THE LAST PASSOVER.
Luke 22:1, Luke 22:2
Short explanatory introduction.
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. These words show that many of the readers for whom this Gospel was intended were foreigners, who were unacquainted with Jewish terms such as the "Passover." Passover ( τὸ πάσχα, חסף ) means, literally, "a passing." The feast so named commemorated the manner in which the chosen people were spared in Egypt when the destroying angel of the Lord passed over all Israelitish houses, which had been sprinkled with the blood of the lamb, without slaying the firstborn. Dr. Farrar suggests that the Greek word πάσχω is a transliteration, with a sort of alliterative allusion to the Greek πάσχω, "I suffer." This greatest and most important of the Jewish feasts, which ever brought a great host of pilgrims to Jerusalem, was kept in the first month of the Jewish year (Nisan), from the 15th of the month, the day of full moon, to the 21st. Roughly, this corresponded to the end of our March.
And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people. The determination, long maturing, had, during the last few days of public teaching, been come to on the part of the Sanhedrin. They had determined to put the dangerous public Teacher to death. The bitter hatred on the part of the Jewish rulers had been gradually growing in intensity during the two years and a half of the public ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. The raising of Lazarus seems to have finally decided the governing body with as little delay as possible to compass the Reformer's death. The temporary withdrawal of the Lord after the great miracle deferred their purpose for a season; after, however, a retirement for a few weeks, Jesus appeared again, shortly before the Passover, and taught publicly in the temple, at a season when Jerusalem was crowded with pilgrims arriving for the great feast. Never had his teaching excited such interest, never had it stirred up such burning opposition as at this juncture. This decided the Jewish rulers to carry out their design on the life of the Galilaean Teacher with as little delay as possible. The only thing that perplexed them was how this could safely be accomplished, owing to the favor in which he was held by the people, especially by the crowds of pilgrims from the provinces then in Jerusalem.
Judas Iscariot betrays his Master. Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them. And they were glad. This was their chance. In the very heart of the Galilaean Teacher's own company a traitor showed himself, one who knew well the plans of his Master. With his help the Sanhedrin and the priestly party would be enabled to effect the arrest privately. They then must trust to Roman jealousy to help them to carry out their evil design. The expression, "Then entered Satan into Judas," is a strong one, and definitely shows that, in the opinion of these inspired compilers of the Gospels, there was a person who bore rule over the powers of evil. The character and history of the faithless friend of Jesus is mournfully interesting. For one to whom such splendid chances were offered to fall so low, is an awful mystery. It is clear that the betrayal was no sudden impulse. He set up self as the one object of all his thoughts, and followed Jesus because he believed that, in following him, he could best serve his own interests. His ambition was cruelly disappointed by his Master's gradual unfolding his views respecting his kingdom, which was not to be of this world. He was still further shocked by the undisguised announcement on the part of his Master, whose greatness and power Judas recognized from the first, that he would be rejected by the nation, and even put to death, has been suggested, as an explanation of the betrayal, that at the last he seems to have fancied that he could force the manifestation of Christ's power by placing him in the hands of his enemies; but the acceptance of a reward, miserable though it was, seems to point to vulgar greed, and to the idea of making friends with the dominant party in the state now that his Master evidently looked forward to a violent death, as the real motives of the betrayal. The question has been asked whether Christ, in his choice of Judas as one of the twelve, read the inmost depths and issues of his character. Canon Westcott, in a profound note on John 13:18, writes "that the records of the gospel lead us to believe that the Lord had perfect human knowledge realized in a human way, and therefore limited in some sense, and separable in consciousness from his perfect Divine omniscience. He knew the thoughts of men absolutely in their manifold possibilities, and yet as man, not in their actual future manifestation." These mysteries "underlie all religious life, and, indeed, all finite life—for finite being includes the possibility of sin and the possibility of fellowship between the Creator and the creature Thus we may be content to have this concrete mystery as an example—the most terrible example—of the issues of the two fundamental mysteries of human existence."
The disciples Peter and John are directed to prepare for the last Passover.
Then came the day of unleavened bread. This was the Thursday, Nisan 13. On this afternoon all leaven was carefully and scrupulously put away; hence the name.
Go and prepare us the Passover, that we may eat. The three synoptists unite in describing this solemn meal, for which Peter and John were sent to prepare, as the ordinary Paschal Supper. But, on comparing the record of the same Supper given by St. John, we are irresistibly led to a different conclusion; for we read that on the following day those who led Jesus into the Praetorium went not in themselves, "lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the Passover" (John 18:28); and again it is said of the same day, that "it was the preparation of the Passover" (John 19:14). So the time of the Supper is described by St. John (John 13:1) as "before the Feast of the Passover." It appears that our Lord was crucified on the 14th of Nisan, on the very day of the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb, a few hours before the time of the Paschal Supper, and that his own Last Supper was eaten the night before, that is, twenty-four hours before the general time of eating the Passover Supper. The most venerable of the Fathers preserved this as a sacred tradition. So Justin Martyr: "On the day of the Passover ye took him, and om the day of the Passover ye crucified him" ('Dial. cum Trypho,' ch. 3.). To the same effect write Irenaeus ('Adv. Haer.,' 4.23) and Tertullian ('Adv. Judaeos,' ch. 8). Clement of Alexandria is most definite: "The Lord did not cat his last Passover on the legal day of the Passover, but on the previous day, the 13th, and suffered on the day following, being himself the Passover". Hippolytus of Portus bears similar testimony. The question—as to whether the famous Last Supper was the actual Passover Supper, or the anticipatory Paschal Feast, which we believe it to have been—is important; for thus the language of St. Paul (1 Corinthians 5:7), "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us," is justified. "The apostle regarded not the Last Supper, but the death of Christ, as the antitype of the Paschal sacrifice, and the correspondence of type and antitype would be incomplete unless the sacrifice of the Redeemer took place at the time on which alone that of the Paschal lamb could legally be offered" (Dean Mansel).
And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare? It is probable that the disciples, in asking this question, concluded that the Passover was to be eaten by them and their Master at the same time with the rest of the Jews on the following day; but our Lord gave directions for its being eaten the same evening.
And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you. The name of the man who should meet them was omitted—purposely, think Theophylact and others, lest the place of meeting should be prematurely known to Judas. Bearing a pitcher of water. This would be an unusual sight in an Oriental city, where the water is drawn by women. It is probable that the "man" whom the Master foretold John and Peter would meet, was the master of the house, who, according to the Jewish custom on the 13th of Nisan, before the stars appeared in the heavens, had himself to go to the public fountain to draw the water with which the unleavened bread for the Passover Feast was kneaded.
And he shall show you a large upper room furnished: there make ready. The house which possessed so large an upper chamber must have been one of considerable size, and evidently belonged to a man of some wealth and position, possibly to Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathaea. That it perhaps belonged to St. Mark's family has also been suggested. It had evidently been prepared beforehand for the purpose of the feast, in obedience to a previous direction of Jesus. "Furnished" ( ἐστρωμώνον,) applies specially to carpets spread over the couches for the reception of guests. "In this large upper chamber thus prepared,'' said the Lord, "make the necessary arrangements for the Paschal Supper; procuring and preparing the lamb, the unleavened bread, the herbs, and other customary dishes." It seems probable that this" large upper room," evidently belonging to a disciple, or at least to one friendly to Jesus, was the same room which, in the happier hours after the Resurrection, witnessed the appearance of the Risen to the eleven, and, later, the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost.
The Last Supper.
And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. The preparation had been made in the "large upper room," and the Lord and the twelve sat down, or rather reclined on the couches covered with carpets, the tables before them laid with the dishes peculiar to the solemn Passover Supper, each dish telling its part of the old loved story of the great deliverance. There was the lamb the Paschal victim, and the bitter herbs, the unleavened bread and the reddish sweet conserve of fruits—commemorating, it is said, by its color the hard labors of brickmaking, one of the chief burdens of the Egyptian bondage—into which the Blaster dipped the sop, and gave it to the traitor-apostle (John 13:26). The Lord reclined, probably, at the middle table; St. John next to him; St. Peter most likely on the other side; and the others reclining in an order corresponding more or less closely with the threefold division of the twelve into groups of four. The Supper itself had its special forms and ceremonies, which the Lord transformed as they proceeded in such a way as to change it into the sacred Supper of the New Testament.
And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. This peculiar expression, "with desire," etc., is evidently a reproduction by St. Luke of the Lord's very words repeated to him originally in Aramaic (Hebrew), They seem to be a touching apology or explanation from him to his own, for thus anticipating the regular Passover Supper by twenty-four hours. He had been longing with an intense longing to keep this last Passover with them: First as the dear human Friend who would make this his solemn last farewell. (Do not we, when we feel the end is coming, long for a last communion with our dearest ones?) And, secondly, as the Divine Master who would gather up into a final discourse his most important, deepest teaching. We find this teaching especially reported by St. John in his Gospel (Jn 13-17.). And thirdly, as the Founder of a great religion, he purposed, on this momentous occasion, transforming the most solemn festal gathering of the ancient Jewish people, which commemorated their greatest deliverance, into a feast which should—as age succeeded age—commemo-rate a far greater deliverance, not of the old chosen race only, but of every race under heaven. These were three of the reasons why he had desired so earnestly to eat this Passover with them. "To-morrow, at the usual hour, when the people cat their Passover, it will be too late for us." This he expresses in his own sad words, "before I suffer."
For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. There was yet one other reason for the Master's special desire once more to eat the solemn Passover with his chosen disciples. He would, by some significant action and word, show that the great Jewish feast, for so many centuries the central act of the ritual observances under the Mosaic Law, from henceforth would be superseded by a new and a yet more solemn religious rite. The Jewish Passover was to give place to the Christian sacrament. He, their Master, would with them share in the Passover meal that evening for the last time. The next time that he would partake would be still with them, but it would be in the kingdom of God, that is to say, in the Church of God, which was to be founded after his resurrection. The kingdom of God commenced with the resurrection of Jesus. The constant celebration of the Holy Eucharist commenced from that time; it is more than probable that our Lord partook of it, after his resurrection, with his own (see Luke 24:30; Acts 10:41). I will not any more eat thereof, until … I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until, etc. These statements, which speak of a final partaking (eating and drinking), are closely parallel to the command contained in Luke 22:19, Luke 22:20. The first statement seems solemnly to close the celebration of the Passover Feast; the second, to institute with equal solemnity a new feast in its place—
"With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15); for—
The Passover Feast is solemnly put an end to.
"I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God" (Luke 22:16).
"I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come" (Luke 22:18).
The Holy Eucharist is solemnly instituted.
"He took bread,… and brake it, and gave unto them: … This do in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19).
"Likewise also the cup after Supper" (Luke 22:20).
It was in the course of the great ritual Supper on some of the occasions when the cup was passed round, and the unleavened bread formally broken or dipped in one of the Passover dishes, that the Lord found his opportunity solemnly to announce the formal abrogation of the old Paschal Supper and the institution of the new communion feast. The above literal interpretation of the Lord's mystic words, "until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom" (Matthew 26:29), or, as St. Luke reports them, "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come "—which literal interpretation in the main is that preferred by Dean Mansel (Commentary on Matthew 26:29); see, too, St. Chrysostom in Matthew Hom. 72., who adopts the same literal interpretation—does not exclude a yet deeper and more spiritual meaning which lies beneath the surface, and which speaks of another and spiritual banquet in the heavenly realm, which not only the Redeemer, but also his redeemed, will partake of. Heaven-life under the form of a banquet was imagery well known and often painted by the Jewish masters in the old rabbinic schools before and contemporary with the earthly life of Christ. The New Testament writers in several places have adopted the similar imagery, notably in Matthew 8:11; Luke 22:30; Revelation 19:9. How widespread and well loved was this Jewish representation of the heaven-life under the form of a banquet is clear from the three above-quoted references taken from SS. Matthew, Paul (Luke), and John.
Luke 22:19, Luke 22:20
And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gays unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. Around these words, and the parallel passages in SS. Matthew and Mark, for more than a thousand years fierce theological disputes have raged. Men have gone gladly to prison and to death rather than renounce what they believed to be the true interpretation. Now, a brief exegetical commentary is not the place to enter into these sad controversies. It will be sufficient here to indicate some of the lines of thought which the prayerful earnest reader might wisely follow out so as to attain certain just ideas respecting the blessed rite here instituted—ideas which may suffice for a practical religious life. Now, we possess a Divine commentary on this sacrament instituted by our Lord. It is noticeable that St. John, whose Gospel was the latest or well-nigh the latest of the canonical writings of the New Testament, when at great length he relates the story of the last Passover evening and its teaching, does not allude to the institution of that famous service, which, when he wrote his Gospel, had become part of the settled experience of Church life. He presupposes it; for it had passed then into the ordinary life of the Church. In another and earlier portion of his Gospel, however, St. John (John 6:32-58) gives us a record of the Lord's discourse in the synagogue of Capernaum, in which Jesus, while speaking plainly to those who heard him at the time, gave by anticipation a commentary on the sacrament which he afterwards instituted. The truth which was taught in thin discourse is presented in a specific act and in a concrete form in the Holy Communion. In the fifty-third verse of that sixth chapter we read, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." How is this now to be done? We reply that our Lord has clothed these ideas and brought them near to us in this sacrament; while, by his teaching in the sixth chapter of St. John, he guards this sacrament from being regarded on the one hand as an end in itself, or on the other as a mere symbol. Certain truths, great landmarks laid down in this discourse, have to be borne in mind.
The Lord's sorrowful allusion to Judas the traitor.
But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table. This is the second mention of the traitor in St. Luke's account of the Last Supper. From St. John's recital, we gather that Jesus returned several times in the course of that solemn evening to this sad topic. That one of his own little inner circle, so closely associated with him, should so basely betray him, was evidently a very bitter drop in the Lord's cup of suffering. In his dread experience of human sorrow it was needful that the Christ should fulfill in his own experience what even the noblest of the children of men—David, for instance—had felt of the falseness of friends. What suffering can be inflicted on a generous heart comparable to it? Surely he of whom it was written, "Whose sorrows are like unto my sorrows?" must make trial of this bitterness. Chrysostom thinks that the Master, in some of these repeated allusions during the "Supper," tried to win Judas over to a better mind.
Woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed! We seem to hear a wailing in this woe, although the denunciation was so firmly pronounced. St. Matthew, in his account, here adds some more words spoken by the Master, "It had been good for that man if he had not been born." Dean Plumptre, on this saying of Christ, very suggestively remarks, "Awful as the words were, they have their bright as well as their dark side. According to the estimate which men commonly form, the words are true of all except these who depart this life in the faith and fear of God. In his applying them to the case of the traitor in its exceptional enormity, there is suggested the thought that for others whose guilt was not like his, existence even in the penal suffering which their sins have brought upon them may be better than never to have been at all."
And they began to inquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing. That all the disciples, on hearing this statement of their Master, should at once question their own hearts with the "Is it I?" (of St. Matthew's Gospel), shows with what cunning skill the arch-traitor must have concealed not merely his plans but his very sentiments. No suspicion on their parts ever seems to have fallen on Judas, their companion for so long a time. The direct colloquy of the Lord with the traitor, reported at length in the other Gospels on the occasion of dipping the sop into one of the Paschal dishes, was most probably carried on in a whisper (see John 13:26-29, where mention is specially made of the disciples' ignorance of the dread meaning of their Master's words to Judas).
The jealousy, among the disciples.
And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. The Lord's words in these verses are peculiar to St. Luke. The strife among the disciples which suggested the Lord's corrective sayings was evidently no mere dispute as to precedence in their places at the supper, but some question as to their respective positions in the coming kingdom of which their Master had said so much in the course of his later instructions. It is closely connected with the "feet-washing" related at length by St. John (John 13:4-17). This has been well described as a parable in action, exhibited to illustrate forcibly the novel and sublime truth which he was teaching them, the world-teachers of the future, that in self sacrifice consisted the secret of true greatness. In the kingdom of heaven this would be found to be conspicuously the case.
Are called benefactors ( εὐεργέται). Those who were listening knew well how utterly false these high-sounding human titles often were. εὐεργέτης (Euergetes), Benefactor, was the well-known title appropriated by Ptolemy Euergetes and other hated royal tyrants well known to the Jewish people.
Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. But after the gentle rebuke of their jealous ambition, which rebuke was veiled in the great instruction, their Master, with the tenderest grace, referred to their unswerving loyalty to him. Their faithfulness stood out at that hour in strong contrast with the conduct of Judas. It is always thus with their Master and ours. Every good deed, every noble thought, each bit of generosity and self-forgetfulness on our part, is at once recognized and rewarded a hundredfold now as then.
And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me. This promise refers to earth and this life. They and their successors in his Church would bear sway over men's hearts, His kingdom would be administered by them. With strangely literal accuracy has this promise been fulfilled. From the hour when the despised Master, already doomed to a shameful death, uttered this seemingly improbable prediction, his kingdom over men's hearts has been extending. Then at most the kingdom numbered a few hundreds; nine it can only be reckoned by millions. For centuries the story of the civilized world has been the story of this kingdom.
That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. While the words just considered (Luke 22:29) referred to a success and a reward, the scene of which was to be this world, the Master now continues his promises of reward to his chosen faithful followers—a reward which will be their blessed portion in eternal life, which will follow this. First, the endless bliss to be shared with him is pictured under the old favourite Jewish image of the heavenly banquet; and second, in that heavenly realm a special place of honor and a distinct work is promised to these his chosen faithful servants.
The Lord foretells Simon Peter's fall. He tells She disciples of the hard times coming on them.
And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. The majority of the more ancient authorities omit the words, "and the Lord said." These words were possibly inserted at an early date to obviate the abruptness of this sudden change in the subject-matter of the Lord's discourse. The more accurate translation would be, "Satan obtained you by asking that he," etc. Bengel comments with "not content with Judas." This saying of Jesus is a very mysterious one; it reveals to us something of what is going on in the unseen world. A similar request was made by the same bitter, powerful the in the case or Job (Job 1:12). Are we to understand that these are examples of what is constantly going on in that world so close to us, but from which no whisper ever reaches our mortal ears? Such grave thoughts lend especial intensity to those words in the prayer of prayers, where we ask "our Father which is in heaven" to deliver us from evil, or the evil one, as so many of our best scholars prefer to translate ἀπὸ τοῦ πονήρου. Satan asks that he may test and try the apostles. Judas he had already tempted, and he had won him. Possibly this signal victory emboldened him to proffer this request. We may imagine the evil one arguing thus before the Eternal: "These chosen ones who are appointed to work in the future so tremendous a work in thy Name, are utterly unworthy. Let me just try to lure them away with my lures. Lo, they will surely fall. See, one has already."
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not. The prayer of Satan apparently was not refused. Jesus, however, says, that for one of that loved company, who he knew from his peculiar temperament was in especial peril, he had prayed. The prayer was answered thus: the temptation came to all the apostles; all fell; Peter, though, more disastrously by far than his brethren, but the result of the fall was not hopeless despair as in the case of Judas, but bitter remorse and a brave manly repentance. "It is said by Roman divines (e.g. Maldonatus, a Lapide, and Mai, here) that this prayer and precept of our Lord extends to all bishops of Rome as St. Peter's successors, and that in speaking to St. Peter our Lord spoke to them. Would they be willing to complete the parallel, and say that the bishops of Rome specially need prayer, because they deny Christ? Let them not take a part of it and leave the rest" (Bishop Wordsworth). When thou art converted. "Converted" must not be understood here in its technical sense; it should rather be translated, "And thou, when thou hast turned (i.e. to God) strengthen thy brethren."
And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. This kind of confident enthusiasm is usually a sign of weakness. Jesus, the Heart-reader, knew too well what such a wild protestation was worth, and went on at once to predict his friend's and servant's awful fall, that very night.
Luke 22:35, Luke 22:36
And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything. And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip; and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. The Lord speaks one more word to his own before leaving the upper room, More occupied with the future trials of his disciples than with his own tragic destiny, which he knew was about to be fulfilled, he reminds his friends of the comparatively quiet and serene existence they had been spending during the last two years and a half with him. In that period, generally speaking, they had been welcomed and kindly entertained by the people, sometimes, they would remember, even with enthusiasm. But they must prepare now for a different life—cold looks, opposition, even bitter persecution, would be their lot for the future. They must order themselves now to meet these things. No ordinary prudent forethought must be omitted by them. He had more than hinted that this future lay before them in his words, "Behold I send you forth as lambs in the midst of wolves;" now he plainly tells them what kind of life awaited them in the immediate future. Of course, the advice as to the sword was not meant to be taken literally. It was one of those metaphors the Lord used so often in his teaching. For a similar metaphor still more elaborately developed, see Ephesians 6:17, and following verses.
For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors. Here he shows them what he meant. They, as disciples of One treated as a malefactor, had surely nothing to expect but hatred and persecution. Stier remarks that this is the first time that the Lord himself directs us to the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, that most pre-eminent and complete text of the Passion. For the things concerning me have an end. The tragic end of his earthly ministry is close at hand. The prophetic description of the suffering Servant of the Lord will soon be found to have been terribly accurate.
And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough. As so often, the disciples took their Master's words with curious literalness, and, as a reply, produced two swords, as if these two poor weapons could help them in the coming times of sore need. If they were to stand firm in the long trial-season which lay before them, they must surely provide themselves with very different weapons to these; their arms in the campaign of the future must be forged in no earthly workshop. But our Lord sadly declined then to enter into further explanation. His meaning would be all clear to them soon, so he closed the dialogue with the words, "It is enough." This verse was curiously perverted in the famous Bull of Pope Boniface VIII., "Unam sanctam," to prove his possession of both secular and spiritual power: "Dicentibus apostolis, ecce gladii duo, in Ecclesia scilicet, quum apostoli loquereutur, non respondit Dominus nimis esse, sed satis … Uterque ergo in potestate est Ecclesiae, spiritualis scilicet gladius et materialis."
The agony in the garden. This eventful scene is recounted in detail by all the three synoptists. St. Matthew's account is the most complete. St. Mark adds one saying of the Lord's containing a deep theological truth, "Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee." These remarkable words, occurring as they do in the midst of the most solemn scene of prayer in the Redeemer's earth-life, tell of the vast possibilities of prayer. What may not be accomplished by earnest supplication to the throne of grace?
St. Luke's account is the shortest, but it contains the story of the angelic mission of help, and the additional detail of the "bloody sweat."
St. John alone of the four omits the scene; but, as in other most important recitals where he refrains from repeating the story of things thoroughly known in his Master's Church at the period when he committed his Gospel to writing, he takes care, however, often to record some hitherto unrecorded piece of the Lord's teaching, which is calculated to throw new light upon the momentous twice and thrice told incident, the story of which he does not deem it necessary to repeat. So in John 2:1-25. he throws a flood of light upon Christian baptism. John 6:1-71. is a Divine commentary on the Holy Eucharist. While in Luke 12:23-28 he gives us, in his Master's words, a new insight into that awful sorrow which was the source of the agony in Gethsemane.
Canon Westcott suggests that the succession of the main events recorded by the four evangelists was as follows:—
The agony. The betrayal. The conveyance to the high priest's house, probably adjoining "the Booths of Hanna."
The preliminary examination before Annas in the presence of Caiaphas.
About 3 a.m
The examination before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin at an irregular meeting at "the Booths."
About 5 a.m
The formal sentence of the Sanhedrin in their own proper place of meeting—Gazith or Beth Midrash (Luke 22:66; Matthew 27:1, πρωΐ́ας γενομένης; comp. Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66, ὡς ἐγένετο ἡμυέρα. The first examination before Pilate at the palace.
The examination before Herod. The scourging and first mockery by the soldiers at the palace.
The sentence of Pilate (John 19:14, ὥρα ἦν ὡς ἕκτη).
The second mockery of the condemned "King" by the soldiers.
The Crucifixion, and rejection of the stupefying draught (Mark 15:25, ἦν ὥρα τρίτη).
The last charge.
And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the Mount of Olives. In the other evangelists we find the place on the Mount of Olives described as Gethsemane. The word Gethsemane signifies "oil-press." It was a garden; one of the many charming gardens which Josephus tells us old Jerusalem abounded with. It perhaps belonged to a friend of Christ, or else was with others of these gardens, or "paradises," thrown open at the great festival seasons to the faithful pilgrims who on these occasions crowded the holy city and its suburbs. There is at the present day just beyond the brook Kedron, between the paths that go up to the summit of the mount, about three quarters of a mile from the Jerusalem wall, an enclosed garden called Gethsemane. It belongs to the Latin community in Jerusalem. In it are eight very ancient olive trees. When Henry Maundrell visited the spot, in 1697, these eight aged trees were believed to be the same that stood there in the blessed Savior's time. Bove the botanist, in Ritter's 'Geography of Palestine,' vol. 4., quoted by Dean Mansel, says these venerable olive trees are two thousand years old. Josephus, however, relates that in the great siege the soldiers of Titus cut down all the trees in the Jerusalem suburbs. Even if this be assumed, these soldiers, from some feeling of awe stirred up by the tradition which hung, of course, round this hallowed spot, might have spared this little sacred grove; or they might at the time have been still young saplings, of no use for the put-pose of the siege operations. "In spite of all the doubts that can be raised against their antiquity, the eight aged olive trees, if only by their manifest difference from all others on the mountain, have always struck even the most indifferent observers. They will remain, so long as their already protracted life is spared, the most venerable of their race on the surface of the earth. Their gnarled trunks and scanty foliage will always be regarded as the most affecting of the sacred memorials in or about Jerusalem—the most nearly approaching to the everlasting hills themselves in the force with which they carry us back to the events of the gospel history".
Pray that ye enter not into temptation. The temptation in question was the grave sin of moral cowardice into which so soon the disciples fell. Had they prayed instead of yielding to the overpowering sense of weariness and sleeping, they would never have forsaken their Master in his hour of trial and danger.
Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. The three synoptists give this prayer in slightly varying terms; "but the figure of the cup is common to all the three; "it was indelibly impressed on tradition. This cup, which Jesus entreats God to cause to pass from before ( παρά) his lips, is the symbol of that terrible punishment, the dreadful and mournful picture of which is traced before him at this moment by a skillful painter with extraordinary vividness. The painter is the same who in the wilderness, using a like illusion, passed before his view the magical scene -f the glories belonging to the Messianic kingdom" (Godet). If thou be willing. He looked on in this supreme hour, just before "the Passion" really began, to the Crucifixion and all the horrors which preceded it and accompanied it—to the treason of Judas; the denial of Peter; the desertion of the apostles; the cruel, relentless enmity of the priests and rulers; the heartless abandonment of the people; the insults; the scourging: and then the shameful and agonizing lingering death which was to close the Passion; and, more dreadful than all, the reason why he was here in Gethsemane; why he was to drink this dreadful cup of suffering; the memory of all the sin of man! To drink this cup of a suffering, measureless, inconceivable, the Redeemer for a moment shrank back, and asked the Father if the cross was the only means of gaining the glorious end in view—the saving the souls of unnumbered millions. Could not God in his unlimited power find another way of reconciliation? And yet beneath this awful agony, the intensity of which we are utterly incapable of grasping—beneath it there lay the intensest desire that his Father's wish and will should be done. That wish and will were in reality his own. The prayer was made and answered. It was not the Father's will that the cup should pass away, and the Son's will was entirely the same; it was answered by the gift of strength—strength from heaven being given to enable the Son to drink the cup of agony to its dregs. How this strength was given St. Luke relates in the next verse.
And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. The Lord's words reported by St. Matthew were no mere figure of rhetoric. "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." The anguish and horror were so great that he himself, according to his humanity, must have before the time become the victim of death had he not been specially strengthened from above. This is the deep significance and necessity of the angel's appearance. So Stier and Godet, the latter of whom writes, "As when in the wilderness under the pressure of famine he felt himself dying, the presence of this heavenly being sends a vivifying breath over him,—a Divine refreshing pervades him, body and soul, and it is thus he receives strength to continue to the last the struggle."
And his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Some (for instance, Theophylact) understand this "as it were" to signify that the expression, "drops of blood," was simply parabolic; but it is far better to understand the words in their literal sense, as our Church does when it prays, "By thine agony and bloody sweat." Athanasius even goes so far as to pronounce a ban upon those who deny this sweat of blood. Commentators give instances of this blood-sweat under abnormal pathological circumstances. Some, though by no means all, of the oldest authorities omit these last two verses (vv.43, 44). Their omission in many of these ancient manuscripts was probably due to mistaken reverence. The two oldest and most authoritative translations, the Itala (Latin) and Peshito (Syriac), contain them, however, as do the most important Fathers of the second century, Justin and Irenaeus. We have, then, apart from the evidence of manuscripts, the testimony of the earliest Christianity in Italy and Syria, Asia Minor and Gaul, to the genuineness of these two famous verses. They are printed in the ordinary text of the Revised English Version, with a side-note alluding to their absence in some of the ancient authorities.
Luke 22:45, Luke 22:46
He found them sleeping for sorrow, and said unto them, Why sleep ye rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The events of the past evening; the long excitement stirred up by listening to such words as their Master had been speaking to them during the sad hours of the Last Supper; the sure consciousness of coming sorrow; then the walk through the silent city:—all predisposed them to sleep. Commentators are never weary with pressing these excuses for the slumber of the eleven at that awful moment. But all these things, though they may well have predisposed them to slumber, are not sufficient to account for that strange heavy sleep which seems to have paralyzed the eleven in Gethsemane. In spite of their Master's solemn injunction to watch and pray, he finds them, several times during that dreadful watch of his in the garden, asleep, in spite of his asking them for sympathy and prayer, in spite of his evident longing for their sympathy—each time he cast his eyes on them, he sees them, not watching, but sleeping! Many a time in their work-filled lives those fishermen he loved so well, John and Peter and Andrew, had toiled all night with their nets; but on this night of sorrow, when their pleading voices were listened for, possibly their hand-press waited for, their silent sympathy certainly longed for, they slept, seemingly forgetful of all save their own ease and comfort. Surely on this night of temptation they were influenced by some invisible power, who lulled them to sleep during those precious moments when they should have been agonizing with their Master in prayer, and so arming themselves against the supreme moment of temptation just coming upon them. But swayed by the power of evil of whom the Lord had been warning them, but in vain, they let the moments slip by, and the hour of temptation came on them unawares. We know how grievously they all fell.
"'Forsake the Christ thou sawest transfigured! him
Who trod the sea and brought the dead to life?
What should wring this from thee?'—ye laugh and ask.
What wrung it? Even a torchlight and a noise,
The sudden Roman faces, violent hands,
And fear of what the Jews might do! Just that;
And it is written, 'I forsook and fled:'
There was my trial, and it ended thus "
(Browning, 'A Death in the Desert.')
The arrest of the Redeemer. All the four evangelists tell the story of the last hours, in the main the same, though the language is often quite different, and fresh and important details appear in each memoir.
The general effect on the thoughtful reader is that the Crucifixion and the events leading up to it were very far from being the result of the counsels of the Jewish leaders, the outcome of their relentless enmity. The death and all the attendant circumstances took place in their solemn order, then, when the public teaching of the Redeemer was finished, because it had been determined by some higher and grander power than was possessed by Jerusalem Sanhedrin or Roman Senate.
So St. Matthew, in his account, twice (Matthew 26:54, Matthew 26:56) gives the ground for the arrest, "That the Scriptures might be fulfilled." And the Scriptures were but the echoes of that other and grander power.
And while he yet spake, behold a multitude. Different to his disciples, their Master, who had prayed and received as an answer to his prayer the angel's visit, was now, when the hour of mortal danger struck, in possession of the profoundest calm. No. thing disturbed his serenity any more. With calm majesty he advanced to meet the traitor as he guided his Master's deadly enemies into the garden. From this hour Jesus welcomes the cross, from which for a brief moment he had seemed to shrink. The corn-pony who was thus guided to Gethsemane to effect the arrest in the dead of the night was composed of Roman legionaries detailed for this duty from a cohort on guard in the Antonia Fort by the temple, and of Levitical guards belonging to the temple—an armed force of police, part of the temple watch at the disposal of the priests. He that was called Judas, one of the twelve. Each of the evangelists mention the presence of the traitor. It was evidently a strange and startling detail for the writers of these memoirs that one of the chosen twelve should have been the betrayer! And drew near unto Jesus to kiss him. This was the sign agreed upon between Judas and his employers. They knew that it would be night, and that Gethsemane was shaded with olives, and that therefore some conspicuous sign would be necessary to indicate to the guards which of the company of twelve was the Master whom they were to seize. But the signal was superfluous, for, as St. John tells us, Jesus of his own accord advanced before the others, telling those who came for him who he was. Because of this kiss the early Christian Church discontinued the customary brotherly kiss on Good Friday.
And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. The name of the disciple who smote the servant of the high priest is given by St. John: it was Peter. He gives, too, the servant's name, Malchus. John wrote many years later, when Jerusalem had long ceased to exist; Peter, too, had passed away. Before this incident, St. John relates how the Roman and Jewish guards "went backward, and fell to the ground." What overawed the party of armed men is un-certain-whether some supernatural or merely a natural cause; possibly something of majesty in the Lord's appearance impelled these men to retire and reverently to salute him they were ordered to seize. St. John mentions this to show that it was of his own free will that he rendered himself up.
Suffer ye thus far. The exact meaning of these words has been much debated. They probably were addressed to the company of armed men, and contained a plea for the mistaken zeal of his disciple Peter. "Excuse this resistance." And he touched his ear, and healed him. This miraculous cure of the wound inflicted by the zealous disciple is related by the physician Luke.
When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness. These words of the Lord may signify, "It was from a cowardly fear of the people whom you felt were my friends that you did not dare to arrest me in the full light of day." But it is better to take the last clause as possessing a deeper meaning: "I have often been in your power before, when, without concealment, I taught publicly in that sacred house where you are the appointed guardians; you never dared to lay hands on me then. But this, I know, is your hour, the moment God has given up to you to effect this sad triumph, and this (i.e. the power by which you work) is the power or' darkness (i.e. the power of the spirit of darkness)."
The denial of Peter.
Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed afar off. There has been some discussion here on the question of harmonizing the separate accounts. There is, however, no real difficulty if the following historical details be borne in mind. The actual high priest at this juncture was Caiaphas, son-in-law to Annas, who was the legal high priest, but had been deposed by the Roman power some time before. Annas, however, although prevented by the Roman government from bearing the high priestly insignia, was apparently looked upon by the people as the rightful possessor of the dignity, and evidently exercised the chief authority in the Jewish councils. It seems that he and his son-in-law Caiaphas, the Roman nominee, occupied together the high priest's palace. There were three trials of our Lord by the Jews:
The thrice-repeated denial of Peter took place:
And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. We know that the arrest in Gethsemane was followed by the flight of the eleven apostles. John and Peter, however, once out of reach of the armed band, seem in some way to have recovered from their first panic, and to have followed their Master and his guards into the city. Arrived at the high priest's house, John, who was known to the high priest, had no difficulty in procuring admission for himself and his companion. Peter's motive in pressing into what he knew for him was a locality full of peril, is given by St. Matthew (Matthew 26:58), "to see the end." There was no doubt there was in the heart of the impulsive, loving man, sorrowful anxiety and deep sorrow for his dear Master's fate. But, alas! with the feverish sad expectation to see what he felt would be the end, there was no earnest prayer for guidance and help. The fire is mentioned because, generally speaking, the nights in the Holy Land about the Passover season are warm. The cold on this night appears to be spoken of as something unusual. Peter sat down among them. "St. John (it must be supposed) had passed on into the audience-chamber, so that St. Peter was alone. St. John, who remained closest to the Lord, was unmolested; St. Peter, who mingled with the indifferent crowd, fell" (Westcott).
But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. Comparing the several accounts of the evangelists together, we see how naturally the incidents followed each other. As he entered, the portress first thought she recognized him as one of the followers of the well-known Teacher just arrested on a capital charge. Then as, weary and chilled, he drew near the fire, the firelight shone on his face, a face known to many who had listened during the last few days to his Master as he taught, with his disciples grouped round him in the temple-courts before crowds of listeners. Thoroughly alarmed, he drew aside from the friendly warmth of the fire into the outer shade of the gateway; yet he could not tear himself away from the neighborhood of the spot where his dear Master was being interrogated by his deadly foes; and even there, while lurking in the shadow, he was recognized again, and then, just as he was in the act of fiercely denying, with oaths and curses, his friendship for and connection with Jesus, came the Master by, after the second examination before Caiaphas and certain members of the Sanhedrin, being conducted by the guard to another and more formal court. And as the Master passed, he turned and looked upon his poor cowardly disciple.
For he is a Galilaean. The strong provincial dialect of the fisherman of the Lake of Galilee at once told these Jerusalem Jews, accustomed to the peculiar pronunciation of the Galilee pilgrims at the Passover Feast, that the man whom they suspected certainly came from the same province as Jesus the Accused.
And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. As he was passing from the interrogation before Caiaphas to be examined before the Sanhedrin assembled in solemn council, he heard his servant's well-known voice raised and accompanied with oaths and curses, assuring the by-standers he had no connection with and knew nothing of Jesus of Nazareth. Then, as he passed, the Master turned and looked on his old friend, that disciple who so lately had declared that even if all others deserted the Lord, he never would! The glance of Jesus was full of the tenderest pity; it was not angry, only sorrowful; but it recalled Peter to his better, nobler self. SS. Matthew and Mark (Peter's