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26. Plot Against Jesus

And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, 2 Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified. 3Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, 4And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. 5But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.

6Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, 7There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. 8But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? 9For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. 10When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. 11 For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. 12 For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. 13 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.

14Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, 15And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. 16And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.

17Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover? 18And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples. 19And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover. 20Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve. 21And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. 22And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? 23And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. 24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born. 25Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.

26And 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. 27And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. 30And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. 31Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. 32 But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. 33Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. 34Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. 35Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.

36Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. 37And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. 38Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. 39And 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. 40And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. 42He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. 43And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. 44And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45Then 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. 46 Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.

47And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. 48Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. 49And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. 50And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. 51And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. 52Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. 53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? 55In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. 56 But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

57And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. 58But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end. 59Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; 60But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, 61And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. 62And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? 63But Jesus held his peace. 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. 64Jesus 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. 65Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. 66What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. 67Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, 68Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?

69Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. 70But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. 71And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. 72And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. 73And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. 74Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. 75And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.

65. Then the high priest rent his garments. By this we see how little advantage was derived by wicked men from the miracles by which Christ had proved his Divinity. But we need not wonder, that under the mean garb of a servant, the Son of God was despised by those who were unmoved by any anxiety about the promised salvation. For if they had not entirely laid aside every pious feeling, their deplorable condition ought to have led them to look anxiously for the Redeemer; but when they now, without making any inquiry, reject him when offered to them, do they not as far as lies in their power, destroy all the promises of God? The high priest first pronounces Christ to be a blasphemer, to which the others afterwards assent. The rending of the clothes plainly shows how boldly and wickedly those who profanely despise God make false pretensions of zeal. It would indeed have been praiseworthy in the high priest, if he heard the name of God shamefully profaned, not only to feel inward resentment and excruciating pain, but to make an open display of his detestation; but while he refused to make inquiry, he contrived an unfounded charge of blasphemy. And yet, this treacherous hypocrite, while he assumed a character which did not belong to him, taught the servants of God with what severity of displeasure they ought to regard blasphemies, and condemned by his example the shameful cowardice of those who are no more affected by an outrage on religion, than if they heard buffoons uttering their silly jokes.

Then they spat in his face. Either Luke has inverted the order of the narrative, or our Lord twice endured this highly contemptuous treatment. The latter supposition appears to me to be probable. And yet, I have no doubt that the servants were emboldened to spit on Christ, and to strike him with greater insolence, after they had seen that the council, so far as their decision had influence, condemned him to death. The object of all these expressions of contempt was, to show that nothing was more unlikely than that he should be a prince of prophets, who, in consequence of being blindfolded, 233233     “Lequel ayant seulement un voile devant les yeux;” — “who having only a veil before his eyes.” was not able even to ward off blows. But this insolence was turned by the providence of God to a very different purpose; for the face of Christ, dishonored by spitting and blows, has restored to us that image which had been disfigured, and almost effaced, by sin.

Matthew 26:69. A maid came to him. Here we see that there is no necessity for a severe contest, or for many forces or implements of war, to overpower a man; for any man, who is not supported by the hand of God, will instantly fall by a slight gale or the rustling of a falling leaf. Peter undoubtedly was not less courageous than any of us, and he had already given no ordinary proof of his valor, though it was exercised in a rash and improper manner; and yet he does not wait until he is dragged before the tribunal of the high priest, or until his enemies attempt to put him to death by violence, but, terrified by a woman’s voice, immediately denies his Master. And yet but lately he thought himself a valiant soldier even to death. Let us therefore remember that our strength is so far from being sufficient to resist powerful attacks, that it will give way, when there is the mere shadow of a battle. But in this way God gives us the just reward of our treachery, when he disarms and strips us of all power, so that, when we have thrown off the fear of him, we tremble for a mere nothing. For if a deep fear of God had dwelt in Peter’s heart, it would have been an invincible fortress; but now, naked and defenseless, he trembles while he is still far from danger.

70. But he denied before them all. This circumstance aggravates the criminality of Peter, that, in denying his Master, he did not even dread a multitude of witnesses. 236236     “Qu’il n’a point craint de renier son Maistre, mesmement en la presence d tant de tesmoins;” — “that he did not fear to deny his Master, even in the presence of so many witnesses.” And the Spirit intended expressly to state this, that even the presence of men may excite us to hold fast the confession of faith. For if we deny Christ before the weak, they are shaken by our example, and give way; and thus we destroy as many souls as we can; but if, in presence of those who wickedly despise God and oppose the Gospel, we withhold from Christ the testimony which is due to him, we expose his sacred name to the ridicule of all. In short, as a bold and open confession edifies all the godly, 237237     “Tous enfans de Dieu;” — “all the children of God.” and puts unbelievers to shame, so apostasy draws along with it the public ruin of faith in the Church, and the reproach of sound doctrine. The more eminent a man is, therefore, he ought to be the more careful to be on his guard; for his elevation makes it impossible for him to fall from it without doing greater harm.

I know not what thou sayest. The form of denial, which is here set down, shows sufficiently that the wretched sophists, who endeavor to escape by ambiguous expressions, which they turn to a. variety of meanings, when they are called to give an account of their faith, gain nothing by their dexterity in fraud. Peter does not absolutely deny the whole doctrine of the Gospel; he only denies that he knew the man; but, because in the person of Christ he indirectly buries the light of the promised redemption, he is charged with base and shameful treachery. But lately he had heard from the mouth of the Lord, that the confession of faith is a sacrifice acceptable to God; and therefore a mode of denying, which withholds from God his lawful worship, and from Christ the honor that is due to him, admits of no excuse. Let us therefore hold:, that as soon as we depart from a plain and candid profession of Christ, we deprive him of the testimony to which he has a lawful claim.

71. Another maid saw him. From the words of Mark we are rather led to conjecture that it was the same maid; at least he doesn’t state that it was a different maid from the former one. But there is no contradiction here; for it is probable that the statement which proceeded from one maid, flew from the lips of one to those of another, so that the first maid pointed him out to many persons and at several times, and others joined her in asserting that he was the person, and in spreading the discovery of him more widely. John even relates (18:25) that, at the second time, the question was put to Peter, not by a maid, but by a multitude of men; from which it is evident that the word, which had been pronounced by the maid, was caught by the men standing by, who attacked Peter.

There is another difference between Mark and the other three Evangelists; for he mentions that the cock crew twice, while they say that the cock crew not until after Peter had thrice denied our Lord. But this difficulty is easily obviated; for Mark says nothing that is inconsistent with the narrative of the other Evangelists, but explains more fully what they pass by in silence. Indeed, I have no doubt that, when Christ said to Peter, before the cock crow, he meant the cock-crowing, 238238     “L’heure de la nuict en laquelle les coqs chantent;” — “the hour of the night in which cocks crow.” which includes many crowings; for cocks do not merely crow once, but repeat their crowings many times; and yet all the crowings of a single watch are called but one cock-crowing. So then, Matthew, Luke, and John, say that Peter thrice denied our Lord before the cock-crowing was ended. Mark states more distinctly one circumstance, that within a short space of time Peter was brought even to the third denial, and that, though he had been warned by the first crowing, he did not repent. None of us will say that profane historians are inconsistent with each other, when some one of them relates what the others have not touched; and, therefore, though Mark’s narrative is different, still it does not contradict the others.

72. And the second time he denied with an oath. It deserves attention, that Peter, after finding that he could not escape by a simple denial, doubles his crime by adding an oath; and a little after, when he is still more vehemently pressed, he proceeds even to cursing. Hence we infer that a sinner, after having once fallen, is always hurried on from bad to worse; so that those who begin with ordinary offenses afterwards rush headlong into the basest crimes, from which at first they would have recoiled with horror. And this is the just vengeance of God, after we have deprived ourselves of the assistance of the Holy Spirit, to allow Satan a violent exercise of power over us, that, having subdued and made us his slaves, he may drive us wherever he pleases. But this happens chiefly in a denial of the faith; for when a man, through fear of the cross, has turned aside from a pure profession of the gospel, if he perceive that his enemies are not yet satisfied, will proceed farther, and what he had not ventured fully to acknowledge he denies flatly with an oath, and without any ambiguity of words.

We ought also to observe, that almost in a single moment Peter thrice gave way; for this shows how unsteady we are, and how liable to fall, whenever Satan drives us. Certainly we shall never cease to fall, if the Lord do not stretch out his hand to uphold us. When the rigor of the grace of Christ was extinguished in Peter, whoever might afterwards meet hit and interrogate him about Christ, he would have been ready to deny a hundred or a thousand times. Although, then, it was very base in him to fall thrice, yet the Lord spared him by restraining the tongues of enemies from making additional attacks upon him. Thus, also, it is every day necessary for the Lord to bridle Satan, lest he overwhelm us with innumerable temptations; for though he does not cease to employ many instruments in assailing us, were it not that the Lord, paying regard to our weakness, restrains the violence of his rage, we would have to contend against a prodigious amount of temptations. In this respect, therefore, we ought to praise the mercy of the Lord, who does not permit our enemy to make advances against us, almost the hundredth part of what he would desire.

74. Then he began to curse and to swear. In this third denial, Peter’s unfaithfulness to his Master reached its utmost height. Not satisfied with swearing, he breaks out into cursing, by which he abandons his body and soul to destruction; for he prays that the curse of God may fall upon him, if he knows Christ. It is as much as if he had said, May I perish miserably, if I have any thing in common with the salvation of God! So much the more ought we to admire the goodness of Christ, who rescued his disciple from such fatal ruin, and healed him. Now this passage shows, that when a man falling through weakness of the flesh, denies the truth though he knows it, this does not amount to “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 12:31, 32.) Peter had unquestionably heard from the mouth of the Lord how detestable treachery it is to deny him before men; and what dreadful vengeance, before God and before his angels, (Matthew 10:39 Luke 12:9) awaits those who, through a cowardly dread of the cross, abandon the confession of faith; and not without reason had he, a little before, preferred death and every kind of torment to denying Christ. Now, therefore, he throws himself down knowingly, and after previous warning; but afterwards he obtains pardon; from which it follows that he sinned through weakness and not through incurable malice. For he would willingly have rendered to Christ the duties of friendship which he owed him, had not fear extinguished the sparks of proper affection.

75. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus. To the voice of the cock, Luke informs us, there was also added the look of Christ; for previously — as we learn from Mark — he had paid no attention to the cock when crowing. He must, therefore, have received the look from Christ, in order that he might come to himself. We all have experience of the same thing in ourselves; for which of us does not pass by with indifference and with deaf ears — I do not say the varied and numerous songs of birds which however, excite us to glorify God — but even the voice of God, which is heard clearly and distinctly in the doctrine of the Law and of the Gospel? Nor is it for a single day only that our minds are held by such brutal stupidity, but it is perpetual until he who alone turns the hearts of men deigns to look upon us. It is proper to observe, however that this was no ordinary look, for he had formerly looked at Judas who, after all, became no better by it. But in looking at Peter, he added to his eyes the secret efficacy of the Spirit, and thus by the rays of his grace, penetrated into his heart. Let us therefore know, that whenever any one has fallen, his repentance will never begin, until the Lord has looked at him.

And he went out and wept bitterly. It is probable that Peter went out through fear, for he did not venture to weep in presence of witnesses; and here he gave another proof of his weakness. Hence we infer that he did not deserve pardon by satisfaction, but that he obtained it by the fatherly kindness of God. And by this example we are taught that we ought to entertain confident hope, though our repentance be lame; for God does not despise even weak repentance, provided that it be sincere. Yet Peter’s tears, which he shed in secret, testified before God and the angels that his repentance was true; for, having withdrawn from the eyes of men, he places before him God and the angels; and, therefore, those tears flow from the deep feelings of his heart. This deserves our attention; for we see many who shed tears purposely, so long as they are beheld by others, but who have no sooner retired than they have dry eyes. Now there is no room to doubt that tears, which do not flow on account of the judgment of God, are often drawn forth by ambition and hypocrisy.

But it may be asked, Is weeping requisite in true repentance? I reply, Believers often with dry eyes groan before the Lord without hypocrisy, and confess their fault to obtain pardon; but in more aggravated offenses they must be in no ordinary degree stupid and hardened, whose hearts are not pained by grief and sorrow, and who do not feel ashamed even so far as to shed tears. And, therefore Scripture, after having convicted men of their crimes, exhorts them to sackcloth and ashes, (Daniel 9:3; Jonah 3:6; Matthew 11:21.)


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