Notes Matthew chapter 26
© copyright 1997 drs Gijs van den Brink
Jesus’ Death is Premeditated 26:1-5
26:1. When Jesus had finished saying all these things. This is the fifth time we have encountered such a linking text in the Gospel according to Matthew (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1). ‘These words’ clearly refer to Chapters 24 and 25. The additional ‘all’ emphasizes that there will be no more addresses. Jesus has said what He had come to say. The time for teaching is over, and the time for suffering approaches.
2. the Passover is two days away. Jesus introduces His fourth and last announcement of His suffering (16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18,19) with the remark that in two days’ time it will be the Passover. The Passover was the Jews’ great annual feast, celebrated in remembrance of the exodus from Egypt. The passover lamb had to be sacrificed in the Temple on the 14th day of Nisan. ‘Two days away’ or ‘after two days’ (i.e., on the third day, Hos 6:2) indicates that is was Tuesday 12th. when this was said. It occurred then on the same day as the address on the Mount of Olives (Matt 24-25), on the journey to their night’s lodging in Bethany (cf. v.6).
In contrast to Mark (14:1) who himself gives a short introduction, Matthew quotes Jesus’ own words. He wants it to be clearly understood that it was not the crafty plans of the Sanhedrin (vv.3 and 4) but the Lord Jesus’ will and word that decided the time of His capture and death.
3. Then the chief priests … assembled in the palace of the high priest. ‘Then’ indicates a temporal sequence here, as it does in v.14. Jesus’ words are followed by the discussion in the sanhedrin, not vice versa! We must not regard ‘palace’ (Gk. aul) in v.12 as a contrast with the normal meeting-place and so translate it as ‘court’, ‘inner hall’, as if the meeting was informal and held in secret. The Greek aul is here used for ‘the court’, ‘the palace’, as a whole (Bauer, s.v.). This is confirmed by the mention of the three groups (chief priests, scribes and elders), representatives of whom composed the 71 strong High Council (16:21; 27:41). Hence this refers to an official meeting.
There were no fewer than 28 High Priests between 37 B.C. and 67 A.D., and that while the Jews were accustomed to appoint a High Priest for life. The reason behind this is that when the Romans came into power, they dismissed and appointed High Priests according to their own political considerations. Caiaphas, whose real name was Joseph (Jos. Ant. XVIII,iv,3), was apparently on the Roman side, since he held office for an unusually long time (18-36 A.D.). This may be connected with his dislike of any form of civil disturbance (v.5). Caiaphas was married to a daughter of Annas (John 18:13), who had been High Priest between 6-15 A.D.
4. and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way. The capture and killing of Jesus had been discussed in the Sanhedrin previously (cf. 21:46; John 11:47-12:1). In this meeting it was decided not to have Him arrested and killed openly, but by a strategem. It is very likely that there had been contact between Judas and the Sanhedrin before this Tuesday.
5. “But not during the Feast,” … “or there may be a riot among the people.” It was not the Passover feast as such that was the problem, but the mass of pilgrims, as previously (21:46). They were afraid that the celebrating crowd would take Jesus’ side. For this reason ‘not during the Feast’ should be completed with ‘but after it’ rather than with ‘before it’. Matthew does not say what induced the Sanhedrin to arrest Jesus earlier, but v.16 gives the impression that Judas has provided his supporters with a favourable opportunity to seize Him before the feast. It is certain that while the religious leaders determined that it should not occur during the feast, Jesus said (v.2) that it would take place then. And indeed it happened as God wanted.
Jesus Is Anointed at Bethany 26:6-13
6. While Jesus was in Bethany. The ‘while’ in the clause certainly does not indicate a sequence of events, in contrast to the ‘then’ in v.3 and v.14 (Gk. tote). Literally the words are ‘Jesus being in Bethany’. We must with even more justification than in other contexts add the phrase ‘one day’. For this reason vv.6-16 may just as well have taken place before v.5 as after it (cf. John 12:1).
Simon the Leper. We do not know who this Simon was: some scholars think, in the light of John 12:1-8, that he was the father or husband of Martha, Lazarus’ sister. The nickname ‘The Leper’ would not have been used pejoratively but rather as an indication that he had been a leper.
7. a woman came to him. John tells us that this woman was Mary the sister of Lazarus (John 12:3). But Matthew does not give her name. We will have to accept that she was still alive when he was writing his gospel and that he had sufficient reason not to name her.
with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume. Giving oil for guests to anoint themselves was a common custom (cf. Ps 23:5; Luke 7:46; SB I,986). Alabaster vessels were used especially for very expensive oils, such as the spikenard used here (Mark 14:3). Matthew and Mark (14:3) relate that the woman anointed Jesus’ head, but John (12:3) says that she anointed His feet. We must accept both. Moreover, Jesus says in v.12, ‘she poured this perfume on my body’.
8. “Why this waste?” The disciples, particularly Judas (John 12:4), were annoyed with the woman. They considered it a waste of money. Their annoyance did not arise from rejection of all avoidable luxuries on principle but, as in the case of the same Greek expression (aganaktein) in 20:24, from their jealousy.
9. “This perfume could have been sold. Litt. ‘for (Gk. gar) this perfume etc’. The disciples defend their attitude by condemning the woman’s action according to the generally accepted standards for good works. In this light they claim that the expensive oil should have been sold and the proceeds given in charity to the poor.
10. Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? Jesus, who sees through the disciples’ (v.8) incorrect attitude (‘aware of this’) places the woman under His protection by asking, ‘Why are you annoying the woman?’ He further rejects their opinion that she had not done a good work (v.9). For the woman has done a good work for Him. This is further explained in v.12.
11. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. Those who criticize have no eye for the times into which they have entered with Jesus, that is, the last days before His departure. For this reason Jesus draws their attention to the fact that they will always have the poor with them (cf. Deut 15:11), but not Him. For this reason alone the woman’s act of homage deserves priority over the giving of alms to the poor. But the relationship between the anointing and death of Jesus goes much further. Jesus reveals this in v.12.
12. she did it to prepare me for burial. Jesus values the woman’s action not only as an act of homage (v.10), but interprets the anointing as a work of charity that is more important than giving alms to the poor: the charitable action of burying the dead (‘she did it for my burial’). It was the Jewish custom to wash and anoint the bodies of the dead (SB I,987). Caring for and burying the dead was a religious duty in Israel, which took precedence over everything else and which was even more important than studying the Law! (SB I, 487-489).
We notice that Jesus expected to be executed as a criminal and therefore he would be buried without being anointed.
13. Jesus praises the woman’s deed and motivation and does not want to have it limited to those present. He assures her that her deed will be related in remembrance of her wherever the Gospel is preached, as an example to others. A reminder of a righteous person is a blessing for others. God’s message of salvation and man’s response in thankfulness may never be separated.
The Betrayal by Judas 26:14-16
14. After the anointing Judas went to the chief priests to make known to them his preparedness to cooperate in the murder of Jesus. Had Jesus’ speaking of His burial (v.8) driven him to despair? We read several reasons for his betrayal in Luke 22:3 and John 12:4ff. For the day on which this took place, see commentary on vv.2,3 and 6.
15. So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. The ‘silver coin’ means the Jewish shekel. Thirty shekels had the same value as 120 drachmae or denarii, about the same as wages for 120 days’ work. The Greek for ‘counted out’ (estsan) here means ‘fix’, ‘determine’ or even ‘weigh out’ (Bauer, s.v.). The sum was not paid but agreed and offered (cf. Mark 14:11, Luke 22:5-6).
The ‘weighing out’ and the ‘thirty silver coins’ point to Zech 11:12. It is there prophesied that the people will not esteem the services of the Shepherd above the value of a slave (cf. Exod 21:32: for killing a slave, thirty shekels were to be paid in recompense to his owner). This thanklessness is fully expressed in the decision of the Sanhedrin to put Jesus to death. Thirty pieces of silver were in fact the amount the Jewish people considered sufficient payment for what Jesus had done in the redemption of Israel.
16. Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. The Greek word for ‘opportunity’ (eukairia) is literally the ‘good (eu) moment or point of time (kairia). The delivery consisted in indicating the place where Jesus was to be found (John 18:2) and identifying Him (Matt 26:48).
Preparation for the Passover – Jesus Foretells His Betrayal 26:17-25
17. On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Popular opinion (in contrast to Num 28:16ff.) did not clearly distinguish the Passover (14th Nisan = March/April) from the Massot feast (15-21 Nisan), that is the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Both feasts were collectively termed the Passover or the Massot, as happened here. In the former case it might be said that the feast lasted eight days (cf. Jos. Ant.II,xv,1) and in the latter the day of the Passover, i.e., 14th Nisan, could be termed the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Preparations for the Passover included looking for a suitable room, buying a lamb, slaughtering it in the Temple and getting the meal ready in the afternoon.
18. … and tell him, ‘the Teacher says: … I am going to celebrate the Passover … at your house,’ Jesus said with authority, like a king speaking to his subjects. We must conclude from this that the adressed man was one of Jesus’ disciples, which is also confirmed by referring to ‘the Teacher’ and ‘My appointed time is near’ (that is to say, His death, vv. 2,12,29; cf. John 7:6-8), expressions which only make sense to those who believe (cf. Matt 21:3 and the commentary of this verse).
19. So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them. Not all the disciples went to prepare the Passover, but only two of them (Mark 14:13), whom Luke (Luke 22:8) names as Peter and John.
20. When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. The disciples have made the preparations for the Passover and when it was evening all were reclining at the table. In Jesus’ time the Passover meal proceeded as follows: the father of the family or the chief person of the house group gathered for the occasion (at least ten persons) opened the feast by uttering two blessings, the first on the entire feast, the second on the available wine. Then the first cup of wine was drunk. The food was brought in, consisting of unleavened bread (prepared without yeast), bitter herbs, stewed fruit and the roast lamb. The meaning of all this was explained by the father. After the first part of the song of praise (Ps 113-118) had been sung, the second cup was drunk. Then the father took bread, spoke the blessing over it, broke it and shared it out. It was eaten with the bitter herbs and the fruit. Only then was the passover lamb consumed. After the meal the head of the family blessed the third cup together with a concluding prayer of thanksgiving. Finally the second part of the song of praise was sung (cf. v.30).
Of all the things that were doubtless said and done during this meal that Jesus ate with His disciples only two are recorded: the foretelling of the betrayal (vv.21-25) and the celebration of the Supper (vv.26-29).
21. “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” Jesus’ announcement that one of His disciples will betray Him is considered less seriously than was intended, to judge from their reactions (v.22; cf. commentary on v.25). They will not have thought of His being handed over to the Jewish authorities but that some cowardly or ill-considered action will have serious consequences for Jesus’ safety.
22. “Surely not I, Lord?” Jesus’ foretelling that one of them will put Him in a difficult situation causes the disciples considerable sadness, but also in a certain sense frightens them. Who will it be? So they all react with the question, ‘Lord is it I?’ Judas asks too, but is the last! (v.25).
23. “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. Jesus does not reveal who the traitor will be, which becomes clear from the indefinite ‘he’ from v.24 and Judas’ answer in v.25. ‘He who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me’. This was not a special action, but a normal one. They ate with their hands: pieces of bread held in the hand were dipped into a dish containing stewed fruit, and eaten. Jesus is speaking about someone who has eaten with Him, one of those who were sitting at table with Him. In words reminiscent of Ps 41:9 He says as in v.21, One of you, one of my friends eating with me, will betray Me.
24. The Son of Man will go (for Son of Man, see commentary on 8:20) is a euphemism for, He must die. Jesus emphasizes that His death is no chance affair but happens as is written about Him, i.e., as the prophets foretold (Isa 53, esp. vv.5 and 12; Zech 13:7 and elsewhere).
woe to that man (cf.18:7): in the first place ‘woe’ has to do with sadness, but also with judgment, for it would be better for the betrayer if he had not been born (cf. 18:6). Although everything happens according to the will of God, the betrayer may not be excused. The counsel of God does not eliminate man’s responsibility.
25. “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Judas is now the last to ask, ‘Rabbi, is it I?’ Hypocritically he repeats the others’ question (v.22) so as to arouse no suspicion. Compared with ‘Lord’ (v.22) the weaker ‘Rabbi’ is noteworthy.
“Yes, it is you” or “you yourself have said it”. Jesus now lets Judas know that He has seen through him and answers, ‘you yourself have said it.’ This is not a usual but indeed an unambiguous confirmation (cf. v.64; 27:11). The initial ‘you’ (Gk. su [sing.]) takes the stress and is opposed to the ‘I’ of the speaker: you have said so, and I do not have to say any more, or I would not have said it on my own account.
Apparently the other disciples have not understood the whole business very well and have taken it less seriously than was intended (cf. commentary on v.21), for there was no attempt to frustrate Judas’ resolution.
Jesus Institutes the Lord’s Supper 26:26-30
26. While they were eating, Jesus took bread. The bread is the unleavened bread prescribed for a Passover meal. The blessing, breaking and distribution of bread is the usual Jewish way in which the father of a family begins a meal. When this occurred during the Passover meal, see commentary on v.20. The Passover meal, however, now becomes the Lord’s Supper. If Jesus asks a manner of eating and drinking of His disciples which does not belong to the Passover ceremonial and brings it into direct relationship with His Person, what is new is set in contrast to the Passover and in fact replaces it. This also appears in the words of Jesus: ‘This is My Body’. While the Jews referred to the lamb as ‘the body of the Passover’ (Mishnah, Pesachim 10,3), Jesus now speaks of His own Body. He is the new Passover Lamb, whose death ushers in the New Covenant (v.28; cf. 1 Cor 5:7).
this is my body. ‘Is’ does not mean ‘is identical to’, for the bread and Jesus’ body existed separately both before and after the meal. Nor may one interpret ‘is’ as being analogous with situations under the Old Covenant in the sense of ‘symbolizes’. For the situation described here surpasses the Old Covenant. For Jesus announced that the companionship round the table with His friends is coming to an end and will only be continued in the Kingdom of the Father after an interval (v.29). During this interval He will give Himself in a new way. It will no longer be His personal companionship at table, but eating and drinking His bread and wine now becomes the means of communion and imparts spiritual gifts. Hence ‘is’ must be explained in the sense of ‘represents’ (cf. John 11:25; 14:6, etc.).
27. Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them. The second part of the Lord’s Supper, the circulation of the cup, occurred after the meal. This cup, over which Jesus spoke the blessing, was the third of the Passover meal, the ‘cup of thanksgiving’ (see commentary on v.20). According to the prescription for the Passover the cup was filled with wine. Jesus will have uttered the excessive sounding ‘Drink from it, all of you’ in connection with the unusual practice of a common cup, but it also emphasizes the importance of this cup (cf. ‘for’ in v.28). In contrast to the custom that each one had his own cup, Jesus now gives His disciples the ‘cup of thanksgiving’, from which they all must drink one by one.
28. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. The words belong to the language of sacrifice and point to Exod 24:8: ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you’. The New Covenant was prophesied in Jer 31:31-34. So we observe that Jesus here presents Himself as a sacrifice, the new Passover Lamb (commentary on v.26), whose death institutes the New Covenant which was foreshadowed in the making of the covenant on Sinai (Exod 24:8; cf. Heb 9:18-20) and is predicted for the time of salvation (Jer 31:31-34). His death is substitutionary.
Apart from the sacrifices, these words of Jesus also point to the Servant of the Lord in Isa 53. The Semitic use of ‘many’ (Gk. polloi) in the meaning of ‘all’ (cf. Rom 5:12 and 19) is namely a keyword in Isa 53 (no less than five times with this meaning). ‘Poured out’ is reminiscent of Isa 53:12: ‘because he poured his life out unto death’, for here blood has the theological sense of the bearer of life (Lev 17:11). Blood that is shed is life that is given. We therefore conclude that one day before Jesus’ death He is yet again (cf. Matt 3:17; 17:5) proclaimed to be the Servant of the Lord, of whom it was prophesied that He would die as a substitute for all men.
for the forgiveness of sins. The blessing imparted by the cup is the New Covenant (cf. 1 Cor 11:25; 2 Cor 3:6; Heb 8:8,13; 9:15), i.e., God’s new institution, by which he places men in a new relationship to Himself through the forgiveness of sins. For the meaning of ‘is’ (Gk. estin), see commentary on v.26.
29. this fruit of the vine. The ‘fruit of the vine’ is an expression for ‘wine’ (Bauer, s.v. genma; cf. Num 6:4; Isa 32:12).
I will not drink … from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”. The Greek word kainos (‘anew’) does not mean ‘again, once more’, but ‘in a new exalted way’, as everything in the Father’s Kingdom (cf. 13:43) will be completely new (Rev 21:5). Here Jesus announces that an end has come to His companionship with the disciples at the Passover meal, but that this companionship will be continued after an interval in a new way in the future Kingdom (cf. Matt 8:11; Rev 19:9). Through these words about the feasting and companionship in the Kingdom of the Father, the Lord’s Supper (vv.26-28) comes to represent a foretaste of what awaits us in a short while. Jesus’ words on the bread and the cup (vv.26,28) provide an answer to the question of how things will be in the interim.
30. When they had sung a hymn. After the first part of the Hallel (Ps 113-114) had been sung to accompany the second cup, the second part (Ps 115-118) was sung at the end of the Passover meal. After the meal Jesus left Jerusalem and went with His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane (v.36) on the Mount of Olives.
Peter’s Denial Predicted 26:31-35
31. “This very night you will all fall away on account of me. On the way Jesus declares emphatically that during this night everyone will be offended because of Him. And although all the disciples protested at this and denied it just as emphatically (v.35), it did indeed happen (v.56). See commentary on Matt 11:6 for ‘being offended’ (Gk. skandalizesthai) because of Jesus.
“‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ The quotation is from Zech 13:7. The alteration from imperative (‘smite’) to future (‘I will smite’) does not affect the content (cf. Zech 13:7c: ‘I will …’), but emphasizes that killing the shepherd is a divine action. Jesus is the promised Good Shepherd, the ‘man who is close’ to God (Zech 13:7a), who will be stricken by Him and through whose death the flock will be scattered. Just as ‘… all will be offended because of Me’ is reminiscent of Isa 52:14, so may the ‘I will’ be linked to Isa 53:6b: ‘… the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all’. The stricken Shepherd is namely the Servant of the Lord, who accepts in our place God’s judgment that should fall on the whole people. ‘Being scattered’ is a judgment consequent on the Shepherd’s fate. The disciples’ flight when Jesus was arrested (vv.55-56) is only a prelude to the scattering of and the judgment on the whole people of Israel, which was to follow the death of the Good Shepherd (Zech 13:7-9; cf. Matt 23:38-39).
32. But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” The imagery of v.31 is continued in this verse: the shepherd who leads his flock. The verse is therefore a continuation of the prophecy of v.31. But with this difference: v.31 quotes Zech 13:7b literally, whereas v.32 is a free reproduction and interpretation of Zech 13:7c: ‘and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones’ (KJV). As in Zech 13:7-9, emphasis is put on the formation of a faithful remnant, of which the little ones are the beginning (vv.7c,8b,9b), so here the stress lies on the promise of v.32. Jesus’ death introduces a period of scattering and oppression (v.31), but His resurrection ushers in a period of reunion and renewal (cf. Zech 13:9b). In Jerusalem, the disciples were scattered by the death of Jesus, but in Galilee they were reunited by the risen Lord (Matt 28:7b,10,16).
33. “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” Peter’s response links in with Jesus’ words from v.31, that in that night they would all forsake Him (skandalizesthai, see commentary on 11:6). Peter’s rashness is apparent from his reaction, although he is doubtless speaking from a fiery depth of feeling. To be accurate, he demonstrates three closely related faults: a. unbelief in the words Jesus has just uttered (31); b. contempt of his brethren (‘Even if all … I never will’); c. a high opinion of himself coupled with a painful self-assurance. Both the Greek personal pronoun ego (‘I’) and the use of ‘never’ instead of ‘not’ lay great stress on ‘I never will’.
34. “this very night, before the cock crows, you will disown me three times.” Jesus does not so much repeat the general pronouncement of v.31 (‘told them’) but gives in response to Peter’s reaction (v.33) a concrete application to him with considerable emphasis (I tell you – i.e. Peter – the truth). The words are directed exclusively to Peter and Jesus mentions in concrete terms the time and manner in which he will fall: before the cock crows, that is before first light (within a few hours), Peter will deny his Lord three times (vv.69-75).
35. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” But despite this specific application to himself (v.34), Peter’s self-assurance increases and he now speaks more boldly than in v.33: even if I die with you, I will not deny you.
And all the other disciples said the same. Just as Peter has spoken, they ‘all’ speak now (see commentary on v.31).
Jesus Prays in the Garden of Gethsemane 26:36-46
36. Then Jesus went … to a place called Gethsemane. Gethsemane (‘oil-press’) was the name of a garden on the further bank of the brook Kedron (John 18:1), probably at the foot of the Mount of Olives (cf. v.30: Luke 22:39). The precise site is uncertain. According to Luke (22:39), it was Jesus’ custom to go there to pray (cf. John 18:2).
“Sit here while I go over there and pray.” While the disciples are bragging of their supposed abilities Jesus is not ashamed to show weakness: He separates Himself as on previous occasions (Matt 14:23; Mark 1:33) to seek strength in prayer. But it is noteworthy that while Jesus goes to a place that He indicates (‘over there’), He expressly orders most of His disciples to stay behind.
37. He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him. Jesus took three disciples with him, as had happened twice previously (Mark 5:37; Matt 17:1): Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John. These three were now the witnesses of Jesus’ inner strife and weakness, as they had previously been witnesses of His glory (Matt 17:1). For now He began to be sorrowful and disturbed.
and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. The word lupesthai (‘to be sorrowful’) is the most common Greek word for ‘to be sorrowful’. But admonein (to be troubled) is a very powerful expression and indicates great mental stress or anguish (LSJ s.v.). In the NT, only here and in Phil 2:26.
38. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. In the first part of this verse, Jesus says, with a reminiscence of the OT (Ps 42:5,11; 43:5 LXX) the same things as Matthew recorded in v.37. To be sorrowful ‘to the point of death’ is an extremely strong expression and means, to be so sorrowful that one would rather be dead (cf. Jude 16:16; 1 Kings 19:4).
Stay here and keep watch with me. He further tells these three disciples that not only must they remain behind, as He has told the others (v.36), but also that they must watch with Him. They are told to watch with Jesus, not with immediate danger in mind, for in that case the other disciples would have received the same instruction, but with the ensuing prayer in mind, to which they were to bear witness (see commentary on v.37).
39. he fell with his face to the ground and prayed. Just as Abraham (Gen 22:5) and Moses (Exod 19:3-7) had done in the OT, Jesus now separates Himself to receive a revelation from God in isolation. ‘To fall on one’s face’ is a humble attitude of prayer in which the head and the knees touch the ground (cf. Gen 17:3; Luke 17:16).
if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. ‘Cup’ is a normal figurative expression in the OT for judgment and suffering at the hand of God (cf. Ps 75:8; Isa 51:17,22; Jer 25:15; 51:7). The prayer that the cup might pass from him was not only a wish for an escape from a hopeless situation, for then Jesus could also have tried to flee. But He counts on the possibility that God can complete His plan of salvation to institute the Kingdom without any preceding suffering. At the same time He confesses His preparedness to do the Father’s will: “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” In this hour Jesus had to regain in prayer the clear knowledge of the Father’s will, which had long been laid down for Him and about which He had spoken several times (Matt 16:21-26:24).
40. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” Jesus, who strives in prayer full of sorrow and anguish, now finds the three disciples asleep whom He had instructed to watch with Him. He addresses Peter, who on the way to Gethsemane shortly before had spoken so boldly (vv.33,35). Jesus’ words ‘Could you not watch with Me one hour?’ breathe disappointment and sadness, but not bitterness. To the very end He remains gentle toward His disciples.
41. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. Watching, now mentioned in the same breath as praying, acquires a deeper dimension here than in vv.38 and 40. It is not just literally staying awake, but now has a figurative meaning: be watchful. Watch and pray is a single concept; to watch is to pray, and he who prays is watchful. The disciples must pray that they do not fall away when temptation comes (cf. Matt 6:13), which Jesus had said it would in v.31 and which is now close at hand. For the tension between God’s plan of salvation and temptation in the world has repercussions in the life of the believer. It leads to the believer’s struggle with himself.
The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” The ‘spirit’ is a man’s spirit which has been redeemed by God from the power of sin and which is inspired by the Holy Spirit (Ps 51;12b; cf. Rom 8:16). ‘Body’ or ‘flesh’ (Gk. sarx) is an expression for man within his natural limitations, i.e., by virtue of the power of sin is not able to know God (Matt 16:17) and do His will. For this reason the disciples are to pray that they will be preserved in temptation because, although the ‘spirit’ is willing to obey God, the ‘flesh’ is weak and slow.
42. “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away. Jesus now goes to pray for the second time. This indicates that He has not had an adequate hearing in His first prayer, which does not mean that the first prayer was unfruitful. The first time, Jesus prayed ‘if it is possible …’ (v.39). Now He says, ‘if it may not …’ Hence we see that He first prayed in the knowledge that with God all things are possible (cf. Matt 19:26), but now He declares that what He originally desired was not possible or not in accordance with His Father’s will. This knowledge of the Father’s will is a fruit of the first prayer.
may your will be done.” A second fruit is that Jesus now prays in deeper surrender. This appears in words ‘may your will be done’ or ‘thy will be done’ (KJV, cf. Matt 6:10).
43. he again found them sleeping. Jesus finds them asleep for the second time. He does not address them at this time, as after the first prayer (v.40). On a previous occasion when Jesus had taken these three disciples apart to be witnesses of an exceptional revelation, the Transfiguration (Matt 17:1ff.), they were also overcome by sleep (Luke 9:32).
44. So he … went away … and prayed the third time. Jesus now gives himself to prayer for the third time. As Elijah before Him (1 Kings 17:21) and Paul later (2 Cor 12:8) Jesus has to engage in prayer three times to get an answer.
Saying the same thing. Jesus did not pray with an excess of words, although he prayed many times, but briefly and with the same words (cf. Matt 6:7). The prayer ‘in spirit and truth’ (John 4:23) does not consist of beautiful words or preformulated prayers, but comes directly from a man’s heart.
45. “Are you still sleeping and resting? Because of the first meaning of the Greek to loipon (‘the rest’, here translated with ‘still’) the sentence must not so much be regarded as a question but more as a command (cf.KJV): sleep for the time that is still left, and take your rest (also according to the punctuation of both N26 and TR), in the sense of ‘carry on sleeping and resting’. The words now do not breathe disappointment and sorrow as they did the first time (v.40), but shepherdly sympathy: He permits them to rest. Although the three have failed, Jesus’ love and concern still goes out to them after He had sought and obtained strength in a marvellous struggle in prayer. The remaining time will be of short duration, for the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners (cf. commentary on Matt 17:22; 20:18-19; 26:2).
46. Rise, let us go! The moment when rest is over approaches. Did it last a quarter of an hour, half an hour? Jesus says, ‘Rise, let us go’. For He knew in His Spirit that His betrayer (Judas Iscariot, cf. vv.20-25) was near. But what did He mean by ‘Let us go’? Flee? No, the exact opposite. He goes to meet those who hate Him (cf. John 18:4). As surely as the word is fulfilled that the Son of Man ‘is delivered’ (v.45), so too is also the fact that He ‘delivers Himself’.
Jesus Arrested 26:47-56
47. While Jesus was still speaking, Judas approached with a squad of armed men which he had brought along from the Sanhedrin (the chief priests and the elders). The squad consisted of Roman soldiers (cf. John 18:3,12), who carried swords as a general rule, members of the Temple guard (cf. v.55; John 18:3), who were usually armed with truncheons (SB II,570) and at least one of the High Priests’s personal slaves (v.51). The comment that Judas was one of the Twelve emphasizes how repulsive the crime was. Jesus is betrayed by one of His friends.
48. “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” The agreement had been made that Judas would kiss Jesus as a sign for the soldiers, who did not know Him. We have already read of the traitor’s false kiss in the OT: Gen 27:26ff.; 2 Sam 15:5; Prov 7:13; 27:6. Because we do not find in the Gospels the information that the disciples kissed Jesus, this may be considered an unusual action. This emphasizes yet again the hypocrisy and falsity of the kiss, that token of affection and respect. In this way Judas misuses the kiss, the sign of affection, as a sign of treachery.
49. “Greetings, Rabbi!” ‘Greetings’ (Gk. chaire) is derived from the verb chair, which means ‘to rejoice’. It is a common greeting (Matt 27:29; 28:9; John 19:3; cf. Acts 15:23; James 1:1) with the same meaning as ‘Peace be with you’. ‘Rabbi’ is an honorific and means ‘my master’ (cf. Matt 23:7; 26:25).
50. “Friend, do what you came for.” In contrast to the simulated affection and respect with which Judas approached Jesus (see v.49: the kiss and the honorific ‘rabbi’) Jesus adopts a certain distance in His response: He does not call Judas by his name, but says, ‘Friend’. ‘Friend’ is indeed an expression of familiarity, but was generally used when speaking to someone whose name was not known! (cf. Matt 20:13; 22:12).
Jesus’ answer to Judas may be translated in two ways: a. as an exclamation: ‘Friend, have you come for this!?’ (to betray me with a kiss); b. as an incomplete sentence (aposiopesis): ‘Friend, (‘I know’, or ‘do’) what you have come to do’. In both cases, however, Jesus’ words and the corresponding but independent verse in Luke 22:48 indicate that He not only knew in advance the fact of the betrayal and the name of the betrayer (vv.21:25) but also how, i.e., that He would be betrayed with a kiss. After these words Jesus was seized by the armed men (v.47).
51. one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword. Matthew does not state who drew the sword, what was the name of the servant and what happened to him (cf. Luke 22:51; Joh.18:10). He only wants to describe the mood and atmosphere at the time of Jesus’ arrest. Consequently, it is unlikely that the cutting off the ear was an attempt to make him unfit for priesthood (cf. Flavius Josephus, Ant.XIV,xiii,10) or an indirect attack on and an insult of his master (cf. 2 Sam 10:4ff.; Matt 21:33ff.), but it was rather the result of armed resistance (see v.52; Joh.18:11). That ‘one of Jesus’ companions’ was bearing a sword was not uncommon (cf. Luke 22:38).
52. Put your sword back into its place’. Armed combat was avoided by Jesus’ command.
In vv.52b-54 He gives three reasons (‘for’) saying this: firstly, All who draw the sword will die by the sword. We find this divine law also in Gen 9:6; it means that those who take up arms on their own account (in contrast to the government, Rom 13:4) and kill another person must themselves be put to death. Using the sword on one’s own initiative conflicts with God’s law.
53. Secondly it was absolutely unnecessary for the sword to be drawn. For had he so desired, Jesus could have had thousand of angels at His disposal from the Father (cf. Ps 91:11ff.; 2 Kings 6:16ff; 19:35).
twelve legions of angels. ‘Legion’ is a military term. It was the main division of the Roman army and consisted of about 6,000 men. Twelve legions of angels in contrast to twelve insignificant men, that is, Jesus and His apostles?
On the presence of ten thousands of angels see Heb 12:22.
54. how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled. The third reason Jesus mentions is that what had been written in the OT must be fulfilled. ‘The Scriptures’ here means all the Holy Scriptures of the OT, cf. Luke 24:27.
it must happen in this way. ‘Must’ means in accordance with God’s plan of salvation (cf. Dan 2:28ff., 45; Matt 16:21; 24:6).
We may think of the following texts: Isa 53:5,12 (Matt 17:22, etc.); 53:10ff. (Matt 20:28); 53:12 (Matt 26:28; 27:38); Zech 13:7 (Matt 26:31).
55. “Am I leading a rebellion …? Jesus here expresses His wonderment at what is happening. The way in which He has been approached, with sticks and swords, is incomprehensible. The only explanation is that given in v.56. He had taught the people daily (during this last week, Luke 21:37-38) in the temple as a rabbi, and the chief priests and the elders had not seized Him.
I sat in the temple courts teaching. To teach while seated (cf. Matt 5:1ff.; 13:1ff.; 23:2; 24:3; Acts 16:13) and to use the Temple courts for this purpose (cf. Acts 2:46; 3:11ff., 5:12) was normal in Jesus’ days.
56. this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Jesus says that the Scriptures must be fulfilled both with respect to him who had taken the sword (vv.50,54) and to the people present (vv.55,56a). Although we may well cite the same Scriptures as in v.54, yet because of the question in v.55 that is answered in v.56 we must think in the first instance of Isa 53:12, where we read ‘he was numbered with the transgressors’ (cf. v.55; Matt 27:38).
Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. For the flight of the disciples as a temporary fulfilment of the prophecy in v.31, see commentary. All the disciples abandoned Jesus and fled (see v.35), including Peter, but see v.58.
Jesus before the Sanhedrin 26:57-68
57. Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest. The Jewish authorities’ proceedings against Jesus fell into three phases, as did that of the Gentile authorities (see commentary on Matt 27:2): a. before Annas (John 18:12-14, 19-23); b. before the Sanhedrin, at night (Matt 26:57); c. before the Sanhedrin, in the morning (Matt 27:1). Matthew does not mention the first hearing at the house of Annas, Caiaphas’ father-in-law. During the night meeting of the Sanhedrin the unanimous decision was taken that Jesus deserved the death penalty (Matt 26:66), while the formal sentence was passed the next morning at a second meeting (Matt 27:1). The night meeting did not take place in the normal meeting-hall of the Sanhedrin, which was in the Temple complex, for this was closed at night (SB I,997), but at the house of the High Priest Caiaphas (cf. Matt 26:3, Luke 22:54). For Caiaphas see commentary on Matt 26:3.
58. Peter followed him at a distance. The impression that Peter was the only one to follow Jesus is incorrect (see John 18:15-16; Mark 14:51-52). Although Peter followed at a distance, the verbal form (the imperfect) emphasises that he continued to try to be as close to Jesus as possible.
right up to the courtyard of the high priest. In connection with v.69 we have here to regard the Greek word aul not as the palace itself (as in v.3) but the inner court (Lat. atrium), an open square surrounded by rooms and apartments, to which access was gained through an archway (v.71).
to see the outcome. Peter attained this inner court and sat among the servants to see the outcome. The Greek word for ‘outcome’ (telos) does not simply mean the course of circumstances, the end, but also the goal.
59. The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus. Jesus had to appear before and be heard by the whole Sanhedrin, which had assembled in the house of Caiaphas (v.57). Chief Priests and elders, see commentary on Matt 16:21. The attempt was made at this night meeting to accuse Jesus of unlawful actions or utterances by means of false witnesses, to find a legal pretext for the murder long since decided upon (Matt 26:4). Matthew speaks from his own standpoint of the search for false witnesses, while the High Council tried from its position to find a witnes against Jesus. He relates that the Council could find none (v.60).
60. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. A valid testimony required at least two witnesses (Deut 17:6; 19:15). If they contradicted each other in some respect, their testimony was invalid. This was the case here (Mark 14:56,59). For this reason the witnesses are called false, because they gave a false testimony, accidentally or deliberately. Although many men came forward as witnesses no legally valid witness was found against Jesus. But finally two came forward.
61. ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’ Finally two witnesses came forward (the required minimum, see commentary on v.60), who brought forward a blasphemous utterance of Jesus: He attacked the Temple, the dwelling-place of God. Blasphemy, which carried the death penalty (Lev 24:16) was interpreted broadly by the Jews (cf. Matt 9:3; 27:65; John 10:30ff.). But they did not understand Jesus’ utterance and have not repeated it correctly.
Jesus did indeed speak about the building of a new temple, but He was speaking about the Messianic Temple which would comprise the Messiah and His church (Matt 21:42; cf. 12:6; 16:8). He also foretold the destruction of the old Temple (Matt 23:38; 24:2), and challenged the Jews to destroy the temple of His Body, which they did not understand (John 2:19-22). But Jesus never said, ‘I will (Mark 14:58) or I can (Matt ) destroy the temple (in Jerusalem) and rebuild it within three days’.
Three days, see commentary on Matt 12:40 and 17:23.
62. “Are you not going to answer? The High Priest did not regard Jesus’ silence as acquiescence (see v.63), but it annoyed him, for although he was accustomed to direct the Sanhedrin while seated (SB I,1005), he now rised from his seat and addressed Jesus impatiently. But Jesus remained silent (v.63a, cf. Isa 53:7).
63. “I charge you under oath by the living God. As Jesus remained silent, the High Priest adjured Him by the living God to tell the truth (cf. Exod 13:19; 1 Kings 22:16; 2 Chron 36:13). This involved his putting Jesus under oath for the following question to emphasize the seriousness of the proceeding and the inevitability of the answer. In content the High Priest did not return to the point of the foregoing accusation, but in response to it asked a more general question: ‘Are You the Messiah?’ The Sanhedrin had never yet had any certainty in this vital aspect, not even from the official deputation in Matt 21:23ff.
Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God. ‘Son of God’ gives a closer description of the title Messiah, and according to OT usage implies that the Messiah attributes His power to an exceptional covenant, a unique relationship with God (cf. Matt 16:16).
64. “Yes, it is as you say. After the High Priest’s adjuration in v.63 Jesus’ answer ‘it is as you say’ can be regarded as nothing other than a declaration under oath. But it is not a simple confirmation, as Mark relates (Mark 14:62, ‘I am’). ‘It is as you say’ is agreement, but implies that the speaker would have said it differently, or that the questioners do not understand what they are asking. Luke (Luke 22:70) expresses it, ‘You are right in saying I am’.
you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” In contrast to the preceding, Jesus spoke these words on His own initiative and with authority (‘I say to all of you’). The words are reminiscent of Ps 110:1 (‘Sit at my right hand’) and Dan 7:13 (‘one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven’). ‘The Mighty one’ (litt. ‘the power’) is a Jewish periphrasis for God and replaces the divine ‘my’ from Ps 110:1. ‘Son of Man’, see commentary on Matt 8:20. In these words Jesus wanted to demonstrate His opponents’ false image of the Messiah (political victory) and proclaim with authority that the fulfilment of the prophecies quoted is at hand. Two climaxes in the history of salvation – in this case Jesus’ exaltation and His return in glory – are mentioned in the same breath, as occurred quite often in the prophetic word. This juxtaposition of two points declares that Jesus says that the Sanhedrin will see His coming in glory (Matt 23:39; 24:30) but also His exaltation, which did not occur in fact.
In the future, or ‘from now on’, ‘hereafter’. This suggests an end and a beginning. It is the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the beginning of a new period, the time between the first and second coming. It will be both a time of separation (Matt 23:39; 26:29) and division (Luke 12:52) and a time of divine rule by Jesus Christ. The hour of Jesus’ deepest humiliation is also the start of His exaltation.
65. the high priest tore his clothes. Rending one’s garments was originally a sign of grief (Gen 37:29), but later became a tradition (SB I, 1007ff.). Despite the prohibitions in Lev 10:6 and 21:10 the High Priest rented his clothes and said that incontrovertible proof of blasphemy had been given. He saw no need of further witnesses, which we must regard in the respect that two members of the Council were able to bear witness to the blasphemy.
“He has spoken blasphemy! Although the Jews had a broad interpretation of blasphemy (cf. Matt 9:3, the forgiveness of sins; John 10:3:ff., ‘I and the Father are one’) the fact that Jesus said He was the Messiah was not blasphemous in itself. It’s more probable that Jesus’ voluntarily added words in v.64 (‘I say to all of you …’) were regarded as blasphemous, because He claimes without divine authorisation that He will take His place at the right hand of God and will return in heavenly glory as the Son of Man, to rule for ever with divine authority (Dan 7:13-14).
66. “He is worthy of death,” they answered. Although the legal sentence of death was not passed here (that happens in 27:1), the purpose of this meeting by night has been achieved (cf. 26:59). It should be noted here that in Jesus’ trial the Halachic procedure was broken both in terms of content and form. A blasphemer might be sentenced to death if certain conditions were fulfilled, for example, what we read in the Mishnah tractate Sanhedrin (7,5): ‘the blasphemer is not guilty unless he utters the Name itself’. Formally too the law was trodden underfoot, as appears from the following quotation from the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 4,1): ‘… in the case of capital crimes the proceedings shall be held by day and the sentence must be pronounced by day … in the case of capital crimes acquittal may be pronounced on the same day, but a sentence of punishment must be pronounced on the following day. For this reason no trial can be held on the day before a sabbath or on the day before a festival.’ It is clear that at the trial of Jesus no proper sentence was sought, but that the whole meeting of the Sanhedrin had been called with the purpose of getting rid of Jesus.
67. Then they spat in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him. According to Luke (Luke 22:63) it was the servants in particular who did this, with the full approval of the Sanhedrin. In fulfilment of the prophecy (Isa 50:6) they spat in and struck Jesus’ face. In the East, this is the gravest form of despisal and insult (cf. Num 12:14; Job 30:10). After ‘striking with their fists’ (Gk. kolaphiz), slapping (Gk. rhapiz) is apparently not ‘strike in the face’ but ‘strike with sticks’ (Bauer, s.v.). Compare also Isa 50:6: ‘I gave my back to the smiters …’.
68. “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?” They now play Blind Man’s Bluff with Jesus (cf. Mark 14:65; Luke 22:64) and mockingly ask Him to exercise His prophetic gift of clairvoyance and say who struck Him. After the spitting and striking, it was another way to taunt and mock Him. The use of ‘prophesy’ may also indicate that Jesus was accused to the Sanhedrin as a false prophet. As such He should die (see Deut 18:20) and be treated as a deterrent during the feast (cf. Deut 17:12-13).
Peter’s Denial 26:69-75
69. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” This verse is linked to v.58. Peter was still sitting outside in the inner court. A slave girl, who had recognized him as someone who went about with Jesus, approached Peter and spoke to him about it. John (18:17) knows that the slave girl is the janitress with whom the ‘other disciple’ (John 18:15) had spoken before Peter was admitted.
70. But he denied it before them all. Peter denied it, i.e., he contradicted the slave girl’s remark in the hearing of all present. For he said, I don’t know what you are talking about, in other words, How do you come by that? I do not understand what you mean. His previous courage (vv.33 and 35) had evaporated. He was now afraid and thought more of his own safety than of His Master.
71. Then he went out to the gateway. After the confrontation as described in vv.69-70 Peter now tried to escape the company and went to the entrance. There he was noticed by a second slave girl, who said to the bystanders in Peter’s hearing: “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” It is obvious (in contrast to Mark 14:69) that this second slave girl was a different one from the first (cf. Luke 22:58).
Jesus of Nazareth. Nazarene (a man from Nazareth) and Galilean (v.69) are terms of denigration. For their prophetic meaning see commentary on Matt 2:23.
72. He denied it again, with an oath. Peter denies Jesus for the second time, now even with an oath to put a violent end to the conversation. May God punish him if he knew the man (in a derogatory sense!). Peter did not claim to know nothing of Jesus, but that there was no personal connection between them (Bauer, oida,2). We still use ‘know’ in the same sense ‘to know somebody’ and ‘to know God’.
73. “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.” After a short while (apparently he had not gone out through the porch) Peter was addressed for the third time. This time it was the bystanders, who affirmed stoutly, You are one of them, for your way of speech betrays you. They had recognized his Galilean dialect. In itself this was not a proof that he was associated with Jesus, but they had no doubts after what the maids had said.
74. Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them. Peter’s denial reached a climax on this third confrontation, which is apparent in the duplication of words (curse and swear) used by the evangelist. Matthew doubtless means that Peter used even stronger oaths on this occasion than previously. ‘Curse’, like swear, must be regarded as a conditional cursing of oneself (see commentary on v.72). Peter succeeded in soothing his listerners’ doubts, after which they left him in peace.
We note the contrast with Jesus. When questioned by the Sanhedrin (vv.57-68), Jesus remained true to His divine calling for the sake of His own people, and was put to death for it. But Peter, when questioned by servants, denied his Master and escaped scot-free! And then we read, immediately a rooster crowed (see v.34).
75. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken. The crowing of the cock brought Peter to his senses. He remembered the words Jesus had spoken to him (v.34). In this account we do not just see the contrast between the Lord’s steadfastness and man’s weakness (commentary on v.74) but also the detailed fulfilment of Jesus’ prophecy. It was this last that brought Peter to his senses and broke him. His unfaithfulness oppressed him so heavily that he could no longer control himself. He went outside and wept bitterly.