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The Lord had finished His discourses. He prepares (chap. 26) to suffer, and
to make His last and touching adieus to His disciples, at the table of His
last passover on earth, at which He instituted, the simple and precious
memorial which recalls His sufferings and His love with such profound
interest. This part of our Gospel requires little explanation-not,
assuredly, that it is of less interest, but because it needs to be felt
rather than explained.
With what simplicity the Lord announces that which was to happen! (v. 2).
He had already arrived at Bethany, six days before the passover (John 12:
1): there He abode, with the exception of the last supper, until He was
taken captive in the garden of Gethsemane, although He visited Jerusalem,
and partook of His last meal there.
We have already examined the discourses uttered during those six days, as
well as His actions, such as the cleansing of the temple. That which
precedes this chapter (26) is either the manifestation of His rights as
Emmanuel, King of Israel, or that of the judgment of the great King with
respect to the people-a judgment expressed in discourses to which the
people could make no answer; or, finally, the condition of His disciples
during His absence. We have now His submission to the sufferings appointed
Him, to the judgment about to be executed upon Him; but which was, in
truth, only the fulfilment of the counsels of God His Father, and of the
work of His own love.
The picture of man's dreadful sin in the crucifixion of Jesus unfolds
before our eyes. But the Lord Himself (chap. 26: 1) announces it beforehand
with all the calmness of One who had come for this purpose. Before the
consultations of the chief priests had taken place, Jesus speaks of it as a
settled thing: "Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover,
and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified."
Afterwards (v. 3) the priests, the scribes, and the elders assemble to concert their plans for obtaining possession of His Person, and ridding themselves of Him.
In a word, first, the marvellous counsels of God, and the submission of
Jesus, according to His knowledge of those counsels and of the
circumstances which should accomplish them; and, afterwards, the iniquitous
counsels of man, which do but fulfil those of God. Their purposed
arrangement of detail not to take Him on the feast day as they dreaded the
people (chap. 26: 5) was not God's and fails: He was to suffer at the
Judas was but the instrument of their malice in the hand of Satan; who,
after all, did but arrange these things according to divine intention. They
wished, but in vain, to avoid taking Him at the time of the feast, on
account of the multitude, who might favour Jesus, if He appealed to them.
They had done so at His entrance into Jerusalem. They supposed Jesus would
do so, for wickedness always reckons on finding its own principles in
others. This is why it so frequently fails in circumventing the
upright-they are artless. Here it was the will of God, that Jesus should
suffer at the feast. But He had prepared a gracious relief to the heart of
Jesus-a balm to His heart more than to His body-a circumstance which is
used by the enemy to drive Judas to extremity and put him in connection
with the chief priests.
Bethany (linked in memory with the last moments of peace and tranquillity
in the Saviour's life, the place where dwelt Martha and Mary, and Lazarus
the risen dead)-Bethany
[see note #75] receives Jesus for the last time: the
blessed but momentary retreat of a heart which, ever ready to pour itself
out in love, was ever straitened in a world of sin, that did not and could
not respond to it; yet a heart which has given us, in His relations with
this beloved family, the example of an affection perfect, yet human, which
found sweetness in being responded to and appreciated. The nearness of the
cross, where He would have to set His face as a flint, did not deprive His
heart of the joy or the sweetness of this communion, while rendering it
solemn and affecting. In doing the work of God He did not cease to be man.
In everything He condescended to be ours. He could no longer own Jerusalem,
and this sanctuary sheltered Him for a moment from the rude hand of man.
Here He could display what He ever was as man. It is with reason, that the
act of one who in a certain sense could appreciate what He felt
[see note #76]
(whose affection instinctively entered into the rising enmity against the
object she loved and was drawn out by it), and the act that expressed the
estimate her heart had of His preciousness and grace should be told in all
the world. This is a scene, a testimony, that brings the Lord sensibly near
to us, that awakens a feeling in our hearts which sanctifies by binding
them to His beloved Person.
His daily life was one continued tension of soul, in proportion to the
strength of His love-a life of devotedness in the midst of sin and misery.
For a moment He could, and would own (in presence of the power of evil, now
to have its way, and the love that clung to Him thus bowing under it,
through true knowledge of Him cultivated in sitting at His feet) that
devotedness to Himself, drawn out by that which His soul was in divine
perfectness bowing to. He could give an intelligent voice, its true
meaning, to that which divinely wrought affection silently acted on.
[see note #77]
The reader will do well carefully to study this scene of touching
condescension and outpouring of heart. Jesus, Emmanuel, King and Supreme
Judge, had just been causing all things to pass in judgment before Him
(from chap. 21 to the end of 25). He had finished that which He had to say.
His task here, in this respect, was accomplished. He now takes the place of
Victim; He has only to suffer, and can allow Himself freely to enjoy the
touching expressions of affection that flow from a heart devoted to Him. He
could but taste the honey and pass on; but He does taste it, and did not
reject an affection which His heart could and did appreciate.
Again, observe the effect of deep affection for the Lord. This affection
necessarily breathes the atmosphere in which, at that moment, the spirit of
the Lord is found. The woman who anointed Him was not informed of the
circumstances about to happen, nor was she a prophetess. But the approach
of that hour of darkness was felt by one whose heart was fixed on Jesus.
[see note #78] The different forms of evil developed themselves before Him, and
displayed themselves in their true colours; and, under the influence of one
master, even Satan, grouped themselves around the only object against whom
it was worthwhile to array this concentration of malice, and who brought
their true character out into open daylight.
But the perfectness of Jesus, which drew out the enmity, drew out the
affection in her; and she (so to speak) reflected the perfectness in the
affection; and as that perfectness was put in action and drawn to light by
the enmity, so was her affection. Thus Christ's heart could not but meet
it. Jesus, by reason of this enmity, was still more the object that
occupied a heart which, doubtless led of God, instinctively apprehended
what was going on. The time of testimony, and even that of the explanation
of His relationship to all around Him, was over. His heart was free to
enjoy the good and true and spiritual affections of which He was the
object; and which, whatever might be their human form, shewed so plainly
their divine origin, in that they were attached to that object on which, at
this solemn moment, all the attention of heaven was centred.
Jesus Himself was conscious of His position. His thoughts were on His
departure. During the exercise of His power, He hides-He forgets-Himself.
But now oppressed, rejected, and like a lamb led to the slaughter, He feels
that He is the just object of the thoughts of those who belong to Him, of
all who have hearts to appreciate that which God appreciates. His heart is
full of the coming events, see v. 2, 10-13, 18, 21.
But yet a few words more on the woman who anointed Him The effect of having
the heart fixed in affection on Jesus is shewn in her in a striking manner.
Occupied with Him, she is sensible of His situation. She feels what affects
Him; and this causes her affection to act in accordance with the special
devotedness which that situation inspires. As hatred against Him rose up to
murderous intent, the spirit of devotedness to Him grows in answer to it in
her. Consequently, with the tact of devotedness, she does precisely that
which was suited to His situation. The poor woman was not intelligently
aware of this; yet she did the thing that was meet. Her value for the
Person of Jesus, so infinitely precious to her, made her quick-sighted with
respect to that which was passing in His mind. In her eyes Christ was
invested with all the interest of His circumstances; and she lavishes upon
Him that which expressed her affection. Fruit of this sentiment, her action
met the circumstances; and, although it was but the instinct of her heart,
Jesus gives it all the value which His perfect intelligence could attribute
to it, embracing at once the sentiments of her heart and the coming events.
But this testimony of affection and devotedness to Christ brings out the
selfishness, the want of heart, of the others. They blame the poor woman.
Sad proof (to say nothing of Judas
[see note #79] how little the knowledge of that
which concerns Jesus necessarily awakens suitable affection in our hearts!
After this Judas goes out, and agrees with the unhappy priests to betray
Jesus to them for the price of a slave.
The Lord pursues His career of love; and as He had accepted the poor
woman's testimony of affection, so He now bestows on His disciples one of
infinite value to our souls. Verse 16 concludes the subject of which we
have been speaking: Christ's knowledge, according to God, of that which
awaited Him; the conspiracy of the priests; the affection of the poor
woman, accepted by the Lord; the selfish cold-heartedness of the disciples;
the treachery of Judas.
The Lord now institutes the memorial of the true passover. He sends the
disciples to make arrangements for the celebration of the feast at
Jerusalem. He points out Judas as the one who would deliver Him up to the
Jews. It will be noticed, that it was not merely His knowledge of the one
who should betray Him which the Lord here expresses-He knew that when He
called him; but He says, "One of you shall betray me." It was that which
touched His heart: He wished it to touch theirs likewise.
He then points out that it is a Saviour slain who is to be remembered. It
is no longer a question of the living Messiah: all that was over. It was no
longer the remembrance of Israel's deliverance from the slavery of Egypt.
Christ, and Christ slain, began an entirely new order of things. Of Him
they were now to think-of Him slain on earth. He then draws their attention
to the blood of the new covenant, adding that which extends it to others
besides the Jews, without naming them-"It is shed for many." Moreover, this
blood is not, as at Sinai, only to confirm the covenant, for fidelity to
which they were responsible; it was shed for the remission of sins. So that
the Lord's supper presents the remembrance of Jesus slain, who, by dying,
has broken with the past; has laid the foundation of the new covenant;
obtained the remission of sins; and opened the door to the Gentiles. It is
only in His death that the supper presents Him to us. His blood is apart
from His body: He is dead. It is neither Christ living on the earth, nor
Christ glorified in heaven. He is separate from His people, as to their
joys on earth; but they are to expect Him as the companion of the happiness
He has secured for them-for He condescends to be so-in better days:-"I will
not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink
[see note #80] with you in my Father's kingdom." But, these links broken,
who, save Jesus, could sustain the conflict? All would forsake Him. The
testimonies of the word should be accomplished. It was written, "I will
smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered abroad."
Nevertheless He would go, to renew His relationship, as a risen Saviour,
with these poor of the flock, to the same place where He had already
identified Himself with them during His life. He would go before them into
Galilee. This promise is very remarkable, because the Lord resumes, under a
new form, His Jewish relationship with them and with the kingdom. We may
here remark that, as He had judged all classes (to the end of chap. 25), He
now exhibits the character of His relationship with all those among whom He
maintained any. Whether it is the woman, or Judas, or the disciples, each
one takes his place in connection with the Lord. This is all we find here.
If Peter had natural energy enoughto go a little farther, it would only be
for a deeper fall in the place where the Lord alone could stand.
And now He isolates Himself to present, in supplication to His Father, the
sufferings that awaited Him.
But while isolating Himself for prayer, He takes three of His disciples
with Him, that in this solemn moment they may watch with Him. They were the
same three who were with Him during the transfiguration. They were to see
His glory in the kingdom, and His sufferings. He goes a little way beyond
them. As for them, they fall asleep, as they did on the mount of
transfiguration. The scene here is described in Hebrews 5: 7. Jesus was not
yet drinking the cup, but it was before His eyes. On the cross He drank it,
made sin for us, His soul feeling itself forsaken of Him. Here it is the
power of Satan, using death as a terror with which to overwhelm Him. But
the consideration of this subject will be more in place when we come to
We here see His soul under the load of death-by anticipation -as He alone
could know it, nor had it as yet lost its sting. We know who has the power
of death, and death as yet had the full character of the wages of sin, and
the curse, of God's judgment. But He watches and He prays. As man,
subjected by His love to this assault, in the presence of the most powerful
temptation to which He could be exposed, on the one hand He watches; on the
other, He presents His anguish to His Father. His communion was not
interrupted here, however great His distress. This distress only cast Him
the more, in all submission and in all reliance, upon His Father. But if we
were to be saved, if God was to be glorified in Him who had undertaken our
cause, the cup must not pass away from Him. And His submission is complete.
He tenderly reminds Peter of his false confidence,
[see note #81] making him
sensible of his weakness; but Peter was too full of himself to profit by
it; he awakes from his sleep, but his self-confidence is not shaken. A
sadder experience was needed for its cure.
The Lord therefore takes the cup, but He takes it from His Father's hand.
It was His will that He should drink it. Committing Himself thus entirely
to His Father, it is neither from the hand of His enemies, nor from that of
Satan (though they were the instruments), that He takes it. According to
the perfection with which He had subjected Himself to the will of God in
this matter, committing all to Him, it is from His hand alone that He
receives it. It is the Father's will. It is thus that we escape from second
causes, and from the temptations of the enemy, by seeking only the will of
God who directs all things. It is from Him we receive affliction and trial,
if they come.
The disciples need no longer watch: the hour is come.
[see note #82] He was to be
betrayed into the hands of men. This was saying enough. Judas designates
Him by a kiss. Jesus goes to meet the multitude, rebuking Peter for seeking
to resist with carnal weapons. Had Christ wished to escape, He could have
asked for twelve legions of angels and had them; but all things must be
[see note #83] It was the hour of His submission to the effect of the
malice of man and the power of darkness, and God's judgment against sin. He
is the Lamb for the slaughter. Then all the disciples forsake Him. He
surrenders Himself, setting before the crowd that came what they were
doing. If no one can prove Him guilty, He will not deny the truth. He
confesses the glory of His Person as Son of God, and declares that
henceforth they should see the Son of man no longer in the meekness of One
who would not break the bruised reed, but coming in the clouds of heaven,
and sitting on the right hand of power. Having borne this testimony He is
condemned on account of that which He said of Himself-for the confession of
the truth. The false witnesses did not succeed. The priests and the heads
of Israel were guilty of His death, by virtue of their own rejection of the
testimony He rendered to the truth. He was the Truth; they were under the
power of the father of lies. They rejected the Messiah, the Saviour of His
people. He would come to them no more, except as Judge.
They insult and outrage Him. Each one alas! takes, as we have seen, his own
place-Jesus, that of Victim; the others, the place of betrayal, rejection,
abandonment, denial of the Lord. What a picture! What a solemn moment! Who
could stand in it? Christ alone could steadily pass through it. And He
passed through it as a victim. As such, He must be stripped of all, and
that in the presence of God. Everything else disappeared, except the sin
which led to it; and, according to grace, that also before the powerful
efficacy of this act. Peter, self-confident, hesitating, detected,
answering with untruth, swearing, denies his Master; and, painfully
convinced of man's powerlessness against the enemy of his soul and against
sin, he goes out and weeps bitterly: tears, which cannot efface his guilt,
but which, while proving the existence, through grace, of uprightness of
heart, bear witness to that powerlessness which uprightness of heart cannot
[see note #84]