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confident before danger, should betray the utmost consternation when it arrived ; thus fulfilling every thing which their master had foretold. But behold Jesus, who entered upon the conflict with strong cries and tears, yet with earnest and frequent prayer, behaving with the utmost tranquillity and composure in the day of trial, and never once acting unworthily of his character. Thus we learn not to be too confident in our good purposes and resolutions, and see that some degree of fear is a better preparation for danger than confidence; just as those have been observed to prove the best soldiers, who tremble when they first enter the battle.
Matthew xxvi. 47---58.
47. And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude, with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people.
The Jewish Sanhedrim, here described as the chief priests and elders of the people, having passed a vote for apprehending Jesus, and fearing resistance, send a band of Roman Soldiers to seize him.
48. Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.
49. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master, and kissed him.
This was the usual form of salutation with friends, among the Jews: See Luke vii. 45, where Jesus says to Simon, I entered into thy house-thou gavest me no kiss.
As it was now night, and Jesus was unknown to the soldiers, it was necessary to point him out to them by some sign: this was fixed upon by the traitor, as the most likely to conceal his intentions from the other disciples, and to prevent them from making any resist
50. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come?
By these words, Jesus intimates to Judas the knowledge he had of his treacherous designs, and mildly reproaches him with the inconsistency between his intentions and professions. Such language from his master, the moment when he was doing him the greatest possible injury, must sink deeply into the heart of Judas, and contributed much, probably, to that desperate resolution which he afterwards took.
Then came they and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.
51. And behold one of them which were with Jesus, stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off
The person who committed this act of violence was the apostle Peter, as we learn from the evangelist John, who mentions his name* As Peter might be living at the time when Matthew and the other evangelists wrote their histories, and as it was a criminal action in him thus to oppose legal authority, it has been supposed, with much probability, that they were induced to conceal his name, through fear of bringing him into danger: but John, writing long after, and when Peter was dead, had no such motive for concealment. Peter was a man of warm passions, and wished to show by his
# John xviii. 10.
conduct the sincerity of the promises which he had lately made. (verse 33.) Besides, he could not yet persuade himself that Jesus would submit to be apprehende ed by his enemies: he thought it his duty to fight for his master, and had no doubt that he should overcome his foes. Some have expressed their surprise that such an instrument as a sword should be found in the hand of an apostle: but it appears, from Luke xxii. 38, that the disciples carried with them two, as they travelled through every part of the country: a few such weapons might be necessary to defend them from robbers, with which it was infested.
52. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall, rather will, perish by the sword.
This is a proverbial expression, which was common among the Jews: its meaning is, that those generally perish by war, who are forward to deal in it. Peter, although single, was ready to attack the whole band of soldiers. By this language, Christ intended to warn him of the extreme imprudence and rashness of the attempt; intimating that it would end in his own destruction. He next reminds him that it was opposing the will of Providence, which did not want means of delivering him, if it were so inclined.
53. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?
Jesus liere refers to the miraculous powers which Peter had seen him exercise, and asks him whether, after being an eye-witness of these powers, after having seen him raise the dead, and calm the winds and waves of the sea, he can any longer doubt whether God would give him any assistance that might be necessary for his defence; not merely twelve men such as they were, or twelve legions of soldiers, each consisting of six thous
and men, but twelve legions of angels; a force which nothing would be able to resist. Such a force he could have easily obtained, if he had thought proper to ask for it: but this he did not choose to do, because he
apprehended, from the scriptures, that it was the design of Providence that he should suffer. Daniel vii. 10. 2 Kings, vi. 20.
54. But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be, or which say that thus it must be?
That is, If my apprehension, and the other things which are to follow, do not take place, how will the divine intentions, as intimated in the scriptures, which say I must suffer, be fulfilled. The scriptures to which Christ is supposed to refer, are those which speak of his suiterings and death, particularly Isaiah liii. 8, 9, 10, where these events are plainly foretold. By telling Pe. ter that he submitted to be taken, in order to comply with the will of heaven, he points out to him a proper reason for his own acquiescence.
55. In that same hour said Jesus unto the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves, for to take me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.
This language seems to be addressed to the Jews who accompanied the band of soldiers, and is a gentle reproach to them for treating as a malefactor one who so little deserved that character. He expresses his surprise also at the sudden change which had taken place in their conduct towards him: it was not long since they had listened with pleasure to the discourses which he delivered to them in the temple, and were so far from regarding him as a criminal, who ought to be apprehended, that they considered themselves as greatly indebted to him. Christ felt a momentary regret and indignation at being treated so unworthily: but he immediately reconciled his mind to it by the consideration which he next suggests.
56. But all this was done that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.
That is, that the intentions of Providence, as communicated to the prophets, might be accomplished. He had mentioned this to his disciples; he now mentions it to the Jews.
Then all the disciples forsook him and fied.
Seeing Jesus, contrary to their expectation, quietly submit to be apprehended, making no resistance himself, and forbidding others to make any, they became alarmed for their own safety, and took to flight.
57. And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.
Jesus had been apprehended by a decree or vote of the Sanhedrim, and is now brought to appear before them.
58. But Peter followed him afar off, unto the high priest's palace, or hall, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.
Peter, although alarmed, as well as the rest of the disciples, was not entirely overwhelmed with fear: he followed him at a distance; restrained from forsaking him by a sense of shame, after having made the solemn professions of attachment which were mentioned a little before.