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MATTHEW - Chapter 26

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Matthew 26

Supplemental Commentary:


1.  The Last Supper  26, 1-35

From here one, agreement between all three Synoptic Gospels is even greater than it is in the narrative of our Lord's Public Ministry.  It seems probable, therefore, that in the early oral catechesis of the Apostles the account of Christ's passion, death and resurrection was considered as a special narrative, partly independent of the account of His preaching and miracles.  Most of the events that are here narrated in the first three Gospels are paralleled, in a broad sense, in the Fourth Gospel also.  St. John, however, rather presupposes the account of the Synoptic Gospels as known to his readers and supplements it with new items of his own.  There are certain seeming discrepancies between the Synoptic Gospels on the one hand and the Fourth Gospel on the other, especially in regard to chronology.  It seems that all four Gospels count time according to the Jewish method of reckoning, i.e., the day considered as a period of twenty-four hours begins at sunset.  Therefore in all four Gospels the Last Supper takes place, strictly speaking, on the same day on which Christ died; the preparations for it are made on the previous day.  All four Gospels agree that our Lord died on a Friday at about three o'clock in the afternoon.  According to the Synoptic Gospels this Friday would seem to have been the great feast of the Passover, at the beginning of which, that is, on the preceding evening according to our way of reckoning, the Passover Supper was eaten.  But according to the Fourth Gospel this Friday was the day before the Passover (cf. John 13, 1 f; 18, 28; 19, 14.31).  Astronomical calculations (the date of Passover was determined by the moon) confirm the correctness of the Fourth Gospel.  During the whole period of Pilate's governorship (26-32 A.D.) no Passover could have fallen on a Friday; but there were two years when it fell on a Saturday: 30 A.D. (April 8) and 33 A.D. (April 4).  We have good reasons from extra-biblical sources for believing that at the time of Christ, when the Passover fell on Saturday, many anticipated the Passover Supper by one day.  (See Lagrange, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, Vol. II, p. 193 f.)  According to the Synoptic Gospels Christ also seems to have done so.

1.  The conclusion of the preceding discourse according to the usual formula of the First Gospel.    2.  This brief prediction of the Crucifixion is only in Matthew.  After two days: we would say, "The day after tomorrow."  Since Christ is apparently speaking of the Passover as the day on which He would eat the Passover Supper, i.e., Friday according to the Jewish way of reckoning time, this prediction of His crucifixion was made on Wednesday.

26, 3-5:  The Council.  Parallels in Mark 14, 1 f and Luke 22, 1 f.    3.  Then refers to the day mentioned in 2, as is certain from Mark.  This meeting therefore took place on Wednesday.  The chief priests and the elders: Mark and Luke mention the Scribes also; therefore members of all three sections of the Sanhedrin were present.  However, this was probably not an official session of that body but rather a private meeting of its leaders.    4.  They had already decided to put Jesus to death (cf. John 11, 53).  They were now discussing ways and means of arresting Him secretly, for an attempt to seize Him while He was publicly teaching in the temple would have caused a riot among the people.    5.  Since there were so many Galileans at Jerusalem for the Passover, the Council finally decided, no doubt with reluctance, to postpone the arrest of Jesus until the feast and its octave was over.  But the offer made by the traitor Judas led them to change their plans.

26, 6-13:  The Anointing at Bethany.  Parallels in Mark 14, 3-9 and John 12, 1-8.  Luke omits this, probably because he has already (in 7, 36 ff) given an account of a somewhat similar but certainly distinct anointing of Jesus.  The anointing at Bethany took place on the day before Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, as John 12, 1.12 explicitly states.  Matthew and Mark place this event in connection with the meeting of the Council and with the treason of Judas probably in order to show that this incident completely embittered Judas against his Master and so led to his treason.  But strange to say, it is only the Fourth Gospel that mentions Judas by name as one of those disciples who were indignant at the seeming waste of the precious ointment.  Perhaps the intimate connection between this anointing and the burial of Jesus led to the transference of this event from its proper chronological place to its present incorporation in the account of Christ's Passion.

6.  Simon the leper: he must have been cured of his leprosy or he could not have acted as host.  "Simon" was a very common name at that time; it was by a purely accidental coincidence that the Pharisee in whose house Jesus was anointed by the penitent woman also bore the name of Simon (cf. Luke 7, 40 ff).    7.  We know from John that his woman was Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.  Precious ointment: Judas estimated its value as worth three hundred denarii (cf. Mark and John), a very large sum indeed, since one denarius was the ordinary daily wage of a laborer (cf. 20, 2).    8 f.  John tells us that these words were spoken by Judas.  But the other indignant disciples shared his sentiments, although they were no doubt sincere in their intention of having the money given to the poor.    10.  The disciples were evidently trying to stop the woman, at least by rebuking her; cf. Mark: "And they grumbled at her."  What this good turn consisted in is explained in 12.    11.  Cf. Deut. 15, 11.  Christ is simply stating a fact; His words should not be abused as an argument against honest efforts to banish poverty from the world as far as possible.  The special circumstances, i.e., the close proximity of our Lord's death and burial justify this lavish expenditure.    12.  The ancients considered a decent burial with proper anointing of the body to be of great importance.  Because there was no time to wash and anoint the body of Jesus on Good Friday evening, the women postponed this act of piety until the end of the Sabbath (cf. Mark 15, 46; 16, 1).  But Christ had then already risen without having received this intended anointing.  Hence the great importance of this anticipated anointing of Christ's body by Mary of Bethany.    13.  Mary's deed merits immortal fame not merely because of its intrinsic goodness (any other good deed done to Christ would merit the same), but because of its prophetic nature, i.e., it foretold the fact that Christ was soon to be buried without being anointed after death.  We need not suppose, however, that Mary understood all this.

26, 14-16:  The Betrayal.  Parallels in Mark 14, 10 f and Luke 22, 3-6.  Judas made his offer to the chief priests probably on the same day that the Council met (3-5), i.e., on Wednesday of Holy Week.  Some think that 16 implies a longer period.  But the Council would hardly have come to its first decision (5) if Judas had already made his proposal.  Matthew alone mentions the amount of money that Judas received (cf. also 27, 3).  By a "piece of silver" is here meant the Jewish "shekel," the equivalent of the stater which was worth four denarii.  They counted out is correct according to the sense, for the money given to Judas was undoubtedly in coins; but the Greek means literally "they weighed"; for the whole sentence is a quotation from Zach. 11, 12.  According to Mark and Luke the money was merely promised to Judas on this occasion.  Probably it was set aside for him on this day and handed over to him as soon as Jesus was delivered into their hands.  Moreover, in Mark and Luke the money does not play a prominent role in the betrayal.  Possibly Judas' question, as given in 15 was merely a cloak to hide his real motives.  It is true that Judas was certainly avaricious (cf. John 12, 6) and no doubt avarice played an important part in the betrayal.  But the popular notion that Judas sold Christ merely out of avarice is difficult to reconcile with other known facts of the case.  For if avarice were his sole motive, why should remorse have induced him to throw this money away when he saw that Jesus was condemned to death?  Moreover, thirty pieces of silver were a comparatively small sum.  As treasurer of the Apostolic band Judas could probably have purloined much more than that during every month of our Lord's Ministry.  This was the amount of indemnity, determined by the Law, which a man had to pay who was responsible for the accidental death of another's slave (cf. Ex. 21, 32).  Probably the chief priests, out of hypocritical scruples, felt that this was the minimum they should pay Judas for the death of his Master.  But Judas was invaluable to them.  Without his assistance they could not have arrested Christ.  If Judas were acting solely out of avarice, he could have demanded a much higher price and he would have received it.  A few prefer to explain the treachery of Judas as motivated by sheer malice and hatred for Jesus.  It is true that Judas had long since lost faith in Christ (cf. John 6, 65.71); but this theory also fails to explain his later remorse (cf. 27, 3 ff).  Another unsatisfactory theory seeks to lessen the malice of Judas by explaining his action as based on a desire to hasten the crisis and force Jesus to proclaim Himself the Messias according to the popular conceptions of that dignity; when Judas saw that this plan had failed, it was supposedly out of true but misguided affection for his Master that he committed suicide.  But this theory, besides being entirely unknown to tradition, is opposed to Christ's strong condemnation of Judas' treason (cf. 24).  One thing that is certain is that Judas acted under the instigation of the devil (cf. Luke 22, 3; John 13, 2.27).  His true motives are known only to God and to Satan.

26, 17-19:  Preparation.  Parallels in Mark 14, 12-16 and Luke 22, 7-13.    17.  The first day of Unleavened Bread was originally equivalent to the first day of the Passover and its octave, i.e., the fifteenth of Nisan, at the beginning of which the Passover meal was eaten; but in order to insure the absence of all leaven and leavened bread at the feast, the Rabbis ordained that all leaven had to be out of the house by the morning of the previous day, i.e., the fourteenth of Nisan, the day on which the Passover lambs were sacrificed.  Thus at the time of Christ the fourteenth of Nisan became known as "the first day of the Unleavened Bread" (cf. Mark and Luke).  It was sometime on Thursday when the Apostles spoke these words.  To eat the Passover means to eat the famous meal prescribed as a memorial of the flight from Egypt (cf. Ex. 12).    18.  A certain man: the Greek is equivalent to our "Mr. So-and-so"; i.e., Christ named or described this man but the Evangelist does not identify him; cf. the directions which Christ gave Peter and John on how they should find this man's house, as recorded by Mark and Luke.  Evidently this man was a disciple of Christ.  According to tradition his house, now known as "the cenacle," became the headquarters and first church of the Apostles in Jerusalem.  Jesus meant My time as the time for Him to establish His kingdom by His death and resurrection.  Keeping the Passover is equivalent to "eating the Passover" of 17.

26, 20-25:  The Betrayer.  Parallels in Mark 14, 17-21; Luke 22, 14.21-23 and John 13, 21-30.  In Luke the order of events at the Last Supper is different from that of Matthew and Mark.  Thus, in the Third Gospel the denunciation of the Betrayer is mentioned after the institution of the Holy Eucharist.  But, as is shown in the Commentary on Luke, the order of events at the Last Supper as recorded in the Third Gospel is not always strictly chronological.    20.  At their festive banquets the Jews at this time followed the custom of the Greeks and Romans who reclined at table, i.e., lay on their side upon couches, supporting the head with the left hand and eating with the right.  From the description in the Fourth Gospel it seems that Jesus lay facing towards John, while John was perhaps in the same position in regard to Peter; Judas lay on the other side of Jesus, while some other Apostle lay on the other side of Judas.  These five occupied the broad couch in the center, the other eight Apostles in two groups of four each occupying the two side couches.  From this arrangement of the table in the form of a square U the dining-room at that time was known as the "triclinium," i.e., the three-couch room.    21.  While they were eating: this episode evidently took place near the end of the meal; the institution of the Holy Eucharist took place "after the supper" (Luke).    22. Although each of the Apostles probably felt some apprehension of the possibility of his own personal guilt, yet their question had rather the sense of self-justification, "It is not I, is it, Lord?"    23.  Apparently this sign by which the traitor might be known, was given only to John and perhaps through him to Peter, for it seems from the Fourth Gospel that the other Apostles were ignorant of the identity of the traitor at the time that Judas left.  He who dips his hand with me in the dish should be understood as the same sign as "He for whom I shall dip the bread and give it to him" (John); the latter gives the more exact description of the action.  Cf. Ps. 40, 10.    24.  Goes his way, as it is written of him, i.e., goes to His destiny, His death, as if foretold in the Prophets, especially Isa. 53.    25.  Christ's answer must have been whispered to Judas, so that the other Apostles did not hear it.  Judas left immediately, as soon as he was sure that Jesus knew of his treachery (cf. John 13, 30).

26, 26-29:  The Holy Eucharist.  Parallels in Mark 14, 22-25; Luke 22, 18-20; and 1 Cor. 11, 23-25.  While all these four accounts are in substantial agreement, there are certain minor differences between them even in regard to Christ's words.  These differences are probably due to the fact that this action of our Lord was repeated from the beginning at least once a week in every Christian community; thus there naturally arose certain minor variants which are reproduced in these four accounts.  Luke's account is very similar to that of 1 Cor., while Mark's phraseology is much closer to Matthew's.    26.  While they were at supper: i.e., "While they were eating" (Mark; the same Greek expression is used in both Gospels); contrast this with "after the supper" (Luke), "after he had supped" (1 Cor.; the same Greek expression in both instances) in regard to the cup of wine.  Either the consecration of the bread and that of the wine were separated by an appreciable interval at the Last Supper, their present close juncture in the Mass being a liturgical adaptation, or both temporal expressions are more or less synonymous, signifying "at the end of the meal."  Bread: more exactly "a loaf."  Gave it: i.e., the loaf of bread broken into pieces.  The symbolism of "the breaking of the bread" is explained according to the reading of many manuscripts in 1 Cor., "This is my body that is broken for you," i.e., that is broken with suffering on the cross as a sacrifice for you; cf. the words of the consecration of the cup.  The word blessed is synonymous with the phrase gave thanks, both expressions referring to the unrecorded prayer of Christ in which He thanked His heavenly Father for His gifts and called down the divine blessing upon this food and drink.  This prayer of Christ is no doubt substantially repeated in the prayers of the Canon of the Mass, beginning with the Preface.  The simple, direct statement, "This is my body" cannot possible be understood in a figurative sense.  Even many modern rationalists now admit that Christ meant these words in the sense in which they have always been understood in the Catholic Church, although these critics, of course, deny Him the divine power of actually doing what He said He was doing, i.e., truly giving His disciples His body as food under the appearance of bread.  In theological language this change of the substance of bread into the substance of Christ's body is known as Transubstantiation.    27 f.  The cup contained wine, as is certain from 29.  What has just been said of the bread applies also to the change of the wine into Christ's blood.  Cf. also 1 Cor. 10, 16.  The word new before covenant is missing in the best manuscripts of Matthew and Mark; it occurs, however, in all manuscripts of Luke and 1 Cor.; cf. Jer. 31, 31; Heb. 7, 22; 8, 6; 12, 24.  Jesus is certainly alluding to Ex. 24, 8; cf. Heb. 9, 15-22.  By these words Christ shows that this action of His at the Last Supper is a sacrifice, for He speaks of His blood as similar to the sacrificial blood with which Moses sealed the Old Covenant between God and Israel.  Moreover, by the words which is being shed our Lord shows that this act is related in a special way to His sacrifice on the cross.  For many: see Commentary on 20, 28.  Unto the forgiveness of sins: this is therefore primarily a propitiatory sacrifice.    29.  Luke 22, 18 records these words of Christ as spoken in connection with what is apparently a different cup of wine, partaken of before the Eucharist; but see Commentary on Luke.  If these words are understood as referring to the Holy Eucharist (so they are apparently to be understood in Matthew and Mark), they signify not only that Jesus wished to tell the Apostles that He was about to depart from this world, but also the next time that He would give Himself to them in the Holy Eucharist He would be in the kingdom of His Father; whereas the present sacrificial banquet at the Last Supper is an anticipation of the Death on Calvary, all repetitions of the Liturgy of the Last Supper by the Church are memorial sacrifices, renewing the Sacrifice of the Cross in which Christ "offered himself up once for all" (Heb. 7, 27).

26, 30-35:  Peter's Denials Predicted.  Parallel in Mark 14, 26-31.  Luke 22, 39 and John 18, 1 also record the walk of Jesus and His disciples to Gethsemani.  But the Third and the Fourth Gospels mention the prediction of Peter's denial as taking place in the cenacle during Christ's discourse after the Last Supper.  Their accounts are too similar to those of Matthew and Mark to suppose that this episode occurred twice.  The First and the Second Gospels evidently forsake the chronological order here in order to place the prediction of Christ's abandonment by the Apostles in closer proximity to its fulfillment.    30.  After reciting a hymn: literally in Greek, "having hymned"; several Psalms might have been sung.    31.  Be scandalized: literally, "be tripped up," i.e., the Apostles will stumble on the path of fidelity to Jesus, in so far as they will abandon Him and scatter like frightened sheep.  This scattering of Christ's little flock had been foretold in Zach. 13, 7.  Cf. also John 16, 31 f.    32.  Whenever Christ forewarned His disciples of His approaching passion and death, He also consoled them with the thought of the Resurrection.  Just as Jesus had courageously led His disciples from Galilee to Jerusalem (cf. Mark 10, 32), so also will He lead them back from Jerusalem to Galilee, where He will appear to a large group of His faithful followers (cf. 28, 16; 1 Cor. 15, 6).    33-35.  Peter's protestation of unwavering fidelity and Christ's prediction of his three denials are substantially the same in all four Gospels.  Mark alone mentions the cock crowing twice, both in the prediction and in its fulfillment.

2.  The Passion and Death of Jesus  26, 36 -- 27, 66

26, 36-46:  The Agony in the Garden.  Parallels in Mark 14, 32-42 and Luke 22, 40-46.  There is also a brief anticipation of Christ's Agony in John 12, 27.  We are here in a dark sanctuary of deep mysteries which we should enter reverently, humbly confessing our ignorance.  Although it was impossible for the human nature of Christ to be separated from His divine nature and all that this union entails, still in this agony Christ seems in a certain sense to suspend the spiritual support which His human nature normally received from His divinity.  He is here the Second Adam, voluntarily undoing by His loving obedience to the Father the sins which the disobedience of the First Adam had brought upon mankind (cf. Rom. 5, 12-19; Heb. 5, 7 f).  Therefore, since Jesus acts here as the representative of all mankind, the Man par excellence, He acts, as far as possible, purely according to His human nature, suffering all the natural, though sinless, frailties of human nature, the dread of suffering and death, the shrinking from degradation and revilement, the intense sorrow of being abandoned by His friends and betrayed by His own disciple, the overwhelming grief at the thought of men's black ingratitude in despising the cost and value of His Sacrifice, and perhaps, as far as it would be compatible with His sinless soul, a sense of guilt for all the shameful sins of the world that He was taking upon Himself to atone for (cf. 2 Cor. 5, 21; Gal. 3, 13; 1 Pet. 2, 24).

36.  Gethsemani, a Hebrew name meaning "olive-oil-press"; its traditional site at the base of the Mount of Olives is marked by century-old olive-trees.    37.  The same three Apostles who were witnesses of Christ's divine power in the raising of the daughter of Jairus and witnesses of His divine glory in the Transfiguration, were now chosen to be witnesses of the humiliating agony of His humanity.  But Jesus sought human solace from them in vain.    38.  Even unto death: Christ's anguish was so great that of itself it could have caused His death.    39.  From this passage it is certain that Christ's human will is distinct from, but in conformity with, His divine will; cf. also John 5, 30; 6, 38.  On the meaning of the cup see Commentary on 20, 22; here, however, there may be the additional thought of "the cup of God's wrath" (cf. Ps. 74, 9; Isa. 51, 17; Jer. 25, 15; Apoc. 14, 10; 16, 19).    40.  It was now near midnight and the Apostles were exhausted from the emotional strain of the evening (cf. Luke).    41.  To enter into temptation may mean either "to be tempted" or "to consent to temptation."  Cf. 6, 13.  The temptation against which the Apostles should at present use all natural and supernatural means of help (vigilance and prayer) would be to forsake Christ and even deny Him.  The spirit indeed is willing: even the best good-will of men is often overcome by the weakness of human nature.    45.  "Sleep on now": these words may be understood as a concession to the tired Apostles; but in view of the following statements, which were apparently spoken at once, they should rather be understood as ironical.

26, 47-56:  Jesus Arrested.  Parallels in Mark 14, 43-50; Luke 22, 47-53; and John 18, 2-11.    47.  A great crowd: very numerous at least in comparison with the small band of the Apostles, although Peter apparently felt that he had some chance of successful resistance against them.  John speaks of a "cohort" and its military "tribune," but these terms should not be understood in the strict sense, as if a body of Roman soldiers were present.  This rabble no doubt consisted entirely of Jews, among whom were some of the leaders of the High Priest's party (but certainly not Annas and Caiphas) and the "captains of the temple" (Luke), i.e., Levites who served as the temple-police.  That they were not a regular military force is seen from their weapons, swords and clubs; the Greek word that is here translated as "swords" is not the technical word for "soldier's swords."    48 f.  This signal had been agreed upon, probably in order to avoid causing undue alarm, for it was customary for a disciple of a rabbi to greet his master with a kiss.    50.  Friend: see Commentary on 22, 12.  "For what purpose hast thou come?": the Greek phrase, which is of uncertain significance, is a relative clause, literally, "for which thou hast come"; perhaps the sense is, "Dost thou dare kiss me as a friend in this business for which thou hast come!" (cf. Luke).    51.  It is only from the Fourth Gospel that we know that it was Peter who drew his sword and that the name of the wounded man was Malchus.    52-54.  Christ was opposed to all physical violence on this occasion, but His words should not be overstressed, as if He forbade His disciples under any circumstance to have recourse to active resistance against unjust aggression.  His arguments here are: (a) Physical violence always recoils upon him who uses it, and He wishes no unnecessary harm to befall His Apostles (52); (b) This action shows lack of confidence in God who could send more than twelve legions of angels instead of twelve weak Apostles, if it were His will to rescue Jesus from His enemies (53); (c) It is the will of the Father, expressed in His words to the prophets, that Jesus should be captured and put to death (54).  Moreover, Peter's action would compromise Christ's cause (cf. John 18, 36).    55.  In these words of calm majesty Jesus shows His enemies that He is freely allowing them to arrest Him and that the means they are using in order to capture Him are absurd.    56.  According to Mark, Christ Himself pointed this out to His enemies, i.e., He is allowing Himself to be arrested because it is His Father's will, as expressed in the Scriptures; God permits Christ's enemies and the power of darkness to have this brief hour of seeming triumph (Luke).

26, 57-68:  Jesus before the Sanhedrin.  The only parallel in the strict sense in Mark 14, 53-65.  John 18, 13 f.19-24 gives a different account of the inquisition held by the High Priest during the night.  Luke 22, 54.63-71 recounts the abuse heaped upon Jesus during the night in the house of the High Priest, but puts the trial by the Sanhedrin as taking place at dawn.  However, the account of the Jewish trial in Luke is too similar to that of Matthew and Mark to be considered as a distinct repetition, held for the sake of legality in the morning.  The most probable harmonization of the four accounts of the Jewish trial is as follows.  After His arrest in Gethsemani Jesus is brought to the house of the High Priest where, apparently, both Annas and Caiphas had their apartments (Matt. 26, 57; Mark 14, 53; Luke 22, 54; John 18, 13 f.24).  Here a preliminary investigation is held by the leaders of the Sanhedrin, in order to get sufficient matter for the formal charge that would be presented before the whole Sanhedrin in the morning; this inquisition was accompanied and followed by insults and physical violence, somewhat in the manner of a modern "third-degree" (Matt. 26, 67 f; Mark 14, 65; Luke 22, 63-65; John 18, 19-23).  At dawn Jesus is brought before the whole Sanhedrin and two charges are raised against Him: of claiming to be the Messias and of claiming to be the Son of God.  Upon His admission of the latter charge He is condemned to death as guilty of blasphemy (Matt. 26, 63-66; Mark 14, 61b-64; Luke 22, 66-71).  It is not clear whether the false witnesses (Matt. 26, 59-63a; Mark 14, 55-61a) appeared at the preliminary investigation or at the formal trial (cf. Luke 22, 71).    61.  Mark records the false testimony somewhat differently; possibly Matthew records the words of one witness and Mark those of the other witness.  No doubt these men were referring to the words of Christ as recorded in John 2, 19.  A charge of crime against the temple would have been fatal for Jesus if it could have been proved true.  The fact that the leaders of the Sanhedrin did not accept this false testimony shows that they were anxious, in their hypocrisy, to observe all the customary legalities.  If this is so, it would seem certain that the formal trial did not take place at night.    63.  Jesus had no need to answer charges upon which the witnesses themselves did not agree.  I adjure thee by the living God is a formula by which Jesus is put under oath to answer truthfully.  His acceptance of the oath shows that His prohibition against oaths (cf. 5, 34) is not to be understood in regard to necessary legal oaths.    64.  Christ affirms His divinity by His allusion to the prophecy of Dan. 7, 13; sitting at the right hand of the Power, i.e., of God Almighty, certainly implies that He is the Son of God in the strict sense.  The Sanhedrin also understood it as such.    65.  The tearing of one's garments was a gesture of the Jews to express great grief or horror, here the horror at hearing what was considered a blasphemy.  This was, however, a formality.  If the claim which Jesus made were not true, His words would certainly have been blasphemous.  By formally stating under oath the fundamental Christian truth of His divinity, Jesus placed the act for which He was condemned to death.    66.  Liable to death: more exactly according to the literal sense of the Greek and Latin, "guilty of death," i.e., guilty of a crime for which the penalty is death.  In these words the members of the Sanhedrin cast their votes by which they condemned Jesus to death.    68.  Prophesy to us: i.e., tell us by divine knowledge; Jesus had been blindfolded (cf. Mark and Luke) and could not know naturally who struck Him.

26, 69 -- 27, 2:  Peter's Denial.  Parallels in Mark 14, 66-72; Luke 22, 54-62; and John 18, 17 f.25-27.  All four Gospels agree substantially, but there are many minor differences of detail among them.  All four agree: (a) that there were three distinct denials; (b) that the charge of all three occasions was that Peter was a disciple of Jesus; (c) that the first denial took place at the fire in the courtyard and was occasioned by a maidservant's suspicions.  But in the second and third denials there are differences among the four Gospels in regard to both the exact place in the courtyard and the accusers.  We should probably consider each of these denials as really a group of several accusations and denials, one Gospel recording one part of it and another Gospel another part.  Matthew and Mark alone mention the fact that Peter added oaths to his denials, and indeed with increasing vehemence.    69.  A maidservant: she was the portress who had admitted Peter (cf. John).  Peter had special reasons for being afraid, because he had wounded Malchus.    70.  In Matthew and Mark Peter's first denial is mild enough, being merely an evasive answer, that he did not understand what she was driving at.  But a little lie soon grows to big proportions.    73.  The Galileans spoke a dialect of Aramaic that was somewhat different from Judean Aramaic.    74.  A cock crowed: we cannot really determine the time of the third denial from this incident, for cocks crow occasionally at any hour of the night; however, at the first signs of dawn they all begin to crow lustily.    75.  Peter remembered: it was Christ's look that helped to remind him (cf. Luke).  A cock crowed also after the first denial (cf. Mark) and apparently Peter had heard that one too, but it did not remind him of Christ's prediction.  [Commentary on this section is continued at the beginning of the next chapter.]

Confraternity Bible:

1 And it came to pass when Jesus had finished all these words, that he said to his disciples, 2 "You know that after two days the Passover will be here; and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified."

The Council  3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered together in the court of the high priest, who was called Caiphas, 4 and they took counsel together how they might seize Jesus by stealth, and put him to death.  5 But they said, "Not on the feast, or there might be a riot among the people."

The Anointing at Bethany  6* Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, 7* a woman came up to him with an alabaster jar of precious ointment, and she poured it on his head, as he reclined at table.  8* But when the disciples saw this, they were indignant, and said, "To what purpose is this waste? 9* for this might have been sold for much and given to the poor."

10* But Jesus, perceiving it, said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman?  She has done me a good turn.  11* For the poor you have always with you, but you do not always have me.  12* For in pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it for my burial.  13* Amen I say to you, wherever in the whole world this gospel is preached, this also that she has done shall be told in memory of her."

The Betrayal  14 Then one of the Twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests, 15 and said to them, "What are you willing to give me for delivering him to you?"  But they assigned him thirty pieces of silver.  16 And from then on he sought out an opportunity to betray him.

Preparation  17 Now on the first day of the Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Where dost thou want us to prepare for thee to eat the passover?"  18 But Jesus said, "Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, 'The Master says, My time is near at hand; at thy house I am keeping the Passover with my disciples.'"  19 And the disciples did as Jesus bade them, and prepared the passover.

The Betrayer  20 Now when evening arrived, he reclined at table with the twelve disciples.  21 And while they were eating, he said, "Amen I say to you, one of you will betray me."  22 And being very much saddened they began each to say, "Is it I, Lord?"  23 But he answered and said, "He who dips his hand into the dish with me, he will betray me.  24 The Son of Man indeed goes his way, as it is written of him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!  It were better for that man if he had not been born."  25 And Judas who betrayed him answered and said, "Is it I, Rabbi?"  He said to him, "Thou hast said it."

The Holy Eucharist  26* And while they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed and broke, and gave it to his disciples, and said, "Take and eat; this is my body."  27 And taking a cup, he gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, "All of you drink of this; 28 for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins.  29 But I say to you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I shall drink it new with you in the kingdom of my Father."

Peter's Denials Predicted  30 And after reciting a hymn, they went out to Mount Olivet.  31* Then Jesus said to them, "You will all be scandalized this night because of me; for it is written,
'I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' 
32 But after I have risen, I will go before you into Galilee."  33 But Peter answered and said to him, "Even though all shall be scandalized because of thee, I will never be scandalized."  34 Jesus said to him, "Amen I say to thee, this very night, before a cock crows, thou wilt deny me three times."  35 Peter said to him, "Even if I should have to die with thee, I will not deny thee!"  And all the disciples said the same thing.

The Agony in the Garden  36 Then Jesus came with them to a country place called Gethsemani, and he said to his disciples, "Sit down here, while I go over yonder and pray."  37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and he began to be saddened and exceedingly troubled.  38 Then he said to them, "My soul is sad, even unto death.  Wait here and watch with me."  39 And going forward a little, he fell prostate and prayed, saying, "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me; yet not as I will, but as thou willest."

40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping.  And he said to Peter, "Could you not, then watch one hour with me?  41 Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."  42 Again a second time he went away and prayed, saying, "My Father, if this cup cannot pass away unless I drink it, thy will be done."  43 And he came again and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.  44 And leaving them he went back again, and prayed a third time, saying the same words over.  45 Then he came to his disciples, and said to them, "Sleep on now, and take your rest!  Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of sinners.  46 Rise, let us go.  Behold, he who betrays me is at hand."

Jesus Arrested  47 And while he was yet speaking, behold Judas, one of the Twelve, came and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people.  48 Now his betrayer had given them a sign, saying, "Whomever I kiss, that is he; lay hold of him."  49 And he went straight up to Jesus and said, "Hail, Rabbi!" and kissed him.  50 And Jesus said to him, "Friend, for what purpose hast thou come?"  Then they came forward and set hands on Jesus and took him.

51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached out his hand, drew his sword, and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.  52 Then Jesus said to him, "Put back thy sword into its place; for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.  53 Or dost thou suppose that I cannot entreat my Father, and he will even now furnish me with more than twelve legions of angels?  54 How then are the Scriptures to be fulfilled, that thus it must take place?"

55 In that hour Jesus said to the crowds, "As against a robber you have come out, with swords and clubs, to seize me.  I sat daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not lay hands on me."  56 Now all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.  Then all the disciples left him and fled.

Jesus before the Sanhedrin  57 Now those who had taken Jesus led him away to Caiphas the high priest, where the Scribes and the elders had gathered together.  58 But Peter was following him at a distance, even to the courtyard of the high priest, and he went in and sat with the attendants to see the end.  59 Now the chief priests and all the Sanhedrin were seeking false witness against Jesus, that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward.  But last of all two false witnesses came forward, 61 and said, "This man said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it after three days.'"

62 Then the high priest, standing up, said to him, "Dost thou make no answer to the things that these men prefer against thee?"  63 But Jesus kept silence.  And the high priest said to him, "I adjure thee by the living God that thou tell us whether thou art the Christ, the Son of God."  64 Jesus said to him, "Thou hast said it.  Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming upon the clouds of heaven."

65 Then the high priest tore his garments, saying, "He has blasphemed; what further need have we of witnesses?  Behold, now you have heard the blasphemy.  66 What do you think?"  And they answered and said, "He is liable to death."  67 Then they spat in his face and buffeted him; while others struck his face with the palms of their hands, 68 saying, "Prophesy to us, O Christ! who is it that struck thee?"

Peter's Denial  69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard; and a maidservant came up to him and said, "Thou also wast with Jesus the Galilean."  70 But he denied it before them all, saying, "I do not know what thou art saying."  71 And when he had gone out to the gateway, another maid saw him, and said to those who were there, "This man also was with Jesus of Nazareth."  72 And again he denied it with an oath, "I do not know the man!"  73 And after a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, "Surely thou also art one of them, for even thy speech betrays thee."  74 Then he began to curse and to swear that he did not know the man.  And at that moment a cock crowed.  75 And Peter remembered the word that Jesus had said, "Before the cock crows, thou wilt deny me three times."  And he went out and wept bitterly.


6-13: The supper is that spoken of in John 12, 1-8, which took place six days before the Passover.  The evangelist places it here to bring together the narratives of the anointing and of the betrayal of Judas.

26: The Last Supper was on Thursday evening.

31: Zach. 13, 7.