Remarks on Matthew 26

Matthew 26  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 8
The Lord had rendered His testimony, as the faithful witness, in deeds as well as words. He had finished all the sayings which proclaimed Him to be the Prophet like unto Moses, but incomparably greater withal, who was henceforth to be heard on peril of eternal ruin. The hour approached, the solemn hour of His sufferings; and Jesus passes into it in spirit, with a calm dignity found only in Him. (Ver. 2.)
The resolve of the religious guides was to put the Lord to death. The chief priests, the scribes, the elders, were all of one mind: they assembled at the high-priest's palace—they consulted, they plotted; but after all, as usual, if they consummated their infamy, they did unwittingly the will of God, and accomplished the words of Christ to His disciples, not their own subtly concocted plan of wickedness. They said to each other, “Not on the feast-day, lest there be an uproar among the people” (Ver. 5); but He said to His disciples, “Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.” (Ver. 2.) Did they wish to kill Him? They must do it then. Man has his wickedness, and God has His way. But little did either the friends or the foes of Jesus know how the determinate counsel of God was to be brought to pass. A traitor from within the innermost circle, fit instrument for Satan's scheming malice, must lift up his heel against the Savior, the leader of that adulterous and now apostate generation into the pit of perdition. But the enemy loves to degrade morally his victims; and the beautiful offering of love, fruit of the Holy Ghost, in her who poured the very precious ointment from the alabaster box on the head of Jesus, gave occasion to the basest motives in Judas, and the final success of the tempter over a soul, spite of the constant seeing and hearing of Christ, long inured to secret guilt. (Ver. 6-16.)
I am compelled through circumstances to glance but cursorily at these final but most fertile as well as affecting scenes. Yet let us not fail to observe, first, for our warning, how easy it is for eleven good men to be led astray by the fair pretenses of one bad man, who was influenced by evil feelings unknown to them! Alas! too, the flesh in all, even in the regenerate, remains ever the same hateful and hating thing; and there is no good for the believer save where Christ is the object and the means. Next, for our joy how sweet to find that love to Christ is surely vindicated of Him and has the Spirit's guidance in the weakest one, spite of the murmurs of those who seem ever so high and strong! Thirdly, if a saint manifested her estimate of Jesus so lavishly in the judgment of utilitarian unbelief, what was His value in the eyes of the bribing priests and of the betrayer? “And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.” (Ver. 15.) A slave's price was enough for the despised Lord of all! (Com. Ex. 21:3232If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned. (Exodus 21:32); Zech. 11:12, 1312And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. 13And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord. (Zechariah 11:12‑13).)
Still the Lord pursues, in the face of all, His path of love and holy calm; and when the disciples inquire His pleasure as to the place for eating the paschal feast, He speaks as the conscious Messiah, let Him be ever so rejected: “Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.” (Ver. 17-19.) As the twelve were eating, He tells out the grief of His heart: “Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me;” and this brings out the reality of their affections and their deep grief; and if Judas imitated their inquiry of innocence, fearful that his own silence would detect him, and, it may be, counting on ignorance because of the Lord's generality of expression (“one of you”), he only thereby hears his doom brought personally home. (Ver. 21-25.) Prophecy was accomplished, but woe to that man that betrayed the Son of man!
Nothing, however, arrests the flow of His own love. “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it: for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Ver. 26-28.) The bread, but especially the cup set forth the Messiah, not alive on earth, but rejected and slain. The broad truth is given here, as in Mark, in “this is my body,” without marking the grace which gave it; it is the truth in itself, without the accessories seen elsewhere. Stress is laid on. “my blood of the new covenant that was shed for many,” because the refusal of the Messiah by Israel and His death opened the way for others outside, for Gentiles; and it. was important for our evangelist to note this. Luke has it “shed for you,” i.e., for the believers in Jesus: Matthew adds, “for the remission of sins,” in contrast with the blood of the old covenant, which held forth its penal sanction. This they were also here called, all of them emphatically, to drink. The blood in Ex. 24 sealed on the people their promise of obedience to the law under menace of death: here all drink the witness, in the Savior's blood, of their sins blotted out and gone. “But,” adds He, “I say Unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.” (Ver. 29.) He is henceforth separated from joy with them till the Father's kingdom come: then He will resume His association with delight in His people here below. The godly have to drink His blood with thankful praise now: by and by, He will drink the wine of joy new with us in the Father's kingdom. Till then He is the heavenly Nazarite; and so consequently should we be in spirit.
After partaking of the slipper, they sung a hymn (how blessed at such a time!) and repaired to Olivet. (Ver. 30.) With the ineffable grace and serenity which reign throughout, the Lord lets them know the trial which should befall and shake them all that very night, and this according to the written word, even as that Which He had shown of Himself. (Comp. verses 24 and 31.) The flesh had shown its worth in the goodly price it set on Jesus; it now proves the value of its self-confidence and courage on his behalf (“All ye shall be offended because of me,” &c.); and he proved it most glaringly for others and bitterly for himself who Most trusted his own love for the Savior. (Ver. 3235.) Thus the end of the trials would be to confirm their faith and deepen their distrust of self, making Christ their all in everything; and He, risen, would go before them into Galilee, resuming in resurrection-power the relationship which He had with them there in the days of His, flesh.
The next scene (ver. 36-46) though equally perfect in its display of Jesus, and equally humbling in its exhibition of the choicest of the apostles, shows us the picture, not of complete and holy calm in the full knowledge of all that awaited Himself and His disciples, but of anguish to the uttermost and of death realized in all its horrors as before God. What an insight Gethsemane gives us of Him, Jehovah-Messiah though He were, as the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief? Whoever saw affliction as He! It was not only that Jesus knew the cross in atonement as none other did or could, that He alone bowed His head under the full unsparing judgment of God when made sin for us; but He underwent, beyond all others, the anticipative pressure of death on His soul as the power of Satan, and this perfectly but only the more painfully for all that, because He took it from His Father's and not from the enemy's hand. Yet it is the very reverse of calmness now, but strong crying and tears to His Father now, as afterward to God as such when it was a question of actual sin-bearing on the tree. “And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death; tarry ye here and watch with me.” When the cross came, there was no such call to disciples to watch with Him. He was alone, absolutely, essentially for us, that. is, for our sins, with none of men or angels in any way or measure, morally speaking, near Him, when God forsook and hid His face from Him on whose head met all Our iniquities. It was here, on the other hand, pleading as a Son with His Father, when “He went a little farther and fell on. His face (prostrate in His earnestness) and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” He watched, and prayed, and entered not into temptation, though tempted in all points as we are. But He finds the disciples asleep: they could not watch with Him one hour: “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And so it was again and again with them, till He bade them sleep, but warned that the hour was at hand, as was the traitor.
But the same flesh which drags down to sleep, when the Lord called to watch and pray, is zealous enough, with carnal weapons, when Judas came with his deceitful kiss and a multitude following (ver. 47 and seq.), though it preserved not from, but rather led into, either forsaking the Master or denying Him. Jesus, thoroughly suffering before His Father, is all dignity and peace before man, and goes forward to meet His will at their wicked hands, laying bare in the simplest, meekest words the base evil of Judas, the rash weakness Of His inconsiderate defender, and the scriptural key to His approaching death, spite of His title to command legions of angels, and in face of an inconsistent multitude. He was, after all, a prisoner for the will of God, and not of man.
Before Caiaphas (ver. 57-75) He is counted guilty of death, but this not because the falsehood of the Witnesses succeeded, but because of His own confession of the truth. He was the Son of God; but come in fullness of grace and truth as He was, henceforth should they see Him, the Son of man, sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven—His present position and His manifestation when He comes in power and glory. Yet in the midst of His rejection and contumely at the hands of high and low among His own outward people, Jesus causes His mighty word to be remembered by poor Peter, bold now in denying Him—cursing, swearing Peter. “And he went out and wept bitterly.” O what a servant! O what a Lord!