Gloss: After that the Lord had foretold the offence of His disciples, the Evangelist gives an account of His prayer, in which He is supposed to have prayed for His disciples; and first describing the place of prayer, he says, “And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane.”
Bede: The place Gethsemane, in which the Lord prayed, is shewn up to this day at the foot of the Mount of Olives. The meaning of Gethsemane is, the valley of the fat, or of fatness. Now when our Lord prays on a mountain, He teaches us that we should when we pray ask for lofty things; but by praying in the valley of fatness, He implies that in our prayer humility and the fatness of interior love must be kept. He also by the valley of humility and the fatness of charity underwent death for us.
Pseudo-Jerome: In the valley of fatness also, the fat bulls beset Him. There follows, “And He saith to His disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray;” they are separated from Him in prayer, who are separated in His Passion; for He prays, they sleep, overcome by the sloth of their heart.
Theophylact: It was also His custom always to pray by Himself, in order to give us an example, to seek for silence and solitude in our prayers. There follows: “And He taketh with Him Peter, and James and John.” He takes only those who had been witnesses of His glory on Mount Tabor, that they who had seen His glory might also see His sufferings, and learn that He is really man, in that He is sorrowful.
Wherefore there follows: “And began to be sore amazed, and very heavy.” For since He had taken on Himself the whole of human nature, He took also those natural things which belong to man, amazement, heaviness, and sorrow; for men are naturally unwilling to die.
Wherefore it goes on: “And He saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death.”
Bede: As being God, dwelling in the body, He shews the frailty of flesh, that the blasphemy of those who deny the Mystery of His Incarnation might find no place; for having taken up a body, He must needs also take up all that belongs to the body, hunger, thirst, pain, grief; for the Godhead cannot suffer the changes of those affections.
Theophylact: but some have understood this, as if He had said, I am sorrowful, not because I am to die, but because the Jews, My countrymen, are about to crucify Me, and by these means to be shut out from the kingdom of God.
Pseudo-Jerome: By this also we are taught to fear and to be sorrowful before the judgment of death, for not by ourselves, but by Him only, can we say, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.” [Joh_14:30] There follows: “Tarry ye, here, and watch.”
Bede: He does not mean natural sleep by the sleep which He forbids, for the time of approaching danger did not allow of it, but the sleep of unfaithfulness, and the torpor of the mind. But going forward a little, He falls on His face, and shews His lowliness of mind, by the posture of His body.
Wherefore there follows: “And He went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him.”
Then Jesus cometh with them. Luke mentions the mountain of Olives only. Mark and Matthew add a more minute description of the place. But Luke expresses what is still more to the purpose, that Christ came there according to his custom. Hence we infer, that he did not seek retirement for the purpose of concealing himself, but, as if he had made an assignation with his enemies, he presented himself to death. On this account John says (Joh_18:2 ) that the place was known to the traitor, because Jesus was wont to come there frequently. In this passage, therefore, his obedience is again described to us, because he could not have appeased the Father but by a voluntary death.
Sit here. By leaving the disciples at a distance, he spares their weakness; as if a man, perceiving that he would soon be in extreme danger in battle, were to leave his wife and children in a situation of safety. But though he intended to place them all beyond arrow-shot, yet he took three of them who accompanied him more closely than the rest, and these were the flower and choice, in which there was greater rigor. And yet he did not take them, as if he believed that they would be able to sustain the attack, but that they might afford a proof of the defect which was common to them all.
A place called Gethsemane – A garden at the foot of the mount of Olives. The name seems to be formed from גת gath, a press, and סמן shemen, oil; probably the place where the produce of the mount of Olives was prepared for use. The garden of the oil-press, or olive-press.
Sit ye here – Or, stay in this place, while I go and pray yonder: and employ ye the time as I shall employ it – in watching unto prayer.
Then cometh … – After the institution of the Lord’s Supper, in the early part of the night, he went out to the Mount of Olives.
In his journey he passed over the brook Cedron Joh_18:1, which bounded Jerusalem on the east.
Unto a place – John calls this “a garden.” This garden was on the western side of the Mount of Olives, and a short distance from Jerusalem. The word used by John means not properly a garden for the cultivation of vegetables, but a place planted with the olive and other trees, perhaps with a fountain of water, and with walks and groves; a proper place of refreshment in a hot climate, and of retirement from the noise of the adjacent city. Such places were doubtless common in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Messrs. Fisk and King, American missionaries were at the place which is commonly supposed to have been the garden of Gethsemane in 1823. They tell us that the garden is about a stone’s cast from the brook of Cedron; that it now contains eight large and venerable-looking olives, whose trunks show their great antiquity. The spot is sandy and barren, and appears like a forsaken place. A low broken wall surrounds it.
Mr. King sat down beneath one of the trees and read Isa_53:1-12, and also the gospel history of our Redeemer’s sorrow during that memorable night in which he was there betrayed; and the interest of the association was heightened by the passing through the place of a party of Bedouins, armed with spears and swords. A recent traveler says of this place that it “is a field or garden about 50 paces square, with a few shrubs growing in it, and eight olive-trees of great antiquity, the whole enclosed with a stone wall.” The place was probably fixed upon, as Dr. Robinson supposes, during the visit of Helena to Jerusalem, 326 a.d., when the places of the crucifixion and resurrection were believed to be identified. There is, however, no absolute certainty respecting the places. Dr. Thomson (The Land and the Book, vol. ii. p. 484) supposes it most probable that the real “Garden of Gethsemane” was several hundred yards to the northwest of the present Gethsemane, in a place much more secluded than the one usually regarded as that where the agony of the Saviour occurred, and therefore more likely to have been the place of his retirement. Nothing, however, that is of importance depends on ascertaining the exact spot.
Luke says that Jesus “went as he was wont” – that is, accustomed – “to the Mount of Olives.” Probably he had been in the habit of retiring from Jerusalem to that place for meditation and prayer, thus enforcing by his example what he had so often done by his precepts the duty of retiring from the noise and bustle of the world to hold communion with God.
Gethsemane – This word is made up either of two Hebrew words, signifying “valley of fatness” – that is, a fertile valley; or of two words, signifying “an olive-press,” given to it, probably, because the place was filled with olives.
Sit ye here – That is, in one part of the garden to which they first came.
While I go and pray yonder – That is, at the distance of a stone’s cast, Luk_22:41. Luke adds that when he came to the garden he charged them to pray that they might not enter into temptation – that is, into deep “trials and afflictions,” or, more probably, into scenes and dangers that would tempt them to deny him.
37.He began to be affected with grief. We have seen that our Lord formerly contended with the fear of death; but as he now fights face to face with temptation, such an attack is called the beginning of grief and sorrow. Hence we infer that the true test of virtue is only to be found when the contest begins; for then the weakness of the flesh, which was formerly concealed, shows itself, and the secret feelings are abundantly displayed. Thus, though God had already tried his Son by certain preparatory exercises, he now wounds him more sharply by a nearer prospect of death, and strikes his mind with a terror to which he had not been accustomed. But as it appears to be inconsistent with the divine glory of Christ, that he was seized with trembling and sadness, many commentators have labored with toil and anxiety to find some way of evading the difficulty. But their labor has been ill-judged and of no use; for if we are ashamed that Christ should experience fear and sorrow, our redemption will perish and be lost.
Ambrose justly says: “I not only do not think that there is any need of excuse, but there is no instance in which I admire more his kindness and his majesty; for he would not have done so much for me, if he had not taken upon him my feelings. He grieved for me, who had no cause of grief for himself; and, laying aside the delights of the eternal Godhead, he experiences the affliction of my weakness. I boldly call it sorrow, because I preach the cross. For he took upon him not the appearance, but the reality, of incarnation. It was therefore necessary that he should experience grief, that he might overcome sorrow, and not shut it out; for the praise of fortitude is not bestowed on those who are rather stupefied than pained by wounds.” Thus far Ambrose.
Certainly those who imagine that the Son of God was exempt from human passions do not truly and sincerely acknowledge him to be a man. And when it is even said that the divine power of Christ rested and was concealed for a time, that by his sufferings he might discharge all that belonged to the Redeemer, this was so far from being absurd, that in no other way could the mystery of our salvation have been accomplished. For Cyril has properly said: “That the suffering of Christ on the cross was not in every respect voluntary, but that it was voluntary on account of the will of the Father, and on account of our salvation, you may easily learn from his prayer, Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. For the same reason that the Word of God is God, (Joh_1:1,) and is naturally life itself, (Joh_11:25,) nobody doubts that he had no dread of death; but, having been made flesh, (Joh_1:14,) he allows the flesh to feel what belongs to it, and, therefore, being truly a man, he trembles at death, when it is now at the door, and says, Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; but since it cannot be otherwise, let it be not as I will, but as thou wilt. You see how human nature, even in Christ himself, has the sufferings and fears which belong to it, but that the Word, who is united to it, raises it to a fortitude which is worthy of God.” He at length concludes: “You perceive that it was not for the sake of the flesh that the death of Christ was voluntary, but that it was voluntary, because, on account of it, according to the will of the Father, salvation and life were bestowed on men.” Such are the views of Cyril.
Still the weakness which Christ took upon himself must be distinguished from ours, for there is a great difference. In us there is no affection unaccompanied by sin, because they all exceed due bounds and proper restraint; but when Christ was distressed by grief and fear, he did not rise against God, but continued to be regulated by the true rule of moderation. We need not wonder that, since he was innocent, and pure from every stain, the affections which flowed from him were pure and stainless; but that nothing proceeds from the corrupt nature of men which is not impure and filthy. Let us, therefore, attend to this distinction, that Christ, amidst fear and sadness, was weak without any taint of sin; but that all our affections are sinful, because they rise to an extravagant height.
The kind of feelings, by which Christ was tempted, is also worthy of notice. Matthew says that he was affected by grief and sorrow (or anxiety;)Luke says that he was seized with anguish; and Mark adds that he trembled. And whence came his sorrow and anguish, and fear, but because he felt that death had something in it more sad and more dreadful than the separation of the soul and body? And certainly he underwent death, not merely that he might depart from earth to heaven, but rather that, by taking upon himself the curse to which we were liable, he might deliver us from it. He had no horror at death, therefore, simply as a passage out of the world, but because he had before his eyes the dreadful tribunal of God, and the Judge himself armed with inconceivable vengeance; and because our sins, the load of which was laid upon him, pressed him down with their enormous weight. There is no reason to wonder, therefore, if the dreadful abyss of destruction tormented him grievously with fear and anguish.
And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee – That is, James and John; the same persons who had beheld his transfiguration on the mount – that they might contemplate this agony in the light of that glory which they had there seen; and so be kept from being stumbled by a view of his present humiliation.
Began to be sorrowful – Λυπεισθαι, from λυω, to dissolve – exquisite sorrow, such as dissolves the natural vigor, and threatens to separate soul and body.
And very heavy – Overwhelmed with anguish – αδημονειν. This word is used by the Greeks to denote the most extreme anguish which the soul can feel – excruciating anxiety and torture of spirit.
And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee – That is, James and John, Mat_10:2. On two other occasions he had favored these disciples in a particular manner, suffering them to go with him to witness his power and glory, namely, at the healing of the ruler’s daughter Luk_8:51, and at his transfiguration on the mount, Mat_17:1.
Sorrowful – Affected with grief.
Very heavy – The word in the original is much stronger than the one translated “sorrowful.” It means, to be pressed down or overwhelmed with great anguish. This was produced, doubtless, by a foresight of his great sufferings on the cross in making an atonement for the sins of people.
He took with him (paralabon). Taking along, by his side (parȧ), as a mark of special favour and privilege, instead of leaving this inner circle of three (Peter, James, and John) with the other eight. The eight would serve as a sort of outer guard to watch by the gate of the garden for the coming of Judas while the three would be able to share the agony of soul already upon Jesus so as at least to give him some human sympathy which he craved as he sought help from the Father in prayer. These three had been with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration and now they are with him in this supreme crisis.
The grief of Christ was now severe.
The word for sore troubled (ademonein) is of doubtful etymology. There is an adjective ademos equal to apodemos meaning “not at home,” “away from home,” like the German unheimisch, unheimlich. But whatever the etymology, the notion of intense discomfort is plain. The word ademonein occurs in P.Oxy. II, 298,456 of the first century a.d. where it means “excessively concerned.” See note on Phi_2:26 where Paul uses it of Epaphroditus. Moffatt renders it here “agitated.” The word occurs sometimes with aporeo to be at a loss as to which way to go. The Braid Scots has it “sair putten-aboot.”
Here Matthew has also “to be sorrowful” (lupeisthai), but Mark (Mar_14:33) has the startling phrase greatly amazed and sore troubled (ekthambeisthai kai ademonein), a “feeling of terrified surprise.”
38.My soul is sorrowful. He communicates to them his sorrow, in order to arouse them to sympathy; not that he was unacquainted with their weakness, but in order that they might afterwards be more ashamed of their carelessness. This phrase expresses a deadly wound of grief; as if he had said, that he fainted, or was half-dead, with sorrow. Jonah (Jon_4:9 ) makes use of a similar phrase in replying to the Lord; I am angry even to death. I advert to this, because some of the ancient writers, in handling this passage with a misapplication of ingenuity, philosophize in this way, that the soul of Christ was not sorrowful in death but only even to death. And here again we ought to remember the cause of so great sorrow; for death in itself would not have so grievously tormented the mind of the Son of God, if he had not felt that he had to deal with the judgment of God.
Then saith he – Then saith – Jesus: – I have added the word Jesus, ο Ιησους, on the authority of a multitude of eminent MSS. See them in Griesbach.
My soul is exceeding sorrowful, (or, is surrounded with exceeding sorrow), even unto death – This latter word explains the two former: My soul is so dissolved in sorrow, my spirit is filled with such agony and anguish, that, if speedy succor be not given to my body, death must be the speedy consequence.
Now, the grand expiatory sacrifice begins to be offered: in this garden Jesus enters fully into the sacerdotal office; and now, on the altar of his immaculate divinity, begins to offer his own body – his own life – a lamb without spot, for the sin of the world. St. Luke observes, Luk_22:43, Luk_22:44, that there appeared unto him an angel from heaven strengthening him; and that, being in an agony, his sweat was like great drops of blood falling to the ground. How exquisite must this anguish have been, when it forced the very blood through the coats of the veins, and enlarged the pores in such a preternatural manner as to cause them to empty it out in large successive drops! In my opinion, the principal part of the redemption price was paid in this unprecedented and indescribable agony.
Bloody sweats are mentioned by many authors; but none was ever such as this – where a person in perfect health, (having never had any predisposing sickness to induce a debility of the system), and in the full vigor of life, about thirty-three years of age, suddenly, through mental pressure, without any fear of death, sweat great drops of blood; and these continued, during his wrestling with God to fall to the ground.
To say that all this was occasioned by the fear he had of the ignominious death which he was about to die confutes itself – for this would not only rob him of his divinity, for which purpose it is brought, but it deprives him of all excellency, and even of manhood itself. The prospect of death could not cause him to suffer thus, when he knew that in less than three days he was to be restored to life, and be brought into an eternity of blessedness. His agony and distress can receive no consistent explication but on this ground – He Suffered, the Just for the Unjust, that he might Bring us to God. O glorious truth! O infinitely meritorious suffering! And O! above all, the eternal love, that caused him to undergo such sufferings for the sake of Sinners!
My soul is exceeding sorrowful – His human nature – his soul – was much and deeply affected and pressed down.
Even unto death – This denotes extreme sorrow and agony.
The sufferings of death are the greatest of which we have any knowledge; they are the most feared and dreaded by man; and those sufferings are therefore put for extreme and indescribable anguish. The meaning may be thus expressed: My sorrows are so great that under their burden I am ready to die; such is the anxiety of mind, that I seem to bear the pains of death!
Tarry ye here and watch with me – The word rendered “watch” means, literally, to abstain from sleep; then to be vigilant, or to guard against danger. Here it seems to mean to sympathize with him, to unite with him in seeking divine support, and to prepare themselves for approaching dangers.
39.And he went forward a little. We have seen in other passages, that in order to excite himself to greater earnestness of prayer, the Lord prayed in the absence of witnesses; for when we are withdrawn from the gaze of men, we succeed better in collecting our senses, so as to attend more closely to what we are doing. It is not, indeed, necessary — nay more, it is not always proper — that we should retire to distant corners whenever we pray; but when some great necessity urges us, because the fervor of prayer is more freely indulged when we are alone, it is useful to us to pray apart. And if the Son of God did not disregard this aid, it would be the greatest madness of pride in us not to apply it for our own advantage. Add to this, that when God alone is witness, as there is nothing then to be feared from ambition, the believing soul unfolds itself with greater familiarity, and with greater simplicity pours its wishes, and groans, and anxieties, and fears, and hopes, and joys, into the bosom of God. God allows his people to make use of many little modes of speaking, when they pray alone, which, in the presence of men, would savor of ostentation.
And fell on his face. By the very gesture of falling on the earth, Christ manifested his deep earnestness in prayer. For though kneeling, as our expression of respect and reverence, is commonly used in prayer, Christ, by throwing himself on the ground as a suppliant, placed himself in a pitiable attitude on account of the vehemence of his grief.
My Father, if it be possible. In vain do some persons labor to show that what is here described is not a prayer, but only a complaint. For my own part, while I own that it is abrupt, I have no doubt that Christ offered a prayer. Nor is it inconsistent with this, that he asks a thing that is impossible to be granted to him; for the prayers of believers do not always flow on with uninterrupted progress to the end, do not always maintain a uniform measure, are not always arranged even in a distinct order, but, on the contrary, are involved and confused, and either oppose each other, or stop in the middle of the course; like a vessel tossed by tempests, which, though it advances towards the harbor, cannot always keep a straight and uniform course, as in a calm sea. We must remember, indeed, what I lately mentioned, that Christ had not confused emotions, like those to which we are accustomed, to withdraw his mind from pure moderation; but, so far as the pure and innocent nature of man could admit, he was struck with fear and seized with anguish, so that, amidst the violent shocks of temptation, he vacillated—as it were—from one wish to another. This is the reason why, after having prayed to be freed from death, he immediately restrains himself, and, submitting to the authority of the Father, corrects and recalls that wish which had suddenly escaped him.
But it may be asked, How did he pray that the eternal decree of the Father, of which he was not ignorant, should be revoked? or though he states a condition, if it be possible, yet it wears an aspect of absurdity to make the purpose of God changeable. We must hold it to be utterly impossible for God to revoke his decree. According to Mark, too, Christ would seem to contrast the power of God with his decree. All things, says he, are possible to thee. But it would be improper to extend the power of God so far as to lessen his truth, by making him liable to variety and change. I answer, There would be no absurdity in supposing that Christ, agreeably to the custom of the godly, leaving out of view the divine purpose, committed to the bosom of the Father his desire which troubled him. For believers, in pouring out their prayers, do not always ascend to the contemplation of the secrets of God, or deliberately inquire what is possible to be done, but are sometimes carried away hastily by the earnestness of their wishes. Thus Moses prays that he may be blotted out of the book of life, (Exo_32:33;) thus Paul wished to be made an anathema,(Rom_9:3.) This, therefore, was not a premeditated prayer of Christ; but the strength and violence of grief suddenly drew this word from his mouth, to which he immediately added a correction. The same vehemence of desire took away from him the immediate recollection of the heavenly decree, so that he did not at that moment reflect, that it was on this condition, that he was sent to be the Redeemer of mankind; as distressing anxiety often brings darkness over our eyes, so that we do not at once remember the whole state of the matter. In short, there is no impropriety, if in prayer we do not always direct our immediate attention to every thing, so as to preserve a distinct order. When Christ says, in the Gospel by Matthew, that all things are possible to God, he does not intend by these words to bring the power of God into conflict with unchangeable truth and firmness; but as there was no hope—which is usually the case when affairs are desperate—he throws himself on the power of God. The word (ποτήριον) cup or chalice— as we have mentioned elsewhere — denotes the providence of God, which assigns to each his measure of the cross and of affliction, just as the master of a house gives an allowance to each servant, and distributes portions among the children.
But yet not as I will, but as thou wilt. We see how Christ restrains his feelings at the very outset, and quickly brings himself into a state of obedience. But here it may first be inquired, How was his will pure from all vice, while it did not agree with the will of God? For if the will of God is the only rule of what is good and right, it follows, that all the feelings which are at variance with it are vicious. I reply: Though it be true rectitude to regulate all our feelings by the good pleasure of God, yet there is a certain kind of indirect disagreement with it which is not faulty, and is not reckoned as sin; if, for example, a person desire to see the Church in a calm and flourishing condition, if he wish that the children of God were delivered from afflictions, that all superstitions were removed out of the world, and that the rage of wicked men were so restrained as to do no injury. These things, being in themselves right, may properly be desired by believers, though it may please God to order a different state of matters: for he chooses that his Son should reign among enemies; that his people should be trained under the cross; and that the triumph of faith and of the Gospel should be rendered more illustrious by the opposing machinations of Satan. We see how those prayers are holy, which appear to be contrary to the will of God; for God does not desire us to be always exact or scrupulous in inquiring what he has appointed, but allows us to ask what is desirable according to the capacity of our senses.
But the question has not yet been fully answered: for since we have just now said that all the feelings of Christ were properly regulated, how does he now correct himself? For he brings his feelings into obedience to God in such a manner as if he had exceeded what was proper. Certainly in the first prayer we do not perceive that calm moderation which I have described; for, as far as lies in his power, he refuses and shrinks from discharging the office of Mediator. I reply: When the dread of death was presented to his mind, and brought along with it such darkness, that he left out of view every thing else, and eagerly presented that prayer, there was no fault in this. Nor is it necessary to enter into any subtle controversy whether or not it was possible for him to forget our salvation. We ought to be satisfied with this single consideration, that at the time when he uttered a prayer to be delivered from death, he was not thinking of other things which would have shut the door against such a wish.
If it be objected, that the first movement, which needed to be restrained before it proceeded farther, was not so well regulated as it ought to have been, I reply: In the present corruption of our nature it is impossible to find ardor of affections accompanied by moderation, such as existed in Christ; but we ought to give such honor to the Son of God, as not to judge of him by what we find in ourselves. For in us all the affections of the flesh, when strongly excited, break out into rebellion, or, at least, have some mixture of pollution; but Christ, amidst the utmost vehemence of grief or fear, restrained himself within proper bounds. Nay more, as musical sounds, though various and differing from each other, are so far from being discordant, that they produce sweet melody and fine harmony; so in Christ there was a remarkable example of adaptation between the two wills, the will of God and the will of man, so that they differed from each other without any conflict or opposition.
This passage shows plainly enough the gross folly of those ancient heretics, who were called Monothelites, because they imagined that the will of Christ was but one and simple; for Christ, as he was God, willed nothing different from the Father; and therefore it follows, that his human soul had affections distinct from the secret purpose of God. But if even Christ was under the necessity of holding his will captive, in order to subject it to the government of God, though it was properly regulated, how carefully ought we to repress the violence of our feelings, which are always inconsiderate, and rash, and full of rebellion? And though the Spirit of God governs us, so that we wish nothing but what is agreeable to reason, still we owe to God such obedience as to endure patiently that our wishes should not be granted; For the modesty of faith consists in permitting God to appoint differently from what we desire. Above all, when we have no certain and special promise, we ought to abide by this rule, not to ask any thing but on the condition that God shall fulfill what he has decreed; which cannot be done, unless we give up our wishes to his disposal.
It comes now to be inquired, what advantage did Christ gain by praying? The apostle, in writing to the Hebrews, says that he was heard (ἀπὸ τὢς εὐλαβείας) on account of his fear: for so ought that passage to be explained, and not, as it is usually explained, on account of his reverence, (Heb_5:7.) That would not have been consistent, if Christ had simply feared death; for he was not delivered from it. Hence it follows, that what led him to pray to be delivered from death was the dread of a greater evil. When he saw the wrath of God exhibited to him, as he stood at the tribunal of God charged with the sins of the whole world, he unavoidably shrunk with horror from the deep abyss of death. And, therefore, though he suffered death, yet since its pains were loosed—as Peter tells us, (Act_2:24,)—and he was victorious in the conflict, the Apostle justly says, that he was heard on account of his fear. Here ignorant people rise up and exclaim, that it would have been unworthy of Christ to be afraid of being swallowed up by death. But I should wish them to answer this question, What kind of fear do they suppose it to have been which drew from Christ drops of blood? (Luk_22:44 ) For that mortal sweat could only have proceeded from fearful and unusual horror. If any person, in the present day, were to sweat blood, and in such a quantity that the drops should fall to the ground, it would be reckoned an astonishing miracle; and if this happened to any man through fear of death, we would say that he had a cowardly and effeminate mind. Those men, therefore, who deny that Christ prayed that the Father would rescue him from the gulf of death, ascribe to him a cowardice that would be disgraceful even in an ordinary man.
If it be objected, that the fear which I am describing arises from unbelief, the answer is easy. When Christ was struck with horror at the divine curse, the feeling of the flesh affected him in such a manner, that faith still remained firm and unshaken. For such was the purity of his nature, that he felt, without being wounded by them, those temptations which pierce us with their stings. And yet those persons, by representing him not to have felt temptations, foolishly imagine that he was victorious without fighting. And, indeed, we have no right to suppose that he used any hypocrisy, when he complained of a mortal sadness in his soul; nor do the Evangelists speak falsely, when they say that he was exceedingly sorrowful, and that he trembled
Augustine, de Con. iii, iv: He said not, if He could do it, but if it could be done; for whatever He wills is possible. We must therefore understand, “if it be possible,” as if it were; if He is willing. And lest any one should suppose that He lessened His Father’s power, He shews in what sense the words are to be understood; for there follows, “And He said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee.”
By which He sufficiently shows that the words, “if it be possible,” must be understood not of any impossibility, but of the Will of His Father. As to what Mark relates that He said not only Father, but “Abba, Father”, Abba is the Hebrew for Father. And perhaps the Lord said both words, on account of some Sacrament contained in them; wishing to shew that He had taken upon Himself that sorrow in the person of His body, The Church, to which He was made the chief cornerstone, and which came to Him, partly from the Hebrews, who are represented by the word, “Abba”, partly from the Gentiles, to whom “Father” belongs.
Bede: But He prays, that the cup may pass away, to shew that He is very man, wherefore He adds: “Take away this cup from Me.” But remembering why He was sent, He accomplishes the dispensation for which He was sent, and cries out, “But not what I Will, but what Thou Wilt.” As if He had said, If death can die, without My dying according to the flesh, let this cup pass away; but since this cannot be otherwise, “not what I Will, but what Thou Wilt.”
Many still are sad at the prospect of death, but let them keep their heart right, and avoid death as much as they can; but if they cannot, then let them say what the Lord said of us.
Pseudo-Jerome: By which also He ceases not up to the end to teach us to obey our fathers, and to prefer their will to ours. There follows: “And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping.” For as they are asleep in mind, so also in body.
Theophylact: But after His prayer, the Lord coming, and seeing His disciples sleeping, rebukes Peter alone. Wherefore it goes on: “And saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch with me one hour?
As if He had said, If thou couldest not watch one hour with me, how wilt thou be able to despise death, thou who promisest to die with Me?
It goes on: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation,” that is, the temptation of denying Me.
Bede: He does not say, Pray that ye may not be tempted, because it is impossible for the human mind not to be tempted, but that ye enter not into temptation, that is, that temptation may not vanquish you.
Pseudo-Jerome: But he is said to enter into temptation, who neglects to pray.
There follows: “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Theophylact: As if He had said, Your spirit indeed is ready not to deny me, and for this reason ye promise; but your flesh is weak, in that unless God give power to your flesh through prayer, ye shall enter into temptation.
Bede: He here represses the rash, who think that they can compass whatever they are confident about. But in proportion as we are confident from the ardour of our mind, so let us fear from the weakness of our flesh.
For this place makes against those, who say that there was but one operation in the Lord and one Will. For He shews two wills, one human, which from the weakness of the flesh shrinks from suffering; one divine, which is most ready.
It goes on: “And again He went away and prayed, and spake the same words.”
Theophylact: That by His second prayer He might shew Himself to be very man. It goes on: “And when He returned, He found them asleep again;” He however did not rebuke them severely. “For their eyes were heavy, (that is, with sleep,) neither wist they what to answers Him.” By this learn the weakness of men, and let us not, whom even sleep can overcome, promise things which are impossible to us. Therefore He goes away the third time to pray the prayer mentioned above.
Fell on his face – See the note on Luk_22:44. This was the ordinary posture of the supplicant when the favor was great which was asked, and deep humiliation required. The head was put between the knees, and the forehead brought to touch the earth – this was not only a humiliating, but a very painful posture also.
This cup – The word cup is frequently used in the Sacred Writings to point out sorrow, anguish, terror, death. It seems to be an allusion to a very ancient method of punishing criminals. A cup of poison was put into their hands, and they were obliged to drink it. Socrates was killed thus, being obliged by the magistrates of Athens to drink a cup of the juice of hemlock. To death, by the poisoned cup, there seems an allusion in Heb_2:9, Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, Tasted death for every man. The whole world are here represented as standing guilty and condemned before the tribunal of God; into every man’s hand the deadly cup is put, and he is required to drink off the poison – Jesus enters, takes every man’s cup out of his hand, and drinks off the poison, and thus tastes or suffers the death which every man otherwise must have undergone.
Pass from me – Perhaps there is an allusion here to several criminals standing in a row, who are all to drink of the same cup; but, the judge extending favor to a certain one, the cup passes by him to the next.
Instead of προελθων μικρον, going a little forward, many eminent MSS. have προσελθων, coming a little forward – but the variation is of little moment. At the close of this verse several MSS. add the clause in Luk_22:43, There appeared an angel, etc.
Abba, Father – This Syriac word, which intimates filial affection and respect, and parental tenderness, seems to have been used by our blessed Lord merely considered as man, to show his complete submission to his Father’s will, and the tender affection which he was conscious his Father had for him, Abba, Syriac, is here joined to ο
πατηρ, Greek, both signifying father; so St. Paul, Rom_8:15; Gal_4:6. The reason is, that from the time in which the Jews became conversant with the Greek language, by means of the Septuagint version and their commerce with the Roman and Greek provinces, they often intermingled Greek and Roman words with their own language. There is the fullest evidence of this fact in the earliest writings of the Jews; and they often add a word of the same meaning in Greek to their own term; such as מרי קירי, Mori, κυριε my Lord, Lord; פילי שער, pili, πυλη, shuar, gate, gate: and above, אבא, πατηρ, father, father: see several examples in Schoettgen. The words אבי and אבא appear to have been differently used among the Hebrews; the first Abbi, was a term of civil respect; the second, Abba, a term of filial affection. Hence, Abba, Abbi, as in the Syriac version in this place, may be considered as expressing, My Lord, my Father. And in this sense St. Paul is to be understood in the places referred to above. See Lightfoot.
And he went a little further – That is, at the distance that a man could conveniently cast a stone (Luke).
Fell on his face – Luke says “he kneeled down.” He did both.
He first kneeled, and then, in the fervency of his prayer and the depth of his sorrow, he fell with his face on the ground, denoting the deepest anguish and the most earnest entreaty. This was the usual posture of prayer in times of great earnestness. See Num_16:22; 2Ch_20:18; Neh_8:6.
If it be possible – That is, if the world can be redeemed – if it be consistent with justice, and with maintaining the government of the universe, that people should be saved without this extremity of sorrow, let it be done. There is no doubt that if it had been possible it would have been done; and the fact that these sufferings were “not” removed, and that the Saviour went forward and bore them without mitigation, shows that it was not consistent with the justice of God and with the welfare of the universe that people should be saved without the awful sufferings of “such an atonement.”
Let this cup – These bitter sufferings. These approaching trials. The word cup is often used in this sense, denoting sufferings. See the notes at Mat_20:22.
Not as I will, but as thou wilt – As Jesus was man as well as God, there is nothing inconsistent in supposing that, as man, he was deeply affected in view of these sorrows. When he speaks of His will, he expresses what “human nature,” in view of such great sufferings, would desire. It naturally shrunk from them and sought deliverance. Yet he sought to do the will of God. He chose rather that the high purpose of God should be done, than that that purpose should be abandoned from regard to the fears of his human nature. In this he has left a model of prayer in all times of affliction. It is right, in times of calamity, to seek deliverance. Like the Saviour, also, in such seasons we should, we must submit cheerfully to the will of God, confident that in all these trials he is wise, and merciful, and good.
40.And he came to his disciples. Though he was neither delivered from fear, nor freed from anxiety, yet he interrupted the ardor of prayer, and administered this consolation. For believers are not required to be so constant in prayer as never to cease from conversing with God; but on the contrary, following the example of Christ, they continue their prayers till they have proceeded as far as their infirmity allows, then cease for a short time, and immediately after drawing breath return to God. It would have been no slight alleviation of his grief, if his disciples had accompanied him, and taken part in it; and on the other hand, it was a bitter aggravation of his sufferings, that even they forsook him. For though he did not need the assistance of any one, yet as he had voluntarily taken upon him our infirmities, and as it was chiefly in this struggle that he intended to give a proof of that emptying of himself, of which Paul speaks, (Phi_2:7,) we need not wonder if the indifference of those whom he had selected to be his companions added a heavy and distressing burden to his grief. For his expostulation is not feigned, but, out of the true feeling of his mind, he declares that he is grieved at having been forsaken. And, indeed, he had good grounds for reproaching them with indifference, since, amidst the extremity of his anguish, they did not watch at least one hour.
He – saith unto Peter – He addressed himself more particularly to this apostle, because of the profession he had made, Mat_26:33; as if he had said: “Is this the way you testify your affectionate attachment to me? Ye all said you were ready to die with me; what, then, cannot you watch One hour?” Instead of ουκ ισχυσατε, could Ye not, the Codex Alexandrinus, the later Syriac in the margin, three of the Itala, and Juvencus, read ουκ ισχυσας, couldst Thou not – referring the reproach immediately to Peter, who had made the promises mentioned before.
And findeth them asleep – It may seem remarkable that in such circumstances, with a suffering, pleading Redeemer near, surrounded by danger, and having received a special charge to watch – that is, not to sleep – they should so soon have fallen asleep.
It is frequently supposed that this was proof of wonderful stupidity, and indifference to their Lord’s sufferings. The truth is, however, that it was just the reverse; “it was proof of their great attachment, and their deep sympathy in his sorrows.” Luke has added that he found “them sleeping” for sorrow – that is, “on account” of their sorrow; or their grief was so great that they naturally fell asleep. Multitudes of facts might be brought to show that this is in accordance with the regular effects of grief. Dr. Rush says: “There is another symptom of grief, which is not often noticed, and that is “profound sleep.” I have often witnessed it even in mothers, immediately after the death of a child. Criminals, we are told by Mr. Akerman, the keeper of Newgate, in London, often sleep soundly the night before their execution. The son of General Custine slept nine hours the night before he was led to the guillotine in Paris.” – Diseases of the Mind, p. 319.
Saith unto Peter … – This earnest appeal was addressed to Peter particularly on account of his warm professions, his rash zeal, and his self-confidence. If he could not keep awake and watch with the Saviour for one hour, how little probability was there that he would adhere to him in the trials through which he was soon to pass!
41.Watch and pray. As the disciples were unmoved by their Master’s danger, their attention is directed to themselves, that a conviction of their own danger may arouse them. Christ therefore threatens that, if they do not watch and pray, they may be soon overwhelmed by temptation. As if he had said, “Though you take no concern about me, do not fail, at least, to think of yourselves; for your own interests are involved in it, and if you do not take care, temptation will immediately swallow you up.” For to enter into temptation means to yield to it.And let us observe, that the manner of resistance which is here enjoined is, not to draw courage from reliance on our own strength and perseverance, but, on the contrary, from a conviction of our weakness, to ask arms and strength from the Lord. Our watching, therefore, will be of no avail without prayer.
The spirit indeed is willing. That he may not terrify and discourage his disciples, he gently reproves their slothfulness, and adds consolation and good ground of hope. And, first, he reminds them, that though they are earnestly desirous to do what is right, still they must contend with the weakness of the flesh, and, therefore, that prayer is never unnecessary. We see, then, that he gives them the praise of willingness, in order that their weakness may not throw them into despair, and yet urges them to prayer, because they are not sufficiently endued with the power of the Spirit. Wherefore, this admonition relates properly to believers, who, being regenerated by the Spirit of God, are desirous to do what is right, but still labor under the weakness of the flesh; for though the grace of the Spirit is vigorous in them, they are weak according to the flesh. And though the disciples alone have their weakness here pointed out to them, yet, since what Christ says of them applies equally to all, we ought to draw from it a general rule, that it is our duty to keep diligent watch by praying; for we do not yet possess the power of the Spirit in such a measure as not to fall frequently through the weakness of the flesh, unless the Lord grant his assistance to raise up and uphold us. But there is no reason why we should tremble with excessive anxiety; for an undoubted remedy is held out to us, which we will neither have nor to seek nor to seek in vain; for Christ promises that all who, being earnest in prayer, shall perseveringly oppose the slothfulness of the flesh, will be victorious.
That ye enter not into temptation – If ye cannot endure a little fatigue when there is no suffering, how will ye do when the temptation, the great trial of your fidelity and courage, cometh? Watch – that ye be not taken unawares; and pray – that when it comes ye may be enabled to bear it.
The spirit – is willing, but the flesh is weak – Your inclinations are good – ye are truly sincere; but your good purposes will be overpowered by your timidity. Ye wish to continue steadfast in your adherence to your Master; but your fears will lead you to desert him.
Watch – See Mat_26:38. Greater trials are coming on. It is necessary, therefore, still to be on your guard.
And pray – Seek aid from God by supplication, in view of the thickening calamities.
That ye enter not into temptation – That ye be not overcome and oppressed with these trials of your faith so as to deny me. The word “temptation” here properly means what would test their faith in the approaching calamities – in his rejection and death. It would “try” their faith, because, though they believed that he was the Messiah, they were not very clearly aware of the necessity of his death, and they did not fully understand that he was to rise again. They had cherished the belief that he was to establish a kingdom “while he lived.” When they should see him, therefore, rejected, tried, crucified, dead – when they should see him submit to all this as if he had not power to deliver himself – “then” would be the trial of their faith; and, in view of that, he exhorted them to pray that they might not so enter temptation as to be overcome by it and fall.
The spirit indeed is willing … – The mind, the heart is ready and disposed to bear these trials, but the “flesh,” the natural feelings, through the fear of danger, is weak, and will be likely to lead you astray when the trial comes. Though you may have strong faith, and believe now that you will not deny me, yet human nature is weak, and shrinks at trials, and you should therefore seek strength from on high. This was intended to excite them, notwithstanding he knew that they loved him, to be on their guard, lest the weakness of human nature should be insufficient to sustain them in the hour of their temptation.
Watch and pray (gregoreite kai proseuchesthe). Jesus repeats the command of Mat_26:38 with the addition of prayer and with the warning against the peril of temptation. He himself was feeling the worst of all temptations of his earthly life just then. He did not wish then to enter such temptation (peirasmon, here in this sense, not mere trial). Thus we are to understand the prayer in Mat_6:13 about leading (being led) into temptation. Their failure was due to weakness of the flesh as is often the case.
Spirit (pneuma) here is the moral life (intellect, will, emotions) as opposed to the flesh (cf. Isa_31:3; Rom_7:25).
42.Again he went away a second time.By these words Christ seems as if, having subdued fear, he came with greater freedom and courage to submit to the will of the Father; for he no longer asks to have the cup removed from him, but, leaving out this prayer, insists rather on obeying the purpose of God. But according to Mark, this progress is not described; and even when Christ returned a second time, we are told that he repeated the same prayer; and, indeed, I have no doubt, that at each of the times when he prayed, fear and horror impelled him to ask that he might be delivered from death. Yet it is probable that, at the second time, he labored more to yield obedience to the Father, and that the first encounter with temptation animated him to approach death with greater confidence.Luke does not expressly relate that he prayed three several times, but only says that, when he was pressed with anguish, he prayed with greater copiousness and earnestness, as if he had continued to pray without any intermission. But we know that the Evangelists sometimes leave out circumstances, and only glance rapidly at the substance of what took place. Accordingly, when he says towards the close, that Christ came to his disciples, it is a hysteron proteton; just as, in another clause, he relates that an angel from heaven appeared, before he speaks of Christ’s anguish. But the inversion of the order carries no absurdity; for, in order to inform us that the angel was not sent without a good reason, the necessity for it is afterwards stated; and thus the latter part of the narrative is, in some sort, a reason assigned for the former. Now though it is the Spirit of God alone that imparts fortitude, that does not hinder God from employing angels as his ministers. And hence we may conclude what excruciating distresses the Son of God must have endured, since it was necessary that the assistance of God should be granted to him in a visible manner.
O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me – If it be not possible – to redeem fallen man, unless I drink this cup, unless I suffer death for them; thy will be done – I am content to suffer whatever may be requisite to accomplish the great design. In this address the humanity of Christ most evidently appears; for it was his humanity alone that could suffer; and if it did not appear that he had felt these sufferings, it would have been a presumption that he had not suffered, and consequently made no atonement. And had he not appeared to have been perfectly resigned in these sufferings, his sacrifice could not have been a free-will but a constrained offering, and therefore of no use to the salvation of mankind.
Neither wist they … – Neither “knew” they. They were so conscious of the impropriety of sleeping at that time, that they could not find any answer to give to the inquiry why they had done it.
Very heavy (katabarunomenoi). Perfective use of kata with the participle. Matthew has the simple verb. Mark’s word is only here in the N.T. and is rare in Greek writers. Mark has the vivid present passive participle, while Matthew has the perfect passive bebaremenoi.
And they wist not what to answer him (kai ouk eideisan ti apokrithosin autoi). Deliberative subjunctive retained in the indirect question. Alone in Mark and reminds one of the like embarrassment of these same three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mar_9:6). On both occasions weakness of the flesh prevented their real sympathy with Jesus in his highest and deepest experiences. “Both their shame and their drowsiness would make them dumb” (Gould).
Theophylact Wherefore it goes on: “And He cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest.” He is not vehement against them, though after His rebuke they had done worse, but He tells them ironically, “Sleep on now, and take your rest,” because He knew that the betrayer was now close at hand. And that He spoke ironically is evident, by what is added; “It is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” He speaks this, as deriding their sleep, as if He had said; Now indeed is a time for sleep, when the traitor is approaching.
Then He says; “Arise, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth Me is at hand.”
Augustine: Or else; In that it is said, that after He had spoken these words, “Sleep on now, and take your rest,” He added, “It is enough,” and then, “the hour is come; behold, the Son of Man is betrayed,” we must understand that after saying, “Sleep on now, and take your rest,” our Lord remained silent for a short time, to give space for that to happen, which He had permitted; and then that He added, “the hour is come;” and therefore He puts in between, “it is enough,” that is, your rest has been long enough.
Pseudo-Jerome: The threefold sleep of the disciples points out the three dead, whom our Lord raised up; the first, in a house; the second, at the tomb; the third, from the tomb. And the threefold watch of the Lord teaches us in our prayers, to beg for the pardon of past, future and present sins.
Bede: After that our Lord had prayed three times, and had obtained by His prayers that the fear of the Apostles should be amended by future repentance, He, being tranquil as to His Passion, goes to His persecutors, concerning the coming of whom the Evangelist says, “And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas Iscariot, on of the twelve.”
Theophylact: This is not put without reason, but to the greater conviction of the traitor, since though he was of the chief company amongst the disciples, he turned himself to furious enmity against our Lord.
There follows: “And with him a great multitude with swords and staves from the Chief Priests and the Scribes and the elders.”
Pseudo-Jerome: For he who despairs of help from God, has recourse to the power of the world.
Bede: But Judas had still something of the shame of a disciple, for he did not openly betray Him to His persecutors, but by the token of a kiss.
Wherefore it goes on: “And he that betrayed Him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely.”
Theophylact: See how in his blindness he thought to deceive Christ by the kiss, so as to be looked upon by Him as His friend. But if thou wert a friend, Judas, how didst thou come with His enemies? But wickedness is ever without foresight.
Mat 26:44 And he left them, and went away again,…. At some little distance from them; they being so overpowered with sleep, that he could have no conversation with them:
and prayed the third time; as the Apostle Paul did, when under temptation, he prayed thrice that it might depart from him, 2Co_12:8,
saying the same words: the Arabic version renders it, “in the words which he before expressed”; and Munster’s Hebrew Gospel reads, “he said the same prayer”; not in the selfsame words, or in the express form he had before delivered it; for it is certain, that his second prayer is not expressed in the same form of words as the first: but the sense is, that he prayed to the same purpose; the matter and substance of his prayer was the same, namely, that he might be exempted from suffering; but if that could not be admitted of, he was desirous to be resigned to the will of his heavenly Father, and was determined to submit unto it.
Prayed the third time – So St. Paul – I besought the Lord Thrice that it might depart from me, 2Co_12:8. This thrice repeating the same petition argues deep earnestness of soul.
It is probable that our Lord spent considerable time in prayer, and that the evangelists have recorded rather “the substance” of his petitions than the very “words.” He returned repeatedly to his disciples, doubtless to caution them against danger, to show the deep interest which he had in their welfare, and to show them the extent of his sufferings on their behalf
Each time that he returned these sorrows deepened. Again he sought the place of prayer, and as his approaching sufferings overwhelmed him, this was the burden of his prayer, and he prayed the same words. Luke adds that amid his agonies an angel appeared from heaven strengthening him. His human nature began to sink, as unequal to his sufferings, and a messenger from heaven appeared, to support him in these heavy trials. It may seem strange that, since Jesus was divine Joh_1:1, the divine nature did not minister strength to the human, and that he that was God should receive strength from an “angel.” But it should be remembered that Jesus came in his human nature not only to make an atonement, but to be a perfect example of a holy man; that, as such, it was necessary to submit to the common conditions of humanity – that he should live as other people, be sustained as other people, suffer as other people, and be strengthened as other people; that he should, so to speak, take no advantage in favor of his piety, from his divinity, but submit it in all things to the common lot of pious people. Hence, he supplied his wants, not by his being divine, but in the ordinary way of human life; he preserved himself from danger, not as God, but by seeking the usual ways of human prudence and precaution; he met trials as a man; he received comfort as a man; and there is no absurdity in supposing that, in accordance with the condition of his people, his human nature should be strengthened, as they are, by those who are sent forth to be ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation, Heb_1:14.
Sleep on now, and take your rest. It is plain enough, that Christ now speaks ironically, but we must, at the same time, attend to the object of the irony. For Christ, having gained nothing by warning his disciples, not only gives an indirect reproof of their indifference, but threatens, that how indolent so ever they may choose to be, no longer delay will be allowed them. The meaning therefore is, “Having hitherto wasted my words on you, I shall now come to exhort you; but whatever permission I may give you to sleep, the enemies will not allow it to you, but will compel you to watch against your will.”
In Mark, it is accordingly added, It is enough; as if he had said, that there is no more time for sleeping. And this is the way in which the Lord usually chastises the indolence of men, that those who wax deaf to words may at length be compelled, by their sufferings, to arouse themselves. Let us, therefore, learn to give immediate attention to the words of the Lord, lest what he wishes to draw from us voluntarily may be too late forced from us by necessity.
46.Arise, let us go. By these words he declares that, after having prayed, he was furnished with new arms. He had formerly, indeed, been sufficiently voluntary as to dying; but, when he came to the point, he had a hard struggle with the weakness of the flesh, so that he would willingly have withdrawn from dying, provided that he had been permitted to do so with the good-will of his Father. He, therefore, obtained by prayers and tears(Heb_5:7 ) new strength from heaven; not that he ever hesitated through want of strength, but because under the weakness of the flesh, which he had voluntarily undertaken, he wished to labor anxiously, and with painful and difficult exertion, to gain a victory for us in his own person. But now, when the trembling is allayed, and the fear is subdued, that he may again present a voluntary sacrifice to the Father, he not only does not retire or conceal himself, but cheerfully advances to death.
Sleep on now, and take your rest – Perhaps it might be better to read these words interrogatively, and paraphrase them thus: Do ye sleep on still? Will no warnings avail? Will no danger excite you to watchfulness and prayer? My hour – in which I am to be delivered up, is at hand; therefore now think of your own personal safety.
The Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners – Αμαρτωλων, viz. the Gentiles or heathens, who were generally distinguished by this appellation from the Jews. Here it probably means the Roman cohort that was stationed on festivals for the defense of the temple. By the Romans he was adjudged to death; for the Jews acknowledged that they had no power in capital cases. See the note on Mat_9:10.
Rise, let us be going – That is, to meet them, giving thereby the fullest proof that I know all their designs, and might have, by flight or otherwise, provided for my own safety; but I go willingly to meet that death which their malice designs me, and, through it, provide for the life of the world.
It is enough (apechei). Alone in Mark. This impersonal use is rare and has puzzled expositors no little. The papyri (Deissmann’s Light from the Ancient East and Moulton and Milligan’s Vocabulary) furnish many examples of it as a receipt for payment in full. See also Mat_6:2.; Luk_6:24; Phi_4:18 for the notion of paying in full. It is used here by Jesus in an ironical sense, probably meaning that there was no need of further reproof of the disciples for their failure to watch with him. “This is no time for a lengthened exposure of the faults of friends; the enemy is at the gate” (Swete). See further Mat_26:45 for the approach of Judas.
47.While he was still speaking. The Evangelists are careful to state that our Lord foresaw what happened; from which it might be inferred, that he was not dragged to death by external violence, except so far as wicked men carried into execution the secret purpose of God. Although, therefore, a melancholy and frightful spectacle was exhibited to the disciples, yet they received, at the same time, grounds of confidence to confirm them, since the event itself showed that nothing occurred by chance; and since Christ’s prediction directed them to contemplate the glory of his divinity. The circumstance of an armed multitude having been sent by the chief priests, and of a captain and band having been obtained by request from Pilate, makes it evident, that an evil conscience wounded and tormented them, so that they did every thing in a state of terror. For what need was there for so great a force to take Christ, who, they were aware, was not provided with any defensive arms? The reason for such careful preparation was, that the divine power of Christ, which they had been compelled to feel by numerous proofs, inwardly tormented them; but, on the other hand, it is a display of amazing rage, that, relying on the power of arms, they do not hesitate to rise up against God.
Judas, one of the twelve, came – This was done while Jesus was addressing his disciples.
John informs us that Judas knew the place, because Jesus was in the habit of going there with his disciples. Judas had passed the time, after he left Jesus and the other disciples at the Passover, in arranging matters with the Jews, collecting the band, and preparing to go. Perhaps, also, on this occasion they gave him the money which they had promised.
A great multitude with swords and staves – John says that he had received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees.” Josephus says (Antiq. b. 20 chapter iv.) that at the festival of the Passover, when a great multitude of people came to observe the feast, lest there should be any disorder, a band of men was commanded to keep watch at the porches of the temple, to repress a tumult if any should be excited. This band, or guard, was at the disposal of the chief priests, Mat_27:65. It was composed of Roman soldiers, and was stationed chiefly at the tower of Antonia, at the northwest side of the temple. In addition to this, they had constant guards stationed around the temple, composed of Levites. The Roman soldiers were armed with “swords.” The other persons that went out carried, probably, whatever was accessible as a weapon. These were the persons sent by the priests to apprehend Jesus. Perhaps other desperate men might have joined them.
Staves – In the original, “wood;” used here in the plural number. It means rather “clubs” or “sticks” than spears. It does not mean “staves.” Probably it means any weapon at hand, such as a mob could conveniently collect. John says that they had “lanterns and torches.” The Passover was celebrated at the “full moon;” but this night might have been cloudy. The place to which they were going was also shaded with trees, and lights, therefore, might be necessary.
48.Now he who betrayed him. I have no doubt that Judas was restrained, either by reverence for our Lord, or by shame for his crime, from venturing openly to avow himself as one of the enemies; and the warning which, Mark tells us, he gave the soldiers — to lead the away cautiously, was given, I conjecture, for this reason, that he recollected the numerous-proofs by which Christ had formerly attested his divine power. But it was, at the same time, astonishing madness, either to attempt to conceal himself by frivolous hypocrisy, when he came into the presence of the Son of God, or to oppose the tricks and dexterity of men to his boundless power.
Mat 26:48 Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign,…. By which it might be known who he was; for it being night, though they had lanterns and torches, as John says, Joh_18:3, yet Judas himself might not be able to discern, him, so as to point him out, until he came very near him: moreover, Christ and his apostles might be clothed alike, so that a mistake might be easily made, and one of them be took for him: and so the Jews say (l), that the two thousand men, they pretend were with him, were clothed with the same apparel; which story may take its rise from hence: add to this, that James, the son of Alphaeus, called the brother of our Lord, is reported to be very like unto him. Besides, it is very likely that the Roman soldiers, who were to be the principal persons in apprehending, binding, and carrying him away, might never have seen him, and so could not know him without some sign was given them; and which Judas gave them before he came out with them: and is as follows:
saying, whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he, hold him fast. Judas might the rather pitch upon this to be the sign, partly because it might be what had been usual with the disciples, when they had been at any time absent from Christ, and which he admitted of; and partly because he might think this would best cover his treacherous designs, who, with all his wickedness, had not effrontery enough to come sword in hand and seize him in a violent manner, and besides, might not judge such a method advisable, had he impudence enough to prosecute it, lest this should put Jesus upon taking some measures to make his escape. The reason of his advice, “hold him fast”, was, because he knew that once and again, when attempts were made to seize him, he easily disengaged himself, passed through the midst, and went his way; see Luk_4:30.
Joh_10:39; and therefore gave them this caution, and strict charge, lest, should he slip from them, he should lose his money he had agreed with the chief priests for; or to let them know, that when he was in their hands, he had made good his agreement, and should expect his money: and that it lay upon them then to take care of him, and bring him before the sanhedrim.
Gave them a sign – That is, told them of a way by which they might know whom to apprehend – to wit, by his kissing him.
It was night. Jesus was, besides, probably personally unknown to the “Romans” – perhaps to the others also. Judas, therefore, being well acquainted with him, to prevent the possibility of mistake, agreed to designate him by one of the tokens of friendship.
John tells us that Jesus, knowing all things that should come upon him, when they approached him, asked them whom they sought, and that they replied, Jesus of Nazareth. He then informed them that he was the person they sought. They, when they heard it, overawed by his presence and smitten with the consciousness of guilt, went backward and fell to the ground. He again asked them whom they sought. They made the same declaration – Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus then, since they professed to seek only Him, claimed the right that his disciples should be suffered to escape, “that the saying might be fulfilled which he spake Joh_18:9; Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.”
It goes on: “And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to Him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed Him.”
Pseudo-Jerome: Judas gives the kiss as a token, with poisonous guile, just as Cain offered a crafty, reprobate sacrifice.
Bede: With envy and with a wicked confidence, he calls Him master, and gives Him a kiss, in betraying Him. But the Lord receives the kiss of the traitor, not to teach us to deceive, but lest he should seem to avoid betrayal, and at the same time to fulfil that Psalm, “Among them that are enemies unto peace, I labour for peace.” [Psa_120:5]
It goes on: “And they laid hands on Him, and took Him.”
Pseudo-Jerome: This is the Joseph who was sold by his brethren [Psa_105:18], and into whose soul the iron entered. [note: this passage not found in the Venice ed. of the Pseudo-Jerome]
There follows: “And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the High Priest, and cut off his ear.”
Bede: Peter did this, as John declares, with the same ardent mind with which he did all things; for he knew how Phineas had by punishing sacrilegious persons received the reward of righteousness and of perpetual priesthood.
Theophylact: Mark conceals his name, lest he should seem to be praising his master for his zeal for Christ. Again, the action of Peter points out that they were disobedient and unbelieving, despising the Scriptures; for if they had ears to hear the Scriptures, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But he cut off the ear of a servant of the High Priest, for the Chief Priests especially passed over the Scriptures, like disobedient servants.
It goes on: “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me?”Bede: As if He had said, it is foolish to seek with swords and staves Him, who offers Himself to you of His own accord, and to search, as for one who hides Himself, by night and by means of a traitor, for Him who taught daily in the temple.
Theophylact: This, however, is a proof of His divinity, for when He taught in the temple they were unable to take Him, although He was in their power, because the time of His Passion had not yet come; but when He Himself was willing, then He gave Himself up, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, “for he was led as a lamb to the slaughter,” not crying nor raising His voice, but suffering willingly. It goes on: “And they all forsook Him and fled.”
Bede: In this is fulfilled the word, which the Lord had spoken, that all His disciples should be offended in Him that same night.
49.Hail, Rabbi. I have no doubt that Judas, as if trembling for his Master’s danger, pretended by these words to have some feeling of compassion; and, accordingly, in Mark a pathetic repetition is expressed, Rabbi, Rabbi. For though he was impressed with the majesty of Christ, still the devil so fascinated his mind, that he felt assured that his treachery was concealed by a kiss, and by soothing words. This salutation, or exclamation, therefore, was a pretense of compassion. I offer the same opinion about the kiss; for though it was a very common practice among the Jews to welcome friends with a kiss, yet as Judas had left Christ but a little before, he seems now — as if he had become suddenly alarmed at his danger — to give the last kiss to his Master. Thus he excels the rest in the appearance of affection, when he appears to be deeply grieved at being separated from his Master; but how little he gained by his deception is evident from Christ’s reply.
Kissed him (κατεφίλησεν) The compound verb has the force of an emphatic, ostentatious salute. Meyer says embraced and kissed. The same word is used of the tender caressing of the Lord’s feet by the woman in the Pharisee’s house (Luk_7:38), of the father’s embrace of the returned prodigal (Luk_15:20), and of the farewell of the Ephesian elders to Paul (Act_20:37).
50.Friend, for what purpose comest thou? Luke expresses it more fully: Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss? except that there is greater force in this reproof, that the benevolence of his Master, and the very high honor conferred on him, are wickedly abused for the purpose of the basest treachery. For Christ does not employ an ironical address when he calls him friend, but charges him with ingratitude, that, from being an intimate friend, who sat at his table, he had become a traitor, as had been predicted in the psalm: If a stranger had done this, I could have endured it; but now my private and familiar friend, with whom I took food pleasantly, who accompanied me to the temple of the Lord, hath prepared snares against me. This shows clearly—what I hinted a little ago—that, whatever may be the artifices by which hypocrites conceal themselves, and whatever may be the pretenses which they hold out, when they come into the presence of the Lord, their crimes become manifest; and it even becomes the ground of a severer sentence against them, that, having been admitted into the bosom of Christ, they treacherously rise up against him. For the word friend, as we have stated, contains within itself a sharp sting.
Let us know that this evil, which Christ once sustained in his own person, is an evil to which the Church will always be exposed—that of cherishing traitors in her bosom; and, therefore, it was said a little before, The traitor approached, who was one of the twelve, that we may not be immediately distressed by such instances; for the Lord intends to try our faith in both ways, when, without, Satan opposes us and the Church by open enemies, and, within, he attempts secret destruction by means of hypocrites. We are taught, at the same time, that we who are his disciples ought to worship God with sincerity; for the apostasies, which we see every day, excite us to fear, and to the cultivation of true godliness, as Paul says, Let every one that calleth on the name of God depart from iniquity, (2Ti_2:19.) We are all commanded to kiss the Son of God, (Psa_2:12;) and we ought, therefore, to see that no one give him a traitor’s kiss, otherwise it will cost us dear to have been elevated to so great an honor.
Jesus said – Friend – Rather, companion, εταιρε, (not Friend), wherefore, rather, against whom (εφ’ ὃ, the reading of all the best MSS.) art thou come? How must these words have cut his very soul, if he had any sensibility left! Surely, thou, who hast so long been my companion, art not come against me, thy Lord, Teacher and Friend! What is the human heart not capable of, when abandoned by God, and influenced by Satan and the love of money!
Laid hands on Jesus – But not before they had felt that proof of his sovereign power by which they had all been struck down to the earth, Joh_18:6. It is strange that, after this, they should dare to approach him; but the Scriptures must be fulfilled.
And Jesus said unto him, Friend – It seems strange to us that Jesus should give the endeared name “friend” to a man that he knew was his enemy, and that was about to betray him.
It should be remarked, however, that this is the fault of our language, not of the original. In the Greek there are two words which our translators have rendered “friend” – one implying “affection and regard,” the other not. One is properly rendered “friend;” the other expresses more nearly what we mean by “companion.” It is this “latter” word which is given to the disaffected laborer in the vineyard: “‘Friend,’ I do thee no wrong” Mat_20:13; to the guest which had not on the wedding-garment, in the parable of the marriage feast Mat_22:12; and to “Judas” in this place.
Wherefore art thou come? – This was said, not because he was ignorant why he had come, but probably to fill the mind of Judas with the consciousness of his crime, and by a striking question to compel him to think of what he was doing.
And, lo, one of those who were with Jesus. Luke says, that all the disciples made an agreement together to fight for their Master. Hence it is again evident, that we are much more courageous and ready for fighting than for bearing the cross; and, therefore, we ought always to deliberate wisely what the Lord commands, and what he requires from every one of us, lest the fervor of our zeal exceed the bounds of reason and moderation. When the disciples asked Christ, Shall we strike with the sword? they did so, not with the intention of obeying his injunction; but by these words they declared that they were prepared and ready to repel the violence of enemies. And, indeed, Peter did not wait till he was commanded or permitted to strike, but inconsiderately proceeded to unlawful violence. It appears, at first view, to be praiseworthy valor in the disciples, that, forgetting their own weakness, though they are unable to make resistance, they do not hesitate to present their bodies before their Master, and to encounter certain death; for they choose rather to perish with the Lord than to survive and look on while he is oppressed. But as they improperly attempt more than the calling of God commands or permits, their rashness is justly condemned; and therefore let us learn, that in order that our obedience may be acceptable to the Lord, we must depend on his will, so that no man shall move a finger, except so far as God commands. One reason ought, above all, to lead us to be zealous in cultivating this modesty; which is, that instead of a proper and well-regulated zeal, confused irregularity for the most part reigns in us.
Peter’s name is not mentioned here by the Evangelists; but John (Joh_18:10 ) assures us—and from what occurs shortly afterwards in the narrative it is evident — that it was Peter who is here described, though the name is suppressed. Yet Luke enables us easily to infer that there were others also who took part in the same outrage; for Christ does not speak to one person only, but says to all alike, Permit it to be thus far.
One of them which were with Jesus – This was Peter – struck a servant of the high priest’s, the servant’s name was Malchus, Joh_18:10, and smote off his ear. In Luk_22:51, it is said, Jesus touched and healed it. Here was another miracle, and striking proof of the Divinity of Christ. Peter did not cut the ear, merely, he cut it Off, αφειλεν. Now to heal it, Jesus must either take up the ear and put it on again, or else create a new one – either of these was a miracle, which nothing less than unlimited power could produce. See the note on Joh_18:10.
One of them which were with Jesus – John informs us that this was Peter.
The other evangelists concealed the name, probably because they wrote while Peter was living, and it might have endangered Peter to have it known.
And drew his sword – The apostles were not commonly armed. On this occasion they had provided “two swords,” Luk_22:38. In seasons of danger, when traveling, they were under a necessity of providing means of defending themselves against the robbers that infested the country. This will account for their having any swords in their possession. See the notes at Luk_10:30. Josephus informs us that the people were accustomed to carry swords under their garments as they went up to Jerusalem.
A servant of the high-priest – His name, John informs us, was “Malchus.” Luke adds that Jesus touched the ear and healed it, thus showing his benevolence to his foes when they sought his life, and giving them proof that they were attacking him that was sent from heaven.
One of them that were with Jesus (heis ton meta Iesou). Like the other Synoptics Matthew conceals the name of Peter, probably for prudential reasons as he was still living before a.d. 68. John writing at the end of the century mentions Peter’s name (Joh_18:10). The sword or knife was one of the two that the disciples had (Luk_22:38). Bruce suggests that it was a large knife used in connexion with the paschal feast. Evidently Peter aimed to cut off the man’s head, not his ear (otion is diminutive in form, but not in sense, as often in the Koiné). He may have been the leader of the band. His name, Malchus, is also given by John (Joh_18:10) because Peter was then dead and in no danger.
Are you come out, as against a robber? By these words Christ expostulates with his enemies for having intended to bring odium upon him, by coming provided with a great body of soldiers; for the meaning is this, “What necessity was there for making such a display of arms against me, as if your object had been to overcome some robber? But I have always lived peaceably amongst you, and without using arms; and when I was teaching in the temple, you might easily have seized me without any military force.” Yet, while he complains of their malice in violently rushing upon him, as if he were a seditious man, he again wounds their evil conscience by reminding them, that though they had a traitor for their leader, they approached him with trembling, and with many marks of distrust.
Are ye come out as against a thief – At this time Judea was much infested by robbers, so that armed men were obliged to be employed against them – to this our Lord seems to allude. See on Mat_26:52 (note).
I sat daily with you – Why come in this hostile manner? Every day, for four days past, ye might have met with me in the temple, whither I went to teach you the way of salvation. See on Mat_21:17 (note).
Against a thief – Rather a “robber.” This was the manner in which they would have sought to take a highwayman of desperate character, and armed to defend his life.
It adds not a little to the depth of his humiliation that he consented to be “hunted down” thus by wicked people, and to be treated as if he had been the worst of mankind.
Daily with you teaching in the temple – For many days before the Passover, as recorded in the previous chapter.
56.Now all this was done. The other two Evangelists express it somewhat differently; for what Matthew relates in his own person, Mark appears to attribute to Christ.Luke employs even different words: this is your hour, and the power of darkness. But the design of the Holy Spirit is, beyond all doubt, that whatever may be the contrivances of wicked men, nothing whatever has been done but by the will and providence of God; for as he had said a little before, God has testified nothing by the prophets but what he had determined with himself, (Luk_22:3.) First, therefore, we are here informed, that whatever may be the unbridled rage by which Satan and all ungodly men are actuated, still the hand of God always prevails, so as to draw them reluctantly wherever he pleases. Secondly, we are informed, that though wicked men fulfill what was predicted in the Scriptures; yet, since God does not employ them as his lawful ministers, but directs them, by a secret movement, to that which was farthest from their wish, they are not excusable; and that, while God makes a righteous use of their malice, blame still attaches to them. At the same time, let us observe that Christ said this in order to remove the offense, which would otherwise have greatly disturbed weak minds, when they saw him so reproached and outraged.
Still Christ intended not only to promote the advantage of his disciples, but also to repress the pride of his adversaries, that they might not triumph as if they had achieved victory. For this reason, in Luke’s narrative he says, this is your hour; by which he means that the Lord grants them this liberty for a short time. The power of darkness denotes the power of the devil, and this term had also a strong tendency to abase their glory; for though they exalt themselves ever so much, Christ shows that they are still nothing more than the slaves of the devil. While all things are mingled in confusion, and while the devil, by spreading darkness abroad, appears to overturn the whole order of the world, let us know that the providence of God shines above in heaven, to bring at length to order what is confused; and let us, therefore, learn to raise the eyes of faith to that calm sky. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled. Hence we may again infer how much more ready they were to fight rashly than to follow their Master.
But all this was done – This is probably the observation of the evangelist. See on Mat_2:23 (note).
Then all the disciples forsook him and fled – O what is man! How little is even his utmost sincerity to be depended on! Jesus is abandoned by all! – even zealous Peter and loving John are among the fugitives! Was ever master so served by his scholars? Was ever parent so treated by his children? Is there not as much zeal and love among them all as might make one martyr for God and truth? Alas! no. He had but twelve who professed inviolable attachment to him; one of these betrayed him, another denied him with oaths, and the rest run away and utterly abandon him to his implacable enemies! Are there not found among his disciples still,
1st. Persons who betray him and his cause?
2dly. Persons who deny him and his people?
3dly. Persons who abandon him, his people, his cause, and his truth?
Reader! dost thou belong to any of these classes?
Mat 26:56 But all this was done, that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled,…. Some have thought these to be the words of the evangelist, making this remark upon what was said and done; but by what both Mark and Luke record, Mar_14:49, they appear to be the words of Christ himself; who observes this, partly to make himself, as man, easy under the treatment he met with; and partly, to fortify the minds of his disciples against offence at it; and also to throw conviction, or confusion, into the minds of his enemies. The Scriptures of the prophets he refers to, as having, or about to have, by this conduct, their accomplishment, were such, as regarded the betraying him by Judas, the taking him in this secret, private, insidious, yet violent manner; in all which he showed great meekness, calmness, and submission, as Psa_41:9. As also what respected the scattering, and hasty flight of his disciples from him, Zec_13:7, which in the next clause is shown to be accomplished,
Then all the disciples forsook him and fled; not only went away from him, and left him alone, as he foretold they would, Joh_16:32, but they ran away from him in a precipitant manner, like timorous sheep, the shepherd being about to be smitten; and they fearing, lest Peter’s rash action should be imputed to them all, and they suffer for it; or lest they should be laid hold on next, and bound, as their master was, or about to be. Every thing in this account is an aggravation of their pusillanimity, and ingratitude; as that they were the “disciples” of Christ that forsook him, whom he had called, and sent forth as his apostles to preach his Gospel; and to whom he had given extraordinary gifts and powers; who had forsaken all and followed him, and had been with him from the beginning; had heard all his excellent discourses, and had seen all his miracles, and yet these at last forsake him, and even “all” of them: John the beloved disciple, that leaned on his bosom, and Peter, that professed so much love to him, zeal for him, and faith in him; the three that had just seen him in his agony and bloody sweat, and everyone of them left him; not one stood by him, and this too, after they had had a fresh instance of his power, in striking the men to the ground, that came to take him; and when he was sueing for them with their enemies, to let them go peaceably and safely: so that they had no need to have fled in such haste; and to leave him “then”, in the midst of his enemies, in his great distress and trouble, was very unkind and ungrateful….