1When Jesus had finished all these words, He said to His disciples, 2“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is [to be] handed over for crucifixion.”
1When Jesus had finished all these words, He said to His disciples, 2“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is [to be] handed over for crucifixion.”
In the two preceding chapters, Matthew 24-25, the Lord has proposed the ultimate goal of all God’s actions with His people on earth – both Israel as well as Christianity – and the world. With that He has come to the end of everything He had to say. In this respect, His task here below was finished.
He now takes his place as a Victim. In this capacity He turns again to His disciples. He says to them that they know what is about to happen. They know the Jewish calendar and they know that in two days the Passover will be celebrated.
It is Tuesday when the Lord speaks these words. On Thursday evening He will celebrate the Passover with His disciples. In the same breath He says that they also know what will happen to Him, for He has told them about it three times (Mt 16:2121From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.; 17:22-2322And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men;23and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved.; 20:18-1918“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death,19and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify [Him], and on the third day He will be raised up.”). The Passover and His handing over for crucifixion form a whole. But the disciples have not understood the connection between the Passover and His crucifixion.
How simple are the words the Lord uses to announce what is going to happen. He presents the picture of the terrible sin that man commits by crucifying him to our attention. But He Himself announces this suffering in advance with the tranquility of One Who has come just for that purpose. He is the fulfilment of the Passover. It is the fulfilment of the counsels of God, His Father, and of the work of His own love. The Lord speaks of His crucifixion as something that is already established, while, in the following verses, the deliberations have yet to take place.
3Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; 4and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him. 5But they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people.”
The chief priests and elders of the people gather to the high priest. All of them have the task of connecting, and keeping the people in connection, with God. The High Priest is the highest representative of this group with this task. But in the place where the greatest respect for God and the greatest holiness in approach to God on behalf of the people should be, the most evil deliberations that have ever been held take place. They want to get rid of God revealed in goodness!
They assume that the Lord would appeal to the people and call upon their support. That is why they don’t want to seize him at the festival when there are many people in Jerusalem to enjoy it. They make their assumption because wicked people cannot think beyond their own wickedness and therefore always count on finding their own evil principles in others. Their evil deliberations serve only to fulfil the counsel of God. They say: ‘Not at the feast’; God says: ‘at the feast’.
6Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, 7a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined [at the table]. 8But the disciples were indignant when they saw [this], and said, “Why this waste? 9For this [perfume] might have been sold for a high price and [the money] given to the poor.” 10But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me. 11For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. 12For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. 13Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”
The Lord Jesus is in Bethany for the last time, a place of rest and peace for Him. That is where His friends live and where He is welcome. What a blessing it is to be such a house where the Savior, while death draws ever closer – and what a death! – can have a last stopover before He surrenders Himself to allow these things to happen to Him.
Simon, into whose house He comes, is no longer a leper. Yet he is still so called to remember who he used to be and what the Lord has done to him. Rachab the harlot (Jam 2:2525In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?) is also spoken of in this way, who she once was, and of Ruth the Moabitess (Rth 4:5,105Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the deceased, in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance.”10Moreover, I have acquired Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, to be my wife in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance, so that the name of the deceased will not be cut off from his brothers or from the court of his [birth] place; you are witnesses today.”), the people to whom she once belonged.
In this house God has a loving consolation for the heart of His Son before He suffers. There is a woman who comes to Him and pours very costly perfume on His head. It is more balm for His heart than for His body. In this deed she expresses the appreciation of what her heart understands of His preciousness and grace.
This woman had a need to show the Savior her admiration. The “very costly perfume” expresses this. This is also the right moment for her sense of touch. In this deed lies all the worship of her heart for her Lord of Whom she understands that He will soon die. While the religious world outside calls for His blood, she comes inside to honor Him.
She has saved a long time for this very costly perfume. She has been occupied with this for a long time. True worship is the result of being occupied with the Lord Jesus and His death on the cross and what He has accomplished as a result.
The disciples do not understand her. They even reproach her and call her act of love to the Savior a “waste”. They address her and want her to account for what they consider to be the irresponsible use of her money. The testimony of affection and devotion to Christ brings the self-interest and heartlessness of others to light. Judas’ heart is the source of the evil, but the other disciples fall into the snare because they are not occupied with Christ. It provides sad evidence that knowledge of Christ does not automatically arouse the feelings of affection in our hearts that go with it.
They also tell her that they knew of a better destination for the perfume. It could have helped many poor people. Helping the poor is indeed a good thing. But it is not a good deed to give something intended for the Lord Jesus a different purpose. That will always be a lower destination, while He is thereby dishonored.
We can also have this wrong way of thinking. For example, we may think that the time we spend studying God’s Word is lost time, for we would be better off bringing the gospel to other people or helping others to get on better with their neighbors or the environment.
The Lord knows how they are talking among themselves about the act of the woman, of whom we know from another Gospel that it is Mary. He protects her and justifies her act. It is both an approval and an acknowledgement. The disciples bothered her, but He called the deed she had done to Him “a good deed”. How great the difference in assessment of the deed is by the disciples and by the Lord. The Lord does not say that it would not be good to help the poor, but that everything has an appointed time.
The woman who anointed him had not been informed of the circumstances that would come, nor is she a prophetess. But she feels the approach of the hour of darkness because her heart is directed toward Him. The perfection of Christ that arouses deadly enmity in the leaders arouses fervent love in the women. The true character of every person is placed in full light by Him.
For the Lord, the woman’s deed is not only meaningful for the moment she does it. He gives the deed a far-reaching significance. The anointing has happened in view of His funeral. This significance is always attached to it in all future preaching of the gospel. The meaning is worship. The purpose of the gospel is that people become worshippers of the Father. In this way, the woman will be remembered in all ages. She is the example of worship.
14Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15and said, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. 16From then on he [began] looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus.
What a contrast between the woman and Judas! Judas was also at the anointing. He saw it and was disturbed by it. He has also heard how the Lord has spoken of both the anointing and their reproach. However, he does not care about anything. Money is the only thing he can think of.
He considers the moment to have come to leave the circle of the Lord’s company. He who is one of the twelve, seeks another company, that of the Lord’s enemies. He is not looking for their company because he feels more at home there, but because there is money to be made. He offers to hand over Christ to the company and negotiates it with them. This is downright astonishing. A man who has been journeying with the Savior for so long, who has heard and seen so much of Him, wants to use Him as an object of trade to enrich himself.
The chief priests consider this a great opportunity. They must have been surprised that one of His disciples is willing to betray Him. That amazement will not have lasted long and will have turned into devilish joy. They agree on the price and pay it to him. They are sure that Judas will not run away with the money, but that he will be their accomplice in this evil business. Once he has the money – not only in the sense that he owns the money, but even more so that the money owns him – Judas actively seeks an opportunity to hand the Lord Jesus over.
The amount they pay him is prophesied by Zechariah (Zec 11:12-1312I said to them, “If it is good in your sight, give [me] my wages; but if not, never mind!” So they weighed out thirty [shekels] of silver as my wages.13Then the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter, [that] magnificent price at which I was valued by them.” So I took the thirty [shekels] of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the LORD.). It is the price of a slave (Exo 21:3232If the ox gores a male or female slave, the owner shall give his [or her] master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.). From the point of view of the leaders it is a bargain, it is only a slave. From God’s side, it is a glorious price, for it concerns His Servant, the Chosen One.
17Now on the first [day] of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” 18And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near; I [am to] keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”‘“ 19The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.
It is the first day of unleavened bread. On that day, the whole house is swept with brooms and everything is removed from it that could make someone unclean by law, which would mean the Passover could not be celebrated. It is a picture of how our life should be. Our lives should be unleavened, that is without unconfessed sins. Then we live in fellowship with the Lord and can also participate in the Lord’s supper. The Passover is a picture of Christ Who died for us. We remember him in the Lord’s supper (1Cor 5:77Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are [in fact] unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.).
As faithful Jews, the disciples want to prepare everything to eat the Passover. It is beautiful to see that they ask the Lord where they can prepare it for Him. This should also be our question when it comes to where we want to celebrate the Lord’s supper.
The Lord gives His directions. He has a place where He keeps the Passover with His disciples. As the Master He has access to that place and the disciples have to say that to the owner of the house. The Lord governs everything, including people’s hearts. He knows that His time is near. He knows that the Passover speaks of His own suffering and dying that is imminent.
The disciples obey the command and prepare everything for the Passover.
20Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining [at the table] with the twelve disciples. 21As they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.” 22Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23And He answered, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. 24The Son of Man [is to] go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” 25And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Jesus *said to him, “You have said [it] yourself.”
In the evening the Lord joins them with the ten other disciples. There He reclines with the twelve disciples, among whom is also Judas. The Passover is a meal for disciples, for students of the Master, for followers of the rejected King.
Food is a picture of community. In that community is an element that does not belong there. Among the twelve disciples is one who will hand the Lord over. The Lord here shows not only that He knows who will betray Him. He already knew this when he called Judas as an apostle. He says: “One of you.” That is what has an impact on His heart and He wants it to have an impact on the others.
The disciples are all saddened. One by one, they wonder and ask Him this as a question: “Surely not I, Lord?” This shows a beautiful character trait that is present in all of them. None of them feels above it. No one says, ‘It could be another, but not me, Lord!’ The Lord does not answer by naming Judas. He answers that He will show who will betray Him with a gesture. With this He appeals to their spiritual insight.
It suggests two sides that are present throughout the Bible. On the one hand He says that He, as the Son of man, fulfils what God has determined, as it is written about Him. On the other hand He makes the man who makes himself available as an instrument of the evil one fully responsible for that deed.
No one knows better than Him how terrible the deed is that Judas is going to perform. As the Creator He has given Judas life. As a dependent Man, He says it would have been better for Judas if he had never been born. God gives life to man and tells him how to use it. He leaves it to man to do what he does with it. Never will a man be able to blame God for the deeds he has done himself.
How much Judas’ heart is hardened is shown by his reaction. He also asks: “Surely it is not I?” However, he does not call the Lord ‘Lord’, but “Rabbi”. It indicates that he has never bowed to the authority of Christ as Lord. The Lord answers his question in the affirmative.
According to the Gospel according to John, Judas leaves the room at this point (Jn 13:3030So after receiving the morsel he went out immediately; and it was night.). Judas did not participate in the Lord’s supper which the Lord institutes after this.
26While they were eating, Jesus took [some] bread, and after a blessing, He broke [it] and gave [it] to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave [it] to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 29But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” 30After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
While they are eating the Passover, the Lord institutes the Lord’s Supper. He wants His disciples to remember a dead Savior. It is no longer a living Messiah. That is all over. They should also no longer think back to the liberation of Israel from the slavery of Egypt. With Christ, and with a deceased Christ, a totally new order of affairs begins.
He sets the sacrament by taking “bread” – not a piece of the Paschal lamb. That bread speaks of His life as Man on earth. It represents His body that God has prepared for Him (Heb 10:5-75Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, But a body You have prepared for Me;6In whole burnt offerings and [sacrifices] for sin You have taken no pleasure.7“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come (In the scroll of the book it is written of Me) To do Your will, O God.’”; Psa 40:7-97Then I said, “Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
8I delight to do Your will, O my God;
Your Law is within my heart.”
9I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation;
Behold, I will not restrain my lips,
O LORD, You know.
). After He has taken the bread, He gives thanks not to the bread, but to God. Like the Messiah, he leads his disciples in praising God.
Then He breaks the bread as the symbolic act for surrendering His body to death. And so He gives it to the disciples. Only Matthew explicitly mentions that He gives it “to the disciples”. Matthew presents the Lord Jesus as the Messiah. As King, the Messiah takes the lead in everything and His disciples follow Him.
But they can only follow Him if they unite themselves with a dead Messiah. We see that in the words which the Lord then speaks. He invites them to take and eat of His body that has been surrendered to death. By taking it they receive part in everything He is. They do not need to look at their own unworthiness. By eating of it – only Matthew mentions this – that is to say, by feeding spiritually on Him, it also becomes part of them internally and they become conformed to Him.
The cup is also a symbol of what He is going to do. He knows that the cup for Him means that He will shed His blood. Yet He gives thanks for it because He looks at the result. He will shed it “for many” “for the forgiveness of sins”. The fact that the blood is shed ‘for many’ indicates that it goes beyond only Israel. The new covenant is made only with Israel, just as the old covenant was made only with Israel (Acts 8:88So there was much rejoicing in that city.). The foundation of this new covenant is the blood of Christ.
However, the powerful effect of the blood of Christ reaches far beyond Israel alone. Among the “many” who will receive the forgiveness of their sins on the basis of the blood of Christ are all people of all times who have, with remorse, repented to God for their sins. It also applies to all who belong to the church. That’s why the Lord’s invitation is: “Drink all of it.”
The Lord’s Supper is the commemoration of a dead Jesus Who, by dying, broke with the past, laid the foundation for a new covenant, secured the forgiveness of sins, and opened the door for the Gentiles. They are all allowed to drink from it.
The Lord Himself does not participate in the cup. The cup speaks not only of His suffering, but also of the joy of the result of His work. In Matthew, that result is the establishment of His kingdom in public glory and majesty. It has not come that far yet. He is rejected by His people, and thus He is separated from His people as far as their joys on earth are concerned.
They must expect Him as a Companion in better days in the joy He has gained for them, for He will come back to be their Companion in that joy. Then He will drink it “new” with them, which is a new way, of “the fruit of the vine”. He will do this with them in “My Father’s kingdom”, which is the heavenly part of the kingdom.
After these assurances, they end the meal with the singing of a hymn. That hymn consists of singing Psalms 113-118. Then they all go outside, where it is already dark, on their way to the Mount of Olives.
31Then Jesus *said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED.’ 32But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 33But Peter said to Him, “[Even] though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” 34Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this [very] night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 35Peter *said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too.
The Lord knows His disciples both in their desires and in their weakness. They love Him, but are not able to follow Him on the way to the cross. In this night, when he is captured, they will flee from him. They cannot bear the opposition with Him. They show their weakness in the hour of trial. He warns them in advance. He has written it down in His Word Himself. They flee not because the Word has to be fulfilled, but because they are afraid. At the same time it is apparent that the Lord knows them and His Word bears witness to this.
He also testifies that He will gather the scattered sheep again and that He will go ahead of them to Galilee (Mt 28:7,167Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”16But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated.). That will be when He is risen and all the work, in which they could not participate, is accomplished. His death is not the end and the disciples’ unfaithfulness is not the end.
Peter testifies that he does not believe the Lord. The reason is that he does not know himself. Sincere, but without self-awareness, he swears his absolute fidelity to Him. He relies on His own strength to stand, detached from the Lord. However, we will only stand if we do not rely on ourselves, but only on Him.
The Lord must reprove him. He tells Peter in advance how he will deny him three times. He also gives an additional sign: if Peter has denied him, the rooster will crow. But Peter maintains his position. He disputes the Lord’s truth in favor of his own faithfulness. He is supported in this by all the disciples. The Lord does not go into it any further.
36Then Jesus *came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and *said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38Then He *said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” 39And He went a little beyond [them], and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” 40And He *came to the disciples and *found them sleeping, and *said to Peter, “So, you [men] could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 41Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. 45Then He *came to the disciples and *said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”
The place where the Lord comes with His disciples is expressly mentioned: Gethsemane. That means ‘olive press’. He designates a place for His disciples to sit down. They may rest. He goes to fight the toughest prayer battle ever.
He takes three disciples further into the garden. Peter, the principal, and the two sons of Zebedee, that is John and James. John and James are not specifically named, but referred to as “the two sons of Zebedee”. In Matthew 20 they are not mentioned by name either, to emphasize their parentage there too (Mt 20:2020Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him.). Because of their parentage, they ask for things that do not belong to them. It will soon become apparent that because of their parentage they cannot watch with the Lord either.
As He goes further, He sees what awaits Him and that makes Him grieved and distressed. He makes them partakers of His grief, but not of His fear, and appeals to their compassion. He asks them to keep watch with Him at the place where they have now arrived.
Then He also leaves the three disciples behind. The last bit, “a little beyond”, he goes alone. No one can follow this distance. Then He falls on His face. He sees the full horror of what awaits Him on the cross before Him. What happens here is described in Hebrews 5 (Heb 5:77In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.). The Lord does not drink the cup here, but this is in His mind. On the cross He drank the cup filled with the wrath of God when He was made sin for us and forsaken by God, which He felt in the depths of His soul.
It is impossible that He could desire to come into contact with sin. It was a horror to His soul. It is His perfection that He asks the Father to let that cup pass Him by. Equally perfect is His submission to the will of the Father. If we were to be saved, if God was to be glorified in Him Who had taken our cause upon Himself, the cup could not pass Him by.
After this prayer He stands up and goes to those who He asked to watch with Him. They have fallen asleep. His prayer didn’t last that long? However, they have no awareness of the seriousness of what awaits their Lord. They have their own thoughts about everything that is connected to Him. The Lord gently reprimanded Peter for his false self-confidence, and reminded him of his weakness. But Peter is too filled with himself to take advantage of it. He awakens from his sleep, but his self-confidence is not shaken. A sadder experience is needed to cure him.
While the soul of the Lord is so busy with the horror of the sins that He will have to bear, and with the horror of God’s judgment over them, He thinks of the wellbeing of the disciples. He tells them to watch and pray with themselves in mind. He no longer asks them to think of Him. He knows that it is not their unwillingness. Their spirit is willing, but they have still oh such little awareness of the weakness of the flesh.
We do nothing other than look at the Lord with admiration here. We see His fear of the cup which he has not yet drunk, but experiencing a foretaste of that which He sees ahead of Him as He presents it to His Father. We see how He then turns in complete peace to His disciples and then returns to the same terrible spiritual battle that frightens His soul.
That He prays again is proof even more of His perfection and the perfect abhorrence He has of sin. He is not looking for a way out, of not having to drink the cup. He follows the will of God. He does not seek the consent of the Father, as if He did not know what His will was. Nor is it about asking Him if He could be dismissed from His task, but He as Man seeks the complete support of His Father.
Again He rises from prayer and comes to His disciples whom He finds asleep again. They are not able to watch with Him. He doesn’t wake them up this time. He leaves them. He is also Divinely perfect in His dependence. Therefore, once again, for the third time, he prays. He is not looking for other words. He seeks to bring the whole weight of what awaits Him to His Father.
After He has fought the battle, there is perfect peace. He goes to His disciples and tells them that they can now continue to sleep, that is, that they no longer have to watch. He oversees the future and goes to meet it in perfect peace. He is ready to do the great work. He perfectly knows every facet of everything that awaits Him. The first aspect is imminent. It is no surprise to Him that Judas is coming, whom He tellingly points out as “the one who betrays me”.
47While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, [who came] from the chief priests and elders of the people. 48Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.” 49Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. 50And Jesus said to him, “Friend, [do] what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.
Judas is so close by that he appears on the scene while the Lord is still speaking. With his arrival he interrupts him, as it were, in His teaching of the disciples. But the Lord is ready for it. Judas is emphatically named “one of the twelve”. It has been particularly painful for the Lord that it is someone from the company that He had gathered around Him and that He experienced so closely.
Judas doesn’t come alone. He heads up a large crowd armed with swords and sticks. It is this great crowd that has listened so often to the Lord and has been amazed by His words and has experienced His acts of blessing. They come because the chief priests and elders of the people have sent them. It is as easy as this to influence the crowd.
Judas, again called “he who was betraying him”, had given them a sign to indicate who they should seize. Was it possible that they would be mistaken with Him Who had been with them for so long? It was dark and the Lord was not a particularly remarkable Person when it comes to His outer appearance. The other disciples are men of His age group.
The agreed sign is the most painful sign that could be conceived. The kiss is a sign of love. Judas uses this sign of love to betray Him. He can no longer be stopped by anything and carries out his wicked and hypocritical work of betrayal. He even kisses the Lord “intimately”. How hardened must the traitor have been, being completely in the grip of Satan.
The Lord’s reaction, as His whole activity in this event, is of a special nature and substance. He doesn’t start to swear or hit, but speaks to Judas with His Divine love for the last time. He addresses Judas with “friend”. Then He asks the revealing question: “What you have come for”? He offers Judas a last chance to reflect. But Judas is no longer reachable by any His words.
The crowd goes to Him, lays hands on Him and seize Him by force. It is as if they want to prevent him from leaving. What foolish, nonsensical actions a man can come to if he is blind to the glory of Christ. He is the One Who gives them the power to perform their wicked deeds; He gives them the power to seize Him.
51And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52Then Jesus *said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. 53Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, [which say] that it must happen this way?” 55At that time Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as [you would] against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me. 56But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets.” Then all the disciples left Him and fled.
One of His disciples wants to defend His Lord. He also does not realize Who He is, as if He were not able to defend Himself. The disciple does not help, but causes damage to one of the opponents, the slave of the high priest. The fact that the high priest has a slave means that he is served by someone he has submitted to. But isn’t it the task of the high priest to serve others? The high priest has sent his slave to participate in this evil work of capturing the Son of God.
Matthew does not mention that the Lord heals the ear. He does mention that the Lord reproves His disciple. The sword should be in the sheath and not pulled out. Whosoever takes up the sword shall perish by it (Rev 13:1010If anyone [is destined] for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.). It is now the time of suffering. Going the way of suffering is the way of the Father.
He could have prayed to the Father to send angels. These angels are ready to carry out the judgment of all those who offend the Son at one wink of the Father. The angels will have held their breath in watching this scene in which their Creator is being captured by puny creatures! However, it is not the execution of the verdict on evil that is at issue, but the fulfilment of the Scriptures.
After the Lord has addressed the betraying Judas and His straying disciple, He addresses the crowds. He also asks them a question that must awaken their conscience. Why do they come to capture Him as if He were a robber? What has He stolen from them? He did nothing but give, didn’t He? And why do they come with swords and sticks? Have they ever seen Him fighting? Did His appearances ever frighten them? Has He not always been kind and full of love for them? And why are they coming now? He was with them daily in the temple and they heard and enjoyed His teaching. He wants to wake them up and make them realize that they have been persuaded to commit a crime.
He Himself gives the explanation of their actions, without diminishing their responsibility to any extent. He is perfect Lord and Master of and in everything that happens. Nothing comes as a surprise to Him because He takes the Scriptures as His guide. If we know the Scriptures and let ourselves be guided by them, there will be fewer things in our lives that will upset us. We learn through the Scriptures that God is above everything and nothing gets out of His hand. We learn that we can trust Him in all circumstances (Rom 15:44For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.).
At this moment, the disciples can no longer bear it. The threat of superior numbers makes them flee. With this they forsake Him and leave Him alone. They let him down.
57Those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together. 58But Peter was following Him at a distance as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and entered in, and sat down with the officers to see the outcome. 59Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death. 60They did not find [any], even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, 61and said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’”
Those who have taken the Lord prisoner believe that they have Him in their power and can do with Him what they want. But the Lord allows Himself to be carried away like a lamb led to slaughter (Isa 53:77He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
). They bring him to the high priest Caiaphas. It was there that the scribes and elders gathered. The religious leaders had determined that He would stand trial before them. The Son of God would be judged and condemned by these people, for the outcome was certain.
Peter, who had previously fled with all the other disciples, wants to know what is going to happen to his Lord. In his curiosity and also out of love for him he follows him. Only, he follows Him “at a distance”. That is the portent of his fall. If we do not remain close to the Lord, the fall is near.
After a brief look at Peter, Matthew takes us back to the trial against the Lord. Never has there been such a trampling of justice as in the trial against Christ. And that’s just if we read how the ‘judges’ look for false witnesses. We are not dealing here with people who misjudge a case or are misled, but with people who consciously seek false witnesses. That is how corrupt they are. What court case has ever started in such a way that judges diligently seek liars to convict the accused? That’s how it is here and Christ is silent. The testimony of the Scriptures is brief: “They did not find [any]”.
And how they did their best to condemn Him on the basis of false testimony, for they brought “many false witnesses” forward. None of these false witnesses is mentioned by name, but God knows them all. What a responsibility to make a false testimony against Christ. They are not ignorant people, but people who distort the facts to give false judges a reason for conviction. It doesn’t have to be true, as long as it sounds awful. But nothing is found.
At the very end, two false witnesses come up and say something the Lord has almost said in this way (Jn 2:1919Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”). Only they do not quote Him well, nor do they understand what He said. They think he spoke of the temple building, while he spoke of his body. But His body is the temple of God in the true sense of the word. The fullness of the Godhead lived on earth and dwells forever bodily in Him (Col 1:1919For it was the [Father’s] good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,; 2:99For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,).
62The high priest stood up and said to Him, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” 63But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64Jesus *said to him, “You have said it [yourself]; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” 65Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; 66what do you think?” They answered, “He deserves death!” 67Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, 68and said, “Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?”
During all the false accusations, the Lord has said nothing. The high priest can’t stand this. He wants to force him to make a statement. But the Lord does not allow Himself to be forced. He is, as always, perfect Master of the situation. Then the high priest takes refuge in the oath and adjures Him by the living God. The man is so blind and so far from God that he does not realize that the living God is before him. He wants the Lord to say whether He is the Christ, the Son of God. If he were to say so, they would have proof that he blasphemed God and thereby have a reason to condemn him.
The Lord now opens His mouth to confess the truth about His Person. He confesses the glory of His Person as Son of God. He adds, however, that from now on they will no longer see the Son of Man in the meekness of Someone who does not break the bruised reed (Isa 42:33“A bruised reed He will not break
And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish;
He will faithfully bring forth justice.
), but as Someone who sits at the right hand of power and comes with the clouds of heaven. He points to the position of glory that He will take in heaven, as it says in Psalm 110 (Psa 110:11A Psalm of David.
The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at My right hand
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”
), and to His coming in glory from heaven to earth, as spoken about in Daniel 7 (Dan 7:1313“I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
This confession is what the high priest needs. In hypocrisy he tears his robes as if he has heard something awful that plunges him into mourning. He pronounces and asks for approval. The scribes and elders agree with the accusation and judge the Lord guilty of death. Thus the Lord Jesus is condemned on the ground of the truth, the testimony of His own Person.
As if they had not gone low enough, the high men are falling to their lowest level ever. To their blatant condemnation of the Righteous one, they add the most brutal insults that can be given to a human being. The high priest does not intervene, but enjoys it and may have himself participated.
The Lord has not been spared any humiliation. Not only did they hurt him physically, but their questions also hurt his soul. They mock Him as the Prophet. They mockingly call Him “Christ”. They challenge him to say who hit him. One day He will answer this question to their great dismay when they appear before the great white throne. Hopefully there will be those who have come to repentance and therefore have discovered before then that He knew who was hitting Him.
69Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70But he denied [it] before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” 71When he had gone out to the gateway, another [servant-girl] saw him and *said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72And again he denied [it] with an oath, “I do not know the man.” 73A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Surely you too are [one] of them; for even the way you talk gives you away.” 74Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed. 75And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Peter, who followed the Lord at a distance, has arrived in the court of the High Priest. There he has taken a seat among the enemies of the Lord who are warming themselves by a fire. He thinks he can stay there unnoticed to see what is happening to his Lord. Then a maid comes to him who recognizes him as someone who was with “Jesus the Galilean”. What must have gone through Peter’s mind when the maid said this to him. He wanted to be unknown, he hoped no one would recognize him in the dark. Because of this observation he has to show his true colors. The girl did not ask a question, she established a fact.
Then the great apostle, the first of the twelve, seeks an excuse. He pretends not to know what the maid is talking about. This is tantamount to denial. It is a denial that he belongs to the Lord Jesus. All who are there hear him express his denial.
Because it has become dangerous for him there, he moves away from that place. He wants to leave the court and goes to the front gate. But there too is a woman who recognizes him. She says that he belongs to “Jesus of Nazareth”. In the first case Peter is addressed personally. In this case, the woman’s comment is addressed to all those who are there. Peter again denies that he knows Him. This time his denial is stronger. He swears that he does not know Him. He also calls Him “Man”, as if the Lord were no more than that.
Peter is not yet at the low point of his denial. The fall has yet to be made complete, as the Lord foretold. It is not a moment of weakness. It is a situation in which Peter has voluntarily entered. The Lord uses that situation to teach Peter what is in himself and that he is no better than the other disciples.
For the third time there will be a recognition of his relationship with the Lord Jesus, this time from a whole group. They come to him and confirm what the woman has noticed. They recognize Peter not only by his appearance, but also by his accent. Peter betrays himself through his accent which he cannot deny.
Then the fall of Peter becomes complete. In even more powerful terms, in which he even curses, he repeats his earlier statement and declares under oath that he does not know the “Man”.
As soon as Peter has pronounced his third denial, the rooster crows, as the Lord foretold. That reminds Peter of the word of the Lord. This word is now doing its work in his conscience. Crushed by guilt, he goes out and weeps bitterly. His conscience is deeply touched and convinced of sin.
This is the result of the work of the Lord Jesus as the Advocate to the Father (1Jn 2:11My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;). “Jesus Christ, the Righteous”, prayed for him that his faith would not fail (Lk 22:3232but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”). Therefore he goes out to weep bitterly and not to hang himself like Judas (Mt 27:55And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.).
His tears cannot erase his guilt, but they prove by grace the existence of the sincerity of his heart. They testify of that powerlessness for which even sincerity of heart is no remedy. Only close attachment to Christ, faith in His word and distrust in ourselves save us from falling.
I may find myself in situations where I deny the Lord and treat Him as nothing more than a ‘Man’. When I put forward my own views on a matter because I am afraid to say what the Lord thinks about it in His Word, I deny Him. Then to me He is no more than a Man, that is, no more than I am. In reality I am lowering Him and not giving Him the rights He has over my life. Christ wants to remind me of this in His grace, and I must confess that. Then recovery can follow.