The Gospel of Matthew
"E. Schuyler English: The Gospel According to Matthew"
The Book of MATTHEW
Whenever we touch upon the life of the Lord Jesus, we are on holy ground, but this is particularly true of the three chapters remaining of this Gospel. Here the determination of men and the foreknowledge of God meet; here the passions of men result in the Passion and seeming defeat of our Lord. But out of it all came God-planned victory; the Serpent bruised the Saviour's heel, but the Lord Jesus has bruised Satan's head as prophesied in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15). Now, trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, by faith in Him, we may have victory over Satan, for He has wrested from him power to touch any of His own.
Matthew twenty-six records nine important events of the last days of our Lord: His last prediction of His own death, and the counselling of the chief priests and scribes to kill Him (vs. 1-5); His anointing in the house of Simon of Bethany (vs. 6-13); Judas Iscariot sells the Lord (vs. 14-16); the eating of the Passover Feast and the institution of the Lord's Supper (vs. 17-29); the Lord Jesus foretells Peter's denial (vs. 30-35); our Lord's agony in Gethsemane (vs. 36-46); the betrayal by Judas and our Lord's arrest (vs. 47-56); the Lord's trial before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin (vs. 57-68); Peter's denial of our Lord (vs. 69-75). We shall look at each event.
"And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, He said unto His disciples, Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of Man is betrayed to be crucified." The Olivet Discourse, when our Lord had predicted to His disciples something of the future, especially of God's future dealing with Israel, had been finished, and now for the fourth and last time He told His disciples of His coming death. Never had they fully understood, and we can be sure that at this time, though perhaps they were nearer to believing than ever before, they still hoped that He would not be killed. Is it not wonderful that their hope was not realized? For the Lord Jesus came to die that you and I might be saved. His death was an awful thing, but He endured the Cross, despising the shame, in God's own will and wisdom; so it is a wonderful thing, and we praise God that He "so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
At the same time, the chief priests and scribes and the elders of the people were assembled together, "and consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill Him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people" (vs. 3-5). The feast day was an holy day; the Lord Jesus was considered a prophet among the people, and these leaders feared that while the multitudes were gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover feast, it would be unwise for them to take the Lord. God overrules the determination of men. He causes the wrath of men to praise Him. Since before the foundation of the world, by "the determinate counsel, and foreknowledge of God," the appointed time for the Son to die was at the Passover feast, for He is the true Lamb of God, Whom the Passover lamb merely foreshadowed. "Not on the feast day," said the rulers. But we shall see that it was on the feast day that the Lord Jesus was crucified. The scribes and elders thought to put the Lord Jesus to death when none would see; God decreed that it should be publicly before the whole of Jerusalem. The scribes and elders thought to put the Lord Jesus to shame by crucifying Him; God made the crucifixion and the resurrection the greatest facts in the history of the human race, to the salvation of the souls of all who believe on Him. The scribes and elders thought by crucifying the Lord Jesus to silence forever the tongues of His disciples; God, by the power of the resurrection which followed our Lord's death, gave His disciples a text for eternity.
"Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, there came unto Him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on His head, as He sat at meat" (Matt. 26:6, 7).
In John's Gospel, we see that this woman was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Mary came aforehand to anoint the Lord's body for the burying (Mark 14:8); she seems to have been the only one who had understood what the Lord Jesus meant when He so often predicted His death. And she also seems to have been the only one who knew that He would rise again; for the other women, on the morning of the resurrection, came to the tomb with sweet spices to anoint the Lord. Mary, who loved Him so much, did not come; have we not every reason to believe that she alone knew He would not be there?
The critics point here to something which they consider to be error in the Gospels. In Matthew it is recorded that Mary anointed the Lord's head; in John, that His feet were anointed. There is no need for concern; the very distinction is further proof of inspiration. Matthew wrote of Jesus as the King; and John of the Lord Jesus as the Son of God. It was the custom to anoint both the head and the feet, and undoubtedly that was just what Mary did. Matthew, in speaking of the King, related the anointing of the head as Samuel anointed the head of David. But John wrote of Jesus, the Son of God. The finite could not approach the Infinite other than as a subject at His feet, so John recorded the anointing of the Lord's feet alone.
"But when His disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor" (Matt. 26:8, 9). The ointment was worth three hundred pence (about fifty dollars), according to Mark 14:5; and we see in John 12:4 that Judas was the spokesman, Judas, who valued the Lord Jesus so little that he sold Him for one-third of that amount. "To what purpose is this waste?" Is anything waste that we give to the Lord? No doubt the "alabaster box of very precious ointment" was the most valuable thing that Mary possessed. She had given the Lord her heart; now she was pouring out for His use her most precious possession. Our Lord delights in such gifts; first ourselves, then our dearest possessions. How did the Lord Jesus answer? He bestowed upon Mary words of praise and honour that have rarely been bestowed upon any. "Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon Me. ... Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached into the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her" (Matt. 26:10-13). For a memorial of her! Monuments, statues, mausoleums to the heroes of past history, have been built and have decayed and crumbled away, but this memorial of Mary, established by the Lord Jesus, as the house in Bethany was filled with the odour of the costly ointment, has been a fragrant blessing to Christians through the centuries, and is as lasting as the words of the Lord Himself, Who said: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away" (Matt. 24:35). There is no loving service that we may do in His Name which He will not remember for a memorial of us.
"Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver Him unto you? ... And from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him." We will only mention here that the thirty pieces of silver (about seventeen dollars) was the price of a slave (Ex. 21:32), and that here was fulfilled what the prophets had spoken (Zech. 11:12, 13). Judas had complained of the waste of ointment. No wonder! To him the Lord Jesus Christ's value was that of a slave, thirty pieces of silver.
"Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto Him, Where wilt Thou that we prepare to eat the Passover?" (Matt. 26:17). The Lord Jesus, in His Deity, knew how it should be arranged, and told His disciples what to do. "And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the Passover." The Passover was a symbol of Israel's deliverance from Egypt by the sign of the blood of a slain lamb (Ex. 12). It was a type of the death on the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it was intended by God to point forward to that death. But now the Lord's death has been accomplished, the true Paschal Lamb has been slain; no longer is it necessary to keep the Passover (though the orthodox Jews still do), for we do not look forward to the Lord's death, but backward to Calvary. At the last Passover feast the Lord instituted the new memorial, the Lord's Supper, with the command: "This do in remembrance of Me" (1 Cor. 11:24, 25).
"Now when even was come, He sat down with the twelve. And as they did eat (the Passover feast), He said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray Me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say, Lord, is it I?" (Matt. 26:20-22). "One of you shall betray Me. ... And they ... began every one of them to say, Lord, is it I?" Apparently Judas was not under any suspicion by the other disciples, as very apparently each one in himself saw the possibility of his being a traitor. What an admission! Yet how true! The heart of man is desperately wicked; there is no one who does not come under this indictment. It is only by God's grace that we, too, are not condemned as was Judas: "Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed." "Lord, is it I?" Let us ask ourselves the same question. Are we betraying the Lord Jesus? Or have we received Him as our Saviour, and are our lives His for His purpose?
"And He answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with Me in the dish, the same shall betray Me. The Son of Man goeth as it is written of Him. ... Then Judas, who betrayed Him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said" (Matt. 26:23-25). Notice that Judas did not call Him Lord, but Master. Judas did not recognize the Lord Jesus as His Saviour and Lord. In John 13:26, we read: "He it is to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when He had dipped the sop, He gave it to Judas Iscariot." Were you to dine with an Oriental today in the custom of his country, and did he wish to distinguish you as the guest of honour, he would tear a piece of bread, dip it in gravy, and hand it to you. This is the sop. How great is the love of God toward the sinner! How the Lord Jesus must have loved even Judas, for here, in a gesture of intimacy and friendship, He made a last touching and significant appeal to the man to turn back from the awful course which he had chosen. Judas did not turn back, and so treachery was another ingredient in the cup of bitterness of which our Lord partook for us.
"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is My Body. And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission (forgiveness) of sins" (Matt. 26:26-28).
Would that the Church as a whole would regard this sacrament, the Lord's Supper, in the simplicity in which it is recorded throughout the New Testament. As we study this portion of the Word, let us dismiss from our minds all matters of controversy, and view the memorial as it affects our personal edification and relationship to our Lord. Let controversy give way to communion, thoughts of criticism to thoughts of Christ -- let us dwell on Him Who died for our sins.
"Take, eat, this is My Body, which is broken for you" (1 Cor. 11:24). Not a bone of His body was broken at Calvary. The bread was broken and given to the disciples as a type of the body of Christ, bruised for us, a body spiritually broken for us that we might become members of His spiritual Body, the Church, of which He is the Head. We are to feed on the Lord Jesus; the blood sprinkled on the doorposts saved Israel on the night of the Passover, but it was the eating of the Paschal lamb which gave Israel strength to depart from Egypt. It is the Blood of Christ which brings salvation to all who believe on Him, but it is by feeding on Him that we have strength for our own pilgrimage, strength to withstand the fiery darts of the Evil One, for by the Lamb alone our souls are refreshed.
"This cup is the new testament in My Blood" (1 Cor. 11:25). The dividing line between the Old and New Testaments is not the blank page between Malachi and Matthew; the transition period occurred during the life of our Lord, reaching its climax here, and culminating at the words, "It is finished." "This is My Blood of the new testament, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins." At Calvary the price was paid; the Lord's Supper is a memorial to that occasion. His Blood was shed for us, as the cup is a type of the Lord's death; He has said, "This do in remembrance of Me." "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come" (1 Cor. 11:27). The observance of the Lord's Supper does not save souls; only saved souls should partake. It is blasphemy for one to partake of this sacrament unless he has received the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour.
What should be our attitude as we partake of this memorial? The disciples had examined themselves: "Lord, is it I?" As we examine ourselves and see in our hearts sins of omission and commission, we should confess them fully. Then, having forgiveness by His shed blood, we may dedicate our lives anew at His table. It is there that we meet with the Father; God the Father delights in and feeds on the Son, and only as we also have our delight and food in Him can we have complete communion with the Father.
"And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of olives. Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of Me this night. ... But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. Peter answered and said unto Him, Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice. Peter said unto Him, Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee. Likewise also said all the disciples" (Matt. 26:30-35).
First, let us look at one sentence: "After I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee." They were so slow to believe. See Mark 16:11, "And they (the disciples), when they had heard that He was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not." He has said that He is coming again. Do you believe? Are you looking for Him?
The narrative of the prophecy about Peter is clear. After the Lord told him that he, Peter, would deny Him thrice on that night before the cock should crow, Peter in all confidence said: "Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee." And notice particularly this: "Likewise also said all the disciples." Yes, Peter denied the Lord, as we shall see. How well our Lord knows our weaknesses! Within twelve hours these eleven men had all forsaken Him and had fled. Our daily prayer should be: "Hold Thou me up and I shall be safe." That is the only way, for the very sins which we boast will never touch us are oftentimes the ones that cause our downfall and backsliding. There is only one remedy: to lose self-confidence and to depend wholly on the Lord Jesus and His Holy Spirit.
There is a word of comfort here. The Lord Jesus Christ, omniscient, knew that these eleven men would forsake Him at His crisis, yet in His foreknowledge He chose them. He is a merciful and gracious Lord; it is His joy and glory to pass over our transgressions and to cover our sins in His own precious blood.
"Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee (James and John), and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith He unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with Me. And He went a little farther, and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt" (Matt. 26:36-39).
The narrative of the Gospel tells us clearly how the three disciples could not even watch one hour. We have space to consider our Lord alone, "He was exceeding sorrowful." That He must die? No, we believe not, for He came to earth that He might die. We cannot be dogmatic about what the cup of this portion means. Some believe that it refers to His suffering in the garden, that Satan was trying to kill Him there before the Cross, and that in sweating drops of blood He was so weakened that Satan might have taken His life. There was no sin in the Lord Jesus; He was not subject to death: Satan could not have taken His life. "Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:17, 18). It would seem that the cup is the separation from His Father. "O My Father, if this cup may not pass away, except I drink it, Thy will be done." The Lord Jesus came to die; it was not the physical suffering from which He was shrinking, but that His Father must turn away from His Son, for God cannot look at sin, and on the Cross the sin of the world was to rest upon our Lord. For the first and last time, from eternity to eternity, the perfect fellowship of the first and second Persons of the God-head was to be broken. That was the cup almost too great to bear. "O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt." It was not possible, and so, at Calvary, the Lord Jesus Christ suffered broken communion with the Father. God's face, upon which the Lord Jesus had ever gazed, was hid; the Father's face, which had ever smiled upon Him, was turned away; and Jesus, our Lord, the spotless Lamb of God, was made sin for us. "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" No wonder He cried, in triumph: "It is finished." Praise the Lord for His obedience. Though He were a Son, He learned perfect obedience by the things which He suffered, "Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him Who was able to save Him out of death, and was heard in that He feared" (Heb. 5:7). The Word does not say "to save Him from death," but "out of death." These words refer to the Gethsemane scene; the prayer was heard, and by the resurrection our Lord was saved out of death into fellowship and perfect communion with the Father.
"Then cometh He to His disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners, Rise, let us be going; behold, he is at hand who doth betray Me."
"And while He yet spake, ..."
So completely are the betrayal, and trial before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, and Peter's denial recorded, that we shall only take a few paragraphs to suggest thoughts about these events.
The Betrayal. Judas came to the Lord Jesus in the garden and said, "Hail, Master; and kissed Him" (Matt .26:49). Mark those words. The literal meaning of the word translated "Hail" is "Oh, Joy"! "Master;" not "Lord," not "Messiah," but "Rabbi," that is, "Teacher." Judas had never received the Lord Jesus as Christ, the Son of God. "And kissed Him;" a kiss is the greeting of love. Is there a reader who is betraying the Lord Jesus as Judas did? Do you speak of Him with joy; do you pretend to love Him; but is He only a Teacher to you, not God the Son? It is well to take account of ourselves. If you have never received Him as your Saviour from sin, as the Lord of your life, why do you not do so now? Say, "Lord, I believe; my only hope for salvation is by Thy shed blood for me." Do it now. "Now is the accepted time; today is the day of salvation."
The Trial. There are some who say that the Lord Jesus never claimed to be God. Listen to this. "And the high priest answered and said unto Him, I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of Heaven" (Matt. 26:63, 64). What stupendous claims! Could He be other than God if these things are true? Yes, He claimed to be God; He is God. What think ye of Christ? Is He God; then is He your Saviour and Lord? By God's grace you may be a joint-heir with Christ, because "He hath made us (who believe) accepted in the Beloved" (Eph. 1:6).
The Denial. "Now Peter sat without the palace." Twice he was asked if he was not one of the Lord's disciples, and he denied it. "And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them ... then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus. ... And he went out, and wept bitterly" (Matt. 26:73-75).Christian, have you heard the cock crow? I have! Praise the Lord, He forgives. And later, after His resurrection, through the angel He sent this word: "Go tell His disciples, and Peter" (Mark 16:7), so His love reaches out to us today. We are so glad for the "and Peter," for that is the word to you, if you have ever denied the Lord, and to me, that His grace is sufficient for us. Peter went out and wept bitterly; when we sin against our Lord, when we deny Him, may the Spirit of God work upon our hearts in this way. This Peter was to be the great apostle who opened the Kingdom to the Jews