The Jerusalem authorities plot to kill Jesus. He is anointed at Bethany. Judas agrees to betray Jesus. The disciples prepare the Passover for them and him. He institutes the Last Supper and the New Covenant. He foretells Peter’s denial. He prays in Gethsemane. He is betrayed and arrested. He stands before the high priest and council. Peter denies Jesus. See the Table on Passion Week at the end of this post.
As I write in the introduction to every chapter:
This translation and commentary is offered for free, gratis, across the worldwide web to Christians in oppressive (persecuting) or developing countries, who cannot afford printed commentaries or Study Bibles, though everyone can use the commentary and entire website, of course.
The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section, for discipleship.
The Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at biblehub.com. However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. A pronunciation guide is also offered. But I keep things nontechnical.
The translation is mine. I do not offer it in competition with the excellent published ones or because I think mine is better or necessary. I wrote it to learn what the Greek text really says. The translation tends to be literal, but complete literalism and readability are impossible, so adjustments had to be made. If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.
Links are provided for further study.
The Plot to Kill Jesus (Matt. 26:1-5)
1 And so it happened that when Jesus finished all these words, he said to his disciples, 2 “You know that after two days the Passover takes place, and the Son of Man is handed over to be crucified.” 3 At that time the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the courtyard of the high priest named Caiaphas. 4 Together they plotted to seize Jesus by stealth and kill him. 5 But they were saying, “Not at the feast, so that there is no uproar among the people.”
Here is a list of the major events in Matthew’s narrative:
1.. Preparation of the disciples (26:1-46)
2.. Arrest at Gethsemane (26:47-56)
3.. Trial before Caiaphas (26:57-68)
4.. Peter’s three denials (26:69-75)
5.. Trial before Pilate (27:1-2, 11-26), with the interwoven account of Judas’s suicide (27:3-10)
6.. Jesus mocked and crucified (27:27-56)
7.. Jesus buried by Joseph of Arimathea (27:57-61)
8.. Jesus’s resurrection and its denial (27:62-28:15)
9.. The Great Commission (28:16-20)
Source: Turner, p. 613
This pericope (puh-RIH-koh-pea) or section or unit of Scripture launches the final, large climax (26-28) of Matthew’s Gospel and indeed of Jesus’s life. Matthew sets up the scene and reintroduces the main characters: Jesus, his disciples, chief priests (Luke includes teachers of the law), elders of the people, the high priest Caiaphas, and the people (crowds).
“disciples”: the noun is mathētēs (singular and pronounced mah-they-tayss), and it is used 261 times in the NT, though many of them are duplicates in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, and it says of the noun that it means (1) “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice”; (2) “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent.”
“he finished these words”: “words” could be translated “teachings,” for the noun is plural. Now let’s explore this key term.
As I note in many places in this commentary, it is the Greek noun logos (pronounced loh-goss and is used 330 times in the NT). Since it is so important, let’s explore the noun more deeply.
It is rich and full of meaning. It always has built into it rationality and reason. It has spawned all sorts of English words that end in –log-, like theology or biology, or have the log– stem in them, like logic.
Though certain Renewalists (Pentecostals, Charismatics and Neo-Charismatics) may not like to hear it, there is a rational side to the Word of God, and a moment’s thought proves it. The words you’re reading right now are placed in meaningful and logical and rational order. The Bible is also written in that way. If it weren’t, then it would be nonsense and confusing, and we couldn’t understand the gibberish. (Even your prophecies have to make logical and rational sense on some level.) Your Bible studies and Sunday morning sermons have to make sense, also. Jesus’s words also have Bible-based logic and rational argumentation built into it. People need to be ministered to in this way. God gave us minds and brains and expects us to use them. Your preaching cannot always be so flashy and shrieky and so outlandishly entertaining that people are not fed in the long term. Movements like that don’t last over the years without the Word. I have observed this from firsthand experience in certain sectors of the Renewal Movement.
People have the deepest need to receive solid teaching. Never become so outlandishly supernatural and entertaining that you neglect the reasonable and rational and logical side of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible.
On the other side of the word logos, people get so intellectual that they build up an exclusive Christian caste of intelligentsia that believe they alone can teach and understand the Word. Not true. Just study Scripture with Bible helps and walk in the Spirit, as they did in Acts. Combining Word and Spirit is the balanced life.
“Son of Man”: it both means the powerful, divine Son of Man (Dan. 7:13-14) and the human son of man—Ezekiel himself—in the book of Ezekiel (numerous references). Jesus was and still is in heaven both divine and human.
“At that time”: this phrase translates the conjunction tote (pronounced toh-teh), which is usually translated as “then,” but the Shorter Lexicon also says “at that time” in its very first definition. Matthew envisages two simultaneous events. Jesus speaks of his death, while the Jerusalem establishment, who watch over the temple, plot to kill him. This is a little literary flourish in Matthew’s narrative or story.
You can read about them in this post, where the Jewish groups are placed in alphabetical order:
Caiaphas: Annas (Luke 3:2; John 18:13, 24; Acts 4:6) ruled from A.D. 6-15 and succeeded in getting his five sons appointed chief priests and son-in-law Joseph Caiaphas (high priest from A.D. 18-36/37).
They did not want to arrest or seize Jesus because they did not want a riot among the people. Numerous Galileans were in Jerusalem for the Passover, and Jesus was their “hometown hero.” No doubt others, like the Jerusalemites, treasured him too. The crowd acclaimed him as a prophet (Matt. 21:11). At this stage they would have rioted on seeing him arrested.
Let’s talk about the feast.
Passover comes from the noun pascha (pronounced pah-skha, for the -ch- is hard). This is one of three spring festivals required by law (Tabernacles or Booths and Pentecost are the other two). Let’s define Passover. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT. It says: (1) An annual Israelite festival commemorating Israel’s exodus from Egypt, the Passover, celebrated on the 14th of the month Nisan and continuing into the early hours of the 15th … Ex 12-13 … This was followed immediately by the Feast of Unleavened Bread on the 15th to 21st. Popular usage merged the two festivals and treated them as a unity, as they were for practical purposes (see Lk 22:1 and Mk 14:12)”…. (2) “the lamb sacrificed for observance of the Passover, Passover lamb …figurative of Christ and his bloody death 1 Cor. 5:7 … eat the Passover Mt 26:17; Mk 14:12b, 14; Lk 22:11, 15; J 18:28.” (3) “The Passover meal Mt 26:19; Mk 14:16; Lk 22:8” …. (4) “in later Christian usage the Easter festival.”
The key points in that definition: popular usage merged Passover and Unleavened Bread for practical reasons; the Greek can be translated as the lamb itself, so the figurative usage is easy to apply to Christ’s sacrifice (1 Cor. 5:7). (To this day, modern Greeks celebrate the pascha by eating a lamb.) The latter usage of the term “Easter” is the church’s choice to take over a pagan festival. You can certainly skip the term if it bothers your conscience and biblical values.
Here are the basic facts about the two festivals:
Time of year in OT: First Month: Aviv / Nisan 14th day (for one day)
Time of Year in Modern Calendar: March / April (second Passover is one month later according to Num. 9:10-11)
How to celebrate it:
(1) A whole lamb by the number of people in household, being ready to share with nearest neighbor; (2) one-year-old males without defects, taken from sheep and goats; (3) take care of them until the fourteenth day; (4) then all the community is to slaughter it at twilight; (5) put the blood on the tops and sides of the doorframes of the houses where the lambs are eaten, with bitter herbs and bread without yeast; (6) that night eat the lambs roasted over fire, with the head, legs and internal organs, not raw or boiled (7) do not leave any of it until morning; if there is any leftover, burn it; (8) the cloak must be tucked into belt; sandals on feet and staff in hand; (9) eat in haste in order to leave Egypt soon (Exod. 12:4-11).
Purpose: Exodus from Egypt and Protection from Judgment:
“The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt” (Exod. 12:13).
Other Scriptures: Exod. 12:4-14; Num. 28:16
(2).. Unleavened Bread
Time of Year in OT: Same month, 15th to 21st days, for seven days
Time of Year in Modern Calendar: Same month, on the fifteenth day, which lasts for seven days
How to celebrate it:
Exod. 12:14-20 says that the Israelites were to eat bread without yeast for seven days, from the fourteenth day to the twenty-first day. On the first day they were to remove the yeast from their houses. If they eat anything with yeast from the first to the seventh days they shall be cut off (excommunicated), and this was true for foreigner or native-born. They must not do work on those days, except to prepare to prepare the food for everyone to eat. On the first days they are to hold a sacred assembly (meet at the tabernacle) and another one on the seventh day.
Other Scriptures: Exod. 12:14-20; Num. 28:16
Purpose: see the previous section “Passover.”
Paul writes in 1 Cor. 5:6-8:
Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor. 5:6-8)
The ancient Israelites were not supposed to eat leavened bread during this time. They were in such a hurry to leave Egypt that they could not wait for the yeast to raise the lump of dough. In this context yeast symbolized sin and hindrance. We are to keep the Passover, but only in a spiritual sense: “with sincerity and faith.” We are to get rid of the old yeast or moral corruption in our lives and the life of the church. Christ is our Passover lamb, and he protects us from God judicial wrath or judgment, when we are in union with him.
As we saw in vv. 1-2 and 1 Cor. 5:6-8, Jesus is our Passover lamb. And so, Matthew draws the comparison between Jesus and the Passover lamb. His blood smeared on the door of your heart protects you from God’s judgment at the final judgment. However, please be aware that God is judging / evaluating you every minute of every day. Sometimes he likes what he sees, and at other times he tells you that you need an attitude adjustment.
See Heb. 12: 5-11, which talks about the discipline of the Lord out of his love. And 1 Peter 4:17 says that judgment begins with the household of God—now, here on earth.
In v. 5, “uproar” can be translated as “riot.”
Let’s discuss the Passover in relation to the Last Supper. There are three options if one intends to harmonize the four Gospel accounts.
(1).. The Last Supper was not on the Passover but was a “New Passover” which Jesus inaugurated and celebrated early with the disciples. The Jewish Passover (Nisan 15) began on Friday evening as John’s Gospel indicates and continued through Saturday afternoon. Jesus inaugurated the New Passover on Nisan 14, which began on Thursday evening, running through Friday.
(2).. The Last Supper was the Jewish Passover. Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples on Thursday evening (Nisan 15) as the Synoptics suggest and was crucified the next morning (still Nisan 15, which ran Thursday evening through Friday afternoon). John’s reference to “the Preparation of the Passover (John 19:14; cf. 19:31, 42) does not means preparation for the day of Passover week, the day the lambs were slaughtered but preparation for the Sabbath of Passover week (i.e. Friday before sundown). This meaning of “preparation” is common and appears in Mark 15:42. To eat the Passover (John 18:28) means the general sense to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
(3).. The Jewish Passover was celebrated at two different times. Nisan falls on two days for two groups or the Passover was spread out over two days, perhaps because of the large number of lambs to be slaughtered. Celebrated on two days for the (a) Sadducees and Pharisees; (b) Galileans and Judeans; (c) visiting pilgrims and local residents. Or Jesus was following the solar calendar used at Qumran and in the Book of Jubilees, where Nisan 15 began on Tuesday. The religious leaders were following the traditional lunar calendar, where Nisan 15 fell on Friday evening.
Mark L. Strauss, Mark: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2014), pp. 617-18.
GrowApp for Matt. 26:1-5
A.. God is creating your life story. In all stories, there is always opposition. What is the opposition to your new life in Christ? How do you overcome this opposition?
The Anointing at Bethany (Matt. 26:6-13)
6 When Jesus was in Bethany at Simon the leper’s house, 7 a woman came up to him, having an alabaster jar of ointment of great value, and poured it on his head as he was reclining. 8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant, saying, “To what purpose this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large amount and given to the poor!” 10 When Jesus knew of it, he said to them, “Why do you cause trouble for this woman? She has done a good work for me. 11 You will always have the poor, but you do not always have me. 12 When she put this ointment on my body, she did it to prepare for my burial. 13 I tell you the truth: wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she did will also be spoken of, in remembrance of her.”
In my view, this scene is different from the one at Simon the Pharisees house (Luke 7:36-50), though I had thought they were the same in my book. Other passages: Mark 14:3-9 and John 12:1-8. Some argue that all of the passages, even Luke 7:36-50, are the same scene, but just placed at different spots in the narrative. Maybe the anointing in Bethany at the end of the Gospels is the same incident, but not the one at Simon the Pharisee’s house in Luke 7:36-50.
John identifies her as Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. However, John does not say that they were all at their house. The three siblings may have known Simon quite well and were at the dinner. Some scholars say that Simon may have been their father. Whoever he was, in a small village like Bethany, they certainly knew each other.
It is startling that Simon would be remembered as the leper, for it is a sure thing that Jesus healed him; otherwise, no one could approach his house. He would have been a village outcast. A leper was required by law to wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face, and, as noted, cry out “Unclean! Unclean!” in order not to contaminate someone else (Lev. 13:45).
See my posts on skin disease and mold:
Scholars nowadays say the word leprosy was generic for skin diseases. But let’s call Simon the “leper” for convenience. Sometimes nicknames stick. Also, Simon was the most common or numerous name in Israel and the entire large area (called Palestine), for hundreds of years (like the name William or John in early American records). Since this Simon was known in the earliest Christian community, which explains why he is named in Matthew and Mark’s Gospel, the Christians must have referred to him by his nickname to distinguish him from all the other Simons in the community. Peter’s birth name was Simon, to cite only this one example.
However, Jesus is not recorded as calling him that. But even if he had, then this nickname was to bring glory to God, for the healing. “I was once really a leper, but now look at me! I’m healed! I can even host the Lord in my own house!” If Mark knew the man’s name, why didn’t he mention Mary, and the same with Matthew who evidently borrowed from Mark or used an independent source? No one can figure out why some Gospel writers include or exclude people’s names, though one scholar has worked hard at explaining it (see Bauckham at the Works Cited link).
The price of the ointment, according to Mark 14:5 and John 12:23, was three hundred denarii, about a working man’s yearly wage (if he got steady work throughout the year).
How did Jesus know of their dialogue? By supernatural means or did the discussion spill over and get around to him by natural means? “knew” could be translated as “became aware.” You can decide.
“she did a good work for me”: “she worked a beautiful work” is a literal translation. It must be recalled that Jesus is defending a woman against a male put-down. She caught on to what was about to happen, but the men did not, and they spent over three years with him. Jesus elevated her “beautiful work” or “action” to his burial. The reason he said “body” and not “head” is that the viscous ointment must have dripped down.
Yes, the poor will always exist, and the disciples can help them whenever they can. But the disciples will not always have Jesus with them, and his death will be a one-time act and once and for all. Therefore, her anointing was perfectly thought through and perfectly done. Don’t scold her. Leave her alone.
“I tell you the truth”: It appears in v. 13. Matthew uses this expression thirty times in his Gospel. “Truth” comes from the word amēn (pronounced ah-main and comes into English as amen). It expresses the authority of the one who utters it. The Hebrew root ’mn means faithfulness, reliability and certainty. It could be translated as “truly I tell you” or I tell you with certainty.” Jesus’s faith in his own words is remarkable and points to his unique calling. In the OT and later Jewish writings is indicates a solemn pronouncement, but Jesus’ “introductory uses of amēn to confirm his own words is unique” (France at his comment on 5:18). The authoritative formula emphasizes pronouncements which are noteworthy and will be surprising or uncomfortable to the listener. In this case the pronouncement is noteworthy.
He also elevated her action to the preaching of the gospel around the whole world. When it is preached, she shall be remembered. The fact that you and I are reading her beautiful work confirms Jesus’s prediction. We do remember her.
“gospel”: it is the Greek noun euangelion (pronounced yew-ahn-geh-lee-on, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). Used 76 times in the NT, it combines eu– (good or positive) angel (message or announcement, and yes we get our word angel from Greek). The gospel announces salvation through Jesus Christ—a new “sheriff” is in town or on earth. Or if the sheriff imagery is displeasing to some, then the King of kings and Lord of lords has arrived, and he has a new revelation about God’s love for humanity and a new path right into his presence. The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16), so charismatic power is built into it. It announces the coming of the kingdom of God or a new way that God relates to the world, though it has roots in the OT (Mark 1:15). The gospel brings out a response in people, positively or negatively (Matt. 26:13; Mark 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:14a; 2 Cor. 2:12). (Personally, I believe that humans have enough free will to resist the gospel until the day they die, but they do not have enough free will to strut into salvation, uninvited, without the Word or the gospel communicated in some fashion, even in a dream about Jesus, which is happening in the Muslim world). The Greek word is described as the “gospel of grace” (Acts 20:24) (as distinct from the law of Moses), the “gospel of salvation” (Eph. 1:13), and the “gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:19).
It is the good news about Jesus, not the bad news about him.
GrowApp for Matt. 26:6-13
A.. The (unnamed) woman accomplished a very significant and surprising and beautiful act. Have you left behind the ordinary and done the unexpected for the Lord? What about your conversion? Have you been part of a miracle in someone else’s life?
Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus (Matt. 26:14-16)
14 At that time one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What do you want to give me to hand him over to you?” They set out thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that time on, he began looking for an opportune time, so that he would hand him over.
Turner has a simple table about Matthew citing Zechariah (p. 495):
Matt. 21:4-9 …… Zech. 9:9
Matt. 21:12-13 … Zech. 14:21
Matt. 26:15-16 … Zech. 11:12
Matt. 26:26-29 … Zech. 9:11
Matt. 26:30-35 … Zech. 13:7
Matt. 27:3-10 …. Zech. 11:12-13
Matt. 27: 51-53 … Zech. 14:4-5
Jesus not only fulfills quoted verses, but also patterns and themes and types and shadows. For example, he fulfills all the animal sacrifices and the priesthood of Aaron (Heb. 8-10). But at the link, there is a table of quoted verses in the OT and NT.
This is more setting up of the scene by Matthew. So what could motivate Judas, other than money? His name “Iscariot” probably means that he was from Iscariot, that is, not from Galilee. And he saw, as Peter did when he rebuked Jesus and Jesus had to put the lead apostle in his place (Matt. 16:23-23), that the Lord was a threat to Israel and its long history. This name may indicate that he belonged to the Zealot movement, which means they were zealous for the law and independence from Rome. If so, then he could now perceive that Jesus was not going to be a conquering hero. So Judas betrayed him out of big letdown.
One scholar speculated that Judas may have tried to broker a meeting with the temple establishment in a misguided attempt to reach a settlement between Jesus and the establishment. Maybe Jesus could work some miracles to overthrow Rome. The problem is that the passages about Judas all over the four Gospels cannot support this speculation.
Turner is not sure of Judas’s motive either, speculating, “Perhaps greed drove Judas to betray Jesus when he realized that Jesus was not a military-political Messiah” (p. 622).
Next, Luke says Satan entered his heart (22:3; see John 6:70; 13:2). For a charismatic like Luke, that was motive enough. Evidently Judas was not filled with the Spirit, because demonic possession and the Spirit cannot live in the same person. But an evil spirit can deceive and harass a believer’s mind. Never underestimate how Satan can toy with a follower’s mind. The evil spirit being can work his evil magic on any one of us.
“What do you want to give me to hand him over to you?”: the Greek literally reads: “What do you want to give me, and I will hand him over to you?” Also, “hand over” could be translated as “betray.”
“He would hand him over”” the “would” is how I translate the subjunctive. One could take a shortcut and translate it as: “to betray him.”
The Jerusalem establishment will suffer judgment for carrying out this plot. This is irony. They think they are right and are following God, but they are deceived and have been wandering off the path for many years. They were actually wrong. See the introductory comments under v. 68 for more information about irony.
“thirty pieces of silver”: it was at this time thirty denarii, a month’s wages, if the man worked throughout the month. It was a considerable amount. This calls to mind Zech. 11:12, which Matthew will quote in 27:3-10, so let’s wait until then.
Keener points out that when Judas took the thirty pieces of silver, he aligned himself with the greedy temple guards who took money to claim that the disciples stole the body (28:12). Further, Judas must have reached the conclusion that Jesus was not going to take over with conquest and power, so Judas wanted what he could get, materially. He chose to get what he can. He sold Jesus out for the price of a slave in the law (Matt. 26:15; Exod. 21:32).
GrowApp for Matt. 26:14-16
A.. Read Eph. 4:32 and zero in on forgiveness. Have you ever been betrayed? How has God led you to forgive?
Passover with the Disciples (Matt. 26:17-25)
17 On the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 And he said, “Go into the city to a certain person and tell him, ‘The teacher says, “My time is drawing near, and I will keep the Passover with my disciples at your place.’” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus ordered them and prepared the Passover.
20 When it was well into the night, he reclined with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said to them, “I tell you the truth that one of you will hand me over.” 22 And they were very grieved, and each one began to say him, “Surely I’m not the one, Lord?” 23 And in reply, he said, “The one who dips his hand in the bowl with me—this one will hand me over. 24 The Son of Man will depart just as it was written of him, but woe to that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better if that man had not been born!” 25 In reply, Judas, the one who handed him over, said to him, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You yourself have said so.”
For the Unleavened Bread and the Passover, see the comments at vv. 1-5.
Matthew is drawing the comparison between Jesus and the Passover lamb. His blood smeared on the door of your heart protects you from God’s judgment at the final judgment. However, please be aware that God is judging / evaluating you every minute of every day. Sometimes he likes what he sees, and at other times he tells you that you need an attitude adjustment.
See Heb. 12:5-11, which talks about the discipline of the Lord out of his love. And 1 Peter 4:17 says that judgment begins with the household of God—now, here on earth.
For an extensive meaning of “disciples,” also see vv. 1-5 and the link.
Scholars speculate that the Passover meal was eaten at Mary’s house, the mother of John Mark (see Acts 12:12) and believe that this is the Upper Room (or upstairs room) of Pentecost (Acts 1:13), where they had assembled when the Spirit fell on them. But of course the evidence is circumstantial: in the city of Jerusalem and a large upstairs room, but that is all the evidence I can find. No one knows for sure.
As for making the arrangements, Luke’s Gospel says Jesus sent Peter and John, but once again Matthew the Trimmer drops names out of his narrative.
“a certain person” this one Greek word, which appears only here in the entire NT, puts it past doubt that Jesus knew the man or woman, and Matthew did not want to reveal it. Or Matthew may not have known who it was, but he recalled that the arrangements went smoothly, so he concluded that Jesus knew who the person was, but Matthew did not.
The disciples ask about preparations. There is nothing wrong with asking for instructions. God does lead step by step. Jerusalem was a busy, crowded place right now. So the fact that he gave these instructions still means they had to watch and observe.
His time was drawing near, that is, to his death.
In v. 18 Jesus says his “appointed time.” the noun here is kairos (pronounced kye-ross and is used 85 times), which speaks more of a quality time than quantity. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, and it defines the noun as follows: (1) a point of time or period of time, time, period, frequently with the implication of being especially fit for something and without emphasis on precise chronology. (a) Generally a welcome time or difficult time … fruitful times; (b) a moment or period as especially appropriate the right, proper, favorable time … at the right time; (2) a defined period for an event, definite, fixed time (e.g. period of fasting or mourning in accord with the changes in season), in due time (Gal. 6:9); (3) a period characterized by some aspect of special crisis, time; (a) generally the present time (Rom. 13:11; 12:11); (b) One of the chief terms relating to the endtime … the time of crisis, the last times.
All of this stand in a mild contrast—not a sharp contrast—from chronos. Greek has another word for time: chronos (pronounced khro-noss), which measures one day, one week or one month after another.
In this context, “appointed time” fits the third definition and (a).
“reclined”: they ate at low tables and pillows for seats to lean on. Let’s not picture them sitting at a modern table with chairs (or benches), regardless of Da Vinci painted at his Last Supper.
Blomberg verbally paints the right picture:
We are not to envisage, with Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Renaissance portrait of the last supper, one long rectangular table with people sitting on chairs on either side of it, but rather the triclinium. This was a square-cornered, U-shaped combination of three cushions, on which people would recline, lying on their sides with their bodies perpendicular to the cushions and stretched outward away from the center of the room. The food was placed in the middle of the “U,” in between the couches. Jesus interrupts the festivities with the horrible prediction of v. 21. (comment on 26:20-25)
“Son of Man”: see my comments on vv. 1-5.
When Jesus said that the betrayer was the one who dipped his bread with him, he probably meant that it was one of the twelve, since they were all dipping their bread. So the betrayer was one of the twelve. But who exactly? When Jesus said that the betrayer was the one wo dipped his bread with him, he probably meant that it was one of the twelve, since they were all dipping their bread. So the betrayer was one of the twelve. But who exactly? John 13:21-30 says that Jesus gave a morsel to Judas, and then Judas departs to do his “mission.” Here in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is about to tell us.
In v. 25, Judas pronounced his self-condemnation. “You have said so” may not be fully understood by Judas, but it is a verbal signal that Jesus understood. It is ambiguous for Judas, but not to Jesus, who often held his cards close to his chest, so to speak. On the other hand, Carson suggests that v. 25 could be translated more expansively as “You have said it, not I.”
“well into the night”: There is some dispute as to when John’s Gospel and Matthew and Mark show Jesus eating the Passover. Let me quote R. T. France in full (emphasis original):
… I believe that it [the debate] is based on a Western cultural misunderstanding: in the Jewish day, which begins at sunset, the evening is the beginning of the day, not its ending, as it is for us. So the Synoptic statement that the meal (which was eaten at night ….) was prepared on Nisan 14 and may be understood to mean that it was prepared and eaten during the evening and night which began Nisan 14, rather than that it was prepared late on Nisan 14 (before sunset) and eaten the next (Jewish) day, at the official time for the Passover meal on Nisan 15. This would be an equally natural way a Jewish reader to understand their words; it is our unfamiliarity with the Jewish method or reckoning days which prevents Western readers from recognizing that the evening preceding the killing of the lambs is already the same day, Nisan 14. In that case they are describing the same day as the Fourth Gospel. The last supper and subsequent trial and death of Jesus all took place on the same (Jewish) day as the killing of the lambs in the afternoon which concludes Nisan 14 and thus on the (Jewish) day before the date for the official Passover meal. The last supper is, then, an anticipated Passover meal, in the Synoptics no less than in John. …
In a nutshell, it seems to me that all the relevant external evidence speaks consistently in favor of the “Johannine” dating, and that if due allowance is made for the fact that Nisan 14 began with the sunset which preceded the killing of the lambs, the Synoptic writers do not disagree with it. (pp. 982-83)
France goes on to show how the phrase “well into the night” is the right translation, on its own merits, but also because the Passover meal was traditionally held at night (Exod. 12:8), not in the early evening. France continues: “If Jesus followed that tradition (as 1 Cor. 11:23 says he did), there would be time to make preparation for the meal during the evening in order to eat it at night” (pp. 983-84).
The bottom line is that if we reckon that a new day began at night, and not the next day in the morning, then the Synoptics and John agree on the time of the Passover meal.
For a thorough attempt at reconciling John and the Synoptics (see Carson, pp. 593-97). He concludes: “It seems, then, that the fourth gospel can be fairly harmonized with the Synoptics as far as the chronology of the Last Supper and Jesus’ death are concerned” (p. 596).
Now let’s move on to the passage itself.
This whole scene is sad. Jesus knew who was about to betray or hand him over—Judas. And Judas set the betrayal in motion in the previous pericope (vv. 14-16). But he did not realize that Jesus knew also. So Judas still did not grasp his Lord’s knowledge. It’s ironic—which means some who lives in ignorance but thinks he is getting away with it. Judas actually asked, probably because he saw the other disciples ask, whether he was the one who would betray him. Jesus answered affirmatively, but in a slightly ambiguous way. “You yourself have said so.” He could have simply said, “Yes.” But maybe some interpreters would say Jesus was not being ambiguous. “You yourself have said so” is clear enough.
In v. 24, the Son of Man is departing (present tense, though grammarians teach us that it is a futuristic present), that is, towards his death.
It is sad that the disciples were so insecure that they thought each one of them could be guilty of betrayal. Times were tense. Jesus had predicted his death at least three times (16:21; 17:12, 22-23; 20:17-19). Maybe they were not as careful with their words as they had should have been while they were in Jerusalem. But of course we don’t know that for sure. It’s just an observation that may explain why each one asked him.
And why does Judas call him Rabbi (v. 49), still, when Peter proclaimed him the Messiah, the Son of God (16:16). It’s not an inaccurate title, but it’s like calling Jimmy Carter “Mr. Peanut Farmer.” Accurate. But normally one still says, “Mr. President.”
Did Judas repent? See my discussion at 27:3-10.
Here is a summary of the evidence that the early disciples believed Jesus held a Passover Meal:
1.. The meal was eaten in Jerusalem, a Passover requirement.
2.. Jesus and the disciples spent the night in the environs of Jerusalem (Gethsemane), a further requirement.
3.. They reclined on couches, which means it was a festive occasion.
4.. The meal was eaten after sunset, while ordinary meals were in the late afternoon.
5.. The meal ended with a hymn (26:30), and Passover meals closed with the part of the Hallel (Pss. 115-118).
6.. The interpretation of the elements was part of the ritual (Exod 12:26-27).
7.. Giving to the poor was a custom (cf. Matt 26:9; John 13:29).
Source: Osborne, p. 961, who got the list from Robert J. Stein.
GrowApp for Matt. 26:17-25
A.. Jesus told his disciples what to do. They followed his instructions, and things worked out. Have you ever been obedient to what he told you and things worked out—eventually?
Jesus Institutes the New Covenant and Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:26-30)
26 As they were eating, Jesus, taking bread and blessing it, broke it, and giving it to the disciples, said, “Take, eat, this is my body.” 27 And taking the cup and giving thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, everyone, 28 for this is my blood of my covenant which has been poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you: from now on I will surely not drink from this produce of the vine until that day when I drink with you anew in the kingdom of my Father.” 30 And when they sang a hymn, they left for the Mount of Olives.
Jesus is about to accomplish his redemptive sacrifice which will launch his New Covenant community. The whole ethos is about to change—or begin to change. It will take at least two thousand years for the launch to reach us today. Jesus is about to fulfill the Exodus theology, which we saw in his temptation victory over Satan (Matt. 4:1-11). The angel said that Jesus’s name means that he will save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21), and Jesus said that he would give his life as a ransom for many (20:28). Here Jesus fulfills those two themes in the Gospel.
The OT background are found in these verses:
First, Moses already instituted the Sinai Covenant, and the Ten Commandments thundered down from on high, so he sprinkles blood to ratify the covenant:
And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (Exod. 24:8, ESV)
It will shock these twelve Jewish disciples when Jesus says to (symbolically) drink his blood.
Next, Moses said about blood:
For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. 12 Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.” (Lev. 17:11-12, ESV)
Heb. 9:22 says that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.
Finally, Jeremiah prophesied the New Covenant. The key clause is the forgiveness of iniquity and remembering our sins no more:
33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer. 31:33-34, ESV)
Hebrews 8 also quotes Jer. 31:31-34.
The Passover ritual had no place for the words “this is my body.” It must have been stunning for the twelve disciples to hear these words. The same is true of the cup of wine. Drinking “blood” (so to speak) symbolized by wine must have seemed strange to them. Streamlining it to its essence, Jesus raised up the Passover to a whole different level. He made it his own. It now speaks of intimacy and relationship with him (John 15).
“blessing”: he had blessed God for bread before (Matt. 14:19). The typical Jewish prayer of thanksgiving: “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth” (m.Ber. 6:1). It comes from the Greek verb eulogeō (pronounced eu-loh-geh-oh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”), and it literally means to “speak well.” BDAG defines the term, depending on the context, as follows: (1) “to say something commendatory, speak well of, praise, extol”; (2) “to ask for bestowal of special favor, especially of calling down God’s gracious power, bless”; (3) “to bestow a favor, provide with benefits.” Here it is the second definition. Some translations have “he gave thanks.” Being grateful even for food shows gratitude and an acknowledgement that God is the source. But this is a special meal.
In Luke’s version Jesus said of the bread, “This is my body.” In Matthew’s version he said, “Take, eat; this is my body” (26:26). In Mark’s version he said, “Take; this is my body” (14:22). So does this permit a miraculous transformation under the appearance of the bread into the literal body of Jesus? “This bread is my body!”
Catholics call the miraculous transformation transubstantiation, and Lutherans call it consubstantiation. (You can search online at youtube for more details about this article of faith.) Or is it just a metaphorical or symbolical way of saying the bread = the body, without a miraculous transformation under the appearance?
My guess is that Luke’s version about the cup determines the interpretation. If he really believed in a miraculous transformation, he would have indicated this by saying what Matthew and Mark said about it. “This is my blood of the covenant” (Matt. 26:28) and “This is my blood of the covenant” (Mark 14:24). Instead, Luke wrote, “This cup … is the New Covenant in my blood.” So there is an interference or intervening vessel between the miraculous transformation, for it is not likely that the cup is transformed under the appearance of an ordinary cup. Jesus had turned the water into wine (John 2:1-12), so he could have taught the disciples clearly about a miracle transformation. Instead, he said “this cup” and not “this blood” in Luke’s version. Let’s keep the plain thing the main thing.
Further, they had witnessed—or heard about—his turning water into wine, and at least they could have received the idea about this wine at the Last Supper if Jesus had told them about it. They had seen the miraculous multiplication of bread (Matt. 14:13-21). They would have received the teaching of the miraculous transformation of the bread, if they had heard Jesus teach it. But he taught nothing about it in these two elements. Yes, this is drawing conclusions from the absence of teaching, but the silence still speaks. And we should not draw far-reaching conclusions from the silence, like a miraculous transformation, either.
Moreover, in John 6:35-59, Jesus clearly spells out the blood and the body as something to feed on, but this imagery has to be metaphorical or symbolic, speaking of intimacy and connectedness with Jesus. It cannot be literal, and there is no direct teaching about the miraculous transformation of his blood and flesh under the appearance.
So what about Paul’s writing? He agrees with the three Synoptic Gospels about the bread, “This is my body, which is for you” (1 Cor. 11:24). However, Paul agrees with Luke about the cup: “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood” (1 Cor. 11:25). So, once again, the cup interferes with the neat and tidy direct correspondence between “This is my blood of the covenant.” If Paul had believed in a miraculous transformation under the appearance of the bread and wine, he would have made it clear in a teaching of some kind. But something miraculous is happening, since some partake of unworthily and have died prematurely (1 Cor. 11:30), but there is no miraculous transformation under the appearances. Interpreters have to import this prior belief into a straightforward supper that includes bread and wine. And the same goes for the Synoptic authors. Why not just teach it clearly?
Next, Paul states that something very special goes on with the bread and the wine. He writes:
16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. (1 Cor. 10:16-17, NIV)
We somehow participate in the blood and body of the Lord, and partaking in the loaf unites us all. The Greek noun here for participation is koinōnia, which simply means “communion” or “participation,” as the NIV translates it.
So does this argue for a literal transformation of the elements below the appearance? I say no, unless one imports this belief into those two verses. But I freely and gladly admit that something special is going on when we partake of those two elements. For a Renewalist like me, I say the Spirit in my heart makes them special and holy.
However, throughout the centuries people have killed each other over this article of faith that cannot be proven with the unaided eyes. So whatever your belief about it might be, let’s not quarrel.
My take: I interpret the pronouncements about drinking the wine and eating the bread as symbolic and metaphorical, not literal or miraculous. The bread and wine are not sacraments in themselves. They represent Christ’s body and blood. The Spirit makes communion supernatural in the hearts of the participants. Faith is important to receive the operation of the Spirit.
So it works out like this:
Bread + Wine ≠ Miraculous Transformation of the Elements
Bread + Wine = Miraculous Transformation in the Person by the Spirit
I expect the Holy Spirit to move in my heart as I partake of the bread and wine. Deep activity of the Spirit can happen when we remember his death on the cross. The activity goes directly from the Spirit to my own heart, without an intervening element.
It must have been shocking to Jews when they heard that this wine was his (nonliteral) blood, for they were permitted by law to eat blood, let alone to drink it. For centuries later, people falsely accused Christians of cannibalism (France p. 993).
In Matt. 20:28 he announced that the Son of Man came to give his life a ransom for many. Here he is about to accomplish his purpose.
“cup”: It was a literal cup, but it stands in for the wine. It is used in a metaphorical sense in Matt. 20:22-23 and Mark 10:38-39. But as noted, he said “take this” about the cup. He did not say “this blood,” indicating that this was his blood. Yes, he said in Matthew’s version of the wine: “Drink of it, everyone, for this is my blood of the covenant” (Matt. 26:26-28). And Mark says the same, but with a slight variation (Mark 14:22-25). Therefore, we don’t need to overread it and see any kind of miracle transformation under the appearance of the blood.
“many”: let’s not over-interpret this word. It was used in 20:28, and France is spot on when he interprets 20:28:
That Jesus’s death is “in the place of many” should not be taken as a deliberate contrast to “a ransom for all” in 1 Tim. 2:6 (cf., e.g., 2 Cor 5:14-15). The use of “many” derives from the Isa. 53 background and sets up a contrast between the one who dies and the many who benefit. A theology of “limited atonement” is far from the intention of the passage and would be anachronistic in this context (p. 763)
In note 27, France says that Rom 5:12-19 has the play of “many” v. “all.” In vv. 12 and 18 “all” is used, yet in vv. 15 and 19 “many” appears. In other words, the two terms “many” and all” mean the same thing both in Rom. 5:12-19 and here in Matt. 20:28. In simpler terms: “Many” and “all” in contexts like these are synonyms, as the verses in Romans and Isaiah demonstrate.
Blomberg is right: it refers to all who accept Jesus’s call of forgiveness: “‘Many’ refers to all who accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness, made possible by his death, and who commit their lives to him in discipleship” (comment on 20:28).
Grammarian Olmstead writes, referring to his comments at 20:28: “On the meaning of [many], see 20:28; as there, so here the word denotes not a large number, but instead all (p. 317, emphasis original).
Luke 22:20 says the cup, the new covenant in his blood, has been poured out for “you” (plural), meaning the twelve disciples at the Last Supper. Now that’s a limited atonement!
Therefore, making too much of the term “many,” literally, overworks the text and is a clunky interpretation. It is never a good idea to “limit” his atonement.
Now let’s return to the real purpose of the entire passage. As noted in v. 1, just before the Exodus, the blood of the lamb was spread on the doorframe (Exod. 12:1-29, 43-51), and Jesus is keying off of this theology and replacing the lamb’s blood with his own blood. His sacrifice is once and for all (Heb. 9:26) and eternal (Heb. 9:12). It does not to be done every year or every time we take Communion.
“New Covenant”: At my post on the New Covenant, I defined a covenant in this way:
Out of his great love for his highest creation, people, God unilaterally reaches out to them and initiates an unalterable legal agreement, in which he stipulates the terms that reveal how he relates to people, and they to him.
A covenant is an unalterable legal agreement, in which God stipulates the terms that reveal how he relates to people, and they to him.
Further, here are the differences between the Sinai Covenant and the New Covenant, in table form. The comparisons from the New Covenant’s point of view, looking back on the Old, in a fuller perspective.
|Categories||Old Sinai Covenant||New Covenant|
|Grace and Faith||Yes||Yes|
|Written||In stone||On hearts and minds|
|Ratified||By blood of animals||By the blood of Christ|
|Number of Sacrifices||Countless numbers||One sacrifice forever|
|Holy Spirit||No permanent indwelling||Permanent indwelling|
|Being Born Again||No||Yes|
|Life in the Spirit||Intermittent or minimal or not at all||Permanent and powerful|
|Approach to God||Through Aaron the high priest and his successors||Through Christ our High Priest|
|Celebrated||By sacrifices (looking forward)||By communion (looking back to the cross)|
|Fulfilled and Replaced||Yes||Never|
|Adapted and much expanded from Geisler, p. 1393|
The New Covenant is superior and better than the Old Sinai Covenant, as the epistle of Hebrews teaches. The main point is that life in the Spirit is the whole project and new way that God grants to people in the New Covenant (Luke 24:49; John 20:22; entire book of Acts; Rom. 8; Gal. 5). People of the Old Covenant did not have life in the Spirit, in the same way, both extensive and intensive, as do people of the New.
Please click on these posts for more details:
“forgiveness”: it comes from the Greek noun aphesis (pronounced ah-feh-seess), which means “release” or “cancellation” or “pardon” or “forgiveness.” Let’s look at a more formal definition of its verb, which is aphiēmi (pronounced ah-fee-ay-mee), and BDAG defines it with the basic meaning of letting go: (1) “dismiss or release someone or something from a place or one’s presence, let go, send away”; (2) “to release from legal or moral obligations or consequence, cancel, remit, pardon”; (3) “to move away with implication of causing a separation, leave, depart”; (4) “to leave something continue or remain in its place … let someone have something” (Matt. 4:20; 5:24; 22:22; Mark 1:18; Luke 10:30; John 14:18); (5) “leave it to someone to do something, let, let go, allow, tolerate.” The Shorter Lexicon adds “forgive.” In sum, God lets go, dismisses, releases, sends away, cancels, pardons, and forgives our sins. His work is full and final. Don’t go backwards or dwell on it.
Please read these verses for how forgiving God is:
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:10-12)
And these great verses are from Micah:
18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:18-19, ESV)
Wine was seen generally as a symbol of joyful well being (e.g. Gen. 27:28; Deut. 33:28; Prov. 3:10; Amos 9:13). Jesus said it was a symbol of new life (Matt. 9:17). This entire meal, both the bread and wine, is a forerunner of the Messianic banquet (Matt. 8:11-12), when God has already won the victory, once and for all.
“kingdom of my Father”: Keener points out that “our Father” appears often in Jewish texts, but “my Father” is “quite rare” (p. 638). Jesus had an extra-close relationship with his Father. John’s Gospel is especially clear about this.
Next, the question is—which stage of the kingdom? The very end when the kingdom of God will come on earth in full manifestation and power and glory? Or after his resurrection? It seems the best answer is the full manifestation, in which case he will partake of the Last Supper in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Big meals express final victory (Matt. 22:1-14) and the Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:12-24). However, he does eat meals with them after the resurrection, so he may mean this stage of the kingdom.
Let’s study the kingdom generically:
What is it? As noted in other verses that mention the kingdom in this commentary, the kingdom is God’s power, authority, rule, reign and sovereignty. He exerts all those things over all the universe but more specifically over the lives of people. It is his invisible realm, and throughout the Gospels Jesus is explaining and demonstrating what it looks like before their very eyes and ears. It is gradually being manifested from the realm of faith to the visible realm, but it is not political in the human sense. It is a secret kingdom because it does not enter humanity with trumpets blaring and full power and glory. This grand display will happen when Jesus comes back. In his first coming, it woos people to surrender to it. We can enter God’s kingdom by being born again (John 3:3, 5), by repenting (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:5), by having the faith of children (Matt. 18:4; Mark 10:14-15), by being transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son whom God loves (Col. 1:13), and by seeing their own poverty and need for the kingdom (Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20; Jas. 2:5).
However, as noted, in this context, it speaks of the future kingdom.
1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)
It is good to see that he proclaims that the kingdom belongs to his Father. In Matt. 6:9, he said “our Father.” Now he expresses intimacy with his Father. Now his disciples know that he has a divine connection between him and his Father. The Father is orchestrating the whole Gospel mission, culminating in the crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and enthronement.
Jesus is bringing from his treasure things old and new (13:52) (Turner in his comment on 26:30). He is the ultimate fulfillment of the OT Passover.
“sang”: Have you ever heard Jesus singing? No, of course not, but it is interesting to ponder. Traditionally they sang the last parts of the Hallel (Pss. 114-118 or 115-118). It was sung antiphonally. They chanted. Let’s not picture Jesus standing up like an opera singer performing an aria. Jesus the leader chanted the lines, and his followers chanted “Hallelujah.” It must have been very moving to be there, knowing that this was the last day or two before his death. (I’m moved right now, just thinking about it.)
Maybe they sang these relevant verses about not having fear and the LORD being by his side and triumphing over those who hate him:
5 Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free.
6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
7 The Lord is on my side as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. (Ps. 118:5-7, ESV)
And these verses, particularly v. 22, which is first about rejection and then leading the way, he had quoted before (Matt. 21:42):
21 I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Ps. 118:21-24)
Jesus is about to get his miracle of resurrection, after his rejection. It will be marvelous in everyone’s eyes.
Next, this verse about coming in the name of the Lord was also referenced before (Matt. 21:9). Did the disciples catch on to its Messianic significance in Jesus’ life?
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
From the house of the Lord we bless you. (Ps. 118:26)
Finally, right before the most horrific day of his life, during his suffering with a beating and crucifixion, he still gave thanks to the Lord:
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God; I will extol you.
29 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever! (Ps. 118:28-29, ESV)
As for the Last Supper being a Passover Seder, Turner is right:
Reading later Jewish Passover liturgy … back into the NT and investing it with Christian typological significance may be edifying, but the historical foundation is weak. The earliest source for the seder liturgy is evidently m.Pesḥ. 10 [a passage in the Mishnah], but the Mishnah was not redacted and written until around 200 CE. Christians tend to identify the bread of the Lord’s Supper with m.Pesḥ. 10.3 and the cup with the third cup, over which a benediction was said (m.Pesḥ. 10.7; m.Ber. 6.1). But the NT does not mention the roasted lamb, the four cups of wine or the traditional Jewish interpretation of these things. And it is not certain that the Mishnah liturgy is the same as that practiced by Jesus more than 150 years earlier. … It is clear that Jesus used the Passover meal as the foundation of his own Last Supper, and one can say that, for Matthew, (cf. 1 Cor. 5:7; 1 Pet. 1:19), the Lord’s Supper fulfilled the Passover, but the precise details of the correspondence [with the passages in the Mishnah] are not clear. (comment on 26:30)
Turner believes in the strong continuity between the Torah and the Gospel of Matthew, so his words of caution should count for something.
In my opinion, we must learn therefore about the meaning of the Last Supper rather than the Seder meal as presented by Christian TV hosts. It is no biblical benefit to anyone when we add too much of the anachronistic Seder to the simplicity of the bread and wine and profundity of Christ’s sacrificial death in our lives. Let’s not get distracted with extra-biblical claims.
GrowApp for Matt. 26:26-30
A.. How do you take communion? Is it special or just a thing to do at church?
Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial (Matt. 26:31-35)
31 Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will fall away because of me in this night, for it is written:
I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’ [Zech. 13:7].
32 After I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 33 In reply, Peter said to him, “If everyone will fall away because of you, I will never fall away!” 34 Jesus said to him, “I tell you that on this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 But Peter said to him, “If it is necessary for me to die with you, I will not deny you!” All the disciples also said the same thing.
The Greek word for fall away gives us our word scandal. But the meaning of the word back then meant “stumble” or “trip.” In this context, it means “fall away” even to be repelled by someone (BDAG). If he did not meet their expectations, then they tripped over him. They were just plain frightened, which reveals their commitment to him was shallow, when it came down to life or death, even though they were commissioned to work miracles in his name (Matt. 10:8; and the seventy-two worked them as well, in Luke 10:17).
“because it is written:” This prophecy must be fulfilled. It is not positive, but Jesus was not making this up, and Mark was not retrofitting the prophecy to make the OT to conform to the NT. They really did deny him (v. 56).
Again, Jesus predicts his resurrection. It is stunning how much confidence he has in his Father and his Father’s plan.
Jesus met them in Galilee, but he will also see the women in Jerusalem, and Matthew knows this him (28:8-10). But then he told the women to tell his “brothers” to go into Galilee, where he will meet them.
Not surprisingly, Peter speaks boldly, but he does not know what he is talking about. He does not read his own soul very well. He is the victim of irony, which says you believe that you know something, but you really don’t. A biblical example is Job and his friends. They were trying to figure out why Job met with disasters, and though they had a small level of understanding—and the poetry is beautiful—they really did not know as much as their confidence allowed. God showed up on the scene and told them so. The main point is the lack knowledge of himself. See the introductory comments under v. 68 for more information about irony.
Likewise, Peter boastfully predicts that he would go to the death with Jesus. Jesus knew Peter better than Peter knew himself. He had little self-knowledge. The disciples said the same thing, but Matthew trims their words because Peter has already been portrayed as representing the twelve (Matt. 10:2; 14:28-32; 16:16-19, 22-23; 17:24-27; 19:27-30).
Carson says the rare subjunctive of “necessary” in Greek indicates that Peter did not really believe that Jesus was going to die. “He still has visions of heroism.”
Jesus said: 32 “Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge me in front of people I will also acknowledge him in front of my Father in heaven. 33 And whoever denies me in front of people I also will deny him in front of my Father in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33). And he said of John the Baptist who was having doubts: “And blessed is the one who does not fall away because of me” (Matt. 11:6).
This is personal prophecy, pure and simple. But it was not very positive!
The rooster won’t crow this morning until Peter denies three times that he knew Jesus. Jesus’s prediction sadly is about to come true (vv. 69-75). Good thing Jesus restored him (John 21:15-19)!
“I tell you”: it introduces a solemn and startling pronouncement.
GrowApp for Matt. 26:31-35
A.. How much self-knowledge do you have in your relationship with God? Would you deny the Lord in a tough spot? If you have, how has he restored and forgiven you?
Jesus Prays in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-46)
36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane and said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go apart there to pray.” 37 And he took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee. He began to grieve and be distressed. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very grieved to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther, he fell on his face, praying and saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup bypass me. However, not as I will but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, you are not able to watch one hour with me?” 41 Watch and pray, so that you do not enter temptation. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, a second time he went away and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot bypass me unless I drink it, let your will be done.” 43 And coming, he again found them sleeping, for their eyes had become heavy. 44 He left them again and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same word again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? See! The hour has drawn near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up and let us go. See! The one handing me over is getting close.”
We are on holy ground. This passage is both sad and inspirational at once. I hope I do justice to it in my comments.
Gethsemane is at the base of the Mount of Olives. The term means “oil press.” He told the twelve to sit down, but they will soon lie down and fall asleep. France points out that John 18:2 says it was a regular rendezvous place for Jesus and the twelve and was a “garden.” So it was probably a cultivated estate and enclosed with a wall. The three were invited in, while the remaining nine waited (i.e. slept) outside.
Peter, James and John formed the inner core (Matt. 17:1), and Peter was the leader of the eleven (Matt. 16:18). How would they know what he prayed, if they were asleep? The prayer was probably protracted, but Matthew the Trimmer trims out this detail, so the three disciples may have heard some of it before they fell asleep. Also, after Jesus’s resurrection he may have spoken to them about the scene.
Yes, the Son of Man, God incarnate, became grieved and distressed. He was about to carry the sin of the world on him, vicariously or representatively.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied (Is. 53:11, ESV).
Carson, quoting other commentators, says that this sorrow “suggests a sorrow so deep it is almost kills, … not that Jesus is so sorrowful he would rather be dead.”
Wow! It is as if I noticed this for the first time. He actually fell on his face to pray. He was prostrate and stretched out.
“bypass” me: or “pass me by.” He wanted to avoid death, if possible. But since the wages or necessary result of sin is death, someone had to pay this penalty; either you and I do for ourselves, or someone else does for us. Jesus did it for us. He paid the penalty for our individual sins and our sin nature—sin itself being built into us. His distress and anguish sought a way out, but the way out for him was the way through. However, (a strong contrast word in Greek), he surrendered his will to the Father’s will. “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief” (Is. 53:10, ESV)
“cup”: it is the same Greek term used at the Last Supper. Here it is a metaphor for the cup of suffering. John 18:11 confirms it: “Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’” (NIV). He was talking about his suffering before and during the crucifixion. In Matt. 20:22-23 and Mark 10:38-39, Jesus asked the two disciples who wanted to be first whether they could drink from the cup (same Greek word) which he was about to drink from, referring to this moment of suffering. James and John said, “We can.” It looks like they were about to be proven wrong, though one of them (Peter) cut off an ear in v. 50. Furthermore, the Old Testament’s imagery of the cup speaks of divine wrath (Ps. 11:6; 75:7-8; Is. 51:17-19, 22; Jer. 25:15-16, 27-29; 49:12; 51:57; Lam. 4:21; Ezek. 23:31-34; Hab. 2:16; Zech. 12:2; Rev. 14:9-10; cf. Job 21:20; Ps. 60:3; Is. 63:6; Ob. 16;). God was about to pour out his wrath on his Son. And His was about to absorb it. But God’s wrath is not about losing his temper; it is judicious and evaluative. Here are two contrasting images:
God’s wrath is judicial.
It is not like this:
But like this:
That is a picture of God in judgment.
And see my posts in the area of systematic and biblical theology:
“not able”: it could be translated as “not strong.” Peter and the others were not strong enough to stay awake and watch and pray. But that’s what we are supposed to do morally and spiritually. Do we? They still were unable to discern that their Lord was in mortal danger. No, they could not have stopped the plan of God, but they could have stayed awake and sustain him with their sympathy and unity and prayers for themselves.
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. There is a classical men … de construction, expressing strong contrast (pronounced mehn … deh). “On the one hand, the spirit is eager, on the other the flesh is weak.” But that translation, though accurate, is too cumbersome.
Carson insightfully says: “Spiritual weakness is often accompanied by carnal weakness.” This is often the case of enthusiastic new converts. They need more training and the power of the Spirit, so they don’t give in to carnal weakness and go back to their old ways. And the same is true of all Jesus followers, wherever they are in their journey with him, long-time or young.
Is this the Holy Spirit or the human spirit? It is clearly the human spirit because the disciples had not yet experienced Pentecost, yet. The flesh in this verse may indicate their physical bodies, not their sin nature. I get the feeling that Peter may have been able to prevent his mistakes that he committed in other versions, like striking off the high priest’s servant’s ear (John 18:10; Luke 22:49-51). That may be the temptation he was referring to. Or who knows? Maybe Jesus’s prediction about Peter denying him three times would not have happened. These predictions of judgment throughout the Old Testament could have been prevented, if the people had only repented. The prediction was conditional, even if implied: if. “Out of my attribute of righteousness and justice, I pronounced judgment on you!” “We repent!” “Great! Now I withdraw my pronouncement of doom on you and my attribute of mercy shines forth, and I forgive and restore you!” God is not being inconsistent; rather, he shines his attributes forth, out of his nature, as he interacts with inconsistent humanity. Judgment on sin and sinners; forgiveness and mercy on repentant sinners. It’s up to them.
But we will never know whether Peter would have maintained, out of his obedience to Jesus’s command to watch and pray, his vigilance so carefully that he would not have denied the Lord three times before the rooster crowed. Yet Jesus knew their characters so well—better than they knew themselves—that it was easy to predict that Peter was going to deny him and the other eleven would be scattered after the shepherd was struck down.
“willing”: is the interesting adjective prothumos (pronounced pro-thoo-moss), which means “ready, willing, or eager.” It means a spirit that leans forward or in advance. We have “look forward” as a rough parallel.
So the flesh is weak, meaning sleepy, but the spirit is eager. See v. 35 for Peter’s boast that he is willing to die with the Lord. Therefore, Peter is a victim of irony again, when Jesus walked up and saw them sleeping. He probably remembered Peter’s boast, but then realized his flesh could not keep up with his spirit. However, in Peter’s defense, he is about to take out his sword and cut off the high priest’s slave’s ear with it, so he may have been willing to die for the Lord (v. 51). (John 18:10 says Peter is the one who did this.) But when Jesus told him to put back his sword, he realized he could not get arrested passively. Jesus was called to allow it to happen, even though he ask his Father to send over twelve legions of angels to stop the false arrest.
Again, for a second time, he is in anguish and goes apart a little way and prays for this death to bypass him. Again, he calls God “my Father,” indicating intimacy. What kind of intimacy do you and I have with the Father? Lately, I have been calling him “loving Father.” What about you?
“be done”: That translation is definitely a sound one for this versatile verb ginomai (pronounced gee-no-my and the “g” is hard as in “get”). But the basic meaning is “be” or “become” or “happen.”
Have your surrendered your will to God? Jesus said:
Then at that moment, Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and pick up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it. And whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what shall it benefit a person if he gains the whole world but damages his life? And what will a person give in exchange for his life? (Matt. 16:24-26).
In Luke’s Gospel, he said, “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and pick up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life shall lose it. Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).
It’s a daily process of your picking up his cross; then when you lose your life, you find it. You live for God. Each day. Nonstop.
He stopped praying for a moment and went back to the three disciples. The Greek says their eyes were literally “weighed down.” This is an idiom for excessively sleepy. They couldn’t keep their eyes open. Maybe a full day of preparations and a later dinner worked against them. Maybe he shook them a little, or probably he stood over them and spoke to them as they were sleeping.
In any case, Jesus could stay awake.
For the third and final time, before the mob came, he prayed the same word (literally), but you could say that he prayed the same genre of prayer—to ask the Father to allow the cup of wrath to bypass his Son and find another way. But the Father either spoke to his spirit or the Son realized that this bypass wasn’t going to happen. He simply knew. It was the only way. He had to pray through to the end. Who know for sure how he would have reacted in his humanity if he had not prayed and surrendered. Would he have said, “I’m out of here!”? Probably not, but he was human, after all.
Now, for the third time, he returns to the three disciples and says to Peter some ambiguous words. The gentler translation is as I have it. A stronger translation would read: “Sleep on and rest!” (France) or “Sleep from now on!” Or “Enjoy the rest of your sleep!” (Olmstead’s suggestions in his notes).
“sinners”: Generally, in a Jewish context, it is someone who does not keep the law. In this case, however, those who are about arrest him, and those who are about to put him on trial, kept the law in a backwards way. They were the super-duper law keepers, but wrongheaded also.
Judas is leading the mob. He is the one getting closer.
“getting close”: Jesus could probably hear them coming. “See!” is just an updated version of “behold!” which can often be translated “Pay attention, readers! A new plot development!” “Watch out!” “Look!”
GrowApp for Matt. 26:36-46
A.. Study 1 Pet. 5:6-7. How did Jesus exhibit this attitude?
B.. And what about you during your time of distress? Do you surrender all?
C.. How did you respond when you did not get your prayer answered?
Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus (Matt. 26:47-56)
47 And while he was still speaking, Look! Judas, one of the twelve, came and with a big crowd, with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 Now, the one who handed him over gave a signal to them, saying, “Whomever I kiss—he is the one. Arrest him.” 49 And quickly coming up to Jesus, he said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, are you here for this? Then, coming up to him, they put their hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And look! One of those with Jesus extended his hand and drew out his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and took off his ear. 52 At that moment, Jesus said to him, “Return your sword to its place! For all taking the sword will perish by the sword!” 53 Or do you think that I am not able to call on my Father, and he will put at my disposal, now, more than twelve legions of angels? 54 Then how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that it must happen in this way?” 55 And in that very moment, Jesus said to the crowd, “You come out with swords and clubs as against an insurrectionist to arrest me? Every day I was sitting in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. 56 But all this has happened in order to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets.” Then all the disciples left and fled.
The references to Scripture being fulfilled indicates that God is not caught off guard. He has the whole thing under his control, in the big picture (vv. 54, 56). God is watching out for his Son, even though his Son is about to suffer and die. The Father’s sovereignty should bring us comfort and the Son’s sacrifice should give us awe.
Matthew sets up a new scene. The betrayal and arrest happened at night. Recall that John 18:2 says that it was a regular rendezvous place (see v. 36). Judas may have found out in advance where they were going to go after the supper.
“look!” it is typically translated as “behold!” Its purpose is to introduce to the original readers / listeners a surprising element. “Pay attention!” Look at this new development / event in my story!”
For a description of the chief priests and elders of the people, see v. 3.
“crowd”: I almost translated it as a “mob,” but they were sent officially by the authorities, so they were not exactly like a mob that spontaneously gathered just to make trouble. But Jesus does note that the large number is an overkill (v. 55).
“signal”: the standard Greek word for “sign,” but “signal” is related to “sign” (note the first four letters). It was clearly an agreed-on gesture to tell the large crowd who the target was, so I chose “signal.”
“kiss”: in some cultures—like France—they go cheek to check or even kiss the cheek. Here it was a greeting, part of the “Greetings, Rabbi.” Why does Judas call him Rabbi (see v. 25)? As noted in v. 25, it is not inaccurate, but Peter did proclaim the Messiah, the Son of the living God (16:16). Maybe Judas simply cannot bring himself to acknowledge a level of deity for the Lord.
See my post on the title Rabbi:
Men in the ancient Middle East customarily greeted one another with kisses on both cheeks, even as they do in various parts of the world today. Judas’s word of greeting (chaire is roughly equivalent to a hearty Hello!) and kiss further suggest that he is coming in peace; with this approach he may be trying to avert any hostile uprising by the rest of the disciples. Once again he does not address Jesus as “Lord” but as “Rabbi” (cf. v. 25 with v. 22), still betraying his distance from Jesus (recall also the use of didaskalos, “teacher,” in 8:19; 12:38; 19:16; 22:16, 36). (comment on 26:47-49)
There is a much-disputed clause: “Have you come for this?” It could be translated as “Do that for which you are here” or “that’s what you are here to do.” However, a grammarian, who himself is Greek, has read many writings in postclassical and Byzantine literature, and he sees it everywhere. It is used in an interrogative (question) context. So, following him and grammarian Olmstead, I also translated it as a question. Jesus is asking, “Is this really why you are here? To betray me? That’s quite a mission!” Yes, he knew Judas was going to betray him, but asking a question is not always about finding out an unknown answer. Questions can be rhetorical; they have a deeper purpose, to expose a man’s heart and to get him to question himself. And that’s what Judas does in 27:3-5.
Matthew uses visual language: “placed their hands on Jesus.” Maybe the verb could be translated as “thrust their hands on Jesus” and seized him, which is a verb that can just be translated as “arrested,” but it has the connotation of domination. No, they did not really dominate him, for he could have called on more than twelve legions of angels (v. 53). Matthew just wants his readers / listeners to get the drama of the scene. The point: Imagine that they put their hands on the Messiah, the Son of the living God! It’s called storytelling, the dramatists art.
“Friend”: it could be translated as “companion.” Judas had been following Jesus closely enough to be called that. Carson, referring to R. E. Brown, says that it is an openhearted but not intimate greeting. It is ironic in all the uses in Matthew (20:13; 22:12).
Who took off the right ear of the servant? John’s Gospel reports that Peter cut off Malchus’s ear (John 18:10-11). How do we know the servant’s name? He probably joined the Christian community later. He had a high position for a commoner (if he was a commoner), and many Jews converted to the Messiah immediately after Pentecost (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 6:7; 21:20), so he may have joined them and told his story. Why wouldn’t he join since Jesus healed his ear and put it back one (Luke 22:51)? But we don’t know for sure what happened to Malchus.
Now Jesus takes action. First he tells Peter to stop the violence. Then, second, what happened with the ear?
The Greek verb aphaireō (pronounced ah-fy-reh-o) means “cut off.” I prefer “took off” his ear.
As noted, his healing the ear (Luke 22:51) indicates Jesus could flatten each of the arresting party with a word. When Jesus was asked whether he was Jesus of Nazareth, he answered, “I am he.” Then the crowd with swords and clubs drew back and fell to the ground (John 18:6). Jesus’s words had power. He was in charge, whether the arresting party knew it or not. But the Father’s will had to be carried out, and it was his will that his Son suffer and die. So the arresting party with swords and clubs had to be allowed forward to accomplish their unjust deed.
Jesus said he could call on more than twelve legions of angels (the number twelve indicates government). A legion had about 6,000 troops. I noticed for the first time that he said more than twelve legions. Jesus was really in charge of the situation, but Peter did not see this. Why not? Jesus said to buy swords, and when Peter showed him two swords, Jesus said it was sufficient (Luke 22:38). It’s a much-disputed passage, but … please see my post about the two swords:
See the post in the general topic of biblical theology and ethics:
2. The Gospels: Was Jesus a Pacifist? (where this long study can be found)
Also see these posts in the series:
2.. The Gospels: Was Jesus a Pacifist?
Now what about angels?
Here are the basics, backed up by Scripture in the links below, in the area of systematic theology:
(a). Are messengers (in Hebrew mal’ak and in Greek angelos);
(b). Are created spirit beings;
(c). Have a beginning at their creation (not eternal);
(d). Have a beginning, but they are immortal (deathless).
(e). Have moral judgment;
(f). Have a certain measure of free will;
(g). Have high intelligence;
(h). Do not have physical bodies;
(i). But can manifest with immortal bodies before humans;
(j). They can show the emotion of joy.
See my posts about angels:
So which Scriptures are being fulfilled? Luke 22:38 provides the answer: “For I tell you that it is necessary that what was written be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the lawless’ [Is. 53:12], for indeed the things written about me are coming to an end” (Luke 22:38). Jesus had to suffer, in order to relate to humanity. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). His suffering was, among other things, to be (unjustly) numbered among criminals, even though he was in the process of fulfilling the law—not breaking it. The chief priests and the others who are about to put him on trial are the ones whose limited interpretation of the Scriptures and inability (or refusal) to recognize the Messiah, the Son of the living God, are the ones breaking the law and the spirit of the law.
They were coming out to arrest an insurrectionist or rebel—in modern terms, a terrorist—Jesus said. He is being sarcastic here, telling them that he was in the temple during the day, but they did nothing to him. Why not? Recall that in 21:45-46 the authorities wanted to arrest Jesus, but they feared the crowds. They could only commit their injustice in the dark. Further, Jesus implies that just a few men could have arrested him, because he had surrendered his will to the Father’s will. He was not an insurrectionist, so that they need a large crowd with swords and clubs. He is calling them “authoritative cowards,” without actually using the words.
An insurrectionist was someone who did not maintain the peace but was in rebellion against Rome and the Jerusalem establishment who cooperated with Rome. His reply about paying tribute to Rome cleared him of any strong opinion about Roman domination (22:20-21). He was more interested in establishing God’s kingdom which would soon go way beyond Israel to the whole world.
Note: one interpreter says that the Greek noun “insurrectionist” means no more than “robber.” Objection duly noted.
What writing of the prophets? Recall that Zech. 13:7 had predicted that the sheep would leave the shepherd when he was struck down (Matt. 26:31). Further, in Luke 24:44, Jesus gave the disciples a Bible teaching on how he fulfilled the Scriptures of the prophets (interpreted broadly here). Here is Peter’s preaching, which sheds a light on the meaning of this verse:
Please go to my commentary on Luke 24 for more comments on Jesus’s Bible prophecy lessons, and the apostles’ preaching from them.
Finally, the disciples, as Jesus predicted (Matt. 26:31; Mark 14:27), scrammed and fled. They did not have it in them to die with him, as Peter had boasted.
GrowApp for Matt. 26:47-56
A.. Jesus allowed himself to be arrested. Have you ever had to go through difficult times? How did you experience God’s deliverance and redemption?
Jesus Stands before the Council (Matt. 26:57-68)
57 The ones who arrested Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders were assembled. 58 Peter followed him from a distance until the courtyard of the priest, and going inside, he sat down with the servants to see the outcome.
59 Now the chief priests and all of the Council were seeking for false testimony against Jesus, so that they may put him to death; 60 and they found no one, although many false witnesses came forward. Finally, two came forward 61 and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God within three days and build it.’” 62 And the chief priest got up and said to him, “You answer nothing to what these men testify against you?” 63 But Jesus kept remaining silent. And the chief priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God that you tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God!” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I say to you: From now on you will see ‘the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power’ [Ps. 110:1] and ‘coming on clouds of heaven’” [Dan. 7:13].
65 Then the high priest tore his garments, saying, “He has blasphemed! Why do we need any more witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! 66 What do you think?” They answered and said, “He deserves death!” 67 Then they spit on his face, hit him with fists, and slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, Messiah! Who struck you?”
Here we have a scene of irony. This term means that you think you know something, but in reality you do not; you are ignorant.
Comic irony: In the 1960s sitcom Hogan’s Heroes, Col. Klink brags that there has never been a successful escape from Stalag Thirteen. The truth: there are all kinds of escapes and they successfully accomplish their missions. Stalag Thirteen is like “Mole City” under his feet.
Tragic irony: King Oedipus believes he is wise, and he will investigate why a plague is attacking Thebes. But he is ignorant of the fact that he is the cause, until later on in the play. He learns the truth too late. It is tragic.
A biblical example is Job and his friends. They were trying to figure out why Job met with disasters, and though they had a small level of understanding—and the poetry is beautiful—they really did not know as much as their confidence allowed. God showed up on the scene and told them so.
Divine irony of the wise and powerful: Caiaphas and the council should know who the Messiah is because they are wise about matters of the law. They have read the Messianic prophecies. In reality, however, they cannot discern or figure out that the Messiah is standing right in front of them. They are victims of divine irony. God knows; Jesus knows, but they do not, even though they believe that they do. Not only do they not see that he is the true Messiah, they accuse him of blasphemy.
One more preliminary:
Now we come to the preliminary trial, before the dispositive one before Roman officials. The Jews could not really execute anyone based on their religious law (John 18:31 is proven right). R. T. France has a thorough treatment of the topic about the legality of the preliminary trial. First, a capital trial must take place in a courtroom, not the high priest’s house. Second, the hearing for the defense must begin, which did not happen here. Third, the trial must not be held before a festival. So does that mean the Gospels are inaccurate? No, because those three rules were laid out in the second century. Since this is a preliminary trial, the legality of the format and place of the trial do not arise. So we have to focus on the content—the accusation, Jesus’s admission to being the Messiah, the Son of God, and the guilty verdict. That’s the heart of the entire pericope in the first place.
Further, Mark 14:55 says the whole Sanhedrin met, but this was probably in the morning, so the preliminary trial was protracted.
Osborne has written on the historicity of the Sanhedrin trial. The Mishnah is a written book in which the oral traditions and laws were collected in about A.D. 200.
1.. Many Mishnaic regulations were more theoretical and never regarded as mandatory laws.
2.. The Mishnah represents a post-70 AD context (Jerusalem was sacked in AD 70), so we don’t know for sure if the Mishnah represented the details of Jewish life during the time of Jesus.
3.. In an emergency situation (the trial of a dangerous figure, namely, Jesus the night before the Passover), laws could be flexible.
4.. The Mishnaic regulations were written in a Pharisaic setting, while the Sadducees controlled the trial here.
5.. The Gospel portray the religious leaders as ignoring judicial procedures, hurrying to find Jesus guilty.
6.. Much material in the four Gospels are held in common; the only difference is the arrangement.
7.. The four Gospels favor the view that this an official but informal interrogation rather than a formal trial; it was legal, but not an official trial. The Jewish leaders merely needed to find evidence with which they could accuse Jesus and convince Pilate to crucify him.
Source: Osborne, pp. 993-94.
In his commentary on Luke’s Gospel, Darrell L. Bock lists the irregularities of Jesus’s trial before the Sanhedrin. The tractate in the Mishnah is in fact call the Sanhedrin (recall that the Mishnah is a book of oral law and traditions compiled in about AD 200):
Irregularities at Jesus’ Trial
|A||Proceedings in high priest’s house, instead of the temple (m. Sanh. 11.2)|
|B||Jesus was tried without a defense council (m. Sanh. 4.1)|
|C||By pronouncing the divine name, Jesus was accused of blasphemy without actually blaspheming in the technical sense (m. Sanh. 7.5) (but see more on blasphemy, below)|
|D||Verdict came in one day, instead of the required two days (m. Sanh. 4.1)|
|E||Jesus was tried on a feast day (though which exact time the Last Supper was held is debated)|
|F||Contradictory testimony can nullify evidence (m. Sanh. 5.2)|
|G||Pronouncement of guilt by high priest contradicts normal order, which starts with the least senior member (m. Sanh. 4.2)|
|Darrell L. Bock, Luke 9:51-24:53. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 2. (Baker 1996), p. 1792, slightly edited, comment on Luke 22:66.|
Bock also lists the evening and morning portion of the Jewish and Roman examination of Jesus:
Evening and Morning Jewish and Roman Examination of Jesus
|1||Inquiry before Annas (John 18:13)|
|2||Evening meeting with Caiaphas presiding (Mark 14:55 = Matt. 26:59-66)|
|3||Morning confirmation before an official Jewish body, probably Sanhedrin (Mark 15:1b-5 = Matt. 27:1, 2-11 = Luke 23:1-5 = John 18:29-38)|
|4||Initial Meeting with Pilate (Luke 23:6-12)|
|5||Meeting with Herod (Luke 23:6-12)|
|6||A second, more public meeting with Pilate and the people (Luke 23:13-16), and the consequence is to condemn him and release Barabbas: Matt. 27:15-23 = Mark 15:6-14 = Luke 23:17-23 = John 18:39-40|
|Darrell L. Bock, Luke 9:51-24:53. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 2. (Baker 1996), p. 1793, slightly edited, comment on Luke 22:66.|
This scene continues immediately on the previous one. Those who physically laid their hands on him led him away to the high priest and the teachers of the law and the elders. See v. 3 for the high priest and the elders. By way of review, this is who the teachers of the law were:
“teachers of the law”: Some translations call them scribes.
See this post and find them by scrolling down. The groups are in alphabetical order.
Jesus denounced them and the Pharisees in Matt. 23.
Peter is inserted into this scene, in this one verse. The cameras, so to speak, will circle back around to him in vv. 69-75. He sits down by the fire (says Luke 22:55), warming himself. The high priest was very wealthy to have a courtyard in Jerusalem. It was semi-roofed (France). Peter wanted to see the outcome (telos in Greek, pronounced teh-loss). Evidently, this means the end of the whole trial. Was Jesus going to make a deal with the council? Would he guarantee to work miracles against the Romans and liberate Israel? Does the “end” mean Jesus’s life was coming to a close? Today we know with perfect hindsight, that it is the final option, but did Peter really believe Jesus’s prediction at least three times that he was going to die (16:21; 17:12, 22-23; 20:17-19)? It may have been dawning on him that this was the end of his Messiah’s life.
In Greek the council is the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court and council. They were looking for witnesses who would testify against him, so they could put him to death. Matthew says the “whole Sanhedrin,” but recall that the Sanhedrin had seventy members (modeled on the Old Testament seventy elders), plus the high priest. Twenty-three made a quorum. And the trial may have gone on a while, as the other Gospel writers imply. Remember Matthew is nicknamed the Trimmer, so he streamlines his narrative.
In any case, the Sanhedrin found no one, even though many came forward and bore false witness. Matthew says “false witnesses.” Is this Matthew’s opinion, or did the council also consider their testimony not to be reliable? The last half of v. 60 and v. 61 may provide the answer. Two men said that they heard him say those words about destroying the temple and then building it again. Deut. 19:15 says that out of the mouths of two or three witnesses, every fact should be established or backed up. Here they are.
John 2:19-21 shows Jesus speaking these words at the beginning of his ministry. John explains that he was speaking of the temple of his body. So Jesus remained silent when the high priest challenged him on this point. Why should he explain himself? It would look like he was shifting his ground. “I meant this as my body—when you kill it, I’ll raise it back up.” It’s easy to imagine that they would have considered him as dodging the real accusation. “Oh, now you change your mind! Ha! We won’t allow it!” They could accuse him of intending to overthrow the temple, as witnessed by his cleaning the temple, soon after he entered the city (Matt. 21:12-13). After all, Jesus said in the face of the Pharisees that something greater than the temple was here (Matt. 12:6). Reports like these must have come back to the Jerusalem establishment. It was illegal to defame the temple (see Exod. 22:28 for the principle and Jer. 26:1-19 for its application). Jesus was mocked on the cross for saying that he could rebuild the temple (Matt. 27:40). Stephen got stoned to death for criticizing the temple and the irreligious behavior of it guardians (Acts 6:13-14; 7:48-50).
Jesus, instead of belaboring this point about the temple, wanted to go for the heart of the issue—his true identity. He is the Messiah (Christ) the Son of the living God.
But just for a moment, he remained silent, until he spoke the truth, by quoting Scripture, so let’s not overinterpret the silence here. It just means he did not fight back aggressively in a trial with many words. Peter explains:
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Pet. 2:21-23, ESV)
Now let’s turn to the remarkable verse in Isaiah’s accurate prophecy.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth. (Is. 53:7, ESV)
I like the image of the lamb, for it can be matched with this verse: “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29, ESV). This one is also relevant: “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:17, ESV).
The high priest got fed up with Jesus’s silence, so he arose and asked him about the two men’s accusation. His rising indicates he was taking charge of the whole trial. Enough is enough, he seemed to think. The high priest charged him under oath to speak up about the next accusation: Are you the Messiah, the Son of the living God? Remember Peter’s words:
… Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 In reply, Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, because flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven has.” (Matt. 16:16-17)
The high priest had heard rumors that Jesus claimed he was the Christ (or Messiah), the Son of the living God. He accepted praise from people (Matt. 21:9). He explained Ps. 110:1 more thoroughly and completely, right in the face of the Pharisees (Matt. 22:41-46). They were members of the Sanhedrin, or they told the establishment about these words and his Messianic actions after entering Jerusalem in Matt. 21.
In any case, once again we have a severe case of irony. They were the authority figures, experts in the law, but they could not perceive the Messiah right in front of them. They thought they knew the truth, but they actually did not. God did not reveal to the high priest the truth of Jesus’s true identity, though he did reveal it to a lowly fisherman, Peter. (See the introductory comments under v. 68 for more information about irony.)
Another “Jesus” (Joshua) ben Ananias, during the Jewish wars with Rome (A.D 66-70), challenged the temple system, pronouncing woe on the city and temple. But he did not attract followers, and the authorities considered him insane, so they flogged him and let him go. I bring up this historical fact to show that Jesus was different. He represented a real political threat, so they had to execute him (Keener, pp. 610-611).
Caiaphas didn’t fully understand the meaning of the Son of God, but we do now, so let’s look at it from our fuller knowledge with some systematic theology.
Let’s dip into systematic theology again. Jesus was the Son of the Father eternally, before creation. The Son has no beginning. He and the Father always were, together. The relationship is portrayed in this Father-Son way so we can understand who God is more clearly. Now he relates to us as his sons and daughters. On our repentance and salvation and union with Christ, we are brought into his eternal family.
Quick teaching about the Trinity in systematic theology. The Father in his role as the Father is superior to the Son; the Father guides the whole of creation and the plan of the ages. The Son carries out the plan, notably by being born as a man, humbling himself, taking on the form of a servant (Phil. 3:7-8). He humbled himself so deeply and thoroughly that he died a death on the cross, the instrument of the death penalty.
However, the Father and Son are equal in their essence or nature. The Father is fully God and the Son is fully God, in their essence. Phil. 2:6: Jesus did not regard equality with God as something to hold on to, but he surrendered the environment of heaven and took the form of a servant. Look at it this way: a human father and son are equal in their essence. Both have a soul and spirit. But in their roles and family relationship, the Father is over the Son.
Function or role: the Father is over the Son
In their essence or essential nature: Father and Son are equal.
First Timothy 6:13 says Jesus made a good confession. It is probable that this verse refers to what Jesus is about to say.
Then Jesus clearly states, once again, who he was by two famous Messianic prophecies. Jesus proclaims before Caiaphas the high priest and the Sanhedrin that from now on they will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven. The first half of the confession refers to the Messiah being glorified:
The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool” (Ps. 110:1, ESV, emphasis added).
The enemies in Matthew’s context are the very ones putting him on trial. But it is also bigger than that. The second half of v. 64 refers to the Son of Man in Dan. 7:13-14, when he comes in the clouds of heaven:
13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Dan. 7:13-14, NIV, emphasis added)
The Ancient of Days is God. Jesus was about to ascend and be enthroned on high, sitting next to God. So his coming here in v. 23 refers to his ascension and enthronement. Jesus was granted authority over heaven and earth (28:18), and the fact that the gospel was spreading all over their known world indicates that the ascended Jesus has authority and dominion over Caiaphas and the council. This makes the most sense of v. 64, in light of Ps. 110:1 and Dan. 7:13-14.
And no, v. 64 does not refer to the grand and glorious Second Coming when the whole earth will be overtaken by his glorious appearing.
See my comments on Matt. 24 and 25 for how Jesus’s ascension and enthronement (and later coming-in-judgment on the temple) and the parousia (Second Coming) must be kept distinct.
Bottom line: Jesus will rise in authority in three shortened days, and the high priest and Sanhedrin will feel its effects by the power of the church in Acts. Peter stood before them, preaching powerfully. Here is just one sample in Acts 5:17-32:
17 At this time, the chief priests and those with him, who were of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with envy 18 and nabbed the apostles and put them in public prison. 19 But at night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison and led them out and said, 20 “Go and steadfastly speak to the people in the temple all the words of this salvation and life!” 21 They obeyed and went to the temple at daybreak. The high priest and those with him arrived and summoned the Council [Sanhedrin] and all elders of the descendants of Israel and sent to the prison to escort them out. 22 But the assistants did not find them in the prison, so they turned back and announced, 23 “We found the jail locked up very securely and the guards standing at the doors, but, opening them, we found no one inside.” 24 As the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard this account, they were perplexed about all of this—what might happen.
25 Someone came in and announced to them, “Amazing! The men whom you put in prison are in the temple standing and teaching the people!” 26 Then the captain left with the assistants and led them away without violence, for they feared the people stoning them. 27 Leading them onwards, they stood them right in front of the Council [Sanhedrin]. The high priest examined them, 28 “We ordered you strictly not to teach in this name! And look at you! You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood on us!” 29 But Peter answered and the apostles replied, “We have to obey God rather than man! 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had done away with by hanging him on wood. 31 It is this man whom God exalted the Overall Ruler and Savior at his right hand, to grant repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses of this storyline and of the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to all who obey him!” (Acts 5:17-32, my tentative translation)
Now Jesus is the one with authority from on high, and then his church was gradually overtaking the nation of Israel and going way beyond that tiny nation.
After Stephen said the temple was of no real importance because God does not live in an object made with hands (Acts 7:44-50), much like Jesus’s false accusers emphasized the temple made with hands, Stephen says he saw the exalted Son of Man:
Being full of the Holy Spirit and fixing his gaze on heaven, he [Stephen] saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, “Look! I see the heavens opening wide and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:55-56, emphasis added)
“right hand of Power”: the right hand indicates power, since most people were right-handed and worked tools and swung swords and threw spears with it. Keener says that the priestly aristocracy’s “choosing (probably correctly) to construe Jesus’ words as associating himself with God’s majesty, they may imply that Jesus has lowered God’s majesty to his own level” … (p. 651).
This truthful confession caused the high priest to tear his robes, which represents extreme sorrow, perhaps even of outrage, and a pronouncement of guilt. It symbolized distancing one’s holy self from a blasphemer. Keener writes: “Most uses of ‘blasphemy’ in fact were nontechnical. … Then again, this may simply represent another example of twisting the rules to get the job done, so frequent in the rest of the narrative” (p. 651).
The chief priests, elders, and teachers of the law conclude that he committed blasphemy (see Mark 14:62-64 // Luke 22:69-71), which deserves death (Lev. 24:10-16, 23). They sentence him to death—all because they could not interpret Scripture correctly. The punishment was stoning the guilty party (Lev. 24:16), but that’s not the Roman method of execution.
Now the question is: Can they make the charge of blasphemy stick before the Roman authorities? They did not allow Jews to execute people (except for a Gentile entering unlawfully into the temple holy place). No, they could not make it stick, so they have to add politics to the charge against him. They falsely accuse him of making himself king (27:11). And there is no king but Caesar.
In any case, the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law are still swimming around in human ignorance. They are about to advocate the crucifixion of their true Messiah, which also fulfills Scripture they don’t understand: Is. 53. The Messiah has to suffer and die. Their ignorance is just irony—the irony of justice. God did not reveal who his Son truly was to them. So some call this divine irony. God uses people’s arrogance and ignorance, combined, so they can lead themselves into judgment, out of their own free will, dark and unenlightened though it may be.
Now the council has clear testimony which they regard as blasphemous. Jesus has equated himself with God or at least associated himself much too closely with him. This is a capital offense. The high priest tears his clothes in the traditional sign of outrage and/or grief (cf. 2 Kgs 18:37; Acts 14:14; and, for a closer parallel involving blasphemy, m. Sanh. 7:5). The proceedings need continue no longer. (comment on 26:65-68)
Darrell L. Bock wrote a book on blasphemy happening before the destruction of the temple in AD 70 and particularly before the Mishnah was collected in AD 200. Here are some of his conclusions.
1.. Blasphemy centered on the misuse of the divine name and acts of blasphemy.
2.. Few were allowed to approach the throne of the holy God—not even the archangel Michael was allowed to sit on the right hand of God, so Jesus’s claiming he was about to sit at the right hand of God was blasphemy.
3.. This was not a capital trial but a hearing, so the Sanhedrin did not have to be technically correct.
4.. Sources of the information of the trial was plentiful (Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus), so this trial / hearing is not a fiction.
5.. Two levels of blasphemy: Jesus claims to have comprehensive authority from God; and then he claims to be the judge of Jewish leaders (violating Exod. 22:28 on not cursing God’s leaders). This latter claim could be used against Jesus because he could be accused of challenging Rome’s authority.
Source: Osborne, p. 999.
In his commentary (Luke 9:51-24:53. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 2. [Baker 1996]), Bock says that in the early second century, Rabbi Akiva was involved in a dispute because he said that David would have a “session” (being seated) at God’s right hand, which other Rabbis said profaned the shekinah, which was considered blasphemy (m. Sanh. 6.4).
For most Jews, the idea of coming directly into God’s presence and sitting with him in constant heavenly session without cultic purification or worship was an insult to God’s uniqueness. It was the essence of blasphemy since a human seated by God diminishes his stature. The dispute with Rabbi Akiva makes this clear, as does the leadership’s response to Jesus. Biblical figures who go into God’s presence are first cleansed (Isa. 6, Ezek. 1). In early rabbinic tradition, only God sits in heaven. Anything else insults his person. … One could stand with him, but not sit with him … Thus, when Jesus says that he can sit at God’s right side, then implications emerge about Jesus’ person. The leadership understands these implications. The defendant claims to be the Judge. (p. 1799)
Then Bock states the irony: “With strong irony, the Jews think that Jesus is on trial, but what they do to him does not matter, since he is the true Judge. The very remarks that the Jews think lower God’s stature, in fact, show how exalted Jesus is” (pp. 1799).
They physically abuse him and sneer at him. “Prophesy, Messiah! Who slapped you?” Jesus is practicing what he preached in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:38), because he didn’t struggle or punch back.
Here’s Isaiah’s prophecy:
As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance. (Is. 52:14, ESV)
Jewish tradition says that the true Messiah could judge people by smell (Carson, p. 622).
Matthew does not record that Jesus was blindfolded, but Mark 15:65 and Luke 22:64 do.
Matthew alone seems to indicate that the council did this, while Mark 14:65 say “some” (i.e. attendants and temple guards), and Luke 22:63 say the men who were held Jesus abused him. However, Matthew does mention these attendants and guards; he seems to indicate that the members of the council did this. If so, then these acts also symbolize distancing their “holy selves” from a convicted criminal. But I think we should insert Mark’s and Luke’s versions, here. Remember my nickname: Matthew the Trimmer. He trims out a lot (except for his doublets, like two Gadarene demoniacs).
But please don’t overinterpret this verse or the whole preliminary trial by applying it to the government today. Since Jesus did not resist or punch back, some interpreters say the state should not resist or punch back. Wrong. The state has the right to “slap back” when citizens are harmed. Paul, writing by the inspiration of the Spirit, says that God ordained government, and its “ministers” carry the sword (Rom. 13:1-4). God’s “ministers” can use violence to fight violent offenders and protect people. So Paul hands the sword over to the State. The Church, as the church, has no right to hit people with swords or execute them, and certainly not for religious reasons.
See my post:
Let’s apply this entire scene to our lives. As I noted in other chapters, first-century Israel was an honor-and-shame society. Verbal and active confrontations happened often. By active is meant actions. Here the confrontation is both verbal and acted out. Jesus healed the paralytic, so he won the actual confrontation, and this victory opened the door to his verbal victory with religious leaders who were binding people up with traditions. They needed to be loosed from them. Jesus shamed the leaders to silence. He won. It may seem strange to us that Jesus would confront human opponents, because we are not used to doing this in our own lives, and we have heard that Jesus was meek and silent.
More relevantly, for many years now there has been a teaching going around the Body of Christ that says when Christians are challenged, they are supposed to slink away or not reply. This teaching may come from the time of Jesus’s trial when it is said he was as silent as a sheep (Acts 8:32). No. He spoke up then, as well (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:32; Luke 23:71; John 18:19-23; 32-38; 19:11). Therefore, “silence” means submission to the will of God without resisting or fighting back. But here he replied to the religious leaders and defeated them and their inadequate theology. Get into a discussion and debate with your challengers. Stand toe to toe with them. In short, fight like Jesus!
Of course, caution is needed. The original context is a life-and-death struggle between the kingdom of God and religious traditions. Get the original context, first, before you fight someone in a verbal sparring match. This was a clash of worldviews. Don’t pick fights or be rude to your spouse or baristas or clerks in the service industry. Discuss things with him or her, if it is appropriate. But here Jesus was justified in replying to these oppressive religious leaders.
GrowApp for Matt. 26:57-68
A.. Jesus was going through the trial of his life—literally. Have you ever had to fight for your life or knew someone who did? What’s your or his or her story?
Peter Denies Jesus (Matt. 26:69-75)
69 Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And one servant girl came up to him, saying, “You were also with Jesus of Galilee!” 70 But Peter denied it in front of everyone, saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” 71 After he went out to the gate, another servant girl saw him and said to those there, “This one was also with Jesus of Nazareth!” 72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” 73 A short time later those standing there came up and said to Peter, “You really are one of them, for your speech makes you conspicuous!” 74 Then he began to call down curses and swear oaths: “I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the spoken word of Jesus who had said, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And going outside, he began to weep bitterly.
It is time to wrap up this section of the Grand Climax (Matt. 26-28) with Peter’s story (so far). Does this scene make you sad or angry? It makes me sad. I really feel for him. Give him partial credit. He swung a sword to prove he was ready to die with the Lord. And he followed Jesus from a distance, to find out how it was going to end. Now take away the bulk of his credit. He really did deny the Lord three times before the rooster crowed.
It’s always good thing to see when average girls take authority, but she went in the wrong direction! All of their words were accurate, however.
Peter cursed and swore oaths. His fear got the better of him. When Peter swears an oath, he is putting himself under a curse (see Acts 21:12, 14, 21). Only Jesus can lift it off of him. And only the resurrected Jesus could rescue and restore him (John 21:15-19). Alternatively, he may have been calling down curses on his opponents. “I curse you for saying I know the man!” Swearing oaths means something like this: “I swear by God and the temple I don’t know the man!”
This is the saddest verse in Peter’s life of discipleship. He had been rebuked by Jesus before: “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matt. 16:23). But now he denied him three times. When Jesus gazed into his soul (Luke 22:61), the look must have been powerful. Peter left to go outside and “wept bitterly.” Lexicographers Liddell and Scott offer these definitions of bitterly: “pointed, sharp, keen” … of sound “sharp, piercing, shrill”; of persons “sorrowing.” Peter sobbed and cried it all out of his system.
For some reason I always picture him as husky and masculine, a rough-hewn character with a weak self-edit button from his mind to his mouth. Jesus had to smooth out even more rough edges in Peter’s soul. Peter’s two epistles show how far he came. They are mature and wonderful.
The entire scene has three escalating mini-scenes: the first servant girl accuses Peter; the second one accuses him before the bystanders; the third accusation comes from those standing nearby, as they gang up on him. Peter moves farther and farther away from Jesus. Next, Jesus and Peter are viewed as foreign (so to speak). They are both from Galilee. Jerusalem was the big city, while the country bumpkins from up north were looked down on. Peter had a Galilean accent, and so did Jesus. In modern American terms, they had a southern accent (and no, southern accents are not bad things!)
Now let’s review the differences in the accounts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The main goal here is to tell you that your faith should not be brittle when differences emerge.
Luke mentions time marker, a little while later (22:58) and an hour (22:59). Though the denials did not happen rapid-fire, one after another, they still took place in a short time. While Peter was still speaking, the rooster crowed. Mark 14:72 says the rooster crowed a second time on the third denial, while Matt. 26:74 has one crow, and Peter would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. It gets more complicated when we add in John’s account, but this is enough for now.
Matthew and Luke merely streamlined their accounts. Note how Luke himself says before the rooster crowed (22:34), Peter will have denied Jesus three times. Then he writes that while Peter was still speaking, the rooster crowed (v. 60). And right after Peter’s third denial, Luke repeats in v. 61 the “before” prediction! Apparently Luke, inspired by the Spirit, saw no problem with altering ever-so-slightly his own account. These sorts of variations in the precise sequence prompts some “total-inerrantists” to speculate that Peter denied Jesus six times! Neither Matthew or Luke says before the rooster crows “only one time and not twice,” but they all agree that Peter denied Jesus three times.
Alternatively, maybe the rooster finished his (second) crow one split-second before Peter finished speaking his words of denial! It was a super-fulfillment of Jesus prediction! Those are not bad answers or ways to fit the sequence of events, actually. You can come up with your own, if you like.
My point is that the rhetorical license or freedom exercised by the three Gospel writers should not count against the veracity of their reports. Fair-minded readers laugh at such pretzel-like gymnastics to make the three accounts fit perfectly and precisely. The synoptic writers, God-inspired, gave themselves permission not to quibble about the precise sequence in his own version. Their story-telling or rhetorical purpose was simply to show the intense drama of Peter denying his Lord just in the nick of time to fulfill Jesus’s prediction. Better still, Peter denied Jesus early in the morning at the time when the roosters announce the breaking dawn. That’s the main point of this whole episode in Peter’s life. So what will happen next? Jesus predicted his own death at least three times. If his prediction about Peter was accurate, then so will his prediction about the end be.
Let me finish with simple equations. If you get it, great. If not, scroll past it.
An account having information, while another account covering the same topic (Peter’s denial) does not have the same information, does not add up to a contradiction. A difference, yes, but not a contradiction, particularly when the differences can be possibly reconciled. Mark has two crows, while Matthew and Luke have one. They streamlined the scene and never said “one crow and only one crow, not two of them.” Next, Matthew and Mark have Peter moving away from the fire, while Luke is silent about that. All throughout the three synoptic Gospel, some accounts include tidbits of information, while another account omits them.
Information in one account + Silence in another account ≠ Contradiction
Information + Silence ≠ A Contradiction
Information + Silence = A Difference
Information + An omission = A Difference
A Difference ≠ A Contradiction
Differences are guided by the purpose of the biblical authors. Or we may not know why an author omits or includes bits of information. Whatever the case, we should not get panicky about them or deny the truthfulness of the accounts. This mindset does not recognizing the texts as they present themselves but unwisely imposes our post-Enlightenment (c. 1600-1800+) and Postmodern concerns on them.
If those equations help, then good. If not, move on to the next chapter.
See Carson pp. 623-24, for how the differences can be sorted out. Or there is probably by now a nice youtube video on the topic. You can look it up (I have not).
In any case, our faith in God and his written Word should not be brittle. It should not break when these differences emerge. Call it the dramatist’s art. All four biblical writers took small liberties to tell their stories, their own way. Please relax a lot more about this. Keep the plain thing the main thing. The plain thing is Peter’s three denials, whether they happened before, during or after the rooster crowed once or twice, or whether Peter was standing just inside or just outside the courtyard of the high priest. The lesson to be learned from the denial: Would we deny Jesus under pressure? If so, God will restore us on our repentance.
My view of Scripture. It’s very high, but I don’t believe in “total” inerrancy or “hyper-inerrancy”:
Begin a series on the reliability of the Gospels. Start with the Conclusion which has quick summaries and links back to the other parts:
The Gospels have a massive number of agreements in their storylines:
Celebrate the similarities!
See this part in the series that puts differences in perspective (a difference ≠ a contradiction):
But the bigger picture is, as noted, to not allow your faith to become so brittle that it snaps in two because of these puzzles. It’s time to stop demanding no discrepancies or else you will leave the Christian faith. Slow down and relax.
Bottom line: in my opinion, there are no contradictions in the synoptic Gospels covering Peter’s denial–just differences. Don’t allow the post-Enlightenment or the Postmodern critics to mislead you, when they claim that the Gospel writers were plagiarists or deceivers. The critics read these two-thousand-year-old documents in bad faith. Instead the Gospel writers told one united story about Peter’s three denials, regardless of the minutiae.
“spoken word”: The noun here is rhēma (pronounced rhay-mah), and the rhē– stem is related to speaking, and the –ma suffix means “the result of.” So combined, the noun means a “spoken word” (though it does not always mean that in every context).
Turner: “If Peter, of all people, is susceptible to such a fall, no disciple is invulnerable. And yet if Peter, of all people, is restored after such an egregious lapse, no disciple is hopeless. Jesus’s followers should be horrified by Peter’s denials and thrilled by his restoration, Peter is the representative disciples, both then and now” (comment on 26:75).
GrowApp for Matt. 26:69-74
A.. Study 1 Peter 2:20-24. Does it say you are also called to suffer sometimes in your life when persecution comes? If you are not presently undergoing unjust persecution, how can you support the suffering church around the globe?
B.. Hitting rock bottom, Peter denied Jesus three times. Have you ever hit rock bottom? How did God restore you?
Summary and Conclusion
Let’s look at a table that lays out the events of Passion Week:
|Friday||Arrival in Bethany (Jn 12:1)|
|Saturday||Mary’s anointing of Jesus (Jn 12:2-8; Mt 26:6-13 // Mk 14:3-9)|
|Sunday||Triumphal Entry (Mt 21:1-11 // Mk 11:1-10 // Lk 19:28-38); surveying temple (Mk 11:11), return to Bethany (Mt 21:17 // Mk 11:11)|
|Monday||Clearing temple (Mt 21:12-17 // Mk 11:15-19 // Lk 19:45-48); cursing fig tree (Mt 21:18-22; // Mk 11:12-14); miracles and challenge temple (Mt 21:14-16); return to Bethany (Mk 11:19)|
|Tuesday||Disciples’ question about fig tree (Mk 11:20-21); debates with leaders of temple (Mt 21:23-22:46 // Mk 11:27-12:40 // Lk 20:1-44); Olivet Discourse (Mt 24-25; Mk 13; Lk 21:1-36); return to Bethany, but Lk 21:37 says he lodged on Mount of Olives|
|Wednesday||Little recorded in Gospel—Jesus and disciples apparently remain in Bethany; Judas arranges for Jesus’ betrayal (Mt. 26:14-16 // Mk 14:10-11 // Lk 22:3-6); I say he could be teaching in the temple or praying privately|
|Thursday||Preparation for Passover (Mt 26:17-19 // Mk 14:12-16 // Lk 22:7-13); after sundown, Passover meal and Last Supper (Mt 26:20-35 // Mk 14:17-25 // Lk 22:14, 21-23, 15-20); Farewell Discourse (Jn 13-17); Gethsemane (Mt 26:30-46 // Mk 13:32-42 // Lk 22:40-46)|
|Friday||After midnight, betrayal and arrest (Mt 26:47-56 // Mk 14:43-52 // Lk 22:47-53);
Jewish trials—Annas (Jn 18:13-14); Caiaphas and partial Sanhedrin (Mt 26:52-75 // Mk 14:53-72 // Lk 22:54-71); full Sanhedrin (Mt 27:1-2);
Roman trials—Pilate (Mt 27:2-14 // Mk 15:2-5 // Lk 23:2-5); Herod Antipas (Lk 23:6-12); Pilate (Mt 27:15-26 // Mk 15:6-15 // Lk 23:17-27);
Mocked by soldiers (Mt 27:27-31 // Mk 15:16-20);
Road to Golgotha (Mt 27:32 // Mk 15:21 // Lk 23:26-32);
Crucifixion 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. / 15:00h (Mt 27:27-56 // Mk 15:22-41 // Lk 23:33-49);
Burial (Mt 27:57-61 // Mk 15:42-47 // Lk 23:5-56)
|Grant R. Osborne, Matthew: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2010), who got it from Michael J. Wilkens, Matthew: NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan, 2004). I modified it.|
From Matt. 26:6 (and all the way to 28:20), Matthew has turned a major corner, from the time Jesus first entered the city, Jerusalem. This large section is about the Passion (suffering) of Jesus and his resurrection. It is about the victory of God.
For now, very simply, Matt. 26 is about the rapid walk through suffering. First, the chief priests and elders plot to kill Jesus. He was anointed at Bethany, and this kind act was a preparation for burial. Judas agrees to betray his Lord—or “Rabbi,” as Judas calls him. Jesus’s disciples prepare the Passover, and during the feast, Jesus institutes the Last Supper, which, he teaches, honors and remembers his suffering and death. During the Passover of suffering, he predicts that his followers, particularly Peter, will betray him.
They all go out to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus tells them to stay awake and pray, but of course they do not. Jesus suffers great anguish of soul, because he is about to take on, vicariously and representatively and imputatively, the sin of the whole world and the sins of every individual (after each individual repents).
The chapter closes with the preliminary trial before the high priest and the Sanhedrin, made up of Sadducees chief priests (overlapped) and elders and teachers of the law and Pharisees, led by the high priest. They all have a grudge against him, because his parables were hard-hitting and opposed them to their faces. They could sense he was about to take down the entire temple system and the Old Regime. The chapter finally ends with Peter betraying him, and he wept bitterly afterwards.
We now move on to the next chapter where more suffering is gone through, especially the crucifixion, until the resurrection, and his victory.
I refer to a community of Bible scholars, but I hope I have simplified the issues. And I write from a Renewal perspective.
Blomberg, Craig L. Matthew: The New American Commentary. Vol. 22 (Broadman, 1992).
Carson, D. A. Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. Ed. by Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland. Vol. 9. (Zondervan, 2010).
France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew: New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Eerdmans 2007).
Garland, David E. Reading Matthew: A Literary and Theological Commentary (Smyth and Helways, 2001).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014).
Keener, Craig. A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. (Eerdmans 1999).
Olmstead, Wesley G. Matthew 15-28: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Baylor UP, 2019).
Osborne, Grant R. Matthew: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. (Zondervan, 2010).
Turner, David L. Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Baker Academic, 2008).