Cf. “Introductory Lectures,” p. 230
Matt. 26:1-16; Luke 22:1-6; John 12:1-8.
We have here a supper at Bethany and a supper at Jerusalem: one of them simply a supper in the house of those whom Jesus loved; the other a new thing instituted at the Paschal feast,137 which it was to set aside, while for the Church it was to be the standing memorial of the Lord Jesus that should follow.
But these two suppers have a very weighty place, the death of the Lord Jesus Christ being not only the great central truth of the latter, but also, in the former, what the Spirit of God brought before the spiritual instincts of Mary. She felt it, though not from any positive communication to her, but from that love to the Saviour which the Spirit made sensitive of the danger hanging over Him In a way she could not express. The Lord, who knew her love and all that was at hand, interpreted her act as done with a view to His burying. On both occasions the disciples enter most feebly into the good and the evil, but God Himself made manifest His own hand and mind as that which governed all. This is the more striking because on the occasion of the supper at Bethany, or rather connected with it, the chief priests and scribes, though they sought how they might take Jesus “by craft and kill Him,” had fully determined that it should not be “in the feast, lest there be a tumult of the people.” God, however, had already from of old decided that it was to be that day and no other — on the foundation feast of all the feasts, on the Passover, which was, in fact, the type of the death of Christ. Thus we have God and man at issue; but I need not say, God carries out His own will, though He does it through the wicked instrumentality of the very men who had resolved it was not so to be. Indeed, it is always thus. God does not govern only His own children, even the destruction of wicked men is not the carrying out of their own will, but of God’s will. Therefore it is written, “who were of old ordained to this condemnation” (Jude 4). Again, they were appointed to stumble at the word, being disobedient. It is not that God makes any man to be wicked. But when man, fallen into sin, goes on in his own self-will, loving darkness rather than light, and enslaved to Satan, God nevertheless proves that He always holds the reins, and keeps the tipper hand, and even in the path their lust or passion chooses to take fails not to accomplish His own will. It is like a man who, under intoxication, thinks to carry out some purpose of his, seeks, for instance, to steer to some place on the right hand, but really tumbles into a ditch on the left. So man, after all, cannot but do what God ha., determined beforehand. His will is powerless save to evince ‘ Ins sin. God’s will always governs, though men prove, themselves inexcusably wicked in the way it is brought about. just so here. Man resolved to kill Jesus, but made up his mind that it should not be on the feast-day. God had arranged long before they were born that on the feast-day, their deed was to take place. And so it did.138
As we have seen, also, the supper at Bethany gave occasion to the first conception of the treachery of Judas. Satan put it into his heart. It was a scene of love, but such a scene draws quickly out the hatred of those that have no love. Mary’s139 worshipping affection for the person of the Lord, and her sense of His danger, led her on till the house of Bethany was filled with the sweet odour of the ointment she poured forth. But Judas roused the carnal mind of the other disciples; he had no communion with her; Jesus was not precious in his eyes. He, therefore, was carping where Jesus was the adored object of Mary. It was so much taken from his own ill-gotten gains. He only pleaded the cause of the poor, and stirred up the other disciples about it, so that “there were some indignant in themselves, and saying, Why was this waste of the ointment made?” But love, while it would lavish all, never wastes anything; self does, idle folly does, but love never.
The Lord pleaded her cause. “Let her alone; why do ye trouble her? She hath wrought a good work as to Me.” There is no work so good as that done to Jesus. Works done for Jesus’ sake are good, but what was done to Himself was far better. She had done not the least of what grace had wrought up to that day. “She hath done what she could: she has beforehand anointed My body for the burial.140 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever these138 glad tidings may be preached throughout the whole world, what this woman hath done shall be also spoken of for a memorial of her.” Most fitly though of grace is this woman’s good deed bound up with the name of Jesus, wherever He is preached here below. We have not her name here; we learn it was Mary the sister of Lazarus,139 and this from John, who appropriately lets us know, because He tells us of Jesus calling His own sheep by name. (John 10:3, John 11:2) Here the point was not so much who had done it, but that it was done — the ministry, so to speak, of a woman at such a time who loved the Lord Jesus, in view of His burial. Further, we gather from this how one corrupt person can defile even those who have true hearts for Christ. The disciples were quickly caught by Judas’s fair pretences on behalf of the poor, and allowed his insinuation to lead themselves into murmurings which reflected on Christ as much as they slighted the devotedness of Mary.
In contrast with the love of Mary, Judas goes forth “to the chief priests, to deliver Him up to them.”141
Matt. 26:17-19; Luke 22:7-13.
But now comes the supper of the Paschal feast 142 at Jerusalem, where the Lord acts as Master of that institution and Creator of a greater one. As on His entrance into Jerusalem they had demanded in the name of the Lord the ass’s colt, saying that the Lord had need of him, so here “He sends two of His disciples, and says to them, Go into the city, and a man shall meet you carrying a pitcher of water: follow him. And wheresoever he enters, say to the master of the house, The Teacher says, Where is My guest-chamber, where I may eat the Passover with My disciples? And he will show you a large upper room143 furnished ready: there make ready for us.” It was One who, though He was going to die, still went there with royal, Divine rights; He had not forfeited His place as Messiah, though going to suffer as Son of man on the cross. He therefore takes possession is the Master, and the goodman of the house at once, acquiesces in His claim. All was before His eyes. There was no lack of power to act upon the conscience and affections of men. He could have turned all others as He bowed this man’s heart. But how then should the Scriptures have been accomplished, and sin blotted out, and God glorified? It was necessary, therefore, that He should go to the cross, not as any victim of necessity, but as One whose will was only to do the will of His Father, accepting all His humiliation from Him.
Matt. 26:20-25 Luke 22:21, 22; John 13:21-26.
“And when it was evening144 He comes with the Twelve. And as they lay at table and were eating,145 Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you that eateth with Me shall deliver Me up.146 And they began to be sorrowful, and to say to Him one by one, Is it I? [and another said, Is it I?].”139 There was conscious integrity in the disciples, weak as they might be, and fleshly as we know from Luke they were, even in this very scene. But the Lord answers, “One of the Twelve, he who dippeth with Me in the dish. The Son of man goeth indeed as it is written concerning Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is delivered up.” It was man’s sin, Satan’s guile, God’s counsel, and Christ’s love. But none of these things altered the wickedness of Judas: “Good [were it] for that man147 if he had not been born.” He was ordained, we may say, for this condemnation: he was not made wicked by God, but his wickedness was made to take this shape in order to fulfil the counsels of God. One of that company which was chosen to be with Jesus here below was to prove this awful truth — that the nearer a man is externally to blessing, if he does not receive it into his heart, the more distant he is morally from it. There was but one Judas in Israel, and he was nearest to Jesus; there was but one who united all the privileges of such companionship with Jesus to all the guilt of betraying Him.
Matt. 26:26-29; Luke 22:14-20.
Then He institutes the supper — His own supper. It was not the Paschal feast,148 and we learn from Luke that He would not touch the Paschal cup. He would drink no more of the fruit of the vine until He drank it new with them in the kingdom of God. He refused that which was the sign of communion in things here below. His Father, God, was before Him, and suffering His will rather than doing it. But meanwhile, before that kingdom come, founded on His suffering unto death, there is the remembrance of a totally different thing — not of a kingdom, power, and glory, but of crucifixion In weakness: His body, (“This is My body”), and His blood, “the blood of the [new]140 covenant, shed for many.” It was not for the Jew only, but shed for many.149
Nothing can be simpler than the terms in which He institutes the supper, as given in Mark. It was, I do not doubt, intended both to refer to the Passover as accomplished now, and also to bring in the power of the new covenant for the soul before it comes in for the people of Israel.
Matt. 26:30-35; Luke 22:31-34.
The Lord now warns the disciples, not only of what was about to befall Him, but how it would affect them. “All ye shall be offended;141 for it is written, I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered abroad150” (Zech. 13:7). The cross has its side of shame and pain and danger for us, as well as of salvation through Him who bore our sins there. But here it is the way in which it would prove, not deliver, them of which the Saviour speaks. Does that mighty work of suffering for our sins, does the Atonement, “scatter” the sheep? Is it not, on the contrary, the only righteous foundation on which they are gathered? In virtue of Christ’s death for our sins, the sheep, instead of being dispersed, are gathered together into one, even other sheep beyond those which Christ had in the Jewish fold, so that there might be one flock and one Shepherd (John 10, 11). But the smiting of the Shepherd expresses His utter humiliation as Messiah, cut off and having nothing. “I will smite,” etc., refers to God’s giving the Lord up to feel the reality of His rejection and death. No doubt atonement was therein wrought out. “Smiting” is a more general term; and though Christ takes it from God, it was literally His enemies who did the deed, and so became objects of Divine vengeance, as in Psalm 69. Smiting was the loss, so to speak; atonement was the gain of all. Now, that which was properly expiation or atonement was not the pure, however precious, act of Christ’s death. Of course, death was necessary for this as for other objects in the counsels of God; but it is what Jesus went through from and with God when made sin — it is what He suffered for our sins, not only in body, but in soul, under Divine wrath, that the atonement depends on. Many besides Jesus have been crucified, but atonement was in no way wrought there. Many have suffered horrors of torment for the truth’s sake in life and up to death, but they would have been the first to abhor the falsehood that their sufferings atoned for themselves any more than for others. Many saints have known what it was to be “smitten” and wounded of God, as the same Psalm testifies. In fact, this was more or less the place of God’s servants, the prophets, and of righteous men from time to time in Israel, who accepted their affliction and persecution, whatever it was, from God, and not man. This place the Lord Himself tested to the full, for in all things He must have the pre-eminence. He only wrought atonement, but He knew every sorrow which it was possible for man perfect, the Son of God, to take. The smiting of Him who was the Shepherd, chief not only of the sheep, but of the very prophets whom the Lord had raised up for Israel, refers to that utter cutting off which befell Him on the cross; but the sense of this not only He felt anticipatively, but it was that which was called forth before the cross. There was far more than atonement there. He realised in His soul all the condition in which God’s people were, and His own total rejection, through man’s sin and folly and Satan’s maliciousness. The effect, then, of all this humiliation of the Saviour, even before it was complete on the cross, was the scattering of the disciples: “the sheep shall be scattered abroad.” They stumbled and fled the night before the blow actually fell on their Master. They did not understand the thing, any more than some do now the Scriptures which speak of it, though the ground of the difficulty be wholly different. They could not make out why the Messiah should be thus treated, and how God should allow it. For it is plain that Christ took all from God (not man), and imputed all to Him. Faith never considers that afflictions spring out of the dust, but owns our Father’s hand in everything, however in itself shameful and cruel if one looks at the secondary agents.
“But after I am risen, I will go before151 you into Galilee.” The Lord assumes in resurrection His place of lowly service with the disciples. Peter, however, confident in his own strength and love to Christ, assures the Lord that, although all should be stumbled, not so with him.
Alas! in Divine things there is no more certain forerunner of a fall than self-reliance. And our Lord tells him: “Verily I say unto thee, that thou this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt thrice deny me.” So careful and minute is the record of the Lord’s warning given in Mark — much more so than anywhere else. “But he spoke [the more]142 vehemently, If I should have to die with Thee, I will in no wise deny Thee.” However, it was not Peter alone who pledged his faithfulness thus vainly, for it is added, “and likewise also said they all.” They knew not their weakness; they knew not what it was to have the power of death pressing upon them. They had not faced the sense of total rejection by the world. Whatever there is of nature yet alive in our hearts is brought out by this. Man as such winces and refuses the trial. It is ever so till by the power of the Holy Ghost we realise our total separation from the world by and in the death of Christ. But to be dead with Him was not yet the known portion of the disciples consequently, not one of them was able to stand. Afterwards it was their privilege, but they had not gone that way heretofore. Jesus must go first. The sheep might follow after His cross in the spirit. But Jesus must needs be the first. In due time, strengthened of His grace through His death, they too might glorify God by their death — death really for the sake of Christ.
Matt. 26:36-46; Luke 22:39-46.
The Lord, having all the closing scene before His soul, gives Himself to prayer. Now, the effect of prayer is, in the face of deep trial, to make the trial more acutely felt. The presence of God does not make us feel less the wickedness of man, and certainly it does not make us feel less the failures, dangers, and ruin of His people. There could be no question of the smallest shortcoming, no grief on any such score as this in the case of the Lord Jesus; but He realised the more the condition in which those were who belonged to God. Did He not feel the treachery of Judas, the denials of Peter, the flight of all? Even with the apostates in Israel there was no hard indifference: how much more for the saints, the disciples, so shrinking at such a time? He realised the awful crisis that awaited the people of God; He felt, too, what it was for Him, the Messiah, to be utterly refused by the people to their own hurt and destruction — what it was not only for Him who was life to go through death, and such a death as could be known adequately only by Him! When the One that loved Him best hid His face from Him; when He was the object of Divine judgment; when all that was in God of indignation and horror against evil concentrated itself against Christ! Then, again, what feelings of pity for the people who were forsaking their own mercies and the light of God for thick darkness and sorrow, through which they must pass retributively for that which they were about to perpetrate against Himself! All this — yea, infinitely more — was before the Lord, felt and weighed by Him as One whose grace associated Him with the condition of God’s people, not substitutionally alone, but in association of heart and in all affliction with them. In atonement He is absolutely alone. He asks no one to pray then, looks then for no comfort from them, nor does an angel come to strengthen Him then. He says “My God” then because it was what God felt against sin that He was enduring. He might and did say “Father” too, because He did not cease to be the Son, any more than He ceased to be the blessed and perfect and obedient man. Thus He said “Father” both before and after that upon the cross. But He cried, “My God, My God,” alone that time, as far as New Testament Scripture speaks of His addressing Him, because then for the first time all that God was in hatred of evil burst upon Him without the slightest mitigation or consideration of weakness. Nothing blunted its force. He was competent to bear, and He alone bore, the whole unbroken and unsparing judgment of God, and that without looking for the sympathy of the creature, whether of man or angel.
It was a question between God and Him alone when, on the cross made sin, and retrieving the glory of God that had been compromised by all the world, He alone endured all in His own person. This is the difference between the cross and Gethsemane. At Gethsemane our Lord was, as it is written, “amazed and deeply depressed.” He had taken with Him three chosen witnesses, and He “says to them, My soul is full of grief152 even unto death; tarry here and watch.” So even these chosen ones He leaves behind; “He went forward a little and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him.” It would not have been perfection if He had not thus felt it. It was impossible that He who was life could desire such a death from His Father — from God in wrath against Him. It would have been hardness, not love; but although He felt it perfectly according to God His Father, yet He entirely submits His human will to the Father’s. “Abba, Father,” He says, “all things are possible unto Thee. Take away this cup from Me; but not what I will, but what Thou [wilt].” He had a real soul, what is dogmatically called a reasonable soul, not a mere principle of vitality. He could not have said this, had it been true, as some have asserted, that the Divine nature in our Lord took the place of a soul.152 He would not have been perfect man had He not taken a soul as well as a body. Therefore could He say: “Not what I will, but what Thou [wilt].”
There was the most entire subjection to the Father, even in the bitterest possible trial that could be conceived. This cup was the cup of wrath on account of sin; not to say “let this cup pass from Me” would have shown insensibility to its character. But our Lord was perfect in everything. He therefore said: “Take away this cup from Me: nevertheless, not what I will, but what Thou [wilt].” He comes, and finds the disciples sleeping instead of watching. It grieved Him, and it was right that it should. He warned them, however, for their own sake: “Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.” They did enter into it, and they fell, Peter especially, to whom, indeed, it was that our Lord uttered it. He called them all to watch and pray, but Peter was the one to whom He said: “Sleepest thou? hast thou not been able to watch one hour He had particularly warned Peter before. He adds The spirit indeed [is] willing, but the flesh weak; and again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words, and when He returned, He found them asleep again (for their eyes were heavy), and they knew not what to answer Him. And He comes the third time, and says to them, Sleep on now and take your rest; it is enough. The hour is come; behold, the Son of man is delivered up into the hand of sinners.” He was as one given up to be cut off from the last Passover. From that the hour was come. “Arise, let us go; behold, he that delivereth Me up is at hand.” It was not atonement only, but the Shepherd was about to be smitten, and the sheep felt it, and shrank away before the actual blow fell.
Matt. 26:47-56; Luke 22:47-53.
“And immediately, while He was yet speaking, Judas comes up, one of the Twelve, and with him a great143 multitude, with swords and sticks, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.” The traitor had given the sign of a kiss, and told them to apprehend Him whom he kissed. And he went straight up to Jesus, and says, Rabbi, Rabbi,144 and covered Him with kisses; and they laid their hands on Him and took Him.” Peter, ready enough to fight, though not to pray, draws his sword and smites the high-priest’s servant, and cuts off his ear. The healing is not mentioned in this Gospel, for here the Lord is simply the suffering Son of man, the rejected Prophet of Israel, the smitten Shepherd. What proves His unabated power is not the point here, but His bowing to all shame; and the key is, “the Scripture must be fulfilled.” He had never been one to call for such treatment from their hands — coming out against Him as against a thief, but the Scripture must be fulfilled.
“And all forsook Him and fled.” Power would have kept them, but to yield to suffering began to take effect upon them. “The sheep were scattered.” “And a certain young man followed Him, with a linen cloth cast about his naked body: and [the young men]145 seize him; but he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.”153 Vigour fails: so does shame. The first assault was enough to drive him away. Man is powerless to face death. The only reason why believers are able to face it — nay, even to welcome it and rejoice in it — is because of Christ Himself and His death. He has taken out the sting but it was not yet done. Consequently the disciples forsook Him and fled, young man and all. In Christ alone, who suffered for us, we stand.
Matt. 26:47-68; Luke 22:47-55, 63-71 John 18:2-24.
“And they led Jesus away to the high-priest. And with him are assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes.” There we find afresh trial. Peter follows — afar off, it is true — into the palace of the high-priest, and seats himself with the servants. “And the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrim sought for witness against Jesus to cause Him to be put to death; and found none.” They found the will, but not the power; readiness to testify, but even in that they could not succeed. Man fails in everything, except in malice against Jesus. Even with all the suborned testimony on the part of the witnesses, and all the readiness to condemn on the part of the judges, everything failed. The testimony did not agree. As required by law, there must be two or three witnesses agreed; but these agreed not.154 The consequence was that Jesus was rejected, not for the false testimony of man, but on the true testimony of God. It was for His own testimony that they condemned Him. He came witnessing to the truth, and He witnessed to it unto death. The high-priest, astonished, perplexed, and failing to condemn Him on the witness of others, demands, “Art Thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” We are told elsewhere that he puts the oath to Him, or adjures Him, but here it is simply the question without the oath Mark names. The Lord answers, “I am.” He witnesses a good confession, not only before Pontius Pilate, but before the high-priest. “And ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” He could not, would not, deny the truth about Himself. He might refrain from noticing the false charges of others, but He would not, when challenged, shut up in His own breast the truth of His personal glory. He was the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed. But He was the Son of man also, and was going to take His place above, as well as to come with the clouds of heaven, according to the sure oracles of God. “Then the high-priest, having rent his clothes, says, What need have we any more of witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy.”155 To him the truth was no better, so completely scaled in darkness was the head of religion among the Jews. “What think ye? And they all condemned Him to be guilty of death. And some began to spit on Him, and to cover up His face, and to buffet Him, and to say to Him, Prophesy: and the officers received146 Him with the palms of their hands.”
Matt. 26:69-75; Luke 22:56-62; John 18:17, 25-27.
The Shepherd thus must be smitten every way. “I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” And so we find that Peter, having ventured thus far into the palace of the high-priest, yet more feels the effect immediately. “As Peter was beneath in the palace-court, one of the maids of the high-priest comes: and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked upon him and said, And thou wast with the Nazarene Jesus. But he denied, saying, I know not, nor understand what thou sayest.” Still, he could not remain in presence of his own falsehood; he goes out into the porch: “and a cock crew.”147 This was the Lord’s warning to him. A maid156 sees him again. It must be so. There was nothing apparently to cause terror, but so utterly powerless was even this most devoted of the disciples — at least, most ardent in his love, and most energetic in his demonstrations — so powerless was he to face even the nearness of death, that it suffices for a servant-maid’s word to bring out his denial of the Lord! “And again, after a little, those that stood by said to Peter, Surely thou art one of them; for thou also art a Galilean.”148 But the more they pressed the truth upon him, the more he retreated, and, in his abject fear, began to curse and to swear.
Such was Peter, and such was the process through which he was soon to come out the chief of the Apostles. He had to be broken down to learn the good-for-nothingness of flesh. How entirely thenceforth it must be Christ and the power of the Holy Ghost! “I know157 not this Man of whom ye speak.” Yet “this Man” was his Saviour, and he knew it — too well — too ill. “Thou art the Christ,” he had said before. What a contrast now! “Who say ye that I am?” Jesus had said to him long before, and his answer was “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” We believe, and are sure.” Now he says, “I know not this Man.” Jesus to him now was a mere man, unknown of Peter. Yet flesh and blood had not revealed the truth about Christ to him, but the Father which was in heaven. Peter, therefore, was near enough, when the rest were scattered, to add a sharper blow to the many which fell upon Jesus. One of the little number of disciples was a traitor; another, and he the chief of the Apostles, a denier of his Lord.
“And the second time149 a cock crew. And Peter remembered the word that Jesus said to him, Before [the] cock crow twice, thou shalt deny Me thrice.158 And when he thought thereon he wept.” I do not say that his repentance was complete; you will find that the Lord touched him to the quick some time after. Nevertheless, there was genuine feeling of his sin, shame, and anguish of spirit, though he had not yet been probed to the bottom. He wept as he thought thereon. It is always the word of the Lord that produces real repentance, whether in a saint or a sinner. It is not human feeling, nor shame, nor the fear of being found out — the word wrought within that Jesus spake. It is the washing of water by the word. The word of the Lord does two things: it convicts and it heals; it cleanses as well as detects our evil after a Divine sort. Had Peter believed Christ’s word as to his own entire weakness, he would have been kept. But he believed it not. “Though all,” he said, “shall be offended, yet will not I.” He was ready to die with Him, whereas in truth the mere surface of the scene of Christ’s death frightened him so that the more urgently the truth of his relation to Jesus was brought before him, the more he swore that he knew Him not. Such is flesh even in the saint of God — good for nothing everywhere!
138 “These”: so AC and later uncials, 1, Cod. Amiat. Edd. omit, as BDL, 69.
139 [“And another said, Is it I?”]: so AD, etc., 1, 69, Orig. Edd. omit, after BCL., etc., Amiat. Syrsin pesch hcl (t).
140 [“New”]: so Lachmann, with A, etc., 1, 69, Amiat. Syr. Edd. omit, after BCDL, Memph.
141 After “offended” A, etc., 1, 69, Syrpesch hcl sin add “because of Me”; the same authorities, with the exception of Syrsin, having also “this night.” Edd. omit all these words, following BCcorr D, etc.
142 [“The more”]: as A, etc., 1, 69. Edd. omit, as BCDL, Old Latin, Memph. Syrhcl.
143 “Great”: so ACDL, etc., Syrsin pesch. Edd. omit, with BL, 69, and some vv.
144 The best copies omit the second “Rabbi.”
145 [“The young men”]: so ACcorr, etc., 1, (69), Syrhcl, and other vv; but Edd. omit, after BCpmDL
Δ, Amiat. and Memph.
146 The best manuscripts (ABC, etc., with Syrhcl, Memph., followed by Edd.) substitute
ἔλαβον, “received,” for
ἔβαλλον (ἔβαλον), “did strike” (B.T.). “Did strike” is in EHM, etc., Lat. Syrpesch.
147 “And the [a] cock crew so ACD, etc., and later uncials, nearly all cursives, Syr pesch hcl, and other vv. Edd. omit, with BL.
148 After “Galilean” A, etc., most cursives, Syrpesch hcl, add “and thy speech agreeth.” Edd. omit, with BCDL, some cursives, and Amiat.
149 “And the second time”: so AC, later uncials, almost all cursives Syrsin hcl, etc. Edd. insert “immediately” after “and,” with BLC, Syrpesch, and Old Latin.