Matthew 26:31

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “ ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’[a]

Matthew 26:31 in Other Translations

31 Then saith Jesus unto them,All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.
31 Then Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'
31 On the way, Jesus told them, “Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
31 Then Jesus told them, "Before the night's over, you're going to fall to pieces because of what happens to me. There is a Scripture that says, I'll strike the shepherd; helter-skelter the sheep will be scattered.
31 Then Jesus said to them, "Tonight all of you will run away because of Me, for it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.

Matthew 26:31 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 26:31

Then saith Jesus unto them
Either before they went out of the house, where they had been eating the passover, and the supper; or as they were going along to the Mount of Olives; which latter rather seems to be the case:

all ye shall be offended because of me this night.
The words are spoken to the eleven disciples; for Judas was now gone to the high priests, to inform them where Jesus was going that night, and to receive of them a band of men and officers to apprehend him; which is what would be the occasion of all the rest of the disciples being offended: for when they should see their master betrayed by one of themselves, and the officers seize him and bind him, and lead him away as a malefactor, our Lord here suggests, that they would be filled with such fear and dread, that everyone of them would forsake him and run away, and provide for their own safety; yea, would be so stumbled at this unexpected event, that they would begin to stagger and hesitate in their minds, whether he was the Messiah, or not, as the two disciples going to Emmaus, seem to intimate; they would be so shocked with this sad disappointment, and so offended, or stumble, as to be ready to fall from him: and their faith in him must have failed, had he not prayed for them, as he did for Peter; for they thought of nothing else but a temporal kingdom, which they expected would now quickly be set up, and they be advanced to great honour and dignity; but things taking a different turn, it must greatly shock and affect them; and it was to be the case not of one or two only, but of all of them: and that because of him, whom they dearly loved, and with whom they had been eating the passover, and his own supper, and had had such a comfortable opportunity together; and because of his low estate, his being seized and bound, and led away by his enemies; as the Jews were before offended at him, because of the meanness of his parentage and education: and this was to be that very night; and it was now very late, it may reasonably be supposed to be midnight: for since the last evening, or sun setting, they had ate the passover, the ceremonies of which took up much time, and after that the Lord's supper; then the Hallell, or hymn was sung, when Christ discoursed much with his disciples, and delivered those consolatory and instructive sermons, about the vine and other things, occasioned by the fruit of the vine, they had been just drinking of, recorded in the 15th and 16th chapters of John; and put up that prayer to his Father for them, which stands in the 17th chapter; and indeed within an hour or two after, see ( Mark 14:37 ) , this prediction of Christ's had its accomplishment, and which he confirms by a prophetic testimony:

for it is written,
in ( Zechariah 13:7 ) ,

I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be
This text is miserably perverted by the Jewish writers; though they all agree, that by "the shepherd", is meant some great person, as a king; so the Targum renders it, "kill the king, and the princes shall be scattered": one F21 of them says, that a wicked king of Moab is designed; another F23, a king of the Ishmaelites, or of the Turks; and a third F24, that any, and every king of the Gentiles is meant; a fourth says F25, it is a prophecy of the great wars that shall be in all the earth, in the days of Messiah ben Joseph; and a fifth F26, after having taken notice of other senses, mentions this as the last: that

``the words "my shepherd, and the man my fellow", in the former part of the verse, are to be understood of Messiah, the son of Joseph; and because he shall be slain in the wars of the nations, therefore the Lord will whet his glittering sword against the nations, to take vengeance on them; and on this account says, "awake, O sword! for my shepherd, and for the man my fellow": as if the Lord called the sword and vengeance to awake against his enemies, because of Messiah ben Joseph, whom they shall slay; and who shall be the shepherd of the flock of God, and by reason of his righteousness and perfection, shall be the man his fellow; and when the nations shall slay that shepherd, the sword of the Lord shall come and smite the shepherd; that is, every shepherd of the Gentiles, and their kings; for because of the slaying of the shepherd of Israel, every shepherd of their enemies shall be slain, and their sheep shall be scattered; for through the death of the shepherds, the people that shall be under them, will have no standing.''

Now though this is a most wretched perversion of the passage, to make the word "shepherd" in the former part of it, to signify one person, and in the other part of it another; yet shows the conviction of their minds, that the Messiah is not be excluded from the prophecy, and of whom, without doubt, it is spoken, and rightly applied by him, who is concerned in it, the Lord Jesus Christ; who feeds his flock like a shepherd, is the great shepherd of the sheep, the chief shepherd, the good shepherd, that laid down his life for the sheep; which is intended by the smiting of him: in the text in ( Zechariah 13:7 ) it is read, "smite the shepherd"; being an order of Jehovah the Father's, to Justice, to awake its sword, and sheath it in his son, his equal by nature, his shepherd by office; and here, as his own act, and what he would do himself, "I will smite the shepherd"; for his ordering Justice to smite, is rightly interpreted doing it himself. The Jews cannot object to this, when their own interpreters in general explain it thus, (tyrky Mvh) , "God shall cut off the shepherd" F1. The sufferings of Christ, which are meant by the smiting him, were according, not only to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, the will of his good pleasure, but according to his will of command; which justice executed, and Christ was obedient to, and in which Jehovah had a very great hand himself: he bruised him, he put him to grief, he made his soul an offering for sin; he spared him not, but delivered him up into the hands of men, justice, and death, for us all: the latter clause, "and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered", respects the disciples, and their forsaking Christ, and fleeing from him, when be was apprehended; for then, as was foretold in this prophecy, and predicted by Christ, they all forsook him and fled, and were scattered every man to his own, and left him alone. In Zechariah it is only said, "the sheep shall be scattered", ( Zechariah 13:7 ) : here, the sheep of the flock; though the Evangelist Mark reads it, as in the prophet, ( Mark 14:27 ) , and so the Arabic here, and the sense is the same; for the sheep are the sheep of the flock, Christ's little flock, the flock of slaughter, committed to his care; unless it may be thought proper to distinguish between the sheep and the flock; and by "the flock" understand, all the elect of God, and by "the sheep", the principal of the flock; "the rams of his sheep", or "flock", as the Syriac version renders it; the apostles of Christ, who are chiefly, if not solely intended; though others of Christ's followers might be stumbled, offended, and staggered, as well as they; as Cleophas was, one of the two that went to Emmaus.


F21 R. Sol. Jarchi, in Zech. xiii. 7.
F23 Isaac Chizzuk Emuna, par. 1. c. 37. p. 310.
F24 R. David Kirachi, in Zech. xiii. 7.
F25 R. Aben Ezra in ib.
F26 Abarbitnel, Mashmia Jeshua, fol. 74. 4.
F1 R. Aben. Ezra, R. David Kimchi, & Miclol Yophi in loc.

Matthew 26:31 In-Context

29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “ ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”

Cross References 2

  • 1. Matthew 11:6; Matthew 13:21
  • 2. Zechariah 13:7; John 16:32

Footnotes 1

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