Our daily readings have brought us around again to a very wonderful chapter -- Matthew 26. It contains many incidents, and many people are involved. We are herein given, by the all wise and infallible inspiration of the Spirit of God, the inner background of the most important event of all history. We are shown the inward relationship of these people to one another and to the strange and tragic and glorious course of events in which each played a part.
There is much mortal failure -- much human weakness much fleshly evil. It is the same old story of common, small, meaningless, human vileness and intrigue -- repeated over and over In history -- except for one man -- one man who gives the whole picture meaning and power and beauty.
Here is the turning point in history: the faithfulness, and the courage, and the victory, of this one man. *
* Bro Growcott - Could Ye Not Watch One Hour?
1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples,
We see the rulers of the Jews, the Romans, Pilate, the common Jewish multitude, the one woman who understood, and anointed Jesus for burial, the disciples, Judas, Peter, John.
And, above all, Christ himself -- the one pure, solid, godly element throughout all this interplay of fleshly strife and human weakness.
"When Jesus had finished all these sayings" (v. 1)
This was the end of his public ministry -- just as in Matthew 5:7 we see its beginning. How did it end? What were "all these sayings"?
We glance back to the previous chapter (25) -- the Parable of the Ten Virgins -- oil, light, knowledge, understanding, separation, spirituality.
The Parable of the Talents -- labour, service, devotion, dedication -- "always abounding in the work of the Lord."
The Parable of the Judgment Seat -- the sheep and the goats -- "Come, ye blessed" -- "Depart ye cursed!" On what basis? -- on what we have or have not done for others. *
3 Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,
4 And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him.
They thought they were serving God. They thought they were protecting the nation. They said
"It is better that one man die, than that the whole nation perish."
They were hypocrites, but to a large extent unconsciously and blindly. How easy this is for the flesh! They would lead their cattle to water on the Sabbath, or lift them from a pit, but a man could not be healed on the Sabbath -- that was wickedness!
It is so easy to self-righteously serve the flesh and think we are serving God. What is the solution? How can we avoid this error?
Study and prayer -- constant self-examination by the light of the Spirit-Word. The answer, the guidance, the safety, is there, if we seek it humbly and constantly as the first thing in our lives. There is no other way. *
5 But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.
But it HAD to be on the feast day. It was so ordained from the foundation of the world -- the Passover Lamb -- the blood on the doorposts. So their hand was forced, and what they tried to avoid was thrust upon them. *
The preparation for his burial
7 There came unto him a woman [Mary, the sister of Martha (see Jn. 12:3)] having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.
Mary, who had sat at his feet, seemed to be the only one who realized what was happening.
The Psalms reveal the heart and mind of Christ through all this ordeal. Psalm 69 is clearly a crucifixion Psalm -- it speaks of the gall and vinegar (v. 20):
"Reproach hath broken my heart. I am full of heaviness."
"I looked for some to take pity, but there was none";
"And for comforters, but I found none."
Mary's loving and understanding ministration supplied a vital need at this point, like the angels later in the Garden...The men failed completely to comprehend, but a few women felt the deep current of events -- this Mary, and his mother Mary, and Mary Magdalene. *
8 But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?
Judas was the spokesman and ringleader, because he was a thief and bare the bag (Jn. 12:6). But clearly the other disciples, too, were carried away with small-minded, self-righteous condemnation.
How easy and natural and satisfying to the flesh to condemn others who are doing far more for Christ than we are!
They may even be doing it unsoundly and misguidedly in ignorance. Our knowledge may be greater, but what hypocrisy to do LESS than they, and still to criticize!
Christ turned her condemnation to an everlasting memorial of praise (v. 13) *
14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,
The incident of the anointing seems to have brought things to a head in Judas. It would powerfully affect him in two ways
1. The 300 pence -- he was a thief;
2. The rebuke -- the setback -- the reference to the burial.
Judas was much more acute than the other simple disciples. He appears to have had the greatest natural ability and capacity and maturity. A man who, in such intimate contact, could maintain such perfect deception for three years was not an ordinary man.
Ahithophel was the Old Testament type of Judas. He was to David as Judas to Christ. Ahithophel was a man of great natural wisdom. We learn much about Judas from the Psalms and the story of Ahithophel.
When the turning-point came, Ahithophel perceived it immediately. He saw the handwriting on the wall -- and went and hanged himself. Doubtless the anointing incident told Judas the same thing -- Christ was not going to be a king but a sacrifice.
Why did Judas follow Christ? And why did Christ choose Judas? Christ said long before that Judas was a devil. He knew from the beginning Judas would betray him (Jn. 6:64).
The picture we get in the Psalms tells us Judas was consistently, deliberately, evil and calculating. This was no sudden weakness or mere fleshly stumbling.
This was callous, premeditated self-interest. Judas clearly followed Christ for what he could get. He could see Christ as the Messiah and himself a ruler in Israel, when this long-awaited Messiah asserted his divine claim. He had the general Jewish expectation of what the Messiah would do.
He was prudent, competent, discerning, but selfish and worldly. He sought a crown, but not a cross.
We, too, can be Christ's for the same reason -- selfish, personal advantage. If we are not Christ's for just pure love of Christ, we are but Judases, and if someone offered us more we would switch. We must be Christ's for Christ's sake alone, without thought of self.
Judas was a hardened criminal. Psalms 69 and 109 reveal this. He was a thief. He was a practiced and accomplished hypocrite. He brazenly asked, "Is it I?" at the table. What cool, unfeeling, heartless self-possession!
And then the kiss in the Garden. A man with the slightest grain of goodness or decency would surely have chosen a less vicious and hypocritical method of betrayal.
But why did Christ choose such a man for a close companion? -- and so treat him for three years that none of the disciples suspected him, even when told there was a traitor in their midst?
Two purposes were served. Jesus said (Jn. 13:18) --
"I know whom I have chosen, but THAT THE SCRIPTURE MAYBE FULFILLED -- "
"He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me."
A traitor was needed, so a traitor -- a vessel of dishonour -- was chosen.
Secondly, it was part of the trial and perfecting of Christ's character. He was "made perfect through suffering." He said (Matt. 5:44) --
"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you. Do good to them that hate you."
Surely there could be no more striking example! The mind of Christ in Psalm 109 records (vs. 4-5) --
"For my love they are my adversaries, but I gave myself unto prayer."
"They have rewarded me evil for good, and HATRED FOR MY LOVE."
Verses 8-16 of this Psalm, quoted by Peter In Acts 1:20, show that it applies to these very circumstances of Jesus and Judas.
"And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver."
The paltriness of the reward adds to the despicableness of the crime. It shows his value of God's most precious and valuable gift to man -- like Esau, the "profane person," who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.
"And they made ready the Passover" (v. 19).
Luke records that Jesus said:
"With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer" (Lk. 22:15).
And John says of the same occasion (Jn. 13:1):
"Having loved his own, which were in the world, he loved them to the end."
Even in his agony he did not forget or neglect his infinite love for them.
"And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you that one of you shall betray me" (v. 21).
And everyone said, "Is it I?" -- Judas along with the rest. Was there nothing in all those three years that Judas had done that would cause them to suspect, nor in all Jesus' relationships with Judas? What a marvelous testimony to the impartial love Jesus had shown to his secret enemy among them! Psalm 41:9 says --
"Yea, mine own familiar friend in whom I trusted hath lifted up his heel against me!"
How could Jesus trust him if he knew from the beginning he would betray him?
Clearly it means that he treated him with the same trust that he treated the others. He made no distinction, though he knew what he would do. There is a great lesson for us here in our treatment of others.
There is another reason why the disciples did not suspect Judas. The outward difference between him and them was not as great as we might suppose.
Truly they were basically sincere and he was not. But they were very childish and fleshly and self-centered and uncomprehending -- until the shock and sorrow of the cross made them men. In the Temple on one of those last terrible days, Jesus had been speaking of many deep and beautiful things. And as they walked out together, his disciples said, in simple, uncomprehending, childlike wonder (Mk. 13:1). *
17 Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?
While Jesus and the disciples were making their arrangements, very different arrangements were being made at the palace of Caiaphas the high priest (a large and stately building in Jerusalem). A general meeting of the priesthood and heads of the people had been convened in this building under that official's auspices, to consult as to the best means of getting Christ into their power. They were burning with unappeasable anger under the wounds inflicted upon their pride and self-love in their collisions with him, and especially by his open denunciation of them before all the people.
They were resolved upon his destruction, but they did not see exactly how to bring it about. They had power to impeach him to the Roman governor Pilate, if they could get hold of him; but there was a great difficulty as to this on account of the friendly feelings entertained for Jesus by the common people. If they made an attempt to arrest him in the presence of the people, there was danger of a resistance that might be formidable to the chief priests themselves.
Yet they knew not how to get at him in the absence of the people, for he was only a visitor to Jerusalem, and his haunts were not known outside the circle of his friends, who were also unknown. It was only among the people that he was to be found, and among them he could not be taken because of the attention they gave him.
There was considerable discussion, but no decisive result beyond a general agreement that there must be no attempt on the feast day, when crowds of people would be thronging the temple courts, and that they must be on the outlook, and trust to tact and craft to get Jesus into their power.
What measures they resolved on with this view, we are not informed, but it is probable they gave it to be understood that there was money to be made by those who might be willing to aid them in their schemes. How far they would have succeeded if there had not been a Judas among the disciples, is very problematical. But their success was appointed, and the instrument was to hand.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 51
21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
...man, having a free will, is compared to a utensil, which God uses in certain cases, ...Man is not a machine, but a living rational being, who, however, as containing an excellence not self-derived, may be considered as a vessel.
The Christadelphian, Feb 1886
27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
'...wine is used with such a variety of significations. It is used to represent the fruit of obedience which God desired at the hands of the house of Israel (Isa. 5:1-4; Matt. 21:33-41). It is used to represent the blessedness which God will dispense from Zion to all nations in Abraham (Isa. 25:6). It is used to represent the blood of Christ shed in righteousness and in sorrow (Matt. 26:28-29). It is used to represent the false principles ministered to all nations by the False Church of the Seven Hills (Rev. 18:3).
Law of Moses Ch 30
28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
BAPTISED FOR THE REMISSION OF SIN
Men were baptised in the apostolic age for the remission of their individual sins-always.
Read and see if it is not so: never for condemnation in Adam. This is an affair of nature, as established by law. We are not delivered from the death we inherit in Adam till mortality (that is, constitutional deathfulness) is "swallowed up of life."
You are wrong in supposing we have ever thought otherwise. The Instructor, which we wrote some 15 years ago, expresses our meaning exactly, thus:
-"Question 35 - Why is man in his present mortal and evil state?
Answer: Man is mortal because of sin. It is God's law that sinners must die. Adam, our first father, sinned, and was sentenced to death before he had any children. Death began with him, and came to us through him. We receive the nature that he had after he was condemned to die. We thus inherit his sentence of death.
Besides this, we are all sinners ourselves"-page 14.
So also in the questions at the end for children under eight.
"Question: What was the consequence of their (Adam and Eve's) disobedience?
Answer: They were sentenced to die, and they were driven out of the beautiful garden to get their living by labour.
Question:-Are we under this sentence?
Answer: Yes, because we are their children. We have come from them. It was a sentence that cursed their bodies, and we have the same bodies."
-The change is not with us, but with those who teach that the sentence on Adam was "sudden death," "violent death" - never inflicted, but averted by the blood of animal sacrifice, which Paul says could not take away sin. Let your censures be applied in the right quarter.
The Christadelphian, Oct 1896.
29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.
Who could literally eat and drink with the Lord in the day of his glory without sharing also of his position, his throne, his immortality, and his joy? To do the one implies the inheriting of the other. Therefore the statement of the one takes the other with it as a matter of meaning. The literal eating and drinking by itself would be a poor affair to make the subject of promise; but as taking with it the sharing of his friendship, the participation of his glory, the enjoyment of his love and fellowship, the inheritance of his throne, and his glorious immortal nature, it becomes a very great and precious promise indeed without abating a jot of its literalness.
Bro Roberts - The cup of blessing
33 Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.
34 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
35 Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.
Peter said, with the infinite assurance of immaturity and inexperience ...And so said they all.
How sure they were of themselves! How little need they saw for preparation and prayer! Yet how pitifully soon they failed! *
40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
It was a gentle warning to Peter to examine his own strength and doubt his own assurance, and seek help before it was too late. But Peter, in his blind self-confidence, did not heed. *
41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
They were not prepared, and therefore they failed. They were caught unawares.
They were brave men -- Peter did not hesitate to draw his sword to take on a multitude.
They were devoted men -- they were ready to die with Christ, and they truly meant it.
They were dedicated men -- they had left all to follow him.
They were independently-minded men -- they chose a hard and lonely path, contrary to the whole nation and its leaders.
They were spiritually-minded men -- for they perceived that Christ alone had the words of eternal life.
But they were not prepared. They thought they were ready for everything. They thoughtlessly trusted their own strength.
They did not realize the constant application of prayer and meditation necessary for strengthening the spirit for the ordeal which must sooner or later come to all. *
43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.
Each time he came from prayer, he found them sleeping. How vitally he needed the comfort and strength of understanding companionship! But it was not to be. He must tread the winepress completely alone. His dependence must be wholly upon God.
Luke says they were sleeping from sorrow. Truly they could not help but sorrow for his sorrow, though they understood it not. But they could not watch with him. They did not realize how much their support would have meant to him. They had always leaned and depended on him as being of inexhaustible strength. *
44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
Did he not KNOW that the cup must be drunk? That -- as he himself had said -- for this purpose, all that he had done previously was but the preparing?
Why then would he ask it to be removed? Was this weakness? Rebellion? Lack of faith? Why did he not accept what he knew must be? And not once, but three times over, he so prayed.
The answer is that he was "made perfect" -- complete-whole -- prepared-ready -- "by suffering." He "learned obedience by the things he suffered" (Heb. 5:8-9).
He had to be developed. He had to learn. Truly he was well pleasing to God in all things at all times, but he still had to be trained and taught and developed by trial and suffering.
We see in the Garden the last great lesson being learned -- the last great trial being experienced. We see in this threefold plea -- these "strong crying and tears" (Heb. 5:7) -- the reality of the struggle and the bitter agony of the development.
Mark records an expression he used on this occasion that makes these pleas easier to understand:
"Father, all things are possible for Thee!"
This Indeed is true. He had often said so himself. He had spoken of the irresistible power of the faith and prayer of a righteous man, and truly he was righteous. All things are possible -- why cannot this cup pass? Why cannot it be done another way?
But each time he came through conflict to the peace of obedience, resignation, and acceptance --
"Thy will, not mine, be done."
There is no sin in the great struggle within. There is no sin in strong desire and hope. But always, at the end, we must each come through to the same conclusion
"Thy will, not mine, be done."
It is often very hard, but there is no other way. And truly in our hearts we would desire no other way, for we know God's way is best. *
52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
It is wrong to use the sword, and if we do so we shall lose our reward. Let us not be misled into disobedience by the argument that the employment of force is needful for the government of our evil world. God knew, when He laid down the law, what was needed, and made arrangements accordingly. The divinely-appointed sword-bearers for the management of the world are aliens-men who know little or nought of God's will and glorious purpose.
These sword-bearers are styled, in Rom. 13:1, "the powers that be," and include, of course, the instruments of their might-the world's armies, navies, and police. The appointment of the sword-bearers is not direct, far from it, a fact which gives ample scope for the unbeliever, or Bible rejector, to deny that it is of God.
These powers are ordained providentially, even as Nebuchadnezzar was encharged with the punishment of Israel (Jer. 25:9), and the Medes with the overthrow of Babylon (Isa. 13:17). What a motley collection have the sword-bearers been...But without their work what an intolerable place this world would have been for the children of God.
Our duty towards these powers is to obey them, except when their laws clash with God's explicit commands to us. We are to do so for "conscience sake," because God decrees it (Rom. 13:5; 1 Pet. 2:13, 14). When we have confidence in God's arrangement for the order and control of this world what a peace of mind is reached!
How the arrangement speaks to us also of God's greatness in His power to manipulate the minds of men! How it illustrates Dan. 4:17, 25. How it speaks to us, too, of our Father's kindness in securing for His children a tolerable place of sojourn pending the establishment of His kingdom.
Bro AT Jannaway
The Christadelphian, Nov 1905
52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
This is to be determined by lexicography and scriptural usage. Applying the first, we find that so far as the Hebrew scriptures are concerned, there are several original words translated by the English word "perish," and all appear to have substantially the same meaning.
1. Avad: "Ye shall perish among the heathen."-(Lev. xxvi, 38.) "When shall he die and his name perish, (Ps. xli, 5); "The king shall perish from Gaza."-(Zech. ix, 5.) "Came up in a night, and perished in a night."-(Jonah. iv, 10.) The same word is also rendered destroy and fail.-(Ezek. xxvi, 17; xii, 22.)
2. Gavag: "That man perisheth not alone."-(Jos. xxii, 20.) "All flesh shall perish together."-(Job. xxxiv, 15.) This word is most frequently translated die, and give up the ghost.-(Gen. vi, 17; xxxv, 29.)
3. Napthal: "and many of them perish."-(Ex. xix, 21.) This is almost the only case in which this word is translated perish. In about 400 other instances it is rendered "fallen."
4. Saphah: "He shall descend into the battle and perish."-(1 Sam. xxvi,10.) "I shall now perish."-(1 Sam. xxvii, 1.) This word is also rendered consume and destroy.
As regards the New Testament, the original word will be found to have the same meaning.
Appolumi is the one most frequently used, and this finds illustration in the following passages:
"Lord save us, we perish."-(Matt. viii, 25.) "They that take the sword shall perish with the sword."-(Matt. xxvi, 52.) "The bottles shall perish."-(Luke. v, 37.) "Meat which perisheth,"-(John vi, 27.) "Whereby the world that then was being overflowed with water perished."-(2 Peter iii, 6.)
There are seven other words translated perish, but they are of very rare occurrence, and the meaning is the same, as will be seen by consulting the only passages in which they occur, which are as follow:-(Matt. viii, 32; Acts. viii, 20; Acts xiii, 41; 2 Co. iv,16; Col. ii, 22; Heb. xi, 31; 2 Pet. ii, 12.)
To perish is to lapse into destruction. In relation to man, which is no doubt the aspect of the case our correspondent has in view, to perish is to be destroyed, in the sense of utter annihilation. This may be seen by consulting a Concordance. The popular sense of the word is a theological fiction. There is no such thing known to scripture, as perishing and still continuing in existence.
The Ambassador of the Coming Age, Dec 1867. p316.
56 But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.
Christ himself was far stronger and more prepared than they, but he never relied on himself. He applied himself constantly to prayer. We read at other times that, as they slept, he continued all night in prayer to God.
Here lay his secret and his strength, built slowly through long, weary hours of vigil and supplication -- the strength they thought they could duplicate so easily upon demand.
Can we, too, be so thoughtlessly foolish? -- taking our own strength for granted, instead of constantly bending every effort to seek divine reinforcement against the day of temptation --
"WATCH -- and PRAY."
We must realize NOW the urgency of the command. When the test comes, it is too late to prepare.*
62 And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?
Those who had the matter in charge called several who had been manufactured beforehand, official false witnesses -- men ready to say anything required by authority. One said one thing; another, another; but their statements were so incoherent, so improbable, and so inconsistent with each other, that the council could not for very shame profess to act on them.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 56
75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.
The chapter closes with Peter's violent threefold denial of Christ. What humiliation and remorse after such boastful confidence! He truly had been ready to fight for Christ, but the command to "Put up the sword" and the warning that
"All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword" (v. 52)
-- found him wholly unprepared.
If he had watched and prayed in the Garden with Christ, instead of sleeping, perhaps he would have been ready -- but he had to learn a different, harder way.
Peter had to learn to listen and accept. His devotion was impulsive and thoughtless and self-confident. When Christ spoke of the necessity of his sacrifice, trying to prepare the disciples' minds, Peter instead of listening and learning said --
"No -- I know better -- it must be the way I think."
He thought it was devotion, but it was really self-assertion and presumption. Then when Christ was about to wash his feet, and teach him something, again he said
"No -- I know better -- thou shalt never wash my feet!"
And when Christ said --
"If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me"
-- it STILL had to be Peter's way, not Christ's --
"No -- I know better -- not my feet only, but my hands and my head."
He thought it was devotion, and truly it was, but it was a devotion that had to learn how to learn. Peter wanted to be spectacular in his devotion. He wanted to walk on the water, like Christ. He would have been wiser to wait In the boat with the rest.
We must learn the lesson well, if we wish to be useful in God's purpose, and accepted by Him. We must learn to carefully LISTEN, and to carefully OBEY.
Careful, thoughtful, self-examining, patient obedience is the only true devotion. There are millions filled with self-satisfied devotion, going about to establish their own righteousness by great deeds for Christ -- self-confidently following their own will, and self-assuredly dictating to God the way of life, as Peter did to Christ.
But very few are prepared to submit to God's way -- to stop, and think, and study, and meditate, and learn God's desire in every little, careful detail. These are the few alone whom God will save --
"Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." ** Bro Growcott - Could Ye Not Watch One Hour?