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John 18:10-14

10. Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it, and struck the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear; and the servant's name was Malchus. 11. Jesus therefore said to Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which my Father hath given me? 12. Then the band, and the captain, and officers of the Jews, took Jesus, and bound him; 13. And led him away to Annas first; for he was father-in-law to Caiaphas, who was the high priest of that year. 14. And Caiaphas was he who had given counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.

 

10. Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it. The Evangelist now describes the foolish zeal of Peter, who attempted to defend his Master in an unlawful manner. Boldly and courageously, indeed, he incurs great risk on Christ’s account; but as he does not consider what his calling demands, and what God permits, his action is so far from deserving praise, that he is severely blamed by Christ. But let us learn that, in the person of Peter, Christ condemns every thing that men dare to attempt out of their own fancy. This doctrine is eminently worthy of attention; for nothing is more common than to defend, under the cloak of zeal, every thing that we do, as if it were of no importance whether God approved, or not, what men suppose to be right, whose prudence is nothing else than mere vanity.

If we saw nothing faulty in the zeal of Peter, still we ought to be satisfied on this single ground, that Christ declares that he is displeased with it. But we see that it was not owing to him that Christ did not turn aside from death, and that his name was not exposed to perpetual disgrace; for, in offering violence to the captain and the soldiers, he acts the part of a highwayman, because he resists the power which God has appointed. Christ having already been more than enough hated by the world, this single deed might give plausibility to all the calumnies which his enemies falsely brought against him. Besides, it was exceedingly thoughtless in Peter to attempt to prove his faith by his sword, while he could not do so by his tongue. When he is called to make confession, he denies his Master; and now, without his Master’s authority, he raises a tumult.

Warned by so striking an example, let us learn to keep our zeal within proper bounds; and as the wantonness of our flesh is always eager to attempt more than God commands, let us learn that our zeal will succeed ill, whenever we venture to undertake any thing contrary to the word of God. It will sometimes happen that the commencement gives us flattering promises, but we shall at length be punished for our rashness. Let obedience, therefore, be the foundation of all that we undertake. We are also reminded, that those who have resolved to plead the cause of Christ do not always conduct themselves so skilfully as not to commit some fault; and, therefore, we ought the more earnestly to entreat the Lord to guide us in every action by the spirit of prudence.

11. Put up thy sword into the sheath. By this command Christ reproves Peter’s action. But we must attend to the reason, which is, that a private individual was not permitted to rise in opposition to those who had been invested with public authority; for this may be inferred from the other three Evangelists, who relate Christ’s general declaration,

He who strikes with the sword shall perish by the sword,
(Matthew 26:52.)

We must also beware of repelling our enemies by force or violence, even when they unjustly provoke us, except so far as the institutions and laws of the community admit; for whoever goes beyond the limits of his calling, though he should gain the applause of the whole world, will never obtain for his conduct the approbation of God. 134134     The reader will find our Author’s views on this subject stated fully in the Harmony of the Evangelists, vol. 3, page 244.

Shall I not drink the cup which my Father hath given to me? This appears to be a special reason why Christ ought to be silent, that he might be led as a lamb to be sacrificed, (Isaiah 53:7;) but it serves the purpose of an example, for the same patience is demanded from all of us. Scripture compares afflictions to medicinal draughts; for, as the master of a house distributes meat and drink to his children and servants, so God has this authority over us, that he has a right to treat every one as he thinks fit; and whether he cheers us by prosperity, or humbles us by adversity, he is said to administer a sweet or a bitter draught. The draught appointed for Christ was, to suffer the death of the cross for the reconciliation of the world. He says, therefore, that he must drink the cup which his Father measured out and delivered to him.

In the same manner we, too, ought to be prepared for enduring the cross. And yet we ought not to listen to fanatics, who tell us that we must not seek remedies for diseases and any other kind of distresses, lest we reject the cup which the Heavenly Father 135135     “Le Pere Celeste.” presents to us. Knowing that we must once die, (Hebrews 9:27,) we ought to be prepared for death; but the time of our death being unknown to us, the Lord permits us to defend our life by those aids which he has himself appointed. We must patiently endure diseases, however grievous they may be to our flesh; and though they do not yet appear to be mortal, we ought to seek alleviation of them; only we must be careful not to attempt any thing but what is permitted by the word of God. In short, provided that this remain always fixed in our hearts, Let the will of the Lord be done, (Acts 21:14,) when we seek deliveralice from the evils which press upon us, we do not fail to drink the cup which the Lord has given to us.

12. Then the band of soldiers and the captain. It might be thought strange that Christ, who laid the soldiers prostrate on the ground by a single word, now allows himself to be taken; for if he intended at length to surrender to his enemies, what need was there for performing such a miracle? But the demonstration of divine power was advantageous in two respects; for, first, it serves to take away the offense, that we may not think that Christ yielded as if he had been overcome by weakness; and, secondly, it proves that in dying he was altogether voluntary. So far as it was useful, therefore, he asserted his power against his enemies; but when it was necessary to obey the Father, he restrained himself, that he might be offered as a sacrifice. But let us remember that the body of the Son of God was bound, that our souls might be loosed from the cords of sin and of Satan.

13. And led him away to Annas first. The other Evangelists omit this circumstance, because it does not greatly affect the substance of the narrative; for nothing was done there that was worthy of being recorded. Perhaps the convenience of the place induced them to imprison Christ in the house of Annas, till the high priest assembled the council.

The high priest of that year. He does not mean that the office of the high priesthood was annual, as many have falsely imagined, but that Caiaphas was high priest at that time, which appears plainly from Josephus. By the injunction of the Law, this honor was perpetual, and ended only at the death of him who held it; but ambition and intestine broils gave occasion to the Roman governors to dethrone one high priest and put another in his room, at their own pleasure, either for money or for favor. Thus Vitellius deposed Caiaphas, and appointed Jonathan, the son of Annas, to be his successor.

14. Who had given counsel to the Jews. The Evangelist repeats the opinion of Caiaphas, which formerly came under our notice; 136136     Vol. 1: page 453. for God employed the foul mouth of a wicked and treacherous high priest to utter a prediction, (John 11:50,) just as he guided the tongue of the prophet Baham, contrary to his wish, so that he was constrained to bless the people, though he desired to curse them, to gain favor with king Balak, (Numbers 23:7, 8.)


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