Matthew 26:50-56

THE LAST SUPPER

As we took together the passages which tell the story of Judas so now we take the passages which tell the story of the Last Supper.

THE ARREST IN THE GARDEN

Matt. 26:50-56

Then they came forward and laid hands on Jesus and held him. And, look you, one of these who was with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck the servant of the High Priest, and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put back your sword in its place; for all who take the sword shall perish by the sword. Or, do you not think that I am able to call on my Father, and he will on the spot send to my aid more than twelve regiments of angels? How then are the Scriptures to be fulfilled that it must happen so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and cudgels to arrest me, as against a brigand? Daily I sat teaching in the Temple, and you did not lay hold on me. All this has happened that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all his disciples forsook him and fled.

It was Judas who had given the authorities the information which enabled them to find Jesus in the privacy of the Garden of Gethsemane. The forces at the disposal of the Jewish authorities were the Temple police, under the command of the Sagan, or Captain of the Temple. But the mob which surged after Judas to the Garden was more like a mob for a lynching than a detachment for an orderly arrest.

Jesus would allow no resistance. Matthew simply tells us that one of the disciples drew a knife and, prepared to resist to the death and to sell his life dearly, wounded a servant of the High Priest. When John tells the same story (Jn.18:10), he tells us that the disciple was Peter, and the servant was Malchus. The reason why John names Peter, and Matthew does not, may simply be that John was writing much later, and that when Matthew was writing it was still not safe to name the disciple who had sprung so quickly to his Master’s defence. Here we have still another instance of the almost fantastic courage of Peter. He was willing to take on the mob alone; and let us always remember that it was after that, when he was a marked man, that Peter followed Jesus right into the courtyard of the High Priest’s house. But in all these incidents of the last hours it is on Jesus that our attention is fastened; and here we learn two things about him.

(i) His death was by his own choice. He need never have come to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. Having come, he need never have followed his deliberate policy of magnificent defiance. Even in the Garden he could have slipped away and saved himself, for it was night, and there were many who would have smuggled him out of the city. Even here he could have called down the might of God and blasted his enemies. Every step of these last days makes it clearer and clearer that Jesus laid down his life and that his life was not taken from him. Jesus died, not because men killed him, but because he chose to die.

(ii) He chose to die because he knew that his death was the purpose of God. He took this way because it was the very thing that had been foretold by the prophets. He took it because love is the only way. “He who takes the sword will perish by the sword.” Violence can beget nothing but violence; one drawn sword can produce only another drawn sword to meet it. Jesus knew that war and might settle nothing, but produce only a train of evil, and beget a grim horde of children worse than themselves. He knew that God’s purpose can be worked out only by sacrificial love. And history proved him right; for the Jews who took him with violence, and who gloried in violence, and who would gladly have dipped their swords in Roman blood, saw forty years later their city destroyed for ever, while the man who would not fight is enthroned for ever in the hearts of men.

Back to: THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW (Chapters 11-28)

Back to: Barclay’s Commentary

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