Bede: The disciples remembered the discourse in which the Lord had foretold that He was about to suffer many things from the chief priests and scribes, and therefore in going up to Jerusalem, they were amazed. And this is what is meant, when it is said, “And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went before them.”
Theophylact: To shew that He runs to meet His Passion, and that He does not refuse death, for the sake of our salvation; and they were amazed, and as they followed, they were afraid.
Bede: Either lest they themselves should perish with Him, or at all events lest He, whose life and ministry was their joy, should fall under the hand of His enemies. But the Lord, foreseeing that the minds of His disciples would be troubled by His Passion, foretells to them both the pain of His Passion, and the glory of His Resurrection.
Wherefore there follows: “And He took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto Him.”
Theophylact: He did this to confirm the hearts of the disciples, that from hearing these things beforehand, they might the better bear them afterwards, and might not be alarmed at their suddenness, and also in order to shew them that He suffered voluntarily; for he who foreknows a danger, and flies not, though flight is in his power, evidently of his own will gives himself up to suffering. But He takes His disciples apart, because it was fitting that He should reveal the mystery of His Passion to those who were more closely connected with Him.
Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc. sed v. Chrys. Hom. 65: And He enumerates each thing that was to happen to Him; lest if He should pass any thing over, they should be troubled afterwards at suddenly seeing it. Wherefore He adds, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man.”
Gloss.: That is, He to whom suffering belongs; for the Godhead cannot suffer. “Shall be delivered,” that is, by Judas, “unto the Chief [p. 209] Priests, and unto the Scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death”; judging Him to be guilty of death; “and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles,” that is, to Pilate the Gentile; and his soldiers “shall mock Him, and shall spit upon Him, and scourge Him, and put Him to death.”
Chrys., Hom. in Matt., 65: But that when they were saddened on account of His Passion and death, they should then also look for His Resurrection, He adds, “And the third day He shall rise again”; for since He had not hid from them the sorrows and insults which happened, it was fitting that they should believe Him on other points.
Mar 10:32Though the apostles had been previously informed what kind of death awaited our Lord, yet as they had not sufficiently profited by it, he now repeats anew what he had frequently said. He sees that the day of his death is at hand; nay more, he is already in a state of readiness to offer himself to be sacrificed; and, on the other hand, he sees the disciples not only afraid, but overwhelmed by blind alarm. He therefore exhorts them to steadiness, that they may not immediately yield to temptation. Now there are two methods by which he confirms them; for, by foretelling what would happen, he not only fortifies them, that they may not give way, when a calamity, which has arisen suddenly and contrary to expectation, takes them by surprise, but meets the offense of the cross by a proof of his Divinity, that they may not lose courage at beholding his short abasement, when they are convinced that he is the Son of God, and therefore will be victorious over death. The second method of confirmation is taken from his approaching resurrection.
But it will be proper to look more closely at the words. Mark states — what is omitted by the other two Evangelists — that, before our Lord explained to his disciples in private that he was going straight to the sacrifice of death, not only they, but also the rest of his followers, were sorrowful and trembling. Now why they were seized with this fear it is not easy to say, if it was not because they had already learned that they had dangerous adversaries at Jerusalem, and would therefore have wished that Christ should remain in some quiet retreat beyond the reach of the darts, rather than voluntarily expose himself to such inveterate enemies. Although this fear was in many respects improper, yet the circumstance of their following Christ is a proof of no ordinary respect and obedience. It would indeed have been far better to hasten cheerfully and without regret, wheresoever the Son of God chose to lead them; but commendation is due to their reverence for his person, which appears in choosing to do violence to their own feelings rather than to forsake him.
Mat_20:17. Took the twelve disciples apart in the way It may appear surprising that he makes the twelve alone acquainted with his secret, since all have need of consolation, for all had been alike seized with fear. I consider the reason why he did not publish his death to have been, that the report might not spread too widely before the time. Besides, as he did not expect that the warning would be of immediate advantage, he reckoned it enough to entrust it to a few, who were afterwards to be his witnesses. For, as the seed thrown into the earth does not immediately spring up, so we know that Christ said many things to the apostles which did not immediately yield fruit. And if he had admitted all indiscriminately to this discourse, it was possible that many persons, seized with alarm, might flee, and fill the ears of the public with this report; and thus the death of Christ would have lost its glory, because he would have appeared to have rashly brought it on himself. Secretly, therefore, he addresses the apostles, and does not even select them as qualified to receive profit by it, but, as I lately hinted, that they may afterwards be witnesses.
On this subject Luke is more full than the others; for he relates not only that Christ predicted the events which were near at hand, but also that he added the doctrine, that those things which had been written by the prophets would be accomplished in the Son of man.It was an excellent remedy for overcoming temptation, to perceive in the very ignominy of the cross the marks by which the Prophets had pointed out the promised Author of salvation. There can be no doubt that our Lord pointed out also from the Prophets what kind of fruit they ought to expect from his death; for the Prophets do not only teach that Christ must suffer, but add the reason, that he may reconcile the world to God.
Jesus went before him – In the manner of an intrepid, fearless leader and guide, exposing “himself” to danger and death rather than his followers.
And they rather amazed … – They were afraid that evil would befall him in the city; that the scribes and Pharisees, who had so often sought to kill him, would then do it. Their fear and amazement were increased when he told them what would befall him there. They were amazed that, when he knew so well what would happen, he should still persevere in going up to the city.
And Jesus, going up to Jerusalem – That is, doubtless, to the Passover. This journey was from the east side of Jordan. See the notes at Mat_19:1. At this time he was on this journey to Jerusalem, probably not far from Jericho. This was his last journey to Jerusalem. He was going up to die for the sins of the world.
Took the twelve disciples apart – All the males of the Jews were required to be at this feast, Exo_23:17. The roads, therefore, on such occasions, would probably be thronged. It is probable, also, that they would travel in companies, or that whole neighborhoods would go together. See Luk_2:44. By his taking them apart is meant his taking them aside from the company. He had something to communicate which he did not wish the others to hear. Mark adds: “And Jesus went before them, and they were amazed; and as they followed they were sore afraid.” He led the way. He had told them before Mat_17:22 that he should be betrayed into the hands of people and be put to death. They began now to be afraid that this would happen, and to be solicitous for his life and for their own safety, and they were amazed at his boldness and calmness, and at his fixed determination to go up to Jerusalem in these circumstances.
And they were amazed (kai ethambounto). Imperfect tense describing the feelings of the disciples as Jesus was walking on in front of them (en proagon autous, periphrastic imperfect active), an unusual circumstance in itself that seemed to bode no good as they went on through Perea towards Jerusalem. In fact, they that followed were afraid (hoi de akolouthountes ephobounto) as they looked at Jesus walking ahead in solitude. The idiom (hoi de) may not mean that all the disciples were afraid, but only some of them. “The Lord walked in advance of the Twelve with a solemnity and a determination which foreboded danger” (Swete). Cf. Luk_9:5. They began to fear coming disaster as they neared Jerusalem. They read correctly the face of Jesus.
And he took again the twelve (kai paralabon tous dodeka). Matthew has “apart” from the crowds and that is what Mark also means. Note paralabon, taking to his side.
And began to tell them the things that were to happen to him (erxato autois legein ta mellonta autoi sumbainein). He had done it before three times already (Mar_8:31; Mar_9:13; Mar_9:31). So Jesus tries once more. They had failed utterly heretofore. How is it now? Luke adds (Luk_18:34): “They understood none of these things.” But Mark and Matthew show how the minds of two of the disciples were wholly occupied with plans of their own selfish ambition while Jesus was giving details of his approaching death and resurrection.
18. Lo, we go up to Jerusalem.Hence we perceive that Christ was endued with divine fortitude for overcoming the terrors of death, for he knowingly and willingly hastens to undergo it. For why does he, without any constraint, march forward to suffer a shocking murder, but because the invincible power of the Spirit enabled him to subdue fear, and raised him above all human feelings? By a minute detail of the circumstances, he gives a still more evident proof of his Divinity. For he could not — as man— have foreseen that, after having been condemned by the chief priests and scribes, he would be delivered up to the Gentiles,and spat on, and mocked in various ways, and scourged, and at length dragged to the punishment of the cross. Yet it must be observed that, though our Lord was fully acquainted with the weakness of his disciples, he does not conceal from them a very grievous offense. For — as we have said on a former occasion — nothing could at that time have happened more powerfully calculated to shake the minds of the godly, than to see the whole of the sacred order of the Church opposed to Christ.
And yet he does not spare their weakness by deceiving them, but, candidly declaring the whole matter, points out the way to overcome temptation; namely, by looking forward with certainty to his resurrection. But as it was necessary that His death should go before, he makes their triumph, in the meantime, to consist in hope.
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Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem — for the last time, and – “all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished” (Luk_18:31).
the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles — This is the first express statement that the Gentiles would combine with the Jews in His death; the two grand divisions of the human race for whom He died thus taking part in crucifying the Lord of Glory, as Webster and Wilkinson observe.
Behold, we go up to Jerusalem – Jesus assured them that what they feared would come to pass, but he had, in some measure, prepared their minds for this state of suffering by the promises which he had made to them, Mat_19:27-30; 20:1-16. In all their sufferings they might be assured that eternal rewards were before them.
Shall be betrayed – See Mat_17:22. “Unto the chief priests and scribes.” The high priest, and the learned men who composed the Sanhedrin or the Great Council of the nation. He was thus betrayed by Judas, Mat_26:15. He was delivered to the chief priests and scribes, Mat_26:57.
And they shall condemn him to death – They had not power to inflict death, as that power had been taken away by the Romans; but they had the power of expressing an opinion, and of delivering him to the Romans to be put to death. This they did, Mat_26:66; Mat_27:2.
Shall deliver him to the Gentiles – That is, because they have not the right of inflicting capital punishment, they will deliver him to those who have to the Roman authorities. The Gentiles here means Pontius Pilate and the Roman soldiers. See Mat_27:2, Mat_27:27-30.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again — Singularly explicit as this announcement was, Luke (Luk_18:34) says “they understood none of these things; and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.” The meaning of the words they could be at no loss to understand, but their import in relation to His Messianic kingdom they could not penetrate; the whole prediction being right in the teeth of their preconceived notions. That they should have clung so tenaciously to the popular notion of an “unsuffering” Messiah, may surprise us; but it gives inexpressible weight to their after-testimony to a suffering and dying Savior.
Chrys.: The disciples hearing Christ oftentimes speaking of His kingdom, thought that this kingdom was to be before His death, and therefore now that His death was foretold to them, they came to Him, that they might immediately be made worthy of the honours of the kingdom.
Wherefore it is said, “And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came unto Him, saying, Master, we would that Thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.”
For ashamed of the human weakness which they felt, they came to Christ, taking Him apart from the disciples; but our Saviour, not from ignorance of what they wanted to ask, but from a wish of making them answer Him, puts this question to them; “And He said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?”
Theophylact: Now the above mentioned disciples thought that He was going up to Jerusalem, to reign there, and then to suffer what He had foretold. And with these thoughts, they desired to sit on the right hand and the left hand.
Wherefore there follows: “They said unto Him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on Thy right hand, the other on Thy left hand, in Thy glory.”
Augustine, de Con. Evan., ii, 64: Matthew has expressed that this was said not by themselves, but by their mother, since she brought their wishes to the Lord; wherefore Mark briefly implies rather that they themselves, rather than their mother, had used the words.
Chrys.: Or we may fitly say that both took place; for seeing themselves honoured above the rest, they thought that they could easily obtain the foregoing petition; and that they might the more easily succeed in their request, they took their mother with them, that they might pray unto Christ together with her.
Augustine: Then the Lord both according to Mark, and to Matthew, answered them rather than their mother. For it goes on: “But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask.”
Theophylact: It will not be as ye think, that I am to reign as a temporal king in Jerusalem, but all these things, that is, these which belong to My kingdom, are beyond your understanding; for to site on My right hand is so great a thing that it surpasses the Angelic orders.
Bede: Or else, they know not what they ask, who seek from the Lord a seat of glory, which they do not yet merit.
Chrys.: Or else He says, “Ye know not what ye ask”; as if He said, Ye speak of honours, but I am discoursing of wrestlings and toil; for this is not a time of rewards, but of blood, of battles, and dangers.
Wherefore He adds, “Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized withal?”He draws them on by way of question, that by communication with Himself, their eagerness might increase.
Theophylact: But by the cup and baptism, He means the cross; the cup, that is, as being a potion by Him sweetly received, but baptism as the cause of the cleansing of our sins. And they answer Him, without understanding what He had said; wherefore it goes on: “And they said unto Him, We can;” for they thought that He spoke of a visible cup, and of the baptism of which the Jews made use, that is, the washings before their meals.
Chrys.: And they answered thus quickly, because they expected that what they had asked would be listened to; it goes on: “And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of, and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized;” that is, ye shall be worthy of martyrdom, and suffer even as I.
Bede: A question is raised, however, how James and John drank the cup of martyrdom, or how they were baptized with the baptism of the Lord, when the Scripture relates, that only James the Apostle was beheaded by Herod whilst John finished his life by a natural death. But if we read ecclesiastical histories, in which it is related, that he also on account of the witness which he bore was cast into a cauldron of burning oil, and was immediately sent away to the island of Patmos, we shall then see that the spirit of martyrdom was in him, and that John drank the cup of confession, which the Three Children also drank in the furnace of fire, though the persecutor did not spill their blood.
It goes on: “But to sit on My right hand and on My left hand is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.”
Chrys.: Where two questions are raised, one is, whether a seat on His right hand is prepared for any one; the other, whether the Lord of all has it not in His power to give it to those for whom it is prepared. To the first then we say, that no one sits on His right hand or on His left, for that throne is inaccessible to a creature.
How then did He say, “To sit on My right hand or on My left is not mine to give you,” as though it belonged to some who were to sit there? He however answers the thoughts of those who asked Him, condescending to their meaning; for they did not know that lofty throne and seat, which is on the right hand of the Father, but sought one thing alone, that is, to possess the chief place, and to be set over others. And since they had heard it said of the Apostles, that they were to sit on twelve [p. 212] thrones, they begged for a place higher than all the rest, not knowing what was said. To the second question we must say, that such a gift does not transcend the power of the Son of God, but what is said by Matthew, “it is prepared by My Father,” [Mat_20:23] is the same as if it were said, “by Me,” wherefore also Mark did not say here, by My Father.
What therefore Christ says here is this, Ye shall die, He says, for Me, but this is not enough to enable you to obtain the highest place, for if another person comes possessing besides martyrdom all other virtues, he will possess much more than you; for the chief place is prepared for those, who by works are enabled to become the first. Thus then the Lord instructed them not to trouble themselves vainly and absurdly for high places; at the same time He would not have them made sad.
Bede: Or else, it is not mine to give to you, that is, to proud persons, for such as yet they were. It is prepared for other persons, and be ye other, that is, lowly, and it is prepared for you.
Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children.This narrative contains a bright mirror of human vanity; for it shows that proper and holy zeal is often accompanied by ambition, or some other vice of the flesh, so that they who follow Christ have a different object in view from what they ought to have. They who are not satisfied with himself alone, but seek this or the other thing apart from him and his promises, wander egregiously from the right path. Nor is it enough that, at the commencement, we sincerely apply our minds to Christ, if we do not stead-lastly maintain the same purity; for frequently, in the midst of the course, there spring up sinful affections by which we are led astray. In this way it is probable that the two sons of Zebedee were, at first, sincere in their adherence to Christ; but when they see that they have no ordinary share of his favor, and hear his reign spoken of as near at hand, their minds are immediately led to wicked ambition, and they are greatly distressed at the thought of remaining in their present situation. If this happens to two excellent disciples, with what care ought we to walk, if we do not wish to turn aside from the right path! More especially, when any plausible occasion presents itself, we ought to be on our guard, lest the desire of honors corrupt the feeling of piety.
Though Matthew and Mark differ somewhat in the words, yet they agree as to the substance of the matter. Matthew says that the wife of Zebedee came, and asked for her sons that they might hold the highest places in the kingdom of Christ. Mark represents themselves as making the request. But it is probable that, being restrained by bashfulness, they had the dexterity to employ their mother, who would present the request with greater boldness. That the wish came originally from themselves may be inferred from this circumstance, that Christ replied to them, and not to their mother. Besides, when their mother, bowing down, states that she has something to ask, and when themselves, according to Mark, apply for a general engagement, that whatever they ask shall be granted to them,this timid insinuation proves that they were conscious of something wrong.
And James and John – come unto him – The request here mentioned, Matthew says, Mat_20:20, was made by Salome their mother; the two places may be easily reconciled thus: – The mother introduced them, and made the request as if from herself; Jesus knowing whence it had come, immediately addressed himself to James and John, who were standing by; and the mother is no farther concerned in the business. See the note on Mat_20:20.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Mar_10:35-45. Ambitious request of James and John – The reply.
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying — Matthew (Mat_20:20) says their “mother came to Him with her sons, worshipping Him and desiring,” etc. (Compare Mat_27:56, with Mar_15:40). Salome was her name (Mar_16:1). We cannot be sure with which of the parties the movement originated; but as our Lord, even in Matthew’s account, addresses Himself to James and John, taking no account of the mother, it is likely the mother was merely set on by them. The thought was doubtless suggested to her sons by the recent promise to the Twelve of “thrones to sit on, when the Son of man should sit on the throne of His glory” (Mat_19:28); but after the reproof so lately given them (Mar_9:33, etc.) they get their mother to speak for them.
Mar 10:36 And he said unto them,…. And also to their mother, and to them by her, what
would ye that I should do for you? Christ insists upon their telling him the particular thing they wanted to have done for them, before he would give them any promise, though he knew very well what it was they were desirous of.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? — Though well aware what was in their mind and their mother’s, our Lord will have the unseemly petition uttered before all.
Mat 20:21.In the kingdom.It was worthy of commendation in the sons of Zebedee, that they expected some kingdom of Christ, of which not even the slightest trace was then visible. They see Christ exposed to contempt under the mean aspect of a servant; nay more, they see him despised and loaded with many reproaches by the world; but they are convinced that he will soon become a magnificent king, for so he had taught them. It is unquestionably a noble specimen of faith; but hence we perceive how easily the pure seed is no sooner implanted in our hearts than it becomes degenerate and corrupted; for they imagined to themselves a kingdom which had no existence, and presently committed the folly of desiring the highest places. Since, therefore, this wicked ambition flowed from a general principle of faith, which in itself was highly commendable, we ought to pray, not only that the Lord would open the eyes of our mind, but that he would give us continual direction, and keep our minds fixed on the proper object. We ought also to pray, not only that he would bestow faith upon us, but that he would keep it pure from all mixture.
Grant that these my two sons – James and John. See Mar_15:40. In the preceding chapter, Mat_19:28, our Lord had promised his disciples, that they should sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes. Salome, probably hearing of this, and understanding it literally, came to request the chief dignities in this new government for her sons; and it appears it was at their instigation that she made this request, for Mark, Mar_10:35, informs us that these brethren themselves made the request, i.e. they made it through the medium of their mother.
One on thy right hand, and the other on (Thy) left – I have added the pronoun in the latter clause on the authority of almost every MS. and version of repute.
That the sons of Zebedee wished for ecclesiastical, rather than secular honors, may be thought probable, from the allusion that is made here to the supreme dignities in the great Sanhedrin. The prince of the Sanhedrin (Ha-Nasi) sat in the midst of two rows of senators or elders; on his right hand sat the person termed AB (the father of the Sanhedrin); and on his left hand the Chacham, or sage. These persons transacted all business in the absence of the president. The authority of this council was at some periods very great, and extended to a multitude of matters both ecclesiastical and civil. These appear to have been the honors which James and John sought. They seem to have strangely forgot the lesson they had learned from the transfiguration.
Grant that these my two sons may sit … – They were still looking for a temporal kingdom.
They expected that he would reign on the earth with great pomp and glory. They anticipated that he would conquer as a prince and a warrior. They wished to be distinguished in the day of his triumph. To sit on the right and left hand of a prince was a token of confidence, and the highest honor granted to his friends, 1Ki_2:19; Psa_110:1; 1Sa_20:25. The disciples, here, had no reference to the kingdom of heaven, but only to the kingdom which they supposed he was about to set up on the earth.
In thy glory (en tei doxei). Mat_20:21 has “in thy kingdom.” See note on Mat_20:20 for the literal interpretation of Mat_19:28. They are looking for a grand Jewish world empire with apocalyptic features in the eschatological culmination of the Messiah’s kingdom. That dream brushed aside all the talk of Jesus about his death and resurrection as mere pessimism.
22.You know not what you ask.Their ignorance was worthy of blame on two accounts; first, because their ambition led them to desire more than was proper; and, secondly, because, instead of the heavenly kingdom of Christ, they had formed the idea of a phantom in the air. As to the first of those reasons, whoever is not satisfied with the free adoption of God, and desires to raise himself, such a person wanders beyond his limits, and, by unseasonably pressing himself forward beyond what was proper for him to do, is ungrateful to God. Now to estimate the spiritual kingdom of Christ according to the feeling of our flesh is highly perverse. And, indeed, the greater the delight which the mind of man takes in idle speculations, the more carefully ought we to guard against them; as we see that the books of the sophists are stuffed with useless notions of this sort.
Can you drink the cup which I shall drink?To correct their ambition, and to withdraw them from this wicked desire, he holds out to them the cross, and all the annoyances which the children of God must endure. As if he had said, “Does your present warfare allow you so much leisure, that you are now making arrangements for a triumphal procession?” For if they had been earnestly employed in the duties of their calling, they would never have given way to this wicked imagination. In these words, therefore, those who are desirous to obtain the prize before the proper time are enjoined by Christ to employ themselves in attending to the duties of piety. And certainly this is an excellent bridle for restraining ambition; for, so long as we are pilgrims in this world, our condition is such as ought to banish vain luxuries. We are surrounded by a thousand dangers. Sometimes the enemy assails us by ambush, and that in a variety of ways; and sometimes he attacks us by open violence. Is he not worse than stupid who, amidst so many deaths, entertains himself at his ease by drawing pictures of a triumph?
Our Lord enjoins his followers, indeed, to feel assured of victory, and to sing a triumphal song in the midst of death; for otherwise they would not have courage to fight valiantly. But it is one thing to advance manfully to the battle, in reliance on the reward which God has promised to them, and to labor with their whole might for this object; and it is another thing to forget the contest, to turn aside from the enemy, to lose sight of dangers, and to rush forward to triumph, for which they ought to wait till the proper time. Besides, this foolish speed, for the most part, draws men aside from their calling; for as in battle the greatest coward is the keenest to seize the booty, so in the kingdom of Christ none are more eager to obtain the superiority than those who shrink from all the annoyance which attends toil. Most properly, therefore, does Christ enjoin those who were puffed up with vain glory to keep by their post. The sum of the whole is, that for none but him who has fought lawfully is the crown prepared; and especially, that none will be a partaker of the life and the kingdom of Christ who has not previously shared in his sufferings and death.
In the word baptism the force of the metaphor is very evident; for we know that by baptism believers are instructed to deny themselves, (Mat_45:24;) to crucify the old man, ( Rom_6:6;) and, in short, to bear the cross. It is uncertain if, by the word cup, (ποτήριον, ) our Lord alluded to the mystery of the Holy Supper; but as it had not yet come into use, I choose to interpret it more simply as denoting the measure of afflictions which God appoints to every one. For as it is his right to lay on every one his own burden according to his pleasure, in the same manner as a householder distributes and allots the portions of the members of his family, so He is said to give them a cup to drink.
These words contain no ordinary consolation for alleviating the bitterness of the cross, when in the crossChrist associates himself with us. And what could be more desirable than to have every thing in common with the Son of God? for thus are those things which at first sight appear to be deadly made to yield to us salvation and life. On the other hand, how shall he be reckoned among the disciples of Christ, who desires to be wholly exempted from the cross? For such person refuses to submit to the baptism of Christ, which is nothing else than to withdraw from the earliest lessons. Now whenever baptism is mentioned, let us recollect that we were baptized on this condition, and for this purpose, that the cross may be attached to our shoulders.
The boast made with so much confidence by John and James, that they are prepared to drink the cup, manifests the presumption of the flesh; for, when we are beyond the reach of darts, we think nothing impossible. And not long afterwards, the melancholy result exposed their rashness; but in so far it was good in them that, when they were free to make a choice, they presented themselves to bear the cross.
Ye know not what ye ask – How strange is the infatuation, in some parents, which leads them to desire worldly or ecclesiastical honors for their children! He must be much in love with the cross who wishes to have his child a minister of the Gospel; for, if he be such as God approves of in the work, his life will be a life of toil and suffering; he will be obliged to sip, at least, if not to drink largely, of the cup of Christ. We know not what we ask, when, in getting our children into the Church, we take upon ourselves to answer for their Call to the sacred office, and for the salvation of the souls that are put under their care. Blind parents! rather let your children beg their bread than thrust them into an office to which God has not called them; and in which they will not only ruin their souls, but be the means of damnation to hundreds; for if God has not sent them, they shall not profit the people at all.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask — How gentle the reply to such a request, preferred at such a time, after the sad announcement just made!
can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? — To “drink of a cup” is in Scripture a figure for getting one’s fill either of good (Psa_16:5; Psa_23:5; Psa_116:13; Jer_16:7) or of ill (Psa_75:8; Joh_18:11; Rev_14:10). Here it is the cup of suffering.
and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? — (Compare for the language, Psa_42:7). The object of this question seems to have been to try how far those two men were capable of the dignity to which they aspired and this on the principle that he who is able to suffer most for His sake will be the nearest to Him in His kingdom.
Ye know not what ye ask – You do not know the nature of your request, nor what would be involved in it.
You suppose that it would be attended only with honor and happiness if the request was granted, whereas it would require much suffering and trial.
Are ye able to drink of the cup … – To drink of a cup, in the Scriptures, often signifies to be afflicted, or to be punished, Mat_26:39; Isa_51:17, Isa_51:22; Psa_73:10; Psa_75:8; Jer_25:15; Rev_16:9. The figure is taken from a feast, where the master of a feast extends a cup to those present. Thus God is represented as extending to his Son a cup filled with a bitter mixture – one causing deep sufferings, Joh_18:11. This was the cup to which he referred.
The baptism that I am baptized with – This is evidently a phrase denoting the same thing. Are ye able to suffer with me – to endure the trials and pains which shall come upon you and me in endeavoring to build up my kingdom? Are you able to bear it when sorrows shall cover you like water, and you shall be sunk beneath calamities as floods, in the work of religion? Afflictions are often expressed by being sunk in the floods and plunged in deep waters, Psa_69:2; Isa_43:2; Psa_124:4-5; Lam_3:54.
23.You shall indeed drink my cup.As they were disciples, it was proper that they should be assimilated to their Master. Christ warns them of what will take place, that they may be prepared to endure it with patience; and, in the persons of two men, he addresses all his followers. For though many believers die a natural death, and without violence or shedding of blood, yet it is common to all of them, as Paul informs us, (Rom_8:29; 2Co_3:18,) to be conformed to the image of Christ; and, therefore, during their whole life, they are sheep appointed to the slaughter, (Rom_8:36.)
Ye shall indeed drink of my cup … – You will follow me, and you will partake of my afflictions, and will suffer as I shall.
This was fulfilled. James was slain with the sword by Herod, Act_12:2. John lived many years; but he attended the Saviour through his sufferings, and was himself banished to Patmos, a solitary island, for the testimony of Jesus Christ – a companion of others in tribulation, Rev_1:9.
Is not mine to give By this reply Christ surrenders nothing, but only states that the Father had not assigned to him this office of appointing to each person his own peculiar place in the kingdom of heaven. He came, indeed, in order to bring all his people to eternal life; but we ought to reckon it enough that the inheritance obtained by his blood awaits us. As to the degree in which some men rise above others, it is not our business to inquire, and God did not intend that it should be revealed to us by Christ, but that it should be reserved till the latest revelation. We have now ascertained Christ’s meaning; for he does not here reason as to his power, but only desires us to consider for what purpose he was sent by the Father, and what corresponds to his calling, and therefore distinguishes between the secret purpose of God and the nature of that teaching which had been enjoined on him. It is a useful warning, that we may learn to be wise with sobriety, and may not attempt to force our way into the hidden mysteries of God, and more especially, that we may not indulge excessive curiosity in our inquiries about the future state; for It hath not yet appeared what we shall be, till God shall make us like himself, (1Jo_3:2).
It is also worthy of our notice, that these words do not imply that there will be equality among the children of God, after they have been admitted to the heavenly glory, but rather that to each is promised that degree of honor to which he has been set apart by the eternal purpose of God.
Is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for wham it is prepared of my Father – The common translation, in which the words, it shall be given to them; are interpolated by our translators, utterly changes and destroys the meaning of the passage. It represents Christ (in opposition to the whole Scriptures) as having nothing to do in the dispensing of rewards and punishments; whereas, our Lord only intimates that, however partial he may be to these two brethren, yet seats in glory can only be given to those who are fitted for them. No favor can prevail here; the elevated seat is for him who is filled with the fullness of God. The true construction of the words is this: – ουκ εϚιν εμον δουναι, αλλ’ οις ητοιμυϚαι υπο του πατρος μου, To sit on my right hand and on my left, is not mine to give, except to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. According to the prediction of Christ, these brethren did partake of his afflictions: James was martyred by Herod, Act_12:2; and John was banished to Patmos, for the testimony of Christ, Rev_1:9.
Is not mine to give … – The translation of this place evidently does not express the sense of the original. The translation expresses the idea that Jesus has nothing to do in bestowing rewards on his followers. This is at variance with the uniform testimony of the Scriptures, Mat_25:31-40; Joh_5:22-30. The correct translation of the passage would be, “To sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give, except to those for whom it is prepared by my Father.” The passage thus declares that Christ would give rewards to his followers, but only to such as should be entitled to them according to the purpose of his Father. Much as he might be attached to these two disciples, yet he could not bestow any such signal favors on them out of the regular course of things. Rewards were prepared for his followers, and in due time they should be bestowed. He would bestow them according as they had been provided from eternity by God the Father, Mat_25:34. The correct sense is seen by leaving out that part of the verse in italics, and this is one of the places in the Bible where the sense has been obscured by the introduction of words which have nothing to correspond with them in the original. See a similar instance in 1Jo_2:23.
And when the ten heard it. Luke appears to refer this dispute to a different time. But any one who shall carefully examine that twenty-second chapter will plainly see that discourses delivered at different times are there brought together, without any regard to order. The dispute about the primacy, therefore which Luke mentions, flowed from this source, that the sons of Zebedee aspired to the first places in the kingdom of Christ. And yet the displeasure of the rest was far from being well-founded; for, while the foolish ambition of the two disciples was so severely blamed, that they retired from Christ with disgrace, what injury was it to the other ten, that those disciples foolishly wished what they did not obtain? For though they had a good right to be offended at the ambition of those disciples, yet when it was put down they ought to have been satisfied. But our Lord intended to seize on this occasion for laying open a disease which was lurking within them; for there was not one of them who would willingly yield to others, but every one secretly cherished within himself the expectation of the primacy; in consequence of which, they envy and dispute with one another, and yet in all there reigns wicked ambition. And if this fault was found to be natural to uneducated men of ordinary rank, and if it broke out on a slight occasion, and almost without any occasion at all, how much more ought we to be on our guard, when there is abundance of fuel to feed a concealed flame? We see then how ambition springs up in any man who has great power and honors, and sends out its flames far and wide, unless the spirit of modesty, coming from heaven, extinguish the pride which has a firm hold of the nature of man.
When the ten heard it, they were moved – The ambition which leads to spiritual lordship is one great cause of murmurings and animosities in religious societies, and has proved the ruin of the most flourishing Churches in the universe.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John — or “were moved with indignation,” as the same word is rendered in Mat_20:24. The expression “began to be,” which is of frequent occurrence in the Gospels, means that more passed than is expressed, and that we have but the result. And can we blame the ten for the indignation which they felt? Yet there was probably a spice of the old spirit of rivalry in it, which in spite of our Lord’s recent lengthened, diversified, and most solemn warnings against it, had not ceased to stir in their breasts.
Theophylact: The other Apostles are indignant at seeing James and John seeking for honour; wherefore it is said, “And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John.” For being influenced by human feelings, they were moved with envy; and their first displeasure arose from their seeing that they were not taken up by the Lord; before that time they were not displeased, because they saw that they themselves were honoured before other men. At this time the Apostles were thus imperfect, but afterwards they yielded the chief place one to another.
Christ however cures them; first indeed by drawing them to Himself in order to comfort them; and this is meant, when it is said, “But Jesus called them to Him”; then by shewing them that to usurp honour, and to desire the chief place, belongs to Gentiles.
Wherefore there follows: “And saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship; and their great ones exercise authority over them.” The great ones of the Gentiles thrust themselves into the chief place tyrannically and as lords. It goes on: “But so shall it not be among you.”
Bede: In which He teaches, that he is the greater, who is the less, and that he becomes the lord, who is servant of all: vain, therefore, was it both for the one party to seek for immoderate things, and the other to be annoyed at their desiring greater things, since we are to arrive at the height of virtue not by power but by humility.
Then He proposes an example, that if they lightly regarded His words, His deeds might make them ashamed, saying, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Theophylact: Which is a greater thing than to minister. For what can be greater or more wonderful than that a man should die for him to whom he ministers? Nevertheless, this serving and condescension of humility was His glory, and that of all; for before He was made man, He was known only to the Angels; but now that He has become man and has been crucified, He not only has glory Himself, but also has taken up others to a participation in His glory, and ruled by faith over the whole world.
Bede: He did not say, however, that He gave His life a ransom for all, but for many, that is, for those who would believe on Him.
25.You know that the princes of the Gentiles rule over them. It is first said that Christ called them to him,that he might reprove them in private; and next we learn from it that, being ashamed of their ambition, they did not openly complain, but that a sort of hollow murmur arose, and every one secretly preferred himself to the rest. He does not explain generally how deadly a plague ambition is, but simply warns them, that nothing is more foolish than to fight about nothing. He shows that the primacy, which was the occasion of dispute among them, has no existence in his kingdom. Those persons, therefore, who extend this saying indiscriminately to all the godly are mistaken; for Christ only takes occasion from the present occurrence to show that it is absurd in the apostles to dispute about the degree of power and honor in their own rank, because the office of teaching, to which they were appointed, has no resemblance to the governments of the world. I do acknowledge that this doctrine applies both to private persons and to kings and magistrates; for no man deserves to be reckoned one of Christ’s flock, unless he has made such proficiency under the teacher of humility, as to claim nothing for himself, but condescend to cultivate brotherly love. This is, no doubt, true; but the design of Christ was, as I have said, to distinguish between the spiritual government of his Church and the empires of the world, that the apostles might not look for the favors of a court; for in proportion as any of the nobles is loved by kings, he rises to wealth and distinction. But Christ appoints pastors of his Church, not to rule, but to serve
This reflects the error of the Anabaptists, who exclude kings and magistrates from the Church of God, because Christ declares that they are not like his disciples; though the comparison is here made not between Christians and ungodly men, but between the nature of their offices. Besides, Christ did not look so much at the persons of men as at the condition of his Church. For it was possible that one who was governor of a village or of a city might, in a case of urgent necessity, discharge also the office of teaching; but Christ satisfied himself with explaining what belongs to the apostolic office and what is at variance with it.
But a question arises, Why does Christ, who appointed separate orders in his Church, disown in this passage all degrees? For he appears to throw them all down, or, at least, to place them on a level, so that not one rises above the rest. But natural reason prescribes a very different method; and Paul, when describing the government of the Church, (Eph_4:11,) enumerates the various departments of the ministry, in such a manner as to make the rank of apostleship higher than the office of pastors. Timothy and Titus also, are unquestionably enjoined by him to exercise authoritative superintendence over others, according to the command of God. I reply, if we carefully examine the whole, it will be found that even kings do not rule justly or lawfully, unless they serve; but that the apostolic office differs from earthly government in this respect, that the manner in which kings and magistrates serve does not prevent them from governing, or indeed from rising above their subjects in magnificent pomp and splendor. Thus David, Hezekiah, and others of the same class, while they were the willing servants of all, used a scepter, a crown, a throne, and other emblems of royalty. But the government of the Church admits nothing of this sort; for Christ allowed the pastors nothing more than to be ministers, and to abstain entirely from the exercise of authority. Here, to it ought to be observed, that the discourse relates to the thing itself rather than to the disposition. Christ distinguishes between the apostles and the rank of kings, not because kings have a right to act haughtily, but because the station of royalty is different from the apostolic office. While, therefore, both ought to be humble, it is the duty of the apostles always to consider what form of government the Lord has appointed for his Church.
As to the words which Matthew employs, the princes of the Gentiles rule over them,Luke conveys the same import by saying, they are called benefactors;which means, that kings possess great wealth and abundance, in order that they may be generous and bountiful. For though kings have greater delight in their power, and a stronger desire that it should be formidable, than that it should be founded in the consent of the people, still they desire the praise of munificence. Hence, too, they take the name in the Hebrew language, נדיבים, (nedibim) They are so called from bestowing gifts; for taxes and tributes are paid to them for no other purpose than to furnish the expense necessary to the magnificence of their rank.
Exercise dominion – and – exercise authority upon them – They tyrannized and exercised arbitrary power over the people. This was certainly true of the governments in our Lord’s time, both in the east and in the west. I have endeavored to express, as nearly as possible, the meaning of the two Greek verbs, κατακυριευουσιν, and κατεξουσιαζουσιν; and those who understand the genius of the language will perceive that I have not exhausted their sense, however some may think that no emphasis was intended, and that these compound verbs are used for the simple κυριευειν, and εξουσιαζειν. See Wakefield and Rosenmuller.
The government of the Church of Christ is widely different from secular governments. It is founded in humility and brotherly love: it is derived from Christ, the great Head of the Church, and is ever conducted by his maxims and spirit. When political matters are brought into the Church of Christ, both are ruined. The Church has more than once ruined the State; the State has often corrupted the Church: it is certainly for the interests of both to be kept separate. This has already been abundantly exemplified in both cases, and will continue so to be, over the whole world, wherever the Church and State are united in secular matters.
26.It shall not be so among you.There can be no doubt that Christ refers to the foolish imagination by which he saw that the apostles were deceived. “It is foolish and improper in you,” he says, “to imagine a kingdom, which is unsuitable to me; and therefore, if you desire to serve me faithfully, you must resort to a different method, which is, that each of you may strive to serve others.”
But whoever wishes to be great among you, let him be your servant.These words are employed in an unusual sense; for ambition does not allow a man to be devoted, or, rather, to be subject to his brethren. Abject flattery, I do acknowledge, is practiced by those who aspire to honors, but nothing is farther from their intention than to serveBut Christ’s meaning is not difficult to be perceived. As every man is carried away by a love of himself, he declares that this passion ought to be directed to a different object. Let the only greatness, eminence, and rank, which you desire, be, to submit to your brethren; and let this be your primacy, to be the servants of all.
It shall not be so among you – Every kind of lordship and spiritual domination over the Church of Christ, like that exercised by the Church of Rome, is destructive and anti-christian.
Your minister – Or, deacon, διακονος. I know no other word which could at once convey the meaning of the original, and make a proper distinction between it and δουλος, or servant, in Mat_20:27. The office of a deacon, in the primitive Church, was to serve in the agapae, or love feasts, to distribute the bread and wine to the communicants; to proclaim different parts and times of worship in the churches; and to take care of the widows, orphans, prisoners, and sick, who were provided for out of the revenues of the Church. Thus we find it was the very lowest ecclesiastical office. Deacons were first appointed by the apostles, Act_6:1-6; they had the care of the poor, and preached occasionally.
Minister – A servant. The original word is deacon – a word meaning a servant of any kind; one especially who served at the table, and, in the New Testament, one who serves the church, Act_6:1-4; 1Ti_3:8. Preachers of the gospel are called minister’s because they are the servants of God and of the church 1Co_3:5; 1Co_4:1; 2Co_3:6; 2Co_6:4; Eph_4:12; an office, therefore, which forbids them to lord it over God’s heritage, which is the very opposite of a station of superiority, and which demands the very lowest degree of humility.
Your servant – Δουλος the lowest secular office, as deacon was the lowest ecclesiastical office: δουλος is often put for slave.
From these directions of our Lord, we may easily discern what sort of a spirit his ministers should be of.
1. A minister of Christ is not to consider himself a lord over Christ’s flock.
2. He is not to conduct the concerns of the Church with an imperious spirit.
3. He is to reform the weak, after Christ’s example, more by loving instruction than by reproof or censure.
4. He should consider that true apostolic greatness consists in serving the followers of Christ with all the powers and talents he possesses.
5. That he should be ready, if required, to give up his life unto death, to promote the salvation of men.
28.As the Son of man Christ confirms the preceding doctrine by his own example; for he voluntarily took upon himself the form of a servant,and emptied himself, as Paul also informs us, (Phi_2:7.) To prove more clearly how far he was from indulging in lofty views, he reminds them of his death. “Because I have chosen you to the honor of being near me, you are seized by a wicked ambition to reign. But I — by whose example you ought to regulate your life — came not to exalt myself, or to claim any royal dignity. On the contrary, I took upon me, along with the mean and despised form of the flesh, the ignominy of the cross. If it be objected, that Christ was: exalted by the Father, in order that every knee might bow to him, (Phi_2:9,) it is easy to reply, that what he now says refers to the period of his humiliation.
Accordingly, Luke adds, that he lived among them, as if he were a servant: not that in appearance, or in name, or in reality, he was inferior to them, (for he always wished to be acknowledged as their Master and Lord,) but because from the heavenly glory he descended to such meekness, that he submitted to bear their infirmities. Besides, it ought to be remembered that a comparison is here made between the greater and the less, as in that passage, If I, who am your Master and Lord, have washed your feet, much more ought you to perform this service to one another, (Joh_13:14.)
And to give his life a ransom for many.Christ mentioned his death, as we have said, in order to withdraw his disciples from the foolish imagination of an earthly kingdom. But it is a just and appropriate statement of its power and results, when he declares that his life is the price of our redemption; whence it follows, that we obtain an undeserved reconciliation with God, the price of which is to be found nowhere else than in the death of Christ. Wherefore, this single word overturns all the idle talk of the Papists about their abominable satisfactions Again, while Christ has purchased us by his death to be his property, this submission, of which he speaks, is so far from diminishing his boundless glory, that it greatly increases its splendor. The word many ( πολλῶν) is not put definitely for a fixed number, but for a large number; for he contrasts himself with all others. And in this sense it is used in Rom_5:15, where Paul does not speak of any part of men, but embraces the whole human race.
A ransom for many – Λυτρον αντι πολλων, or a ransom instead of many, – one ransom, or atonement, instead of the many prescribed in the Jewish law. Mr. Wakefield contends for the above translation, and with considerable show of reason and probability.
The word λυτρον is used by the Septuagint for the Hebrew פדיו, pidion, the ransom paid for a man’s life: see Exo_21:30; Num_3:49-51; and λυτρα is used Num_35:31, where a satisfaction (Hebrew כפר copher, an atonement) for the life of a murderer is refused. The original word is used by Lucian in exactly the same sense, who represents Ganymede promising to sacrifice a ram to Jupiter, λυτρον υπερ εμου, as a ransom for himself, provided he would dismiss him.
The whole Gentile world, as well as the Jews, believed in vicarious sacrifices. Virgil, Aen. v. 85, has nearly the same words as those in the text. “Unum Pro Multis dabitur Caput,” – One man must be given for many. Jesus Christ laid down his life as a ransom for the lives and souls of the children of men. In the Codex Bezae, and in most of the Itala, the Saxon, and one of the Syriac, Hilary, Leo Magnus, and Juvencus, the following remarkable addition is found; “But seek ye to increase from a little, and to be lessened from that which is great. Moreover, when ye enter into a house, and are invited to sup, do not recline in the most eminent places, lest a more honorable than thou come after, and he who invited thee to supper come up to thee and say, Get down yet lower; and thou be put to confusion. But if thou sit down in the lowest place, and one inferior to thee come after, he who invited thee to supper will say unto thee, Go and sit higher: now this will be advantageous to thee.” This is the largest addition found in any of the MSS., and contains not less than sixty words In the original, and eighty-three in the Anglo-Saxon. It may be necessary to remark, that Mr. Marshall, in his edition of the Gothic and Saxon Gospels, does not insert these words in the text, but gives them, p. 496 of his observations. This addition is at least as ancient as the fourth century, for it is quoted by Hilary, who did not die till about a.d. 367.
Even as the Son of man … – See the notes at Mat_8:20. Jesus points them to his own example. He was in the form of God in heaven, Phi_2:6. He came to people in the form of a servant, Phi_2:7. He came not with pomp and glory, but as a man in humble life; and since he came he had not required them to minister to him. “He labored for them.” He strove to do them good. He provided for their needs; fared as poorly as they did; went before them in dangers and sufferings; practiced self-denial on their account, and for them was about to lay down his life. See Joh_13:4-5.
To give his life a ransom for many – The word “ransom” means literally a price paid for the redemption of captives. In war, when prisoners are taken by an enemy, the money demanded for their release is called a ransom; that is, it is the means by which they are set at liberty. So anything that releases anyone from a state of punishment, or suffering, or sin, is called a ransom. People are by nature captives to sin. They are sold under it. They are under condemnation, Eph_2:3; Rom_3:9-20, Rom_3:23; 1Jo_5:19. They are under a curse, Gal_3:10. They are in love with sin They are under its withering dominion, and are exposed to death eternal, Eze_18:4; Psa_9:17; Psa_11:6; Psa_68:2; Psa_139:19; Mat_25:46; Rom_2:6-9. They must have perished unless there had been some way by which they could he rescued. This was done by the death of Jesus – by giving his life a ransom. The meaning is, that he died in the place of sinners, and that God was willing to accept the pains of his death in the place of the eternal suffering of the redeemed. The reasons why such a ransom was necessary are:
1. that God had declared that the sinner shall die; that is, that he would punish, or show his hatred to, all sin.
2. that all people had sinned, and, if justice was to take its regular course, all must perish.
3. that man could make no atonement for his own sins. All that he could do, were he holy, would be only to do his duty, and would make no amends for the past. Repentance and future obedience would not blot away one sin.
4. No man was pure, and no angel could make atonement. God was pleased, therefore, to appoint his only-begotten Son to make such a ransom. See Joh_3:16; 1Jo_4:10; 1Pe_1:18-19; Rev_13:8; Joh_1:29; Eph_5:2; Heb_8:2-7; Isa_53:1-12; This is commonly called the atonement. See the notes at Rom_5:2.
For many – See also Mat_26:28; Joh_10:15; 1Ti_2:6; 1Jo_2:2; 2Co_5:14-15; Heb_2:9.
A ransom for many (lutron anti pollon). The Son of man is the outstanding illustration of this principle of self-abnegation in direct contrast to the self-seeking of James and John. The word translated “ransom” is the one commonly employed in the papyri as the price paid for a slave who is then set free by the one who bought him, the purchase money for manumitting slaves. See examples in Moulton and Milligan’s Vocabulary and Deissmann’s Light from the Ancient East, pp. 328f. There is the notion of exchange also in the use of anti. Jesus gave his own life as the price of freedom for the slaves of sin. There are those who refuse to admit that Jesus held this notion of a substitutionary death because the word in the N.T. occurs only here and the corresponding passage in Mar_10:45. But that is an easy way to get rid of passages that contradict one’s theological opinions. Jesus here rises to the full consciousness of the significance of his death for men.