the precise time: "And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings" ( Matthew 26:1 )--referring to the contents of Matthew 24:1-25:46', which He delivered to His disciples; His public ministry being now closed: from His prophetical He is now passing into His priestly office, although all along He Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses--"He said unto His disciples, Ye know that after two days is [the feast of] the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified." The first and the last steps of His final sufferings are brought together in this brief announcement of all that was to take place. The passover was the first and the chief of the three great annual festivals, commemorative of the redemption of God's people from Egypt, through the sprinkling of the blood of a lamb divinely appointed to be slain for that end; the destroying angel, "when he saw the blood, passing over" the Israelitish houses, on which that blood was seen, when he came to destroy all the first-born in the land of Egypt ( Exodus 12:12 Exodus 12:13 )--bright typical foreshadowing of the great Sacrifice, and the Redemption effected thereby. Accordingly, "by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working," it was so ordered that precisely at the passover season, "Christ our Passover should be sacrificed for us." On the day following the passover commenced "the feast of unleavened bread," so called because for seven days only unleavened bread was to be eaten ( Exodus 12:18-20 ). We are further told by Matthew ( Matthew 26:3 ) that the consultation was held in the palace of Caiaphas the high priest, between the chief priests, [the scribes], and the elders of the people, how "they might take Jesus by subtlety and kill Him."
2. But they said, Not on the feast day--rather, not during the feast; not until the seven days of unleavened bread should be over.
lest there be an uproar of the people--In consequence of the vast influx of strangers, embracing all the male population of the land who had reached a certain age, there were within the walls of Jerusalem at this festival some two million people; and in their excited state, the danger of tumult and bloodshed among "the people," who for the most part took Jesus for a prophet, was extreme. See JOSEPHUS [Antiquities, 20.5.3]. What plan, if any, these ecclesiastics fixed upon for seizing our Lord, does not appear. But the proposal of Judas being at once and eagerly gone into, it is probable they were till then at some loss for a plan sufficiently quiet and yet effectual. So, just at the feast time shall it be done; the unexpected offer of Judas relieving them of their fears. Thus, as BENGEL remarks, did the divine counsel take effect.
The Supper and the Anointing at Bethany Six Days before the Passover ( Mark 14:3-9 ).
The time of this part of the narrative is four days before what has just been related. Had it been part of the regular train of events which our Evangelist designed to record, he would probably have inserted it in its proper place, before the conspiracy of the Jewish authorities. But having come to the treason of Judas, he seems to have gone back upon this scene as what probably gave immediate occasion to the awful deed.
3. And being in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman--It was "Mary," as we learn from John 12:3 .
having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard--pure nard, a celebrated aromatic--(See Solomon 1:12 ).
very precious--"very costly" ( John 12:3 ).
and she brake the box, and poured it on his head--"and anointed," adds John ( John 12:3 ), "the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment." The only use of this was to refresh and exhilarate--a grateful compliment in the East, amid the closeness of a heated atmosphere, with many guests at a feast. Such was the form in which Mary's love to Christ, at so much cost to herself, poured itself out.
4. And there were some that had indignation within themselves and said--Matthew says ( Matthew 26:8 ), "But when His disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying," &c. The spokesman, however, was none of the true-hearted Eleven--as we learn from John ( John 12:4 ): "Then saith one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray Him." Doubtless the thought stirred first in his breast, and issued from his base lips; and some of the rest, ignorant of his true character and feelings, and carried away by his plausible speech, might for the moment feel some chagrin at the apparent waste.
Why was this waste of the ointment made?
5. For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence--about $50 in our currency.
and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her--"This he said," remarks John ( John 12:6 ), and the remark is of exceeding importance, "not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and had the bag"--the scrip or treasure chest--"and bare what was put therein"--not "bare it off" by theft, as some understand it. It is true that he did this; but the expression means simply that he had charge of it and its contents, or was treasurer to Jesus and the Twelve. What a remarkable arrangement was this, by which an avaricious and dishonest person was not only taken into the number of the Twelve, but entrusted with the custody of their little property! The purposes which this served are obvious enough; but it is further noticeable, that the remotest hint was never given to the Eleven of his true character, nor did the disciples most favored with the intimacy of Jesus ever suspect him, till a few minutes before he voluntarily separated himself from their company--for ever!
6. And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me--It was good in itself, and so was acceptable to Christ; it was eminently seasonable, and so more acceptable still; and it was "what she could," and so most acceptable of all.
7. For ye have the poor with you always--referring to Deuteronomy 15:11 .
and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always--a gentle hint of His approaching departure, by One who knew the worth of His own presence.
8. She hath done what she could--a noble testimony, embodying a principle of immense importance.
she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying--or, as in John ( John 12:7 ), "Against the day of my burying hath she kept this." Not that she, dear heart, thought of His burial, much less reserved any of her nard to anoint her dead Lord. But as the time was so near at hand when that office would have to be performed, and she was not to have that privilege even after the spices were brought for the purpose ( Mark 16:1 ), He lovingly regards it as done now. "In the act of love done to Him," says OLSHAUSEN beautifully, "she has erected to herself an eternal monument, as lasting as the Gospel, the eternal Word of God. From generation to generation this remarkable prophecy of the Lord has been fulfilled; and even we, in explaining this saying of the Redeemer, of necessity contribute to its accomplishment." "Who but Himself," asks STIER, "had the power to ensure to any work of man, even if resounding in His own time through the whole earth, an imperishable remembrance in the stream of history? Behold once more here the majesty of His royal judicial supremacy in the government of the world, in this, 'Verily I say unto you.'"
10. And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them--that is, to make his proposals, and to bargain with them, as appears from. Matthew's fuller statement ( Matthew 26:14 Matthew 26:15 ) which says, he "went unto the chief priests, and said, What will ye give me, and I will deliver Him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver." The thirty pieces of silver were thirty shekels, the fine paid for man- or maid-servant accidentally killed ( Exodus 21:32 ), and equal to about $25 in our currency--"a goodly price that I was prized at of them!" ( Zechariah 11:13 ).
11. And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money--Matthew alone records the precise sum, because a remarkable and complicated prophecy, which he was afterwards to refer to, was fulfilled by it.
And he sought how he might conveniently betray him--or, as more fully given in Luke ( Luke 22:6 ), "And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray Him unto them in the absence of the multitude." That he should avoid an "uproar" or "riot" among the people, which probably was made an essential condition by the Jewish authorities, was thus assented to by the traitor; into whom, says Luke ( Luke 22:3 ), "Satan entered," to put him upon this hellish deed.
Mark 14:12-26 . PREPARATION FOR, AND LAST CELEBRATION OF, THE PASSOVER--ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE TRAITOR--INSTITUTION OF THE SUPPER. ( = Matthew 26:17-30 Luke 22:7-23 Luke 22:39 John 13:21-30 ).
Mark 14:27-31 . THE DESERTION OF JESUS BY HIS DISCIPLES AND THE FALL OF PETER, FORETOLD. ( = Matthew 26:31-35 Luke 22:31-38 John 13:36-38 ).
Mark 14:32-42 . THE AGONY IN THE GARDEN. ( = Matthew 26:36-46 Luke 22:39-46 ).
Mark 14:43-52 . BETRAYAL AND APPREHENSION OF JESUS--FLIGHT OF HIS DISCIPLES. ( = Matthew 26:47-56 Luke 22:47-53 John 18:1-12 ).
Mark 14:53-72 . JESUS ARRAIGNED BEFORE THE SANHEDRIM CONDEMNED TO DIE, AND SHAMEFULLY ENTREATED--THE FALL OF PETER. ( = Matthew 26:57-75 , Luke 22:54-71 , John 18:13-18 John 18:24-27 ).
Had we only the first three Gospels, we should have concluded that our Lord was led immediately to Caiaphas, and had before the Council. But as the Sanhedrim could hardly have been brought together at the dead hour of night--by which time our Lord was in the hands of the officers sent to take Him--and as it was only "as soon as it was day" that the Council met ( Luke 22:66 ), we should have had some difficulty in knowing what was done with Him during those intervening hours. In the Fourth Gospel, however, all this is cleared up, and a very important addition to our information is made ( John 18:13 John 18:14 John 18:19-24 ). Let us endeavor to trace the events in the true order of succession, and in the detail supplied by a comparison of all the four streams of text.
Jesus Is Brought Privately before Annas, the Father-in-Law of Caiaphas ( John 18:13 John 18:14 ).
John 18:13 :
And they led Him away to Annas first; for he was father-in-law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year--This successful Annas, as ELLICOTT remarks, was appointed high priest by Quirinus, A.D. 12, and after holding the office for several years, was deposed by Valerius Gratius, Pilate's predecessor in the procuratorship of Judea [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 18.2.1, &c.]. He appears, however, to have possessed vast influence, having obtained the high priesthood, not only for his son Eleazar, and his son-in-law Caiaphas, but subsequently for four other sons, under the last of whom James, the brother of our Lord, was put to death [Antiquities, 20.9.1]. It is thus highly probable that, besides having the title of "high priest" merely as one who had filled the office, he to a great degree retained the powers he had formerly exercised, and came to be regarded practically as a kind of rightful high priest.
John 18:14 :
Now Caiaphas was he which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people. during this interval the beloved disciple reserves till he has related the beginning of Peter's fall. To this, then, as recorded by our own Evangelist, let us meanwhile listen.
Peter Obtains Access within the Quadrangle of the High Priest's Residence, and Warms Himself at the Fire ( mark 14:53 mark 14:54 ).
53. And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled--or rather, "there gathered together unto him."
all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes--it was then a full and formal meeting of the Sanhedrim. Now, as the first three Evangelists place all Peter's denials of his Lord after this, we should naturally conclude that they took place while our Lord stood before the Sanhedrim. But besides that the natural impression is that the scene around the fire took place overnight, the second crowing of the cock, if we are to credit ancient writers, would occur about the beginning of the fourth watch, or between three and four in the morning. By that time, however, the Council had probably convened, being warned, perhaps, that they were to prepare for being called at any hour of the morning, should the Prisoner be successfully secured. If this be correct, it is fairly certain that only the last of Peter's three denials would take place while our Lord was under trial before the Sanhedrim. One thing more may require explanation. If our Lord had to be transferred from the residence of Annas to that of Caiaphas, one is apt to wonder that there is no mention of His being marched from the one to the other. But the building, in all likelihood, was one and the same; in which case He would merely have to be taken perhaps across the court, from one chamber to another.
54. And Peter followed him afar off, even into--or "from afar, even to the interior of."
the palace of the high priest--"An oriental house," says ROBINSON, "is usually built around a quadrangular interior court; into which there is a passage (sometimes arched) through the front part of the house, closed next the street by a heavy folding gate, with a smaller wicket for single persons, kept by a porter. The interior court, often paved or flagged, and open to the sky, is the hall, which our translators have rendered 'palace,' where the attendants made a fire; and the passage beneath the front of the house, from the street to this court, is the porch." The place where Jesus stood before the high priest may have been an open room, or place of audience on the ground floor, in the rear or on one side of the court; such rooms, open in front, being customary. It was close upon the court, for Jesus heard all that was going on around the fire, and turned and looked upon Peter ( Luke 22:61 ).
and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire--The graphic details, here omitted, are supplied in the other Gospels. John 18:18 :
And the servants and officers stood there--that is, in the hall, within the quadrangle, open to the sky.
who had made a fire of coals--or charcoal (in a brazier probably).
for it was cold--John alone of all the Evangelists mentions the material, and the coldness of the night, as WEBSTER and WILKINSON remark. The elevated situation of Jerusalem, observes THOLUCK, renders it so cold about Easter as to make a watch fire at night indispensable.
And Peter stood with them and warmed himself--"He went in," says Matthew ( Matthew 26:58 ), "and sat with the servants to see the end." These two minute statements throw an interesting light on each other. His wishing to "see the end," or issue of these proceedings, was what led him into the palace, for he evidently feared the worst. But once in, the serpent coil is drawn closer; it is a cold night, and why should not he take advantage of the fire as well as others? Besides, in the talk of the crowd about the all-engrossing topic he may pick up something which he would like to hear. Poor Peter! But now, let us leave him warming himself at the fire, and listening to the hum of talk about this strange case by which the subordinate officials, passing to and fro and crowding around the fire in this open court, would while away the time; and, following what appears the order of the Evangelical Narrative, let us turn to Peter's Lord.
Jesus Is Interrogated by Annas--His Dignified Reply--Is Treated with Indignity by One of the Officials--His Meek Rebuke ( John 18:19-23 ).
We have seen that it is only the Fourth Evangelist who tells us that our Lord was sent to Annas first, overnight, until the Sanhedrim could be got together at earliest dawn. We have now, in the same Gospel, the deeply instructive scene that passed during this non-official interview.
John 18:19 :
The high priest--Annas.
then asked Jesus of His disciples and of His doctrine--probably to entrap Him into some statements which might be used against Him at the trial. From our Lord's answer it would seem that "His disciples" were understood to be some secret party.
John 18:20 .
Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world--compare Mark 7:4 . He speaks of His public teaching as now a past thing--as now all over.
I ever taught in the synagogue and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort--courting publicity, though with sublime noiselessness.
and in secret have I said nothing--rather, "spake I nothing"; that is, nothing different from what He taught in public: all His private communications with the Twelve being but explanations and developments of His public teaching. (Compare Isaiah 45:19 , 48:16 ).
John 18:21 :
Why askest thou Me? ask them which heard Me what I have said to them--rather, "what I said unto them."
behold, they know what I said--From this mode of replying, it is evident that our Lord saw the attempt to draw Him into self-crimination, and resented it by falling back upon the right of every accused party to have some charge laid against Him by competent witnesses.
John 18:22 :
And when He had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest Thou the high priest so?--(see Isaiah 50:6 ). It would seem from Acts 23:2 that this summary and undignified way of punishment what was deemed insolence in the accused had the sanction even of the high priests themselves.
John 18:23 :
Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil--rather, "If I spoke evil," in reply to the high priest.
bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou Me?--He does not say "if not evil," as if His reply had been merely unobjectionable; but "if well," which seems to challenge something altogether fitting in the remonstrance. He had addressed to the high priest. From our Lord's procedure here, by the way, it is evident enough that His own precept in the Sermon on the Mount--that when smitten on the one cheek we are to turn to the smiter the other also ( Matthew 5:39 )--is not to be taken to the letter.
Annas Sends Jesus to Caiaphas ( John 18:24 ).
John 18:24 .
Now Annas had sent Him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest--On the meaning of this verse there is much diversity of opinion; and according as we understand it will be the conclusion we come to, whether there was but one hearing of our Lord before Annas and Caiaphas together, or whether, according to the view we have given above, there were two hearings--a preliminary and informal one before Annas, and a formal and official one before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrim. If our translators have given the right sense of the verse, there was but one hearing before Caiaphas; and then John 18:24 is to be read as a parenthesis, merely supplementing what was said in Mark 14:13 . This is the view of CALVIN, BEZA, GROTIUS, BENGEL, DE WETTE, MEYER, LUCKE, THOLUCK. But there are decided objections to this view. First: We cannot but think that the natural sense of the whole passage, embracing mark 14:13 mark 14:14 mark 14:19-24 , is that of a preliminary non-official hearing before "Annas first," the particulars of which are accordingly recorded; and then of a transference of our Lord from Annas to Caiaphas. Second: On the other view, it is not easy to see why the Evangelist should not have inserted Mark 14:24 immediately after Mark 14:13 ; or rather, how he could well have done otherwise, As it stands, it is not only quite out of its proper place, but comes in most perplexingly. Whereas, if we take it as a simple statement of fact, that after Annas had finished his interview with Jesus, as recorded in Mark 14:19-23 , he transferred Him to Caiaphas to be formally tried, all is clear and natural. Third: The pluperfect sense "had sent" is in the translation only; the sense of the original word being simply "sent." And though there are cases where the aorist here used has the sense of an English pluperfect, this sense is not to be put upon it unless it be obvious and indisputable. Here that is so far from being the case, that the pluperfect "had sent" is rather an unwarrantable interpretation than a simple translation of the word: informing the reader that, according to the view of our translators, our Lord "had been" sent to Caiaphas before the interview just recorded by the Evangelist; whereas, if we translate the verse literally--"Annas sent Him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest"--we get just the information we expect, that Annas, having merely "precognosced" the prisoner, hoping to draw something out of Him, "sent Him to Caiaphas" to be formally tried before the proper tribunal. This is the view of CHRYSOSTOM and AUGUSTINE among the Fathers; and of the moderns, of OLSHAUSEN, SCHLEIERMACHER, NEANDER, EBRARD, WIESELER, LANGE, LUTHARDT. This brings us back to the text of our second Gospel, and in it to
The Judicial Trial and Condemnation of the Lord Jesus by the Sanhedrim--( Mark 14:55-64 ).
But let the reader observe, that though this is introduced by the Evangelist before any of the denials of Peter are recorded, we have given reasons for concluding that probably the first two denials took place while our Lord was with Annas, and the last only during the trial before the Sanhedrim.
55. And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death--Matthew ( Matthew 26:59 ) says they "sought false witness." They knew they could find nothing valid; but having their Prisoner to bring before Pilate, they behooved to make a case.
and found none--none that would suit their purpose, or make a decent ground of charge before Pilate.
56. For many bare false witness against him--From their debasing themselves to "seek" them, we are led to infer that they were bribed to bear false witness; though there are never wanting sycophants enough, ready to sell themselves for naught, if they may but get a smile from those above them: see a similar scene in Acts 6:11-14 . How is one reminded here of that complaint, "False witnesses did rise up: they laid to my charge things that I knew not" ( Psalms 31:11 )!
but their witness agreed not together--If even two of them had been agreed, it would have been greedily enough laid hold of, as all that the law insisted upon even in capital cases ( Deuteronomy 17:6 ). But even in this they failed. One cannot but admire the providence which secured this result; since, on the one hand, it seems astonishing that those unscrupulous prosecutors and their ready tools should so bungle a business in which they felt their whole interests bound up; and, on the other hand, if they had succeeded in making even a plausible case, the effect on the progress of the Gospel might for a time have been injurious. But at the very time when His enemies were saying, "God hath forsaken Him; persecute and take Him; for there is none to deliver Him" ( Psalms 71:11 ). He whose Witness He was and whose work He was doing was keeping Him as the apple of His eye, and while He was making the wrath of man to praise Him, was restraining the remainder of that wrath ( Psalms 76:10 ).
57. And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him--Matthew ( Matthew 26:60 ) is more precise here: "At the last came two false witnesses." As no two had before agreed in anything, they felt it necessary to secure a duplicate testimony to something, but they were long of succeeding. And what was it, when at length it was brought forward?
58. We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands--On this charge, observe, first, that eager as His enemies were to find criminal matter against our Lord, they had to go back to the outset of His ministry, His first visit to Jerusalem, more than three years before this. In all that He said and did after that, though ever increasing in boldness, they could find nothing. Next, that even then, they fix only on one speech, of two or three words, which they dared to adduce against Him. Further, they most manifestly pervert the speech of our Lord. We say not this because in Mark's form of it, it differs from the report of the words given by the Fourth Evangelist ( John 2:18-22 )--the only one of the Evangelists who reports it all, or mentions even any visit paid by our Lord to Jerusalem before His last--but because the one report bears truth, and the other falsehood, on its face. When our Lord said on that occasion, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up," they might, for a moment, have understood Him to refer to the temple out of whose courts He had swept the buyers and sellers. But after they had expressed their astonishment at His words, in that sense of them, and reasoned upon the time it had taken to rear the temple as it then stood, since no answer to this appears to have been given by our Lord, it is hardly conceivable that they should continue in the persuasion that this was really His meaning. But finally, even if the more ignorant among them had done so, it is next to certain that the ecclesiastics, who were the prosecutors in this case, did not believe that this was His meaning. For in less than three days after this they went to Pilate, saying, "Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, after three days I will rise again" ( Matthew 27:63 ). Now what utterance of Christ known to His enemies, could this refer to, if not to this very saying about destroying and rearing up the temple? And if so, it puts it beyond a doubt that by this time, at least, they were perfectly aware that our Lord's words referred to His death by their hands and His resurrection by His own. But this is confirmed by Mark 14:59 .
59. But neither so did their witness agree together--that is, not even as to so brief a speech, consisting of but a few words, was there such a concurrence in their mode of reporting it as to make out a decent case. In such a charge everything depended on the very terms alleged to have been used. For every one must see that a very slight turn, either way, given to such words, would make them either something like indictable matter, or else a ridiculous ground for a criminal charge--would either give them a colorable pretext for the charge of impiety which they were bent on making out, or else make the whole saying appear, on the worst view that could be taken of it, as merely some mystical or empty boast.
60. Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?--Clearly, they felt that their case had failed, and by this artful question the high priest hoped to get from His own mouth what they had in vain tried to obtain from their false and contradictory witnesses. But in this, too, they failed.
61. But he held his peace, and answered nothing--This must have nonplussed them. But they were not to be easily baulked of their object.
Again the high priest--arose ( Matthew 26:62 ), matters having now come to a crisis.
asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?--Why our Lord should have answered this question, when He was silent as to the former, we might not have quite seen, but for Matthew, who says ( Matthew 26:63 ) that the high priest put Him upon solemn oath, saying, "I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God." Such an adjuration was understood to render an answer legally necessary ( Leviticus 5:1 ).
62. And Jesus said, I am--or, as in Matthew ( Matthew 26:64 ), "Thou hast said [it]." In Luke, however ( Luke 22:70 ), the answer, "Ye say that I am," should be rendered--as DE WETTE, MEYER, ELLICOTT, and the best critics agree that the preposition requires--"Ye say [it], for I am [so]." Some words, however, were spoken by our Lord before giving His answer to this solemn question. These are recorded by Luke alone ( Luke 22:67 Luke 22:68 ): "Art Thou the Christ [they asked]? tell us. And He said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe: and if I also ask [interrogate] "you, ye will not answer Me, nor let Me go." This seems to have been uttered before giving His direct answer, as a calm remonstrance and dignified protest against the prejudgment of His case and the unfairness of their mode of procedure. But now let us hear the rest of the answer, in which the conscious majesty of Jesus breaks forth from behind the dark cloud which overhung Him as He stood before the Council.
and--in that character.
ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven--In Matthew ( Matthew 26:64 ) a slightly different but interesting turn is given to it by one word: "Thou hast said [it]: nevertheless"--We prefer this sense of the word to "besides," which some recent critics decide for--"I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sit on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." The word rendered "hereafter" means, not "at some future time" (as to-day "hereafter commonly does), but what the English word originally signified, "after here," "after now," or "from this time." Accordingly, in Luke 22:69 , the words used mean "from now." So that though the reference we have given it to the day of His glorious Second Appearing is too obvious to admit of doubt, He would, by using the expression, "From this time," convey the important thought which He had before expressed, immediately after the traitor left the supper table to do his dark work, "Now is the Son of man glorified" ( John 13:31 ). At this moment, and by this speech, did He "witness the good confession" emphatically and properly, as the apostle says in 1 Timothy 6:13 . Our translators render the words there, "Who before Pontius Pilate witnessed"; referring it to the admission of His being a King, in the presence of Cæsar's own chief representative. But it should be rendered, as LUTHER renders it, and as the best interpreters now understand it, "Who under Pontius Pilate witnessed," &c. In this view of it, the apostle is referring not to what our Lord confessed before Pilate--which, though noble, was not of such primary importance--but to that sublime confession which, under Pilate's administration, He witnessed before the only competent tribunal on such occasions, the Supreme Ecclesiastical Council of God's chosen nation, that He was THE MESSIAH, and THE SON OF THE BLESSED ONE; in the former word owning His Supreme Official, in the latter His Supreme Personal, Dignity.
63. Then the high priest rent his clothes--On this expression of horror of blasphemy, see 2 Kings 18:37 .
and saith, What need we any further witnesses?
64. Ye have heard the blasphemy--(See John 10:33 ). In Luke ( Luke 22:71 ), "For we ourselves have heard of His own mouth"--an affectation of religious horror.
what think ye?--"Say what the verdict is to be."
they all condemned him to be guilty of death--or of a capital crime, which blasphemy against God was according to the Jewish law ( Leviticus 24:16 ). Yet not absolutely all; for Joseph of Arimathea, "a good man and a just," was one of that Council, and "he was not a consenting party to the counsel and deed of them," for that is the strict sense of the words of Luke 23:50 Luke 23:51 . Probably he absented himself, and Nicodemus also, from this meeting of the Council, the temper of which they would know too well to expect their voice to be listened to; and in that case, the words of our Evangelist are to be taken strictly, that, without one dissentient voice, "all [present] condemned him to be guilty of death."
The Blessed One Is Now Shamefully Entreated ( Mark 14:65 ).
Every word here must be carefully observed, and the several accounts put together, that we may lose none of the awful indignities about to be described.
65. some began to spit on him--or, as in Matthew 26:67 , "to spit in [into] His face." Luke ( Luke 22:63 ) says in addition, "And the men that held Jesus mocked him"--or cast their jeers at Him.
to cover his face--or "to blindfold him" (as in Luke 22:64 ).
to buffet him--Luke's word, which is rendered "smote Him" ( Luke 22:63 ), is a stronger one, conveying an idea for which we have an exact equivalent in English, but one too colloquial to be inserted here.
began to say unto him, Prophesy--In Matthew ( Matthew 26:68 ) this is given more fully: "Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote Thee?" The sarcastic fling at Him as "the Christ," and the demand of Him in this character to name the unseen perpetrator of the blows inflicted on Him, was in them as infamous as to Him it must have been, and was intended to be, stinging.
and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands--or "struck Him on the face" ( Luke 22:64 ). Ah! Well did He say prophetically, in that Messianic prediction which we have often referred to, "I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not My face from shame and spitting!" ( Isaiah 50:6 ). "And many other things blasphemously spake they against Him" ( Luke 22:65 ). This general statement is important, as showing that virulent and varied as were the recorded affronts put upon Him, they are but a small specimen of what He endured on that dark occasion.
Peter's FIRST DENIAL of His Lord ( Mark 14:66-68 ).
66. And as Peter was beneath in the palace--This little word "beneath"--one of our Evangelist's graphic touches--is most important for the right understanding of what we may call the topography of the scene. We must take it in connection with Matthew's word ( Matthew 26:69 ): "Now Peter sat without in the palace"--or quadrangular court, in the center of which the fire would be burning; and crowding around and buzzing about it would be the menials and others who had been admitted within the court. At the upper end of this court, probably, would be the memorable chamber in which the trial was held--open to the court, likely, and not far from the fire (as we gather from Luke 22:61 ), but on a higher level; for (as our verse says) the court, with Peter in it, was "beneath" it. The ascent to the Council chamber was perhaps by a short flight of steps. If the reader will bear this explanation in mind, he will find the intensely interesting details which follow more intelligible.
there cometh one of the maids of the high priest--"the damsel that kept the door" ( John 18:17 ). The Jews seem to have employed women as porters of their doors ( Acts 12:13 ).
67. And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him--Luke ( Luke 22:56 ) is here more graphic; "But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire"--literally, "by the light," which, shining full upon him, revealed him to the girl--"and earnestly looked upon him"--or, "fixed her gaze upon him." His demeanor and timidity, which must have attracted notice, as so generally happens, leading," says OLSHAUSEN, "to the recognition of him."
and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth--"with Jesus the Nazarene," or, "with Jesus of Galilee" ( Matthew 26:69 ). The sense of this is given in John's report of it ( John 18:17 ), "Art not thou also one of this man's disciples?" that is, thou as well as "that other disciple," whom she knew to be one, but did not challenge, perceiving that he was a privileged person. In Luke ( Luke 22:56 ) it is given as a remark made by the maid to one of the by-standers--this man was also with Him." If so expressed in Peter's hearing--drawing upon him the eyes of every one that heard it (as we know it did, Matthew 26:70 ), and compelling him to answer to it--that would explain the different forms of the report naturally enough. But in such a case this is of no real importance.
68. But he denied--"before all" ( Matthew 26:70 ).
saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest--in Luke ( Luke 22:57 ), "I know Him not."
And he went out into the porch--the vestibule leading to the street--no doubt finding the fire-place too hot for him; possibly also with the hope of escaping--but that was not to be, and perhaps he dreaded that, too. Doubtless by this time his mind would be getting into a sea of commotion, and would fluctuate every moment in its resolves. First Denial.
Peter's SECOND DENIAL of His Lord ( mark 14:69 mark 14:70 ).
There is here a verbal difference among the Evangelists, which without some information which has been withheld, cannot be quite extricated.
69. And a maid saw him again--or, "a girl." It might be rendered "the girl"; but this would not necessarily mean the same one as before, but might, and probably does, mean just the female who had charge of the door or gate near which Peter now was. Accordingly, in Matthew 26:71 , she is expressly called "another [maid]." But in Luke ( Luke 22:58 ) it is a male servant: "And after a little while [from the time of the first denial] another"--that is, as the word signifies, "another male" servant. But there is no real difficulty, as the challenge, probably, after being made by one was reiterated by another. Accordingly, in John ( John 18:25 ), it is, "They said therefore unto him, &c.--"as if more than one challenged him at once.
and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them--or, as in Matthew 26:71 --"This [fellow] was also with Jesus the Nazarene."
70. And he denied it again--In Luke ( Luke 22:58 ), "Man, I am not." But worst of all in Matthew--"And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man" ( Matthew 26:72 ). This was the Second Denial, more vehement, alas! than the first.
Peter's THIRD DENIAL of His Lord ( Mark 14:70-72 ).
70. And a little after--"about the space of one hour after" ( Luke 22:59 ).
they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilean, and thy speech agreeth thereto--"bewrayeth [or 'discovereth'] thee" ( Matthew 26:73 ). In Luke ( Luke 22:59 ) it is, "Another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this [fellow] also was with him: for he is a Galilean." The Galilean dialect had a more Syrian cast than that of Judea. If Peter had held his peace, this peculiarity had not been observed; but hoping, probably, to put them off the scent by joining in the fireside talk, he was thus discovered. The Fourth Gospel is particularly interesting here: "One of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman [or kinsman to him] whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with Him?" ( John 18:26 ). No doubt his relationship to Malchus drew his attention to the man who had smitten him, and this enabled him to identify Peter. "Sad reprisals!" exclaims BENGEL. Poor Peter! Thou art caught in thine own toils; but like a wild bull in a net, thou wilt toss and rage, filling up the measure of thy terrible declension by one more denial of thy Lord, and that the foulest of all.
71. But he began to curse--"anathematize," or wish himself accursed if what he was now to say was not true.
and to swear--or to take a solemn oath.
saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.
72. And the second time the cock crew--The other three Evangelists, who mention but one crowing of the cock--and that not the first, but the second and last one of Mark--all say the cock crew "immediately," but Luke ( Luke 22:60 ) says, "Immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew." Alas!--But now comes the wonderful sequel.
The Redeemer's Look upon Peter, and Peter's Bitter Tears ( 14:72 , Luke 22:61 Luke 22:62 ).
It has been observed that while the beloved disciple is the only one of the four Evangelists who does not record the repentance of Peter, he is the only one of the four who records the affecting and most beautiful scene of his complete restoration ( John 21:15-17 ).
Luke 22:61 :
And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter--How? it will be asked. We answer, From the chamber in which the trial was going on, in the direction of the court where Peter then stood--in the way already explained. Our Second Evangelist makes no mention of this look, but dwells on the warning of his Lord about the double crowing of the cock, which would announce his triple fall, as what rushed stingingly to his recollection and made him dissolve in tears.
And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept--To the same effect is the statement of the First Evangelist ( Matthew 26:75 ), save that like "the beloved physician," he notices the "bitterness" of the weeping ( Luke 22:62 ). The most precious link, however, in the whole chain of circumstances in this scene is beyond doubt that "look" of deepest, tenderest import reported by Luke alone ( Luke 22:61 ). Who can tell what lightning flashes of wounded love and piercing reproach shot from that "look" through the eye of Peter into his heart!
And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice.
Luke 22:62 :
And Peter went out and wept bitterly\--How different from the sequel of Judas' act! Doubtless the hearts of the two men towards the Saviour were perfectly different from the first; and the treason of Judas was but the consummation of the wretched man's resistance of the blaze of light in the midst of which he had lived for three years, while Peter's denial was but a momentary obscuration of the heavenly light and love to his Master which ruled his life. But the immediate cause of the blessed revulsion which made Peter "weep bitterly" ( Matthew 26:75 ) was, beyond all doubt, this heart-piercing "look" which his Lord gave him. And remembering the Saviour's own words at the table, "Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not" ( Luke 22:31 Luke 22:32 ), may we not say that this prayer fetched down all that there was in that look to pierce and break the heart of Peter, to keep it from despair, to work in it "repentance unto salvation not to be repented of," and at length, under other healing touches, to "restore his soul?"