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Matthew 26:56

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

But all this was done - This is probably the observation of the evangelist. See on Matthew 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?

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 47-57

The account of Jesus‘ being betrayed by Judas is recorded by all the evangelists. See Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-12.

Matthew 26:47

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, Matthew 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.

Matthew 26:48

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 John 18:9; Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.”

Matthew 26:49

Hail, Master - The word translated “hail,” here, means to “rejoice,” to have joy, and also to have “cause” of joy.

It thus expresses the “joy” which one friend has when he meets another, especially after an absence. It was used by the Jews and Greeks as a mode of salutation among friends. It would here seem to express the “joy” of Judas at finding his Master and again being “with him.”

Master - In the original, “Rabbi.” See the notes at Matthew 23:7.

Kissed him - Gave him the common salutation of friends when meeting after absence. This mode of salutation was more common among Eastern nations than with us.

Matthew 26:50

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” Matthew 20:13; to the guest which had not on the wedding-garment, in the parable of the marriage feast Matthew 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.

Matthew 26:51

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,” Luke 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 Luke 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.

Matthew 26:52

Thy sword into his place - Into the sheath.

For all they that take the sword … - This passage is capable of different significations.

1. They who resist by the sword the civil magistrate shall be punished; and it is dangerous, therefore, to oppose those who come with the authority of the civil ruler.

2. These men, Jews and Romans, who have taken the sword against the innocent, shall perish by the sword. God will take vengeance on them.

3. However, the most satisfactory interpretation is that which regards it as a caution to Peter. Peter was rash. Alone he had attacked the whole band. Jesus told him that his unseasonable and imprudent defense might be the occasion of his own destruction. In doing it he would endanger his life, for they who took the sword perished by it. This was probably a proverb, denoting that they who engaged in wars commonly perished there.

Matthew 26:53

Thinkest thou … - Jesus says that not only would Peter endanger himself, but his resistance implied a distrust of the protection of God, and was an improper resistance of his will.

If it had been proper that they should be rescued, God could easily have furnished far more efficient aid than that of Peter - a mighty host of angels.

Twelve legions - A legion was a division of the Roman army amounting to more than 6,000 men. See the notes at Matthew 8:29. The number “twelve” was mentioned, perhaps, in reference to the number of his apostles and himself. Judas being away, but eleven disciples remained. God could guard him, and each disciple, with a legion of angels: that is, God could easily protect him, if he should pray to him, and if it was his will.

Matthew 26:54

But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled … - That is, the Scriptures which foretold of his dying for the world.

In some way that must be accomplished, and the time had come when, having finished the work which the Father gave him to do, it was proper that he should submit to death. This was said, doubtless, to comfort his disciples; to show them that his death was not a matter of surprise or disappointment to him; and that they, therefore, should not be offended and forsake him.

Matthew 26:55

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.

Matthew 26:56

Scriptures of the prophets - The “writings” of the prophets, for that is the meaning of the word “scriptures.” He alludes to those parts of the prophetic writings which foretold his sufferings and death.

Then all the disciples … - Overcome with fear when they saw their Master actually taken; alarmed with the terrific appearance of armed men and torches in a dark night, and forgetting their promises not to forsake him, they all left their Saviour to go alone to trial and to death! Alas, how many, when attachment to Christ would lead them to danger, leave him and flee! Mark adds that after the disciples had fled, a young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body, attempted to follow him. It is not known who he was, but not improbably he may have been the owner of the garden and a friend of Jesus. Aroused by the noise from his repose, he came to defend, or at least to follow the Saviour. He cast, in his hurry, such a covering as was at hand around his body, and came to him. The young men among the Romans and Jews attempted to seize him also, and he only secured his safety by leaving in their hands the covering that he had hastily thrown around him. It is not known why this circumstance was recorded by Mark, but it would seem to be probable that it was to mention him with honor, as showing his interest in the Saviour, and his willingness to aid him. See the notes at Mark 14:50-51. This circumstance may have been recorded for the purpose of honoring him by placing his conduct in strong contrast with that of the apostles, who had all forsaken the Saviour and fled.

Matthew 26:57

The trial of our Lord before the council, and the denial of Peter happening at the same time, might be related one before the other, according to the evangelists‘ pleasure.

Accordingly, Matthew and Mark relate the “trial” first, and Peter‘s denial afterward; Luke mentions the denial first, and John has probably observed the natural order. The parallel places are recorded in John 18:13-27.

To Caiaphas - John says that they led him first to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas. This was done, probably as a mark of respect, he having been high priest, and perhaps distinguished for prudence, and capable of “advising” his son-in-law in a difficult case. The Saviour was “detained” there. probably, until the chief priests and elders were assembled.

The high priest - Note, Matthew 26:3. John says he was high priest for that year. Annas had been high priest some years before. In the time of our Saviour the office was frequently changed by the civil ruler. This Caiaphas had prophesied that it was expedient that one should die for the people. See the notes at John 11:49-50.

The scribes and elders - The men composing the great council of the nation, or Sanhedrin, Matthew 5:22. It is not probable that they could be immediately assembled, and some part of the transaction respecting the denial of Peter probably took place while they were collecting.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
No enemies are so much to be abhorred as those professed disciples that betray Christ with a kiss. God has no need of our services, much less of our sins, to bring about his purposes. Though Christ was crucified through weakness, it was voluntary weakness; he submitted to death. If he had not been willing to suffer, they could not conquer him. It was a great sin for those who had left all to follow Jesus; now to leave him for they knew not what. What folly, for fear of death to flee from Him, whom they knew and acknowledged to be the Fountain of life!
Ellen G. White
The Faith I Live By, 138.3

Nothing is more offensive to God than a self-sufficient spirit. In the life of Peter is a sad lesson which should be a warning to all the professed followers of Christ. The Saviour had faithfully warned him of the approaching danger, but, self-confident and presumptuous, he asserted his constant fidelity and zeal, and declared himself willing to follow his Master to prison and to death. The test came for Peter when the storm burst upon the disciples by the humiliation of their Leader. Mournful are the words traced by the pen of inspiration: “Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.” Matthew 26:56. And the ardent, zealous, self-confident Peter repeatedly denied his Lord. He afterward bitterly repented; but this example should admonish all to beware of self-confidence and self-righteousness. FLB 138.3

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Ellen G. White
Reflecting Christ, 132.8

The garden of Eden, with its foul blot of disobedience, is to be carefully studied and compared with the garden of Gethsemane, where the world's Redeemer suffered superhuman agony when the sins of the whole world were rolled upon Him.—Manuscript 1, 1892. RC 132.8

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Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 696-7

Jesus said to him, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” His voice trembled with sorrow as He added, “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” This appeal should have aroused the conscience of the betrayer, and touched his stubborn heart; but honor, fidelity, and human tenderness had forsaken him. He stood bold and defiant, showing no disposition to relent. He had given himself up to Satan, and he had no power to resist him. Jesus did not refuse the traitor's kiss. DA 696.1

The mob grew bold as they saw Judas touch the person of Him who had so recently been glorified before their eyes. They now laid hold of Jesus, and proceeded to bind those precious hands that had ever been employed in doing good. DA 696.2

The disciples had thought that their Master would not suffer Himself to be taken. For the same power that had caused the mob to fall as dead men could keep them helpless, until Jesus and His companions should escape. They were disappointed and indignant as they saw the cords brought forward to bind the hands of Him whom they loved. Peter in his anger rashly drew his sword and tried to defend his Master, but he only cut off an ear of the high priest's servant. When Jesus saw what was done, He released His hands, though held firmly by the Roman soldiers, and saying, “Suffer ye thus far,” He touched the wounded ear, and it was instantly made whole. He then said to Peter, “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels?”—a legion in place of each one of the disciples. Oh, why, the disciples thought, does He not save Himself and us? Answering their unspoken thought, He added, “But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” “The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” DA 696.3

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Ellen G. White
Early Writings, 168

The disciples feared for their own lives, and they all forsook Him and fled. Jesus was left alone in the hands of the murderous mob. Oh, what a triumph of Satan then! And what sadness and sorrow with the angels of God! Many companies of holy angels, each with a tall commanding angel at their head, were sent to witness the scene. They were to record every insult and cruelty imposed upon the Son of God, and to register every pang of anguish which Jesus should suffer; for the very men who joined in this dreadful scene are to see it all again in living characters. EW 168.1

The angels as they left heaven, in sadness laid off their glittering crowns. They could not wear them while their Commander was suffering and was to wear a crown of thorns. Satan and his angels were busy in the judgment hall to destroy human feeling and sympathy. The very atmosphere was heavy and polluted by their influence. The chief priests and elders were inspired by them to insult and abuse Jesus in a manner the most difficult for human nature to bear. Satan hoped that such mockery and violence would call forth from the Son of God some complaint or murmur; or that He would manifest His divine power, and wrench Himself from the grasp of the multitude, and that thus the plan of salvation might at last fail. EW 169.1

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