New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary

26:1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these words, he said to his disciples- The same rubric as in 19:1, suggesting that this was a way of dividing up the material to assist in memorization. The earliest converts would have memorized the good news preached to them by e.g. Matthew, and then the material was written up under inspiration as 'the Gospel of Matthew' which we now have.

26:2 You know- The knowledge can refer to both the subsequent clauses in the sentence. The Lord said that they knew that Passover was coming, and that He must be handed over to crucifixion. Yet the disciples did not 'know' of His crucifixion in that clearly they had shut their minds to it. And the Lord knew that. But He is still trying to get them to understand. His effort in teaching the disciples is admirable; we would likely have sought to focus solely upon personally getting through with the trauma of death over the next few days. But He perceived that His perfection involved love for His chosen to the end.

That after two days the Passover comes, and the Son of Man will be- A present tense, when we expect a future. The essence of the Lord's function as the Paschal lamb was lived out throughout His life. Perhaps the Lord used this unusual tense because He wanted to prepare the disciples for the fact they were going to keep the Passover a day earlier than usual; but they need not worry about that, because the essence of Passover was ongoing in the Lord's life. John the Baptist had perceived that when commenting that the Lord was "the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world" (Jn. 1:29,36) even when it wasn't Passover time. See on :28 Is shed and on :30 They went out. Luke says "the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover". "Called the Passover" might suggest that it was only called Passover, but was not so in reality. This would connect with the theme of the feast being called a "feast of the Jews" rather than of Yahweh, and the temple becoming "your house" rather than God's.

Delivered up to be crucified- Literally, 'is being betrayed'. The next verse shows what was going on in justification of this statement. The Lord could have known of it through direct Divine revelation, but I prefer to think that His sensitivity was such that He perceived it of His own perception. The Greek can mean to be handed over, and also to be betrayed, with reference to Judas. The obvious double meaning indicates that the Lord did purposefully use words and ideas with more than one meaning, realizing that after His death, the other meaning would be made apparent. This means that we are quite justified in perceiving multiple meanings and intentions in inspired words, the Olivet Prophecy being a classic example, with its various possible applications. "Is betrayed" reflects a present tense in the Greek. The Lord's handing over to death, indeed His death itself, was in essence lived out throughout His life. His life was a form of ongoing death.

26:3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered at the court of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas- The record may wish to give the impression that it was because of the Lord’s prediction of His death that the Jews assembled and arranged it. He certainly planned His death consciously, and the Jews responded to His provocations. The gathering or assembling together of the Lord’s enemies is a major theme (:57; 27:17,27,62; 28:12); and uses the same word for the gathering together of the rejected to condemnation at the last day. Coming before Christ in His time of dying was and is a foretaste of the last judgment. The Lord Jesus causes people to gather together either for or against Him. This is the fundamental divide- not between brother and brother, but between the believer and the world, light and darkness.

The word translated “court” or “palace” is used 12 times in the New Testament, and eight of them refer to the court of the High Priest. It’s tempting, therefore, to think that the Lord may well have had this same court / palace in mind when He spoke of how an armed strong man “keeps his palace” [s.w., Lk. 11:21], but the Lord Jesus through His death on the cross would overpower him, and take his goods and share them with His people. The strong man who kept the palace may have had some reference, therefore, to the Jewish High Priest; the good things of the temple were inaccessible to God’s people, until the Lord overpowered that entire system. The Lord also spoke of how He has a “fold”, the same word translated “palace” or “court”, into which He must gather His sheep (Jn. 10:1,16). He had to take over the whole temple system, and replace the Jewish religious leadership with His own bad of secular men, prostitutes and hangers on.

26:4 And they plotted together how they might seize Jesus using trickery and kill him- The Greek specifically means to jointly decide. The collective guilt of Jewry is being emphasized, because their judgment was likewise collective. The same word is used four times later in this chapter about the ‘taking hold’ of the Lord Jesus in Gethsemane (:48,50,55,57). This ‘laying on of hands’ against the Lord is likewise strongly noted by Mark (s.w. Mk. 14:44,46,49,51). The sight of it was burnt into their memories. There are likewise parts and aspects of the Lord’s sufferings, and words associated with them, which are likewise burnt in the consciousness of all those who truly love Him.

"Trickery" is as AV "By subtilty"- an allusion to the Lord’s Jewish opposition as the seed of the serpent at whose hands the seed of the woman was wounded (Gen. 3:15).But the word literally refers to a bait, implying some plan to deceive Him into a position in which they could arrest Him. But what were these plans? The Lord fell for no bait. Perhaps the idea was that Judas would come and kiss Him, and lead Him into some isolated ambush or compromising situation. When the Lord made it clear to Judas that He knew what Judas was up to, the plan fell apart and the soldiers simply grabbed the Lord. And they ended killing Him “on the feast day”, which was exactly what they had planned to avoid (:5).

The plan made ahead of time to kill Him was clearly typified by the brothers’ plans to kill Joseph.

26:5 But they said: Not during the feast- But they did crucify the Lord during the feast, at the same time as the Passover lambs were being killed. Their plan went wrong- see on :4 By subtilty. Try as they might to not kill Him then, the Lord wanted to die as the Passover lamb, and this happened despite the Jews not wanting that. The Lord had control over the time of His death, because He gave His life rather than having it taken from Him.

Lest a riot arise among the people- This indicates the popularity the Lord enjoyed even at that stage, and the fact He was crucified with the general goodwill of the masses is therefore an essay in the fickleness of human nature. And yet the careful plans of the leaders didn't work out- there was "a tumult" about it, the same Greek word translated "uproar" (27:24), and likewise they did end up killing Jesus "on the feast day" when it was not their intention to.

26:6 Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper- The anointing recorded in Mark 14 is clearly the same as that here in Matthew 26. But the anointing in Luke 7 appears to have occurred in the house of a Pharisee called Simon somewhere in Galilee. The anointing recorded in John 12 is very similar, but occurred six days before the Passover and one day before the triumphal entry (Jn. 12:12), whereas the anointing recorded here in Matthew and Mark occurred after that. There are other differences, too. In Jn. 12:3 Mary uses "a pound of spikenard" whereas the anointing in Matthew seems to emphasize the use of spikenard as a liquid, in an alabaster flask that had to be broken to release the liquid. The spikenard was worth more than 300 pence (Mk. 14:5), whereas that of Jn. 12:5 was worth 300 pence; it was used to anoint the Lord's feet (Jn. 12:3), whereas that of Mt. 26:7 was used to anoint His head. In Jn. 12:4 it is Judas who complains at the apparent waste of the money, whereas in Mt. 26:8 it is the disciples. Mt. 26:11,12 record the Lord's word about "You will always have the poor with you" and goes on to record His explanation that the woman had done this for His burial; whereas in Jn. 12:7,8 these two sayings are the other way around. The wiping of His feet with her hair is stressed in Jn. 12:3, but Matthew and Mark are silent about this. Jn. 12 clearly identifies the woman as Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus; whereas Matthew and Mark are careful to preserve her as a nameless "woman" who "came unto Him" (26:7). I therefore have no doubt that Jn. 12 and Mt. 26 / Mk. 14 speak of two separate anointings, both in Bethany, separated from each other by four days. The anointing in Luke 7 is clearly framed as a similar incident, also in the house of a man called Simon. 

The question, of course, is why these three anointings are described in such similar language. Higher critics immediately speak of textual dislocation and mistakes made by the writers in their chronology of events. These kinds of approaches arise from a focus upon the text before our eyes, rather than having a wider perspective on Scripture earned by years of careful Bible reading of the entire Bible text. Those who read the entire Scriptures over a period of time cannot fail to be impressed by the repetition of situations and events. The way Joseph is called out of prison to interpret a King's dream and is then exalted to rulership in a pagan land is clearly the basis for the language used about Daniel's experience in Babylon. This is not to say that text got dislocated, that Daniel was Joseph or vice versa. Rather do we perceive a single Divine mind behind the production of the Bible as we have it; and God's intention was clearly to show that circumstances repeat within and between the lives of His people. And the language He uses in recording history seeks to bring out those repetitions. This is why the lament of Jeremiah in depression is so similar to that of Job in his depression. And of course we are free to assume that Biblical characters were aware of and took inspiration from those who had gone before them. I suggest that this is what we have going on in the records of these three anointings of the Lord by despised and misunderstood women. They were inspired by each other- for the Lord comments that what the women did was to be told worldwide. This was a command, and it was surely obeyed. Mary of Bethany was inspired by the woman of Luke 7, and the anonymous woman of Matthew 26 was inspired by Mary's anointing of four days previously. Mary had given spikenard worth 300 pence; this woman used even more expensive ointment. And in this is our lesson- to be inspired by the devotion of others to their Lord. Heaven's record of our response is as it were recorded in similar language, in recognition of the inspiration provided by earlier acts of faithfulness by those we know or who have gone before us.

26:7 A woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it- The Greek bar-utimos uses a term, utimos, elsewhere used about the precious, costly blood of Christ. Matthew uses it about the "price" of the Lord's blood (27:6,9), as does Paul (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23) and Peter (1 Pet. 2:7). The point is simple. The Lord's blood shed for us was and is the most valuable thing in existence, in the entire cosmos; and we should feel that when we take the cup which symbolizes it. And our response is to give our most valuable things, materially and otherwise, for Him.

On his head as he reclined at table- The woman anointed the Lord’s head in order to reflect her belief that He really was the Christ, the anointed one. She gave her life savings for this belief. It can be apparently painless to believe that Jesus is Christ, and yet the implications of accepting this simple fact can transform a life. What she did was surely rooted in her understanding of Song 1:12, where Solomon’s lover has spikenard (s.w. LXX Jn. 12:3) which sends forth its smell “While the king sitteth at his table”. Clearly enough she saw Jesus right there and then as the King- even though His Kingdom was not of that world. Her love for Him, her reflection upon the Old Testament, and her perception of Him as her future Lord and King to the extent that she even then treated Him as such, so certain was her faith in His future victory and worthiness… this all motivated her to give the quintessence of her life’s work for Him. And it should for us too.

26:8 But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying- Mk. 14:4 adds that the indignation was within themselves, and so the words they are here recorded as saying were likely within themselves. We wonder how many other times when we read of people 'saying' something, the 'saying' was within their own minds. For self-talk is understood by the Lord as our actual words. Whether or not we hold our tongues back is not the ultimate issue. The words have been said within us. See on 26:10 When Jesus understood. If the reconstruction of events I offered is correct, we can better understand their frustration. They would have seen an identical 'waste' of wealth in the anointing of four days previously in the same village, perhaps in the same home; and they had seen it in Galilee at the incident recorded in Luke 7. And they were doing their math and calculating the total cost 'wasted'.

To what purpose?- The Greek eis tis could equally mean 'For whom?', the implication being that the poor could have been benefitted far more than the Lord Jesus. Hence the Lord replies that the purpose of the anointing was to embalm Him ahead of time for burial. Just as the woman was inspired by the generous anointing of Mary four days previously and the Galilean prostitute of Luke 7, so the huge amount of spices purchased by Nicodemus in Jn. 19:39 was likely motivated in turn by her example. Critics claim that the amount of spices ("one hundred pound weight") bought was more than used in the burial of the Caesars. The woman here used a pound of spikenard, worth more than the 300 pence at which Mary's anointing liquid was valued. And in turn, Nicodemus was motivated yet more- 100 times more. She gave one pound, he gave 100 pounds' weight. This is the reason for the deja vu of our lives, of how experiences repeat between human lives- it's so that we may be inspired to greater  service than even those who went before.

Is this waste- This is the same Greek word used nearly 20 times in the NT for destruction and condemnation; it is the same word used in describing Judas as "the son of perdition". The tragedy of condemnation is the waste of what could have been. This is the sadness with which God sees condemnation. We note that four days before, it had been Judas who complained about the 'waste'. His attitude had spread to the disciples. But the paradox was that he was thereby the son of waste, he was condemning himself by complaining about the waste of devotion towards the Lord Jesus. The idea could even be that they were so angry that they thought that the woman was condemning herself by what she had done, because she could have given the money to the poor. This is seen so often in religious experience- those who stand on the sidelines become so bitter at how others actively express their devotions to their Lord that they go so far as to condemn them. We think of how Michal despised David for dancing before the Lord, and was punished with barrenness; and of the Lord’s observation: “Is your eye evil, because I am good / generous?” (20:15). The world's wealthiest individuals are often very generous to charitable causes- and yet they do so to a chorus of criticism from those who have given little or nothing to such causes.

26:9 For this might have been sold for much and given to the poor- The very words used by the Lord to the rich ruler, telling him to sell what he had and give to the poor (19:21). Their idea in saying this may have been to accuse the woman of disobedience to the Lord’s teachings. We see here how deep are the feelings aroused by spiritual jealousy. This woman had made a stellar commitment to her Lord; and quite unspoken, her devotion challenged the other disciples. And so by all means they had to condemn her, and were happy to misquote the Lord’s words to achieve that. This is one simple reason why those most active and sacrificial in church life are often the most viciously attacked by their fellow disciples.

26:10 But Jesus perceiving it, said to them: Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a- This translation is misleading; the idea of the Greek is that the Lord perceived the situation immediately. But the fact He perceived it confirms the suggestion that the words the disciples apparently spoke were in fact spoken within their minds and not out loud- see on 26:8 Indignation, saying

Good work- The Greek has the idea of beauty. The same Greek phrase rendered “a good work” is found in 1 Tim. 5:10 as something required of a mature spiritual woman, and for which she must be “reported”- clearly alluding to how this woman’s “good work” was to be told / reported worldwide. She thus became a model for other sisters to follow, in the same way as she herself had copied the examples of Mary four days previously, and the sinful woman of Luke 7. This is the intended power and purpose of good works- they serve as inspiration for others to likewise glorify the Lord. The Greek expression ‘to work a [good] work’ is used elsewhere regarding the Lord’s working of miracles (Jn. 6:28; 9:41; 10:33). Her response was no less significant than the working of a miracle.

Upon me- The Greek eis eme could as well mean ‘in Me’, as if the woman’s work gave the Lord huge encouragement within Himself.

26:11 For you always have the poor with you- Christ's love for us, His Father's spiritual house, was typified by His being likened to the poor slave under the Law who perpetually dedicated himself to serve his master's house. An extension of this idea is revealed by a connection between the Lord saying "Ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always" (Mt. 26:11) and Dt. 15:11 "For the poor shall never cease out of the land”. Thus Jesus is associating himself with the "poor man... of thy brethren" of Dt. 15:7. Note how Jesus calls himself a "poor man", especially on the cross: Ps. 34:6; 35:10; 37:14; 40:17; 69:29,33; 70:5; 86:1; 109:22; 113:7 cp. 2 Cor. 8:9- an impressive list. Christ exercised the rights of the poor to glean in the cornfield on the Sabbath (Lk. 6:1); Dt. 15:7 warned the Israelites not to be hard hearted and refuse help to such a poor brother. Christ is alluding to this passage by saying that the disciples should not be hard hearted by stopping Mary give her rich ointment to Him, the poor. The following Dt. 15:12-17 is also concerning Jesus. Thus Jesus was spiritually poor and hungry, and was so grateful for Mary's encouragement.

Note that the Law also taught that if Israel were obedient, then there would be no poverty. And yet the same Law tacitly recognized the reality of human weakness in noting that “the poor shall never cease out of the land” (Dt. 15:11). God’s law therefore also reflects His grace and understanding of human failure to be fully obedient.

But you will not always have me with you- We would likely have been tempted to expose the root of the immediate problem- Judas was a thief, and wanted the cash because he would keep some of it and only distribute part to the poor. But the Lord as ever, was wiser than to confront issues in such a primitive way. He brushes past the complaint that this woman had ignored His principle of selling what we have and giving to the poor, and doesn’t expose the core reason for Judas’ trouble stirring about the issue. Rather He focuses upon what the woman had achieved, and bids the disciples look closer at His death and how they should be responding to it.

"Always" is literally, ‘at all times’. There would always be opportunity, times of opportunity, to do good to the poor.

26:12 For in that she poured this ointment upon my body- A different word from that used to describe how she poured the ointment on His head (:7). Perhaps her focus was upon anointing Him- but because the ointment dripped from His head onto His body, the Lord imputed to her an understanding of His upcoming death and saw it as an embalming of Him, in line with the oft repeated idea that His life was in effect His death; as He sat at the meal table, it was as if He were already dead.

She did it to prepare me for burial- The RV has “to prepare me for burial”. This could be read as the Lord saying that what she did inspired Him to go forward in the path to death which He was treading. The Greek means specifically embalming. It was as if the woman perceived that the Lord was effectively the slain lamb of God even whilst He was alive. It is used only once more in the New Testament, describing the embalming of the Lord's body (Jn. 19:40).

26:13 Truly I say to you: Wherever in the whole world this gospel is preached, what this woman has done shall also be spoken of- Her generosity was set up as a cameo of the response to the Lord which all who believe the Gospel should make. The Gospel is not just a set of doctrines to be painlessly apprehended. It is a call to action after the pattern of this woman. The good news was to be of the Lord’s death and burial, and yet integral to that message was to be the pattern of response which was seen in her- to give our all, our most treasured and hoarded things, for His sake.

There is evident connection with the Lord's prophecy of how the Gospel would be preached in all the world (Mt. 24:14; Mk. 16:15). He seems to have seen the 'Gospel' that would be preached as a re-telling of His life and incidents in it, such as the woman's anointing of Him. It is significant that her anointing is mentioned in all four Gospel records. In Mk. 14:9 we read that wherever the gospel was to be preached, what she had done would be narrated in memory of her. So ‘preaching the Gospel’ is defined there as a narration of the events and sayings of the Lord Jesus in His ministry. The Gospel records are transcripts of the Gospel preached by e.g. Matthew. The Gospel is therefore in the Gospels. The rest is interpretation and theology, necessary and helpful, but there is no avoiding the fact that the Gospel itself is in the records of the Gospel which we have in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The Lord foresaw that transcripts of His work and words would indeed be made, and He envisaged how the supreme devotion of this anonymous woman would be part of that message. The language is very similar to that of 24:14: "This Gospel... shall be preached [kerusso again] in all the world... and then shall the end come". Matthew may have had in view how his version of the Gospel needed to be spread into all the world.

As a memorial of her- The language of 'memorial' is typically used in contemporary literature about memorials to the gallant deeds of men. But the Lord was challenging such thinking by saying that the Gospel would include a memorial of an anonymous woman. And her humanly senseless pouring out of her wealth in a ten minute act of devotion to Him was none less than the bravest or noblest act of any man.

26:14 Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests- In all the Gospel records, the decision of Judas to betray the Lord follows on from the anointing incidents. The [apparent] waste of money in senseless devotion obviously irked Judas. People who are obsessed with money as he was often find such things unbearable to be part of. Judas is repeatedly called "Simon's son" at this time. And the anointing took place in Simon's house (:6). It could well be that Judas was a member of the family, possibly even a brother of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. To see the family wealth 'wasted' in this way was unbearable for him. The reasons for his betrayal were surely multi-factorial, but attitudes to money played a large part. "What will you give me, and I will betray Him...?" clearly suggests a financial motive; and the records seem to give the impression that the apparent waste of money, especially if it was money he thought might be coming to him in the inheritance, was the final straw for him. After that, he went to the Jews and opened discussions about betraying the Lord. The way he threw the thirty pieces of silver down on the ground reflects his final realization of how foolish he had been. And yet the lesson is so often never learnt; men and women effectively betray their Lord for money; accumulation of wealth, development of career, take precedence over devotion to Him, and finally lead to betrayal.

26:15 And said: What are you willing to give me- The financial aspect was important to Judas. He, like so many after him, was prepared to betray the Son of God purely for money. The decision of Judas to make this offer is recorded as coming straight after the record of the woman anointing the Lord's feet with the expensive ointment. Judas's heart cried out as he saw all that money wasted; he knew that the perfume could have been sold for much and the money entrusted to him as the treasurer, and therefore he would have had the opportunity to take some for himself. As I read the records, the motivation of Judas was fundamentallyfinancial, whatever we may like to speculate about his other reasons. It's almost too farfetched to believe; that a man who walked in the company of the Son of God, who entered into deep spiritual conversation with him, who is even described by the Spirit of Christ as "a man mine equal, my guide and mine acquaintance" (Ps. 55:13,4), could steal the odd few dollars (in our terms) out of the bag of those 12 travelling men. It couldn't have been any great sum that he notched up in those three years. And yet this led Judas to betray the Lord of all grace, for a sum no more than at most a few thousand US dollars (in our terms). They valued the Son of God at 30 pieces of silver (Mt. 27:9)- and all it could buy was a field. And Judas was happy with that. The way he later hurled those coins down and stalked off to hang himself suggests that he saw the essence of his failure as being tied up with that money. "The reward of iniquity" was what Peter contemptuously called it (Acts 1:18).

If I will deliver Him to you?- The Lord had predicted this, using the very same words, concerning how He would be delivered over to the "chief priests" (20:18). The Lord had only just used the word translated "deliver" in predicting His betrayal (:2). And Judas did it. The Lord surely knew the power of self-fulfilling prophecies; to some degree He psychologically set up this situation so that this would indeed happen. For ultimately the Lord 'gave Himself', He handed Himself over [the same Greek word] for us (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 5:2,25; 1 Pet. 2:23). It is not at all unbelievable that Judas would do the very thing which the Lord had predicted the betrayer would do. It is true to human experience; people do the very thing they know they should not, performing to the letter the very situations which they have been clearly warned about. Yet through all this, it must be remembered that the same word for deliver up / betray is used about how God 'delivered up' His Son for us all (Rom. 8:32). Although Judas was without question guilty and did what he did of his own volition, God's hand was somehow in it, working through the freewill of men. And this is the great comfort to all those who suffer evil at the hands of evil men; the evil of the men and their actions doesn't mean that we have been forsaken by God, nor that His far higher hand is not in it all, working as He does for our ultimate good in the latter end. 

We noted earlier that the very language of betrayal into the hands of the religious leaders and thence to the power of the Gentiles (20:18,19) was used about the experience of the faithful in the final tribulation (24:9,10). In the very last few days, the last generation will pass through the sufferings of the Lord Jesus, identifying with His death so that they might live with Him. This will be especially appropriate if the last generation are the only human beings to never taste of death. And even for those believers who do not live at that time, they too find that their experiences of betrayal are a part in their fellowship of their Lord's sufferings. For the same word is used in speaking of how we are all "delivered unto death for Jesus' sake" (2 Cor. 4:11). For the sake of being in Him, identified with Him, we must all share in His sufferings and betrayal experience.

They paid him- They weighed [Gk.] the money, fulfilling Zech. 11:12 "They weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver". The legalism of all concerned shines through. According to Mark 14:11, this was really an advance payment. The money was perhaps weighed out because the shekels were the temple shekels, those used in the temple. 

Thirty pieces- The legal price of a slave (Ex. 21:32). The money intended for purchasing the temple sacrifices (see on They covenanted) was used to buy the Lord at the time when He appeared supremely "in the form of a servant".

Of silver- They were "the price of [Christ's] blood" (27:6), "the price of [Christ]". We are surely intended to use this identification to interpret the parable of the pieces of silver [s.w.] given to the Lord's servants (25:18,27). He calls it "My money" [s.w. "silver pieces", Lk. 19:23]. The money of Christ was the money paid to get His blood. Perhaps those to whom more silver pieces were given are those who had sinned the more, whose redemption was the more costly; or those who appreciate the price of their redemption the more.

26:16 And from that time onward he sought opportunity to betray him- One with the Lord's sensitivity would easily have realized what was happening. Yet He was so far above it all; for He was going to hand Himself over, and not be handed over by anyone.

26:17 Now on the first day of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying: Where do you want us to- This is noted so often, as if the Lord was alone, presumably in prayer to the Father, and wasn't with the disciples all the time.

Prepare the Passover for you to eat?- Lk. 22:8 adds the detail that actually this was said in response to Peter and John being told to go and prepare the Passover. Mk. 14:15 brings out the paradox that the Lord directed them to an upper room that was already "prepared" (s.w.), and there they prepared the Passover. The Lord had taught that the festal meal was already prepared for His people (22:4 s.w.). The Lord was surely using the language of Passover preparation in saying that He was going [to the cross] to prepare a place for us (Jn. 14:1-3)- and He said that at the very time Passover was being prepared. His request that they prepare Passover was therefore asking for a mutuality in response from them.

26:18 And he said: Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him- Mark and Luke add that he was a man bearing a pitcher of water (Mk. 14:13; Lk. 22:10). This water was carried upstairs into the upper room, and became, as it were, the wine of the new covenant. Carrying water was woman's work, and the Lord surely arranged this special sign in order to show how at His table, there was gender equality. He was so far ahead of His time. The vague "such a man" is perhaps to conceal the identity of the householder, given that the Gospels were distributed at a time of persecution. Or perhaps it was in order to avoid the identifying of the house and turning it into some kind of shrine, or special honour being given to the householder.

The Teacher said- The anonymous man, unnamed perhaps for security reasons, was presumably a believer for this title to mean anything to the man. Likewise the reference to the Lord's time being at hand would've only been understandable by a disciple. The Lord wishes to assume that the man will appreciate that if the Lord's time of death was at hand, then He must first keep the Passover.

My time is at hand
- The Lord used similar language in teaching how in the very last days of the tribulation, we will likewise know that the Lord's time is at hand (24:32,33). This is another one of many suggestions that we who live in the last days will go through the essence of the Lord's sufferings. 

I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples- The use of meta carries the sense of amongst, in the midst of, and not simply 'together with'. Heb. 2:12 perhaps alludes to this by quoting and applying to Jesus the Old Testament passage which says "I will declare Your Name unto My brothers, in the midst of the church will I sing praise". This is quoted in the context of a sustained argument in Hebrews 2 that the Lord shared our nature. His breaking of bread with the disciples therefore was an essay in His humanity and solidarity with us- and that is the intention of the breaking of bread meeting to this day. The intended meaning is so much enhanced by correctly appreciating how the Lord shared our nature.

26:19 And the disciples did as Jesus directed them, and they prepared the Passover- The same rubric is used about Moses' obedience to all commanded him. Those secular men were being painted in terms of Moses, who was seen as without equal in Judaism. But the Lord often paints His secular followers in the very terms of the most stellar Old Testament heroes of Judaism.

26:20 Now when evening had come, he was dining with the twelve disciples- "Dining" is "reclined". Joachim Jeremias gives a whole string of quotes from Rabbinic and historical writings that indicate that “At the time of Jesus the diners sat down" to eat. Yet the Gospel records are insistent that Jesus and the disciples reclined at the last supper (Mt. 26:20; Mk. 14:18; Lk. 22:14; Jn. 13:12,23,25,28). Yet at the Passover, it was apparently common to recline, because as Rabbi Levi commented “slaves eat standing, but here at the Passover meal people should recline to eat, to signify that they have passed from slavery to freedom". The breaking of bread is thus stressed in the records as being a symbol of our freedom from slavery. It should not in that sense be a worrying experience, taking us on a guilt trip. It is to celebrate the salvation and release from bondage which has truly been achieved for us in Christ our Passover.

"With the twelve" doesn't mean that only the twelve partook or were present. Matthew's record may simply be focusing upon them. There are reasons to think that there were others present too.

26:21 And as they were eating, he said: Truly I say to you: One of you shall betray me- The Lord had repeatedly predicted that He would be 'betrayed' or 'handed over'. But He had not defined who would do it, indeed the form in which He had spoken of being 'handed over' was vague and didn't necessarily require that one individual would do it. We must remember that paradidomi means literally 'to hand over' and doesn't carry the sense of personal betrayal which the English word 'betray' is loaded with. They were there shocked when He stated that "one of you" would do this.

26:22 And they were exceedingly sorrowful- It is commendable that their dominant emotion was of sorrow rather than anger. We perhaps would have expected anger more than sorrow. But their sorrow is a reflection of the degree of their love for the Lord, and their sorrow for the person who would face the awful consequences of doing so. 

And all began- The idea is that they all burst out with the same question at the same time. And yet Mk. 14:19 records that they asked this "One by one". The scene is imaginable- after initially all bursting out with the same question, they try to ask Him the same question personally in order to get an answer. Which is why Judas asks the question somewhat later (:25). Again it is commendable that their very first reaction was to wonder whether they personally could be the betrayer- rather than 'Lord, is it him?'. But after realizing that it was not them personally, naturally they began to look at one another, wondering whom He was speaking of (Jn. 13:22). Although "doubting of whom He spoke" (Jn. 13:22) really means they were at a loss to know. Clearly they had absolutely no suspicion that it was Judas. And when Judas is told "What you are doing, do quickly" and Judas exits (Jn. 13:27-29), they still assume that he must have been sent out to minister to the poor [suggesting there were beggars around the feast, again hinting that the last supper was not held behind closed doors]. This again speaks to us who replicate the last supper week by week. Some will indeed betray their Lord, but we have absolutely no idea who they are. 

To say to him: Is it I, Lord?- The negative implies the answer 'No, you are not the one'. It was more than a question- it was a declaration of innocence. This is the basis for self-examination at the Lord's table; we should be able to do it and conclude that we are not the Lord’s betrayer. Some who sit at that table will betray Him, and we are to realize the very real possibility of our own ultimate failure, the eternity of the future we may miss. Perhaps "every one of them" excludes Judas, because he apparently asked the question later (:25), and replaces 'Lord' with "Master"[Gk. 'rabbi'] when he asks: "Master ['rabbi'], is it I?" (:25). His usage of 'rabbi' to address the Lord may reflect how influenced he was by Judaism, and how he failed to appreciate the utter Lordship of Jesus. Judas maybe persuaded himself that this Jesus was just another itinerant rabbi, who Judaism would be better off without. Note that "Is it I?" is eimi ego, literally 'Am I?'. This is one of many examples of where ego eimi means simply 'I am', and [contrary to Trinitarian claims] the words do not mean that the speaker of them is claiming to be God.

26:23 And he answered and said: He that dipped his hand with me in the dish- The past tense is important, for if the Lord was predicting a future event, then all the disciples would be looking carefully at the dish. "Dipped", em-bapto, carries the suggestion that there was liquid or water within the dish. Lamb is greasy, and there would have been dishes of water on the table in which the diners dipped their hands. The Lord had done that at the same time as Judas, and must have pressed His fingers against those of Judas. But none of the others had noticed. Jn. 13:26 says that "It is he to whom I gave the morsel of bread after I dipped it"- perhaps meaning that the Lord had put a crumb of bread into Judas' fingers whilst their hands touched in the bowl. Any other reading of the incident faces the obvious difficulty that if indeed the Lord publically pointed Judas out as the betrayer, there would have been no confusion as to why he went out into the darkness. And we would expect to read of an outcry amongst the 11 against Judas; but the record instead stresses that they totally didn't suspect Judas until he was out of the room. Mk. 14:20 adds that the Lord said that the man was "One of the twelve" who had dipped his hand with the Lord in the dish. This suggests there were others apart from the twelve eating at the table and dipping their hands in the dish. It was not therefore a closed communion. There would have been no need for such a "large" room (Lk. 22:12) if only the twelve were present.

The same shall betray me- The Greek word translated "betray" really means 'to hand over'. This was yet future for Judas. The 'betrayal' in the English sense of that word had already happened. 

26:24 The Son of Man goes- The Lord's 'going' was His going to the cross. The Lord used the same word in Mt. 13:44 in describing Himself as the man who 'goes' with joy and sells all that He has in order to buy / redeem [s.w.] the field (representing the world) in order to gain for Himself the treasure (the redeemed). His 'going' to the cross was therefore done with some form of "joy". Even when the only visible representative of the treasure were that band of mixed up men and a few doubtful women. He uses the word again in telling Peter to 'go' behind Him and carry His cross (Mt. 16:23). Yet the Lord looked beyond the cross; He saw Himself as 'going' to the Father (Jn. 7:33; 8:14,21,22 s.w.), in the same way as we do not only 'go' to our death, but ultimately even death itself is part of an onward journey ultimately towards God and His Kingdom. The Lord's attitude to His death was that He knew that He was now 'going to the Father' (Jn. 13:3; 14:28; 16:5,10,16,17 s.w.). This unique perspective upon death and suffering is only logical for those who have a clear conception of future resurrection and personal fellowship with the Father in His future Kingdom.

Even as it is written of Him- Jn. 13:18 is specific: "But the scripture must be fulfilled: He that eats my bread lifted up his heel against me". The reference to the heel naturally suggests the Gospel promise of Gen. 3:15. But it seems the wrong way around- it is the seed of the woman who lifts up a bruised heel with which to crush the seed of the serpent. There is no lack of evidence that on the cross, the Lord identified totally with sinners, to the point that He felt forsaken just as sinners are forsaken. Or perhaps Judas justified his actions by deciding that Jesus was a false Messiah, the seed of the serpent, and the righteous thing to do was to crush the serpent with his heel. 

But woe to that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed! - The Lord typically pronounced 'Woe' upon the Jewish world and their religious leaders. He classes Judas along with them, because his actions had been inspired by them. The devil, in this context referring to the Jewish opposition to Jesus, had put the idea of betrayal into the heart of Judas (Jn. 13:2). "Woe" translates ouai, an intensified form of ou, "no". Perhaps in His word choice the Lord was still desperately saying to Judas 'No! No! Don't do it!'. He knew that He had to be betrayed, but His appeals for Judas to repent were therefore rooted in an understanding that the Bible prophecies would come true in some other way than through Judas. For otherwise, Judas would have had no real possibility of repentance, and no real choice but than to do what he did.

It would have been better if that man had not been born- "Better" shows how the Lord is sympathetically looking at things from the perspective of Judas. For in Jn. 14 He reasons that His departure is good for all concerned. The Lord foresaw Judas' agony at the last day. But the Greek can bear a retranslation: 'It would be virtuous for that man if he did not conceive / gender'. In that case, there would be yet another appeal for Judas to stop dead in his heart the conception of sin. The Lord elsewhere uses words with two [or more] meanings in order to deliver a specific message to an individual, within a statement of general truth which appeared intended for others. The messages He sent back to the imprisoned John the Baptist are a clear example. The Lord's last ditch attempts to save Judas, rather than allow himself to be so hurt by him that He just ignored him, are a powerful encouragement to us in dealing with those who harm us and willfully do evil. 

26:25 And Judas, who betrayed him, answered and said: Is it I, Rabbi?- See on :22 Lord, is it I? If Judas openly asked the question and was told 'Yes Judas, it's you I'm referring to', then there is no easy explanation for why no reaction from the disciples is recorded, nor any attempt by them to persuade him otherwise or limit his actions. Likewise we must give full weight to the fact that when Judas exits, they assume he has gone to buy something for the feast or to minister to the poor (Jn. 13:27-29). This leads to the conclusion that Judas asked the Lord this quietly and received a hushed reply. John likewise leaned on the Lord's chest and asked Him quietly who it was (Jn. 13:24-26). Is it possible that Judas also at this stage also lay on the Lord's chest, so close to Him that he could whisper to Him out of earshot of the others? It was a "large upper room", and so it may well have been possible. In this case, Judas was indeed the Lord's "familiar friend in whom I trusted", and the closeness of Judas and Jesus would explain why the disciples were completely not suspicious of Judas. If the Lord had publically answered Judas, then surely events would not have unfolded as they did. The Lord knew exactly what Judas was planning, more by His premonition and sensitivity to Judas' feelings than by a bolt of Divine revelation. The Lord freely gave His life, it was not taken from Him by betrayal and murder. He therefore set the situation up, on one level, to happen as it did. And He didn't want to stop it happening. And yet on the other hand, He so wished for Judas' repentance on a personal level. And this is how He works with men to this day. 

He said to him: You have said it- This is exactly the style the Lord adopts with Pilate in answering the question as to whether He is King of the Jews: "You said it" (Mt. 27:11). He allows people to come to a point where they state the truth out of their own mouths, rather than Him putting words into their mouths. And He works likewise today.

26:26 As they were eating- Eating the Passover lamb. The bread and wine were accessories, side dishes, and the Lord takes these things and makes them so significant. He doesn't, e.g., take some lamb and divide it between the guests with the message that "This represents My body". Even though the lamb was the more obvious symbol of Himself than the bread was. He wanted the last supper to be repeated by poor and ordinary people, who had bread but not lamb each week; He used common, readily available bread because that spoke more of His humanity, His ordinariness. He used what was to hand, just as we can for the breaking of bread.

Note that Judas was still present at this point. Jn. 13:18 makes the point concerning him that "He that eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me". If Judas broke bread with the Lord, this surely indicates that there is nothing intrinsically sinful in breaking bread with sinners. The quotation from Psalm 41 is interesting in the LXX: "the man of my peace, on whom I set my hope". There was special potential in Judas, and the Lord on one hand had hopes for him. It has been argued that the giving of the "sop" to him was the sign of special love and fellowship. Jn. 13:20 goes on to say: "He that receiveth whomsoever I shall send, receiveth me". The 'receiving' in this context is receiving at the Lord's table. To reject others from His table is to reject the Lord.

Jesus took bread- Taking bread, blessing and breaking it and giving to the disciples was exactly what the Lord did at the feeding of the 5000 and 4000 (14:19; 15:36), and we are thereby justified in seeing what He did then as having a religious dimension, practicing thereby an extremely open table. To 'take bread' can mean [although not always] to actually eat bread. Consider: "The disciples had forgotten to take bread,neither did they have with them more than one loaf" (Mk. 8:14)- the force of "neither..." is that they had not eaten bread, rather than that they had forgotten to bring any with them. Philip complained that there would not be enough bread for each of the crowd to 'take' even a little, i.e. to eat just a little (Jn. 6:7). So it could be that the Lord took and ate bread, blessed it, and then asked the disciples to eat it. This sequence of events would then make the eating of bread a more conscious doing of what Jesus had done. He took the bread, and then He asks them to take the bread ("Take, eat"). He is inviting them to mimic Him. 

And blessed it- It was usual to bless a meal, especially the Passover lamb, but here the Lord offers a special prayer for the accessory to the meal, the side dish of bread. He wanted to highlight the significance of the most ordinary thing on the table and show that it represented Him. 

And he gave it to the disciples, saying: Take, eat- The use of didomi is set in the context of all the talk about how the Lord would be para-didomi, betrayed / handed / given over to the Jews. The idea is that what happened was ultimately the Lord's choice. He gave Himself, to God and to His people, rather than being given over to death against His will. Lk. 22:29 says that the Lord then used the word didomi again: "This is My body, which is given for you". The giving of the bread to them was symbolic of how He would give His body to crucifixion, and how the 'giving over' of Jesus by Judas was not something outside of the Lord's control. It was not a misfortune which changed plans, rather was it precisely in line with the Lord's own giving of His body.

This is my body- See on Gave it. He said "This is My body which is given for you" (Lk. 22:29), and also "This is My body which is broken for you" (1 Cor. 11:24). He surely said both, repeating the words as the disciples ate the bread. He chose bread and not lamb to represent His body because He wished to emphasize His ordinariness and thereby His presence in the human, daily things of life. To give ones’ body is a very intimate statement, almost to the point of being sexual. This is the sober intensity and extent to which the Lord gave Himself for us.

When Jesus said “this is My body” we are to understand that ‘this represents, this is [a symbol of] my body’. Jesus was clearly referring to what was usually said at the Passover: “This is the bread of affliction which our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt”. It wasn’t of course literally the same bread. “This is” clearly means ‘this represents’ in Zech. 5:3,8; Mt. 13:19-23,38; 1 Cor. 11:25; 12:27. In some Bible versions, when we read the word ‘means’, it is simply a translation of the verb ‘to be’ (Mt. 9:13; 12:7; Lk. 15:26; Acts 2:12). ‘This is’ should be read as ‘this means / this represents’. The deftness of the way He broke that bread apart and held the cup comes out here in Mt. 26:26. He knew what that breaking of bread was going to mean.

26:27 And he took a cup- This was by no means easy for Him, because in Gethsemane He struggled so deeply in order to take it. Surely Matthew was aware of this and wishes us to remember it every time we break bread. He did take the cup- the cup we go on to read about, that was so difficult for Him to accept. Luke's record records the taking of the cup twice. This could be a reference to multiple cups of wine drunk at the Passover; or it could be that Luke simply records the incident twice. Or perhaps the Lord was simply drinking from the common table wine, and more than once drew out the symbology.

And gave thanks and gave it to them, saying- Here eucharisteo is used, but eulogeo  for the 'blessing' of the bread. The difference may be in that the Lord took the bread, an accessory to the meal, and turned that which was so ordinary into something of spiritual symbolism; and His blessing of the bread was necessary for this. But eucharisteo includes the idea of grace, charis, and suggests more thankfulness for grace- a thought appropriate to the meaning of the Lord's blood shed for us by grace. And naturally we wonder whether the wine that was taken was one of the Passover cups, or simply some of the table wine, an accessory to the meal just as the bread was. Whilst there was a taking of four cups of wine at the Passover, this may not be the only explanation for Luke recording the taking of two of them. It could simply be that as they were eating the Passover lamb, they ate bread and drunk weak wine as part of the accompaniments which went with every Palestinian meal. And the Lord twice passed comment on the wine, that it represented His blood. This would be similar to the manner in which He chose the bread, the artos, the ordinary word for bread rather than one referring specifically to unleavened bread, as the symbol for His body- rather than the meat of the Passover lamb. He could have made use of the blood of the Passover lamb as a symbol in some way- e.g. He could have asked a servant to bring the blood of the lamb and asked the disciples to all dip their fingers in it. But instead He uses wine as a symbol of His blood. My hunch is that the wine was the ordinary table wine accompanying the meal, just as the bread was, and was not the ritually significant Passover cup. In any case, the tradition of drinking cups of wine at Passover was non-Biblical, and somehow out of keeping with the original spirit of Passover, which was to remember the haste with which the first Passover was eaten. 1 Cor. 10:16 speaks of "the cup of blessing which we bless", with the emphasis on the "we". We are to do what the Lord did that night- not be mere audience figures, but actually do what He did. 

All of you, drink it- The appeal for all to drink it was surely said because some were doubtful as to whether they should take it. Perhaps there were others in the room apart from the twelve. But most likely this was yet another appeal to Judas- to drink the cup of salvation and forgiveness. He gave the reason in :28- "For", or because, this was the symbol of the means for the forgiveness of sins. The Lord's attitude to Judas leaves us realizing we should never give up with the lost. Even the very worst of them. And given the Lord's eagerness that Judas break bread, we can hardly conclude that any sinner is thereby unworthy of participation at the breaking of bread. It is after all His table and not ours. This isn't to say that forms of discipline may not be required at times, but welcome at the Lord's table should never be withdrawn.

26:28 For this is My blood- Given Jewish obsession with blood and ritual uncleanness arising from contact with it, such language was surely purposefully challenging and radical, just as He had spoken of eating His flesh and drinking His blood in Jn. 6:53. This made many turn away when He said it, but the Lord realized that His followers had to make a total break with Judaism. The drift of some Christian believes back towards the mentality of Judaism is totally missing the Lord's point- He was speaking in such challenging terms to make His followers realize that there was no middle path of compromise between Him and Judaism. Although He never commanded them to leave the synagogue system, and assumed they would remain in it until they were thrown out of it, all the same the Lord stated His principles in such a way that it would've been effectively impossible for His followers to remain within that system. 

Of the covenant- The promises to Abraham were effectively the new covenant, even though they were given before the old covenant [the law of Moses] was given. The Lord's death confirmed those promises made to the Jewish fathers (Rom. 15:8). But God's word is true as it stands and in that sense needs no confirmation, no guarantee of truthfulness. But in an effort to persuade us of the simple truth and reality of the promises of eternity in the Kingdom which were made to Abraham, God confirmed it through the death of His Son. This was foreseen in the horror of great darkness which Abraham experienced in Genesis 15. Abraham did nothing to confirm his side of the covenant; it was God who passed between the pieces of the slain animal, during a time of Divine darkness as there was on the cross, in order to demonstrate to Abraham and to us all how serious He was about keeping His promise. Through the death of Christ, God commended His love to us (Rom. 5:8), He confirmed the covenant; not that He needed to do so, nor that His love needs any more commendation to us. But He did, in order to seek to persuade us of the truth of the promises which comprise the Gospel (Gal. 3:8). In this sense "the promise was made sure [s.w. 'confirmed'] to all the seed" (Rom. 4:16); the extra element of making sure or confirming the promise was in the death of God's Son. Our hope is therefore "sure and confirmed [AV "steadfast"]" (Heb. 6:19). Heb. 9:17 puts it another way in saying that a will or legacy is only confirmed [AV "of force"] by the death of the one who promised the inheritance, and the death of Christ was God's way of confirming the truth of what He had promised. This same word meaning 'confirmed' is used by Peter in writing of how we have "the word of prophecy made sure / confirmed" (2 Pet. 1:19). The prophesied word is the word of the Gospel, the promise of the Kingdom which began in Genesis, and this has been confirmed to us, made even more sure, by the Lord's death. Peter isn't referring to prophecy in the sense of future events being predicted in the arena of world geopolitics; the prophesied word is the word of our salvation, of the Gospel- which is how Peter elsewhere uses the idea of "the word". God can save who He wishes, as, how and when He wishes. He was not somehow duty bound, left with no option, forced by an unpleasant logical bind to suffer the death of His Son. He gave His Son, according to His own plan from the beginning. But He did it that way in order to persuade us of His love and simple desire to give us the Kingdom He has promised from the beginning of His revelation to men. The Lord's blood is "of the new covenant" not in that it is itself the new covenant, but rather in that it is the blood associated with the confirmation of that covenant as true. And so it is understandable that the Lord should wish us to understand His blood as the blood of the new covenant, the supreme sign that it is for real, and desire us to regularly take that cup which reminds us of these things. Heb. 6:17,18 carries the same idea- that in order to demonstrate the utter certainty of the things promised to Abraham's seed, God confirmed it by an oath so that we might a strong consolation and persuasion of the certainty of the promise. The death of God's Son was not therefore unavoidable for Him; He could save us as He wishes. But He chose this most painful way in the ultimate attempt to persuade men of the reality of His Son. With this understanding we can better appreciate the tales of the old missionaries who went to pagan and illiterate tribes and reported a strange response to their message once they explained the idea of the Son of God dying on a cross to show us God's love. It must be persuasive to us too, week by week as we reflect on the blood of the covenant.

"Covenant" literally means that which is to be disposed of or distributed, and was used about the distribution of property upon decease. The Lord's parables about the Master who distributes all His wealth and possessions to His servants were surely looking forward to His death, at which He gave us all He had- and that was and is visually symbolized in the breaking of bread, the division even of His body and life blood amongst us, for us to trade with.

Which is poured out for many for the remission of sins- He perhaps followed this by saying "Shed for you" (Lk. 22:20). This is often the way with Biblical statements- the general and global is stated, and then the scale is focused down to you personally. His blood was shed for many... but for you. However we may also have here a similar idea to that expressed in the parable of the man [Christ] who finds treasure [us] in the field of the world, and therefore gives all in order to redeem the field, in order to get us as His own (13:44). Likewise His blood was shed for many, the redemption price was paid for humanity, that He might redeem us. Putting Lk. 22:20 and Mt. 26:28 together, the Lord may have said: "...  My blood which is shed for many for the remission of sins of you / for the remission of your sins". One wonders whether the Lord actually was pouring out the wine as He spoke the word "shed". The same word for "shed" is used of how the new wine put into old bottles "runs out". The idea may be that if we don't change, then we crucify Christ afresh. But the Lord may also have in mind that if Israel had accepted the wine of the new covenant which He preached, then the shedding of His blood could have been avoidable. The fact it could have been avoidable- for Israel didn't have to crucify their King- doesn't mean that God was not behind it, using it to confirm the covenant with us, nor that Christ did not of Himself give His own life. "Poured out" is ongoing, Gk. 'is being shed', another hint at the ongoing nature of His death. 

26:29  But I say to you, I shall not drink of this fruit of the vine from this time forward, until- An allusion to how the priest on duty was not to drink wine during his service. The Lord foresaw His work from then on, beginning with the cross, as an active doing of priestly work for us. This would imply that the essence of His work on the cross is the essence of His work for us today; there is a continuity between Him there and His work for us now, with elements of the same pain and passionate focus upon us and the achievement of our salvation. He is not waiting passively in Heaven for the time to return; He is actively busy for us. There is also the implication in His words that His future 'drinking' will be literal- He was holding literal wine in His hand, and He said He would not again drink it until the Kingdom. This suggests that at very least, He invites us to understand His future Messianic banquet as being in some ways a literal feast.

The Lord clearly taught the continuity between the breaking of bread and the future marriage supper by observing that He would not again drink the cup until He drinks it with us in the Kingdom. The parables of how the Gospel invites people as it were to a meal are suggesting that we should see the Kingdom as a meal, a supper, of which our memorial service is but a foretaste. We are commanded to enter the supper and take the lowest seat (Lk. 14:10), strongly aware that others are present more honourable than ourselves. Those with this spirit are simply never going to dream of telling another guest 'Leave! Don't partake of the meal!'. But this is the spirit of those who are exclusive and who use the Lord's table as a weapon in their hands to wage their petty church wars. The very early church didn't behave like this, but instead sought to incarnate and continue the pattern of the meals of the Lord Jesus during His ministry. And this is one major reason why their unity drew such attention, and they grew. To exclude someone from the Lord’s table is to judge them as excluded from the Kingdom banquet. And those who make such judgment will themselves be rejected from it.

That day when I drink it anew with you- This is not 'new' in the sense of freshly made (a different word is used for that), but new in terms of quality, not time. It speaks of a new quality, a freshness, rather than something 'new' in chronological terms. The new wine represented the blood of the new covenant which was shed on the cross. It could be argued that the drinking of this new wine became possible not simply at the last day, but in this life too, in the experience of the church after the Lord's shedding of that blood on the cross.

In my Father's Kingdom- The reference is primarily to the literal Kingdom to be established on earth at His return (Lk. 22:29,30 goes on to speak of the disciples eating and drinking in the Kingdom as they sit with Christ on His throne judging Israel), but there is a sense in which His word is fulfilled in the breaking of bread service, where He drinks wine with us as the invisible guest. For His parables of the Kingdom all speak of the experience of God's reign / Kingship as a present experience in the lives of His people. Lk. 22:16 adds with reference to the bread: "Until it be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God". The fulfiment of Passover deliverance is finally in the last day, and yet the fulfilment of Passover is also to be seen in the breaking of bread service. Note in passing that the Lord's prediliction for the term 'Kingdom of God' or 'Father's Kingdom' was perhaps to counterbalance the Jewish emphasis upon the Kingdom as being that of our father David (Mk. 11:10). The Kingdom was God's, "Yours is the Kingdom", rather than simply and solely the re-establishment of Israel's Kingdom. 

26:30 And when they had sung a hymn- Probably the Passover hallel of Ps. 115-118. It's worth reading those Psalms imagining them on the lips of the Lord at the last supper; they are pregnant with relevance for His forthcoming death, especially the reference to "I will take the cup of salvation". Heb. 2:12 surely has the scene in mind, quoting "In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto You" as being proof of the Lord's absolute humanity. The fact He sung praise to God surely reveals a human and not Divine Christ. But doing so amongst His brethren, "the church", as one of them, is an essay in His unity with us, both in nature and experience.

They went out to the Mount of Olives- The Passover ritual required that nobody should go out of the house until morning (Ex. 12:22). This is clearly teaching that the Passover deliverance had already begun, even before the Lord's blood had been shed, and would connect with the usage of present tenses concerning the Passover and shedding of the Lord's blood (see on :2,28). This sets the scene for the Lord's comment in :32 that He would go before them, and they should follow Him. He was as Moses and as the Angel which went before Israel on Passover night. The allusion to Ex. 12:22 shows that the old legislation had passed away, and in any case the type of Passover being kept by the Lord was not strictly the Mosaic one- for it's likely He was celebrating it a day earlier than stipulated. But the point perhaps was that the true Israel of God were now 'going out' from Egypt; so certain was the Lord that He would achieve deliverance that He could speak of that deliverance as already being achieved. He didn't, therefore, see His work on the cross as something which He might or might not successfully achieve- as we should, He went ahead in the certainty of ultimate success and victory.

26:31 Then Jesus said to them: You will all fall away because of me this night- They would spiritually stumble and fall because Zech. 13:7 predicted this would happen. But the Lord goes on to urge them to watch and pray so that they do not succumb to temptation (:41). He saw Biblical prophecy as being open ended in fulfilment- the prophecy of spiritual failure didn't have to come true. They could resist, sin and failure is never inevitable. He spoke to them in the upper room specifically so that they would not be offended (Jn. 16:1 s.w.); the prophecy didn't have to come true in the disciples, and the Lord did His utmost to provide the potential for it not coming true for them. 

For it is written: I will smite the shepherd and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad- His death was to be as that of Moses, which left the Israel of God as sheep without a shepher (Num. 27:17). And yet the Lord's death would gather together the scattered [s.w.] people of God (Jn. 11:52), His death was as a shepherd giving His life for the sheep (Jn. 10:11). His death and resurrection was to be the means of reviving the lost faith of the disciples- when they meditated upon it. The people of Israel at the Lord's time had had no true shepherds and were therefore as scattered sheep (Mt. 9:36).  The Lord's death would therefore temporarily leave the disciples just like the rest of Israel- they would return to the mentality of Judaism, the 'satan' of the Jewish system and its thinking would tempt them and they would give in. The wolf of Judaism would scatter the sheep (Jn. 10:12). The disciples were therefore as sheep who scattered because of the thinking of the Jewish world around them, who saw death on a cross as the final defeat for a man; and yet were to be gathered by that very death. Peter was one of those disciples, even though he insisted that he would not be scattered even if others were. He surely had this in mind in appealing to other believers who were falling under the influence of Judaism: "You were as sheep going astray, but are now returned [s.w. 'converted'- just as he was 'converted' to strengthen his brethren] unto the Shepherd... of your souls" (1 Pet. 2:25). Peter was therefore appealing to others to follow his own pattern- of revival and conversion after spiritual failure. This is the basis for all powerful pastoral appeal.

26:32 But after I am raised up- There is no equivalent of "after" in the Greek text. This is an insertion by translators in order to try to give sense to the three brief Greek words which simply say "And I rise again". The idea is that 'By My rising again, I will go before you...'. The Lord's plan was that His resurrection would re-ignite faith in His disciples, and He would go before them as a shepherd leads His sheep, into Galilee.

I will go ahead of you into Galilee- This is the language of the shepherd going before the sheep (Jn. 10:4), in obedience to His voice. The Lord is saying that although they will stumble and lose faith, His resurrection will provide them with a credible word from Him which they would obey by following Him into Galilee. This is why the resurrected Lord's first instruction to the women was to "Go tell My brothers that they go into Galilee; there shall they see Me" (28:10). But it actually didn't work out like that. His meeting with them in Galilee was in fact the third time He revealed Himself to them (Jn. 21:14). He appeared to them twice before that. And the picture we have of the disciples fishing in Galilee in Jn. 21 is of them still relatively faithless, depressed and having returned to their fishing; they are hardly pictured as eagerly awaiting the Lord's promised appearance in Galilee. So it seems to me that the Lord changed His intended program with them. Their faith was so weak that He appeared to them in Jerusalem twice, whereas He had originally planned for the women to tell them His word- to go before Him into Galilee, and there He would reveal Himself to them. But in His love for them, His own desire to see them, His awareness of their weakness in faith... He appeared to them twice before Galilee. And even then, we sense from the fishing incident of John 21 that they were still floundering in their faith, and may well have returned to Galilee in order to return to their fishing business, rather than in obedience to His word. Why did He so wish to meet them in Galilee, rather than in Jerusalem? Their journey to Galilee would've been a test of obedience for them, for sure. But surely the Lord reflected by this choice the paramount importance He placed upon the conversion of families. He wanted to appear to them there, surely, because that was where most of them were from, and where their families were. He wanted them too to be persuaded once and for all time of the reality of His resurrection. 

26:33 But Peter answered and said to him: If they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away- Peter three separate times states that he will not fail the Lord (also in Lk. 22:33; Jn. 13:37). Literally, 'not at any time', i.e. 'not even once'. Hence the Lord's comment that Peter would deny Him not once but three times. Yet he denied the Lord three times, and it was on the Lord's third appearance to him (Jn. 21:14) that the Lord undid the three denials by His three questions concerning whether Peter really loves Him, and three times (again by a charcoal fire) re-enstates Peter in the work of strengthening his brethren. These tripilisms and repetitions serve to make the record memorable, and also reflect how somehow the Lord worked through Peter's failures with some overarching plan; there was a higher hand at work through all of the failure, reflected in these tripilisms which could only have been effected by a Divine, higher hand. The Lord's question to Peter "Do you love Me more than these?" surely has reference to the other disciples, whom Peter had thought himself spiritually superior to. He was sure that even if they stumbled, he would not. And the Lord paid special attention to undoing this attitude in Peter and specifically bringing him to realize that he was no better than his brethren. Any sense of spiritual superiority over others is so obnoxious to the Lord. And He will work in our lives to remove it from us, as He did with Job, Jonah and many others. Peter continually alludes to his denials throughout his appeal for Israel's repentance in Acts 2 and throughout his pastoral letters; it is our own failures and receipt of such utter grace which serve as the basis for our credible and persuasive appeal to others to repent. He spoke in 1 Pet. 2:8 of how the Lord Jesus is a stone of stumbling ['offence', s.w.] to those who do not believe- and yet he said this fully aware that he had been one of those who stumbled over Jesus. Mt. 21:44 offers us to the choice- to stumble upon the stone and be broken, or for the stone to fall upon us and grind us to powder, in the figure of judgment and condemnation used in Daniel 2. We either stumble in failure upon Christ and rise up as Peter did, broken men and women, to do our best in serving Him- or that stone shall crush us in condemnation. That is the choice before us, and Peter is the parade example in this to all. 
26:34 Jesus said to him: Truly I say to you, that this night- Much of the Lord's knowledge and foreknowledge of events ahead of time can be explained in terms of His incredible sensitivity to others, His understanding of human psychology and behaviour patterns. But there are times when it seems He was given direct foreknowledge from the Father. And this seems one of them- to predict the exact number of denials that would be made that night, and to predict they would happen before the cock crew. This leads to the possibility that whenever He prefaces His words with "Truly I say unto you...", He is stating something received by direct revelation. Another example is when He uses this rubric to introduce His prediction of how Peter would die (Jn. 21:18). This would be His equivalent of how the Old Testament prophets introduced their directly inspired words with the rubric "Thus says the Lord". "Truly" (AV "verily") is literally 'amen', as if the Lord Jesus is saying that He is aware of the words of His Father and in uttering them from His lips, is giving His personal agreement, stamp or 'Amen!' to them.

Before the cock crows- There is no article in the Greek. 'Before cock crow' is the idea, before the earliest sign of morning when the first cock crew, that very night, before that night even began to come to a close. 

You shall deny me three times- See on :35 Deny You.

26:35 Peter said to him: Even if I must die with you- Gk. 'If I must die' or 'If it be necessary that I die, I will'. And yet the Lord had taught that He was going to die on the cross, and that all who would truly follow Him should likewise die with Him. When the Lord stated this in Mt. 16, Peter had earnestly sought to dissuade the Lord from that course of action because He didn't want to die with Him. Peter had a problem accepting the inevitable reality of the cross and its demand that we likewise lose our lives for Him. He considered it the most extreme possibility, rather than an obviously necessary sacrifice which is part and parcel of being a true follower of Jesus. We likewise can consider that extreme self-sacrifice is something we might possibly be called to make. But in fact if we are truly signed up to carrying the Lord's cross, it is exactly such radical self-sacrifice which is indeed required of us. The Lord said that Peter was not yet able to die for Him, he would deny Him rather than follow Him, but one day he would be strong enough, and then he would follow Him to the end (Jn. 13:36,37). Peter thought he was strong enough then; for he followed (s.w.) Christ afar off, to the High Priest’s house (Mt. 26:58). But in ineffable self-hatred he came to see that the Lord’s prediction was right.

I will not deny you- Surely the allusion is again to 16:24, where the Lord has urged Peter to accept that he must deny himself and take up the Lord's cross and die with Him. But instead, because Peter didn't want to do that, he would end up denying Jesus. This is the intensity of our choice- if we will not deny ourselves, then we shall deny Jesus. The Lord had clearly taught that whoever denied Him before men would be denied by Him at the last day (10:33), and Paul repeats this (2 Tim. 2:12). Peter stood condemned by that denial, and yet we can be condemned in this life and change the verdict if we repent. It is this which releases such fervency into our lives if we go through the experience of condemnation but perceive that the verdict has been mercifully changed. Peter appealed to Israel to recognize that they had denied Jesus (Acts 3:13,14 "You denied Him in the presence of Pilate"); and he made that appeal a stone's throw and only a few weeks after his own denials of Jesus in the presence of all. And yet this was why his appeal was so credible, as was his later appeal to believers not to do the worst imaginable thing, namely to deny the Lord who had bought them- for that was exactly what, as everyone knew, Peter had himself done (2 Pet. 2:1). John speaks of denying Christ as the hallmark of the antichrist (1 Jn. 2:22 "He that denies Jesus... is the antichrist"), and he wrote this knowing full well that Peter was the rock upon whom the early church had been built. His point, therefore, is that even those who had done that, the antichrist, could still repent as Peter had done. 

Likewise said all the disciples- AV "Likewise also". Two words are used when one would suffice, such is the emphasis upon the fact that they all said the same. Peter was the one who went furthest in seeking to live out his claim, and yet he it is whose failure is the most emphasized. And that is how it is often is amongst God's people. But it is because we are asked to identify specifically with Peter.

26:36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane- The Lord often went to this garden (Jn. 18:2), but the record at this point emphasizes its name, meaning 'oil press', a common metaphor for judgment. There the Lord as it were passed through His judgment, and there the disciples had their judgment- and ran away into the darkness condemned. Even though through repentance they were later saved out of that condemnation. 

And he said to his disciples: Sit here- The Greek can equally mean 'stay here'. The separation between the Lord and His people, to go away and pray with His senior followers with Him, clearly was based upon Moses going up into the mountain to pray to God, taking Joshua with him, leaving Israel behind. And like Israel, the disciples failed miserably, and were met with the Lord's rebuke on His return from prayer. The Lord is clearly making the point that He now replaces Moses, and that the new Israel were comprised of those 11 mixed up men of weak faith and very limited understanding. The Greek text here has the Lord saying to the disciples: “Sit in this place [kathisate autou] until going away, I pray there”, and then He takes along with him [paralambanein] Peter. These are the very words used in the Gen. 22 LXX account of Abraham taking Isaac to ‘the cross’. Jesus is seeking to encourage Peter to see himself as Isaac, being taken to share in the cross. Now whether Peter discerned this or not, we don’t know. But the Lord gave him the potential possibility to be inspired like this.  

While I go yonder and pray- Literally, 'there', as if the Lord was pointing out a location not far distant. He was seeking to help them perceive the similarity with Moses going away to pray, hence His warnings for them not  to give way to temptation were asking them to consciously make the effort to not be like the Israel whom Moses left behind when he went away to pray. Of course the Lord could have baldly drawn the similarities between Himself and Moses, but He acted in this way in order to provoke in them the association with Moses, and to realize that they were as Israel, tempted to fall away. And this is His style to the present day. Instead of flashing red lights and words dropping from Heaven, instead we find ourselves set up in situations which recall Biblical situations, and appeal to us to perceive ourselves within that history. That is why daily Bible reading and continual familiarity with the recorded histories of the Bible is so essential, it is all part of the Lord's way of working with us.

26:37 And he took with him- As Moses took Joshua with him. 

Peter and the two sons of Zebedee and began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed- This was the fulfilment of Is. 53:3, "a man of sorrows", an intensive plural, implying 'great sorrow'. The fact He 'began' to feel this suggests that the prophecy of Is. 53 is specifically about the Lord in His time of sufferings, rather than generally in His life. It was there, at the end, that there was no beauty that He should be desired. And yet Is. 53:4 defines those 'sorrows' as the sorrows of our sins. His sorrow was therefore in that He felt His identification with our sins, our sorrows. And He felt that identification very intensely as He prayed. Likewise the weight He felt, in that He began to feel heavy, refers to the weight of human sin which He felt Himself carrying.

Mk. 14:33 adds that He was “amazed”. The amazement was perhaps because He came to realize that His subconscious hopes for a deliverance, akin to Isaac’s at the last minute, were not going to come true. This element of surprise is reflected later in His desperate question “Why have You forsaken Me?”. This crisis of understanding contrasts strongly with His calm assurance and assumption that He must now die and resurrect. And yet to be tempted just as we are, He had to go through the experience of things not working out as expected, of crisis and desperate desiring to understand. For these things are what are at the root of our hardest human experiences.

26:38 Then he said to them: My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even to death- The Lord’s psychological struggle was so intense that it was almost killing Him. Yet Peter had said that he was ready to go with the Lord even unto death (Lk. 22:33). But he failed to perceive that the Lord’s death involved huge psychological suffering- and Peter opted out of that by falling asleep. To physically die was not so much the issue as sharing the psychological trauma of carrying the cross.

The fullness of the Lord's humanity is of course supremely shown in His death and His quite natural fear of that death. Perhaps on no other point do human beings show they are humans than when it comes to their reaction to and reflection upon their own death. I would go further and suggested that the thought of suicide even entered the Lord's mind. It's hard to understand His thought about throwing Himself off the top of the temple in any other way. His almost throw away comment that "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death" (heos thanatou) is actually a quotation from the suicidal thoughts of Jonah (Jonah 4:9) and those of the Psalmist in Ps. 42:5,6. Now of course the Lord overcame those thoughts- but their very existence is a window into the depth and reality of His humanity.

Heb. 5:7,8 clearly refer to the Lord’s prayer in Gethsemane. The Lord had a quite genuine "fear of death" (Heb. 5:8). This "fear of death" within the Lord Jesus provides a profound insight into His so genuine humanity. We fear death because our human life is our greatest and most personal possession... and it was just the same with the Lord Jesus. Note that when seeking here to exemplify Christ's humanity, the writer to the Hebrews chooses His fear of death in Gethsemane as the epitome of His humanity. Heb. 5:7 comments that  Christ prayed "with strong crying and tears". These words are certainly to be connected with Rom. 8:26, which speaks of Christ making intercession for us now with "groanings which cannot be uttered". Rom. 8:26 says that his groaning is so intense that it cannot be audibly uttered; the physicality of sound would not do justice to the intensity of mental striving. The point is that the same agonizing depth of prayer which the Lord achieved for us is what he now goes through as he intercedes for us with the Father.

Oscar Cullmann translates Heb. 5:7: "He was heard in his fear (anxiety)". That very human anxiety about death is reflected in the way He urges Judas to get over and done the betrayal process "quickly" (Jn. 13:28); He was "straitened until it be accomplished" (Lk. 12:50). He prayed to God just as we would when gripped by the fear of impending death. And He was heard. No wonder He is able therefore and thereby to comfort and save us, who lived all our lives in the same fear of death which He had (Heb. 2:15). This repetition of the 'fear of death' theme in Hebrews is surely significant- the Lord Jesus had the same fear of death as we do, and He prayed in desperation to God just as we do. And because He overcame, He is able to support us when we in our turn pray in our "time of need"- for He likewise had the very same "time of need" as we have, when He was in Gethsemane (Heb. 4:16). Death was "the last enemy" for the Lord Jesus just as it is for all humanity (1 Cor. 15:26). Reflection on these things not only emphasizes the humanity of the Lord Jesus, but also indicates He had no belief whatsoever in an 'immortal soul' consciously surviving death.

"Exceeding sorrowful" uses the same word used about the exceeding sorrow of the men of the world (Herod- Mk. 6:26; the rich young man, Lk. 18:23,24). Those who will be rich pierce themselves through with sorrows, they go through the crucifixion pains for the sake of this world (1 Tim. 6:10). So it's a cross either way, and it may as well be in identification with the Lord, leading unto eternal life, than unto eternal death. The same point is made in 2 Cor. 7:10, where the same word translated "sorrowful" is found- the sorrow of the world leads to death, but Godly sorrow leads to salvation. The disciples fell asleep, and yet by pure grace the record says that they slept for "sorrow" (Lk. 22:45), using a related but less intense word as used here for the Lord's exceeding sorrow; and the Lord attributes such "sorrow" to them repeatedly at this time (Jn. 16:6,20-22). But the point is that His sorrow was of an altogether more intense and higher order than theirs, and yet by grace they are counted as having some part in His sorrow. We speak and read of our sharing in the Lord's sufferings, and yet our sufferings are nothing compared to His; yet by grace they are counted as a sharing in those sufferings.

Stay here- This is meno, the word the Lord has just used multiple times in the upper room discourse, translated "abide". Now He leads them out of the upper room into the real world, and gives them the concrete outworking of abiding in Him- to enter into His struggles, to watch and pray with Him, to share His intensity with the Father. And they fell asleep. 

And watch with me- The Greek means to literally keep awake, but is used about watching in prayer. The fact the disciples physically fell asleep, and three times, is a clear statement of their failure. And it is used by the disciples here in their own account and preaching of the Gospel, of which the Gospel records are transcripts, as if to emphasize their own failure, and on that basis appeal to others to likewise accept the Lord's forgiveness and salvation by grace. It is the same word used repeatedly by the Lord in appealing for watchfulness in the very last days before His coming (Mt. 24:42,43; Lk. 12:37 etc.), as if the disciples in Gethsemane were going through their judgment, their last days. Likewise the sufferings and experiences of the very last generation will give them the opportunity to uniquely identify with the Lord's crucifixion sufferings. Seeing that generation will never taste of death, this identification with His death will be necessary for them as for no other generation, and the tribulation will be designed to elicit that identification. We are therefore invited to enter into Gethsemane and not repeat the failures of the disciples- the same words are used by Paul in encouraging us all to 'pray and watch' (Col. 4:2). "Let us not sleep as others, but let us watch" (1 Thess. 5:6) could be asking us to not be as the disciples there, but rather to learn from their failure and watch. And yet the comfort of grace is that whether we watch [s.w.] or sleep, we shall be accepted by Him (1 Thess. 5:10), just as the disciples were saved by grace despite their failure. Likewise we are asked to watch and keep our garment (Rev. 16:15), unlike the disciple present in Gethsemane who did not watch and fled naked having lost his garment (Mk. 14:52).

26:39 And he went forward a little and- Lk. 22:41 “About a stone’s cast”, pointing us back to David’s conflict with Goliath as a type of the Lord’s final conflict with sin.

Fell on his face and prayed, saying: My Father- Paul's description of himself on the Damascus road falling down and seeing a Heavenly vision, surrounded by men who did not understand, is framed in exactly the language of Gethsemane (Acts 22:7 = Mt. 26:39); as if right at his conversion, Paul was brought to realize the spirit of Gethsemane. His connection with the Gethsemane spirit continued. He describes himself as "sorrowful" (2 Cor. 6:10), just as Christ was then (Mt. 26:37). His description of how he prayed the same words three times without receiving an answer (2 Cor. 12:8) is clearly linked to Christ's experience in the garden (Mt. 26:44); and note that in that context he speaks of being “buffeted” by Satan’s servants, using the very word used of the Lord being “buffeted” straight after Gethsemane (2 Cor. 12:7 = Mt. 26:67).

To fall on the face is used in the Old Testament to describe men like Abraham and Moses falling on their face in the visible presence of God, e.g. before an Angel (Gen. 17:3; Num. 16:4; 22:31). Yet there was no visible manifestation of God’s presence at this time; so we are to assume that the Lord Jesus intensely perceived the Father’s presence even though there was no visible sign of it. It could be that the Angel from Heaven strengthening the Lord had already appeared, but this appears to come after the Lord had fallen on His face.

If it be possible, let this cup pass away from me- This may not simply mean 'If it's possible, may I not have to die'. The Lord could have meant: 'If it- some unrecorded possible alternative to the cross- is really possible, then let this cup pass'- as if to say 'If option A is possible, then let the cup of option B pass from me'. But He overrode this with a desire to be submissive to the Father's preferred will- which was for us to have a part in the greatest, most surpassing salvation, which required the death of the cross. “Such great salvation" (Heb. 2:3) might imply that a lesser salvation could have been achieved by Christ, but He achieved the greatest possible. "He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him" (Heb. 7:25) may be saying the same thing. Indeed, the excellence of our salvation in Christ is a major NT theme. It was typified by the way Esther interceded for Israel; she could have simply asked for her own life to be spared, but she asked for that of all Israel. And further, she has the courage (and we sense her reticence, how difficult it was for her) to ask the King yet another favour- that the Jews be allowed  to slay their enemies for one more day, and also to hang Haman's sons (Es. 9:12). She was achieving the maximum possible redemption for Israel rather than the minimum. Paul again seems to comment on this theme when he speaks of how Christ became obedient, "even to the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:8), as if perhaps some kind of salvation could have been achieved without the death of the cross. Perhaps there was no theological necessity for Christ to die such a painful death; if so, doubtless this was in His mind in His agony in the garden.

The Lord had taught more than once that “with God all things are possible” (19:26; Mk. 9:23), and yet He inserts here a condition: “If it be possible”. He recognized that God’s plan was possible of fulfilment by any means, and yet He recognized that there was a condition to that. This issue is not really resoluble, at least not by any intellectual process. If, or rather when, we struggle with these issues, this balance between God’s ultimate possibility and the fact there appear to be terms and conditions attached- then we are there with the Lord in Gethsemane. But we need to note that it was God who was being pushed to the limit here as well- for literally all things are indeed possible to Him, and He could have saved the world any way He wished. In His allowing of this chosen method we see the degree to which the cross was indeed His plan that He so wanted to see worked out.

"Let this cup pass" is interpreted in Mk. 14:35 as “That the hour might pass”. He saw the cup and His “hour” of death as the same thing. The challenging thing is that He invites us to drink His cup, to share in His final hour… even when He Himself found this so hard to drink.

Paul uses the same Greek term "from me" in describing how also three times he asked for the thorn in the flesh to “depart from me” (2 Cor. 12:8). He saw his prayers and desires as a sharing in the Lord’s struggle in Gethsemane, just as we can too.

Nevertheless- The saying of these brief words lasted long enough for the disciples to fall asleep. “Could you not watch with Me for one hour?” (:40) suggests not ‘even just for one hour’ but rather ‘We’ve been here an hour, and you couldn’t watch with me even for that short period of time’. So it took the Lord an hour to say the words recorded here, which can be spoken in a few seconds. We have a window here into the essence of prayer; the words can be spoken quickly, but saying with meaning can take far longer. There may well have been many minutes in between each word here. And doubtless He said the same words and repeated the ideas several times, which would explain the slight differences in wording at this point between the Gospel records.

Not as I will, but as You will- Trinitarians need to note that the Lord’s will was not totally the same as that of His Father.

26:40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter: What!- "Comes… and finds" are the very words used of the Lord’s coming in judgment to ‘find’ the state of His people (21:19; 24:46 “whom his Lord when He comes shall find so doing”; Lk. 18:8 “When the Son of Man comes, shall He find faith…?”). And His ‘coming’ to the disciples found them asleep and unprepared. This was exactly the picture of Mk. 13:36 (and Lk. 12:37), using the same Greek words: “Watch… lest coming suddenly, He find you sleeping”. We can be condemned in this life, as Peter was when he denied his Lord, and yet be saved out of it by repentance.

Could you not watch with me for one hour?- Peter later urged his converts to “be watchful” (1 Pet. 5:8 RV), watching unto prayer as the end approaches (1 Pet. 4:7), as Peter had not been watchful in the garden and had earned the Lord’s rebuke for going to sleep praying (Mt. 26:40,41). They were to learn from his mistake. Their watchfulness was to be because the devil was prowling around, seeking whom he could desire (1 Pet. 5:8). This was exactly the case with Peter: Satan desired to have him, he should have prayed for strength but didn’t do so sufficiently (Lk. 22:31). He was warning his brethren that they were in exactly the situation he had been in, a few hours before he went into that fateful High Priest’s house. 

Paul was deeply moved by the Gethsemane record: 1 Thess. 5:6,7 =  Mt. 26:40,41; Eph. 6:18 = 26:4;1 Acts 22:7= 26:39; 2 Cor. 6:10 = 26:37; 2 Cor. 12:8 = 26:44; Rom. 5:6 = 26:41; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6 =  Mk. 14:36.

26:41 Watch and pray- The repeated emphasis upon their lack of watching contrasts with the Lord’s stress upon the need to watch in the last days, and how lack of watching would lead to condemnation (24:42,43; 25:13). Their lack of watching meant they were condemned- and yet they were redeemed by their recognition of their state, as evidenced in the Gospel records.

That you may not enter into- These words are addressed to Peter in the singular, and yet the “you” here is plural. The Lord is telling Peter that he is no different to the rest of the disciples, despite his assertion that even if they all denied the Lord, he would not do so. Peter’s sense of spiritual superiority was especially displeasing to the Lord.

Temptation- Each statement of the apparently simple model prayer needs careful reflection. The Lord told the disciples in Gethsemane to earnestly pray the simple saying: “Pray not to fail in the test” (Mt. 26:41 cp. 6:13). The prayer that they could gabble mindlessly must be prayed with intense attention to every phrase. They presumably did pray as directed, but the Lord later warns them: “Why do you sleep? Get up and pray, so that you will not enter into temptation”. He intended them to keep on praying, as He spent an hour praying the same words; and not just rattle off a few words and think we have done our praying. Just as the tribulation of the last days seems to be conditional upon our faith, so the Lord may imply that entering into the time of trial or testing was avoidable by their prayer and faith. Again we see the final time of tribulation as reflective of the Lord’s sufferings, enabling the very last generation to identify with the Lord’s death so that they might share in His resurrection.

The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak- The question is whether the Lord is making a general observation about human nature, or whether He is specifically criticizing them for being spiritually weak at that specific time. He could be saying that they underestimated the power of human nature, and needed to pray that they would not enter into the temptation posed by their own flesh, their humanity. This is a clear demonstration of the source of spiritual weakness- our own flesh, rather than any superhuman being. Or it could be that the Lord has in view the specific weakness of the flesh- to disown Him in the face of opposition and the risk of arrest and death.

The word "weak" is often used about spiritual weakness. Paul describes all of us as having been saved although we were weak, using the same word used about the disciples asleep in Gethsemane (Mt. 26:41 “weak” = Rom. 5:6 “without strength”). He saw the evident similarity between them and us, tragically indifferent in practice to the mental agony of our Lord, failing to share His intensity of striving- although we are so willing in spirit to do this. And yet, Paul implies, be better than them. Don't be weak and sleepy as they were when Christ wanted them awake (Mt. 26:40,41 = 1 Thess. 5:6,7). Strive for the imitation of Christ's attitude in the garden (Mt. 26:41 = Eph. 6:18). And yet in Romans 7, a depressed but realistic Paul laments that he fails in this; his description of the losing battle he experienced within him between flesh and spirit is couched in the language of Christ's rebuke to the disciples in Gethsemane (the spirit was willing, but the flesh weak).

26:42 Again a second time he went away and prayed, saying- This is saying the same thing twice. We are enabled to imagine the Lord again walking away from them, as if Matthew’s camera is located amongst the disciples and focused upon the rear view of the Lord Jesus.

My Father, If- The Lord in Gethsemane took a long time to pray the simple words: “Father, if ....”. It was long enough for the disciples to fight a losing battle against drowsiness and fall fast asleep (the Greek implies). But how do you pray? With simple, staccato words and phrases like His? Or do you desperately seek for words, any words, just to make it seem you prayed, trying to be like the more mature brethren you hear praying at gatherings? Or after many years of prayer, can I ask, are you just churning out the same old phrases and ideas, with little meaning put into the words...? If the Son of God Himself prayed in such simple terms, surely we ought to likewise.

This cup- The use of “this…” suggests the Lord had so clearly in mind the course of events which were to follow. ‘The cup’ would have been less specific, as if He simply knew that an ordeal was ahead. But “thiscup” suggests He knew what the cup was specifically, and was holding that understanding in His mind as He prayed to the Father.

Cannot pass, except I drink it- The same word translated “possible” in :39 “If it be possible”. Both Father and Son clearly were aware that all things are possible for the Father, and yet those who seek to do His will must accept that He will not use that possibility in a boundless sense. The contrast is between the Father’s will / desire on one hand, and His boundless potential possibility on the other. If we seek to do His will or desire, to please Him, as the Lord did, then the fact He can potentially do anything for us somehow recedes in significance. We above all wish to please Him. Therefore the fact He could save us from any pain no longer weighs so heavily with us. It is primitive indeed to complain that God could have stopped a certain painful course of events. He indeed could have done. But the issue is, whether or not we wish to do His will, to please Him, to do His work in this world. This is the significance of the Lord saying “Your will be done”.

Your will be done- He had the authority to call down legions of Angels to change the course of events- implying the Father would have allowed that. All things were possible to God. The fact this possibility remained for the Lord suggests that the prayers in Gethsemane were really the Lord coming to the conclusion that He Himself wished to go ahead with the cross. It wasn’t so much that He asked for the cross to be taken away from Him, and the Father said “No”, and He meekly accepted it. Prayer functioned for Him as it often does for us- a means of dialogue with God and thereby with ourselves, the process of which in itself provides the answers to our deepest questions. The will of the Father is never presented in Scripture as immutable and some predestined code which we are to follow. Rather is God open to change in response to the cry of His beloved people. So the Lord’s conclusion “Your will be done” is not a shrugging acceptance that in this case, He couldn’t change some preordained will of God; but rather a willing desire on His own part to do the ideal wishes / will of the Father. The Lord’s statement was therefore His own conclusion, His own decision to continue in the way of the cross, even though the practical realities of what it meant were now becoming more practically apparent to Him than ever before. No wonder the Father sent an Angel to strengthen His beloved Son in this fine resolve. See on 26:54 But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled?

26:43 And he came again and found them sleeping- See on :40 Comes… and finds.

For their eyes were heavy- It’s clear from all the allusions to the need for watchfulness and the moral failure associated with sleeping, that there was really no adequate excuse for their failure. And yet the record gracefully takes note of the human weakness they were facing. We should not dismiss circumstantial ethics too quickly. Whilst sin remains sin, there is every reason for thinking that God does take circumstance into account in His final judgment of human failures. The only other time the Greek word translated “heavy” occurs in the Gospels is in Lk. 9:32, where again it is used of heaviness with sleep, and again about Peter, James and John sleeping whilst the Lord was involved in active dialogue with the Father about His forthcoming death: “Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep”. Mk. 14:40 adds that “They did not know what to answer Him”, and this likewise was the situation at the transfiguration (Mk. 9:6 s.w.). The events of the transfiguration were to prepare Peter, James and John for the events of Gethsemane; they were supposed to see the similarities, and learn. But they didn’t. Likewise circumstances repeat in our lives, as the Father seeks to teach us, hoping we shall learn from one event which is then in essence repeated later. The way the situation here repeats three times, and each time they fail and fall asleep, is another example of how circumstances repeat in the hope that we will learn.

26:44- see on :39.

And he left them again and went away and prayed- The language of leaving to be with the Father and coming again to the disciples is very much the language of the Lord’s ascension and return (Jn. 16:28 has just recorded the Lord using this language in the Upper Room). His coming to them and finding them sleeping is therefore an enactment of the condemnation of the last day- but we can be condemned in this life, but be saved out of it by repentance.

A third time- The three failures of Peter to keep awake were clearly meant to portend his forthcoming triple failure. The Lord was seeking to educate him as to his own weakness. But he failed to perceive it. After each failure he would've urged himself not to fail again, and he would've gone through the same thoughts as time after time he denied his Lord later that night. We gasp with wonder at how the Lord was not so focused upon His own struggles that He had no thought for desperately trying to educate his beloved Peter. This is surely the mark of spiritual maturity- being able to never be so obsessed with our own struggles that we forget our responsibilities to our brethren. So often we reason that we must sort out our own issues before we can help others, but this kind of self-centredness would've meant that the Lord failed Himself to be the One He needed to be, both for Himself and for others.

Saying again the same words- If the idea was simply that He repeated again the previous words, another word would've been used. Hautou definitely means something like 'His own words', 'The words of Himself'. And in this we see a powerful picture of what prayer to the Father really is- praying our very own words to the Father. The intimacy of the Son with the Father is thus brought out. 

26:45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them: Sleep on now- The Lord spoke this to them whilst they were asleep, because in :46 He asks them to arise. A lesser man than the Lord would've been bitterly disappointed, full of fear that His entire mission was open to failure if the material He had so especially focused upon saving was so incredibly weak. But instead in tenderness He speaks to them as a loving parent speaks to their sleeping children. For this seems the only credible interpretation of His words- for immediately afterwards He tells them to awake. 

And take your rest- Seeing the Lord proceeds to immediately awake them from sleep, He must have had some other idea in view apart from taking literal rest. Surely He had in view His earlier invitation to His followers to find rest in Him (11:28); He knew that He was dying so that they might have this ultimate rest to their souls. 

The hour is at hand- Gk. 'is approaching'. Perhaps the Lord noticed the approach of Judas and the soldiers. Mk. 14:41 has "the hour is come". 'It is approaching... it has come' would be an appropriate thing to say in soliloquy as the Lord saw the men approaching closer. Eggizo, “is at hand”, is the very word used specifically about Judas in :46: “He is at hand that betrays Me”. 

And the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners- Remember that the Greek word behind 'betrayal' means simply to be handed over. Earlier the Lord had spoken of being handed over into the hand or power of men (17:22), to the chief priests (20:18), to the Gentiles (Mk. 10:33). But now the Lord introduces a moral dimension- He was to be handed over into the power of sin, but would break that power by His resurrection. For the resurrection of the Lord was not simply a vindication of Himself against men, but against the power of sin. And this is what opens up the path to deliverance for all likewise under the power of sin. Surely Heb. 2:14 had this in mind when speaking of how the Lord destroyed "him that had the power of death, that is, the devil"- sin manifested in the powers of Rome and Judaism. 

26:46 Arise!- See on :45.

Let us be going- If this were the simple sense of the Greek, another construction would’ve been used. The sense is definitely ‘Let us lead on’. Although going into the hands of sinners, the Lord was in control- for He insisted that His life was not taken from Him, but rather He gave it of Himself.

He that betrays me is nearby- See on :45 The hour is at hand.

26:47 And while he yet spoke- This, along with the repeated use of “Behold” or “Lo” (:45,46,47,51) encourage us to play Bible television with these events. The scene was clearly etched upon the memory of the Gospel writers. Mk. 14:43 puts it all in the present tense: “There comes Judas…”, to encourage us to re-live the incident.

Judas, one of the twelve- Emphasized in all three synoptics.

Came, and with him a great crowd- This was a tacit recognition of the fanatic loyalty of the eleven; Judas reckoned that they could put up enough of a fight to require this great multitude.

With swords and staves, from the chief priest and elders of the people- This little detail accords well with the reality of the situation. Although the Chief Priests had some authority to use the Roman guards to control difficult situations in the temple area, they surely didn’t have use of Roman soldiers to arrest a civilian in a garden at night. So these were ruffians rustled up by Judas and the Jewish leaders, which explains why they had staves as well as swords. Staves were hardly the military equipment of professional soldiers, but it fits the idea that the leaders gathered together a crowd of hoods to do this dirty work. And it was only later that the Jews handed the Lord over to Gentile power. “Staves” translates xulon, the word meaning ‘stake’ or ‘tree’ which is used about the cross. See on :48 “That is He”.

26:48 Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying- These are the very words more commonly used together about signs being given to the Jewish world by the Lord. Judas was in every way a fake Christ, acting as the real disciple and the true Christ, when in fact he was the very opposite. This is why he as the “son of perdition” becomes the prototype of the antichrist figure in 2 Thess. 2. Note that ‘anti-Christ’ doesn’t mean so much one who isagainst Christ as one who mimics the real Christ but is in fact a false one and not the original, despite all appearances.

Whomsoever I shall kiss- The Greek phileo literally means ‘to love’. I have mentioned several times the essential similarity between the betrayals of Judas and Peter that same night. When the Lord later asks Peter whether Peter has phileo for Him (Jn. 21:17), He is as it were asking ‘Do you kiss Me, as Judas did?’. He is probing Peter to see the similarities between himself and Judas, and to recognize that he was not in fact more loyal and devoted to Jesus than any of the others [as Peter had once claimed]- and that included even Judas.

That is He. Take him- The Lord was a well known public figure, having taught openly in Jerusalem in the presence of huge crowds. The need to identify Him indicates that the crowd of hoods being used didn’t know who He was, because they were not the types to attend teaching sessions in the temple, or perhaps they weren’t locals, or maybe not even Jews. Again we find the ring of truth in how these records are written; if they were anything other than Divinely inspired, there would be all manner of lack of congruence in the details and information given.

26:49 And immediately he came to Jesus, and said, Greetings, Rabbi; and kissed him- Most of the 74 NT occurrences of chairo, "hail", are translated "rejoice". Perhaps the Lord was reminded of His recent words about the cross being His "joy". But why did Judas address Him in this way? It could be that the crowd of armed men were still hidden, and he came alone to make this act of identification of Jesus- again suggesting that the crowd of hired hoods were unclear as to which one of the group of disciples was Jesus. This is why :50 says that after the kiss, "then came they"- Judas was alone when he first approached the Lord. Although the Lord later protests that He had been with 'them' in the temple teaching, presumably that comment was directed only at the leadership of the group. Or perhaps it was simply because in the darkness it was not clear who was who, and Judas needed to make the identification for that reason. He needed to be alone to make that identification- he would've been unable to do it if he had approached Jesus and the disciples with the crowd of men next to him.

26:50 And Jesus said to him: Friend- During the few seconds between the kiss and the appearance of the armed men. See the reconstruction suggested at :49. 

Do what you came to do- AV "Wherefore". The Greek epi hos doesn't simply mean 'Why?'. In this a word like tis would have been used. 'For what' is a reasonable translation. RV "Do that for which thou art come"- confirming a wicked man in the evil way he had chosen to take. And yet it seems to me that the Lord tried to save Judas to the last. This rhetorical question asked Judas to consider why he was doing this. One reason which the record gives is that he was interested in the money. He was a chronic materialist. He enquired how much he could receive for the job of betraying, and only then did he do it. The way he flung the coins down before committing suicide surely indicate how significant the money was to him. And the Lord knew that, and was asking him, even at this late moment, to consider why he was doing this- just for coins, pieces of metal. The Lord really was the good shepherd who searched for the lost until the very end, and sets a supreme example to us all.

'For whom' would be another possible translation of epi hos ["Wherefore...?"]. But why say this, when it was obvious? The Lord clearly knew what was happening- He knew the armed men were with Judas although hidden, and that they would now appear. He also knew that at least Peter had a sword and was keen to use it. In the crucial few seconds between the identification of Jesus with the kiss and the appearance of the armed men from the trees, the Lord knew that Peter could easily have killed Judas. The Lord may have been playing for time- to preserve Judas' life. Primarily this would've been in order to give Judas the possibility of repentance; but it was also to enable the foreseen sequence of events leading to the cross to happen. This makes sense of the Lord's statement at His trial, that if His Kingdom was immediate, then His servants would fight (Jn. 18:36). They wanted to fight, as Peter's rash action with his sword made clear, but the Lord disallowed them from doing this. We marvel at how conscious the Lord was on so many levels in bringing forward God's purpose, whilst allowing men the maximum possible opportunity to display faith, loyalty and repentance. 

Then they came - See the reconstruction suggested at :49.

And laid hands on Jesus- The Lord uses the same expression about the sufferings of the faithful in the very last generation (Lk. 21:12), as He seeks to bring them to know the essence of His death, seeing that that generation will not taste of death but be given immortality at the judgment seat. 

And took Him- Literally, they had power over Him. The same word is used in Heb. 2:14 about how the Lord overcame the 'devil' who had the 'power' of death. They had the power, apparently, externally. But the paradox was that by willingly giving Himself over to it, He had power over the 'devil' of sin, both abstractly as sin, and also in all forms of its political manifestation, in this case, the Roman and Jewish authorities.

26:51 And one of those with Jesus- Peter.

Stretched out his hand and drew his sword, and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear- The camera, as it were, is zoomed in close upon Peter. Perhaps the detail is provided as backdrop for the Lord’s response- that whoever takes the sword shall perish by it (:52). Peter did indeed take the sword- but by grace was saved from the consequence. He clearly aimed to strike off the man's head, but he ducked and Peter only caught his ear.

The material from Mark is about the same as in Matthew, but Luke and John add various details. Here is Matthew’s account of the arrest in the Garden, with the details from Luke 22 and John 18 (on which see commentary) added in square brackets:

“The hour is at hand and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise! Let us be going. He that betrays me is nearby. And while he yet spoke, Judas, one of the twelve, came; and with him a great crowd with swords and staves, from the chief priest and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying: Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is he. Take him. [Lk. 22:47,48 He drew near to Jesus to kiss him. But Jesus said to him: Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?] And immediately he came to Jesus, and said, Greetings, Rabbi; and kissed him. And Jesus said to him: Friend, do what you came to do. [Lk. 22 And when they that were about him saw what would follow, they said: Lord, shall we strike with the sword?]. Then they came. [Jn. 18:4-9  Jesus knowing all the things that must come upon him, went forward and said to them: Whom do you seek? They answered him: Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus said to them: I am he (Judas, the one who betrayed him, was standing with them). When he said to them: I am he, they drew back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them: Whom do you seek? And they said: Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered: I told you that I am he. If therefore you seek me, let these go their way- that the word might be fulfilled which he spoke: Of those whom you have given me I lost not one]. [then they] laid hands on Jesus and took him. And one of those with Jesus [Jn. 18 Simon Peter] stretched out his hand and drew his sword, and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear [Jn. 18 his right ear. Now the servant's name was Malchus]. Then said Jesus to him: [No more of this Lk. 22:51] Put away your sword into its place, [into its sheath, Jn. 18] for all that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Do you think I cannot ask my Father and He shall, even now, send me more than twelve legions of Angels? [Jn. 18:11 The cup which the Father has given me, shall I not drink it?] [Lk. 22:51 And he touched his ear and healed him]. But how then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way? In that hour Jesus said to the mob: Have you come out as against a robber with swords and staves to seize me? I sat daily in the temple teaching and you did not take me. [Lk. 22 But this is your hour, and the power of darkness]. But all this is happening so that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples left him and fled. [Lk. 22 And they seized him and led him away, and brought him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed from a distance]”.

26:52 Then said Jesus to him: Put away your sword into its place- When Peter speaks of how the Lord Jesus will ‘turn away’ sinners from their sins (Acts 3:26), he is using the very word of how the Lord Jesus told him to “put up again” his sword (Mt. 26:52), thereby turning Peter away from his sin. Whether Peter's allusion was conscious or unconscious isn't clear; we tend to use language which has recently been used to us even in other contexts, especially if we have meditated upon it and feel it personally relevant to us. Again we see that Peter's appeal to Israel to repent in Acts 2 and 3 was so successful because it was shot through with reference to his own failures and experience of repentance, conversion and forgiveness. Peter’s appeal for repentance and conversion was evidently allusive to his own experience of conversion (Lk. 22:32 cp. Acts 3:19; 9:35). In this he was following the pattern of David, who sung his ‘Maschil’ (teaching) psalms after his forgiveness in order to convert sinners unto Yahweh (Ps. 51:13). Like Peter, David did so with his sin ever before him, with a broken and contrite heart (Ps. 51:3,17). He invited them to seek forgiveness for their denial of their Lord, just as he had done. He dearly wished them to follow his pattern, and know the grace he now did. The same word used of how Judas "brought again" his pieces of silver to the Jews (27:3). This is part of a series of similarities between Judas and Peter at this time. They both in essence did the same thing, but Peter repented and trusted in the Lord's grace, whereas Judas didn't know the Lord's grace.

For all that take the sword- Peter was the one who had literally just put forth his hand and taken a sword (:51). So it was by grace that he didn't "perish" by the sword at this time. Again, we see how grace ran through the Lord's actions at this His greatest moment of personal stress. The same word lambano, "take", is used of how Judas had 'received' a band of men armed with swords in order to capture Jesus (Jn. 18:3). Again, the similarities are being developed between Peter and Judas; both in essence made the same mistakes and committed the same sins, in this case, taking the sword. But Peter repented and trusted in the Lord's grace. 

Shall perish with the sword- Not particularly in this life, but at judgment day, because "perish" is repeatedly used about final condemnation (e.g. 5:29,30; 10:28,39; 16:25; 22:7). The word is specifically used of the 'perishing' of Judas (Jn. 17:12, AV "lost"; 18:9). Again, the warning to Peter was not to be like Judas, even though the similarities between them were great at this time. 

Jn. 18:11 adds: "The cup which My Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?". If Peter had entered into the Lord's struggle in Gethsemane concerning the cup, then he wouldn't have made this mistake of attempting violent resistance. But he fell asleep, and as with us so often, failure or laziness at one point leads to failure in others later on.

26:53 Do you think I cannot ask my Father and He shall, even now- The word "now" is all significant. Even then, the Lord could have changed the nature and sequence of events which lay ahead of Him, and this possibility was uppermost in His mind, the temptation He struggled with. This factor must be given due weight in seeking to understand His struggle in Gethsemane. It wasn't a case that He Himself didn't want to drink the cup, but the Father insisted He must, and therefore He resigned Himself to the Father's will. There was another way, indeed there were multiple ways forward. He could have called down legions of Angels. But He made the Father's will His own, He willingly agreed to do it, because He wanted to fulfil the Scriptures, to be obedient to them rather than merely bring about a neat correlation between them and events. He rose up from the final prayer in Gethsemane having committed Himself to do this, even though there were other options. So His willing giving of Himself over to death wasn't merely an iron-willed submission to the Father's will, in the spirit of 'islam' [submission]. Rather did He arise from the final prayer resolved to do the Father's will as His will, and this meant turning His back upon all the other possibilities before Him. This makes His decisions and death even more awesome, knowing that there could have been other legitimate ways to bring about the plan of salvation- indeed, it could be argued that God's hands were not tied, and He could forgive and save who He wished with no requirement for the cross. But the cross was powerful in order to persuade others of the need to respond to it, and therefore the Lord died as He did for our sakes, in order to persuade us. And we should therefore allow the cross its full and maximum persuasive power in our lives. See on :28 The new testament

Send me more than twelve legions of Angels?- But the Lord had learnt the lesson of Elisha, who could have himself seen legions of Angels but chose not to, so certain was he that they were potentially there (2 Kings 6:17). "Give Me", paristemi, has a wide range of meaning, and it is used of how Peter was one of those who "stood by" the Lord in Gethsemane (Mk. 14:47); the Lord is saying that as Peter stood by Him with drawn sword, just one man against so many, so in fact there were legions of Angels standing by or 'given' to assist the Lord; but He was not going to make use of them. The same word is used of the officers who "stood by" Jesus and struck Him at His trial (Jn. 18:22; Acts 4:26 s.w.); the Lord must have reflected that actually there were legions of Angels standing by / given unto Him. His self-restraint in not using them is remarkable, and highlights the way in which His life was not taken from Him but He willingly gave it. The reference to "twelve" legions of Angels was perhaps therefore in contrast with the twelve disciples; even if all twelve of them had stood up to fight for the Lord's deliverance, actually He had not twelve men, but twelve legions of Angels at His disposal. But He was not going to use them, and so He would not make use of the twelve disciples. The use of "legions" naturally contrasts with the Roman legions who were ultimately going to be used by the Jews to destroy the Lord. Peter's letters are absolutely full of his reflections upon these incidents, and this is why he could write of how the Angels are not subject unto the Lord Jesus (1 Pet. 3:22). 

The Lord Jesus could’ve called upon legions of Angels to help Him; but He chose not to (Mt. 26:53); He could have taken power there and then in His ministry and declared Himself King- but He walked off to the hills instead (Jn. 6:15). In these examples we see what we could call a renunciation of power. Time and again we are called upon to decide whether we will renounce what power we have, or use it or abuse it for our own selfish ends. A parent faces this issue so often with a young child. The parent has more power; but how and for what reasons should she / he use that power? We can use ‘power’ in many ways in the trivia of daily life; but actually in most of those micro level decisions we are challenged with a choice as to what level of spirituality and unselfishness we are going to show.

26:54 But how then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?- See on :42 Your will be done. The Father was willing to allow another way- legions of Angels could have been sent to change the course of events. In this lay the intensity of the temptation, and the height of the Lord’s achievement in rising up to the highest level. Scriptural prophecy has all kinds of possible fulfilments, as we noted in discussing the Olivet prophecy. There is not only one possible fulfilment. I suggest therefore that the Lord saw the Scriptures as speaking to Him by way of personal commandment, and He knew that to fulfil them was to obey them. To be disobedient to those Scriptures would not have falsified them, because another way of fulfilment could have been found. But the Lord felt strongly the need to make the word become flesh to utter fullness and perfection.

26:55 In that hour Jesus said to the mob- The size of the crowd of armed men is an indirect indication of the fierce loyalty of the eleven disciples to the Lord. Judas expected that they would or at least could put up major resistance.

Have you come out as against a robber with swords and staves to seize me?- The same word used about Jesus and the disciples ‘going out’ from the Upper Room to Gethsemane (:30; Jn. 18:1), and Jesus ‘going forth’ to meet the crowd of armed men (Jn. 18:4). The impression is given of a head on meeting between the forces of light and darkness.

I sat daily in the temple teaching and you did not take me- The Lord was addressing the leadership of the group, who had sat daily in the temple over the past week and heard Him. They knew what He looked like, He had sat pros humas, "with you" (AV), not so much “with you” as ‘directly facing you’, sitting down in front of them and therefore at close range. Therefore the need for Judas to identify the Lord with a kiss, to prove “that same is He”, was because the mass of armed men didn’t know who He was, and had therefore not sat in the temple. Again we see the Lord recognizing that men are only who they are, the hired thugs were no more than hired thugs acting in ignorance; but the leaders who were present were the ones He wanted to address. This is confirmed by Lk. 22:52 stating that “Jesus said to the chief priests and captains of the temple and elders that had come against him: Have you come as against a robber, with swords and staves?”. The priests and elders were in that large crowd, and the Lord directly addresses them. So although He addressed “the multitudes”, His message was aimed at specific individuals within the crowd. This is true of much of Scripture; perhaps those parts we personally fail to understand are speaking to a particular group in need of that message, perhaps in a previous age, and it may not be as directly intended for us as it was to them. The correspondence between the narratives is detailed and deeply credible. Uninspired writers would surely not only contradict themselves, but lack this artless congruence between each other which we find in the inspired Gospel records. Lk. 22:53 adds that the Lord continued to say: “But this is your hour, and the power of darkness”. The sense is surely that in broad daylight they dared not lay hold on Him- they had to do it under cover of darkness, because they were of the darkness.

26:56 But all this is happening so that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled- This can be read as part of the Lord’s words, or the comment of Matthew. “Is happening” is translated “was done” in the AV. See on :54; the emphasis upon the fulfilment of Scripture is not merely noting a correspondence between New Testament event and Old Testament scripture. Rather I suggest is the idea that the Lord chose to be obedient to God’s word and will, to make it His own, to the highest possible extent, to the point of total personal identification with it; when by its nature, God’s prophetic word has various possibilities of fulfilments on different levels, some of which would have enabled the Lord to bypass the cross. The specific reference may be to Ps. 31:11. This refers to how David's family appear to have later disowned him during Saul’s persecution, fleeing from him, as the Lord’s friends also did.

John inserts at this point that the Lord was revealed in glory and the crowd of armed men fell to the ground; He asked them to let the disciples “go their way”. And yet He had earlier lamented that their scattering from Him would be related to their lack of faith: “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written: I will smite the shepherd and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad”. This has to be compared with John’s account in Jn. 18:4-9: “Jesus knowing all the things that must come upon him, went forward and said to them: Whom do you seek? They answered him: Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus said to them: I am he (Judas, the one who betrayed him, was standing with them). When he said to them: I am he, they drew back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them: Whom do you seek? And they said: Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered: I told you that I am he. If therefore you seek me, let these go their way- that the word might be fulfilled which he spoke: Of those whom you have given me I lost not one”. The scattering from the Lord was part of their falling away. And yet the Lord sets them up to flee, he apparently urges them to do so, in order that He would not spiritually lose any of them. We see here a profound principle- that there are times when it would be better to allow disciples to follow a lower principle, to even fail, to run away from the highest principle of dying with Christ; lest otherwise the height of the demand means they become lost totally. The church of my youth forbad divorce and remarriage, and yet by forcing disciples who divorced to never remarry, they ended up causing many of them to be lost to Christ’s cause. And there are multiple other examples.

Then all the disciples left him- Although the Lord had set up the opportunity for them to flee by stunning the armed men and telling them to allow the disciples free exit, they were still forsaking Him by doing so. And it still hurt the Lord. He simply knew their spiritual capabilities, and was giving them a lower level escape route. One size simply doesn’t fit all; He didn’t deal with them on a legalistic level of demanding obedience to a certain standard, failing which they were rejected. Neither does He work like that today. Their forsaking of Him sets the scene for His final agonized cry to the Father: “Why have You forsaken Me?” (27:46). His disciples had, the inner circle of ministering women and His own mother had walked away from the cross- and now He felt even the Father forsaking Him, despite earlier having said that “He that sent Me is with Me: the Father has not left Me alone [s.w. ‘forsake’]” (Jn. 8:29).

And fled- Their action is emphasized by the usage of both words, forsake and fled. Typically the Gospel writers emphasize their own weakness and failures, all as part of their compelling appeal to others to respond to the message they themselves had been so slow to grasp.

26:57 And they that had taken Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes- There is great emphasis on the Lord being led (Mt. 26:57; 27:2,31; Mk. 15:16; Jn. 18:13,28; 19:16). And notice how Acts 8:32 changes the quotation from Is. 53 to say that Christ was led(this isn't in the Hebrew text). His passivity is another indication that He was giving His life of His own volition, it wasn't being taken from Him.

And the elders- Sometimes a technical term for the Sanhedrin.

Were gathered together- This word is often used in connection with the Lord’s opponents being gathered together against Him at His death (Mt. 26:3,57; 27:17,27,62; 28:12; Lk. 22:66; Acts 4:26,27); and yet it is also used of the gathering together of the faithful, especially at the breaking of bread, around the symbols of the Lord’s death (Acts 20:7,8; 1 Cor. 5:4). The cross becomes the essence of the division between the believers and the world; each group gather together around it. The cross and the person of the Lord Jesus therefore divide the believer from the world; and this is where the line really is, rather than between believer and believer. To make the breaking of bread service and the emblems of the crucified Jesus the means of dividing between believers is therefore extremely serious; at best, it totally fails to perceive the intention of the Lord Jesus and His death. His suffering, He there in His time of torture, is intended to be the focal point of the gathering together of the believers for Him, and likewise it becomes the focal point of the unbelieving world’s gathering together against Him. 

26:58 But Peter followed Him afar off- This is recorded in the same words by all three Synoptics. It impressed them all as perhaps typical of so much of their ‘following’ the Lord; it was a following, but far off from Him. His challenge to Peter had been to not just physically follow Him, but to pick up His cross and walk behind Him on His way to His cross (16:24 s.w.). Following Jesus in the shadows and avoiding identification with Him was hardly the kind of following which He intended. Yet Peter recognized this, because his appeal for repentance describes his audience as likewise “afar off” (Acts 2:39 s.w.); he is asking them to make the conversion which he did, and he thereby considers his ‘following afar off’ as not really following at all, and being in a ‘far off from Christ’ position from which he repented and thereby ‘came near’ to Christ in conversion. The Greek words for ‘followed’ and ‘afar off’ are also used about how the few remaining disciples stood ‘afar off’ from Christ on the cross. The sense is perhaps that the Gospel writers recognized how far they were from co-crucifixion with Christ, and this sense is one we can identify with. And we are those likewise described in Ephesians as “far off” as Peter was, but are now likewise reconciled.

To the court of the high priest; and entered in- The same word used by the Lord in warning Peter not to "enter into" temptation (Lk. 22:46). And it is used again of how Satan entered into Judas (Jn. 13:27), again drawing a parallel between the path of both Peter and Judas- the difference finally being simply that Peter believed in the Lord's grace whereas Judas could not.

And sat with the officers- The presence of the definite article suggests that "the servants" [the Greek also means "officers"] are a group which has already been mentioned, and surely they are the "servants" who comprised the crowd of armed men who arrested Jesus in the Garden. The same word is used three times about them in Jn. 18:3,12,18. The risk Peter was taking was considerable, seeing he had visibly been with the Lord in the Garden and had tried to kill one of the servants. We must give due weight to this- his devotion to his Lord was incomplete but all the same must be recognized for what it was as far as it was. So often those who aim higher than others in their spiritual devotions are those who fall the most publically, and yet their devotion to their Lord should not be forgotten- for it is higher than the mass of other disciples.

To see the end- Critically, we could say that the Lord had called His men to participate in His "end", to die with Him, to carry His cross, and Peter (like us) wished merely to observe His end, rather than participate in it personally. I have thought the same about myself often in self-examination at the breaking of bread. And yet Peter's love for the Lord cannot be questioned, for it was not mere curiosity that led him to take the risk he did of sitting amongst "the servants". The only other time the Greek phrase occurs is in James 5:11, where James says we have all seen the end of the Lord [the Lord Jesus?], that He is very pitiful and of tender mercy. Writing as James was in the context of an early church led by Peter, it is not impossible that he is hinting that we are all in the place of Peter, and have an experience of pity and tender mercy none less than he experienced.

26:59 Now the chief priests and the whole council- Gk. 'the Sanhedrin'. All of them participated in desiring or requiring [Gk.; AV "sought"] false witness against Jesus. And yet within that group was Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews (Jn. 3:1- and "all" the Jewish leaders condemned Jesus to death, 27:1); and Joseph, who is specifically called a member of the Council (Mk. 15:43; Lk. 23:50). Perhaps this is an example of where "all" is used in Biblical languages in a general but not strictly literal sense. Lk. 23:51 says that Joseph had not "consented" with the Council. The Greek can mean specifically to vote, but also to simply 'agree'. Perhaps he voted against their decision; or perhaps his lack of consent was deeply internal. In any case, it seems that it was only after the Lord was pronounced dead that he 'came out' publically in open identification with the Lord (note "after this...", Jn. 19:38). We see here the grace of God, in not holding against those men the way that they passively went along with the decision to crucify God's Son. Their strong internal disagreement was noted. We are reminded of how not all Joseph's brothers went along with the plan to kill him, but their silence meant that the plan went ahead. We likewise should show grace to those who go along with decisions which are deeply wrong and hurtful. This is not to say that they were correct in their lack of commitment, but we may well have done the same. And we can take a lesson from the Father's gracious attitude to those who would not immediately stand up and be counted for the Lord's cause. This affects our decision making in terms of disciplining those who do things like responding to military call up, voting under duress or other things which are against the Lord's will, which are failures... and yet ultimately God may very well extend the same grace to them as He did to Joseph and Nicodemus. And He tends to use circumstances to make a person finally come out in the open about their views, because secret discipleship is an oxymoron and His desire is that we are as a city set on a hill which cannot be hid.

Sought false witness against Jesus, that they might put him to death- The word is only used elsewhere in the Gospels about the way that the faithful will experience being 'put to death' in the final tribulation (10:21; Mk. 13:12; Lk. 21:16). The sufferings of the tribulation will enable the last generation to identify with the sufferings of Christ, and thus to share His resurrection life.

26:60 And they did not find any, though many false witnesses came- This is twice emphasized in this verse. Yet there were many false witnesses made. Presumably their legalistic minds insisted on giving the Lord 'a fair trial'; part of their minds were clouded by hatred and wickedness, and yet another part of their minds was set on strict legalistic obedience to God and the principles of legal integrity. In this we see the schizophrenic nature of the human mind. No matter what heights of devotion and understanding we may reach, we can never assume that we are totally with the Lord. And likewise we should not assume that others are either perfectly, totally spiritual or totally unspiritual. Sadly the human mind is capable of operating in different directions at once. 

But afterwards came two- The semblance of legal integrity they were following required that at least two and preferably three witnesses made the same accusation. The legalism of the Jews is emphasized, not least in their fear of ritual defilement at Passover time (Jn. 18:28). They held themselves to legal obedience and integrity, whilst committing the ultimate sin, of condemning the Son of God to a cruel death. The hatred they unleashed upon Him was done by men who were rigorously obedient to commandments; their abuse of Him would therefore have been justified by them as some form of obedience to Divine principle. And this is why religious people can be the most abusive and cruel of any- if the principles they are wedded to are wrong, and if they have not perceived grace.

26:61 And said: This man said, I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days- They were misquoting Him, and their witness did not agree, each of the two men reported His words differently (Mk. 14:59). And this lack of agreement between witnesses, "many" of them, was what had delayed proceedings to this point. But finally these evil men gave up all semblance of legal integrity- for time was running out. They thus condemned themselves even by the legal standards they were holding themselves to. The technical reason for His death sentence, therefore, was a supposed plan to destroy the temple, to commit the ultimate sacrilege. But what the Lord had said was that they would destroy the temple, referring to Himself, but after three days He would raise it up (Jn. 2:19). It was in fact they and not Him who were guilty of the crime of destroying the temple; indeed, the literal temple was finally destroyed exactly because of them. They condemned Him for what they themselves were guilty of. Legalists are so often led by the Lord to positions wherein they condemn themselves by their own standards, words and demands. The trial of Jesus is the ultimate expose of legalism.

26:62 And the high priest stood up and said to him- As a judge arises to give the verdict.

Do you answer nothing?- One reason for the Lord's silence was in order to allow them to condemn themselves- see on :61. But His self-control at His trials caused marvel amongst those who observed it, and it should to us too. For when justice and truth are so obviously not being upheld, all that is within us as humans cries out against it. Campaigns against injustice always gather mass support- it's very much a part of our human nature. But the Lord in this context said nothing. He let the unjust condemn themselves. 

What is it that these testify against you?
- The Greek could equally be translated 'Who are these that these testify against you?'. We wonder whether one of them was Judas, and whether the other was some other former disciple. The High Priest's point would therefore have been 'Come on, these are Your own men who are testifying You said this. And you remain silent?'. The pain of betrayal would have been intense. Surely the deal with Judas had involved his being a legal witness at the trial. But the fact his witness did not agree with the other man’s witness showed yet again that their careful plans simply didn’t work out; see on :5. The Lord Jesus freely gave His life, rather than having it taken from Him by the working out of carefully laid clever plans. Those plans failed. But He gave His life.

26:63 But Jesus held His peace- The High Priest 'answered' to this silence. Silence is itself a statement, a word. Is. 57:11 reasons with Israel that despite their sins, God had 'held His peace' in not judging them, and yet they still did not respect Him. Perhaps the Lord held His peace because all He could really speak in response was judgment against them. And He did not want to do that overmuch, He wanted to give them the maximum time for repentance before having to speak the inevitable judgment upon them. The answer He finally gives is not an answer to the accusations, but rather a pronouncement of judgment. And this is why, it seems to me, that He 'held His peace'- in order to give them the maximum opportunity to repent, and He was counting almost every second now. This desire for human repentance is a fundamental part of the Lord, as it should be part of our basic personality in Christ. This same Lord works moment by moment with us likewise, to bring us to repentance. This is His earnest desire.

And the high priest said to him: I bind you under oath to the living God, tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God- The technical reason for condemning Him was a supposed plot to destroy the temple building, but now the judge moves on to make another accusation, the issue which was most important to him and the Jews, but which was not of itself a criminal accusation which could be then transferred to Roman judgment with a request for a death penalty. But contra this there is the possibility that because Caesar declared himself to be the son of God and the anointed one, any man claiming to be that could be reported to the Romans and be condemned to death. In terms of legal procedure, their behaviour was wrong. The accusation shifted from one count to another, reflecting the clear desire of the judge to secure a condemnation regardless of procedure or witnesses. If this line of thought is correct, then it follows that confession of faith in any person as being "the Christ, the Son of God" was a criminal offence worthy of death. The crucifixion of the Lord for making this claim was therefore creating a legal precedent for the death by crucifixion of anyone else who believed there was such a person alive within the Roman empire. And the Gospels are studded with examples of confession of faith in "the Christ, the Son of God" (16:16; Lk. 4:41; Jn. 6:69; 11:27). The whole intention of the Gospel records was to bring people to make that same profession of faith in "the Christ, the Son of God" (Mk. 1:1; Jn. 20:31). Those parchments and the rehearsing of them would therefore have been forbidden material. In our age it may appear painless to confess faith in "the Christ, the Son of God", but it is no less radical in the separation it requires from the spirit of the societies in which we live.

26:64 Jesus said to him: You have said it; nevertheless I say to you, from this time forward- "You have said" shows how again, the Lord sought to elicit confessions from men in their own words. 

You shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven
- The allusion is clearly to Daniel's vision of the Son of Man coming in glory to judge the Gentile world. And the Lord is saying that those hyper religious Jews were effectively condemned Gentiles before God. But those men to whom He spoke died in their beds. Lifespans were short in first century Palestine, most males were dead by 40. Most of them wouldn't even have lived to experience the calamity of AD67-70. They will only therefore "see the Son of Man sitting..." at His return, when they are resurrected and see Him in His glory. And this will be of itself their condemnation- to see Him there enthroned in glory, and themselves not in His Kingdom. This was exactly His teaching to them in Mt. 23:39: "You shall not see Me from this time forward, until you shall say: Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord". They will then bless Him- but all too tragically late.

At His trial, the Lord warned them that He would come again as judge (Mt. 26:64,65), as if He realized that they were living out a foretaste of the final judgment. The thief likewise understood the Lord's presence as being the presence of the judge who would finally judge him (Lk. 23:44). Harry Whittaker points out that the cross divided men: there were women who followed and mourned insincerely, and the women who really followed. There were soldiers who gambled over the Lord's clothes, and one who really repented. There was a thief who repented and one who wouldn't. There were those who mocked and others who watched and believed.

26:65 Then the high priest tore his garments, saying- Declaring the end of his priesthood, to be replaced by the Lord Jesus. The Lord was crucified for blasphemy; this was the charge on which He was found guilty at His trial by the Jews, and the basis upon which they demanded His crucifixion. The Mishnah claims that this was only possible if someone actually used the Yahweh Name. Sanhedrin 7.5 outlines the protocol for condemning someone for this, in terms which have accurate correspondence with the Lord’s trial: “The blasphemer is not guilty until he have expressly uttered the Name... When the trial is over... the judges stand up and rend their clothes" (Quoted in F.F. Bruce, The Spreading Flame (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995 ed.), p. 53). So when the Lord responded to their question as to His Messiahship by saying “I am", and went on to appropriate the Messianic words of Dan. 7:13 and Ps. 110:1 to Himself, He must have explicitly used the Yahweh Name about Himself. This is why they were so quick to accuse Him of blasphemy, and why the High Priest rent his clothes. The Lord died because He declared the Yahweh Name, unashamedly, knowing that His declaration of it would take Him to the cross. Our declaration of the essence of Yahweh, by truthfulness, forgiveness... this may cost us, although maybe not so dearly. Yet we can be inspired by the Lord’s example. 

He has spoken blasphemy. What further need have we of witnesses? You have now heard the blasphemy- Again, legal procedure, which they had tried so carefully to follow, was made a mockery of. They began with a conviction of plotting to destroy the temple buildings, then turned that into an accusation that He was a "Christ, the Son of God", a rival to Caesar; and now they jump on the charge of blasphemy, for which they gave Him the death penalty. And yet the Jews had no legal power to execute people; they had to present their case to the Roman authorities. And blasphemy was not a capital offence under Roman law. Their careful attempts to follow legal integrity broke down in pathetic collapse, and thereby they condemned themselves. The same word, blasphemeo, is then used of how the Jews "reviled" or blasphemed the Lord as He hung on the cross (27:39; Lk. 22:65). They had earlier accused the Lord of blasphemy at least twice during His ministry (Mt. 9:3; Jn. 10:36 s.w.). So they should have thought of that earlier in the trial, seeing they themselves were the witnesses of that supposed crime. We are left with the impression of a judge and jury increasingly desperate to find the Lord guilty, progressively throwing their integrity and legalism to the winds in their obsession to make Him guilty of death. Little wonder that Pilate later remonstrated with them that Jesus was simply not legally guilty of any capital offence. But the more he made that point to them, the more they screamed for His death. 

26:66 What is your judgement? They answered and said- No note is made of Joseph or Nicodemus speaking out against it. The mob ruled, despite all the appearances of jurisprudence, spiritual and legal integrity. And yet the record speaks so positively of those two men. Perhaps this is because the Gospel records were encouraging those who had offered a pinch of incense to Caesar, or in some other way been silent in the Roman world when they should have stood up and been counted, that God's grace was still with them- even though ultimately, providence tends to overrule circumstances so that we do have to stand up openly.

He is worthy of death- The Lord had earlier taught that whoever calls their brother 'Raca', worthless, would be "guilty" [s.w.] before "the Council", the Sanhedrin (5:21,22). He had in mind that the Sanhedrin of the Jews was not the ultimate court of judgment for God's people, but rather the Heavenly council of Angels, presided over by God Almighty. The Lord must surely have been aware of this as the men of that human Sanhedrin condemned and abused Him. Human committees, courts or even groups of friends and family members are not the ultimate Sanhedrin; judge us as they may, the ultimate court is in Heaven. The same word for "guilty" is found in 1 Cor. 11:27, where Paul urges us to self-examination at the Lord's table lest we be guilty of His body and blood. The allusion shows that we as baptized believers can be no better than those evil men- unless we perceive Him and His death for what they really are.

26:67- see on :39.
Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists- This was done by men who just minutes beforehand had been carefully upholding some isolated principles of Divine law and general legal integrity. Their appearance of culture vanished. They only could have been so crude and cruel if they first justified it in terms of their religion; spitting and beating would have been justified by them as the punishment due to a heretic. But here we see how they were justifying their own natural anger and jealousy by taking a tiny shard of Biblical precedent- for only in Dt. 25:2 do we have any justification for legal beating, and once it was finished, then there was to be no other punishment. The beating was to be on his back and not on his face; and there was no talk of spitting. But the Jews took that and used it to justify spitting in the Lord's face, beating Him with their fists and then further condemning Him to death. The only command to spit in the face of a man was if he refused to raise up children for his dead relative (Dt. 25:9); but this was totally irrelevant to the Lord Jesus. He in any case was the ultimate example of a man who did build up His Father's house. There is anger in each of us, and religious people at times give full vent to that anger by justifying it as righteous anger, grabbing hold of the vague implication of some Bible verse and taking it way beyond the obvious meaning of the verse. In doing so, they are behaving no better than these the very worst of men who have ever lived, committing the worst ever crime ever committed in the cosmos. The face of Jesus shone at times with God's glory; He was the face of God to men. And they spat in that face, and beat it. The wonder was that the Lord had specifically foreseen this- He had predicted that they would spit at Him (Mk. 10:34). He foresaw how they would fuel their anger against Him with their persuasion that He was a heretic. 

And some slapped Him with the palms of their hands- A Semitic insult to a heretic. Again, their anger was fuelled by and excused by their religious convictions. This slapping (whilst He was blindfolded, Lk. 22:64) was connected to their question: "Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is he that struck you?" (:68). Clearly they were seeking to test His claim to be the Christ. They thought that the Christ could demonstrate supernatural knowledge; and He had already demonstrated that multiple times. They clearly had in mind a section from the uninspired Psalms of Solomon, where false Messiahs were to be tested in this way. The warning to us is to never allow fragments of Scripture or our religious tradition or beloved writings to justify us in expressing our anger in this way. 

26:68 Saying: Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is he that struck you?- They had blindfolded Him, and were challenging Him to exercise the prophetic gift of discernment by saying the name of the soldier who had struck Him. We note that 'prophesy' is not to be understood solely as the prediction of future events. The fact is, the Lord did know who had struck Him. They were clearly alluding to the fact that the Jews had concluded the Lord was a false prophet and false Christ and were punishing Him as such.






Accusation 1

Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a maid came to him, saying: You also were with Jesus the Galilean.

And as Peter was downstairs in the courtyard, there came one of the maids of the high priest.  And seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said: You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus!

And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat among them. And a certain maid seeing him as he sat in the light of the fire and looking earnestly upon him, said: This man also was with him.

Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest; and he entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest.  But Peter was standing outside the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the maid who kept watch at the door. The maid keeping watch at the door said to Peter: Are you also one of this man's disciples?

Denial 1

But he denied before them all, saying: I do not know what you say.

But he denied it, saying: I neither know, nor understand what you say; and he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.

But he denied it, saying: Woman, I do not know him.

He said: I am not!

Accusation 2

And when he went out to the entrance, another maid saw him and said to the bystanders: This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.

And the maid saw him and began again to say to them that stood by: This is one of them!

And after a little while another person saw him and said: You also are one of them.

Now the servants and the officers were standing there, having made a fire of coals. For it was cold, and they were warming themselves; and Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself... Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said to him: Are you also one of his disciples?

Denial 2

And again he denied with an oath: I do not know the man.

But he again denied it.

But Peter said: Man, I am not.

He denied and said: I am not!

Accusation 3

And after a little while they that stood by came and said to Peter: Of a truth you also are one of them, for your dialect makes you known.

And after a little while, again they that stood by said to Peter: Of a truth you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.

And after the space of about one hour another confidently affirmed, saying: Of a truth, this man also was with him. For he is a Galilean.

One of the servants of the high priest, being a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off, said: Did I not see you in the garden with him?

Denial 3

Then he began to curse and to swear: I do not know the man! And immediately the cock crowed.

But he began to curse and to swear under oath: I do not know this man of whom you speak. And immediately the second time the cock crew

But Peter said: Man, I do not know what you say. And immediately, as he spoke, the cock crew.

 Peter denied again; and immediately the cock crew.

Peter's response 1

And Peter remembered the words which Jesus had said: Before the cock crows, you shall deny me three times.

And Peter remembered what Jesus had said to him: Before the cock crows twice, you shall deny me three times.

And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord that he had said to him: Before the cock crow this day, you shall deny me three times. 

Peter goes out

And he went out and wept bitterly.

And as he thought upon it, he wept.

And he went out and wept bitterly.

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard- But likely within earshot. "Outside" translates exo, and the idea of being 'outside' from the Lord Jesus, especially in the context of Him being in a court, is exactly the picture of the rejected- Jesus at the day of judgment, with the rejected 'outside', away from Him. The term is used of the rejected being "cast out" (5:13), the rejected 'standing without' seeking entrance with the door closed (Lk. 13:25), the Jews "thrust out" of the Kingdom (Lk. 13:28), saltless salt 'cast without' (Lk. 14:35), the rejected 'cast out' (Jn. 6:37; 15:6). The word is used again to describe how Peter finally "went out[side]" into the final darkness (:75). He was living out the very picture of condemnation. We too can sin and be condemned in this life, yet the verdict can be changed. And that explains the intensity of zeal and desire in responding to such grace with all our hearts. If we do not perceive our condemnation nor the gracious change of verdict, there can be no real flame of zeal in response, no true humility, no deep seated motivation to service, forgiveness and grace to others.

And a maid- Gk. 'a servant girl', "one of the servant girls of the High Priest" (Mk. 14:66). Her claim that "You also were with Jesus" may specifically refer to Peter's presence with Jesus in Gethsemane, for  "the servants" of the High Priest had been there. Perhaps she was one of them. She describes Peter as being meta Jesus ["you were with Jesus"], and the same phrase meta Jesus is used to described the disciples being metaJesus in Gethsemane (:36,51). Or since the Lord was a public figure in Jerusalem, it would be likely that Peter was known as one of those ever to be seen hanging around Him. Jn. 18:17 gives further information about her: "The maid keeping watch at the door said to Peter: Are you also one of this man's disciples? He said: I am not!". The only other time we read of a servant girl who was a door keeper is in Acts 12:16, where the servant girl [s.w.] called Rhoda was the door keeper at the home of the disciples in Jerusalem, and is thrilled when she realizes that it is Peter knocking at the door asking her to let him in. Note that "door keeper" is likely a technical term, a kind of profession. This heightens the similarity between the two characters. The similarities with the scene in Jn. 18:17 are too strong to be passed off as unintentional; for here Peter has to have the door to the courtyard opened by the servant girl, and it is at the gate that she recognizes him. Peter's failure, his denials, were the basis of his successful appeals for Israel to follow his pattern of repentance. Thousands heard him make those appeals in Jerusalem, for if a few thousand were baptized in one day, we can be sure that many others heard the message and didn't act upon it. It's highly likely that that servant girl was in the crowd, and was one who responded. I suggest that Rhoda was that servant girl, converted by Peter's failure, repentance and experience of forgiveness. She converted from serving the Jewish High Priest to serving the Heavenly High Priest, the Lord Jesus; from being one of the crowd who went out to arrest Jesus, to being one who glorified His resurrection. 

Came to him- Jn. 18:17 says that the girl was keeping the door and let Peter through. As the door keeper she would have looked carefully at his face in the light of a torch. And then she came to him as he was sitting by the fire (Lk.), say some minutes later, as she realized who he was. This again has the ring of congruence about it, indicating how perfectly the records dovetail. 

Saying: You also were with Jesus the Galilean- Another passing evidence of the Lord's utter humanity; He spoke like a Galilean and was clearly a man brought up there, and not a pre-existent Divine being that came to earth. 

26:70 But he denied before them all, saying- Again, Peter was living out the scene of condemnation at the last day, where the verdict likewise will be manifest "before all". The Lord had used the same word in saying that whoever denied Him "before men" [cp. "before all"], He will deny before the Father at the last day (Mt. 10:33). Peter appealed for Israel to repent on the basis that they had "denied" Christ (Acts 3:13,14 s.w.)- he is appealing for them to realize that they had done what he had done, and yet they could repent, convert and experience the same grace he had done. His appeal, made a stone's throw from where the denials were made and only 6 weeks later, was therefore so powerful. Peter likewise used his failure in his pastoral work with his converts, warning them that to even deny the Lord who redeemed us is the worst possible thing we can do (2 Pet. 2:1). Likewise 1 Jn. 2:22,23 speaks of denying Christ as being the characteristic of the AntiChrist. And John wrote in the context of the early church having Peter as its first leader, and John of course was fully aware of Peter's failure that night.

Peter in this life denied his Lord in front of men (Mt. 26:70)- and the record of his failure intentionally looks back to the Lord's warning that whoever denies Him before men will be denied by Him at judgment day (Mt. 10:33). He sinned, and in the court of Heaven was condemned. There is a passage in Proverbs 24:11,12 which has a strange relevance to Peter's self-condemnation. Having spoken of those being led away to death (the very context of Peter's denial), we read: "If thou sayest, Behold we know not this man: doth not he that weigheth the hearts consider it? And shall not he render to every man according to his works?". This last phrase is quoted in Rev. 22:12 about the final judgment. Paul seems to consciously link Peter’s church hypocrisy and legalism with his earlier denials that he had ever known the Lord Jesus. He writes of how he had to reveal Peter’s denial of the Lord’s grace “before them all” (Gal. 2:14), using the very same Greek phrase of Mt. 26:70, where “before them all” Peter made the same essential denial.  

I do not know what you say- Again, Peter was acting as the condemned, to whom the Lord will say "I know you not" (Mt. 25:12; Lk. 13:25). The whole idea of ‘I don’t know Him’ must, sadly, be connected with the Lord’s words in Mt. 7:23 and 25:41, where He tells the rejected: “I never knew you”. By denying knowledge of the Saviour, Peter was effectively agreeing that the verdict of condemnation could appropriately be passed upon him.  In one of his many allusions to the Gospels, Paul wrote that “If we deny him, he also will deny us” (2 Tim. 2:12). Peter in this life denied his Lord in front of men (Mt. 26:70)- and the record of his failure intentionally looks back to the Lord’s warning that whoever denies Him before men will be denied by Him at judgment day (Mt. 10:33). He sinned, and in the court of Heaven was condemned; and yet he could change the verdict by repentance.

26:71 And when he went out to the entrance, another maid saw him- John says that a group of men made the second accusation; see the parallel texts at the commentary on :69. Luke says that Peter replied to the second accusation [which Matthew says was made by a woman] by saying “Man, I am not”. Clearly the accusations and denials were in groups- the second ‘denial’ involved a number of people [a man, a woman and plural men] making accusations and Peter denying them all. If we put together the various records of Peter’s three denials, it seems clear that a number of accusations were made, and he replied slightly differently each time. But there were three groups of accusations and denials. We can imagine the scene- there was a whole group of men and women present, all within earshot, and once one person made the accusation, others would’ve chimed in. But the account is stylized to group the denials in three groups, and Peter obviously perceived this after his final oath of denial. But in fact it seems that each denial was a series of separate denials. Indeed the tense of the verb “denied” in :70 suggests he kept on and on denying.

And said to the bystanders: This man was with Jesus of Nazareth- Peter overheard her talking to the men about him, and jumped in with a denial (:72). This is absolutely psychologically credible. By "with Jesus" she meant, ‘There in the Garden’, for meta Jesus is how the disciples are described there. See on :69 A maid.

26:72 And again he denied with an oath- Not an expletive, but rather a Jewish oath. Many of them wished condemnation on the person making the oath if it were not true. Again, Peter is entering into condemnation, signing himself up for condemnation. James wrote to the very early church, probably to the Jerusalem ecclesia, who were clearly led by Peter. He urged them “Above all things, my brethren, swear not… neither by any other oath” (James 5:12). He was clearly saying, in effect: ‘Don’t be like Peter’. The weakness of Peter, and the way he had repented and been forgiven, was the basis of his success as a preacher and also of his special commission to feed the lambs of the early flock. He did not present himself as the flawless pastor, and neither did his fellow elders like James present him as such. But as with his Lord, it was his humanity which was the basis of his exaltation.

I do not know- See on :70 I know not.

The man- As if he didn't even know Jesus' name. He protested too much, for Jesus was a well known public figure in Jerusalem at the time (Lk. 24:18,19).

26:73 And after a little while- Luke says it was after an hour.

They that stood by came and said to Peter- Luke says it was one individual who made the third accusation, and John says it was specifically a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off. The three episodes of accusation and denial were therefore each comprised of a series of accusations and a series of denials. See on :71 Another maid. This means that the Lord was being generous in saying that Peter would deny Him three times before the cock crowed. Each episode of denial contained many separate denials.

Of a truth you also are one of them, for your dialect makes you known- This implies that the band of disciples were perceived as a group of Galileans.  Matthew has earlier recorded the first accusation as being that “You also were with Jesus the Galilean”. Mark is explicit that they now said: “You are a Galilean”. And Luke records the statement of their simplistic logic: “Of a truth, this man also was with him. For he is a Galilean”. The fact Jesus was a Galilean and Peter was clearly a Galilean didn’t, surely, have to mean that therefore Peter had to have been with Jesus as one of His disciples. But their reasoning shows to what extent they perceived Jesus and His followers to be all from Galilee. Remember that Galilee was despised as the most backward and least spiritually ‘Jewish’ of all of Palestine; their accent was noted and perceived as harsh and crude, full of grammatical mistakes. But it was from the larynx of a Galilean Jew that there came the words of God Almighty, clothed as they were in the country accent and provincial style which was so despised. Christianity began as a peasant religion, a group of men perceived as simpletons. And it is in such communities or those perceived as such that the true spirit of Christ has often prospered most. Christianity has become a culture, and often the culture of the Western wealthy. But that is not at all how it began, and ‘Christianity as culture’, merely following the faith of our fathers, churchianity, is not the real, raw Christianity of Jesus and His Galileans.

26:74 Then he began- The implication could be that he began to call down the curses of eternal condemnation and rejection at judgment day upon himself, but the crowing of the rooster made him stop.

To curse- Not with expletives, but a declaration of himself as anathema to God and Messiah if he was on the side of Jesus. The Greek kata-anathematizo  means just that; to declare oneself anathema, to exclude oneself from the body of God’s people.

And to swear- Peter was in total disobedience to the Lord’s teaching: “Swear not at all” (5:34,36 s.w.). See on 26:72 With an oath.

I do not know the man! And immediately the cock crowed- See on :70 I know not.

26:75 And Peter remembered- The letters of Peter urge his readers to “be mindful of the words which were spoken before” (2 Pet. 3:2). Yet this is evidently alluding to the frequent references to the disciples being slow to “remember” [s.w. “mindful”] the words which their Lord had “spoken before” (Lk. 24:6,8; Jn. 2:17,22; 12:16). Indeed, the same word is used about Peter ‘remembering’ [s.w. “be mindful”] all too late, the words which his Lord had “spoken before” to him (Mt. 26:75). So Peter was aware that his readers knew that he had not ‘remembered’ the words his Lord had “spoken before” to him- and yet, knowing that, he exhorts his readers to ‘remember’ or ‘be mindful’ [s.w.] of words which had been previously spoken. His readers likely had memorized the Gospels by heart. And yet Peter asks them to learn from his mistake, not to be as slow to remember as the disciples had been, and he especially. This is the basis of powerful exhortation- a repentant life, not an appearance of sinlessness. 

Mk. 14:72 adds that Peter “thought thereon”, using the Greek word usually translated ‘to lay hands upon’. We can hear the Lord’s word but not really engage with it. This in fact is likely the status of so much of God’s word which we have read, heard and stashed away in our memory cells. We heard it, we are reminded of it as Peter was by the first cock crow after the first denial episode, but we fail to lay hands on it, to bring it to mind [‘remember’ it], to engage with it until it is paramount in our consciousness.

The words which Jesus had said: Before the cock crows- The problem is that Mark says that the cock crowed after the first denial; and it is Mark who says that the Lord’s warning was that “Before the cock crows twice, you shall deny Me three times”. Matthew and the others seem to speak of only one cock crow. There are various solutions. One is that we give full weight to the fact we are dealing with three episodes or groups of denials- see on :71 Another maid. If the first ‘denial’ involved three separate denials, then this fulfilled the prediction that there would be three denials before the cock crew. And the third episode of denials occurred before the second cock crow, this fulfilling the Lord’s word as recorded by Mark “Before the cock crows twice, you shall deny Me three times”.  Another is to go with the NIV footnotes on Mk. 14:30,72, which claim that earliest manuscripts omit the word “twice” and “second time”.  Another textual approach is to reflect that the record of the cock crowing after the first denial (Mk. 14:68) is omitted by most later translations after the AV. The text also could be suspect at that point. But I am distinctly uneasy at resolving apparent difficulties by claiming that verses are spurious and uninspired. Issues of translation, however, are of another order. I submit that Mk. 14:72 is capable of another translation. Most versions have to the effect that “Before the cock crows twice, you shall deny Me three times”. But it could equally be translated ‘You shall deny Me three times for each two crows of the cock’. This would make a total of six denials. I believe I established beyond doubt in commenting on :71 Another maid that there were multiple denials by Peter. I suggest therefore that there were three denials from Peter during the first denial episode, before the first crowing of the cock; then another one or two denials during the second denial episode, and then another one or two during the third denial episode- and then the cock crew a second time. Another possible reconstruction was offered by Michael Cortright:

First denial: 
A girl at the door to the courtyard (John 18:17).
Second denial: 
A servant girl, by the fire in the courtyard (Matthew 26:69, Mark 14:66, Luke 22:56).
Third denial: 
A man by the fire in the courtyard (Luke 22:58).
First crow. 
Mark 14:68 (King James Version).
Fourth denial: 
Another girl, at the gateway (Matthew 26:71) or entryway (Mark 14:68,69).
Fifth denial: 
Some anonymous (standing) people by the fire in the courtyard (Matthew 26:73, Mark 14:70, John 18:25).
Sixth denial: 
Another man who happens to be a male servant of the high priest (Luke 22:59, John 18:26).
Second crow. 
Matthew 26:74, Mark 14:72, Luke 22:60, John 18:27.

You shall deny me three times- Pliny records how Christians were asked to make a threefold denial of Christ (Epistles 10.97). It has been suggested that the account of Peter's threefold denials of Christ has been included in the Gospel records as an encouragement to those whose faith failed them that still there was a way back to restoration with the Lord Jesus, just as there had been for Peter. When Peter encourages his persecuted brethren to resist the "roaring lion" of Roman / Jewish persecution (1 Pet. 5:8), he is therefore to be seen as writing against a background in which he had actually failed the very test which his brethren were facing. Yet he can therefore even more powerfully encouraged them, because he had also experienced the Lord's restoring grace.

And he went out and wept bitterly- There are connections between Peter’s position at this time and that of the rejected before the judgment seat. His bitter weeping connects most obviously with the weeping and gnashing of teeth of the rejected. He was ‘remaining outside’ of the Palace where the Lord was (Mt. 26:29 AV “sat without”). Yet the Greek exo translated “without” or “outside” is elsewhere used about the rejected being “cast out” (Mt. 5:13; 13:48), ‘standing without’ with the door shut (Lk. 13:25,28), like a fruitless branch cast out into the fire (Jn. 15:6). When we read that Peter “went out” from the Lord’s presence (Mt. 26:75), the same Greek word is used. The oaths which Peter used would probably have included ‘Before God!’. He was anticipating the judgment seat: before God he admitted he did not know His Son. But in this life we can be condemned- and yet be reprieved through repentance. But remember that Judas likewise “went out” into the darkness. Judas is described as "standing with" those who ultimately crucified Jesus in Jn 18:5. Interestingly the same idea occurs in Jn. 18:18 where Peter is described as standing with essentially the same group; point being, that Judas and Peter in essence did the same thing, they both denied their Lord and stood with His enemies. But one repented real repentance, whereas the other couldn't muster the faith for this. Lesson: We all deny the Lord, but the two paths before us are those of either Peter or Judas. Peter of course is our pattern. Perhaps Peter was encouraged towards repentance by recalling that just hours before, the Lord had predicted that the disciples would weep [s.w.], but their sorrow would be turned to joy (Jn. 16:20), in harmony with the Lord’s earlier teaching of blessedness for those who weep now. His weeping was intense, and he must’ve wondered how ever such weeping could be turned to joy. The only answer was that Jesus would have to die for Peter’s sin, be resurrected, forgive Peter and restore fellowship with him, even using him again in His service. It was upon this, then, that Peter desperately set his hope and faith- and it was rewarded.