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"After Two Days" (xxvi. 1-19).

This passage does not strictly belong to the history of the one great day, but it is the approach to it. It opens with the solemn announcement "After two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified"; and without any record of the Saviour's doings in the interval,2424   The feast in Bethany did not take place during this interval, but some days before (see John xii. 1); in all probability the very day before Christ's entry into Jerusalem. it closes with the preparation for the keeping of the feast with His disciples, the directions for which are introduced by the pathetic words, "My time is at hand."

The incident at Bethany (vv. 6-13) seems to be introduced here in connection with the development of treason in the soul of Judas. This connection would 378 not be so apparent were it not for the information given in St. John's account of the feast, that it was Judas especially who objected to what he called "this waste" of the ointment, and that the reason why he was displeased at it was because "he had the bag, and bare what was put therein." With this in mind we can see how natural it was that, having had no occasion before to tell the story of the feast at Bethany, the Evangelist should be disposed to tell it now, as connected in his mind with the traitor's selling of his Lord for thirty pieces of silver.

The two days of interval would extend from the evening following the abandonment of the Temple to the evening of the Passover feast. It is important always, and especially in studying the days of the Passion week, to bear in mind that, according to the Jewish mode of reckoning, each new day began, not with the morning as with us, but with the evening. In this they followed a very ancient precedent: "The evening and the morning were the first day." The two days, then, would be from Tuesday evening till Thursday evening; so that with Thursday evening began the last day of our Lord's Passion. There is no record at all of how He spent the Wednesday; in all probability it was in seclusion at Bethany. Nor have we any account of the doings of the Thursday save the directions given to prepare the Passover, the keeping of which was to be the first act of the last day.

We may think of these two days, then, as days of rest for our Lord, of holy calm and quietude—a sacred lull before the awful storm. What were His thoughts? what His feelings? What passages of Scripture were His solace? Would not the ninety-fourth psalm be 379 one of them? If so, how fondly would He dwell upon that sentence of it, "In the multitude of my thoughts within me Thy comforts delight my soul." If we only had a record of His prayers, how rich it would be! If we had the spiritual history of these two days it would no doubt be full of pleading as rich and precious as the prayer of intercession His disciples heard and one of them recorded for our sakes, and of yearning as tender and touching as His wail over Jerusalem. But the Spirit, Who takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto us, does not invade the privacy of the Saviour's hours of retirement. No diary is published; and beyond doubt it is better so. It may be that in the lives of the saints there has been too much of this—not too much of spiritual communing, but too much unveiling of it. It may be that there is a danger of leading us to seek after such "exercises" as an end in themselves, instead of as mere means to the end of holy and unselfish living. What the world should see is the life that is the outcome of those secret communings with God—it should see the life which was with the Father manifested in glowing word and self-forgetting deed. Why have we no need to see into that holy, loving heart during these two sacred days in Bethany? Because it is sufficiently revealed in the story of the day that followed it. Ah! the words, the deeds of that day—what revealings of heart, what manifestations of the life within are there!

The very silence of these two days is strikingly suggestive of repose. We are presently to hear of the awful agony in the Garden; but from the very way in which we shall hear of it we shall be strengthened in the impression, which no doubt is the true one, that the two days of interval were not days of agony, but 380 days of soul rest; and in this we recognise a striking contrast to the restlessness of those who spent the time in plotting His destruction. Contrast, for example, the calm of our Lord's announcement in the second verse, with the uneasy plotting in the palace of the high priest. Without agitation He faces the horror of great darkness before Him; without flinching He anticipates the very darkest of it all: "betrayed"—"crucified"; without a tremor on His lips He even specifies the time: "after two days." Now look at that company in the palace of the high priest, as with dark brows and troubled looks they consult how they may take Jesus by subtlety. Observe how in fear they put it off,—as not safe yet, not for nine days at least, till the crowds at the feast, so many of whom had so recently been shouting "Hosanna to the Son of David!" shall have gone home. "Not for nine days," so they resolve. "After two days," so He has said.

"Oh, but the counsel of the Lord

Doth stand, for ever sure."

Christ knew far more about it than if there had been a spy in the palace of the high priest, reporting to Him. He was in communication with One Who doeth according to His will in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. Caiaphas and his fellow-conspirators may plot what they please, it shall be done according to the counsel of the Lord; it shall be so done that an apostle shall be able afterwards with confidence to say: "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken."

The means by which their counsels were overruled was the treason of Judas, into whose dark heart the 381 Bethany incident will afford us a glimpse. Its interest turns upon the different values attached to a deed of love, by Judas2525   That the name of Judas is not specially mentioned is probably to be accounted for by the consciousness on the part of St. Matthew that Judas was not alone in the feeling he expressed, that he and others of the disciples present sympathised with him in what he said, so that in fairness he must lay the blame of the objection not alone on the man who expressly made it, but on the disciples generally (in St. Mark's Gospel it is "some had indignation"). We may well suppose that John, the beloved disciple, would be the least likely of all to sympathise with the objection, and in this we may see the reason why he should feel no scruple in singling out the traitor as the man who was audacious enough to express the feeling of dissatisfaction. on the one hand, and by Jesus on the other.

To Judas it meant waste. And such a waste!—three hundred pence thrown away on the foolish luxury of a moment! "This ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor." Be it remembered that there was a good deal to be said for this argument. It is very easy for us, who have the limelight of our Lord's words on the whole scene, to see how paltry the objection was; but even yet, with this story now published, as our Lord said it would be, all over Christendom, how many arguments are heard of the very same description! It is not so much to be wondered at that the objection of Judas found a good deal of favour with some of the disciples. They could not see the blackness of the heart out of which the suggestion came, nor could they see the beauty of the love which shed from Mary's heart a perfume far more precious than the odour of the ointment. Probably even Mary was startled; and, if her Lord had not at once taken her part, might not have had a word to say for herself.

382 "But Jesus, perceiving2626   So R.V. The Authorised Version is peculiarly unhappy at this point. "When Jesus understood it" seems to suggest that it took Him some time to make out what they were grumbling about. It is altogether likely that the murmuring was among themselves, and the speech of Judas was probably spoken not loud enough for Jesus to hear, but in a low tone to the knot of sympathisers around Him. But there is no hint in the original of any time elapsing before Jesus understood the situation. As always, He "knew their thoughts" at once. it, said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work on Me." He understood her—understood her perfectly, read at once the whole secret of her loving heart, explained her conduct better even than she understood it herself, as we shall presently see. He deals very tenderly with the disciples; for He understood them too, saw at once that there was no treason in their hearts, that though they took up the suggestion of the traitor it was in no sympathy with his spirit, but simply because of their want of insight and appreciation. He, however, does rebuke them—gently; and then He quietly opens their eyes to the surpassing beauty of the deed they had ventured to condemn. "She hath wrought a good work upon Me." The word translated "good" has prominent in it the thought of beauty. And since our Lord has set that deed of Mary in its true light, there is no one with any sense of beauty who fails to see how beautiful it is. The very impulsiveness of the act, the absence of all calculation, the simplicity and naturalness of it, the womanliness of it—all these add to its beauty as an outburst of love. We can well imagine that these words of Jesus may have furnished much of the inspiration which thrilled the soul of the apostle as he wrote to the Corinthians his noble eulogy of love. Certainly its pricelessness could not have been 383 more notably or memorably taught. Three hundred pence to be weighed against a true woman's love! "If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned."

We are led into still more sacred ground as we observe how highly the Saviour values Mary's affection for Himself. "She hath wrought a good work upon Me"—"Me ye have not always"—"she did it for My burial." Who can reach the pathos of these sacred words? There is no doubt that amid the hate by which Jesus was surrounded, with His knowledge of the treason in the dark soul of Judas, and His keen sense of the want of sympathy on the part of the other disciples, His human heart was yearning for love, for sympathetic love. Oh, how He loved! and how that love of His was going out to all around Him throughout the Passion week—without return! We may well believe, then, that this outburst of love from the heart of Mary must have greatly cheered Him.

"She hath wrought a good work upon Me." With the ointment on His head, there had come a far sweeter balm to His wounded heart; for He saw that she was not wanting in sympathy—that she had some idea, however vague it might be, of the pathos of the time. She felt, if she did not quite see, the shadow of the grave. And this presentiment (shall we call it?) not as the result of any special thought about it, but in some dim way, had prompted her to choose this touching manner of showing her love: "In that she hath poured this ointment on My body, she did it for My burial." Verily, a true human heart beats here, welcoming, oh! so gladly, this woman's loving sympathy.

But the Divine Spirit is here too, looking far beyond 384 the needs of the moment or the burdens of the day. No one could more tenderly consider the poor; nothing was nearer to His heart than their necessities,—witness that wonderful parable of judgment with which He finished His public ministry; but He knew well that in that personal devotion which was shown in Mary's loving act was to be found the mainspring of all benevolence, and not only so but of all that was good and gracious; therefore to discourage such personal affection would be to seal up the fount of generosity and goodness; and accordingly He not only commends it, but He lifts it up to its proper dignity, He gives a commendation beyond all other words of praise He ever spoke; looking away down the ages, and out to the ends of the earth, and recognising that this love to Himself, this personal devotion to a dying Saviour, was to be the very central force of the gospel, and thus the hope of the world, He adds these memorable words: "Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her."

From "this that this woman hath done" the record passes at once to that which was done by the man who had dared to find fault with it. It also is told wherever the gospel is preached as a memorial of him. Behold, then, the two memorials side by side. Has not the Evangelist shown himself the true historian in bringing them together? The contrast intensifies the light that shines from the love of Mary, and deepens the darkness of the traitor's sin. Besides, the story of the three hundred pence is a most fitting prelude to that of the thirty pieces of silver. At the 385 same time, by suggesting the steps which led down to such an abyss of iniquity, it saves us from the error of supposing that the sin of Judas was so peculiar that no one now need be afraid of falling into it; for we are reminded in this way that it was at bottom the very sin which is the commonest of all, the very sin into which Christians of the present day are in greatest danger of falling.

What was it that made so great a gulf between Judas and all the rest? Not natural depravity; in this respect they were no doubt much alike. When the Twelve were chosen there was in all probability as good material, so to speak, in the man of Kerioth as in any of the men of Galilee. What, then, made the difference? Simply this, that his heart was never truly given to his Lord. He tried throughout to serve God and mammon; and if he had been able to combine the two services, if there had been any fair prospect of these thrones on which the Twelve were to sit, and the honours and emoluments of the kingdom with which his fancy had been dazzled, treason would never have entered his mind; but when not a throne but a cross began to loom before him, he found, as every one finds some time, that he must make his choice, and that choice was what it invariably is with those who try to serve the two masters. The god of this world had blinded him. He not only failed to see the beauty of Mary's loving deed, as some of the other disciples did just at the first, but he had become quite incapable of any spiritual insight, quite incapable of seeing his Master's glory, or recognising His claims. In a certain sense, then, even Judas himself was like the other murderers of Christ in not knowing what he did. Only he might have known, 386 would have known, had not that accursed lust of gold been always in the way. And we may say of any ordinary worshipper of mammon of the present day, that if he had been in Judas' place, with the prospects as dark as they were to him, with only the one course left, as it would seem to him, of extricating himself from a losing concern, he would be in the highest degree likely to do the very same thing.

As the two days draw to a close we see Judas seeking opportunity to betray his Master, and Jesus seeking opportunity to keep His last Passover with His disciples. Again what a contrast! The traitor must lurk and lie in wait; the Master does not even remain in Bethany or seek some lonely house on the Mount of Olives, but sends His disciples right over into the city, and with the same readiness with which He had found the ass's colt on which He rode into Jerusalem He finds a house in which to keep the feast.


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