The Preparation for the Lord's Death.
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.
1. Had finished all these words. The discourses recorded in the
three preceding chapters. The time was Tuesday night, after the Jewish
Wednesday began; that is, after sunset. Compare
Luke 22:1-6; John 12:1-8.
2. After two days. After Wednesday and Thursday. The day
indicated is Friday.
The passover cometh. For the origin of this feast, see
It was really the Jewish emancipation day,
the greatest of their feasts, and the paschal lamb was a type of the
3. Then were gathered together. An official meeting of the
the chief priests, that is, the high priests, Annas and
Caiaphas, and the heads of the twenty-four courses.
And the elders of the people. That is, the heads of the great
families, the princes of Judah.
Into the court of the high priest. The palace of Caiaphas. The
body now about to assemble, the Sanhedrim, was the supreme court of
Israel. According to Jewish accounts, it was composed of seventy-one
members, the high priest being president. The "chief priests," or heads
of the twenty-four courses, distinguished representatives of the
"scribes," and "elders of the people," the heads of the great families,
constituted the membership. It could try and condemn to death, but
could not carry out capital punishment without the consent of the Roman
authorities at this time. It was mostly composed of bitter, bigoted
enemies of Jesus, determined at any cost to secure his death. In the
trial the Jewish law was constantly violated.
Caiaphas. The reigning high priest, the son-in-law of Annas, who
had been high priest, but was deposed by the Romans, but was still
called a high priest. Both were Sadducees.
4. Take Jesus by subtilty. They were afraid of the people and
wished to seize Jesus secretly and deliver him to the Romans to be
crucified before the people knew of their designs. See
5. Not during the feast. During the passover there were millions
of Jews in Jerusalem. Josephus says that in A. D. 65, three
million were present. There were often tumults at the passover, and it
was feared that the arrest of Jesus would arouse one. On such occasions
the Romans suppressed the disturbance without mercy.
6. Now when Jesus was at Bethany. On the Saturday before.
Matthew goes back to an event that occurred at Bethany before the
Lord's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, because he is about to relate
the treachery of Judas, and it was brought to a crisis by that event.
In the house of Simon the leper. Supposed to have been healed by
Christ, and a relative of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Compare the
It is not known certainly who he was.
7. There came a woman. Mary, the sister of Lazarus. See
An alabaster box. A
Of precious ointment. Of spikenard, very costly and precious. It
was worth 300 pence, or denarii, equivalent, when we consider the
change in money values, to $300 now.
Poured it on his head. She broke the vase and emptied it. See
8. They had indignation.
shows that it was Judas who voiced the indignation.
Why this waste? Judas thought that 300 pence had been
squandered. Sordid men still often think what is spent for the Savior
9. This ointment might have been sold for much.
Mark and John
say, "three hundred denarii." Pliny says a pound, the amount in the
vase, was worth 400 denarii.
Given to the poor. A pretence. Judas wanted to get the money
into his bag.
10. Why trouble ye the woman? By your murmurs, as if she had
done a sinful thing.
She hath wrought a good work. What is done for Christ from love
of Christ is always a good work.
11. Ye have the poor always. Always opportunities to do good to
them, but what was done for Christ in the flesh must be done at
12. To prepare me for burial. It was customary to anoint the
dead and lay the body in spices. See
Luke 23:56; 2 Chron. 16:14.
Mary was probably impelled only by her love of the Lord and desire to
do him honor; but Jesus, about to die and be buried, declares the
anointing a fit preparation.
13. Wheresoever this gospel. The gospel of a crucified Savior.
In all the world. A prophecy that its preaching will be
A memorial of her. Mary's loving deed has never been forgotten,
but is to-day told in every quarter of the earth.
14. Then . . . Judas Iscariot went. A comparison of all the
accounts will show that when his avarice was thus disappointed, he
went, at the first opportunity, to the priests. His Master was about to
be crucified, he had not been permitted to enrich himself, there was
now no probability that he would become the treasurer of Christ as an
15. What are ye willing to give me? He had deliberately decided.
He probably knew of their wish to seize Jesus secretly, and that they
would pay for a guide that would lead them where he rested at night.
Thirty pieces of silver. The price was agreed upon and paid. The
pieces were silver shekels, temple money. The whole would contain about
the amount of silver in twenty dollars, perhaps equal in value to $120
now. It was a fulfillment of
Joseph was sold for twenty pieces of silver
16. From that time. The time of the bargain with the priests. No
one can tell certainly what day the bargain was completed.
17. Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread. Strictly
speaking, the 15th of Nisan (part of our March and April), after the
paschal lamb was killed, but here the 14th day (Thursday). See
This suggests one of the most difficult questions of Scripture
chronology, whether the Lord ate the passover one day before the
regular Jewish passover, or at the usual time. Pressense, Milman,
Ellicott, Townsend, Alford, Neander, Farrar, and many other great
authorities, hold that he ate it the day preceding, and died on the day
and about the time the Jewish passover lambs were slain. The statements
that the supper was eaten, the Lord betrayed and condemned before the
passover, seem positive.
Where wilt thou that we prepare the passover? According to the
directions given in
the passover must be eaten in the place where the Lord's name was
recorded, or where the tabernacle or temple was located.
18, 19. Go into the city to such a man. The disciples are
to determine the place in the city by a certain sign. They do so and
make ready in the guest chamber thus secured.
20. Now when the even was come. The lamb was slain "between two
evenings," that is, between three and five o'clock (see
margin). The supper followed on the same night. It was probably dark
before the Savior and the twelve came to the guest chamber. The band
that "sat down" to this supper and this occasion have furnished the
subject of one of the greatest paintings ever created.
21. One of you shall betray me. The meal, opened with
"blessing," seems to have proceeded with solemn silence after it began,
until the silence was broken by these startling words.
22. Lord, is it I? Not one of them ventures to question the
truth of the Lord's prophecy; and each asks the personal question, "Is
it I?" No one accuses, even by implication, his neighbor.
23. He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish shall betray
me. In Oriental meals, instead of plates being used, each one helps
himself with his fingers from the dish as he needs. From
we learn that these words were spoken to the disciple that leaned on
the Savior's bosom and were unheard by Judas and the rest.
24. The Son of man goeth as it is written of him.
"As it was determined," in prophecy.
Good for that man. A declaration of the awful judgment that
would befall the traitor.
25. Thou hast said. In other words, "Thou art the traitor."
says that Jesus then said to
Judas, "What thou doest, do quickly" and that he "immediately went out,
and it was night." Judas, therefore, left before the Lord's Supper was
26. As they were eating. Before they had arisen from the paschal
Jesus took bread. That is, one of the unleavened cakes that had
been placed before him as the celebrant or proclaimer of the feast.
And blessed. As was the custom.
Luke and Paul
say, "gave thanks," which is the same thing.
This is my body. Not literally, as the Catholics and Luther
contend, but "represents my body." We interpret it as we do his other
sayings: "The seed is the word,"
"The field is the world,"
"The reapers are the angels,"
"The harvest is the end of the world,"
"I am the door,"
"I am the vine."
So, too, at this very feast, the Jew was wont to say of the paschal
lamb, "This is the body of the lamb which our fathers ate in
Egypt." Not the same, but this is meant to represent and
commemorate that. He could not have meant that the bread was his real
body, because his body was present at the table breaking the loaf, and
he was speaking and acting in person among them. The doctrine of the
"Real Presence" is every way unreasonable.
27. He then took the cup, and gave thanks. The cup was provided
for the celebration of the paschal feast, and was at hand as well as
Drink ye all of it. Observe that he simply said of the bread,
but of the wine, "Drink ye all," as if he intended to uproot the
Catholic innovation of denying the cup to the laity.
28. This is my blood. A sign or emblem of my blood.
New testament. Or, covenant. Covenant is the preferable sense here,
as in most passages where the word occurs in the New Testament; the new
covenant is contrasted with "the covenant which God made with our
Shed for many. Shed, in one sense, for all, for the benefits of
the blood are offered to all; but "many" accept it and are saved.
29. I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine. He is
done with earthly rites, and at this sad moment points them to a future
reunion at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Do this in remembrance of
points to a permanent institution, to be observed until the Lord comes
the second time. The command is therefore binding on all who believe in
Christ; and disobedience to it is sin, for the unbelief that keeps men
away is one of the worst of sins. The subsequent practice of the
(Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7),
and still more the fact that directions for the Lord's Supper were made
a matter of special revelation to Paul
(1 Cor. 11:23),
seem to make it clear that Christ intended the ordinance for a
perpetual one, and that his apostles so understood it.
30. When they had sung a hymn. It was customary to conclude the
passover by singing the
Psalms from 115th to 118th.
To the mount of Olives. To the garden of Gethsemane, which was
on the slope of the mount. This journey over the Kedron to Gethsemane
was made in the darkness of the night. The Lord's Supper, a memorial of
his death, has a still more tender interest, from the fact that it was
established only two or three hours before he was betrayed and
31. Shall be offended. Compare
Luke 22:31-34; John 13:37, 38.
It is written.
The Shepherd. Christ.
The sheep. His disciples.
32. I will go before you into Galilee. The first announcement of
the great Galilean meeting of the risen Lord with his disciples. See
John 21; 1 Cor. 15:6.
33. Peter answered. With his usual rashness.
34, 35. Thou shalt deny me thrice. The first cock crow was about
twelve at night. The second about three o'clock. Before this the
three-fold denial would occur. Peter and the disciples were sincere,
but knew not their own weakness.
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
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
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
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"
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.
says they were sleeping from sorrow. Great sorrow stupefies. Dr. Rush
says that criminals usually sleep soundly the night before
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
42. He went away again the second time and prayed. "More
earnestly," says Luke, who adds the account of the bloody sweat
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
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
ANSWERED?--The Epistle to the Hebrews
says it was. An angel came and strengthened him
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
Luke 22:47-53; John 18:3-12.
A great multitude. Roman soldiers
(John 18:3, 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
51. One . . . drew his sword. Peter
Smote the servant of the high priest. As we learn from
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
For the trial of Christ, compare
Luke 22:54-71; John 18:13-18.
Scribes and elders were gathered.
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
59, 60. The whole council. The Sanhedrim.
Sought false witness. No one could be condemned legally without
at least two witnesses who agreed
(Deut. 17:6; 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
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
But even their testimony disagreed
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
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
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
This meeting only confirmed the decision reached in the night before
three o'clock. It is also referred to in
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
(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
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
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
And a damsel came to him, saying.
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
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
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.
says, "After awhile;"
says, "About an hour after."
says that the third charge was made by a kinsman of Malchus, who
asserted that he saw Peter in the garden
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
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
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
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
(3) by his subsequent courage in confessing Christ in the face of
(Acts 4:8-12, 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
(2) Next, to the palace of Caiaphas, Peter and John following
(3) Here was a preliminary examination before Caiaphas
(4) The trial before the council illegal, because held at night--before
three o'clock, the cock-crowing
(5) Peter's three denials during the trial
(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;
(8) At the dawn of day the Sanhedrim re-assembles
Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66).
(9) After hearing Christ's confession again, he is formally condemned
to death for blasphemy
(10) He is bound and sent to Pilate
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
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."