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Matthew 26

SUMMARY.--The Declaration to the Disciples That the Time Was at Hand. The Wicked Counsel of the Rulers. The Anointing at Bethany. The Alabaster Box. Judas Sells His Lord. The Feast of the Passover. The Traitor Revealed. The Lord's Supper. The Agony in the Garden. The Seizure of Jesus. The Trial Before Caiaphas.

      36. To a place called Gethsemane. The word means "oil-press," and would indicate that a press for making oil out of the olives, which grew in abundance on the mountain, stood there. It was on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. He speaks to the eight who were to remain. These eight would form, as it were, a watch against premature surprise. While I go and pray. The great crisis was at hand, and it was casting its dark shadow before on the spirit of our Lord. In this hour of the power of darkness he felt that he must throw himself upon his Father's bosom.

      37. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee. The eight were left at the entrance of the garden, while the three, who had always been a kind of inner circle, who had been witnesses of his transfiguration, and of one of his greatest miracles ( Mark 5:37 ), were taken within. Began to be sorrowful and very heavy. The shadow of the cross had fallen upon him. It was not fear of the agony, or fear of death, for he bore all, when the moment came, so sublimely that a heathen officer exclaimed, "Surely he must be the son of a god." I doubt whether it is possible for a mortal to comprehend the mystery of his suffering, but I think the key is found in the declaration, "He was made sin for us."

      38. My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death. The weight of woe was literally crushing out the Savior's life. Tarry ye here, and watch. He had wished his chosen disciples to be near him in his woe; and yet, as it advanced, he felt that he must retire even from them, and be alone with himself and his Father.

      39. And he went a little farther. "About a stone's cast" ( Luke ). If it be possible. If it were possible to save men, and carry out the divine work of redeeming them. Let this cup pass from me. This cup is the betrayal, the trial, the mocking, the scourging, the cross, and all besides which our thoughts cannot reach. But as thou wilt. This is an example of perfect faith--the faith by which alone answers to prayer can be obtained. He that insists on his will, when it is contrary to the will of God, fails in faith.

      40. Findeth them asleep. Peter, James and John, soldiers placed on duty in an hour of dreadful peril and bidden to watch. Luke says they were sleeping from sorrow. Great sorrow stupefies. Dr. Rush says that criminals usually sleep soundly the night before execution.

      41. Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. Our Lord does not direct them to pray to God that no temptation might befall them, but that they might not be overcome by the temptations in which they must be involved. The need of such prayer was shown by Peter's denial.

      42. He went away again the second time and prayed. "More earnestly," says Luke, who adds the account of the bloody sweat ( Luke 22:44 ). His agony returned on him. The continuance of the trial he accepts as God's answer to the petition, "Let this cup pass from me." Now he asks only, "Thy will be done."

      43. He came and found them asleep again. The motive of this return we may reverently believe to have been, as before, the craving for human sympathy in that hour of awful agony. Our Savior, we must not forget, was human as well as divine.

      44. He prayed the third time, saying the same words. The fact is suggestive as indicating that there is a repetition in prayer which indicates not formalism, but intensity of feeling.

      45. Sleep on now, and take your rest. I look upon these words as reproachful. The hour when he needed their watchfulness and sympathy was past. They had failed to guard in the hour when he wished to be alone with God. Now the moment is at hand; the soldiers are approaching.

      46. Rise, let us be going. It was no time for repose. Let them rouse, and go with him at once to confront the traitor and the band of enemies.
      WAS CHRIST'S PRAYER ANSWERED?--The Epistle to the Hebrews ( 5:7 ) says it was. An angel came and strengthened him ( Luke 22:43 ). There are two ways of answering a prayer for the removal of a burden. In one, the burden is taken away, and we remain the same; in the other, we are made so strong that the burden is no longer a burden to us; as what would crush a child, is but sport to a man.

      47. Judas, one of the twelve, came. Judas knew the place where the Lord would go to pass the night ( John 18:2 ). Compare Mark 14:43-50 Luke 22:47-53 John 18:3-12 . A great multitude. Roman soldiers ( John 18:3 John 18:12 ), the temple guard, "the captains of the temple," and possibly some priests and scribes. With swords, in the hands of the soldiers. Staves. Clubs. The rabble with the soldiers carried these. From the chief priests and elders. The Sanhedrim.

      48, 49. Gave them a sign. A kiss; a common method of salutation among intimate friends. A sign was needful to point Jesus out to the soldiers. Such a traitorous kiss was the depth of depravity--enmity under the guise of friendship.

      50. They laid hands on Jesus. And bound him ( John 18:12 ).

      51. One . . . drew his sword. Peter ( John 18:26 ). Smote the servant of the high priest. As we learn from John , his name was Malchus. The Lord healed his wound. Peter asked, "Shall we fight?" and without waiting for an answer, struck the blow.

      52. They that take the sword shall perish with the sword. A general law. The violent usually die violent deaths.

      53, 54. Or thinkest thou not? etc. The Lord needed no human defenders, had it been the Divine purpose that he should not die. More than twelve legions of angels? A Roman legion contained from six thousand men upwards. The idea here is a mighty host. He and his eleven faithful apostles are twelve. There is more than a legion for each one of them. He could have evaded the enemies had he chosen; the angels would have come to his rescue, if he had willed it, but he gave himself unto death.

      55, 56. Are ye come out as against a robber? Not a thief, but a robber, a brigand. Among all the indignities heaped upon Jesus by his enemies, the only one that he complains of is that he should be bound like a robber. Then all his disciples . . . fled. The eleven apostles who a little while before thought they never could forsake the Lord. As soon as the Lord was seized they fled into the darkness.

      57. Led him away to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest. He was first examined by Annas, the former high priest, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, probably while the Sanhedrim was assembling in the darkness of the night ( John 18:13 ). For the trial of Christ, compare Mark 14:53-64 Luke 22:54-71 John 18:13-18 . Scribes and elders were gathered. Mark says the "chief priests" also. It was a gathering of the Sanhedrim. Those who were favorable to Jesus, like Joseph and Nicodemus, were probably not called.

      58. Peter followed . . . unto the court of the high priest. The enclosed area, open to the sky, around which the palace was constructed, was called the court. The building extended all around this.

      59, 60. The whole council. The Sanhedrim. Sought false witness. No one could be condemned legally without at least two witnesses who agreed ( Deuteronomy 17:6 Deuteronomy 19:15 ). "One witness," it was said, "was no witness." As there was no true testimony to a charge that could be punished with death, they sought false witness. They found it not. That is, witnesses who would testify to a capital offence and agree in their testimony. Afterward came two. These two gave a perverted version of what Christ had said concerning his death and the resurrection of his own body under the figure of a temple. See John 2:19 . But even their testimony disagreed ( Mark 14:59 ).

      62, 63. Answerest thou nothing? Under the false charges Jesus maintained an impressive silence. "As a sheep before the shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth." I adjure thee, etc. This was the formula for an oath. The High Priest, contrary to the principle of law which forbids that a prisoner shall be compelled to criminate himself, called on Jesus to be a witness against himself. To answer yes, or no, to such a question, was to answer under oath.

      64. Thou hast said. That is, thou hast said the truth in thy question. The Lord only breaks the silence to affirm his divinity under oath. It insured his death at their hands, for he was immediately condemned for the declaration. "At the very crisis of his history, when denial would have saved his life, he asserts his claim to the Divine Sonship and to a Godlike power.

      65. Then the high priest rent his garments. A sign of mourning or indignation ( Acts 14:14 ). It was a form that was always used when about to pronounce a judgment. He hath spoken blasphemy. He did, if not Divine; he did not, if Divine. Either he spoke the truth, or the wicked Caiaphas spoke the truth and Jesus was false. If he spoke falsehood, the purest lips that ever formed human words spoke falsehood on the eve of death, when he knew that the falsehood would send him to death. Such an affirmation, from such a prisoner, at such an hour, can only be reconciled with a consciousness of divinity.

      66. He is worthy of death. This is the formal decision of the Sanhedrim to condemn the Lord to death for blasphemy. This was the second trial, the first examination being informal before Annas, and is mentioned only by John John 18:13 John 18:24 . There was a third, named only by Luke, at the dawn of day, because a decision by the Sanhedrim in the night was illegal. See Luke 22:66 . This meeting only confirmed the decision reached in the night before three o'clock. It is also referred to in Matt. 27:1 .

      67. Then did they spit in his face. The maltreatment recorded occurred between this meeting and the one called to meet at daybreak. Spitting was considered among the Jews an expression of the greatest contempt ( Deut. 25:9 Num. 12:14 ). Even to spit before another was regarded as an offense, and treated as such by heathen also. Buffeted him. Struck him with their fists.

      68. Prophesy unto us, . . . Who is he that smote thee? We learn from Mark that his face was covered, as a mark that he was a condemned man. The age was a cruel one, and Jewish bigots could not be too rough to the condemned prisoner.

      69. Now Peter sat without in the palace. While the preliminary examinations were being held before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrim, Peter and John entered the court of the palace. This court was an open square, enclosed by the palace which was built in a quadrangle all around it. From it doors and windows opened into the rooms built around it, so that Peter was "without the palace," yet in the interior court, where he could see and hear through the open door the proceedings in the hall. Oriental houses are still built with this interior court. And a damsel came to him, saying. John speaks of her as the damsel that kept the door of the porch, or passage into the court. We are not told why she suspected him. He was at this time in the interior court, and is said by Luke to have been standing "among them" by the fire that had been kindled in the courtyard on account of the chilliness of the night.

      70. But he denied before them all. Denied that he "was with Jesus of Galilee." But a few hours before Peter had asserted that though all others deserted the Lord he would not, and that he would die with him, and when Judas led the band into Gethsemane, Peter, refusing to consider the odds, flung himself upon them, valiant as a lion, struck and wounded Malchus, and would probably have slain him had he not swerved. He was a brave as a hero then--now is timid as a deer. The explanation is that his faith had failed when he saw his Master apparently helpless in the hands of his enemies. See Heb. 11:32-35 .

      71. When he was gone out into the porch. Alarmed by the accusation, he withdrew into the porch, an arched passage that led from without into the inner court. This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. It is another maid that follows him and makes the charge. In both cases the charges were based on conjecture.

      72. He denied with an oath, I do not know the man. Peter's second denial. He even denied knowing him, and that, too, with an oath. He had entered upon the downward road, and each step called for a deeper one. So it is always with sin.

      73. Thou art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Matthew says, "After awhile;" Luke says, "About an hour after." John says that the third charge was made by a kinsman of Malchus, who asserted that he saw Peter in the garden Mark says that they accused him of having a Galilean brogue. As most of the disciples of Jesus were Galileans, this draws attention to Peter. Different districts had their dialects, as in England, or the United States.

      74. He began to curse and to swear. Peter's third denial. He not only, with an oath, repeats what he had said in the second, but he affirms it with imprecations of divine wrath on himself if he spake not the truth. The gradations of guilt in the denials of Peter: (1) Ambiguous evasion; (2) distinct denial with a false oath; (3) awful abjuration with solemn imprecations on himself. Immediately the cock crew. This was at the opening of the fourth or morning watch, at about three o'clock. The cock often crows about midnight, or not long after; and again always about the third hour after midnight, or three o'clock. This shows that the second trial of Jesus took place before the dawn.

      75. Peter remembered the word of Jesus. It was at this point that the Lord turned and looked at Peter ( Luke 22:61 ). The hall where Jesus was being tried was probably open toward the court, and Jesus may easily have heard all the denials of Peter. Now he turns and looks at Peter, and brings to his mind what he had few hours before foretold. He went out and wept bitterly. The look of Christ broke his heart. As the cock crew, his own confident assertions and the word of the Lord, "Before the cock crow twice (before the second cock crowing) thou shalt thrice deny me," rushed upon him. He rushed out into the darkness of the night to weep. Judas sinned, betrayed and sold the Lord from covetousness. Afterward he was sorry, but it was the sorrow of this world that worketh death. It was remorse, not repentance, and he went and hanged himself. Peter's repentance was attested (1) by the bitterness of his tears; (2) by his humble submission to his Lord's subsequent rebuke ( John 21:15-17 ); (3) by his subsequent courage in confessing Christ in the face of threatening danger ( Acts 4:8-12 Acts 4:19 ).
      The Order of Events, after the prayer at Gethsemane, for this night were as follows: After the arrest, and its incidents, (1) Jesus was taken first to the house of Annas, ex-high priest ( John 18:13 ). (2) Next, to the palace of Caiaphas, Peter and John following ( John 18:15 ). (3) Here was a preliminary examination before Caiaphas ( John 18:19-24 ). (4) The trial before the council illegal, because held at night--before three o'clock, the cock-crowing ( Matt. 26:59-65 Mark 14:55-64 ). (5) Peter's three denials during the trial ( Matt. 26:69-75 Mark 14:66-72 ). (6) After the Sanhedrim had pronounced him guilty it suspends its session till break of day. (7) During this interval Jesus is exposed to the insults of his enemies ( Matt. 26:67, 68 Luke 22:63-65 ). (8) At the dawn of day the Sanhedrim re-assembles ( Matt. 27:1 Mark 15:1 Luke 22:66 ). (9) After hearing Christ's confession again, he is formally condemned to death for blasphemy ( Luke 22:66-71 ). (10) He is bound and sent to Pilate ( Mark 15:1 ).
      On the Illegal Conviction of Christ, Prof. Greenleaf, a distinguished jurist, says: "Throughout the whole course of the trial, the rules of the Jewish law of procedure were grossly violated, and the accused was deprived of rights belonging even to the meanest citizen. He was arrested in the night, bound as a malefactor, beaten before his arraignment, and struck in open court during the trial. He was tried on a feast-day, and before sunrise. He was compelled to criminate himself, and this under an oath of solemn judicial adjuration; and he was sentenced on the same day of conviction. In all these particulars the law was wholly disregarded."

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