Matthew 26

Matthew 26:1

When Jesus had finished all these words, He said to His disciples,

All these words. For the last two chapters, Jesus has been teaching his disciples on the Mount of Olives. He has told them of events that will happen within a generation (the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple), and he has spoken of his future return.

Matthew 26:2

“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.”

(a) Two days. Jesus has warned his disciples about his arrest and execution before (Matt. 16:21, 17:23, 20:19), but now he gives them a time frame. “It will happen after two days.”

(b) Passover meant different things to first-century Jews and this can be confusing to modern readers. Traditionally, Passover referred to the annual feast celebrated in the home since the first Passover. Passover also referred to the temple-based sacrifices instituted by Hezekiah and Josiah (2 Chr. 30:1, 35:1). Both Passovers took place on the 14th day of the first month as stipulated in the law (Ex. 12:6). But since the Jewish day starts at sundown, home-based Passovers typically took place on Thursday evening, while the temple-based observances occurred during the daylight hours of Friday.

This is why Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Passover privately on the Thursday night (Luke 22:11, 15), while the chief priests and the elders celebrated it the next day (John 18:28).

The Passover feast preceded the weeklong festival of unleavened bread (Lev. 23:5-6). These two festivals were sometimes labelled “Passover” (Luke 22:1).

Whether the Jews celebrated at home or at the temple, Passover was always observed by sacrificing lambs. However, this Passover would be the Passover to end all Passovers as it would culminate in the sacrifice the Lamb of God.

Matthew 26:3

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas;

(a) The chief priests and the elders of the people made up the 70-man ruling council or Sanhedrin that governed the affairs of Israel. The whole council was involved in the plot to kill Jesus (Matt. 26:59), with only a few dissenters (Luke 23:50-51).

(b) The court of the high priest. To keep their scheme secret, the chief priests and the elders met at the home of the high priest rather than at their usual chamber in the temple.

(c) The high priest was the supreme religious leader of Israel who oversaw the Sanhedrin. The high priest was a ruler of the people (Acts 23:5) and a signpost to Jesus our great high priest (Heb. 5:5). Israel’s first high priest had been Aaron, the brother of Moses. At the time of Jesus’ trial, the high priest was Caiaphas, a wicked and corrupt man.

(d) Caiaphas, see entry for John 18:13.

Matthew 26:4

And they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him.

There were four elements to the Sanhedrin’s plot: (1) seize Jesus when no one is looking (see next verse), (2) send 500 Roman soldiers (because the temple guard had tried and failed to seize Jesus before, see John 7:32, 18:3), (3) hold an illegal trial in the middle of the night while the city is sleeping (see entry for Matt. 26:57), and (4) make the Roman authorities co-partners in the execution (see entry for John 18:31).

Matthew 26:5

But they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people.”

(a) The festival of unleavened bread ran for seven days following the Passover. Perhaps the chief priests wanted to kill Jesus after the festival, when the city emptied. If so, Jesus forced their hand by almost encouraging Judas to betray him (see entry for John 13:27).

(b) A riot might occur. The religious leaders had two reasons for fearing a riot. First, they risked incurring the wrath of the people who, just days earlier, had hailed the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matt. 21:9). Second, they risked the wrath of the Romans who had the power to remove them from office and destroy their country (John 11:48).

The chief priests and the elders wanted to kill Jesus on the quiet, but what they meant for evil, God turned around for good. Christ’s death and resurrection took place when Jerusalem was packed with hundreds of thousands pilgrims from all over the world. Many would hear of his death and hundreds would see the risen Lord (1 Cor. 15:6).

Matthew 26:6

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper,

(a) Bethany was a village about two miles from Jerusalem; see entry for John 11:18.

(b) Simon was a leper no longer, for Jesus had a habit of healing the lepers he met (e.g., Luke 17:11–14). Had he still been a leper, he would have been considered unclean. Because Simon was a common name (there are nine Simons in the New Testament; see entry for Matt. 4:18), this Simon was known as the (former) leper.

Since Simon lived in the same village as Lazarus and his sisters, some have speculated that they were related. This would explain why Lazarus, et al. were in his house when Martha was serving dinner (see entry for John 12:2). Another possibility is that Simon was their deceased father and “the home of Simon” was the home of Simon’s adult children.

Matthew 26:7

a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table.

Costly perfume. The story of a woman anointing Jesus with costly perfume is recorded in all four gospels. In the accounts of Matthew, Mark and John, the anointing took place in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, shortly before Christ’s death (Matt. 26:6–7, Mark 14:3, John 12:1–3). John records that the woman who anointed Jesus was Mary, the sister of Lazarus (John 12:3). In Luke’s account, the anointing took place in the home of a Pharisee who coincidentally was also called Simon (Luke 7:36–39). Since the woman in Luke’s account was a “sinner” (Luke 7:37), some have concluded that Mary was a former prostitute. However, there is no evidence to support this.

It seems that Jesus was anointed twice. First in the house of the Pharisee, which may have been in Galilee, and then again in the house of Simon the Leper in Judea.

Matthew 26:13

“Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”

The gospel refers to the gospel of Christ or the gospel of God or the gospel of the kingdom. These are all different labels for the gospel of grace. See entry for The Gospel.

Matthew 26:14

Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests

(a) Judas Iscariot. Two of the twelve disciples were named Judas, hence the need to distinguish the one who betrayed Jesus (Luke 6:16). The name Iscariot suggests this Judas was from the town of Kerioth, in Judea. If so, he was the only one of the twelve who was not a Galilean. Judas took care of, and occasionally stole from, the disciples’ money box (John 12:6). Although Jesus treated Judas no differently from his other disciples (see entry for John 13:28), he knew that Judas was not one of his own (see entry for John 13:11) and that he would eventually betray him (John 6:70-71).

(b) Went to the chief priests. Judas had heard that the chief priests were looking to seize Jesus (John 11:57). Seeing an opportunity to make some money, he went to them to offer his services.

Matthew 26:15

And said, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him.

(a) What are you willing to give me? Judas betrayed Jesus for the money. He had heard the chief priests wanted to seize Jesus (John 11:57), and for the right price, he was ready to help. Yet Judas seemed unaware of what would happen after he betrayed Jesus. When he learned that Jesus had been condemned to death, he became remorseful and tried to return what he had been paid (Matt. 27:3).

(b) Thirty pieces of silver was hardly a king’s ransom, but the price of a common slave (Ex. 21:32). It was also the blood price foretold by the prophets (Zech. 11:12).

Matthew 26:16

From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus.

A good opportunity was a time when Jesus could be taken quietly and without attracting attention (Luke 22:6). When such opportunity eventually presented itself, Judas seems to have been unready, and Jesus had to nudge him into action (John 13:27).

Matthew 26:17

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?”

The first day of Unleavened Bread. Technically, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread did not begin until 15th of the month on the day following the Passover feast (Lev. 23:5-6). But since the Jews began to eat unleavened bread on the 14th day of the month (Ex. 12:18), the day preceding the week-long festival came to be known as the first day of Unleavened Bread (see entry for Matt. 26:2).

Matthew 26:21

As they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.”

The opportunity to betray Jesus had come, but Judas wasn’t paying attention. He knew the Lord’s plans for the evening, yet he did not sneak out to alert the chief priests as he had promised (Matt. 26:16). Jesus had to nudge Judas into action. “One of you will betray me.” In other words, “Judas, it’s time to act. Either do what you’ve planned or repent.”

Matthew 26:22

Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?”

There is a hubbub in the room, yet Jesus’ eyes are laser focused on Judas. With his body language, Jesus is saying, “Judas, it’s time” (John 13:27)! Judas seems oblivious, so Jesus has to make his hints more obvious.

Matthew 26:23

And He answered, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me.

Still Judas does not respond. He continues to eat his dinner unaware that the opportune time has come (see Matt. 26:16). So Jesus gets more intentional.

Matthew 26:24

“The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

(a) Woe to that man. Woe means great sorrow, and Judas would be very sorry that he had betrayed the Lord (Matt. 27:3).

Jesus had to be betrayed as foretold by prophecy (Ps. 41:9), but pity the man who betrayed him. That man’s name would be forever tied with this infamous act. Judas’ tale is a sad one. He missed the way, wasted his life, and ended up prematurely dead.

(b) If he had not been born. The traditional interpretation of this verse is that Jesus is speaking of hell and eternal punishment. “It’s better to never have lived than to be punished eternally in hell for one’s sins.” Given the number of sinners in the world, that’s like saying it’s better if many people had never been born. Jesus is not saying this.

Jesus is warning Judas. “Beware, there is great sorrow ahead, and you’re going to rue the day you were born.” He’s giving his dodgy disciple a final chance to repent.

Matthew 26:25

And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself.”

(a) Judas; see entry for Matt. 26:14.

(b) “Surely it is not I.” Finally, Judas responds. Has he forgotten about his conspiracy to betray Jesus? Or does he think the One who searches the hearts and minds is unaware of his scheme? In any case, he gets up and leaves (John 13:30). The plan to arrest Jesus is put into motion.

(b) Rabbi. The other disciples asked, “Surely not I, Lord?” (Matt. 26:22), but Judas called him rabbi or teacher (Matt. 26:49). Judas did not recognize Jesus as Lord.

Matthew 26:26

While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”

(a) While they were eating. The Last Supper was a Passover meal, eaten in the home on the night of the 14th (Thursday night) as it had always been done (Ex. 12:22). It can be distinguished from the temple-based observance of Passover which was celebrated at the end of the 14th (the daylight hours of Friday).

(b) Jesus took some bread which would have been unleavened or flat bread, on account of this being the first day of unleavened bread (Matt. 26:17).

(c) After a blessing. Jesus thanked God for the bread (Luke 22:19), and from his example Christians have been giving thanks ever since.

(d) He broke it symbolizing the brokenness that would be inflicted on his body in the following hours. Jesus’ body was scourged, nailed, and pierced. His body was broken so that we might live whole (Is. 53:5).

(e) And gave it to the disciples. Jesus did four things with the bread; he took it, blessed it, broke it, and distributed it. The giving of the bread symbolizes the giving of his life. Because God loved us, he gave his only Son (John 3:16). Because the Son loved us, he gave his only life (Rom. 5:8). No one took his life from him (John 10:18).

(f) This is My body. During his time on earth, sick people touched Jesus’ body and were healed (Mark 6:56). They touched Jesus because they knew there was power in his body (Luke 6:19). When we partake of the Lord’s Supper or communion or the Eucharist, we are remembering that Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:35). He is our healing and wholeness.

When Jesus took the bread and the cup he said, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). When we come to the Lord’s Table, we are not to remember ourselves or our sins; we are to remember him and his sacrifice. When we receive the bread by faith, we are saying, “Thank you, Jesus for releasing the health of heaven.”

Matthew 26:27

And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you;

(a) Given thanks. Just as he thanked God for the bread, he thanked him for the cup.

(b) Drink from it, all of you. Jesus wants us all to partake of his cup because he wants all of us to experience his sacrificial love. If we deny the cup to some, perhaps because we judge them too young or too sinful, we are acting contrary to his heart.

Matthew 26:28

For this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.

(a) This is My blood. If the bread represents his body, broken so that we might be made whole, his blood represents his life, poured out so that we might live.

(b) Of the covenant. A covenant is an oath-based agreement establishing some sort of relationship between two or more parties. On the cross, the sinless Savior fulfilled all the requirements of the old covenant while forging a new covenant in his blood (Luke 22:20). Just as the old covenant was an agreement between God and Israel, the new covenant would be an agreement between God the Father and humanity’s representative, God the Son.

(c) Poured out for many. Although Jesus carried the sin of the whole world (1 John 2:12), not everyone receives his gift of forgiveness (Heb. 9:28). This is why Jesus said he offered his life as a ransom for many (see entry for Matt. 20:28).

(d) Forgiveness. Prior to the cross, Jesus foretold of the complete and unconditional forgiveness of all sins (Matt 12:31). This prophecy came to pass on the cross, when the Lamb of God carried the sins of the world (John 1:29, 2 John 2:2).

The original word for forgiveness is a noun that is sometimes translated as remission and means a letting go or dismissal (see entry for Luke 24:47). Because of his great love, God chooses to remember your sins no more (Heb. 8:12, 10:17), and he is no longer holding your sins and trespasses against you (2 Cor. 5:19). However, you will never experience his forgiveness unless you receive it by faith. Only in Christ do we have the forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7, Col. 1:14).

(e) Forgiveness of sins. Through the sacrifice of the Lamb, God forged a new covenant characterized by grace and the forgiveness of sins. We are not forgiven and made right with God because of anything we do. We are forgiven on account of the shed blood of Jesus.

On the first Passover, it was the blood of many lambs that saved Israel. Now it is the blood of Jesus, the living Lamb of God, that redeems us, cleanses us, and saves us. The new covenant began when Jesus’ blood was shed on the cross and was ratified in his resurrection. This is what we remember when we partake of the cup.

Further reading: “Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Matthew 26:29

“But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

In My Father’s kingdom. Jesus’ mind was never unsettled by his present circumstances. In his immediate future, he faces torture and crucifixion, yet his mind is on higher things. Just as he looked forward to eating this last meal with his disciples (Luke 22:15), he looks forward to sharing the new wine of the new covenant with them soon.

Matthew 26:30

After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

It was the custom for the Jews to conclude the Passover by singing one of the praise or Hallel psalms. (Hallel comes from hallelujah, the first word in Psalm 113.) The six Hallel psalms are recorded in Psalms 113-118.

Matthew 26:31

Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED.’

(a) I will strike the shepherd. On the cross, he who knew no sin became sin (2 Cor. 5:21), and was struck with the sword of judgment against sin.

(b) The shepherd. Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11).

(c) The sheep will be scattered. Jesus quotes Zechariah 13:7 when he tells the disciples they will stumble and fall away. This prophecy was fulfilled just a few hours later when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:56).

Matthew 26:32

“But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”

Galilee was home for Jesus and the eleven remaining disciples. In contrast, Jerusalem was a place of persecution and death. Jesus is saying, “When this current trial is over, I’ll see you at home.”

Matthew 26:33

But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.”

I will never fall. How many believers have made a similar boast to the Lord? But Peter’s prideful promise would ultimately lead to a spectacular failure, as Jesus is about to predict.

Matthew 26:34

Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”

You will deny Me. Within hours, this prophecy had come true. Peter denied Jesus three times. It was a failure for Peter, but a wonderful encouragement for all of us who stumble. Jesus does not love us because of the promises we make. He loves us just because.

Manmade religion says we have to earn God’s approval, but the gospel of grace declares, “God loves you without regard for your performance or promise-keeping.” Where is the proof? It is in the cross and a hundred other things. It is in Jesus’ acceptance of Peter who denied him three times.

Matthew 26:35

Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too.

I will not deny You. Peter was utterly committed to the Lord and ready to die for him. And these weren’t empty words either, as Peter proved when he single-handedly attacked a mob of 500 armed men (Luke 12:50). But Peter was seriously misguided and Jesus would have to rebuke him for his hot-headedness (Luke 12:51).

Matthew 26:36

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

Gethsemane, which means olive press, was the name of a garden on the flanks of the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39).

Matthew 26:41

“Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

(a) The spirit is willing. I know you’re keen to stand with me in prayer, but…

(b) The flesh is weak. The hour is late, you’re full, and your body is tired.

Matthew 26:46

“Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”

The arrival of the betrayer into the garden was not a low-key event (see next verse).

Matthew 26:47

While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people.

(a) Judas; see entry for Matt. 26:14.

(b) A large crowd numbering more than 500 armed men was sent to arrest Jesus (see entry for John 18:3).

(c) Swords and clubs. Swords were the normal weapon for Roman soldiers, but clubs or staves would have been used for crowd control. Evidently, the chief priests had told the soldiers to prepare for a riot.

(d) The chief priests and elders of the people. The armed mob had been sent by the ruling council or Sanhedrin. Some of the chief priests and elders were also present at the arrest (Luke 22:52).

Matthew 26:48

Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.”

It was dark and the soldiers did not know Jesus as well as Judas did. To ensure they got their man, they needed a sign. In this way a kiss on the cheek became a knife in the back.

Matthew 26:49

Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.

(a) Hail, Rabbi! Although this was a common greeting among the Jews, Judas’s words reveal his heart. Unlike the other disciples, it was not his habit to address Jesus as Lord (Matt. 26:25).

(b) And kissed Him. This was not the first time in scripture that a betrayal had been preceded by a kiss (see 2 Sam. 20:9-10).

Matthew 26:50

And Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.

(a) Friend. Jesus knew Judas’s evil intentions yet he did not call him traitor. Truly, Jesus is the friend of sinners.

(b) Do what you have come for. In other words, “Stop pretending that you’re happy to see me and get on with it.”

(b) They came and laid hands on Jesus. The soldiers came to arrest Jesus and they did, but not before the experienced the power of God (see John 18:6) and witnessed a miracle (Luke 22:51).

Matthew 26:51

And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear.

(a) One of those. From John we know that it was Simon Peter who struck the servant (John 18:10). Why does Matthew not mention this? It may be because Matthew’s Gospel was based on Mark’s Gospel and Mark does not mention it, perhaps to protect Peter’s identity. See entry for Mark 14:47.

(b) His sword. Peter had a sword because Jesus told him to bring one (see entry for Luke 22:36). Jesus wanted the disciples to be armed so that he might be numbered among the transgressors, as prophesied by Isaiah (Luke 22:37).

(c) The slave of the high priest was called Malchus (John 18:10). A relative of Malchus later accused Peter of being a follower of Jesus prompting Peter to deny his association with the Lord (John 18:26).

(d) The high priest; see entry for Matt. 26:3.

(e) Cut off his ear. Peter aimed for the head. Not only was he ready to die for Jesus (Matt. 26:35), but to kill for him as well. Attacking 500 armed men with a single sword was a suicide mission. Peter would have been cut down, except Jesus intervened to save his life (see next verse). Then Jesus cleaned up Peter’s mess by healing the injured servant (Luke 22:51).

Matthew 26:52

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.”

(a) Put your sword back. Jesus wasn’t looking for a fight, but an arrest.

(b) Those who take up the sword. The last thing the world needs is another ruler who resolves his problems through violence. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, and the weapons of our warfare are not worldly (Eph. 6:12, 2 Cor. 10:4).

(c) Shall perish by the sword. There’s a warning here for the chief priests who thought violence and murder could solve their problems. Sadly, they didn’t listen. Within a generation, the Jews took up swords against their Roman oppressors and were nearly slaughtered out of existence.

Matthew 26:53

“Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

(a) My Father; see entry for Matt. 5:16.

(a) Twelve legions. A legion is about 5000 solders, so twelve legions is 60,000 or more. To draw conclusions about the total number of angels or their fighting strength is unwarranted. Jesus’ point was that he is quite capable of defending himself but chooses not to.

Matthew 26:54

“How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?”

The Scriptures. The scriptures did not say that the Savior would be taken against his will in a pitched battle with his enemies. The scriptures said he would be betrayed by a friend (Ps. 41:9), and led like a lamb to its slaughter (Is. 53:7).

Other Old Testament prophecies relating to the arrest of Jesus include Psalm 27:2 (fulfilled in John 18:6), Zechariah 13:7 (fulfilled in Matt. 26:56), Zechariah 11:12 (fulfilled in Matt. 26:15), and Psalm 35:11 (fulfilled in Matt. 26:59).

Matthew 26:55

At that time Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as you would against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me.

(a) The crowds. More than 500 armed men were sent to arrest Jesus (see entry for John 18:3).

(b) Swords and clubs; see entry for Matt. 26:47.

(c) As you would against a robber. Jesus is not defending his innocence as much as highlighting the prophecy being fulfilled in front of them (see entry for Luke 22:37).

(d) Robber. The original word (lestes) means armed brigands of the kind who robbed and beat the traveler on the road to Jericho (Luke 10:30), and who also menaced Paul in his travels (2 Cor. 11:26). Two such brigands were crucified beside Christ (Matt. 27:38), and Barabbas was also a brigand (John. 18:40).

(e) I used to sit in the temple. The Sanhedrin did not want to arrest Jesus publicly because they feared it might start a riot (Matt. 26:5).

(f) Teaching. Jesus often taught in the temple because that’s where people congregated (Luke 21:38) and to fulfill the words of the prophet Malachi: “the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his temple” (Mal. 3:1).

Matthew 26:56

“But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets.” Then all the disciples left Him and fled.

(a) Fulfill the Scriptures. Jesus is referring to those prophecies predicting his betrayal and arrest (see entry for Matt. 26:54).

(b) All the disciples left Him. A few hours earlier, Jesus predicted that they would all flee (Matt. 26:31) and they did. However, at least one of them returned for the crucifixion (John 19:26).

Matthew 26:57

Those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together.

(a) Led Him away to Caiaphas. In John’s recollection of the night’s events, Jesus went first to the house of Annas and from there to Caiaphas (John 18:24).

(b) Caiaphas, see entry for John 18:13.

(c) The high priest was the supreme religious leader of Israel and oversaw the ruling council or Sanhedrin. In New Testament times, the high priest was a political appointee chosen by Rome.

(d) Where the scribes and the elders were gathered together. The Sanhedrin would normally meet in their chambers at the temple. However, to maintain a low profile, they met in the middle of the night in the court of Caiaphas the high priest (Luke 22:54).

Scholars of first-century Jewish jurisprudence have noted several illegalities in the trial of Jesus including: holding the trial in the middle of the night; not holding it in a court of law (Luke 22:54); trying a capital offense immediately prior to a Sabbath or holy day; actively seeking false witnesses; having no one speak in the defence of the accused; the high priest’s lack of impartiality; relying on judges who were known to be enemies of the accused; passing judgment in the absence of evidence; and passing a capital sentence on the first day of the trial.

Matthew 26:58

But Peter was following Him at a distance as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and entered in, and sat down with the officers to see the outcome.

(a) Peter was following Him. Torn between his love for Jesus and his fear of getting arrested, Peter kept to the shadows to see what would happen to the Lord. He was not the only disciple who followed Jesus. Another, unnamed disciple, gained access for both of them into the courtyard of the high priest (see entry for John 18:16).

(b) The courtyard of the high priest. Instead of holding their sham trial in their usual chambers in the temple, the Council met in the court or hall of the palace of Caiaphas the high priest. While Jesus was inside being tried by the council, Peter was outside warming himself by a charcoal fire (John 18:18).

(b) Sat down with the officers. The armed Levites of the temple guard did not recognize Peter as the disciple who had tried to behead poor Malchus in the garden (Matt. 26:51). At least not at first (Matt 26:73).

Matthew 26:59

Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death.

The whole Council was the 70-man Sanhedrin that governed Israel. The council was composed of the chief priests (see entry for Matt. 2:4), elders (see entry for Matt. 16:21), and scribes (see entry for Matt. 5:20). Many of the council members came from two Jewish sects or political factions, the Pharisees and Sadducees (see entry for Matt. 3:7). The ruler of the council was the high priest (see entry for Matt. 26:3).

Was the whole council complicit in the death of Jesus? Although Mark 14:64 says “they all condemned him,” there were at least two members of the council who did not consent, namely, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (Luke 23:51, John 19:39). It’s possible these two men had not been invited to the trial.

Matthew 26:60

They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward,

Many false witnesses spoke against Jesus but their testimony could not be corroborated (Mark 14:56). In a trial that was illegal from start to finish (see entry for Matt. 26:57), many false witnesses broke the ninth commandment (Ex. 20:16).

Matthew 26:61

And said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’”

(a) I will destroy this temple. What Jesus actually said was, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). These two false witnesses not only misquoted Jesus but their testimony contradicted each other (Mark 14:59).

(b) Rebuild it in three days. Jesus never said he would destroy Herod’s temple for he was speaking of the temple of His body (John 2:21). He was predicting his death and resurrection, as some of the Sanhedrin well knew (see entry for Matt. 27:63).

Matthew 26:62

The high priest stood up and said to Him, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?”

(a) The high priest; see entry for Matt. 26:3.

(b) What is it that these men are testifying? Even the high priest can’t make sense of the lies told by the false witnesses.

Matthew 26:63

But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.”

(a) Jesus kept silent. Why respond to charges that are contradictory and patently false?

(b) I adjure You by the living God. Jesus has no time for false charges brought by false men, but now he is being charged in the name of God to answer a direct question, and he does.

Matthew 26:64

Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.”

(a) You have said it yourself. In other words, “Yes, I am the Son of God as you have said. You don’t believe it, but soon you will see it.” This is one of the few times where Jesus acknowledges he is the Son of God (see entry for Rev. 2:18). Normally he refers to himself as the Son of Man.

(b) You will see. Jesus was not referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 or his final return, but to something the high priest would see in his lifetime. Jesus is referring to his imminent ascension and coronation.

(c) The Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power. Power was released when Jesus died on the cross. The temple curtain was torn, the earth shook, and the dead came to life, and the men of the Sanhedrin saw all these things. Two days later, they heard that Jesus had risen from the dead and was appearing to people in their city. Then a few weeks later they heard the uproar of Pentecost. Illiterate fishermen were declaring God’s wonders in a variety of languages (Acts 2:8). One of the fishermen even said Jesus was sitting at the right hand of God (Acts 2:34).

When they heard these things, did the men of the Sanhedrin recall what Jesus had said to them? Did they remember how he quoted Psalm 110:1 to the high priest and said, “You will see it?”

(d) Coming on the clouds. This phrase is from Daniel’s vision of the Son of Man approaching the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:13). Daniel saw the ascension of Jesus from the perspective of heaven. He saw the Son of Man coming on the clouds and being given dominion, glory, and a kingdom.

Further reading: “What did the high priest see?

Matthew 26:65

Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy;

(a) The high priest; see entry for Matt. 26:3.

(b) Tore his robes. It was a dramatic gesture, but an unlawful one (see Lev. 21:10). Once again, Caiaphas reveals his low regard for the laws of Moses (see entry for Matt. 26:57).

(c) He has blasphemed! The high priest, who was supposed to be an impartial ruler in this trial, played the part of prosecutor and master manipulator.

(d) Blasphemy is the act of cursing or slandering God. For Jesus, a mere man, to equate himself with God was blasphemous in the eyes of the Sanhedrin.

Matthew 26:66

“What do you think?” They answered, “He deserves death!”

(a) What do you think? Caiaphas has the Sanhedrin right where he wants them. His bold questions and dramatic gestures have brought the council to the moment of condemnation. Later, he will use these same skills to manipulate the Roman governor.

(b) He deserves death! Under Jewish law, blasphemy was a crime punishable by death from stoning (Lev. 24:16).

Matthew 26:67-68

Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, “Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?”

(a) They spat in His face and beat Him. An angry religious mob is a fearsome beast. These weren’t old men giving reproving slaps; these were angry fanatics who thought nothing of killing in the name of their God. It’s a miracle that Jesus made it out of Caiaphas’s house alive. This was just one of three severe beatings Jesus received this day (see entry for Matt. 27:26).

(b) Prophesy, you Christ. If Jesus was the Christ, the Anointed One and Prophet of God, he would know who was beating him. Thus they taunted him, but Jesus probably did know who his persecutors were. He knew every hate-filled thing about them, yet he forgave them any way (see Luke 23:34).

(c) Who hit You? By this point Jesus had been blindfolded (Mark 14:65, Luke 22:64).

Matthew 26:69

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.”

Peter is a man’s man, ready to swing the sword and kill for Jesus (John 18:10). But he is about to be brought low by the lowest of the low. A mere servant-girl will cause this proud man to quail.

Matthew 26:70

But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.”

(a) Before them all. Peter betrayed Jesus publicly.

(b) I do not know; see entry for Luke 22:57.

Matthew 26:71

When he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

(a) Gone out to the gateway. Peter had originally gone into the courtyard to get warm (John 18:18), but the heat from the servant-girl’s unwanted attention caused him to withdraw to the outer porch (Mark 14:68).

(b) Another servant-girl. Unhappily for Peter, there was no shortage of lowly servant girls ready to prick his pride.

Matthew 26:72

And again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.”

(a) With an oath. In other words, “I swear by heaven, I don’t know the man.” Flustered by the unwanted attention, Peter seems to have forgotten the Lord’s injunction against using oaths (Matt. 5:34).

(b) I do not know; see entry for Luke 22:57.

Matthew 26:73

A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away.”

One of them. Jesus was famously Galilean (Luke 23:6) and most of his disciples were from Galilee. Peter had a distinctive Galilean accent.

Matthew 26:74

Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed.

(a) Curse and swear, not in the sense that he became potty-mouthed, but to his earlier oath (Matt. 26:72) Peter now added curses upon himself. “I swear by heaven, if I’m not telling the truth may I die a horrible death.” Thus Peter became an advertisement for Jeremiah 17:5. By trusting in himself (his prideful boasts earlier and his self-preservation now), Peter had brought a self-inflicted curse upon himself.

(b) A rooster crowed and the Lord’s prophecy was fulfilled (Matt. 26:34).

Matthew 26:75

And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Having betrayed his best friend and Lord, Peter’s sorrow was understandably great. His proud heart had been thoroughly broken by sin. But in contrast with the remorse of Judas (Matt. 27:3), this was a good and godly sorrow that would ultimately lead Peter to repentance.

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