COMMENTARY
ON A
HARMONY OF THE EVANGELISTS,
MATTHEW, MARK, AND LUKE,

BY JOHN CALVIN


TRANSLATED FROM THE ORIGINAL LATIN, AND COLLATED WITH
THE AUTHOR'S FRENCH VERSION,
BY THE REV. WILLIAM PRINGLE


VOLUME THIRD


CHRISTIAN CLASSICS ETHEREAL LIBRARY
GRAND RAPIDS, MI
http://www.ccel.org
MATTHEW 21:10-22; MARK 11:11-24;
LUKE 19:39-48
MATTHEW 21:10-22
MARK 11:11-24
LUKE 19:39-48
10. And when he entered into Jerusalem, the whole city was moved, saying, Who is this? 11. And the multitudes said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth in Galilee. 12. And Jesus entered into the temple of God, and drove out all that sold and bought in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of those who sold doves; 13. And said to them, It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer; but you have made it a den of robbers. 14. And the blind and lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. 15. When the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful works which he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David! They were enraged, f1 16. And said to him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith to them, Yes; and have you never read, Out of the mouth f2 of infants and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? 17. And, leaving them, he went out of the city into Bethany, and lodged there. 18. And in the morning, returning to the city, he was hungry. 19. And when he saw a fig tree near the road, he came to it, and found nothing on it but leaves only. And he said to it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforth forever; and immediately the fig tree withered. 20. And when his disciples saw it, they wondered, saying, How quickly is the fig tree withered! 21. And Jesus answering said to them, Verily I say to you, If you have faith, and do not doubt, not only will you do what has taken place in the fig tree, but also, if you shall say to this mountain, Be thou removed, and thrown into the sea, it shall be done. 22. And all things, whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, f3, you shall receive.
11. And the Lord entered f4 into Jerusalem, and into the temple; and when he had looked around on all things, and it was now evening, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. 12. And the next day, when they departed from Bethany, he was hungry. 13. And when he saw at a distance a fig tree having leaves, he came, if perhaps he would find anything on it. f5 And when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs. 14. And Jesus answering said o the fig tree, Let no man eat fruit from thee henceforth forever. And his disciples heard it. 15. And they come to Jerusalem. And Jesus entered into the temple, and began to drive out those who sold and bought in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers, and the seats of those who sold doves; 16. And did not suffer any man o carry a vessel through the temple. 17 And taught, saying to them, Is it not written, My house shall be called by all nations a house of prayer? But you have made it a den of robbers. 18. And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they would put him to death; for they dreaded him, because the whole multitude admired his doctrine. 19. And when it was evening, he went out of the city. 20. And in the morning, passing by the fig tree, they saw that it was dried up from the root. f6 21. And Peter, remembering, saith to him, Rabbi, f7 lo, that fig tree which thou cursedst is dried up! 22. And Jesus answering saith to them, Have faith in God. 23. Verily I say to you, Whoever shall say to this mountain, Be thou removed, and thrown into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that what he saith shall be, he shall have whatever he saith. 24. Therefore I say to you, Whatever you ask, praying, believe that you will receive it, and you shall have it.
39. And some of the Pharisees out of the multitude said to him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. 40. To whom he said, I say to you, that if these be silent, the stones will cry out. f8 (A little after.) 45. And having entered into the temple, he began to drive out those who sold and bought in it, 46. Saying to them, It is written, My house is a house of prayer; but you have made it a den of robbers. 47. And he taught daily in the temple. And the chief priests, and scribes, and rulers of the people, sought to put him to death, 48. And did not find what to do; for all the people hung upon his lips, while they were hearing him.

THERE is a difference between Matthew and Mark in their narrative of the withering of the fig tree; for Matthew says that it was on the day after that Christ made a public appearance as King, while Mark appears to throw it back to the following day. f9 But the solution is easy; for they agree in this respect, that Christ, on the day after that he made his solemn entrance into the city, cursed the tree; only Mark states what Matthew had omitted, that the occurrence was observed by the disciples on the following day., So then, though Mark has stated more distinctly the order of time, he makes no contradiction.
He appears to differ more openly both from Matthew and fromLuke in the narrative of chastising the traders; f10 for while both of them declare that Christ, as soon as he entered into the city and temple, drove out those who sold and bought, Mark simply says that he looked around on all things, but has thrown back the driving of them out till another day. f11 But I reconcile them in this way, that Mark, not having spoken about the purifying of the temple, afterwards inserts it, though not in its proper place. He relates that, on the first day, Christ came into the temple, and there looked round on all things. f12 Now why did he look so earnestly, except for the purpose of correcting something that was wrong? For, having been formerly accustomed to pay frequent visits to the temple, it was not the novelty of the sight that affected him. Now as Mark ought immediately to have added, that those who sold and bought in the temple were driven out of it, he says that Christ went out of the city; but, having omitted what was worthy of being related, he inserts it afterwards.
But perhaps some will be more inclined to believe that, in this narrative also, Mark observed the order of time, which the other two Evangelists had disregarded; for though they appear to indicate an uninterrupted succession of events, yet as they do not name a particular day, there would be no impropriety in dividing what we find to be connected in their writings. For my own part, however, I prefer the conjecture which I stated first; for it is probable that this demonstration of his power was made by Christ in presence of a large multitude. But any one who will consider how little care the Evangelists bestowed on pointing out dates will not stumble at this diversity in the narrative.
Matthew 21:10. When he entered into Jerusalem. Matthew says that the city was moved, in order to inform us that the transaction did not take place secretly, or by stealth, but in the presence of all the people, and that the priests and scribes were not ignorant of it. Under this despicable aspect of the flesh the majesty of the Spirit was apparent; for how would they have endured that Christ should be conducted into the city, attended by the splendor of royalty, with so great danger to themselves, if they had not been seized with astonishment? The substance of it therefore is, that Christ’s entrance was not made in a private manner, and that his enemies abstained from opposing it, not because they treated him with contempt, but rather because they were restrained by secret fear; for God had struck them with such alarm, that they dare not make any attempt. At the same time, the Evangelist glances at the careless indifference of the city, and commends the piety of those who have just reached it; for when the inhabitants, on hearing the noise, inquire, Who is this? it is manifest that they do not belong to the number of Christ’s followers.
12. And Jesus entered into the temple. Though Christ frequently ascended into the temple, and though this abuse continually met his eye, twice only did he stretch out his hand to correct it; once, at the commencement of his embassy, f13 and now again, when he was near the end of his course. But though disgraceful and ungodly confusion reigned throughout, and though the temple, with its sacrifices, was devoted to destruction, Christ reckoned it enough to administer twice an open reproof of the profanation of it. Accordingly, when he made himself known as a Teacher and Prophet sent by God, he took upon himself the office of purifying the temple, in order to arouse the Jews, and make them more attentive; and this first narrative is given by John only in the second chapter of his Gospel. But now, towards the end of his course, claiming again for himself the same power, he warns the Jews of the pollutions of the temple, and at the same time points out that a new restoration is at hand.
And yet there is no reason to doubt that he declared himself to be both King and High Priest, who presided over the temple and the worship of God. This ought to be observed, lest any private individual should think himself entitled to act in the same manner. That zeal, indeed, by which Christ was animated to do this, ought to be held in common by all the godly; but lest any one, under the pretense of imitation, should rush forward without authority, we ought to see what our calling demands, and how far we may proceed according to the commandment of God. If the Church of God have contracted any pollutions, all the children of God ought to burn with grief; but as God has not put arms into the hands of all, let private individuals groan, till God bring the remedy. I do acknowledge that they are worse than stupid who are not displeased at the pollution of the temple of God, and that it is not enough for them to be inwardly distressed, if they do not avoid the contagion, and testify with their mouth, whenever an opportunity. presents itself, that they desire to see a change for the better. But let those who do not possess public authority oppose by their tongue, which they have at liberty, those vices which they cannot remedy with their hands.
But it is asked, Since Christ saw the temple filled with gross superstitions, why did he only correct one that was light, or, at least, more tolerable than others? I reply, Christ did not intend to restore to the ancient custom all the sacred rites, and did not select greater or smaller abuses for correction, but had only this object in view, to show by one visible token, that God had committed to him the office of purifying the temple, and, at the same time, to point out that the worship of God had been corrupted by a disgraceful and manifest abuse. Pretexts, indeed, were not wanting for that custom of keeping a market, which relieved the people from trouble, that they might not have far to go to find sacrifices; and next, that they might have at hand those pieces of money which any man might choose to offer. Nor was it within the holy place that the money-changers sat, or that animals intended for sacrifice were exposed to sale, but only within the court, to which the designation of the temple is sometimes applied; but as nothing was more at variance with the majesty of the temple, than that a market should be erected there for selling goods, or that bankers should sit there for matters connected with exchange, this profanation was not to be endured. And Christ inveighed against it the more sharply, because it was well known that this custom had been introduced by the avarice of the priests for the sake of dishonest gain. For as one who enters a market well-stocked with various kinds of merchandise, though he does not intend to make a purchase, yet, in consequence of being attracted by what he sees, changes his mind, so the priests spread nets in order to obtain offerings, that they might trick every person out of some gain.
13. It is written. Christ quotes two passages taken out of two Prophets; the one from <235607>Isaiah 56:7, and the other from <240711>Jeremiah 7:11. What was written by Isaiah agreed with the circumstances of the time; for in that passage is predicted the calling of the Gentiles. Isaiah, therefore, promises that God will grant, not only that the temple shall recover its original splendor, but likewise that all nations shall flow to it, and that the whole world shall agree in true and sincere piety. f14 He speaks, no doubt, metaphorically; for the spiritual worship of God, which was to exist under the reign of Christ, is shadowed out by the prophets under the figures of the law. Certainly this was never fulfilled, that all nations went up to Jerusalem to worship God; and therefore, when he declares that the temple will be a place of prayer for all nations, this mode of expression is equivalent to saying, that the nations must be gathered into the Church of God, that with one voice they may worship the true God, along with the children of Abraham. But since he mentions the temple, so far as it then was the visible abode of religion, Christ justly reproaches the Jews with having applied it to totally different purposes from those to which it had been dedicated. The meaning therefore is: God intended that this temple should exist till no as a sign on which all his worshippers should fix their eyes; and how base and wicked is it to profane it by thus turning it into a market ?
Besides, in the time of Christ, that temple was actually a house of prayer; that is, so long as the Law, with its shadows, remained in force. But it began to be a house of prayer for all nations, when out of it resounded the doctrine of the Gospel, by which the whole world was to be united in one common faith. And though shortly afterwards it was totally overthrown, yet even in the present day the fulfillment of this prophecy is manifest; for, since
out of Zion, went forth the law,
(<230202>Isaiah 2:2; <330402>Micah 4:2,)
those who wish to pray aright must look to that beginning. I do acknowledge that there is no distinction of places, for it is the will of the Lord that men should call upon Him everywhere; but as believers, who profess to worship the God of Israel, are said to
speak in the language of Canaan, (<231918>Isaiah 19:18,)
so they are also said to come into the temple, because out of it flowed the true religion. It is likewise the fountain of the waters, which, enlarged to an astonishing degree within a short period, flow in great abundance, and give life to those that drink them, as Ezekiel (<264709>Ezekiel 47:9) mentions, f15 which, going out from the temple, spread, as Zechariah (<381408>Zechariah 14:8) says, from the rising to the setting sun. Though in the present day we make use of temples (or churches) for holding the holy assemblies, yet it is for a different reason; for, since Christ was manifested, no outward representation of him under shadows is held out to us, such as the fathers anciently had under the Law.
It must also be observed, that by the word prayer the prophet expresses the whole worship of God; for, though there was at that time a great variety and abundance of religious rites, yet God intended briefly to show what was the object of all those rites; namely, that they might worship him spiritually, as is more clearly expressed in the fiftieth psalm, where also God comprehends under prayer all the exercises of religion.
But you have made it a den of robbers. Christ means that the complaint of Jeremiah (<240711>Jeremiah 7:11) applied equally well to his own time, in which the temple was not less corrupted. The prophet directs his reproof against hypocrites, who, through confidence in the temple, allowed themselves greater liberty in sinning. For, as it was the design of God to employ outward symbols, as a sort of rudiments, for instructing the Jews in true religion, so they satisfied themselves with the empty pretense of the temple, as if it were enough to give their attention to outward ceremonies; just as it is customary with hypocrites to
change the truth of God into a lie (<450125>Romans 1:25.).
But the prophet exclaims that God is not bound to the temple, or tied to ceremonies, and therefore that they falsely boast of the name of the temple, which they had made a den of robbers. For as robbers in their dens sin with greater hardihood, because they trust that they will escape punishment, so by means of a false covering of godliness hypocrites grow more bold, so that they almost hope to deceive God. Now as the metaphor of a den includes all corruptions, Christ properly applies the passage of the prophet to the present occasion.
Mark adds, that Christ gave orders that no man should carry a vessel through the temple; that is, he did not permit any thing to be seen there that was inconsistent with religious services; for by the word vessel the Hebrews denote any kind of utensil. In short, Christ took away whatever was at variance with the reverence and majesty of the temple.
14. And the blind and lame came to him. That the authority which Christ had claimed for himself out of the usual course might not be suspected of rashness, he supported it by miracles. He therefore cured the blind and lame in the temple, in order to proclaim that the rights and honor of Messiah truly belonged to him; for by these marks the prophets describe him. Hence we again perceive what I hinted a little ago that it is not every one of the people who is called to imitate this action of Christ lest he inconsiderately raise himself to the throne of the Messiah. We ought indeed to believe that the lame and blind, who were cured, were witnesses of the divine power of Christ, as if God, by his voice from heaven, approved what had been proclaimed by the multitude. f16
15. When the chief priests and scribes saw. Luke relates that the Pharisees began to grumble, while he was still on the road. f17 It was the disciples that were then crying out: the others wished to have them silenced. Christ replied, that it was in vain for them to make opposition; because God would rather make the stones cry out than permit the reign of His Son to be forgotten. It is probable that, as the crying out was not diminished, and as even the children now joined in it, the scribes and priests were roused to still fiercer indignation, and then commenced a new attack on Christ. They appear indirectly to reproach him by alleging that he is desirous to obtain the praises of children.
But we must observe whence their displeasure arose. That it was connected with ungodly malice and outrageous contempt of God is evident from the fact, that his miracles gave them not less uneasiness than the shouts of applause. But I now inquire about some more special reason. What was it that chiefly vexed them? Now we know how eagerly they contended for their authority; for the object to which their zeal carried them was, that the tyranny, which they had once claimed, might continue to be enjoyed by them; and it was no slight diminution of their power, if the people were at liberty to bestow on Christ the title of King. Even in trifling matters they wished their decisions to be regarded as oracles, f18 so that it might not be permitted to approve or reject any thing but according to their pleasure. They therefore reckon it to be foolish and unreasonable, that the people should confer the title of Messiah on one whom they do not treat with any respect. And certainly, if they had done their duty, it would have been proper for them to direct the whole people, and to go before them as their leaders. For the priests had been appointed, that from their lips all might seek the knowledge of the Law, and, in short, that they might be the messengers and interpreters of the God of armies, (<390207>Malachi 2:7.) But as they had basely extinguished the light of truth, Christ appropriately replies, that they gain nothing by endeavoring to suppress the doctrine of salvation, for it will rather break out from the stones.
There is likewise an implied admission; for Christ does not deny that it is an unnatural order for the uneducated multitude and children to be the first to magnify with their voice the coming of the Messiah, but as the truth is wickedly suppressed by those who ought to have been its lawful witnesses, it is not wonderful if God raise up others, and—to their shame—make choice of children. Hence we derive no slight consolation; for though wicked men leave no stone unturned for concealing the reign of Christ, we learn from this passage that their efforts are in vain. They hope that, when some of the multitude, that is carrying forward the kingdom of Christ, shall have been put to death, and others shall be silenced by fear, they will gain their object. But God will disappoint them; for He will sooner give mouths and tongues to stones than allow the kingdom of His Son to be without witnesses.
16. And have you never read? The scribes and priests seize on this as an opportunity of calumniating Christ, that he allows himself to be called a King by children; as it is always the custom of wicked people haughtily to despise the mean condition of the disciples of Christ. This malicious design Christ checks by a quotation from David, who makes even infants to be the heralds of the glory of God. Literally the words run,
Out of the mouth of infants and sucklings thou hast founded strength, (<190802>Psalm 8:2;)
by which David means that, though every tongue were silent, f19 God needs no other orators to proclaim his power than mere infants, who are still hanging on their mothers’ breasts. In themselves, no doubt, they are silent; but the wonderful providence of God, which shines in them, serves the purpose of splendid and powerful eloquence. For he who considers with himself how the child is formed in the mother’s womb, is nourished there for nine months, afterwards comes into the world, and finds nourishment provided as soon as it is born, must not only acknowledge that God is the Creator of the world, but will be altogether carried away into admiration of Him. f20 Thus the sun and moon, though they are dumb creatures, are said to have a loud and distinct voice for singing the praises of God, (<191901>Psalm 19:1, 2.) But since the praises of God are heard from the tongue of infants, Christ infers from this, that it is not strange if He cause them to be uttered by children who have already acquired the use of speech.
18. And returning in the morning. Between that solemn entrance of Christ, of which we have spoken, and the day of the Passover, he had passed the night in Bethany; and during the day he appeared in the temple for the purpose of teaching. Matthew and Mark relate what happened during that interval, that Christ, when coming into the city, was hungry, approached a fig-tree, and, having found nothing on ,it but leaves, cursed it; and that the tree, which had been cursed by his voice, immediately withered. I take for granted that Christ did not pretend hunger, but was actually hungry; for we know that he voluntarily became subject to the infirmities of the flesh, though by nature he was free and exempt from them.
But here lies the difficulty. How was he mistaken in seeking fruit on a tree that had none; more especially, when the season of fruit had not yet arrived? And again, Why was he so fiercely enraged against a harmless tree? But there would be no absurdity in saying, that as man, he did not know f21 the kind of tree; though it is possible that he approached it on purpose, with full knowledge of the result. Certainly it was not the fury of passion that led him to curse the tree, (for that would not only have been an unjust, but even a childish and ridiculous revenge;) but as hunger was troublesome to him according to the feeling of the flesh, he determined to overcome it by an opposite affection; that is, by a desire to promote the glory of the Father, as he elsewhere says,
My meat is to do the will of my Father, (<430434>John 4:34;)
for at that time he was contending both with fatigue and with hunger. I am the more inclined to this conjecture, because hunger gave him an opportunity of performing a miracle and of teaching his disciples. So when he was pressed by hunger, and there was no food at hand, he finds a repast in another way; that is, by promoting the glory of God. He intended, however, to present in this tree an outward sign of the end which awaits hypocrites, and at the same time to expose the emptiness and folly of their ostentation.
19. Let no fruit grow on thee henceforth. Let us learn from this what is the meaning of the word curse, namely, that the tree should be condemned to barrenness; as, on the other hand, God blesses, when by his voice he bestows fertility. It appears more clearly from Mark, that the fig-tree did not instantly wither, or, at least, that it was not observed by his disciples, until they saw it next day stripped of leaves. Mark, too, attributes to Peter what Matthew attributes equally to all the disciples; but as Christ replies in the plural number, it may naturally be inferred that one put the question in the name of all.
21. And Jesus answering. The use of the miracle is still farther extended by Christ, in order to excite his disciples to faith and confidence. By Mark, the general exhortation is placed first, to have faith in God; and then follows the promise, that they would obtain by faith whatever they asked from God. To have faith in God means, to expect, and to be fully assured of obtaining, from God whatever we need. But as faith, if we have any, breaks out immediately into prayer, and penetrates into the treasures of the grace of God, which are held out to us in the word, in order to enjoy them, so Christ adds prayer to faith; for if he had only said that we shall have whatever we wish, some would have thought that faith was presumptuous or too careless. And therefore Christ shows that those only are believers who, relying on his goodness and promises, betake themselves to him with humility.
This passage is exceedingly adapted to point out the power and nature of faith; that it is a certainty, relying on the goodness of God, which does not admit of doubt. For Christ does not acknowledge as believers any but those who are fully convinced that God is reconciled to them, and do not doubt that he will give what they ask. Hence we perceive by what a diabolical contrivance the Papists are bewitched, who mingle faith with doubt, and even charge us with foolish presumption, if we venture to appear before God under the conviction of His fatherly regard toward us. But this benefit derived from Christ is that on which Paul chiefly dwells, when he says that
by the faith of him we have boldness
to approach to God with confidence (<490312>Ephesians 3:12).
This passage shows also that the true test of faith lies in prayer. If it be objected, that those prayers are never heard, that mountains should be thrown into the sea, the answer is easy. Christ does not give a loose rein to the wishes of men, that they should desire any thing at their pleasure, when he places prayer after the rule of faith; f22 for in this way the Spirit must of necessity hold all our affections by the bridle of the word of God, and bring them into obedience. Christ demands a firm and undoubting confidence of obtaining an answer; and whence does the human mind obtain that confidence but from the word of God? We now see then that Christ promises nothing to his disciples, unless they keep themselves within the limits of the good pleasure of God.
Luke 19:47. And he taught daily in the temple. Mark and Luke point out, first, what was the class of men of which the Church consisted, namely, of the despised multitude; and again, what enemies Christ had, namely, the priests and scribes, and all the rulers. Now this is a part of the folly of the cross, that God, passing by the excellence of the world, chooses what is foolish, weak, and despised. Secondly, they relate that those worthy guardians of the Church of God sought an occasion of putting Christ to death, by which their wicked impiety was discovered; for though there had been good grounds for pursuing Christ, yet they had no right to proceed to murder after the manner of robbers, or secretly to hire assassins. Thirdly, they show that the wicked conspiracy of those men was frustrated, because, by the secret purpose of God, Christ was appointed to the death of the cross.
MATTHEW 21:23-27; MARK 11:27-33; LUKE 20:1-8
MATTHEW 21:23-27
MARK 11:27-33
LUKE 20:1-8
23. And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and elders of the people came to him, saying By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee that authority? f23 24. And Jesus answering said to them, I also will ask you something, which if you shall tell me, I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25. Whence was the baptism of John? From heaven, or from men? But they thought within themselves saying, If we shall say, From heaven, he will say to us, Why then did you not believe him? 26. But if we shall say, From men, we dread the multitude, for they all hold John for a prophet. 27. And answering Jesus, they said, We do not know. And he saith to them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.
27. And they come again to Jerusalem; and while he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, and scribes, and elders, come to him. 28. And they say to him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee that authority f23A to do these things? 29. And Jesus answering said to them, I will also ask you something, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30. Whether was the baptism of John from heaven or from men? Answer me. 31. And they thought within themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven, he will say, Why then did you not believe him? 32. But if we say, From men, they dreaded the people; f24 for all reckoned John that he was truly a prophet. 33. And they answering say to Jesus, We do not know. And Jesus answering saith to them, Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
1. And it happened on one of those days, while he was teaching the people in the temple, and preaching the gospel, the chief priests, and scribes, with the elders, came upon him, 2. And spoke to him saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee that authority? 3. And Jesus answering said to them, I will also ask you something, and answer me. 4. Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? 5. But they reasoned within themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven, he will say, Why then did you not believe him? 6. But if we shall say, From men, all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John is a prophet. 7. And they answered, That they did not know whence it was. 8. And Jesus said to them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.

Matthew 21:23. By what authority doest thou these things. As the other schemes and open attempts to attack Christ had not succeeded, the priests and scribes now attempt, by indirect methods, if they may possibly cause him to desist from the practice of teaching. They do not debate with him as to the doctrine itself, whether it was true or not—for already had they often enough attacked him in vain on that question—but they raise a dispute as to his calling and commission. And, indeed, there were plausible grounds; for since a man ought not, of his own accord, to intermeddle either with the honor of priesthood, or with the prophetical office, but ought to wait for the calling of God, much less would any man be at liberty to claim for himself the title of Messiah, unless it were evident that he had been chosen by God; for he must have been appointed, not only by the voice of God, but likewise by an oath, as it is written, (<19B004>Psalm 110:4; <580721>Hebrews 7:21.)
But when the divine majesty of Christ had been attested by so many miracles, they act maliciously and wickedly in inquiring whence he came, as if they had been ignorant of all that he had done. For what could be more unreasonable than that., after seeing the hand of God openly displayed in curing the lame and blind, they should doubt if he were a private individual who had rashly assumed this authority? Besides, more than enough of evidence had been already laid before them., that Christ was sent from heaven., so that nothing was farther from their wish than to approve of the performances of Christ, after having learned that God was the Author of them. They therefore insist on this., that he is not a lawful minister of God, because he had not been chosen by their votes, as if the power had dwelt solely with them. But though they had been the lawful guardians of the Church, still it was monstrous to rise up against God. We now understand why Christ did not make a direct reply to them. It was because they wickedly and shamelessly interrogated him about a matter which was well known.
25. Whence was the baptism of John? Christ interrogates them about the baptism of John, not only to show that they were unworthy of any authority, because they had despised a holy prophet of God, but also to convict them, by their own reply, of having impudently pretended ignorance of a matter with which they were well acquainted. For we must bear in mind why John was sent, what was his commission, and on what subject he most of all insisted. He had been sent as Christ’s herald. He was not deficient in his duty, and claims nothing more for himself than to
prepare the way of the Lord.
(<390301>Malachi 3:1;<420727>Luke 7:27.)
In short., he had pointed out Christ with the finger, and had declared him to be the only Son of God. From what source then do the scribes mean that the new authority of Christ should be proved, since it had been fully attested by the preaching of John?
We now see that Christ employed no cunning stratagem in order to escape, but fully and perfectly answered the question which had been proposed; for it was impossible to acknowledge that John was a servant of God, without acknowledging that he was Himself the Lord. He did not therefore shelter arrogant men, f25 who without any commission, but out of their own hardihood, take upon themselves a public office; nor did he countenance, by his example, the art of suppressing the truth, as many crafty men falsely plead his authority. I do acknowledge that, if wicked men lay snares for us, we ought not always to reply in the same way, but ought to be prudently on our guard against their malice, yet in such a manner that truth may not be left without a proper defense.
Baptism denotes here not only the sign of washing, but the whole ministry of John; for Christ intended to draw out a reply, Was John a true and lawful prophet of God, or an impostor? Yet this mode of expression contains a useful doctrine, Is the of John from God, or from men? For hence we infer, that no doctrine and no sacrament ought to be received among the godly, unless it be evident that it has come from God; and that men are not at liberty to make any invention of this nature. The discourse relates to John, whom our Lord, in another passage, raises, by a remarkable commendation, above all the prophets, (<420726>Luke 7:26, 28.) Yet Christ declares that his baptism ought not to be received, unless it had been enjoined by God. What, then, must we say of the pretended sacraments, which men of no authority have foolishly introduced without any command from God? For Christ plainly declares by these words, that the whole government of the Church depends on the will of God in such a manner, that men have no right to introduce any thing from themselves.
But they thought within themselves. Here we perceive the impiety of the priests. They do not inquire what is true, nor do they put the question to their own conscience; f26 and they are so base as to choose rather to shuffle than to acknowledge what they know to be true, that their tyranny may not be impaired. In this manner, all wicked men, though they pretend to be desirous of learning, shut the gate of truth, if they feel it to be opposed to their wicked desires. So then Christ does not allow those men to go without a reply, but sends them away ashamed and confounded, and, by bringing forward the testimony of John, sufficiently proves that he is furnished with divine power. f27
MATTHEW 21:28-32
MATTHEW 21:28-32
28. But what think you? f28 A man had two sons, and, coming to the first, he said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. 29. And he answering said, I will not; f29 but afterwards he repented, and went. 30. And coming to the other, he spoke in the same manner. But he answering said, I [go,] Sir, and went not. 31. Which of the two did what his father wished? f30 And they say to him, The first. Jesus saith to them, Verily I say to you, That the publicans and the harlots will go before you into the kingdom of God. 32. For John came to you by the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but the publicans and the harlots believed him. And you, when you had seen it, were not moved by repentance f31 to believe in him.

This conclusion shows what is the object of the parable, when Christ prefers to the scribes and priests those who were generally accounted infamous and held in detestation; for he unmasks those hypocrites, f32 that they may no longer boast of being the ministers of God, or hold out a pretended zeal for godliness. Though their ambition, and pride, and cruelty, and avarice, were known to all, yet they wished to be reckoned quite different persons. And when, but a little ago, they attacked Christ, they falsely alleged that they were anxious about the order of the Church, as if they were its faithful and honest guardians. Since they attempt to practice such gross imposition on God and men, Christ rebukes their impudence by showing that they were at the greatest possible distance from what they boasted, and were so far from deserving that elevation with which they flattered themselves, that they ranked below the publicans and the harlots. For as to the profession which they made of being eminent in observing the worship of God, and of being zealots of the Law, Christ tells them that it is quite as if a son were, in words, to promise obedience to his father, but afterwards to deceive him. f33 So far as regards the publicans and the harlots, he does not excuse their vices, but compares their dissolute life to the obstinacy of a rebellious and debauched son, who at first throws off his father’s authority; but shows that they are greatly preferable to the scribes and Pharisees in this respect, that they do not continue to the end in their vices, but, on the contrary, submit gently and obediently to the yoke which they had fiercely rejected. We now perceive the design of Christ. Not only does he reproach the priests and scribes with obstinately opposing God, and not repenting, though so frequently admonished, but he strips them of the honor of which they were unworthy, because their ungodliness was worse than the lasciviousness of the harlots.
30. I, Sir. f34 This phrase is borrowed from the Hebrew language; for, when the Hebrews wish to offer their services, and to declare that they are ready to obey, they speak in this manner, “Here I am, Sir,” It is a laudable virtue in itself, as soon as God has spoken, to yield to Him ready and cheerful obedience; and Christ does not here give the commendation to slowness. But as both are improper—to delay before doing your duty, and to promise what you do not perform—Christ shows that this hypocrisy is less to be endured than the fierceness which, in process of time, is subdued.
32. For John came. As John was a faithful servant of God, whatever he taught Christ ascribes to God himself. It might have been more fully expressed thus: God came pointing out the way of righteousness by the mouth of John; but as John spoke in the name of God, and not as a private individual, he is most properly named instead of God. Now this passage gives no small authority to the preaching of the word, when those persons are said to have been disobedient and rebellious against God, who despised the pious and holy warnings of a teacher whom tie had sent.
There are some who give a more ingenious exposition of the word righteousness, and I allow them to enjoy their own opinion; but, for my own part, I think that it means nothing more than that John’s doctrine was pure and right; as if Christ had said, that they had no good reason for rejecting him. When he says that the publicans believed, he does not mean that they assented in words, but that they sincerely embraced what they had heard. Hence we infer, that faith does not consist solely in a person’s giving his assent to true doctrine, but that it embraces something greater and loftier, that the hearer, renouncing himself, devotes his life wholly to God. By saying that they were not moved even by such an example, he presents an aggravated view of their malice; for it was an evidence of the lowest depravity, not even to follow the harlots and the publicans. f35
MATTHEW 21:33-46; MARK 12:1-12; LUKE 20:9-19
MATTHEW 21:33-46
MARK 21:1-12
LUKE 20:9-19
33. Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, who planted a vineyard, and surrounded it by a ditch, and dug a wine-press in it, and built a tower, and let it to husbandmen, and went abroad, 34. And when the season of the fruits drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive its fruits. 35. And the husbandmen, having seized his servants, wounded one, killed another, and stoned another. 36. Again, he sent other servants more numerous f36 than the first, and they did to them in the same manner. 37. And last of all he sent to them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. 38. And when the husbandmen saw his son, they said within themselves, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, and seize on his inheritance. 39. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40. When therefore the proprietor of the vineyard shall come, what will he do to those husbandmen? 41. They say to him, Since they are wicked, he will miserably destroy them, and will let his vineyard to other husbandmen, who will render to him the fruit in its seasons. 42. Jesus saith to them, Have you never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected is made the head of the corner; f37 this is done by the Lord, and is wonderful in our eyes? f38 43. Therefore I say to you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation yielding its fruits. 44. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be bruised, but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will crush him. 45. And when the chief priests and Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that he spoke of them. 46. And though they sought to take him, they dreaded the multitudes, because they reckoned him a prophet.
1. And he began to speak to them by parables: A man planted a vineyard, and surrounded it by a hedge, and dug a ditch, f39 and built a tower, and let it to husbandmen and went abroad. 2. And at the proper season he sent a servant, to the husbandmen to receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. 3. But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. 4. And again he sent to them another servant; and they threw stones at him, and bruised his head, and sent him away disgraced. 5. And again he sent another, and him they killed, and many others, beating some and killing some. 6. And while he had yet one son, f40 his well-beloved, he sent him also last to them, saying, They will reverence my son. 7. But the husbandmen said within themselves, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. 8. And they seized him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. 9. What then will the proprietor of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the husbandmen, and give the vineyard to others. 10. And have you not read the Scripture, The stone which the builders rejected is made the head of the corner; 11. This is done by the Lord, and is wonderful in our eyes? f41 12. And they sought to take him, and dreaded the multitude; for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went away.
9. And he began to speak to the people this parable: A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it to husbandmen, and went abroad for a long time. 10. And at the proper season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they might give him of the fruit of the vineyard; and they beat him, and sent him away empty. 11. And again he sent yet another servant; and him also they wounded, and drove out. 13. And the proprietor of the vineyard said, What shall I do? I will send my well-beloved son; perhaps they will reverence him when they see him. 14. But when the husbandmen saw him, they thought within themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. 15. And they cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. What then shall the proprietor of the vineyard do to them? 16. He will come and destroy those husbandmen, and give the vineyard to others. And when they heard this, they said, God forbid. 17. And he looked at them, and said, What then is this that is written, The stone which the builders rejected is made the head of the corner? 18. Every one that shall fall on this stone will be bruised; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will crush him. 19. And the chief priests and scribes sought at that hour to lay hands on him; (and they dreaded the people;) for they knew that he had spoken this parable against them.

Matthew 21:33. Hear another parable. The words of Luke are somewhat different; for he says that Christ spoke to the people, while here the discourse is addressed to the priests and scribes. But the solution is easy; for, though Christ spoke against them, he exposed their baseness in the presence of all the people. Mark says that Christ began to speak by parables, but leaves out what was first in order, as also in other passages he gives only a part of the whole. The substance of this parable is, that it is no new thing, if the priests and the other rulers of the Church wickedly endeavor to defraud God of his right; for long ago they practiced the same kind of robbery towards the prophets, and now they are ready to slay his Son; but they will not go unpunished, for God will arise to defend his right. The object is two-fold; first, to reproach the priests with base and wicked ingratitude; and, secondly, to remove the offense which would be occasioned by his approaching death. For, by means of a false title, they had gained such influence over simple persons and the ignorant multitude, that the religion of the Jews depended on their will and decision. Christ therefore forewarns the weak, and shows that, as so many prophets, one after another, had formerly been slain by the priests, no one ought to be distressed, if a similar instance were exhibited in his own person. But let us now examine it in detail.
A man planted a vineyard. This comparison frequently occurs in Scripture. With respect to the present passage, Christ only means that, while God appoints pastors over his Church, he does not convey his right to others, but acts in the same manner as if a proprietor were to let a vineyard or field to a husbandman, who would labor in the cultivation of it, and make an annual return. As he complains by Isaiah (5:4) and Jeremiah, (2:21,) that he had received no fruit from the vine on the cultivation of which he had bestowed so much labor and expense; so in this passage he accuses the vine-dressers themselves, who, like base swindlers, appropriate to themselves the produce of the vineyard. Christ says that the vineyard was well furnished, and in excellent condition, when the husbandmen received it from the hands of the proprietor. By this statement he presents no slight aggravation of their crime; for the more generously he had acted toward them, the more detestable was their ingratitude. Paul employs the same argument, when he wishes to exhort pastors to be diligent in the discharge of their duty, that they are stewards, chosen to govern the house of God, which is the
pillar and round of truth, (<540316>1 Timothy 3:16.)
And properly; for the more honorable and illustrious their condition is, they lie under so much the deeper obligations to God, not to be indolent in their work. So much the more detestable (as we have already said) is the baseness of those who pour contempt on the great kindness of God, and on the great honor which they have already received from Him.
God planted a vineyard, f42 when, remembering his gratuitous adoption, he brought the people out of Egypt, separated them anew to be his inheritance, and called them to the hope of eternal salvation, promising to be their God and Father; for this is the planting of which Isaiah speaks, (60:21; 61:3.) By the wine-press and the tower are meant the aids which were added for strengthening the faith of the people in the doctrine of the Law, such as, sacrifices and other ritual observances; for God, like a careful and provident head of a family, has left no means untried for granting to his Church all necessary protection.
And let it to husbandmen. God might indeed of himself, without the agency of men, preserve his Church in good order; but he takes men for his ministers, and makes use of their hands. Thus, of old, he appointed priests to be, as it were, cultivators of the vineyard. But the wonder is, that Christ compares the prophets to servants, who are sent, after the vintage, to demand the fruit; f43 for we know that they too were vine-dressers, and that they held a charge in common with the priests. I reply, it was not necessary for Christ to be careful or exact in describing the resemblance or contrariety between those two orders. The priests were certainly appointed at first on the condition of thoroughly cultivating the Church by sound doctrine; but as they neglected the work assigned them, either through carelessness or ignorance, the prophets were sent as an extraordinary supply, to clear the vine from weeds, to lop off the superfluous wood, and in other ways to make up for the neglect of the priests; and, at the same time, severely to reprove the people, to raise up decayed piety, to awaken drowsy souls, and to bring back the worship of God and a new life. And what else was this than to demand the revenue which was due to God from his vineyard? All this Christ applies justly and truly to his purpose; for the regular and permanent government of his Church was not in the hands of the prophets, but was always held by the priests; just as if lazy husbandman, while he neglected cultivation, claimed the place to which he had been once appointed, under the plea of possession.
35. And wounded one, and killed another. Here Mark andLuke differ a little from Matthew; for while Matthew mentions many servants, all of whom were ill-treated and insulted, and says that afterwards other servants were sent more numerous than the first, Mark and Luke mention but one at a time, as if the servants had been sent, not two or three together, but one after another. But though all the three Evangelists have the same object in view, namely, to show that the Jews will dare to act towards the Son in the same manner as they have repeatedly done towards the prophets, Matthew explains the matter more at large, namely, that God, by sending a multitude of prophets, contended with the malice of the priests. f44 Hence it appears how obstinate their malice was, for the correction of which no remedies were of any avail. f45
37. They will reverence my son. Strictly speaking, indeed, this thought does not apply to God; for He knew what would happen, and was not deceived by the expectation of a more agreeable result; but it is customary, f46 especially in parables, to ascribe to Him human feelings. And yet this was not added without reason; for Christ intended to represent, as in a mirror, how deplorable their impiety was, of which it was too certain a proof, that they rose in diabolical rage against the Son of God, who had come to bring them back to a sound mind. f47 As they had formerly, as far as lay in their power, driven God from his inheritance by the cruel murder of the prophets, so it was the crowning point of all their crimes to slay the Son, that they might reign, as in a house which wanted an heir. Certainly the chief reason why the priests raged against Christ was, that, they might not lose their tyranny, which might be said to be their prey; f48 for he it is by whom God chooses to govern, and to whom He has given all authority.
The Evangelists differ also a little in the conclusion. For Matthew relates that he drew from them the confession, by which they condemned themselves; while Mark says simply that Christ declared what punishment must await servants so unprincipled and wicked. Luke differs, at first sight, more openly, by saying that they turned away with horror from the punishment which Christ had threatened. But if we examine the meaning more closely, there is no contradiction; for, in regard to the punishment which such servants deserved, there can be no doubt that they agreed with Christ, but when they perceived that both the crime and the punishment were made to apply to themselves, they deprecated that application.
42. Have you never read in the Scriptures? We must remember what we said a little before, that, as the priests and scribes kept the people devoted to them, it was a principle current among them, that they alone were competent to judge and decide as to the future redemption, so that no one ought to be received as Messiah, unless he were approved and sanctioned by their voice. They therefore maintain that what Christ had said is impossible, that they would slay the son and heir of the proprietor of the vineyard. But Christ confirms his statement by the testimony of Scripture, and the interrogation is emphatic, as if he had said, “You reckon it highly absurd to say that it is possible for the vine dressers to conspire wickedly against the Son of God. But what then? Did the Scripture (<19B822>Psalm 118:22) foretell that he would be received with joy, and favor, and applause; or did it not, on the contrary, foretell that the rulers themselves would oppose him?”
The passage which he quotes is taken from the same psalm from which had been taken that joyful exclamation, f49 Save, f50 O Lord. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. That it is a prediction of the reign of the Messiah is evident from this consideration, that David was appointed by God to be king, on the condition that his throne would remain forever, so long as the sun and moon would shine in heaven, and that, when decayed, it would again be restored by the favor of God to its former prosperity. Since, therefore, that psalm contains a description of the reign of David, there is also added the perpetuity of it, on which the restoration depends. If the discourse had related to any temporal reign, Christ would have acted improperly in applying it to himself. But we must also observe what sort of reign God raised up in the person of David. It was that which He would establish in the true Messiah to the end of the world; for that ancient anointing was but a shadow. Hence we infer that what was done in the person of David was a prelude and figure of Christ.
Let us now return to the words of the psalm. The scribes and priests reckoned it incredible that Christ should be rejected f51 by the rulers of the Church. But he proves from the psalm, that he would be placed on his throne by the wonderful power of God, contrary to the will of men, and that this had already been shadowed out in David, whom, though rejected by the nobles, God took to give an instance and proof of what he would at length do in his Christ. The prophet takes the metaphor from buildings; for, since the Church is God’s sanctuary, Christ, on whom it is founded, is justly called the corner stone; that is, the stone which supports the whole weight of the building. If one were to examine minutely every thing that relates to Christ, the comparison would not apply in every part; but it is perfectly appropriate, for on him the salvation of the Church rests, and by him its condition is preserved. And therefore the other prophets followed the same form of expression, particularly Isaiah and Daniel. But Isaiah makes the closest allusion to this passage, when he represents God as thus speaking,
Lo, I lay in Zion a foundation-stone, a precious and elect stone, against which both houses of Israel shall stumble!
(<232816>Isaiah 28:16.)
The same mode of expression frequently occurs in the New Testament.
The amount of it therefore is, that the kingdom of God will be founded on a stone, which the builders themselves will reject as unsuitable and useless; and the meaning is, that the Messiah, who is the foundation of the safety of the Church, will not be chosen by the ordinary suffrages of men, but that, when God shall miraculously raise him up by a secret and unknown power, the rulers, to whom has been committed the care of the building, will oppose and persecute him. There are two things here which we ought to consider. First, that we may not be perplexed by the wicked attempts of men, who rise up to hinder the reign of Christ, God has warned us beforehand that this will happen. Secondly, whatever may be the contrivances of men, God has at the same time declared, that in setting up the kingdom of Christ, His power will be victorious. Both ought to be carefully observed by us. It appears to be monstrous that the Author of salvation should be rejected, not by strangers, but by those who belonged to his own household,—not by the ignorant multitude, but by the rulers themselves, who hold the government of the Church. Against such strange madness of men our faith ought to be fortified, that it may not give way through the novelty of the occurrence. We now perceive how useful that prediction is, which relieves godly minds from the terror that would otherwise be produced by the mournful spectacle. For nothing is more unreasonable than that the members should rise up against the head, the vine-dressers against the proprietor, the counselors against their king, and that the builders should reject the foundation of the building.
That stone is made the head of the corner. Still more emphatic is this clause, in which God declares that the wicked, by rejecting Christ, will avail nothing, but that his rank will remain unimpaired. The design of it is, that believers, relying on that promise, may safely look down with contempt and derision on the wicked pride of men; for when they have made all their contrivances, Christ will still, ill opposition to their wishes, retain the place which the Father has appointed to him. How fiercely soever he may be assailed by those who appear to possess honor and dignity, he will nevertheless remain in his own rank, and will abate nothing on account of their wicked contempt. In short, the authority of God will prevail, that he may be the elect and precious stone, which supports the Church of God, his kingdom and temple. The stone is said to be made the head of the corner, not that he is only a part of the building, (since it is evident from other passages that the Church is entirely founded on Him alone,) but the prophet merely intended to state that he will be the chief support of the building. Some go into ingenious arguments about the word corner, that Christ is placed in the corner, because he unites two separate walls, the Gentiles and Jews. But in my opinion, David meant nothing more than that the corner-stone supports the chief weight of the building.
It may now be asked, How does the Spirit call those men builders, who are so strongly bent on the ruin and destruction of the temple of God? For Paul boasts of having been an honest builder, because he founded the Church on Christ alone, (<460310>1 Corinthians 3:10, 11.) The answer is easy. Though they are unfaithful in the execution of the office committed to them, yet he gives them this title with respect to their calling. Thus the name prophet is often given to deceivers, and those who devour the flock like wolves are called pastors. And so far is this from conferring honor on them, that it renders them detestable, when they utterly overthrow the temple of God, which they were appointed to build. Hence we draw a useful warning, that the lawful calling does not prevent those who ought to have been the ministers of Christ from being sometimes his base and wicked enemies. The legal priesthood had certainly been appointed by God, and the Lord had bestowed on the Levites permission to govern the Church. Did they therefore discharge their office faithfully? or ought the godly to have obeyed them by renouncing Christ?
Let the Pope now go with his mitered bishops, and let them boast that they ought to be believed in all things, because they occupy the place of pastors. Even granting that they were lawfully called to the government of the Church, yet they have no right to claim any thing more than to hold the title of prelates of the Church. But even the title of calling does not belong to them; for, in order to raise them to that tyranny, it would be necessary that the whole order of the Church should be overturned. And even though they might justly claim ordinary jurisdiction, yet, if they overturn the sacred house of God, it is only in name that they must be reckoned builders. Nor does it always happen that Christ is rejected by those who are entrusted with the government of the Church; for not only were there many godly priests under the Law, but also, under the reign of Christ, there are some pastors who labor diligently and honestly in building the Church; but as it was necessary that this prediction should be fulfilled, that the builders should reject the stone, wisdom must be exercised in distinguishing between them. And the Holy Spirit has expressly warned us, that none may be mistaken as to an empty title or the dignity of calling.
This has been done by the Lord, As it is a matter too far removed from the ordinary judgment of men, that the pastors of the Church should themselves reject the Son of God from being their Prince, the prophet refers it to the secret purpose of God, which, though we cannot comprehend it by our senses, we ought to contemplate and admire. Let us therefore understand, that this cuts short every question, and that every man is expressly forbidden to judge and measure the nature of Christ’s kingdom by the reason of the flesh; for what folly is it to wish to subject to the capacity of our mind a miracle which the prophet exhorts us to adore? Will you then receive nothing but what appears to yourself to be probable, in reference to the kingdom of Christ, the commencement of which the Holy Spirit declares to be a mystery worthy of the highest admiration, because it is concealed from the eyes of men? So then, whenever the question relates to the origin, restoration, condition, and the whole safety of the Church, we must not consult our senses, f52 but must honor the power of God by admiring his hidden work. f53 There is also an implied contrast between God and men; for not only are we commanded to embrace the wonderful method of governing the Church, because it is the work of God, but we are likewise withdrawn from a foolish reverence for men, which frequently obscures the glow of God; as if the prophet had said, that however magnificent may be the titles which men bear, it is wicked in any man to oppose them to God.
This furnishes a refutation of the diabolical wickedness of the Papists, who do not scruple to prefer to the word of God a decision of their pretended Church. For on what does the authority of the word of God depend, according to them, but on the opinion of men, so that no more power is left to God than what the Church is pleased to allow him? Far otherwise does the Spirit instruct us by this passage namely, that as soon as the majesty of God f54 appears, the whole world ought to be silent.
43. Therefore I say to you. Hitherto Christ directed his discourse to rulers and governors, but in presence of the people. Now, however, he addresses in the same manner the people themselves, and not without reason, for they had been the companions and assistants of the priests and scribes in hindering the grace of God. It was from the priests, no doubt, that the evil arose, but the people had already deserved, on account of their sins, to have such corrupt and degenerate pastors. Besides, the whole body was infected, as it were, by a similar malice to resist God. This is the reason why Christ denounces against all indiscriminately the dreadful vengeance of God; for as the priests were inflated with the desire of holding the highest power, so the rest of the people gloried on the ground of having been adopted. Christ now declares that God was not bound to them, and, therefore, that he will convey to another the honor of which they rendered themselves unworthy. And this, no doubt, was once spoken to them, but was written for the sake of all of us, that, if God choose us to be His people, we may not grow wanton through a vain and wicked confidence in the flesh, but may endeavor, on our part, to perform the duties which he enjoins on his children;
for if he spared not the natural branches, (<451121>Romans 11:21,)
what will he do with those which were engrafted? The Jews thought that the kingdom of God dwelt among them by hereditary right, and therefore they adhered obstinately to their vices. We have unexpectedly come into their room contrary to nature, and therefore much less is the kingdom of God bound to us, if it be not rooted in true godliness.
Now as our minds ought to be struck with terror by the threatening of Christ, that those who have profaned the kingdom of God will be deprived of it, so the perpetuity of that kingdom, which is here described, may afford comfort to all the godly. For by these words Christ assures us that, though the ungodly destroyed the worship of God among themselves, they would never cause the name of Christ to be abolished, or true religion to perish; for God, in whose hand are all the ends of the earth, will find elsewhere a dwelling and habitation for his kingdom. We ought also to learn from this passage, that the Gospel is not preached in order that it may lie barren and inoperative, but that it may yield fruit.
44. And he who shall fall on this stone. Christ confirms more fully the former statement, that he suffers no loss or diminution when he is rejected by the wicked, because, though their obstinacy were like a stone or like iron, yet by his own hardness he will break them, and therefore he will be the more highly glorified in their destruction. He perceived in the Jews an astonishing obstinacy, and therefore it was necessary that this kind of punishment should be described to them in an alarming manner, that they might not flatter themselves, while they thus dashed against him. This doctrine partly instructs us to give ourselves up gently, with a mild and tractable heart, to the dominion of Christ, and partly fortifies us against the obstinacy and furious attacks of the wicked, for whom there awaits a dreadful end.
Those persons are said to fall upon Christ, who rush forward to destroy him; not that they occupy a more elevated position than he does, but because their madness carries them so far, that they endeavor to attack Christ as if he were below them. But Christ tells them that all that they will gain by it is, that by the very conflict they will be broken. But when they have thus proudly exalted themselves, he tells them that another thing will happen, which is, that they will be bruised under the stone, against which they so insolently dashed themselves.
45. They knew that he spoke of them. The Evangelists show how little success Christ had, that we may not wonder if the doctrine of the Gospel does not bring all men, in the present day, to yield obedience to God. Let us also learn that it is impossible but that the rage of ungodly men will be more and more inflamed by threatenings; for as God seals his word on our hearts, so also it is a hot iron to wound bad consciences, in consequence of which their ungodliness is the more inflamed. We ought therefore to pray that he would subdue us to voluntary fear, lest the mere knowledge of his vengeance should exasperate us the more. When they are restrained solely by the dread of the people from laying their hands on Christ, let us learn that God had laid a bridle on them; from which also arises a very delightful consolation to believers, when they learn that God protects them, and constantly enables them to escape from the jaws of death.
MATTHEW 22:15-22; MARK 12:13-17;
LUKE 20:20-26
MATTHEW 22:15-22
MARK 12:13-17
LUKE 20:20-26
15. Then the Pharisees went away, and took counsel how they might entrap him in his words. 16. And they send to him their disciples, with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, and carest not for any man; for thou regardest not the person of men. 17. Tell us then, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not? 18. But Jesus, perceiving their wickedness, saith, Why do you tempt me, hypocrites? 19. Show me the tribute money. And they presented to him a denarius. 20. And he saith to them, Whose is this image and inscription? 21. They say to him, Caesar’s. Then said he to them, Render therefore to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and to God the things which are God’s. 22. And having heard these things, they wondered, and left him, and went away.
13. And they send to him certain Pharisees and Herodians, to entrap him in his words 14. And they, when they came, said to him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest not for any man; for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? Shall we give, or shall we not give? 15. But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, Why do you tempt me? Bring me a denarius, that I may see it. 16. And they brought it; and he saith to them, Whose is this image and inscription? And they said to him, Caesars. 17. And Jesus answering said to them, Render to Caesar those things which are Caesar’s, and to God those things which are God’s. f55 And they wondered at him. f56
20. And they watched him, and sent spies, who would pretend to be righteous men, to entrap him in his words, and to deliver him to the authority and power of the governor. 21. And they put a question to him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest uprightly, and regardest not a person, f57 but teachest the way of God in truth. 22. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not? 23. And having perceived their craftiness, he said to them, Why do you tempt me? 24. Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription hath it? They answering said, Caesar’s. 25. And he said to them, Render therefore to Caesar those things which are Caesar’s, and to God those things which are God’s. 26. And they could not find fault with his words in presence of the people; and wondering at his reply, they were silent.

Matthew 22:15. That they might entrap him in his words. The Pharisees, perceiving that all their other attempts against Christ had been fruitless, at length concluded that the best and most expeditious method of destroying him was, to deliver him to the governor, as a seditious person and a disturber of the peace. There was at that time, as we have seen under another passage, f58 a great disputing among the Jews about the tribute-money; for, since the Romans had claimed for themselves the tribute-money, which God commanded to be paid to Himself under the Law of Moses, (<023013>Exodus 30:13,) the Jews everywhere complained that it was a shameful and intolerable crime for profane men to lay claim, in this manner, to a divine prerogative; besides that, as this payment of tribute, which was enjoined on them by the Law, was a testimony of their adoption, they looked upon themselves as deprived of an honor to which they had a just claim. Now the deeper any man’s poverty was, f59 the bolder did it render him to raise sedition.
This trick of taking Christ by surprise is therefore continued by the Pharisees, that, in whatever way he reply as to the tribute money, they may lay snares for him. If he affirm that they ought not to pay, he will be convicted of sedition. If, on the contrary, he acknowledge it to be justly due, he will be held to be an enemy of his nation, and a betrayer of the liberty of his country. Their principal object is, to lead the people to dislike him. This is the entrapping to which the Evangelists refer; for they suppose that Christ is surrounded on all sides by nets, so that he can no longer escape. Having avowed themselves to be his enemies, and knowing that they would, on that account, be suspected, they put forward—as Matthew states—some of their disciples. Luke, again, calls them spies, who pretended to be righteous men; that is, persons who deceitfully professed an honest and proper desire to learn: for the pretense of righteousness is not here used in a general sense, but is limited to the present occasion, because they would not have been received, had they not made a pretense of docility and of genuine zeal.
With the Herodians. They take along with them the Herodians, because they were more favorable to the Roman government, and therefore would be more disposed to raise an accusation. It is worthy of attention that, though those sects had fierce contentions with each other, so bitter was their hatred against Christ, that they conspired to destroy him. What the sect of the Herodions was, we have formerly explained f60 for, Herod being only half a Jew, or a spurious and corrupt professor of the Law, those who desired that the Law should be kept with exactness and in every part, condemned him and his impure worship; but he had his flatterers, who gave plausible excuses for his false doctrine. In addition to the other sects, therefore, there sprung up at that time a religion of the Court.
16. Master, we know that thou art true. This is the righteousness which they counterfeit, when they offer humble subjection to Christ, as if they were desirous to learn, and as if they not only had some relish for piety, but also were fully convinced of his doctrine; for if what they said had been from the heart, this would have been true uprightness. And therefore from their words we may obtain a definition of a good and faithful teacher, such as they pretended to believe Christ to be. They say that he is true, and teaches the way of God; that is, he is a faithful interpreter of God, and that he teaches it in truth; that is, without any corruption. The way of God is contrasted with the inventions of men, and with all foreign doctrines; and truth is contrasted with ambition, covetousness, and other wicked dispositions, which usually corrupt the purity of instruction. So then he ought to be reckoned a true teacher, who does not introduce the contrivances of men, or depart from the pure word of God, but gives out, as it were, with his hands what he has learned from the mouth of God, and who, from a sincere desire of edification, accommodates his doctrine to the advantage and salvation of the people, and does not debase it by any disguise. As to this latter clause, when Paul asserts that he
does not MAKE MERCHANDISE of the word of God,
(<470217>2 Corinthians 2:17,)
he means that there are some persons who use dexterity, and do not openly overturn sound doctrine, or incur the disgrace of holding wicked opinions, but who disguise and corrupt the purity of doctrine, because they are ambitious, or covetous, or easily turned in various directions according to their earnest desire. He therefore compares them to jockeys, (kuphlleu>ontev,) because they deprave the pure use of the word of God.
For thou regardest not the person of men. It is also worthy of attention, that those hypocrites likewise add, that Christ teaches rightly, because he has no regard for the person of men. Nothing has a more powerful tendency to withdraw teachers from a faithful and upright dispensation of the word than to pay respect to men; for it is impossible that any one who
desires to please men (<480110>Galatians 1:10)
should truly devote himself to God. Some attention, no doubt, is due to men, but not so as to obtain their favor by flattery. In short, in order to walk uprightly, we must necessarily put away respect of persons, which obscures the light and perverts right judgment, as God frequently inculcates in the Law, (<050116>Deuteronomy 1:16; 16:19,) and as experience also points out. Thus Christ (<430724>John 7:24) contrasts acceptance of persons (proswpolhyi>an) and sound judgment as things totally different.
18. Knowing their malice. They had opened the conversation in such a manner that they did not appear to differ at all from excellent scholars. Whence then had Christ this knowledge, but because his Spirit was a discerner of hearts? It was not by human conjecture that he perceived their cunning, but because he was God he penetrated into their hearts, and therefore they gained nothing by attempting the concealment of flattery and of pretended righteousness. Accordingly, before giving a reply, he exhibited a proof of his Divinity by laying open their concealed malice. Now since wicked men every day employ snares of the same kind, while their inward malice is concealed from us, we ought to pray to Christ to bestow upon us the spirit of discernment, and that what he had by nature and by his own right he may grant to us by a free gift. How much we need this prudence, is evident from the consideration that, if we do not guard against the snares of the wicked, we shall constantly expose the doctrine of God to their calumnies.
19. Show me the tribute-money. When Christ orders them to bring forward a coin, though at first sight it appears to be of no great importance, yet it is sufficient for breaking their snares. In this way they had already made an acknowledgment of subjection, so that Christ did not find it necessary to enjoin upon them any thing new. The coin was stamped with Caesar’s likeness; and thus the authority of the Roman government had been approved and admitted by the general practice. Hence it was evident that the Jews themselves had voluntarily come under obligation to pay tribute for they had given up to the Romans the power of the sword; f61 and there was no propriety in making a separate dispute about the tribute-money, for that question depended on the general arrangements of the government.
21. Render therefore to Caesar those things which are Caesar’s. Christ reminds them that, as the subjection of their nation was attested by the coin, there ought to be no debate on that subject; as if he had said, “If you think it strange to pay tribute, be not subjects of the Roman Empire. But the money (which men employ as the pledge of mutual exchanges) attests that Caesar rules over you; so that, by your own silent consent, the liberty to which you lay claim is lost and gone.” Christ’s reply does not leave the matter open, but contains full instruction on the question which had been proposed. It lays down a clear distinction between spiritual and civil government, in order to inform us that outward subjection does not prevent us from having within us a conscience free in the sight of God. For Christ intended to refute the error of those who did not think that they would be the people of God, unless they were free from every yoke of human authority. In like manner, Paul earnestly insists on this point, that they ought not the less to look upon themselves as serving God alone, if they obey human laws, if they pay tribute, and bend the neck to bear other burdens, (<451307>Romans 13:7.) In short, Christ declares that it is no violation of the authority of God, or any injury done to his service, if, in respect of outward government, the Jews obey the Romans.
He appears also to glance at their hypocrisy, because, while they carelessly permitted the service of God to be corrupted in many respects, and even wickedly deprived God of his authority, they displayed such ardent zeal about a matter of no importance; as if he had said, “You are exceedingly afraid, lest, if tribute be paid to the Romans, the honor of God may be infringed; but you ought rather to take care to yield to God that service which he demands from you, and, at the same the to render to men what is their due.” We might be apt to think, no doubt, that the distinction does not apply; for, strictly speaking, when we perform our duty towards men, we thereby render obedience to God. But Christ, accommodating his discourse to the common people, reckoned it enough to draw a distinction between the spiritual kingdom of God, on the one hand, and political order and the condition of the present life, on the other. We must therefore attend to this distinction, that, while the Lord wishes to be the only Lawgiver for governing souls, the rule for worshipping Him must not be sought from any other source than from His own word, and that we ought to abide by the only and pure worship which is there enjoined; but that the power of the sword, the laws, and the decisions of tribunals, do not hinder the worship of God from remaining entire amongst us.
But this doctrine extends still farther, that every man, according to his calling, ought to perform the duty which he owes to men; that children ought willingly to submit to their parents, and servants to their masters; that they ought to be courteous and obliging towards each other, according to the law of charity, provided that God always retain the highest authority, to which every thing that can be due to men is, as we say, subordinate. f62 The amount of it therefore is, that those who destroy political order are rebellious against God, and therefore, that obedience to princes and magistrates is always joined to the worship and fear of God; but that, on the other hand, if princes claim any part of the authority of God, we ought not to obey them any farther than can be done without offending God.
22. They wondered at him. Here, too, it appears how God turns to a different purpose the wicked attempts of His enemies, and not only disappoints their expectation, but even drives them back with disgrace. It will sometimes happen, no doubt, that wicked men, though vanquished, do not cease to growl; but, though their insolence be not subdued, however numerous may be their assaults on the Word of God, there is an equal number of victories which God has in his hand, to triumph over them and Satan their head. But in this reply, Christ intended to give a peculiar display of his glory, by compelling those men to depart crowned with shame.
MATTHEW 22:23-33; MARK 12:18-27;
LUKE 20:27-40
Matthew 22:23-33
Mark 12:18-27
Luke 20:27-40
23. The same day came to him the Sadducees, who say that there is no resurrection, and interrogated him, 24. Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, not having a child, f63 his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed to his brother. 25. Now there were amongst us seven brothers, and the first, having married a wife, died, and, having no seed, left his wife to his brother. 26. In like manner, the second, and the third, till the seventh. 27. And last of all the woman died also. 28. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. 29. And Jesus answering said to them, You err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. 30. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. 31. But as to the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32. I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. 33. And when the multitudes heard it, they were astonished at his doctrine.
18. And the Sadducees come to him, who say that there is no resurrection; and they interrogated him, saying, 19. Master, Moses wrote to us, that, if any man’s brother die, and leave a wife, and do not leave children, his brother shall take his wife, and raise up seed to his brother. 20. There were seven brothers; and the first took a wife, and he, dying, left no seed. 21. And the second took her, and died, and neither did he leave any seed; and the third likewise. 22. And the seven took her, and did not leave seed. And last of all the wife died also. 23. In the resurrection, therefore, when they shall rise again, whose wife of them shall she be? for the seven had her for a wife. 24. And Jesus answering said to them, Is it not the reason why you err, that you do not know the Scriptures, nor the power of God? 25. For when they shall rise again from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels of God who are in heaven. 26. But as to the dead, that they rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, how God spoke to him in the bush, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? 27. God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living; therefore you greatly err.
27. And some of the Sadducees, who say that there is no resurrection, came, and interrogated him, 28. Saying, Master, Moses wrote to us, that if any man’s brother die having a wife, and he die without children, his brother shall take his wife, and raise up seed to his brother. 29. Now there were seven brothers, and the first took a wife, and died without children. 30. And the second took her, and also died without children. 31. And the third took her, and in like manner all the seven, and left no children, and died. 32. Last of all the woman also died. 33. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of them shall she be? for the seven had her for a wife. 34. And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage. 35. But they who shall be counted worthy of that world, f64 and of the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36. For they cannot die anymore; for they are equal to the angels, and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. 37. But that the dead rise again, even Moses showed at the bush, when he says that the Lord is the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38. But he is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him. 39. And some of the scribes answering, said, Master, thou hast spoken well. 40. And they did not venture to put any more questions to him.

Matthew 22:23. The same day came to him the Sadducees. We see here how Satan brings together all the ungodly, who in other respects differ widely from each other, to attack the truth of God. For, though deadly strife existed between these two sects, f65 yet they conspire together against Christ; so that the Pharisees are not displeased to have their own doctrine attacked in the person of Christ. Thus in the present day, we see all the forces of Satan, though in other respects they are opposed to each other, rising on every hand against Christ. And so fierce is the hatred with which the Papists burn against the Gospel, that they willingly support Epicureans, Libertines, and other monsters of that description, provided that they can avail themselves of their aid for accomplishing its destruction. In short, we see that they come out of various camps to make an attack on Christ; and that this was done, because all of them alike hated the light of sound doctrine. Now the Sadducees propose a question to Christ, that by the appearance of absurdity they may either lead him to take part in their error, or, if he disagree with them, that they may hold him up to disgrace and ridicule among an uneducated and ignorant multitude. It is no doubt possible, that they had been formerly accustomed to employ this sophistry for harassing the Pharisees, but now they attempt to take Christ in the same snare.
Who say that there is no resurrection. How the sect of the Sadducees originated we have explained under another passage. Luke assures us that they denied not only the final resurrection of the body, but also the immortality of the soul, (<442308>Acts 23:8.) And, indeed, if we consider properly the doctrine of Scripture, the life of the soul, apart from the hope of the resurrection, will be a mere dream; for God does not declare that, immediately after the death of the body, souls live,—as if their glory and happiness were already enjoyed by them in perfections—but delays the expectation of them till the last day. I readily acknowledge that the philosophers, who were ignorant of the resurrection of the body, have many discussions about the immortal essence of the soul; but they talk so foolishly about the state of the future life that their opinions have no weight. But since the Scriptures inform us that the spiritual life depends on the hope of the resurrection, and that souls, when separated from the bodies, look forward to it, whoever destroys the resurrection deprives souls also of their immortality.
Now this enables us to perceive the dreadful confusion of the Jewish Church, that their rulers f66 in religious matters took away the expectation of a future life, so that, after the death of the body, men differed in no respect from brute beasts. They did not indeed deny that our lives ought to be holy and righteous, and were not so profane as to consider the worship of God to be superfluous; on the contrary, they maintained that God is the Judge of the world, and that the affairs of men are directed by His providence. But as the reward of the godly, and likewise the punishment due to the wicked, were limited by them to the present life, even though there had been truth in their assertion, that every man is now treated impartially according to his merit, f66a yet it was excessively absurd to restrict the promises of God within such narrow limits. Now experience plainly shows that they were chargeable with the grossest stupidity, since it is manifest that the reward which is laid up for the good is left incomplete till another life, and likewise that the punishment of the wicked is not wholly inflicted in this world.
In short, it is impossible to conceive any thing more absurd than this dream, that men formed after the image of God are extinguished by death like the beasts. But how disgraceful and monstrous was it that while, among the profane and blind idolaters of all nations, some notion, at least, of a future life still lingered, among the Jews, the peculiar people of God, this seed of piety was destroyed. I do not mention that, when they saw that the holy fathers earnestly aspired to the heavenly life, and that the covenant which God had made with them was spiritual and eternal, they must have been worse than stupid who remained blind in the midst of such clear light. But, first, this was the just reward of those who had split the Church of God into sects; and, secondly, in this manner the Lord avenged the wicked contempt of His doctrine.
24. Master, Moses said. As it was enough to mention the bare fact, why do they make use of this preface? They cunningly employ the name of Moses, for the purpose of proving that they were lawful marriages, which had been contracted not by the will of men, but by the command and appointment of God himself. But that God should contradict Himself is impossible. Their sophistry therefore is this: “If God shall one day collect believers into His kingdom, He will restore whatever He had given to them in the world. What then shall become of the woman, whom God assigned to seven husbands?” Thus all ungodly persons and heretics forge their calumnies, that by means of them they may disfigure the true doctrine of godliness, and put to shame the servants of Christ. Nay, the Papists are restrained by no shame from openly ridiculing God and his word, when they attempt to take us by surprise. And not without reason, therefore, does Paul enjoin a teacher to be furnished with armor for repelling the adversaries of the truth, (<560109>Titus 1:9.) With respect to the law, (<052505>Deuteronomy 25:5,) by which God commanded the relatives, who were nearest of kin, to succeed the dead in marriage, if the first had died without children, the reason was, that the woman who had married into a particular family should leave offspring in it. But if there had been children by the first marriage, a marriage within the degrees forbidden by the law (<031816>Leviticus 18:16) would have been incestuous.
29. You err, not knowing the Scriptures. Though Christ addresses the Sadducees, yet this reproof applies generally to all inventors of false doctrines. For, since God makes known His will clearly in the Scriptures, the want of acquaintance with them is the source and cause of all errors. But this is no ordinary consolation to the godly, that they will be safe from the danger of erring, so long as they humbly, modestly, and submissively inquire from the Scriptures what is right and true. As to the power of God being connected by Christ with the word, it refers to the present occasion. For, since the resurrection far exceeds the capacity of the human senses, it will be incredible to us, till our minds rise to the contemplation of the boundless power of God, by which, as Paul tells us,
he is able to subdue all things to himself, (<500321>Philippians 3:21.)
Besides, the Sadducees must have been void of understanding, when they committed the error of estimating the glory of the heavenly life according to the present state. In the meantime, we learn that those men form and express just and wise sentiments respecting the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom, who join the power of God with the Scriptures.
30. But are like the angels of God in heaven. He does not mean that the children of God will be, in all respects, like the angels, but only so far as they shall be free from every infirmity of the present life; thus affirming that they will no longer be exposed to the wants of a frail and perishing life. Luke expresses more clearly the nature of the resemblance, that they can no longer die, and therefore there will be no propagation of their species, as on earth. Now he speaks of believers only, for no mention had been made of the wicked.
But a question arises, Why does he say that they will then be the children of God, because they will be children of the resurrection; since God bestows this honor on those who believe on him, though shut up within the frail prison of the body? And how would we be heirs of eternal life after death, unless God already acknowledged us as children? I reply: As we are engrafted by faith into the body of Christ, we are adopted by God as his children, and of this adoption the Spirit is the witness, seal, earnest, and pledge, so that with this assurance
we may freely cry, Abba, Father, (<450815>Romans 8:15; <480406>Galatians 4:6.)
Now though we know that we are the children of God, yet as it doth not yet appear what we shall be, till, transformed into his glory, we shall see him as he is, (<620302>1 John 3:2,)
we are not as yet actually reckoned to be his children. And though we are renewed by the Spirit of God, yet as
our life is still hidden, (<510303>Colossians 3:3,)
the manifestation of it will truly and perfectly distinguish us from strangers. In this sense our adoption is said by Paul to be delayed till the last day, (<450823>Romans 8:23.).
Luke 20:37. But that the dead shall rise. After having refuted the objection brought against him, Christ confirms, by the testimony of Scripture, the doctrine of the final resurrection. And this is the order which must always be observed. Having repelled the calumnies of the enemies of the truth, we must make them understand that they oppose the word of God; for until they are convicted by the testimony of Scripture, they will always be at liberty to rebel. Christ quotes a passage from Moses, because he was dealing with the Sadducees, who had no great faith in the prophets, or who, at least, held them in no higher estimation than we do the Book of Ecclesiasticus, or the History of the Maccabees. Another reason was, that, as they had brought forward Moses, he chose rather to refer to the same writer than to quote any of the prophets. Besides, he did not aim at collecting all the passages of Scripture, as we see that the apostles do not always make use of the same proofs on the same subject.
And yet we must not imagine that there were no good reasons why Christ seized on this passage (<020306>Exodus 3:6) in preference to others; but he selected it with the best judgment —though it might appear to be some what obscure—because it ought to have been well known and distinctly remembered by the Jews, being a declaration that they were redeemed by God, because they were the children of Abraham. There, indeed, God declares that he is come down to deliver an afflicted people, but at the same time adds, that he acknowledges that people as his own, in respect of adoption, on account of the covenant which he had made with Abraham. How comes it that God regards the dead rather than the living, but because he assigns the first rank of honor to the fathers, in whose hands he had placed his covenant? And in what respect would they have the preference, if they had been extinguished by death? This is clearly expressed also by the nature of the relation; for as no man can be a father without children, nor a king without a people, so, strictly speaking, the Lord cannot be called the God of any but the living.
Christ’s argument, however, is drawn not so much from the ordinary form of expression as from the promise which is contained in these words. For the Lord offers himself to be our God on the condition of receiving us, on the other hand, as his people, which alone is sufficient for the assurance of perfect happiness. Hence that saying of the Church by the prophet Habakkuk, (1:12,)
Thou art our God from the beginning: we shall not die
Since, therefore, the Lord promises salvation to all to whom he declares that he is their God, and since he says this respecting Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it follows that there remains for the dead a hope of life. If it be objected, that souls may continue to exist, though there be no resurrection of the dead, I replied, a little before, that those two are connected, because souls aspire to the inheritance laid up for them, though they do not yet reach that condition.
38. For all live to him. This mode of expression is employed in various senses in Scripture; but here it means that believers, after that they have died in this world, lead a heavenly life with God; as Paul says that Christ, after having been admitted to the heavenly glory, liveth to God, (<450610>Romans 6:10) because he is freed from the infirmities and afflictions of this passing life. But here Christ expressly reminds us, that we must not form a judgment of the life of the godly according to the perceptions of the flesh, because that life is concealed under the secret keeping of God. For if, while they are pilgrims in the world, they bear a close resemblance to dead men, much less does any appearance of life exist in them after the death of the body. But God is faithful to preserve them alive in his presence, beyond the comprehension of men.
39. And some of the scribes answering. As it is probable that all of them were actuated by evil dispositions towards him, this confession was extorted, by a secret exercise of divine power, from some of them, that is, from the Pharisees. It may be that, though they could have wished that Christ had been disgracefully vanquished and silenced, when they perceived that his reply has fortified them against the opposite sect, f67 ambition led them to congratulate him on having obtained a victory. Perhaps, too, they burned with envy, and did not wish that Christ should be put down by the Sadducees. f68 Meanwhile, it was brought about by the wonderful providence of God, that even his most deadly enemies assented to his doctrine. Their insolence, to was restrained, not only because they saw that Christ was prepared to sustain every kind of attack, but because they feared that they would be driven back with disgrace, which already had frequently occurred; and because they were ashamed of allowing him, by their silence, to carry off the victory, by which his influence over the people would be greatly increased. When Matthew says that all were astonished at his doctrine, we ought to observe that the doctrine of religion was at that time corrupted by so many wicked or frivolous opinions, that it was justly regarded as a miracle that the hope of the resurrection was so ably and appropriately proved from the Law.
MATTHEW 22:34-40; MARK 12:28-34;
LUKE 10:25-37
MATTHEW 22:34-40
<411228>MARK 12:28-34
<421025>LUKE 10:25-37
34. But when the Pharisees heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they assembled together. 35. And one of them, a doctor of the law, put a question to him, tempting him, and saying, 36. Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37. Jesus saith to him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38. This is the first and great commandment. 39. And the second is like it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as much as thyself. 40. On these two commandments the whole law and the prophets depend.
28. And when one of the scribes came, and heard them disputing together, and saw that he had answered them well, he put a question to him, Which is the first commandment of all? 29. And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. 30. And, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength; this is the first commandment. 31. And the second, which is like it, is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: there is no other commandment greater than these. 32. And the scribe said to him, Master, thou hast answered well with truth, that there is one God, and there is no other besides him. 33. And that to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is better than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices. 34. And Jesus, when he saw that he had replied skillfully, said to him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And after that, no man ventured to put a question to him.
25. And, lo, a certain lawyer f69 rose up, tempting him, and saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26. And he said to him, What is written in the law? How readest thou? 27. He answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. 28. And he said to him, Thou hast answered right: do this, and thou shalt live. 29. But he wishing to justify himself, said to Jesus, and Who is my neighbor? 30. And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, who even stripped him of his raiment, and, having wounded him, went away, leaving him half-dead. 31. And it happened that a certain priest came down that way, and having seen him, passed by. 32. And in like manner a Levite, going near the place, having approached and seen him, passed by. 33. And a certain Samaritan, on his journey, came to him, and when he saw him, was moved with compassion. 34. And approaching, bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine; and, setting him on his own beast, conducted him to an inn, and took care of him. 35. And, next day, as he was departing, he drew out two denarii, and gave them to the landlord, and said to him, Take care of him, and whatever thou spendest more, when I return, I will repay thee. 36. Which therefore of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor to him who fell among robbers? 37. And he said, He who took compassion on him. Jesus therefore said to him, Go, and do thou in like manner.

Although I think that this narrative has nothing more than a resemblance to what is related by Matthew in the 22nd, and by Mark in the 12th chapter, of his Gospel, and that they are not the same; I have chosen to collect them into one place, because, while Matthew and Mark affirm that this was the last question by which our Lord was tempted, Luke makes no mention of that circumstance, and seems intentionally to leave it out, because he had stated it in another passage. And yet I do not dispute that it may be the same narrative, though Luke has some things different from the other two. They all agree in this, that the scribe put a question for the sake of tempting Christ; but he who is described by Matthew and Mark goes away with no bad disposition; for he acquiesces in Christ’s reply, and shows a sign of a teachable and gentle mind: to which must be added, that Christ, on the other hand, declares that he is not far from the kingdom of God. Luke, on the other hand, introduces a man who was obstinate and swelled with pride, in whom no evidence of repentance is discovered. Now there would be no absurdity in saying that Christ was repeatedly tempted on the subject of true righteousness, and of keeping the Law, and of the rule of a good life. But whether Luke has related this out of its proper place, or whether he has now passed by the other question—because that former narrative relating to doctrine was sufficient—the similarity of. the doctrine seemed to require me to compare the three Evangelists with each other.
Let us now see what was the occasion that led this scribe to put a question to Christ. It is because, being an expounder of the Law, he is offended at the doctrine of the gospel, by which he supposes the authority of Moses to be diminished. At the same time, he is not so much influenced by zeal for the Law, as by displeasure at losing some part of the honor of his teaching. He therefore inquires at Christ, if he wishes to profess any thing more perfect than the Law; for, though he does not say this in words, yet his question is ensnaring, for the purpose of exposing Christ to the hatred of the people. Matthew and Mark do not attribute this stratagem to one man only, but show that it was done by mutual arrangement, and that out of the whole sect one person was chosen who was thought to excel the rest in ability and learning. In the form of the question, too,Luke differs somewhat from Matthew and Mark; for, according to him, the scribe inquires what men must do to obtain eternal life, but according to the other two Evangelists, he inquires what is the chief commandment in the law. But the design is the same, for he makes a deceitful attack on Christ, that, if he can draw any thing from his lips that is at variance with the law, he may exclaim against him as an apostate and a promoter of ungodly revolt.
Luke 10:26. What is written in the law? He receives from Christ a reply different from what he had expected. And, indeed, no other rule of a holy and righteous life was prescribed by Christ than what had been laid down by the Law of Moses; for the perfect love of God and of our neighbors comprehends the utmost perfection of righteousness. Yet it must be observed, that Christ speaks here about obtaining salvation, in agreement with the question which had been put to him; for he does not teach absolutely, as in other passages, how men may arrive at eternal life, but how they ought to live, in order to be accounted righteous in the sight of God. :Now it is certain that in the Law there is prescribed to men a rule by which they ought to regulate their life, so as to obtain salvation in the sight of God. That the Law can do nothing else than condemn, and is therefore called the doctrine of death, and is said by Paul to increase transgressions, (<450713>Romans 7:13,) arises not from any fault of its doctrine, but because it is impossible for us to perform what it enjoins. Therefore, though no man is justified by the Law yet the Law itself contains the highest righteousness, because it does not falsely hold out salvation to its followers, if any one fully observed all that it commands. f70 Nor ought we to look upon this as a strange manner of teaching, that God first demands the righteousness of works, and next offers a gratuitous righteousness without works; for it is necessary that men should be convinced of their righteous condemnation, that they may betake themselves to the mercy of God. Accordingly, Paul (<451005>Romans 10:5, 6) compares both kinds of righteousness, in order to inform us that the reason why we are freely justified by God is, that we have no righteousness of our own. Now Christ in this reply accommodated himself to the lawyer, and attended to the nature of his question; for he had inquired not how salvation must be sought, but by what works it must be obtained.
Matthew 22:37. Thou shalt love the Lord thou God. According to Mark, the preface is inserted, that Jehovah alone is the God of Israel; by which words God supports the authority of his law in two ways. For, first, it ought to be a powerful excitement to the worship of God, when we are fully convinced that we worship the actual Creator of heaven and earth, because indifference is naturally produced by doubt; and, secondly, because it is a pleasing inducement to love him, when he freely adopts us as his people. So then, that they may not hesitate, as usually happens in cases of uncertainty, the Jews are informed that the rule of life is prescribed to them by the true and only God; and, on the other hand, that they may not be kept back by distrust, God approaches to them in a familiar manner, and reminds them of his gracious covenant with them. And yet there is no reason to doubt that the Lord distinguishes himself from all idols, that the Jews may not be drawn aside from him, but may adhere to the pure worship of God himself. Now if uncertainty does not keep back the wretched worshippers of idols from being carried away to the love of them by impetuous zeal, what excuse is left for the hearers of the Law, if they remain indifferent, after that God has revealed himself to them?
What follows is an abridgment of the Law, f71 which is also found in the writings of Moses, (<050605>Deuteronomy 6:5.) For, though it is divided into two tables, the first of which relates to the worship of God, and the second to charity, Moses properly and wisely draws up this summary, f72 that the Jews may perceive what is the will of God in each of the commandments. And although we ought to love God far more than men, yet most properly does God, instead of worship or honor, require love from us, because in this way he declares that no other worship is pleasing to Him than what is voluntary; for no man will actually obey God but he who loves Him. But as the wicked and sinful inclinations of the flesh draw us aside from what is right, Moses shows that our life will not be regulated aright till the love of God fill all our senses. Let us therefore learn, that the commencement of godliness is the love of God, because God disdains the forced services of men, and chooses to be worshipped freely and willingly; and let us also learn, that under the love of God is included the reverence due to him.
Moses does not add the mind, but mentions only the heart, and the soul, and the strength; and though the present division into four clauses is more full, yet it does not alter the sense. For while Moses intends to teach generally that God ought to be perfectly loved, and that whatever powers belong to men ought to be devoted to this object, he reckoned it enough, after mentioning the soul and the heart, to add the strength, that he might not leave any part of us uninfluenced by the love of God; and we know also that under the word heart the Hebrews sometimes include the mind, f73 particularly when it is joined to the word soul What is the difference between the mind and the heart, both in this passage and in Matthew, I do not trouble myself to inquire, except that I consider the mind to denote the loftier abode of reason, from which all our thoughts and deliberations flow.
It now appears from this summary that, in the commandments of the Law, God does not look at what men can do, but at what they ought to do; since in this infirmity of the flesh it is impossible that perfect love can obtain dominion, for we know how strongly all the senses of our soul are disposed to vanity. Lastly, we learn from this, that God does not rest satisfied with the outward appearance of works, but chiefly demands the inward feelings, that from a good root good fruits may grow.
39. And the second is like it. He assigns the second place to mutual kindness among men, for the worship of God is first in order. The commandment to love our neighbors, he tells us, is like the first, because it depends upon it. For, since every man is devoted to himself, there will never be true charity towards neighbors, unless where the love of God reigns; for it is a mercenary love f74 which the children of the world entertain for each other, because every one of them has regard to his own advantage. On the other hand, it is impossible for the love of God to reign without producing brotherly kindness among men.
Again, when Moses commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves, he did not intend to put the love of ourselves in the first place, so that a man may first love himself and then love his neighbors; as the sophists of the Sorbonne are wont to cavil, that a rule must always go before what it regulates. But as we are too much devoted to ourselves, Moses, in correcting this fault, places our neighbors in an equal rank with us; thus forbidding every man to pay so much attention to himself as to disregard others, because kindness unites all in one body. And by correcting the self-love (filauti>an) which separates some persons from others, he brings each of them into a common union, and—as it were—into a mutual embrace. Hence we conclude, that charity is justly pronounced by Paul to be
the bond of perfection, (<510314>Colossians 3:14,)
and, in another passage, the
fulfilling of the law, (<451310>Romans 13:10;)
for all the commandments of the second table must be referred to it.
Luke 10:28. Do this, and thou shalt live. I have explained a little before, how this promise agrees with freely bestowed justification by faith; for the reason why God justifies us freely is, not that the Law does not point out perfect righteousness, but because we fail in keeping it, and the reason why it is declared to be impossible for us to obtain life by it is, that
it is weak through our flesh, (<450803>Romans 8:3.)
So then these two statements are perfectly consistent with each other, that the Law teaches how men may obtain righteousness by works, and yet that no man is justified by works, because the fault lies not in the doctrine of the Law, but in men. It was the intention of Christ, in the meantime, to vindicate himself from the calumny which, he knew, was brought against him by the unlearned and ignorant, that he set aside the Law, so far as it is a perpetual rule of righteousness.
29. But he wishing to justify himself. This question might appear to be of no importance for justifying a man. But if we recollect what was formerly stated, that the hypocrisy of men is elderly detected by means of the second table—for, while they pretend to be eminent worshippers of God, they openly violate charity towards their neighbors—it will be easy to infer from this, that the Pharisee practiced this evasion, in order that, concealed under the false mask of holiness, he might not be brought forth to light. So then, aware that the test of charity would prove unfavorable to him, he seeks concealment under the word neighbor, that he may not be discovered to be a transgressor of the Law. But we have already seen, that on this subject the Law was corrupted by the scribes, because they reckoned none to be their neighbors but those who were worthy of it. Hence, too, this principle was received among them, that we have a right to hate our enemies, (<400543>Matthew 5:43.) For the only method to which hypocrites can resort for avoiding the condemnation of themselves, is to turn away as far as they are able, that their life may not be tried by the judgment of the Law.
30. And Jesus answering said. Christ might have stated simply, that the word neighbor extends indiscriminately to every man, because the whole human race is united by a sacred bond of fellowship. And, indeed, the Lord employed this word in the Law, for no other reason than to draw us sweetly to mutual kindness. The commandment would have run more clearly thus: Love every man as thyself. But as men are blinded by their pride, so that every man is satisfied with himself, scarcely deigns to admit others to an equal rank, and withholds from them the duties he owes them, the Lord purposely declares that all are neighbors that the very relationship may produce mutual love. To make any person our neighbor, therefore, it is enough that he be, a man; for it is not in our power to blot out our common nature.
But Christ intended to draw the reply from the Pharisee, that he might condemn himself. For in consequence of the authoritative decision being generally received among them, that no man is our neighbor unless he is our friend, if Christ had put a direct question to him, he would never have made an explicit acknowledgment, that under the word neighbor all men are included, which the comparison brought forward forces him to confess. The general truth conveyed is, that the greatest stranger is our neighbor, because God has bound all men together, for the purpose of assisting each other. He glances briefly, however, at the Jews, and especially at the priests; because, while they boasted of being the children of the same Father, and of being separated by the privilege of adoption from the rest of the nations, so as to be God’s sacred heritage, yet, with barbarous and unfeeling contempt, they despised each other, as if no relationship had subsisted between them. For there is no doubt that Christ describes the cruel neglect of brotherly kindness, with which they knew that they were chargeable. But here, as I have said, the chief design is to show that the neighborhood, which lays us under obligation to mutual offices of kindness, is not confined to friends or relatives, but extends to the whole human race.
To prove this, Christ compares a Samaritan to a priest and a Levite. It is well known what deadly hatred the Jews bore to the Samaritans, so that, notwithstanding their living close beside them, they were always at the greatest variance. Christ now says, that a Jew, an inhabitant of Jericho, on his journey from Jerusalem, having been wounded by robbers, received no assistance either from a Levite or from a priest, both of whom met with him lying on the road, and half-dead, but that a Samaritan showed him great kindness, and then asks, Which of these three was neighbor to the Jew? This subtle doctor could not escape from preferring the Samaritan to the other two. For here, as in a mirror, we behold that common relationship of men, which the scribes endeavored to blot out by their wicked sophistry; f75 and the compassion, which an enemy showed to a Jew, demonstrates that the guidance and teaching of nature are sufficient to show that man was created for the sake of man. Hence it is inferred that there is a mutual obligation between all men.
The allegory which is here contrived by the advocates of free will is too absurd to deserve refutation. According to them, under the figure of a wounded man is described the condition of Adam after the fall; from which they infer that the power of acting well was not wholly extinguished in him; because he is said to be only half-dead. As if it had been the design of Christ, in this passage, to speak of the corruption of human nature, and to inquire whether the wound which Satan inflicted on Adam were deadly or curable; nay, as if he had not plainly, and without a figure, declared in another passage, that all are dead, but those whom he quickens by his voice, (<430525>John 5:25.) As little plausibility belongs to another allegory, which, however, has been so highly satisfactory, that it has been admitted by almost universal consent, as if it had been a revelation from heaven. This Samaritan they imagine to be Christ, because he is our guardian; and they tell us that wine was poured, along with oil, into the wound, because Christ cures us by repentance and by a promise of grace. They have contrived a third subtlety, that Christ does not immediately restore health, but sends us to the Church, as an innkeeper, to be gradually cured. I acknowledge that I have no liking for any of these interpretations; but we ought to have a deeper reverence for Scripture than to reckon ourselves at liberty to disguise its natural meaning. And, indeed, any one may see that the curiosity of certain men has led them to contrive these speculations, contrary to the intention of Christ.
Matthew 22:40. On these two commandments. I now return to Matthew, where Christ says that all the Law and the prophets depend on these two commandments; not that he intends to limit to them f76 all the doctrine of Scripture, but because all that is anywhere taught as to the manner of living a holy and righteous life must be referred to these two leading points. For Christ does not treat generally of what the Law and the Prophets contain, but, in drawing up his reply, states that nothing else is required in the Law and the prophets than that every man should love God and his neighbors; as if he had said, that the sum of a holy and upright life consists in the worship of God and in charity to men, as Paul states that charity is
the fulfilling of the law, (<451310>Romans 13:10.)
And therefore some ill-informed persons are mistaken in interpreting this saying of Christ, as if we ought to seek nothing higher in the Law and the Prophets. For as a distinction ought to be made between the promises and the commandments, so in this passage Christ does not state generally what we ought to learn from the word of God, but explains, in a manner suited to the occasion, the end to which all the commandments are directed. Yet the free forgiveness of sins, by which we are reconciled to God,—confidence in calling on God, which is the earnest of the future inheritance, —and all the other parts of faith, though they hold the first rank in the Law, do not depend on these two commandments; for it is one thing to demand what we owe, and another thing to offer what we do not possess. The same thing is expressed in other words by Mark, that there is no other commandment greater than these.
Mark 12:32. Master, thou hast spoken well, and with truth. Mark alone mentions that the scribe was softened down; and it is worthy of notice that, though he had attacked Christ maliciously, and with the intention of taking him by surprise, not only does he silently yield to the latter, but openly and candidly assents to what Christ had said. Thus we see that he did not belong to the class of those enemies whose obstinacy is incurable; for, though they have been a hundred times convinced, yet they do not cease to oppose the truth in some manner. From this reply it may also be concluded, that Christ did not precisely include under these two words the rule of life, but embraced the opportunity which presented itself for reproving the false and hypocritical holiness of the scribes, who, giving their whole attention to outward ceremonies, almost entirely disregarded the spiritual worship of God, and cared little about brotherly kindness. Now though the scribe was infected by such corruptions, yet, as sometimes happens, he had obtained from the Law the seed of right knowledge, which lay choked in his heart, and on that account he easily allows himself to be withdrawn from the wicked custom.
33. Is better than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices. But it appears to be incongruous that sacrifices, which are a part of divine worship, and belong to the first table of the Law, should be reckoned of less importance than charity towards men. The reply is, Though the worship of God is greatly preferable, and is more valuable than all the duties of a holy life, yet its outward exercises ought not to be estimated so highly as to swallow up brotherly kindness. For we know that brotherly kindness, in itself and simply, is pleasing to God, though sacrifices are not regarded by him with delight or approbation, except with a view to another object. Besides, it is naked and empty sacrifices that are here spoken of; for our Lord contrasts a hypocritical appearance of piety with true and sincere uprightness. The same doctrine is to be found very frequently in the prophets, that hypocrites may know that sacrifices are of no value, unless spiritual truth be joined to them, and that God is not appeased by offerings of beasts, where brotherly kindness is neglected.
31. But when Jesus saw. Whether this scribe made any farther progress is uncertain; but as he had shown himself to be teachable, Christ stretches out the hand to him, and teaches us, by his example, that we ought to assist those in whom there is any beginning either of docility or of right understanding. There appear to have been two reasons why Christ declared that this scribe was not far from the kingdom of God. It was because he was easily persuaded to do his duty, and because he skillfully distinguished the outward worship of God from necessary duties. Nor was it so much with the design of praising as of exhorting him, that Christ declared that he was near the kingdom of God; and in his person Christ encourages us all, after having once entered into the right path, to proceed with so much the greater cheerfulness. By these words we are also taught that many, while they are still held and involved in error, advance with closed eyes towards the road, and in this manner are prepared for running in the course of the Lord, when the time arrives.
And after that, no man ventured to put a question to him. The assertion of the Evangelists, that the mouth of adversaries was stopped, so they did not venture any more to lay snares for Christ, must not be so understood as if’ they desisted from their wicked obstinacy; for they groaned within, like wild beasts shut up in their dens, or, like unruly horses, they bit the bridle. But the more hardened their obstinacy, and the more incorrigible their rebellion, so much the more illustrious was Christ’s triumph over both. And this victory, which he obtained, ought greatly to encourage us never to become dispirited in the defense of the truth, being assured of success. It will often happen, indeed, that enemies shall molest and insult us till the end, but God will at length secure that their fury shall recoil on their own heads, and that, in spite of their efforts, truth shall be victorious.
MATTHEW 22:41-46; MARK 12:35-37;
LUKE 20:41-44
MATTHEW
22:41-46
MARK 12:35-37
LUKE 20:41-44
41. And when the Pharisees were assembled, Jesus asked them, 42. Saying, What think you of Christ? whose son is he? They say to him, David’s. 43. He saith to them, How then doth David by the Spirit call him Lord, saying, 44. The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I have made thy enemies thy footstool? f77 45. If David then calleth him Lord, how is he his son? 46. And no man could make any reply to him; f78 nor did any man from that day venture to put any more questions to him.
35. And Jesus answering said, while he was teaching in the temple, How do the scribes say that Christ is the son of David? 36. For David himself by the Holy “Spirit said, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies thy footstool. f77A 37. David himself therefore calleth him Lord; and whence is he his son? And a vast multitude heard him gladly.
41. And he said to them, How do they say that Christ is the son of David? 42. And David himself saith in the Book of Psalms, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, 43. Till I make thy enemies thy footstool. f77B 44. David therefore calleth him Lord; and how is he his son?

Matthew 22:42. What think you of Christ? Mark and Luke express more clearly the reason why Christ put this question. It was because there prevailed among the scribes an erroneous opinion, that the promised Redeemer would be one of David’s sons and successors, who would bring along with him nothing more elevated than human nature. For from the very commencement Satan endeavored, by all the arts which he could devise, to put forward some pretended Christ, who was not the true Mediator between God and men. God having so frequently promised that Christ would proceed from the seed, or from the loins of David, this conviction was so deeply rooted in their minds, that they could not endure to have him stripped of human nature. Satan therefore permitted Christ to be acknowledged as a true man and a son of David, for he would in vain have attempted to overturn this article of faith; but—what was worse—he stripped him of his Divinity, as if he had been only one of the ordinary descendants of Adam. But in this manner the hope of future and eternal life, as well as spiritual righteousness, was abolished. And ever since Christ was manifested to the world, heretics have attempted by various contrivances—and as it were under ground—to overturn sometimes his human, and sometimes his Divine nature, that either he might not have full power to save us, or we might not have ready access to him. Now as the hour of his death was already approaching, the Lord himself intended to attest his divinity, that all the godly might boldly rely on him; for if he had been only man, we would have had no right either to glory in him, or to expect salvation from him.
We now perceive his design, which was, to assert that he was the Son of God, not so much on his own account, as to make our faith rest on his heavenly power. For as the weakness of the flesh, by which he approached to us, gives us confidence, that we may not hesitate to draw near to him, so if that weakness alone were before our eyes, it would rather fill us with fear and despair than excite proper confidence. Yet it must be observed, that the scribes are not reproved for teaching that Christ would be the Son of David, but for imagining that he was a mere man, who would come from heaven, to assume the nature and person of a man. Nor does our Lord make a direct assertion about himself, but simply shows that the scribes hold a wicked error in expecting that the Redeemer will proceed only from the earth and from human lineage. But though this doctrine was well known to be held by them, we learn from Matthew, that he interrogated them in presence of the people what their sentiments were.
43. How then does David by the Spirit call him Lord. The assertion made by Christ, that David spoke by the Spirit, is emphatic; for he contrasts the prediction of a future event with the testimony of a present event. By this phrase he anticipates the sophistry by which the Jews of the present day attempt to escape. They allege that this prediction celebrates the reign of David, as if, representing God to be the Author of his reign, David would rise above the mad attempts of his enemies, and affirmed that they would gain nothing by opposing the will of God. That the scribes might not shelter themselves under such an objection, Christ began with stating that the psalm was not composed in reference to the person of David, but was dictated by the prophetic Spirit to describe the future reign of Christ; as it may easily be learned even from the passage itself, that what we read there does not apply either to David, or to any other earthly king; for there David introduces a king clothed with a new priesthood, by which the ancient shadows of the Law must be abolished, (<19B004>Psalm 110:4)
We must now see how he proves that Christ will hold a higher rank than to be merely descended from the seed of ,David. It is because David, who was king and head of the people, calls him Lord; from which it follows, that there is something in him greater than man. But the argument appears to be feeble and inconclusive; for it may be objected that, when David gave the psalm to the people to sing, without having any view to his own person, he assigned to Christ dominion over others. But to this I reply that, as he was one of the members of the Church, nothing would have been more improper than to shut himself out from the common doctrine. Here he enjoins all the children of God to boast, as with one voice, that they are safe through the protection of a heavenly and invincible King. If he be separated from the body of the Church, he will not partake of the salvation promised through Christ. If this were the voice of a few persons, the dominion of Christ would not extend even to David. But now neither he, nor any other person, can be excluded from subjection to him, without cutting himself off from the hope of eternal salvation. Since then there was nothing better for David than to be included in the Church, it was not less for himself than for the rest of the people that David composed this psalm. In short, by this title Christ is pronounced to be supreme and sole King, who holds the preeminence among all believers; and no exception ought to be allowed to ranking all in one class, when he is appointed to be the Redeemer of the Church. There can be no doubt, therefore, that David represents himself also as a subject of his government, so as to be reckoned one of the number of the people of God.
But now another question arises: Might not God have raised up one whom he appointed from among mankind to be a Redeemer, so as to be David’s Lord, though he was his son? For here it is not the essential name of God, but only Adonai f79 that is employed, and this term is frequently applied to men. I reply: Christ takes for granted that he who is taken out of the number of men, and raised to such a rank of honor, as to be the supreme Head of the whole Church, is not a mere man, but possesses also the majesty of God. For the eternal God, who by an oath makes this claim for himself, that
before him every knee shall bow, (<234523>Isaiah 45:23,)
at the same time swears that
he will not give his glory to another, (<234208>Isaiah 42:8.)
But, according to the testimony of Paul, when Christ was raised to kingly power,
there was given to him a name which is above every name, that before him every knee should bow, (<451411>Romans 14:11; <502609>Philippians 2:9.)
And though Paul had never said this, yet such is the fact, that Christ is above David and other holy kings, because he also ranks higher than angels; which would not apply to a created man, unless he were also
God manifested in the flesh, (<540316>1 Timothy 3:16.)
I do acknowledge that his divine essence is not expressed directly and in so many words; but it may easily be inferred that He is God, who is placed above all creatures.
44. The LORD said to my Lord. Here the Holy Spirit puts into the mouth of all the godly a song of triumph, that they may boldly defy Satan and all the ungodly, and mock at their rage, when they endeavor to drive Christ from his throne. That they may not hesitate or tremble, when they perceive great emotions produced in the earth, they are commanded to place the holy and inviolable decree of God in opposition to all the exertions of adversaries. The meaning therefore is: whatever may be the madness of men, all that they shall dare to contrive will be of no avail for destroying the kingdom of Christ, which has been set up, not by the will of men, but by the appointment of God, and therefore is supported by everlasting strength. Whenever this kingdom is violently attacked, let us call to remembrance this revelation from heaven; for undoubtedly this promise was put into the hand of Christ, that every believer may apply it to his own use. But God never changes or deceives, so as to retract what has once gone out of his mouth.
Sit at my right hand. This phrase is used metaphorically for the second or next rank, which is occupied by God’s deputy. And therefore it signifies, to hold the highest government and power in the name of God, as we know that God has committed his authority to his only-begotten Son, so as to govern his Church by his agency. This mode of expression, therefore, does not denote any particular place, but, on the contrary, embraces heaven and earth under the government of Christ. And God declares that Christ will sit till his enemies be subdued, in order to inform us that his kingdom will remain invincible against every attack; not that, when his enemies have been subdued, he will be deprived of the power which had been granted to him, but that, while the whole multitude of his enemies shall be laid low, his power will remain for ever unimpaired. In the meantime, it points out that condition of his kingdom which we perceive in the present day, that we may not be uneasy when we see it attacked on all sides.
MATTHEW 23:1-12; MARK 12:38-39;
LUKE 11:43, 45-46; 20:45-46
MATTHEW 23:1-12
MARK 12:38-39
LUKE 11:45-46
1. Then Jesus spoke to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2. Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in the chair of Moses. 3. Observe and do, therefore, all things whatever they command you to observe; but do not according to their works; for they say and do not. 4. For they bind heavy and intolerable burdens, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they refuse to touch them with their finger. 5. And they do all their works that they may be seen by men, and make their phylacteries broad, and wear large fringes on their robes, 6. And love the first places at entertainments, and the first seats in the synagogues, 7. And salutations in the marketplace, and to be called by men Rabbi. f81 8. But as for you, be not called Rabbi; f82 for there is one who is your Master, Christ; and you are all brethren. 9. And do not call any one on earth your Father; for one is your Father, who is in heaven. 10. And be not called Masters; f83 for one is your Master, Christ. 11. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12. But he that exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
38. And he said to them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, who love to walk in robes, and love salutations in the marketplaces, 39. And the first seats in the synagogues, and the first places at entertainments.
45. And one of the lawyers f80 answering said to him, Master, in saying these things thou also reproachest us. 46. And he said, Woe also to you, lawyers! for you load men with burdens which are intolerable; and you yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. (A little before.)
Luke 20:45-46
45. And while all the people were hearing, he said to his disciples, 46. Beware of the scribes, who desire to walk in robes, and love salutations in the marketplaces and the first seats in the synagogues, and the first places at entertainments.

Matthew 23:1. Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes. This warning was highly useful, that, amidst contentions and the noise of combats, amidst the trouble and confusion of public affairs, amidst the destruction of proper and lawful order, the authority of the word of God might remain entire. The design of Christ was, that the people might not, in consequence of being offended at the vices of the scribes, f84 throw away reverence for the Law. For we know how prone the minds of men are to entertain dislike of the Law; and more especially when the life of their pastors is dissolute, and does not correspond to their words, almost all grow wanton through their example, as if they had received permission to sin with impunity. The same thing happens—and something worse —when contentions arise; for the greater part of men, having thrown off the yoke, give utterance to their wicked desires, and break out into extreme contempt.
At that time the scribes burned with covetousness and swelled with ambition; their extortions were notorious; their cruelty was formidable; and such was their corruption of manners, that one would think they had conspired for the destruction of the Law. Besides, they had perverted by their false opinions the pure and natural meaning of the Law, so that Christ was constrained to enter into a sharp conflict with them; because their amazing rage hurried them on to extinguish the light of truth. So then, because there was danger that many persons, partly on account of such abuses, and partly on account of the din of controversies, would come to despise all religion, Christ seasonably meets them, and declares that it would be unreasonable if, on account of the vices of men, true religion were to perish, or reverence for the Law to be in any degree diminished. As the scribes were obstinate and inveterate enemies, and as they held the Church oppressed through their tyranny, Christ was compelled to expose their wickedness; for if good and simple men had not been withdrawn from bondage to them, the door would have been shut against the Gospel. There was also another reason; for the common people think themselves at liberty to do whatever they see done by their rulers, whose corrupt manners they form into a law.
But that no man might put a different interpretation on what he was about to say, he begins by stating, that whatever sort of men the teachers were it was altogether unreasonable, either that on account of their filth the word of God should receive any stain, or that on account of their wicked examples men should hold themselves at liberty to commit sin. And this wisdom ought to be carefully observed; for many persons, having no other object in view than to bring hatred and detestation on the wicked and ungodly, mix and confound every thing through their inconsiderate zeal. All discipline is despised, and shame is trampled under foot; in short, there remains no respect for what is honorable, and, what is more, many are emboldened by it, and intentionally blazon the sins of priests, that they may have a pretext for sinning with less restraint. But in attacking the scribes, Christ proceeds in such a manner, that he first vindicates the Law of God from contempt. We must attend to this caution also if we desire that our reproofs should be of any service. But, on the other hand, we ought to observe, that no dread of giving offense prevented Christ from exposing ungodly teachers as they deserved; only he preserved such moderation, that the doctrine of God might not come to be despised on account of the wickedness of men.
To inform us that he spoke publicly about their vices, not to raise envy against their persons, but to prevent the contagion from spreading more widely, Mark expressly states that he spoke to them IN HIS DOCTRINE; by which words he means that the hearers were profitably warned to beware of them. Now, though Luke appears to restrict it to the disciples, yet it is probable that the discourse was addressed indiscriminately to the whole multitude; which appears more clearly from Matthew, and, indeed, the subject itself required that Christ should have his eye on all without exception.
2. In the chair of Moses. Reasons were not wanting for inserting here what Luke relates at a different place. Besides that the doctrine is the same, I have no doubt that Luke, after having said that the scribes were sharply and severely reproved by our Lord, added also the other reproofs which Matthew delayed till the proper place; for already we have frequently seen that the Evangelists, as occasion required, collected into one place various discourses of Christ. But as the narrative of Matthew is more full, I choose rather to take his words as the subject of exposition.
Our Lord gives a general exhortation to believers to beware of conforming their life to the wicked conduct of the scribes, but, on the contrary, to regulate it by the rule of the Law which they hear from the mouth of the scribes; for it was necessary (as I have lately hinted) that he should reprove many abuses in them, that the whole people might not be infected. Lest, through their crimes, the doctrine of which they were the ministers and heralds should be injured, he enjoins believers to attend to their words, and not to their actions; as if he had said, that there is no reason why the bad examples of pastors should hinder the children of God from holiness of life. That the word scribes, agreeably to the Hebrew idiom, denotes the teachers or expounders of the Law, is well known; and it is certain that Luke calls the same persons lawyers. f85
Now our Lord refers peculiarly to the Pharisees, who belonged to the number of the scribes, because at that time this sect held the highest rank in the government of the Church, and in the exposition of Scripture. For we have formerly mentioned that, while the Sadducees and Essenes preferred the literal interpretation of Scripture, the Pharisees followed a different manner of teaching, which had been handed down, as it were, to them by their ancestors, which was, to make subtle inquiries into the mystical meaning of Scripture. This was also the reason why they received their name; for they are called Pherusim, that is, expounders. f86 And though they had debased the whole of Scripture by their false opinions, yet, as they plumed themselves on that popular method of instruction, their authority was highly esteemed in explaining the worship of God and the rule of holy life. The phrase ought, therefore, to be thus interpreted: “The Pharisees and other scribes, or, the scribes, among whom the Pharisees are the most highly esteemed, when they speak to you, are good teachers of a holy life, but by their works they give you very bad instructions; and therefore attend to their lips rather than to their hands.”
It may now be asked, Ought we to submit to all the instructions of teachers without exception? For it is plain enough, that the scribes of that age had wickedly and basely corrupted the Law by false inventions, had burdened wretched souls by unjust laws, and had corrupted the worship of God by many superstitions; but Christ wishes their doctrine to be observed, as if it had been unlawful to oppose their tyranny. The answer is easy. He does not absolutely compare any kind of doctrine with the life, but the design of Christ was, to distinguish the holy Law of God from their profane works. For to sit in the chair of Moses is nothing else than to teach, according to the Law of God, how we ought to live. And though I am not quite certain whence the phrase is derived, yet there is probability in the conjecture of those who refer it to the pulpit which Ezra erected, from which the Law was read aloud, (Nehemiah 8:4.) Certainly, when the Rabbis expounded Scripture, those who were about to speak rose up in succession; but it was perhaps the custom that the Law itself should be proclaimed from a more elevated spot. That man, therefore, sits in the chair of Moses who teaches, not from himself, or at his own suggestion, but according to the authority and word of God. But it denotes, at the same time, a lawful calling; for Christ commands that the scribes should be heard, because they were the public teachers of the, Church.
The Papists reckon it enough, that those who issue laws should possess the title and occupy the station; for in this way they torture the words of Christ to mean, that we are bound to receive obediently whatever the ordinary prelates of the Church enjoin. But this calumny is abundantly refuted by another injunction of Christ, when he bids them beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, (<401606>Matthew 16:6.)
If Christ pronounces it to be not only lawful, but even proper, to reject whatever of their own the scribes mingle with the pure doctrine of the Law, certainly we are not bound to embrace, without discrimination or the exercise of judgment, whatever they are pleased to enjoin. Besides, if Christ had intended here to bind the consciences of his followers to the commandments of men, there would have been no good ground for what he said in another passage, that it is in vain to worship God by the commandments of men, (<401509>Matthew 15:9.)
hence it is evident, that Christ exhorts the people to obey the scribes, only so far as they adhere to the pure and simple exposition of the Law. For the exposition of, Augustine is accurate, and in accordance with Christ’s meaning, that, “the scribes taught the Law of God while they sat in the chair of Moses; and, therefore, that the sheep ought to hear the voice of the Shepherd by them, as by hirelings.” To which words he immediately adds: “God therefore teaches by them; but if they wish to teach any thing of their own, refuse to hear, refuse to do them.” With this sentiment accords what the same writer says in his Fourth Book of Christian Doctrine: “Because good believers do not obediently listen to any sort of man, but to God himself; therefore we may profitably listen even to those whose lives are not profitable.” It was, therefore, not the chair of the scribes, but the chair of Moses, that constrained them to teach what was good, even when they did not do what was good. For what they did in their life was their own; but the chair of another man did not permit them to teach what was their own.
4. For they bind heavy and intolerable burdens. He does not charge the scribes with oppressing and tyrannizing over souls by harsh and unjust laws; for, though they had introduced many superfluous ceremonies—as is evident from other passages—yet Christ does not at present refer to that vice, because his design is, to compare right doctrine with a wicked and dissolute life. That the Law of God should be called a heavy and intolerable burden is not wonderful, and more especially in reference to our weakness. But though the scribes required nothing but what God had enjoined, yet Christ reproves the stern and rigid manner of teaching which was usually followed by those proud hypocrites, who authoritatively demand from others what they owe to God, and are rigorous in enforcing duties, and yet indolently dispense with the performance of what they so strictly enjoin on others, and allow themselves to do whatever they please. In this sense Ezekiel (34:4) reproaches them for ruling with sternness and rigor. For those who truly fear God, though they sincerely and earnestly endeavor to bring their disciples to obey Him, yet as they are more severe towards themselves than towards others, they are not so rigid in exacting obedience, and, being conscious of their own weakness, kindly forgive the weak. But it is impossible to imagine any thing that can exceed the insolence in commanding, or the cruelty, of stupid despisers of God, because they give themselves no concern about the difficulty of doing those things from which they relieve themselves; and therefore no man will exercise moderation in commanding others, unless he shall first become his own teacher. f87
5. And all their works they do that they may be seen by men. He had lately said that the scribes live very differently from what they teach; but now he adds that, if they have any thing which is apparently good, it is hypocritical and worthless, because they have no other design than to please men, and to vaunt themselves. And here zeal for piety and a holy life is contrasted with the mask of those works which serve no purpose but for ostentation; for an upright worshipper of God will never give himself up to that empty parade by which hypocrites are puffed up. Thus not only is the ambition of the scribes and Pharisees reproved, but our Lord, after having condemned the transgression and contempt of the Law of God in their whole life, that they might not shield themselves by their pretended holiness, anticipates them by replying, that those things of which they boast are absolute trifles, and of no value whatever, because they spring from mere ostentation. He afterwards produces a single instance, by which that ambition was easily perceived, which was, that by the fringes of their robes they held themselves out to the eyes of men as good observers of the Law.
And make their phylacteries broad, and enlarge the fringes of their robes. For why were their fringes made broader, and their phylacteries more magnificent, than what was customary, except for idle display? The Lord had commanded the Jews to wear, both on their forehead and on their raiment, some remarkable passages selected out of the Law, (<050608>Deuteronomy 6:8.) As forgetfulness of the Law easily creeps upon the flesh, the Lord intended in this manner to keep it constantly in the remembrance of his people; for they were likewise enjoined to inscribe such sentences
on the posts of their houses, (<050609>Deuteronomy 6:9,)
that, wherever they turned their eyes, some godly warning might immediately meet them. But what did the scribes do? In order to distinguish themselves from the rest of the people, they carried about with them the commandments of God more magnificently inscribed on their garments; and in this boasting there was displayed an offensive ambition.
Let us also learn from this, how ingenious men are in mixing up vain deception, in order to conceal their vices under some pretext and cloak of virtues, by turning to the purposes of their own hypocrisy those exercises of piety which God has enjoined. Nothing was more profitable than to exercise all their senses in the contemplation of the Law, and it was not without good reason that this was enjoined by the Lord. But so far were they from profiting by these simple instructions, that, by making perfect righteousness to consist in the adorning of robes, they despised the Law throughout their whole life. For it was impossible to treat the Law of God with greater contempt, than when they imagined that they kept it by pompous dress, or pronounced masks contrived for enacting a play to be a keeping of the Law.
What Mark and Luke say about the robes relates to the same subject. We know that the inhabitants of Eastern countries commonly used long robes,—a custom which they retain to this day. But it is evident from Zechariah (13:4) that the prophets were distinguished from the rest of the people by a particular form of a cloak. And, indeed, it was highly reasonable that the teachers should dress in this manner, that there might be a higher degree of gravity and modesty in their dress than in that of the common people; but the scribes had made an improper use of it by turning it into luxury and display. Their example has been followed by the Popish priests, among whom robes are manifestly nothing more than the badges of proud tyranny.
6. And love the first places at entertainments.. He proves, by evident signs, that no zeal for piety exists in the scribes, but that they are wholly devoted to ambition. For to seek the first places and the first seats belongs only to those who choose rather to exalt themselves among men, than to enjoy the approbation of God. But above all, Christ condemns them for desiring to be called masters; for, though the name Rabbi in itself denotes excellence, yet at that time the prevailing practice among the Jews was, to give this name to the masters and teachers of the Law. But Christ asserts that this honor does not belong to any except himself; from which it follows that it cannot, without doing injury to him, be applied to men. But there is an appearance of excessive harshness, and even of absurdity, in this, since Christ does not now teach us in his own person, but appoints and ordains masters for us. Now it is absurd to take away the title from those on whom he bestows the office, and more especially since, while he was on earth, he appointed apostles to discharge the office of teaching in his name.
If the question be about the title, Paul certainly did not intend to do any injury to Christ by sacrilegious usurpation or boasting, when he declared that. he was
a master and teacher of the Gentiles, (1 Timothy. 2:7.)
But as Christ had no other design than to bring all, from the least to the greatest, to obey him, so as to preserve his own authority unimpaired, we need not give ourselves much trouble about the word. Christ therefore does not attach importance to the title bestowed on those who discharge the office of teaching, but restrains them within proper limits, that they may not rule over the kith of brethren. We must always attend to the distinction, that Christ alone ought to be obeyed, because concerning him alone was the voice of the Father heard aloud from heaven, Hear him, (<401705>Matthew 17:5;) and that teachers are his ministers in such a manner that he ought to be heard in them, and that they are masters under him, so far as they represent his person. The general meaning is, that his authority must remain entire, and that no mortal man ought to claim the smallest portion of it. Thus he is the only Pastor; but yet he admits many pastors under him, provided that he hold the preeminence over them all, and that by them he alone govern the Church.
And you are all brethren. This opposite clause must be observed. For, since we are brethren, he maintains that no man has a right to hold the place of a master over others; and hence it follows, that he does not condemn that authority of masters which does not violate brotherly intercourse among the godly. In short, nothing else is here enjoined than that all should depend on the mouth of Christ alone. Nearly to the same purpose does Paul argue, when he says that we have no right to judge one another, for all are brethren, and
all must stand before the judgment seat of Christ,
(<451410>Romans 14:10.)
9. And call no man on earth your Father. He claims for God alone the honor of Father, in nearly the same sense as he lately asserted that he himself is the only Master; for this name was not assumed by men for themselves, but was given to them by God. And therefore it is not only lawful to call men on earth FATHERS, but it would be wicked to deprive them of that honor. Nor is there any importance in the distinction which some have brought forward, that men, by whom children have been begotten, are fathers according to the flesh, but that God alone is the Father of spirits. I readily acknowledge that in this manner God is sometimes distinguished from men, as in <581205>Hebrews 12:5, but as Paul more than once calls himself a spiritual father, (<460415>1 Corinthians 4:15; <506522>Philippians 2:22,) we must see how this agrees with the words of Christ. The true meaning therefore is, that the honor of a father is falsely ascribed to men, when it obscures the glory of God. Now this is done, whenever a mortal man, viewed apart from God, is accounted a father, since all the degrees of relationship depend on God alone through Christ, and are held together in such a manner that, strictly speaking, God alone is the Father of all.
10. For one is your Master, even Christ. He repeats a second time the former statement about Christ’s office as Master, in order to inform us that the lawful order is, that God alone rule over us, and possess the power and authority of a Father, and that Christ subject all to his doctrine, and have them as disciples; as it is elsewhere said, that Christ is the only
head of the whole Church, (<490122>Ephesians 1:22)
because the whole body ought to be subject to him and obey him.
11. He who is greatest among you. By this conclusion he shows that he did not, after the manner of the sophists, dispute about words, but, on the contrary, looked to the fact, that no man, through forgetfulness of his rank, might claim more than was proper. He therefore declares that the highest honor in the Church is not government, but service. Whoever keeps himself within this limit, whatever may be the title which he bears, takes nothing away either from God or from Christ; as, on the other hand, it serves no good purpose to take the name of a servant for the purpose of cloaking that power which diminishes the authority of Christ as a Master. For of what avail is it that the Pope, when he is about to oppress wretched souls by tyrannical laws, begins with styling himself the servant of servants of God, but to insult God openly, and to practice shameful mockery on men? Now while Christ does not insist on words, he strictly forbids his followers to aspire or desire to rise any higher than to enjoy brotherly intercourse on an equal footing under the heavenly Father, and charges those who occupy places of honor to conduct themselves as the servants of others. He adds that remarkable statement which has been formerly explained, f88 he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
MATTHEW 23:13-15; MARK 12:40
LUKE 11:52; 20:47
MATTHEW 23:13-15
MARK 12:40
LUKE 11:52
13. But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you do not enter yourselves, and do not permit those who come to enter. 14. And woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you devour widows’ houses, and that under the disguise of a long prayer; therefore you will be the more severely punished. 15. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you compass sea and land to make f89 one proselyte; and when he is made, f90 you make him twice as much the child of hell as yourselves.
40. Who devour widows’ houses, and that under the disguise of a longprayer. These shall receive a severer condemnation.
52. Woe to you, lawyers! for you have taken away the key of knowledge: you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.

Luke 20:47
47. Who devour widows’ houses, and by way of pretence make long prayers f91. These shall receive greater condemnation.

He breaks out into still stronger language of condemnation, and he does so not so much on their account, as for the purpose of withdrawing the common people and simple-minded men from their sect. f92 For though we see frequently in Scripture the judgment of God pronounced against the reprobate, so as to render them the more inexcusable, yet in their person the children of God receive a useful warning, not to involve themselves in the snares of the same crimes, but to guard against falling into similar destruction. Certainly, when the scribes, after overturning the worship of God and corrupting the doctrine of godliness, would endure no correction, and with desperate madness, to their own destruction and that of the whole nation, opposed the redemption which was offered to them, it was proper that they should be held up to the hatred and detestation of all. And yet Christ did not so much consider what they deserved, as what would be useful to the uneducated and ignorant; for he intended, towards the close of his life, to leave a solemn testimony, that no man might, except knowingly and willingly, be deceived by persons so base and wicked.
We know how powerfully a foolish reverence for false teachers hinders simple people from getting clear of their erroneous views. The Jews were at that time deeply imbued with false doctrine, and had even imbibed from their earliest years many superstitions. While it was hard and difficult in itself to bring them back to the right path, the chief obstacle lay in the foolish opinion which they had formed about the false teachers, whom they regarded as the lawful prelates of the Church, the rulers of divine worship, and the pillars of religion. Besides, they were so strongly fascinated, that they could scarcely be drawn away from those teachers but by violent fear. It is not therefore for the purpose of cursing the scribes that Christ pronounces against them the dreadful vengeance of God, but to withdraw others from their impostures. In like manner, we are compelled at the present day to thunder loudly against the Popish clergy, for no other reason than that those who are tractable, and not quite desperate, may direct their minds to their salvation, and, moved by the judgment of God, may break the deadly snares of superstitions by which they are held captive.
Hence we may infer how cruel is the mildness of those who dislike our vehemence. They are displeased to see harshness and severity used towards the wolves, which are constantly, with open mouth, tearing and devouring the sheep; and yet they see the poor sheep deceived by a vain disguise, freely throwing themselves into the jaws of the wolves, unless the pastor who desires to save them, and endeavors to rescue them from destruction, drive them away with a loud voice. We must therefore follow out the design of Christ, by copying out his example in severe threatenings against wicked despisers, and in boldly exclaiming against them, that those who are capable of being cured may be led by the fear of destruction to withdraw from them. For though we gain nothing by addressing the enemies of the truth, yet they must be summoned to the judgment-seat of God, and others must be warned, that they may know that the same destruction awaits themselves, if they do not speedily withdraw from a wicked league with them.
Matthew 23:13. You shut up the kingdom of heaven. Christ pronounces a curse on them, because they pervert their office to the general destruction of the whole people; for since the government of the Church was in their hands, they ought to have been, as it were, porters for the kingdom of heaven. What purpose is served by religion and holy doctrine but to open heaven to us? For we know that all mankind are banished from God, and excluded from the inheritance of eternal salvation. Now the doctrine of religion may be said to be the door by which we enter into life, and therefore Scripture says metaphorically, that the keys of the kingdom of heaven are given to pastors, as I have explained more fully under <401619>Matthew 16:19. And we ought to abide by this definition, which appears still more strongly from the words of Luke, in which Christ reproaches the lawyers with having taken away the key of knowledge, which means that, though they were the guardians of the Law of God, they deprived the people of the true understanding of it. As, therefore, in the present day, the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed to the custody of pastors, that they may admit believers into eternal life, and exclude unbelievers from all expectation of it, so the priests and scribes anciently under the Law held the same office.
From the word knowledge we infer how absurdly the Papists forge false keys, as if they possessed some magical power apart from the word of God; for Christ declares that none but those who are ministers of doctrine have the use of keys. If it be objected, that the Pharisees, though they were perverse expounders of the Law still held the keys, I reply: Though, in respect of their office, the keys were entrusted to them, yet they were suppressed by malice and deceit, so that they no longer retained the use of them. And therefore Christ says, that they took away, or stole that key of knowledge, by which they ought to have opened the gate of heaven. In like manner, heaven is shut by Popery against the wretched people, while the very pastors—or, at least, those who hold that office—prevent them by their tyranny from being opened. If we are not excessively indifferent, we will not willingly enter into a league with wicked tyrants, who cruelly shut against us the entrance into life.
14. For you devour widows’ houses. He now proceeds farther, for he not only accuses them of open crimes which demand hatred and detestation, but even tears away the disguises of virtues, by which they deceived the common people. If it be objected, that there was no need of reproving those things which could do no harm by their example, we ought to recollect that it was impossible to promote the salvation of those who were held bound by the errors of the scribes, unless they turned away entirely from such persons. This reason, therefore, constrained Christ to expose the vain appearance of virtues, which nourishes superstitions.
And that under the pretense of a long prayer. He says in general that, even when they appear to do what is right, they wickedly abuse the pretense of religion. Long prayers contained some evidence of remarkable piety; for the more holy a man is, the more eminently is he devoted to prayer. But Christ says that the Pharisees and scribes were so impure, that even the chief part of the worship of God was not used by them without committing sin, because constancy in prayer was with them, trap for base gain. For they sold their prayers in exactly the same manner as hirelings dispose of their daily labor. f93 Hence also we infer that our Lord does not exactly reprove long prayers, as if in itself it were an impropriety—particularly since pastors ought to be eminently devoted to prayer—but to condemn this abuse, because a thing laudable in itself was turned to a wicked purpose. For when men aim at gain by means of hired prayers, the more fervent the appearance of what they call devotion becomes, the more is the name of God profaned. And as this false conviction had been long and deeply seated in the minds of the common people, on this account Christ employs harsher threatenings; for the pollution of so sacred a thing was no light offense. That it was chiefly widows that were imposed on need not excite surprise, because silly women are more prone to superstition, and therefore it has always been customary for base men to make gain of. them. Thus Paul brings a charge against the false teachers of his age, that they
lead captive silly women laden with sins, (<550306>2 Timothy 3:6.)
15. For you compass sea and land. The scribes had also acquired celebrity by their zeal in laboring to bring over to the Jewish religion the strangers and uncircumcised. And so, if they had gained any one by their false appearances, or by any other stratagem, they gloried wonderfully over it as an increase of the Church. On this account also they received great applause from the common people, that by their diligence and ability they brought strangers into the Church of God. Christ declares, on the contrary, that so far is this zeal from deserving applause, that they more and more provoke the vengeance of God, because they bring under heavier condemnation those who devote themselves to their sect. We ought to observe how corrupt their condition at that time was, and what confusion existed in religion; for as it was a holy and excellent work to gain disciples to God, so to allure the Gentiles to the Jewish worship—which was at that time degenerate, and was even full of wicked profanation—was nothing else than to hurry them from Scylla to Charybdis. f94 Besides, by a sacrilegious abuse of the name of God, they drew down upon themselves a heavier condemnation, because their religion allowed them grosser licentiousness of crime. An instance of the same kind may be seen at the present day among the monks; for they are diligent in culling proselytes from every quarter, but those proselytes, from being lascivious and debauched persons, they render altogether devils: for such is the filthiness of those puddles, within which they carry on their reveling, that it would corrupt even the heavenly angels. f95 Yet the monk’s habit is a very suitable mantle for concealing enormities of every description.
MATTHEW 23:16
MATTHEW 23:16-22
16. Woe to you, blind guides! who say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but he who shall swear by the gold of the temple is guilty. 17. Fools, and blind! for which is greater, the gold, or the temple which sanctifieth the gold? 18. And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gift which is upon it is guilty. 19. Fools, and blind! for which is greater, the gilt, or the altar which sanctifieth the gift? 20. Whosoever therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things that are on it. 21. And whosoever shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth in it. 22. And whosoever shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth upon it.

Matthew 23:16. Woe to you, blind guides, As ambition is almost always connected with hypocrisy, so the superstitions of the people are usually encouraged by the covetousness and rapacity of pastors. The world has, indeed, a natural propensity to errors, and even draws down upon itself, as if on purpose, every kind of deceit and imposture; but improper modes of worship come to gain a footing only when they are confirmed by the rulers f96 themselves. And it generally happens, that those who possess authority not only, by their connivance, fawn upon errors, because they perceive that they are a source of gain to them, but even assist in fanning the flame. Thus we see that the superstitions of Popery were heightened by innumerable expedients, while the priests opened their mouths for the prey; and even now they daily contrive many things by which they delude still more the foolish multitude. And when minds have once fallen under the darkening influence of the enchantments of Satan, nothing is so absurd or monstrous as not to be eagerly swallowed.
It was on this account that the Jews had more reverence for the gold of the temple, and for the sacred offerings, than for the temple and the altar. But the sacredness of the offerings depended on the temple and the altar, and was only something inferior and accessory. It may readily be believed that this dream proceeded from the scribes and priests, because it was a scheme well fitted for collecting prey. And this was not only a foolish but a highly dangerous error, because it led the people into ridiculous fancies. There is nothing to which men are more prone than to fall away from the pure worship of God: and therefore, under the covering of this veil, it was easy for Satan to withdraw from the contemplation of God those who were too strongly inclined to foolish imaginations. This is the reason why Christ so severely chastises that error. And yet the Papists were not ashamed to prostitute the sacred name of God to a mockery still more detestable; for they reckon it of more importance to touch a morsel of a stinking carcass, than to peruse the sacred volume of the Old and New Testaments, or even to raise their hands towards heaven. And in this way arises a carnal worship of God, by which the proper fear of God is gradually obliterated.
It is nothing. By this phrase he does not mean that they entirely took away the honor of the temple, but he speaks comparatively. For when they represented in extravagant terms the sacredness of offerings, the common people were led to entertain such veneration for them, that the majesty of the temple and of the altar was undervalued, and they reckoned it a less heinous crime to violate it by perjuries than to swear by the sacred offerings with too little reverence.
18. And whosoever shall swear by the altar. Here our Lord does what ought to be done in correcting errors; for he leads us up to the source, and shows, by the very nature of an oath, that the temple is far more valuable than the gifts which are offered in it. He accordingly assumes this principle, that it is not lawful to swear but by the name of God alone. Hence it follows that, whatever forms men may employ in swearing, they must give to God the honor which is due to him; and hence also it follows in what manner and to what extent we are at liberty to swear by the temple, namely, because it is the residence or sanctuary of God; and by heaven, because there the glory of God shines. God permits himself to be called as a witness and judge, by means of such symbols of his presence, provided that he retain his authority unimpaired; for to ascribe any Divinity to heaven would be detestable idolatry. Now so far as God holds out to us a brighter mirror of his glory in the temple than in offerings, so much the greater reverence and sacredness is due to the name of the temple. We now perceive, therefore, in what sense Christ says that we swear by him who inhabits heaven, when we swear by heaven itself. His design is, to direct all forms of swearing to their lawful end and object.
MATTHEW 23:23-28; LUKE 11:42, 44
MATTHEW 23:23-28
LUKE 11:42, 44
23. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cumin and have omitted the more important points of the law, judgment, and mercy, and faith. The latter you ought to have done, and not to have omitted the former. 24. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat, but swallow the camel. 25. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outer part of the cup and of the dish, but within they are full of extortion and intemperance. 26. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first what is within the cup and dish, that the outer parts of them also may be made clean. 27. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitened sepulchers, which outwardly indeed appear beautiful, but within are full of dead men’s bones, and of all filthiness. 28. So you also outwardly indeed appear righteous to men; but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
42. But woe to you, Pharisees! for you pay tithe of mint, and rue, and every kind of herb, and pass by judgment and the love of God. The latter you ought to have done, and not to have omitted the former. (A little after.) 44. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are as tombs which do not appear, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them.

Christ charges the scribes with a fault which is found in all hypocrites, that they are exceedingly diligent and careful in small matters, but disregard the principal points of the Law. This disease has prevailed in almost all ages, and among all nations; so that men have, in most cases, endeavored to please God by observing with exactness some trivial matters. Finding that they cannot entirely release themselves from all obedience to God, they have recourse to this second remedy of expiating any heinous offenses by satisfactions which are of no value. Thus we see that the Papists, while they transgress the chief commandments of God, are extremely zealous in the performance of trifling ceremonies. Hypocrisy of the same kind is now reproved by God in the scribes, who, while they were very diligent and careful in paying tithes, cared little about the principal points of the Law. To expose more fully to ridicule their offensive ostentation, he does not say generally that they paid tithes, but tithes of mint, and anise, and (as Luke has it) of every kind of herb, so as to make a display of extraordinary zeal for piety at the least possible expense.
But as Christ makes the chief righteousness of the Law to consist in mercy, judgment, and faith, we must first, see what he means by these words; and, secondly, why he left out the commandments of the first table, which strictly relate to the worship of God, as if godliness were of less value than the duties of charity. Judgment is taken for equity, or uprightness, the effect of which is, that we render to every man what belongs to him, and that no man deceives or injures others. Mercy proceeds farther, and leads a man to endeavor to assist his brethren with his property, to relieve the wretched by advice or by money, to protect those who are unjustly oppressed, and to employ liberally for the common good the means which God has put into his hands. Faith is nothing else than strict integrity; not to attempt any thing by cunning, or malice, or deceit, but to cultivate towards all that mutual sincerity which every man wishes to be pursued towards himself. The sum of the Law, therefore, relates to charity.
The word faith, I am aware, is interpreted by some persons differently, as including, by synecdoche, the whole worship of God; but Christ, according to his custom, here brings the true test of holiness to brotherly love, and therefore does not refer to the first table. Nor is it inconsistent with this view that, instead of faith, Luke uses the expression, the love of God; for the design of Christ was, to show what it is that the Lord chiefly requires of us in his Law. It is well known that the Law was divided into two tables, so as to point out, first, what we owe to God, and next, what we owe to men. Luke expresses both parts as if Christ had said, that the chief design of the Law is, that we should love God, and that we should be just and merciful towards our neighbors. Matthew satisfies himself with one part; and there is no absurdity in calling the duties of charity the principal points of the Law, since charity itself is pronounced by Paul to be the perfection of the Law; as he also says, that
the Law is fulfilled if toe love our neighbors,
(<451310>Romans 13:10.)
And Christ, when formerly interrogated as to the commandments of the Law quoted none but those which belonged to the second table.
If it be objected, that in this way men are preferred to God, because charity, which is performed towards them, is reckoned more valuable than religion, the answer is easy. Christ does not here contrast the second table of the Law with the first, but, on the contrary, draws from the manner in which the second table is kept the proof whether or not God is truly and sincerely worshipped. As piety lies within the heart, and as God does not dwell amongst us in order to make trial of our love towards Him, and does not even need our services, it is easy for hypocrites to lie, and falsely to pretend to love God. But the duties of brotherly love fall under the senses, and are placed before the eyes of all, and therefore in them the impudence of hypocrites is better ascertained. Christ, therefore, did not intend to enter into subtle inquiries about the particular parts of righteousness, or their order, but, so far as the ordinary capacity of men allowed, intended simply to show that the Law is kept only when men are just, and kind, and true, towards each other; for thus they testify that they love and fear God, and give proper and sufficient evidence of sincere piety. Not that it is enough to discharge our duties towards men, if we do not first render to God what we owe to him, but because he who regulates his life according to God’s commandment must be a sincere worshipper of God.
And yet the question is not fully answered; for tithes, which Christ places inferior to judgment and mercy, were a part of divine worship, and some part of them was usually bestowed on the poor, so that tithes contained a double sacrifice. I reply: Tithes are not simply compared to alms, and faith, and judgment, but the pretended holiness of the scribes is compared with the sincere and pure feeling of charity. Why were they so ready and willing to pay tithes, but in order to pacify God a, the least expense and trouble? For they did not regard the principal point; and therefore those light matters, by which they attempted to deceive God and men, ought not to be reckoned along the duties of charity.
Matthew 23:23. The former you ought to have done. This is intended to anticipate their calumny; for they might have put an unfavorable interpretation on his discourse, and charged him with setting no value on what the Law of God had enjoined. He therefore acknowledges that whatever God has enjoined ought to be performed, and that no part of it ought to be omitted, but maintains that zeal for the whole Law is no reason why we ought not to insist chiefly on the principal points. Hence he infers that they overturn the natural order who employ themselves in the smallest matters, when they ought rather to have begun with the principal points; for tithes were only a kind of appendage. Christ therefore affirms that he has no intention to lessen the authority even of the smallest commandments, though he recommends and demands due order in keeping the Law. It is therefore our duty to preserve entire the whole Law, which cannot be violated in any part without contempt for its Author; for He who has forbidden us to commit adultery, and to kill, and to steal, has likewise condemned all impure desire. Hence we conclude that all the commandments are so interwoven with each other, that we have no right to detach one of them from the rest. Wherefore it is also written,
Cursed is every one that performeth not all things that are written, (<052726>Deuteronomy 27:26; <480310>Galatians 3:10;)
by which words the righteousness of the whole Law, without exception, is enforced. But this reverence, as we have said, does not take away the distinction between the commandments, or the true design of the Law, to which those who truly observe it direct their mind, that they may not merely amuse themselves on the surface.
24. Blind guides. This is s proverbial saying, by which he beautifully describes the affected scrupulousness of hypocrites about trifling matters; for they utterly shrink from very small faults, as if a single transgression appeared to them more revolting than a hundred deaths, and yet they freely permit themselves and others to commit the most heinous crimes. They act as absurdly as if a man were to strain out a small crumb of bread, and to swallow a whole loaf.
Straining out f97 a gnat, and swallowing a camel. We know that a gnat is a very small animal, and that a camel is a huge beast. Nothing therefore could be more ridiculous than to strain out the wine or the water, so as not to hurt the jaws by swallowing a gnat, and yet carelessly to gulp down a camel. f98 But it is evident that hypocrites amuse themselves with such distinctions; for while they pass by judgment, mercy, and faith, and even tear in pieces the whole Law, they are excessively rigid and severe in matters that are of no great importance; and while in this way they pretend to kiss the feet of God, they proudly spit in his face.
25. For you cleanse the outer part. Our Lord follows out the same statement, and employs a figure for reproaching the scribes with being eagerly bent on this single object of making a brilliant appearance before men. For by the outer part of the dish he metaphorically expresses the outward appearance; as if he had said, “You give yourselves no concern about any cleanness but what appears outwardly, which is quite as if one were carefully to wash off the filth of the dish without, but to leave it filthy within.” That the expression is metaphorical is evident from the second clause, in which the uncleanness within is condemned, because WITHIN they are full of intemperance and extortion. He therefore reproves their hypocrisy, in not endeavoring to regulate their life, except before the eyes of men, in order to procure for themselves an empty reputation for holiness. Thus he recalls them to the pure and sincere desire of a holy life. Cleanse first, he says, that which is within; for it would be ridiculous to feast your eyes with outward splendor, and yet to drink out of a cup full of dregs, or in other respects filthy. f99
27. You are like whitened sepulchers. This is a different metaphor, but the meaning is the same; for he compares them to sepulchers, which the men of the world ambitiously construct with great beauty and splendor. As a painting or engraving on sepulchers draws the eyes of men upon them, while inwardly they contain stinking carcasses; so Christ says that hypocrites deceive by their outward appearance, because they are full of deceit and iniquity. The words of Luke are somewhat different, that they deceive the eyes of men, like sepulchers, which frequently are not perceived by those who walk over them; but it amounts to the same meaning, that, under the garb of pretended holiness, there lurks hidden filth which they cherish in their hearts, like a marble sepulcher; for it wears the aspect of what is beautiful and lovely, but covers a stinking carcass, so as not to be offensive to those who pass by. Hence we infer what I have formerly said, that Christ, with a view to the advantage of the simple and ignorant, tore off the deceitful mask which the scribes held wrapped around them in empty hypocrisy; for this warning was advantageous to simple persons, that they might quickly withdraw from the jaws of wolves. Yet this passage contains a general doctrine, that the children of God ought to desire to be pure rather than to appear so.
MATTHEW 23:29-39
LUKE 11:47-51; 13:34-35; 11:53-54
MATTHEW 23:29-39
LUKE 11:47-51
29. Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the sepulchers of the prophets and embellish the monuments of the righteous, 30. And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been their associates in the blood of the prophets. 31. Thus you testify against yourselves, that you are the children of those who killed the prophets. 32. Do you also fill up the measure of your fathers. 33. Serpents, offspring of vipers, how shall you escape the judgment of hell? 34. Therefore, lo, I send to you prophets, and wise men, and scribes, and some of them you will slay and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city: 35. That upon you may come all the righteous blood which hath been shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Barachiah, whom you slew between the temple and the altar. 36. Verily I say to you, All these things shall come on this generation. 37. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who slayest the prophets, and stonest those who were sent to thee, how often would I have gathered together thy children, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and you would not! 38. Lo, your house is left to you desolate. 39. For I tell you, that you shall never see me henceforth, till you say, Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
47. Woe to you, for you build the monuments f100 of the prophets, and your fathers slew them. f101 48. Truly you testify that you approve of the actions of your fathers; f102 for they indeed slew them, and you build their sepulchers. 49. Therefore also the Wisdom of God hath said, I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will slay and persecute: 50. That the blood of all the prophets, which hath been shed since the creation of the world, may be demanded from this generation; 51. From the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the temple. Assuredly I tell you, That it shall be demanded from this generation.

LUKE 13:34-35
34. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who slayest the prophets, and stonest those who are sent to thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a bird gathereth its brood under its wings, and you would not! 35. Lo, your house is left to you desolate. But I tell you, that you shall not see me, until the time come when you say Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

LUKE 11:53-54
53. And while he was saying these things to them, the lawyers and Pharisees began to press him closely, and cunningly to interrogate him about many things; 54. Laying snares for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, to accuse him.

Matthew 23:29. For you build the sepulchers of the prophets. An unfounded opinion is entertained by some, that the scribes are here reproved for superstition, in foolishly honoring the deceased prophets by splendid sepulchers, as the Papists now transfer the honor of God to departed saints, and even are so perverse as to adore their images. They had not yet arrived at such a pitch of blindness and madness, and therefore the design of Christ was different. The scribes endeavored to gain the favor of the ignorant multitude, and indeed of all the Jews, by this additional hypocrisy, that they cherished with reverence the memory of the prophets; for while in this manner they pretended to maintain their doctrine, any one would have supposed that they were faithful imitators of them, and very keen zealots for the worship of God. It was a proposal, therefore, which was likely to prove highly acceptable, to erect monuments for the prophets, because in this way religion might be said to be drawn out of darkness, that it might receive the honor which it deserved. And yet nothing was farther from their design than to restore doctrine, which might appear to have been extinguished by the death of the prophets. But though they were not only averse to the doctrine of the prophets, but most inveterate enemies to it, yet they honored them—when dead—with sepulchers, as if they had made common cause with them.
It is customary, indeed, with hypocrites thus to honor, after their death, good teachers and holy ministers of God, whom they cannot endure while they are alive. Nor does this arise merely from the common fault, which Horace thus describes: “We hate virtue while it is in safety, but when it has been removed from our eyes, we seek it with envy;” f103 but as the ashes of the dead no longer give annoyance by harsh and severe reproofs, they who are driven to madness by the living voices of those men are not unwilling, by adoring them, to make an empty display of religion. It is a hypocrisy which costs little to profess warm regard for those who are now silent. f104 Thus each of the prophets, in his own age, was contemptuously rejected, and wickedly tormented, by the Jews, and, in many instances, cruelly put to death; while posterity, though not a whit better than their fathers, pretended to venerate their memory, instead of embracing their doctrine; for they too were actuated by equal hostility towards their own teachers. f105 As the world—not venturing altogether to despise God, or at least to rise openly against him—contrives this stratagem of adoring the shadow of God instead of God, so a similar game is played in reference to the prophets.
A proof of this—far too striking—may be seen in Popery. Not satisfied with paying just veneration to Apostles and Martyrs, they render to them divine worship, and think that they cannot go too far in the honors which they heap upon them; and yet, by their rage against believers, they show what sort of respect they would have manifested towards Apostles and Martyrs, if they had been still alive to discharge the same office which they anciently held. For why are they inflamed with such rage against us, but because we desire that doctrine to be received, and to be successful, which the Apostles and Martyrs sealed with their blood? While the holy servants of God valued that doctrine more highly than their own life, would their life have been spared by those who so outrageously persecute the doctrine? Let them adorn the images of the saints as they may think fit, by perfumes, candles, flowers, and every sort of gaudy ornament. If Peter were now alive, they would tear him in pieces; they would stone Paul; and if Christ himself were still in the world, they would burn him with a slow fire.
Our Lord, perceiving that the scribes and priests of his age were eager to obtain the applause of the people, on the ground of their being devout worshippers of the prophets, reproves them for deceit and mockery, because they not only reject, but even cruelly persecute, the prophets that are now present, f106 and whom God has sent to them. But it is a display of base hypocrisy, and shameful impudence, to desire to be thought religious on account of worshipping the dead, while they endeavor to murder the living.
30. If we had been in the days of our fathers. Not without good reason did Christ introduce this sentiment; for though he does not blame them for the conduct of their fathers, and does not make it the chief ground of accusation that they are the children of murderers: yet he takes a passing glance of their foolish boasting, in being accustomed to glory in their ancestors, while they were descended from the bloody enemies of God. The appeal may be thus stated: “You look upon the veneration which you pay to the deceased prophets as some sort of expiation for the wickedness of your fathers. Now then I have this to urge, that it is in vain for you to boast of a sacred ancestry, since you are descended from wicked and ungodly parents. Go now, and screen your crimes by the piety of those whose hands, you acknowledge, were stained with innocent blood. But it is an additional and far more heinous crime, that the sacrilegious fury of the fathers, which you condemn by raising sepulchers for the dead, is imitated by you in the murder of the living.”
32. Do you then fill up the measure of your fathers. He at length concludes that they are not, in this respect, degenerate from their fathers; as if he had said, “It is not now that your nation begins to treat with cruelty the prophets of God; for this is the ancient discipline, this is the custom handed down from the fathers, and, in short, this way of acting is almost natural to you.” And yet he does not bid them do what they are doing, to put to death holy teachers, but states figuratively that they have a hereditary right to rise against the servants of God, and that they must be permitted to oppose religion, because in this way they fill up what is wanting in the crimes of their fathers, and finish the web which they had begun. By these words he not only pronounces themselves to be desperate, and incapable of being brought to a sound mind, but warns simple people that there is no reason to wonder, if the prophets of God are ill-treated by the children of murderers.
33. Offspring of vipers. After having demonstrated that the scribes are not only base enemies of sound doctrine, and wicked corrupters of the worship of God, but likewise deadly plagues of the Church, Christ, being about to close his discourse, kindles into more vehement indignation against them; as it is necessary to shake off by violence the flatteries in which hypocrites indulge, and to drag them, as it were, to the judgment seat of God, that they may be filled with alarm. And yet Christ did not keep them alone in his eye, but intended to strike terror into the whole people, that all might guard against a similar destruction. How harsh and intolerable this roughness of language must have been to these reverend instructors may easily be inferred from the long period during which they had held a peaceful dominion, so that no one dared to mutter against them. And there can be no doubt that many were displeased with the great freedom and sharpness which Christ used, and, above all, that he was looked upon as immoderate and outrageous in venturing to apply such reproachful epithets to the order of the scribes; as many fastidious persons of the present day cannot endure any harsh word to be spoken against the Popish clergy. But as Christ had to deal with the worst of hypocrites, who not only were swelled with proud contempt of God, and intoxicated with careless security, but had captivated the multitude by their enchantments, he found it necessary to exclaim against them with vehemence. He calls them serpents both in nature and in habits, and then threatens them with a punishment, which it will be in vain for them to attempt to escape, if they do not speedily repent.
34. Therefore, lo, I send to you. Luke introduces it in a still more emphatic manner, Wherefore also the Wisdom of God hath said; which some commentators explain thus: “I, who am the eternal Wisdom of God, declare this concerning you.” But I am more inclined to believe that, according to the ordinary custom of Scripture, God is here represented as speaking in the person of his Wisdom; so that the meaning is, “God foretold long ago, by the prophetic Spirit, what would happen with regard to you.” This sentence, I acknowledge, is nowhere to be found literally: but as God denounces the incorrigible obstinacy of that people in many places of Scripture, Christ draws up a kind of summary of them, and by this personification f107 expresses more clearly what was the judgment of God as to the incurable wickedness of that nation. For if those teachers would have no success, it might have appeared strange that Christ should have desired them to weary themselves to no purpose. Men argue thus: “God labors in vain, when he sends his word to the reprobate, who, he knows, will continue obstinate.” And hypocrites, as if it were sufficient of itself to have preachers of the heavenly doctrine continually with them, though they show themselves to be disobedient, entertain the conviction that God is reconciled and favorable to them, provided that the outward word be heard amongst them.
Thus the Jews fiercely boasted that, in comparison of other nations, they had always enjoyed the best prophets and teachers, and, as if they had deserved so great an honor, they considered this to be an undoubted proof of their own excellence. f108 To put down this foolish boasting, Christ not only affirms that they do not excel other nations on the ground of having received from God distinguished prophets and expounders of his Wisdom, but maintains that this ilk requited favor is a greater reproach, and will bring upon them a heavier condemnation, because the purpose of God was different from what they supposed, namely, to render them more inexcusable, and to bring their wicked malice to the highest pitch; as if he had said, “Though prophets have been appointed to you by heaven in close succession, it is idly and foolishly that you claim this as an honor; for God had quite a different object in his secret judgment, which was, to lay open, by an uninterrupted succession of gracious invitations, your wicked obstinacy, and, on your being convicted of it, to involve the children in the same condemnation with the fathers.”
With regard to the words, the discourse as related by Matthew is defective, but its meaning must be supplied from the words of Luke. The mention of scribes and wise men along with prophets tends to magnify the grace of God; by which their ingratitude becomes more apparent, since, though God left nothing undone for their instruction, they made no proficiency. Instead of wise men and scribes, Luke mentions apostles, but the meaning is the same. This passage shows that God does not always bestow salvation on men when he sends his word to them, but that he sometimes intends to have it proclaimed to the reprobate, who, he knows, will continue obstinate, that it may be to them
the savior of death unto death, (<470216>2 Corinthians 2:16.)
The word of God, indeed, in itself and by its own nature, brings salvation, and invites all men indiscriminately to the hope of eternal life; but as all are not inwardly drawn, and as God does not pierce the ears of ally—in short, as they are not renewed to repentance or bent to obedience, those who reject the word of God render it, by their unbelief, deadly and destructive.
While God foresees that this will be the result, he purposely sends his prophets to them, that he may involve the reprobate in severer condemnation, as is more fully explained by Isaiah, (6:10.) This, I acknowledge, is very far from being agreeable to the reason of the flesh, as we see that unholy despisers of God seize on it as a plausible excuse for barking, that God, like some cruel tyrant, takes pleasure in inflicting more severe punishment on men whom, without any expectation of advantage, he knowingly and willingly hardens more and more. But by such examples God exercises the modesty of believers. Let us maintain such sobriety as to tremble and adore what exceeds our senses. Those who say, that God’s foreknowledge does not hinder unbelievers from being saved, foolishly make use of an idle defense for excusing God. I admit that the reprobate, in bringing death upon themselves, have no intention of doing what God foresaw would happen, and therefore that the fault of their perishing cannot be ascribed to His foreknowledge; but I assert that it is improper to employ this sophistry in defending the justice of God, because it may be immediately objected that it lies with God to make them repent, for the gift of faith and repentance is in his power.
We shall next be met by this objection, What is the reason why God, by a fixed and deliberate purpose, appoints the light of his word to blind men? When they have been devoted to eternal death, why is he not satisfied with their simple ruin? and why does he wish that they should perish twice or three times? There is nothing left for us but to ascribe glory to the judgments of God, by exclaiming with Paul, that they are a deep and unfathomable abyss, (<451133>Romans 11:33.) But it is asked, How does he declare that the prophecies will turn to the destruction of the Jews, while his adoption still continued to be in force towards that nation? I reply, As but a small portion embraced the word by faith for salvation, this passage relates to the greater number or the whole body; as Isaiah, after having predicted the general destruction of the nation, is commanded
to seal the law of God among the disciples, (<230816>Isaiah 8:16.)
Let us know then that, wherever the Scripture denounces eternal death against the Jews, it excepts a remnant, (<230109>Isaiah 1:9; <451105>Romans 11:5;) that is, those in whom the Lord preserves some seed on account of his free election.
35. That upon you may come. He not only takes away from them their false boasting, but shows that they had received prophets for a totally different purpose, that no age might be free from the criminality of wicked rebellion; for the pronoun you embraces generally the whole nation from its very commencement. If it be objected, that it is not consistent with the judgment of God that punishment should be inflicted on the children for the sins of the parents, the answer is easy. Since they are all involved in a wicked conspiracy, we ought not to think it strange if God, in punishing all without reserve, make the punishment due to the fathers to fall upon the children. Justly then is the whole nation—in whatever age individuals may have lived—called to account, and likewise punished, for this unceasing contempt. For as God, by an uninterrupted course of patience, has unceasingly contended with the malice of the whole people, so the whole people is justly held guilty of the inflexible obstinacy which continued to the very last; and as every age had conspired to put to death its own prophets, so it is right that a general sentence should be pronounced upon them, and that all the murders, which have been perpetrated with one consent, should be avenged on all.
From the blood of Abel. Though Abel (Genesis 4:8) was not slain by the Jews, yet the murder of Abel is imputed to them by Christ, because there is an affinity of wickedness between them and Cain; otherwise there would have been no propriety in saying that righteous blood had been shed by that nation from the beginning of the world. Cain is therefore declared to be the head, and leader, and instigator of the Jewish people, because, ever since they began to slay prophets, they succeeded in the room of him whose imitators they were.
To the blood of Zechariah. He does not speak of Zechariah as the latest martyr; for the Jews did not then put an end to the murder of the prophets, but, on the contrary, their insolence and madness increased from that period; and posterity, who followed them, satiated themselves with the blood which their fathers only tasted. Nor is it because his death was better known, though it is recorded in Scripture. But there is another reason, which, though it deserves attention, has escaped the notice of commentators; in consequence of which they have not only fallen into a mistake, but have likewise involved their readers in a troublesome question. We might suppose it to have arisen from forgetfulness on the part of Christ, that, while he mentions one ancient murder, he passes by a prodigious slaughter which afterwards took place under Manasseh. For until the Jews were carried to Babylon, their wicked persecutions of holy men did not cease; and even while they were still under affliction, we know with what cruelty and rage they pursued Jeremiah, (32:2.) But our Lord on purpose abstains from reproaching them with recent murders, and selects this murder, which was more ancient—which was also the commencement and source of base licentiousness, and afterwards led them to break out into unbounded cruelty—because it was more suitable to his design. For I have lately explained, that his leading object was to show that this nation, as it did not desist from impiety, must be held guilty of all the murders which had been perpetrated during a long period. Not only, therefore, does he denounce the punishment of their present cruelty, but says that they must be called to account for the murder of Zechariah, as if their own hands had been imbrued in his blood.
There is no probability in the opinion of those who refer this passage to that Zechariah who exhorted the people, after their return from the Babylonish captivity, to build the temple, (<380809>Zechariah 8:9,) and whose prophecies are still in existence. For though the title of the book informs us that he was the son of Barachiah, (<380101>Zechariah 1:1,)
yet we nowhere read that he was slain; and it is , forced exposition to say, that he was slain during the period that intervened between the building of the altar and of the temple. But as to the other Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, the sacred history relates what agrees perfectly with this passage; that when true religion had fallen into decay, after the death of his father, through the wicked revolt of the king and of the people, the Spirit of God came upon him, to reprove severely the public idolatry, and that on this account he was stoned in the porch of the temple, (<142420>2 Chronicles 24:20, 21.) There is no absurdity in supposing that his father Jehoiada received, in token of respect, the surname of Barachiah, because, having throughout his whole life defended the true worship, he might justly be pronounced to be the Blessed of God. But whether Jehoiada had two names, or whether (as Jerome thinks) there is a mistake in the word, there can be no doubt as to the fact, that Christ refers to that impious stoning of Zechariah which is recorded in <142421>2 Chronicles 24:21, 22.
Whom you slew between the temple and the altar. The crime is rendered still more heinous by the circumstance of the place, since they did not revere the sacredness of the temple. Here the temple is put for the outer court, as in other passages. Near it was the altar of burnt offerings, (<110864>1 Kings 8:64; 18:30,)
so that the priest offered the sacrifices in presence of the people. It is evident, therefore, that there must have been furious rage, when the sight of the altar and of the temple could not restrain the Jews from profaning that sacred place by a detestable murder.
37. Jerusalem, Jerusalem. By these words, Christ shows more clearly what good reason he had for indignation, that Jerusalem, which God had chosen to be his sacred, and—as we might say—heavenly abode, not only had shown itself to be unworthy of so great an honor, but, as if it had been a den of robbers, (<240711>Jeremiah 7:11,) had been long accustomed to suck the blood of the prophets. Christ therefore utters a pathetic exclamation at a sight so monstrous, as that the holy city of God should have arrived at such a pitch of madness, that it had long endeavored to extinguish the saving doctrine of God by shedding the blood of the prophets. This is also implied in the repetition of the name, because impiety so monstrous and incredible deserves no ordinary detestation.
Thou who killest the prophets. Christ does not reproach them with merely one or another murder, but says that this custom was so deeply rooted, that the city did not care to slay every one of the prophets that were sent to it. For the participle, (ajpoktei>nousa tou<v profh>tav), (KILLING the prophets,) is put for an epithet; as if Christ had said, “Thou who oughtest to have been a faithful guardian of the word of God, a teacher of heavenly wisdom, the light of the world, the fountain of sound doctrine, the seat of divine worship, a pattern of faith and obedience, art a murderer of the prophets, so that thou hast acquired a certain habit of sucking their blood.” f108a Hence it is evident, that they who had so basely profaned the sanctuary of God deserved every kind of reproaches. Yet Christ had likewise the intention to obviate the scandal which soon after arose, that believers, when they saw him basely put to death at Jerusalem, might not be confounded by the novelty of such an exhibition. For by these words they were already warned that it was not wonderful if a city, which had been accustomed to strangle or stone the prophets, should cruelly put to death its own Redeemer. This shows us what value we should attach to places. There never certainly was a city in the world on which God bestowed such magnificent titles, or such distinguished honor; and yet we see how deeply it was sunk by its ingratitude.
Let the Pope now compare the abode of his robbery with that holy city; what will he find worthy of equal honor? His hired flatterers boast to us that the faith flourished there in ancient times. But admitting this to be true, if it is evident that it has now, by wicked rebellion, revolted from Christ, and is full of innumerable deeds of sacrilege, what folly is it in them to maintain that the honor of primacy belongs to it? Let us, on the contrary, learn from this memorable example, that when any place has been exalted by uncommon instances of the favor of God, and thus has been removed from the ordinary rank, if it degenerate, it will not only be stripped of its ornaments, but will become so much the more hateful and detestable, because it has basely profaned the glow of God by staining the beauty of his favors.
How often would I have gathered together thy children. This is expressive of indignation rather than of compassion. The city itself, indeed, over which he had lately wept, (<421941>Luke 19:41,) is still an object of his compassion; but towards the scribes, who were the authors of its destruction, he uses harshness and severity, as they deserved. And yet he does not spare the rest, who were all guilty of approving and partaking of the same crime, but, including all in the same condemnation, he inveighs chiefly against the leaders themselves, who were the cause of all the evils. We must now observe the vehemence of the discourse. If in Jerusalem the grace of God had been merely rejected, there would have been inexcusable ingratitude; but since God attempted to draw the Jews to himself by mild and gentle methods, and gained nothing by such kindness, the criminality of such haughty disdain was far more aggravated. There was likewise added unconquerable obstinacy; for not once and again did God wish to gather them together, but, by constant and uninterrupted advances, he sent to them the prophets, one after another, almost all of whom were rejected by the great body of the people.
As a hen collecteth her brood under her wings. We now perceive the reason why Christ, speaking in the person of God, compares himself to a hen. It is to inflict deeper disgrace on this wicked nation, which had treated with disdain invitations so gentle, and proceeding from more than maternal kindness. It is an amazing and unparalleled instance of love, that he did not disdain to stoop to those blandishments, by which he might tame rebels into subjection. A reproof nearly similar is employed by Moses, that God, like
an eagle with outspread wings, (<053211>Deuteronomy 32:11,)
embraced that people. And though in more than one way God spread out his wings to cherish that people, yet this form of expression is applied by Christ, in a peculiar manner, to one class, namely, that prophets were sent to gather together the wandering and dispersed into the bosom of God. By this he means that, whenever the word of God is exhibited to us, he opens his bosom to us with maternal kindness, and, not satisfied with this, condescends to the humble affection of a hen watching over her chickens. Hence it follows, that our obstinacy is truly monstrous, if we do not permit him to gather us together. And, indeed, if we consider, on the one hand, the dreadful majesty of God, and, on the other, our mean and low condition, we cannot but be ashamed and astonished at such amazing goodness. For what object can God have in view in abasing himself so low on our account? When he compares himself to a mother, he descends very far below his glory; how much more when he takes the form of a hen, and deigns to treat us as his chickens?
Besides, if this charge was justly brought against the ancient people, who lived under the Law, it is far more applicable to us. For though the statement—which I quoted a little ago from Moses—was always true, and though the complaints which we find in Isaiah are just, that
in vain did God spread out his hands every day to embrace a hard-hearted and rebellious people, (<236502>Isaiah 65:27)
that, though he rose up early, (<240713>Jeremiah 7:13) he gained nothing by his incessant care of them; yet now, with far greater familiarity and kindness, he invites us to himself by his Son. And, therefore, whenever he exhibits to us the doctrine of the Gospel, dreadful vengeance awaits us, if we do not quietly hide ourselves under his wings, by which he is ready to receive and shelter us. Christ teaches us, at the same time, that all enjoy safety and rest who, by the obedience of faith, are gathered together to God; because under his wings they have an impregnable refuge. f109
We must attend likewise to the other part of this accusation, that God, notwithstanding the obstinate rebellion of his ancient people, was not all at once so much offended by it, as to lay aside a father’s love and a mother’s anxiety, since he did not cease to send prophets after prophets in uninterrupted succession; as in our own day, though he has experienced a marvelous depravity in the world, he still continues to dispense his grace. But these words contain still deeper instruction, namely, that the Jews, as soon as the Lord gathered them together, immediately left him. Hence came dispersions so frequent, that they scarcely remained at rest for a single moment under the wings of God, as we see in the present day a certain wildness in the world, which has indeed existed in all ages; and, therefore, it is necessary that God should recall to himself those who are wandering and going astray. But this is the crowning point of desperate and final depravity, when men obstinately reject the goodness of God, and refuse to come under his wings.
I said formerly that Christ speaks here in the person of God, and my meaning is, that this discourse belongs properly to his eternal Godhead; for he does not now speak of what he began to do since he was manifested in the flesh, (<540201>1 Timothy 2:16,) but of the care which he exercised about the salvation of his people from the beginning. Now we know that the Church was governed by God in such a manner that Christ, as the Eternal Wisdom of God, presided over it. In this sense Paul says, not that God the Father was tempted in the wilderness, but that Christ himself was tempted,f110 (<461009>1 Corinthians 10:9.)
Again, when the sophists seize on this passage, to prove free will, and to set aside the secret predestination of God, the answer is easy. “God wills to gather all men,” say they; “and therefore all are at liberty to come, and their will does not depend on the election of God.” I reply: The will of God, which is here mentioned, must be judged from the result. For since by his word he calls all men indiscriminately to salvation, and since the end of preaching is, that all should betake themselves to his guardianship and protection, it may justly be said that he wills to gather all to himself. It is not, therefore, the secret purpose of God, but his will, which is manifested by the nature of the word, that is here described; for, undoubtedly, whomsoever he efficaciously wills to gather, he inwardly draws by his Spirit, and does not merely invite by the outward voice of man.
If it be objected, that it is absurd to suppose the existence of two wills in God, I reply, we fully believe that his will is simple and one; but as our minds do not fathom the deep abyss of secret election, in accommodation to the capacity of our weakness, the will of God is exhibited to us in two ways. And I am astonished at the obstinacy of some people, who, when in many passages of Scripture they meet with that figure of speech f111 (ajnqrwpopa>qeia) which attributes to God human feelings, take no offense, but in this case alone refuse to admit it. But as I have elsewhere treated this subject fully, that I may not be unnecessarily tedious, I only state briefly that, whenever the doctrine, which is the standard of union, f112 is brought forward, God wills to gather all, that all who do not come may be inexcusable.
And you would not. This may be supposed to refer to the whole nation, as well as to the scribes; but I rather interpret it in reference to the latter, by whom the gathering together, f113 was chiefly prevented. For it was against them that Christ inveighed throughout the whole of the passage; and now, after having addressed Jerusalem in the singular number, it appears not without reason that he immediately used the plural number. There is an emphatic contrast between God’s willing and their not willing; f114 for it expresses the diabolical rage of men, who do not hesitate to contradict God.
38. Lo, your house is left to you desolate. He threatens the destruction of the temple, and the dissolution of the whole frame of civil government. Though they were disfigured by irreligion, crimes, and every kind of infamy, yet they were so blinded by a foolish confidence in the temple, and its outward service, that they thought that God was bound to them; and this was the shield which they had always at hand: “What? Could God depart from that place which he has chosen to be his only habitation in the world? And since he dwells in the midst of us, we must one day be restored.” In short, they looked upon the temple as their invincible fortress, as if they dwelt in the bosom of God. But Christ maintains that it is in vain for them to boast of the presence of God, whom they had driven away by their crimes, and, by calling it their house, (lo, YOUR HOUSE is left to you,) he indirectly intimates to them that it is no longer the house of God. The temple had indeed been built on the condition, that at the coming of Christ it would cease to be the abode and residence of Deity; but it would have remained as a remarkable demonstration of the continued grace of God, if its destruction had not been occasioned by the wickedness of the people. It was therefore a dreadful vengeance of God, that the place which Himself had so magnificently adorned was not only forsaken by Him, and ordered to be razed to the foundation, but consigned to the lowest infamy to the end of the world. Let the Romanists now go, and let them proceed, in opposition to the will of God, to build their Tower of Babylon, while they see that the temple of God, which had been built by his authority and at his command, was laid low on account of the crimes of the people.
39. For I tell you. He confirms what he had said about the approaching vengeance of God, by saying that the only method of avoiding destruction will be taken from them. For that was the accepted time, the day of salvation, (<234908>Isaiah 49:8; <470602>2 Corinthians 6:2,) so long as that very person who had come to be their Redeemer, attested and proclaimed the redemption which he had brought. But at his departure, as at the setting of the sun, the light of life vanished; and therefore this dreadful calamity, which he threatens, must of necessity fall upon them.
Until you say. We come now to inquire what period is denoted by this phrase. Some restrict it to the last day of judgment. Others think that it is a prediction, which was soon afterwards fulfilled, when some of the Jews humbly adored Christ. But I do not approve of either of these interpretations. And I am certainly astonished that learned men should have stumbled at so small an obstacle, by taking great pains to inquire how unbelievers can say concerning Christ, Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord; for he does not declare what they will be, but what he himself will do. And even the adverb until extends no farther than to the time which goes before. Joseph did not know his wife until she brought forth Christ, (<400125>Matthew 1:25.) By these words Scripture does not mean, that after Christ had been born they lived together as husband and wife, but only shows that Mary, before the birth of her son, was a virgin that had not known man.
So then the true meaning of the present passage, in nay opinion, is this: “Hitherto I have lived among you in humility and kindness, and have discharged the office of a teacher; and no having finished the course of my calling, I shall depart, and it will not be possible for you any longer to enjoy my presence, but him whom you now despise as a Redeemer and a minister of salvation, you will find to be your Judge.” In this manner the passage agrees with the words of Zechariah, They shall look on him whom they pierced, (<381210>Zechariah 12:10; <431937>John 19:37.) But Christ appears also to make an indirect allusion to their vain hypocrisy, because, as if they ardently longed for the promised salvation, they sung daily the words of the psalm,
Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord,
(<19B826>Psalm 118:26;)
while they treated with scorn the Redeemer that was offered to them. In short, he declares that he will not come to them until, trembling at the sight of his dreadful majesty, they shall exclaim—when it is too late—that truly he is the Son of God. And this threatening is addressed to all despisers of the Gospel, more especially to those who falsely profess his name, while they reject his doctrine; for they will one day acknowledge that they cannot escape the hands of him whom they now mock by their hypocritical pretensions. For the same song is now sung by the Papists, who, after all, care nothing about Christ, until, armed with vengeance, he ascends his tribunal. We are also reminded, that so long as Christ exhibits himself to us in the name of the Father as the herald of salvation and Mediator, we ought not only to honor him with our lips, but sincerely to wish that he would make us and the whole world subject to himself.
Luke 11:53. And while he was saying these things to them. I have formerly mentioned that the preceding sentences were not inserted by Luke in their proper place. For while he was relating that Christ at a dinner reproved the scribes, he introduced also the latest discourses by which, a little before his death, he reproved their wicked courses; and in like manner, the reproof which we have just now examined is inserted by Luke, in connection with a different narrative. If any one prefer to follow the opinion of those who conjecture that Christ repeated the same discourses on various occasions, I have no great objection. After pronouncing the curses which have been now explained, he concludes by saying that all the scribes became more inveterate against Christ, so that they did not cease to entrap him by ensnaring questions; which ought to be referred to the conversation held at the table, rather than to his latest discourse. But I have not thought it a matter of great importance to be very exact about the time—a matter which the Evangelist has disregarded.
MARK 12:41-44; LUKE 21:1-4
MARK 12:41-44
LUKE 21:1-4
41. And while Jesus was sitting opposite to the treasury, he perceived how the multitude threw money into the treasury, and many rich persons put in much. 42. And a poor widow came, and threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 43. And having called his disciples to him, he said, Verily I say to you, that this poor widow hath thrown in more than all who have thrown into the treasury: 44. For they all have thrown in out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty hath thrown in all that she had, all her living. f115
1. And, lifting up his eyes, he saw those rich men who were throwing their gifts into the treasury. 2. And he saw also a certain poor widow throwing into it two mites. 3. And he said, Verily I say to you, that this poor widow hath thrown in more than all: 4. For all these, out of their abundance, have thrown into the offering of God; but she out of her poverty hath thrown in all the living which she had. f116

Mark 12:43. Verily I say to you. This reply of Christ contains a highly useful doctrine that whatever men offer to God ought to be estimated not by its apparent value, f117 but only by the feeling of the heart, and that the holy affection of him who according to his small means, offers to God the little that he has, is more worthy of esteem than that of him who offers a hundred times more out of his abundance. In two ways this doctrine is useful, for the poor who appear not to have the power of doing good, are encouraged by our Lord not to hesitate to express their affection cheerfully out of their slender means; for if they consecrate themselves, their offering, which appears to be mean and worthless, will not be less valuable than if they had presented all the treasures of Crœsus. f118 On the other hand, those who possess greater abundance, and who have received from God larger communications, are reminded that it is not enough if in the amount of their beneficence they greatly surpass the poor and common people; because it is of less value in the sight of God that a rich man, out of a vast heap, should bestow a moderate sum, than that a poor man, by giving very little, should exhaust his store. This widow must have been a person of no ordinary piety, who, rather than come empty into the presence of God, chose to part with her own living. And our Lord applauds this sincerity, because, forgetting herself, she wished to testify that she and all that she possessed belonged to God. In like manner, the chief sacrifice which God requires from us is self-denial. As to the sacred offerings, it is probable that they were not at that time applied properly, or to lawful purposes; but as the service of the Law was still in force, Christ does not reject them. And certainly the abuses of men could not prevent the sincere worshippers of God from doing what was holy, and in accordance with the command of God, when they offered for sacrifices and other pious uses.
MATTHEW 24:1-8; MARK 13:1-8; LUKE 21:5-11
MATTHEW 24:1-8
MARK 13:1-8
LUKE 21:5-11
1. And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple, and his disciples came to him, to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2. And Jesus said to them, Do you not see all these things? Verily I say to you, There shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down. 3. And while he was sitting on the mountain of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us, when will these things be? and what is the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? 4. And Jesus answering said to them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5. For many will come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and will deceive many. 6. For you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you be not troubled; for all these things must happen, but the end is not yet. 7. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be pestilences, and famines, and earthquakes in various places. 8. But all these things are the beginnings of sorrows.
1. And while he was going out of the temple, one of his disciples saith to him, Master, see what stones and what buildings! 2. And Jesus answering saith to him, Seest thou these vast, buildings? There shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down. 3. And while he was sitting on the mountain of Olives, opposite to the temple, Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, asked him privately, 4. Tell us, when will these things be, and what is the sign when all these things shall be accomplished? 5. And Jesus answering began to say to them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 6. For many will come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and will deceive many. 7. And when you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be not troubled; for these things must be, but the end is not yet. 8. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be earthquakes in various places. These things are the beginnings of sorrows.
5. And while some were saying concerning the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts, he said, 6. The days will come, when of those things which you see there shall not be left one stone upon another which shall not be thrown down. 7. And they asked him, saying, Master, when shall these things be? and what is the sign when those things shall begin to take place? 8. And he said, Take heed that you be not deceived; for many will come in my name, saying, It is I; and the time approaches: do not therefore follow them. 9. But when you shall hear of wars and seditions, be not terrified: for these things must first take place; but the end is not immediately. f119 10. Then he said to them, Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11. And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines, and pestilences; and there will be frightful appearances and great signs from heaven.

Matthew 24:1. And Jesus went out. The disciples undoubtedly perceived that Christ was paying, as it were, his last adieu to the temple. It remained, therefor that he should erect a new temple far more magnificent, and that he should produce a more flourishing condition of the kingdom, as had been foretold by the Prophets; for he had nothing to do with that temple, in which every thing was opposed to him. But again, the disciples could not believe that the magnificent splendor of the temple would give way to Christ. And it ought to be carefully observed that, owing to the prodigious costliness of the temple, their eyes were so dazzled by the splendor of its present aspect, that they could scarcely entertain the hope that the kingdom of Christ would arise. They do not, indeed, in express terms acknowledge their hesitation, but they tacitly throw out a suggestion of it, when they allege, in opposition to Christ, the mass of stones which must be got out of the way, and which must indeed be utterly laid low if he intended to reign. Many simple persons of our own day are carried away by a similar admiration of Popery; for, perceiving it to be supported by very great wealth and by immense power, they are filled with absolute amazement, so as to despise a Church of mean and slovenly aspect. Many even think that we are mad in laboring to effect its destruction, as if this were nothing less than an attempt to draw down the sun out of heaven. And yet, there is no reason to wonder that a spectacle so imposing held the disciples of Christ in astonishment; for how great expense that building cost Herod, may be concluded from the single fact, that he kept ten thousand workmen employed on it for eight successive years. Nor is it without reason that they admire the stones which, Josephus tells us, were superlatively beautiful, and were fifteen f120 cubits in length, twelve in height, and eight in breadth. Besides, so great was the reverence entertained for the temple even in remote districts, that scarcely any person would venture to suppose that it could ever be destroyed.
2. Verily I say to you. As the vast size and wealth of the temple, like a veil hung before the eyes of the disciples, did not permit them to elevate their faith to the true reign of Christ, which was still future, so he affirms with an oath, that those things which occupy their attention will quickly perish. This prediction of the destruction of the temple, therefore, opened up a path for the ignorant and weak. f121 Now, though it was advantageous that the temple should be destroyed, lest its services and shadows might exercise an undue influence on the Jews, who were already too much attached to earthly elements, yet the chief reason was, that God determined, by this dreadful example, to take vengeance on that nation, for having rejected his Son, and despised the grace which was brought by him. And, therefore, this threatening must have intimidated the disciples from taking part with a rebellious people; as the punishments which Scripture denounces against the wicked ought now to deter us from those crimes which provoke the wrath of God. Every thing that it tells us, even about the fading and transitory aspect of the world, ought to correct the vanity of our senses, which too eagerly follow pomp, and luxury, and pleasure. But more especially, what it declares respecting the fearful destruction of Antichrist and his followers, ought to remove every obstacle which hinders us from pursuing the right course of faith.
3. And while he was sitting. Mark mentions four disciples, Peter, James, John, and Andrew. But neither he nor Luke states the matter so fully as Matthew; for they only say that the disciples inquired about the time of the destruction of the temple, and—as it was a thing difficult to be believed—what outward sign of it God would give from heaven. Matthew tells us that they inquired about the time of Christ’s coming, and of the end of the world. But it must be observed that, having believed from their infancy that the temple would stand till the end of time, and having this opinion deeply rooted in their minds, they did not suppose that, while the building of the world stood, the temple could fall to ruins. Accordingly, as soon as Christ said that the temple would be destroyed, their thoughts immediately turned to the end of the world; and—as one error leads to another—having been convinced that, as soon as the reign of Christ should commence, they would be in every respect happy, they leave warfare out of the account, and fly all at once to a triumph. They associate the coming of Christ and the end of the world as things inseparable from each other; and by the end of the world they mean the restoration of all things, so that nothing may be wanting to complete the happiness of the godly.
We now perceive that they leap at once to various questions, because they had given way to these foolish imaginations, that the temple could not fall without shaking the whole world; that the termination of the shadows of the Law, and of the whole world, would be the same; that it would be immediately followed by the exhibition of the glory of Christ’s kingdom, which would make the children of God perfectly happy; that a visible renovation of the world was at hand, which would instantly bring order out of a state of confusion. But above all, a foolish hope which they entertained, as to the immediate reign of Christ, drove them to hasten to the attainment of happiness and rest, without attending to the means. Just as, when they see that Christ is risen from the dead, (<440106>Acts 1:6,) they rush forward to grasp at that happiness, which is laid up for us in heaven, and which must be attained through faith and patience.
Now though our condition is different, because we have not been educated among the shadows of the Law, so as to be infatuated by that superstition of an earthly kingdom of Christ, yet scarcely one person in a hundred is to be found who does not labor under a very similar disease. For since all men naturally shrink from annoyances, combats, and every kind of cross, the dislike of these things urges them, without moderation and without hope, to rush forward unseasonably to the fruit of hope. Thus no man wishes to sow the seed, but all wish to reap the harvest before the season arrives. To return to the disciples, they had indeed formed in their minds some good seed of faith, but they do not wait till it arrive at maturity; and holding, at the same time, erroneous views, they confound the perfection of Christ’s reign with the commencement of it, and wish to enjoy on earth what they ought to seek for in heaven.
4. And Jesus answering said to them. They received an answer very different from what they had expected; for whereas they were eager for a triumph, as if they had already finished their warfare, Christ exhorts them to long patience. As if he had said, “You wish to seize the prize at the very outset, but you must first finish the course. You would draw down to earth the kingdom of God, which no man can obtain till he ascend to heaven.” Now while this chapter contains admonitions highly useful for regulating the course of our life, we see that, by a wonderful purpose of God, the mistake into which the apostles fell is made to turn to our advantage. The amount of the present instruction is, that the preaching of the Gospel is like sowing the seed, and therefore we ought to wait patiently for the time of reaping; and that it arises from improper delicacy or effeminacy, if we lose courage on account of the frost, or snow, or clouds of winter or other unpleasant seasons.
Take heed lest any man deceive you. There are two charges which Christ expressly gives to the disciples, to beware of false teachers, and not to be terrified by scandals. By these words he gives warning that his Church, so long as its pilgrimage in the world shall last, will be exposed to these evils. But they might be apt to think that this was inconsistent, since the prophets gave a widely different description of the future reign of Christ. Isaiah predicts that all will then be taught of God, (54:13.) The words of God are:
I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams, (<290228>Joel 2:28.)
A still more abundant light of understanding is promised by Jeremiah.
No longer shall any man teach his neighbor, nor a man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for all shall know me from the least to the greatest, (<243134>Jeremiah 31:34.)
And, therefore, we need not wonder if the Jews expected, that when the Sun of righteousness had arisen, as Malachi (4:2) had predicted, they would be entirely free from every cloud of error. Hence, also, the woman of Samaria said,
When the Messiah cometh, he will teach us all things,
(<430425>John 4:25.)
Now we know what splendid promises of peace, righteousness, joy, and abundance of all blessings, are to be found everywhere in Scripture. We need not, therefore, wonder if they expected that, at the coming of Christ, they would be delivered from commotions of war, from extortions and every kind of injustice, and, in short, from famine and pestilence.
But Christ warns them, that false teachers will henceforth give no less annoyance to the godly than false prophets gave to the ancient people; and that disturbances will be not less frequent under the Gospel than they formerly were under the Law. Not that those prophecies which I have just mentioned will fail to be accomplished, but because the full accomplishment of them does not immediately appear in one day; for it is enough that believers now obtain a taste of those blessings, so as to cherish the hope of the full enjoyment of them at a future period. And, therefore, they were greatly mistaken, who wished to hay at the commencement of the Gospel, an immediate and perfect exhibition of those things which we see accomplished from day to day. Besides, that happiness which the prophets ascribe to the reign of Christ, though it cannot be altogether annihilated by the depravity of man, is retarded or delayed by it. It is true that the Lord, in contending with the malice of men, opens up a way for his blessings through every obstacle; and, indeed, it would be unreasonable to suppose that what is founded on the undeserved goodness of God, and does not depend on the will of man, should be set aside through their fault.
Yet, that they may receive some punishment for their ingratitude he drops upon them in small measure his favors, which would otherwise flow on them in the richest abundance. Hence arises a labyrinth of evils, through which believers wander all their life, though they are pursuing the straight road to salvation, having Christ for their guide, who holds out to them the torch of his Gospel. Hence arises a multitude of combats, so that they have a hard warfare, though there is no danger of their being vanquished. Hence arise disturbances so numerous and so sudden, that they are kept in perpetual uneasiness, though, resting on Christ, they remain firm to the end. And since Christ enjoins his disciples to beware of impostures, let us know that the means of defense will not be wanting, provided that they are not wanting to themselves. f122 And therefore, whatever arts Satan may employ, let us entertain no doubt that we shall be safe from them, if every one of us keep diligent watch on his own station.
5. For many shall come in my name. He does not as yet speak generally of false and perverse doctrines, but refers to one class which was sort of introduction to all errors, by which Satan has attempted, in various ways, to corrupt the pure doctrine of the Gospel. For shortly after Christ’s resurrection, there arose impostors, every one of whom professed to be the Christ. And as the true Redeemer had not only been removed from the world, but oppressed by the ignominy of the cross, and yet the minds of all were excited by the hope and inflamed with the desire of redemption, those men had in their power a plausible opportunity of deceiving. Nor can it be doubted, that God permitted such reveries to impose on the Jews, who had so basely rejected his Son. Though those mad attempts speedily disappeared, yet God determined that disturbances of this kind should arise among the Jews; first, that they might be exposed to infamy and hatred; secondly, that they might altogether abandon the hope of salvation; and, lastly, that having been so frequently disappointed, they might rush to their destruction with brutal stupidity. For when the world turned away from the Son of God, to whom it belonged to collect them into holy union, it was right that it should be driven hither and thither by tempests; and by the same vengeance of God it was brought about, that more were carried away by a foolish credulity, than were brought by a right faith to obey God. This circumstance, too, was expressly stated by Christ, that believers might not faint at perceiving the crowd of madmen; for we know how prone we are to follow a multitude, especially when we are few in number.
6. For you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. He describes here those commotions only which arose in Judea, for we shall find him soon afterwards saying that the flame will spread much wider. As he had formerly enjoined them to beware lest any man deceived them, so now he bids them meet with courage rumors of wars and wars themselves; for they would be in danger of giving way when surrounded by calamities, especially if they had promised to themselves ease and pleasure.
For all these things must take place. He adds this, not for the purpose of assigning a reason, but of warning them that none of these things happened accidentally, or without the providence of God, that they may not uselessly kick against the spur; for nothing has a more powerful efficacy to bring us into subjection, than when we acknowledge that those things which appear to be confused are regulated by the good pleasure of God. True, indeed, God himself never wants proper causes and the best reasons for allowing the world to be disturbed; but as believers ought to acquiesce in his mere good pleasure, Christ reckoned it enough to exhort the disciples to prepare their minds for endurance, and to remain firm, because such is the will of God.
But the end is not yet. He now states in plainer terms the threatening which I have already mentioned, that those events which were in themselves truly distressing would be only a sort of preparation for greater calamities; because, when the flame of war has been kindled in Judea, it will spread more widely; for ever since the doctrine of the Gospel was published, a similar ingratitude prevailing among other nations has aroused the wrath of God against them. Hence it happened that, having broken the bond of peace with God, they tore themselves by mutual contentions; having refused to obey the government of God, they yielded to the violence of their enemies; not having permitted themselves to be reconciled to God, they broke out into quarrels with one another; in short, having shut themselves out from the heavenly salvation, they raged against each other, and filled the earth with murders. Knowing how obstinate the malice of the world would be, he again adds,
8. But all these things are the beginnings of sorrows. Not that believers, who always have abundant consolations in calamities, should consume themselves with grief, but that they should lay their account with a long exercise of patience. Luke adds likewise earthquakes, and signs from heaven, with respect to which, though we have no authentic history of them, yet it is enough that they were predicted by Christ. The reader will find the rest in Josephus, (Wars of the Jews, VI. 5:3.)
MATTHEW 24:9-14; MARK 13:9-13; LUKE 21:12-19
MATTHEW 24:9-14
MARK 13:9-13
LUKE 21:12-19
9. Then will they deliver you up to be afflicted, and will kill you; and you will be hated by all nations on account of my name. 10. And then will many be offended, and will deliver up one another, and will hate one another. 11. And many false prophets will arise, and will deceive many. 12. And because iniquity will abound, the love of many will be cooled. 13. But he who shall persevere to the end will be saved. 14. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world for a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.
9. But take heed to yourselves; for they will deliver you up to councils and synagogues; you will be scourged and will be brought before rulers and kings on my account, for a testimony to them. 10. And the gospel must first be preached among all nations. 11. And when they shall lead you away to deliver you up, do not think beforehand what you shall say, nor premeditate, but whatever shall be given to you at that hour, speak; for it is not you that speak, but the Holy Ghost. 12. And the brother will deliver up the brother to death, and the father the son; and the children will rise up against their parents and will cause them to be put to death. 13. And you will be hated by all men on account of my name. But he that still endures to the end will be saved.
12. But before all these things they will lay hands upon you, and will persecute you, delivering you up to synagogues and prisons, and dragging you before kings and rulers on account of my name. 13. But it will happen f123 to you for a testimony. 14. Settle it therefore in your hearts, that you must not premeditate your defense. f124 15. For will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all who oppose you will not be a le to contradict or oppose. 16. And you will also be delivered up by parents, and brothers, and relatives, and friends; and some of you they will put to death. 17. And you will be hated by all on account of my name. 18. And not a hair of your head will be lost. 19. In patience possess your souls. f125

Matthew 24:9. Then will they deliver you up to be afflicted. Christ now foretells to the disciples another kind of temptation, by which, in addition to ordinary afflictions, their faith must be tried; and that is, that they will be hated and detested by the whole world. It is painful and distressing enough in itself that the children of God should be afflicted in such a manner as not to be distinguished from the reprobate and the despisers of God, and should be subjected to the same punishments which those men endure on account of their crimes; and it appears to be still more unjust that they should be severely oppressed by grievous calamities from which the ungodly are exempted. But as wheat, after having been beaten by the flail along with the chaff, is pressed down and bruised by the millstone, so God not only afflicts his children in common with the ungodly, but subdues them by the cross even beyond others, so that we might be apt to think them more unhappy than the rest of mankind.
But Christ treats here strictly of the afflictions which the disciples had to endure on account of the gospel. For, though what Paul stays is true, that those whom God hath elected are likewise appointed by him to bear the cross,
that they may be conformed to the image of his Son,
(<450829>Romans 8:29,)
yet he does not distinguish all by this special Mark of enduring persecution from the enemies of the gospel. It is of this species of the cross that Christ now speaks, when it becomes necessary that believers should incur the hatred, meet the reproaches, :red provoke the fury, of the ungodly for the testimony of the gospel. For he intended to warn his disciples that the doctrine of the gospel, of which they were to be witnesses and messengers, would never be pleasant or agreeable to the world, as he had formerly explained to them. He foretells not only that they will have to contend with a few enemies, but that, wherever they come, all nations will oppose them.
But it was monstrous and incredible, and was fitted to astonish and shake even the strongest minds, that the name of the Son of God should be so infamous and hateful, that all who professed it would be everywhere disliked. Accordingly, the words of Mark are, take heed to yourselves. By this expression he points out the end and use of the warning, which is, that they ought to be prepared for endurance, lest, through want of caution, they might be overwhelmed by temptation. The same Mark adds, that this will be for a testimony to kings and rulers, when the disciples of Christ shall be brought before their tribunal. Luke expresses it a little differently, this will happen to you for a testimony, but the sense is quite the same; for Christ means that his gospel will be so much the more fully attested, when they have defended it at the risk of their lives.
If the apostles had only given their attention to preaching the gospel, and had not stood so firmly in defending it against the furious attacks of enemies, the confirmation of it would not have been so complete. But when they did not hesitate to expose their lives, and were not driven from their purpose by any terrors of death, their unshaken constancy made it manifest, how firmly they were convinced of the goodness of their cause. It was therefore an authentic seal of the gospel, when the apostles advanced without terror to the tribunals of kings, and there made an open profession of the name of Christ. Accordingly, Peter calls himself
a witness of the sufferings of Christ, (<600501>1 Peter 5:1,)
whose badges he wore; and Paul boasts that he was
placed for the defense of the gospel, (<500117>Philippians 1:17.)
This is eminently worthy of attention, that those on whom God bestows so great an honor as to make them defenders of his truth, may not through base treachery fall from the faith.
Mark 13:11. Neither premeditate. This sentence, as well as the one which immediately follows, we have explained f125a under <401019>Matthew 10:19. Our Lord’s design in these words is, to relieve the disciples from that anxiety which interferes with the cheerful discharge of our duty, when we doubt our inability to sustain the burden. Not that he wishes us to fall asleep in indolent security, for nothing is more advantageous than to have such a consciousness of our weakness as produces humility and excites to prayer. But Christ advises us to cast all our cares into the bosom of our Father, so that, relying on his promised aid, we may pursue our course with cheerfulness. The promise is stated in different words by Luke; not that Christ will deliver his people from death, (for this must not always be expected,) but that he will give them a mouth and wisdom, to confound their adversaries. Now though Christ supplies them both with presence of mind and with ability to speak, yet I look upon these two words as connected by that figure of speech which is called hypallage; as if Christ had promised that he would guide their tongues, so as to enable them to make a wise and suitable reply.
He adds, that this wisdom will be victorious against all their enemies, because they will not be able to contradict, or to oppose it. Not that their impudence will yield the palm to truth, but because that truth, which they in vain strive to oppose, will triumph over their mad presumption. Would that all who are called upon to make a confession of their faith would rely on that assurance; for the power and majesty of the Spirit would be displayed in a different manner for overthrowing the ministers of Satan. Now that we are partly carried away by our own feelings, and, swelled with pride, rush on heedlessly, or advance farther than is proper, and partly confine ourselves within the limits of improper timidity, sad experience shows that we are deprived of the grace of God and the assistance of the Spirit. As Christ affirms, according to Matthew and Mark, that it is the Spirit of the Father that speaketh in us, (<401010>Matthew 10:10; <411311>Mark 13:11,) and here declares that he will give a mouth, we infer that it is His prerogative to fortify us by the Spirit.
Luke 21:19. In your patience. Here Christ enjoins on his followers a different method of defending their life from what is dictated by carnal reason. For naturally every man desires to place his life in safety; we collect from every quarter those aids which we think will be best, and avoid all danger; and, in short, we do not think that we are alive, if we are not properly defended. But Christ prescribes to us this defense of our life, that we should be always exposed to death, and walk
through fire, and water, and sword, (<196612>Psalm 66:12.)
And, indeed, no man will commit his soul into the hands of God in a right manner, unless he have learned to live from day to day constantly prepared to die. f126 In a word, Christ orders us to possess our life both under the cross, and amidst the constant terrors of death.
Matthew 24:10. Then will many be offended. He now enumerates the temptations which will arise from bad examples. Now this is an exceedingly violent temptation, and difficult to overcome; for Christ is to many a stone of offense, (<600208>1 Peter 2:8,) on which some dash themselves, or by meeting which some are thrown back, and others fall away. In this expression Christ appears to me to include many kinds of troubles; for not only do they that had entered into the right course fall away, but many are exasperated against Christ; others, forgetful of moderation and justice, break out into rage; others grow profane, and lose every feeling of piety; and others, amidst the confusion which prevails, take upon themselves a liberty to commit crimes.
11. And many false prophets will arise. This warning differs from the former, in which Christ foretold that many would come in his name. For there he spoke only of impostors, who, shortly after the commencement of the Gospel, gave out that they were the Christ; but now he threatens that in all ages false teachers will arise, to corrupt sound doctrine, as Peter tells us (<610201>2 Peter 2:1) that the Church will be no less exposed to this evil under the Gospel than it anciently was under the Law. There is therefore no reason why error, and certain impostures of the devil and corruptions of piety, should strike pious minds with dismay; since no man is properly founded on Christ, who has not learned that we must stand firm against such attacks; for this is the undoubted trial of our faith, when it is in no degree shaken by the false doctrines which arise, or does he only say that false prophets will come, but likewise that they will be so crafty as to deceive and draw away sects after them. f127 No ordinary caution is necessary here; for the multitude of those who are going astray is like a violent tempest, which compels us to leave the course, if we are not firmly fixed on God. On this subject something was said but lately.
12. Because iniquity will abound. How far and wide this evil extends every person ought to know, but there are very few who observe it. For in consequence of the superior clearness with which the light of the gospel discovers the malice of men, even good and properly regulated minds grow cool, and almost lose the desire to exercise benevolence. Each of them reasons thus with himself, that the duties which they perform to one person, or to another, are thrown away, because experience and daily practice show that almost all are ungrateful, or treacherous, or wicked. This is unquestionably a weighty and dangerous temptation; for what could be more unreasonable than to approve of a doctrine, by which the desire of doing good, and the rigor of charity, appear to be diminished? And yet when the gospel makes its appearance, charity, which ought to kindle the hearts of all men with its warmth, rather grows cool. But we must observe the source of this evil, which Christ points out, namely, that many lose courage, because through their weakness they are unable to stem the flood of iniquity which flows on every hand. Christ requires from his followers, on the other hand, such courage as to persist in striving against it; as Paul also enjoins us not to be weary of performing deeds of kindness and beneficence, (<530313>2 Thessalonians 3:13.) Although, then, the charity of many, overwhelmed by the mass of iniquities, should give way, Christ warns believers that they must surmount this obstacle, lest, overcome by bad examples, they apostatize. And therefore he repeats the statement, that no man can be saved, unless he strive lawfully, (<550205>2 Timothy 2:5,) so as to persevere to the end.
14. And the gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world. Our Lord, having delivered a discourse which gave no small occasion for sorrow, seasonably adds this consolation, to raise up minds that were cast down, or to uphold those which were falling. Whatever may be the contrivances of Satan, and how numerous soever may be the multitudes which he carries away, yet the gospel will maintain its ground till it be spread through the whole world. This might indeed appear to be incredible; but it was the duty of the apostles, relying on this testimony of their Master, to cherish hope against hope, and, in the meantime, to strive vigorously to discharge their office. As to the objection brought by some, that to this day not even the slightest report concerning Christ has reached the Antipodes and other very distant nations, this difficulty may be speedily resolved; for Christ does not absolutely refer to every portion of the world, and does not fix a particular time, but only affirms that the gospelwhich, all would have thought, was immediately to be banished from Judea, its native habitation would be spread to the farthest bounds of the world before the day of his last coming.
For a testimony to all nations. He describes this to be the end of preaching; for although
God has never left himself (ajma>rturon) without witness,
(<441417>Acts 14:17,)
and although in special manner he testified to the Jews concerning himself, yet it was a testimony remarkable beyond all others when he revealed himself in Christ; and therefore Paul says, that he was manifested in due time, (<540206>1 Timothy 2:6,) because this was the proper season for calling the whole world to God. Let us, therefore, learn that, wherever the gospel is preached, it is as if God himself came into the midst of us, and solemnly and expressly besought us, that we may not wander in darkness, as if we knew not where to go, and that those who refuse to obey may be rendered inexcusable.
And then will the end come. This is improperly restricted by some to the destruction of the temple, and the abolition of the service of the Law; for it ought to be understood as referring to the end and renovation of the world. Those two things having been blended by the disciples, as if the temple could not be overthrown without the destruction of the whole world, Christ, in replying to the whole question which had been put to him, reminded them that a long and melancholy succession of calamities was at hand, and that they must not hasten to seize the prize, before they had passed through many contests and dangers. In this manner, therefore, we ought to explain this latter clause: “The end of the world will not come before I have tried nay Church, for a long period, by severe and painful temptations,” for it is contrasted with the false imagination which the apostles had formed in their minds. Hence, too, we ought to learn that no particular time is here fixed, as if the last day were to follow in immediate succession those events which were just now foretold; for the believers long ago experienced the fulfillment of those predictions which we have now examined, and[ yet Christ did not immediately appear. But Christ had no other design than to restrain the apostles, who were disposed to fly with excessive eagerness to the possession of the heavenly glory, and to show them the necessity of patience; as if he had said, that redemption was not so close at hand as they had imagined it to be, but that they must pass through long windings.
MATTHEW 24:15-28; MARK 13:14-23;
LUKE 21:20-24; 17:22-25
MATTHEW 24:15-28
MARK 13:14-23
LUKE 21:20-24
15. When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, which is described by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, (let him that readeth understand,) 16. Then let them who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17. Let not him who is on the housetop go down to carry anything out of his house; 18. And let not him who is in the field return to carry away his clothes. 19. But woe to the women with child, and to them that give suck in those days. 20. And pray that your flight may not be in the winter, nor on the sabbath. f128 21. For there will then be great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world till this time, nor will be. 22. And unless those days had been shortened, no flesh would have been saved, but on account of the elect those days shall be shortened. 23. If anyone shall then say to you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, do not believe it. 24. For false Christs and false prophets shall arise, and shall perform great signs and wonders, so that even the elect (if it were possible) will be led into error. 25. Lo, I have foretold it to you. 26. If then they shall say to you, Lo, he is in the desert, go not out; lo, he is in the secret chamber, do not believe it. 27. For as the lightning goeth out of the east, and shineth even to the west, so shall also be the coming of the Son of man. 28. For wherever the carcass is, there will the eagles also be gathered together.
14. But when you shall see the abomination of desolation, which is described by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that are in Judea flee to the mountains; 15. And let not him who is on the housetop go down into the house, or enter into it, to carry away anything out of his house. 16. And let not him that is in the field return back to bring away his cloak. 17. But woe to the women with child, and to them that give suck in those days. 18. But pray that your flight may not be in the winter. 19. For in those days there shall be tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the creation which God created till this time, nor will be. 20. And unless the Lord had shortened the days, no flesh would have been saved, but on account of the elect whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days. 21. And if anyone shall then say to you, Lo, here is Christ, or, lo, there, do not believe it. 22. For false Christs and false prophets shall arise, and shall perform signs and wonders to deceive (if it were possible) even the elect. 23. But take heed; lo, I have foretold to you all things.
20. And when you shall see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is at hand. 21. Then let them who are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them who are in the midst of it withdraw; and let not those who are in the fields enter into it. 22. For these are days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23. But woe to women with child, and to them that give suck in those days; for there shall be great tribulation on the earth, and wrath on this people. 24. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

LUKE 17:22-25
22. And he said to the disciples, The days will come when you shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and shall not see it. 23. And they will say to you, Lo, he is here, or, lo, he is here; do not go, nor follow them. f129 24. For as the lightning, flashing from one side which is under heaven, shineth to the other side which is under heaven, so shall be also the Son of man in his day. 25. But he must first suffer many things, and be rejected by this generation.

Matthew 24:15. When you shall see the abomination of desolation. Because the destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem, together with the overthrow of the whole Jewish government, was (as we have already said) a thing incredible, and because it might be thought strange, that the disciples could not be saved without being torn from that nation, to which had been committed the adoption and the covenant (<450904>Romans 9:4) of eternal salvation, Christ confirms both by the testimony of Daniel. As if he had said, That you may not be too strongly attached to the temple and to the ceremonies of the Law, God has limited them to a fixed time, f130 and has long ago declared, that when the Redeemer should come, sacrifices would cease; and that it may not give you uneasiness to be cut off from your own nation, God has also forewarned his people, that in due time it would be rejected. Such a prediction was not only well adapted for removing ground of offense, but likewise for animating the minds of the godly, that amidst the sorest calamities—knowing that God was looking upon them, and was taking care of their salvation—they might betake themselves to the sacred anchor, where, amidst the most dreadful heavings of the billows, their condition would be firm and secure.
But before I proceed farther, I must examine the passage which is quoted by Christ. Those commentators are, I think, mistaken, who think that this quotation is made from the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel. f131 For there we do not literally find the words, abomination, of desolation; and it is certain that the angel does not there speak of the final destruction which Christ now mentions, but of the temporary dispersion which was brought about by the tyranny of Antiochus. f132 But in the twelfth chapter the angel predicts what is called the final abrogation of the services of the Law, f133 which was to take place at the coming of Christ. For, after having exhorted believers to unshaken constancy, he fixes absolutely the time both of the ruin and of the restoration. f134
From the time, says he, that the daily sacrifices shall be taken away, and THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION set up, there will be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he who shall wait till he come to the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days, (<271211>Daniel 12:11, 12.)
I am aware that this passage is tortured in a variety of ways on account of its obscurity; but I consider the natural meaning of it to be, that the angel declares that, after the temple has been once purified from the pollutions and idols of Antiochus, another period will arrive when it will be exposed to a new profanation, and when all its sacredness and majesty will be for ever lost. f135 And as that message was sad and melancholy, he again recalls the prophet to one year, and two years, and six months. These words denote both the duration and the close of the calamities; for, in an interrupted succession of calamities, the course of one year appears to us very long, but when that space of time is doubled, the distress is greatly increased. The Spirit therefore exhorts believers to prepare themselves for the exercise of patience, not only for a single year, that is, for a long period, but to lay their account with enduring tribulations through an uninterrupted succession of many ages. There is no small consolation also in the phrase, half a time, (<271207>Daniel 12:7) for though the tribulations be of long continuance, yet the Spirit shows that they will not be perpetual. And, indeed, he had formerly used this form of expression: The calamity of the Church shall last through a time, times, and half a time, (<270725>Daniel 7:25.) But now he reckons the period of three years and six months by days, that believers may be more and more hardened by a very long continuance of calamities; for it is customary with men in adversity to compute time, not by years or months, but by days, a single day being, in their estimation, equal to a year. f136 He says that those will be happy who bear up to the end of that period; that is, who with invincible patience persevere to the end.
Now Christ selects only what suited his purpose, namely, that the termination of sacrifices was at hand, and that the abomination, which was the sign of the final desolation, would be placed in the temple. But as the Jews were too strongly attached to their present condition, and therefore paid little attention to the prophecies which foretold the abolition of it, Christ, as if endeavoring to gain their ear, bids them read attentively that passage, where they would learn that what appeared to them difficult to be believed was plainly declared by the Prophets. f137 Abomination means profanation; for this word denotes uncleanness, f138 which corrupts or overturns the pure worship of God. It is called desolation, because it drew along with it the destruction of the temple and of the government; as he had formerly said, (<270927>Daniel 9:27,) that the pollution introduced by Antiochus was, as it were, the standard of temporary desolation; for such I conceive to be the meaning of the wing, or, spreading out.” f139 It is a mistake to suppose that this expression denotes the siege of Jerusalem, and the mistake receives no countenance from the words of Luke, who did not intend to say the same thing, but something quite different. For that city having been formerly delivered, when it appeared to be in the midst of destruction, lest believers should expect something of the same kind in future, Christ declares that, as soon as it would be surrounded by armies, it was utterly ruined, because it was wholly deprived of divine assistance. The meaning therefore is, that the issue of the war will not be doubtful, because that city is devoted to destruction, which it will not be able to escape any more than to rescind a decree of heaven. Accordingly, Luke shortly afterwards adds, that Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, a mode of expression which denotes utter ruin. But as it might appear to be strange that the holy city should be thus given up to the Gentiles, to do with it as they pleased, he adds a consolation, f140 that it was only for a time that so much liberty was allowed to the Gentiles, till their iniquity was ripe, and the vengeance which had been reserved for them was fully displayed.
16. Then let them who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Having shown by the testimony of the prophet that, when the temple had been profaned, the services of the Law would soon afterwards be abolished, he adds, that fearful and appalling calamities will soon overtake the whole of Judea, so that there will be nothing more desirable than to withdraw a distance from it; and, at the same time, he states that they will be so sudden, that time will scarcely be time allowed for the most rapid flight. For such is the import of the expressions, Let not him who is on the house-top enter into the house; let not him who is in the field turn back; that is, lest, by attempting to save their property, they themselves perish. Again, Woe to the women with child, and to them that give suck; for they will not be in a fit condition for flight. Again, Pray that your fight may not be in the winter; that is, that neither a regard to the sacredness of the day, nor the roughness of the roads, nor the shortness of the clays, may prevent or retard your flight. The design of Christ therefore was, first, to arouse his followers, that they might no longer indulge the hope of ease and repose, and the enjoyments of an earthly kingdom; and, secondly, to fortify their minds, that they might not give way under ordinary calamities. Such an admonition, no doubt, was fir from being agreeable, but, in consequence of their stupidity, and the great weight of the calamities, it was highly necessary.
21. For there will then be great tribulation. Luke says also, that there will be days of vengeance, and of wrath on that people, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. For since the people, through obstinate malice, had then broken the covenant of God, it was proper that alarming changes should take place, by which the earth itself and the air would be shaken. True, indeed, the most destructive plague inflicted on the Jews was, that the light of heavenly doctrine was extinguished among them, and that they were rejected by God; but they were compelled—as the great hardness of their hearts made it necessary that they should be compelled—to feel the evil of their rejection by sharp and severe chastisements. Now the true cause of such an awful punishment was, that the desperate wickedness of that nation had reached its height. For not only had they haughtily despised, but even disdainfully rejected the medicine which was brought for their diseases; and, what was worse, like persons who were mad or possessed by the devil, they wreaked their cruelty on the Physician himself. f141 Since the Lord executed his vengeance on those men for their inveterate contempt of the Gospel, accompanied by incorrigible rage, let their punishment be always before our eyes; and let us learn from it, that no offense is more heinous in the sight of God, than obstinacy in despising his grace. But though all who in like manner despise the Gospel will receive the same punishment, God determined to make a very extraordinary demonstration in the case of the Jews, that the coming of Christ might be regarded by posterity with greater admiration and reverence. For no words can express the baseness of their criminality in putting to death the Son of God, who had been sent to them as the Author of life. Having committed this execrable sacrilege, they did not cease to incur the guilt of one crime after another, and thus to draw down upon themselves every ground of utter destruction. And, therefore, Christ declares that never afterwards will there be such tribulation in the world; for, as the rejection of Christ, viewed in itself, and especially as attended by so many circumstances of detestable obstinacy and ingratitude, was worthy of abhorrence above all the sins committed ill all ages, so also it was proper that, in the severity of punishment with which it was visited, it should go beyond all others.
22. And unless those days had been shortened. He presents an appalling view of those calamities, but at the same time mingles it with this consolation, that they would be sufficient to exterminate the very name of the Jews, if God did not look to his elect, and on their account grant some alleviation. This passage agrees with that of Isaiah:
Unless the Lord had left us a small seed, we would have been as Sodom, and we would have been like Gomorrah, (<230109>Isaiah 1:9.)
For it was necessary, as Paul assures us, that the vengeance of God, which had been displayed in the Babylonish captivity, should be again fulfilled at the coming of Christ, (<450929>Romans 9:29.) Nay more, in proportion as our wickedness was greater, it deserved a greater severity of punishment. And therefore Christ says that, unless God put a period to those calamities, the Jews will utterly perish, so that not a single individual will be left; but that God will remember his gracious covenant, and will spare his elect, according to that other prediction of Isaiah,
Though thy people were like the sand of the sea,
a remnant only shall be saved, (Isaiah 10:22.)
This affords us a striking proof of the judgment of God, when he afflicts his visible Church to such a degree, that we would be ready to conclude that it had altogether perished; and yet, in order to preserve some seed, he miraculously rescues from destruction his elect, though few in number, that, contrary to expectation, they may escape from the jaws of death. For, on the one hand, it is fitted to alarm hypocrites, that they may not, through reliance on the title and outward appearance of a Church, cherish the vain hope that they will pass unpunished, for the Lord will find some means of delivering his Church, when those men have been given up to destruction; and, on the other hand, it conveys a wonderful consolation to the godly, that God will never allow his wrath to proceed so far as not to provide for their safety. Thus, in punishing the Jews, the wrath of God burned to an extent which was truly awful, and yet, contrary to the expectation of men, he restrained it in such a manner, that not one of the elect perished. And it was a miracle which almost exceeded belief; that, as salvation was to proceed from Judea, out of a few drops of a fountain which was dried up God formed rivers to water the whole world; for, in consequence of the hatred of all nations which they had drawn upon themselves, they narrowly escaped from being murdered in all places, by a preconcerted signal, in one day. Nor can it be doubted, that when many persons entreated that they should be slaughtered in this manner, Titus was restrained by God from giving permission to his soldiers and to others who were excessively desirous to carry such a design into execution; and, therefore, when the Roman Emperor at that time prevented the utter destruction of the whole nation, that was the shortening here mentioned, for preserving some seed, (<230109>Isaiah 1:9.)
Yet it ought to be observed, that it was on account of the elect that God restrained the fierceness of his anger, that he might not consume them all. For why did he determine that a few should remain out of a vast multitude? and what reason had he for giving them a preference above others? It was because his grace dwelt in the people whom he had adopted; and, that his covenant might not fail, some were elected and appointed to salvation by his eternal purpose. Hence Paul ascribes to free election (<451105>Romans 11:5) the reason why out of an immense nation a remnant only was saved. Away then with human merits, when our attention is directed exclusively to the good pleasure of God, that the distinction between some persons and others may depend solely on this, that those who have been elected must be saved. To state the matter more clearly and fully, Mark uses a superfluity of words, f142 expressing it thus, on account of the elect, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days. Certainly the use of the word elect might have been sufficient, if he had not intended to state expressly that God is not induced by external causes to bestow his favor on some rather than on others; but that, because he has elected those whom he will save, he ratifies the secret purpose of his grace in their salvation.
But a question arises, how was it on account of the elect that God set a limit to these calamities, so as not utterly to destroy the Jews, when many of those who were saved were reprobate and desperate? The reply is easy. A part of the nation was preserved, that out of them God might bring his elect, who were mixed with them, like the seed after the chaff has been blown off. So then, though temporal safety was bestowed equally on the reprobate and on the elect, yet, as it was of no advantage to the reprobate, it is justly ascribed to the elect alone, for it was to their benefit that the wonderful providence of God was directed.
23. If any one shall then say to you. He again repeats what he had said about impostors, and not without reason; for there was great danger arising from this temptation, that wretched men, while their affairs were in a troubled and desperate condition, would be deceived by false pretenses, would seek phantoms instead of Christ, and would embrace the delusions of Satan, as if they were assistance from God. As the Jews, when they were so severely oppressed on account of having despised redemption, needed, at least, violent remedies to restrain them from treachery, Satan cunningly held out to them new hopes, which would withdraw them still farther from God. And certainly, when we are left without direction in adversity, nothing is more pernicious than to be deceived, under the disguise of the name of God, by falsehoods which not only shut against us the door of repentance, but increase the darkness of infidelity, and at length overwhelm us with despair, and drive us to madness. The repetition of the statement, therefore, was far from being superfluous, when the danger was so great; and especially when Christ warns them that false prophets will come prepared with no ordinary instruments of deception, with signs and wonders fitted to confound weak minds. For since it is by miracles that God attests the presence of his power, and since they are therefore seals of the true doctrine, we need not wonder if impostors gain credit by them. By this kind of delusion God revenges the ingratitude of men, that they who rejected the truth may believe a lie, and that they who shut their eyes against the light which was offered to them may be plunged deeper and deeper in darkness. He exercises, at the same time, the constancy of his followers, which comes to shine with greater brightness, when they give way to no kind of impostures.
Again, since our Lord declares that antichrists and false prophets would be armed with miracles, there is no reason why the Papists should talk so haughtily on this ground, or why we should be terrified by their boasting. In support of their superstitions they plead miracles,—those very miracles which, the Son of God predicted, would corrupt the faith of many, and which, therefore, wise men ought not to hold in such estimation as to be sufficient of themselves to prove either one or another kind of doctrine. If it be objected, that such reasoning would overthrow and set aside the miracles by which both the Law and the Gospel were ratified, I reply, that the Spirit engraved on them an undoubted mark, which removed from believers all doubt and fear of being mistaken. For when God displayed his power for the purpose of confirming his people, he did not act in so confused a manner as not to manifest the true and infallible distinction. Besides, the manner in which miracles seal doctrine is such, that the doctrine itself mutually shines before them, and dispels all the clouds by which Satan darkens the minds of the simple. In short, if we wish to guard against impostures, let us preserve the connection between miracles and doctrine unbroken.
24. So that even the elect (if it were possible) will be led into error. This was added for the purpose of exciting alarm, that believers may be more careful to be on their guard; for when such unbounded freedom of action is allowed to false prophets, and when they are permitted to exert such powers of deceiving, those who are careless and inattentive would easily be entangled by their snares. Christ therefore exhorts and arouses his disciples to keep watch, and at the same time reminds them that there is no reason for being troubled at the strangeness of the sight, if they see many persons on every hand led away into error. While he excites them to solicitude, that Satan may not overtake them in a state of sloth, he gives them abundant ground of confidence on which they may calmly rely, when he promises that they will be safe under the defense and protection of God against all the snares of Satan. And thus, however frail and slippery the condition of the godly may be, yet here is a firm footing on which they may stand; for it is not possible for them to fall away from salvation, to whom the Son of God is a faithful guardian. For they have not sufficient energy to resist the attacks of Satan, unless in consequence of their being
the sheep of Christ, which none can pluck out of his hand,
(<431028>John 10:28.)
It must therefore be observed, that the permanency of our salvation does not depend on us, but on the secret election of God; for though our salvation is kept through faith, as Peter tells us, (<600105>1 Peter 1:5,) yet we ought to ascend higher, and assure ourselves that we are in safety, because the Father hath given us to the Son, and the Son himself declares, that
none who have been given to him shall perish (<431712>John 17:12.).
25. Lo, I have foretold it to you. Mark expresses our Lord’s meaning more fully. But take heed: lo, I have foretold you all things. By these words we are taught that they who are dismayed by the stumbling-blocks which Christ predicted are altogether inexcusable; for since the will of God ought to be our rule, it is sufficient that we have received timely warning that such is his pleasure. Again, as he declares that
he is faithful, and will not suffer us to be tempted beyond
what we are able to bear, (<461013>1 Corinthians 10:13,)
we shall never be in want of strength to resist, provided that our weakness be not nourished by indifference.
26. Lo, he is in the desert. Luke connects this discourse with another reply of Christ; for, having been interrogated by the Pharisees about the coming of the kingdom of God, he replied, that it would not come with observation; and then follows in Luke’s narrative that, turning to his disciples, he informed them that the days would come when they would no longer see a day of the Son of man. By these words he intended to charge them
to walls in the light before the darkness of the night overtook them, (<431235>John 12:35;)
for this ought to have been a very powerful excitement to endeavor to make progress, so long as they enjoyed the presence of Christ, when they 1earned that very serious disturbances were at hand. Whether or not Christ admonished his disciples twice on this subject is uncertain; but I think it. probable that Luke, while he was speaking of the coming of the kingdom of God introduced sentences taken from a different occasion, which he frequently does, as we have seen in other instances.
But as this passage has been, through ignorance, tortured in various ways, that the reader may ascertain the true meaning, he must attend to the contrast between a state of concealment and that extension of the kingdom of Christ far and wide, and which would be sudden and unexpected, as the lightning dashes from the east to the west. For we know that the false Christsin accordance with the gross and foolish hope of that nation—drew along with them as large bodies of men as they could collect into the recesses of the desert, or into caverns, or other places of retirement, in order to throw off the yoke of the Roman government by force and by arms. The meaning therefore is, that every one who collects his forces into a secret place, in order to regain the freedom of the nation by arms, falsely pretends to be the Christ; for the Redeemer is sent to diffuse his grace suddenly and unexpectedly through every quarter of the world. But these two things are quite contrary, to shut up redemption within some corner, and to spread it through the whole world. The disciples were thus reminded that they must no longer seek a Redeemer within the small enclosure of Judea, because he will suddenly extend the limits of his kingdom to the uttermost ends of the world. And, indeed, this astonishing rapidity, with which the gospel flew through every part of the world, was a manifest testimony of divine power. For it could not be the result of human industry, that the light of the gospel, as soon as it appear, darted from one side of the world to the opposite side like lightning; and therefore it is not without reason that Christ introduces this circumstance for demonstrating and magnifying his heavenly glory. Besides, by holding out this vast extent of his kingdom, he intended to show that the desolation of Judea would not hinder him from reigning.
28. Wheresoever the carcass is. The meaning is, that by whatever methods Satan endeavors to scatter the children of God in various directions, still in Christ himself is the sacred bond of union, by which they must be kept united. For whence comes the dispersion, but that many depart from Christ, in whom alone our strength lies? Here then is a method laid down for promoting a holy union, that the separations produced by errors may not tear in pieces the body of the Church; and that method is, when we remain united to Christ. This ought to be carefully observed; for Christ does not restrict us either to the primacy of the Roman See, or to any other foolery, but employs this method alone for binding his Church together, that all in every quarter should look to him as the only head. Hence it follows, that those who are united to him by pure faith are beyond the risk of schism. Let the adherents of Rome now go, and exclaim that all are schismatics who do not allow themselves to be separated from Christ, that they may transfer their allegiance to a robber.
There also will the eagles be gathered together. When the Papists interpret the word carcass to denote the company of those who profess the same faith, and allegorically explain the eagles to represent acute and sagacious men, f143 it is excessively absurd, f144 for Christ had manifestly no other design than to call to himself, and to retain in union to him, the children of God, wherever they were scattered. Nor does Christ simply employ the word body, but (ptw~ma) carcass; f145 and he ascribes nothing to eagles but what we might apply to crows or vultures, according to the nature of the country which we inhabit. I attach as little value to the ingenuity of other commentators, who say that the death of Christ had a sweet savor, to draw the elect to God; for, in my opinion, Christ intended to argue from the less to the greater, that if birds have so great sagacity as to flock in great numbers from distant places to a single carcass, it would be disgraceful in believers not to assemble to the Author of life, from whom alone they derive their actual nourishment.
MATTHEW 24:29-31; MARK 13:24-27;
LUKE 21:25-28
MATTHEW 24:29-31
MARK 13:24-27
LUKE 21:25-28
29. And immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken. 30. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with great power and glory. 31. And he shall send his angels with a loud sound of a trumpet; and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one extremity of heaven to the other.
24. But in those days, after that tribulation, shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light. 25. And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers which are in heaven shall be shaken. 26. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27. And then shall he send his angels, and gather together his elect from the four winds, from the extremity of the earth to the extremity of heaven.
25. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, and on the earth the anguish of nations in despair, the sea and the waves roaring: 26. Men fainting through fear, f146 and expectation of those things which shall come on the world; for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. 27. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with great power and glory. 28. But when these things begin to take place, look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption is at hand.

Matthew 24:29. And immediately after the tribulation of those days. Christ comes now to speak of the full manifestation of his kingdom, about which he was at first interrogated by the disciples, and promises that, after they have been tried by so many distressing events, the redemption will arrive in due time. The principal object of his reply was, to confirm his disciples in good hope, that they might not be dismayed on account of the troubles and confusion that would arise. For this reason, he does not speak of his coming in simple terms, but employs those modes of expression which were common among the prophets, by which, the more attentively they were considered, so much the more severe would be the contest of temptation experienced by the reader, in consequence of the opposite character of the event. For what could be more strange than to see the kingdom of Christ not only despised, but oppressed by the cross, loaded with many reproaches, and overwhelmed by every kind of tribulation, that kingdom which the prophets had frequently described in such magnificent language? Might it not be asked, where was that majesty which would darken the sun, and moon, and stars, shake the whole frame of the world, and change the ordinary course of nature? Our Lord now meets these temptations, declaring that, though these predictions are not immediately fulfilled, they will at length be fully justified by the event. The meaning therefore is, that the predictions which had been formerly made about the miraculous shaking of heaven and earth, ought not to be restricted to the commencement of redemption, because the prophets had embraced the whole course of it, till it should arrive at perfection.
Having now ascertained Christ’s intention, we shall have no difficulty in perceiving the meaning of the words to be, that heaven will not be darkened immediately, but after that the Church shall have passed through the whole course of its tribulations. Not that the glory and majesty of the kingdom of Christ will not appear till his last coming, but because till that time is delayed the accomplishment of those things which began to take place after his resurrection, and of which God gave to his people nothing more than a taste, that he might lead them farther on in the path of hope and patience. According to this argument, Christ keeps the minds of believers in a state of suspense till the last day, that they may not imagine those declarations which the prophets made, about the future restoration, to have failed of their accomplishment, because they lie buried for a long period under the thick darkness of tribulations.
The tribulation of those days is improperly interpreted by some commentators to mean the destruction of Jerusalem; for, on the contrary, it is a general recapitulation (ajnakefalai>wsiv) of all the evils of which Christ had previously spoken. To encourage his followers to patience, he employs this argument, that the tribulations will at length have a happy and joyful result. As if he had said, “So long as the Church shall continue its pilgrimage in the world, there will be dark and cloudy weather; but as soon as an end shall have been put to those distresses, a day will arrive when the majesty of the Church shall be illustriously displayed.” In what manner the sun will be darkened we cannot now conjecture, but the event will show. He does not indeed mean that the stars will actually fall, but according to the apprehension of men; and accordingly Luke only predicts that there will be SIGNS in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars. The meaning therefore is, that there will be such a violent commotion of the firmament of heaven, that the stars themselves will be supposed to fall. Luke also adds that there will be a dreadful commotion of the sea, the sea and the waves roaring, so that men will faint through fear and alarm. In a word, all the creatures above and below will be, as it were, heralds to summon men to that tribunal, which they will continue to treat with ungodly and wanton contempt till the last day.
30. Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man. By this term Christ points out more clearly the difference between the present condition of his kingdom and its future glory; for it is a sort of admission that, amidst the darkness of tribulations, the majesty of Christ will not fully appear, and men will not perceive the redemption which he has brought. The confused mixture of things which we now perceive does certainly, on the one hand, darken our minds, and, on the other hand, bury the grace of Christ, and make it almost vanish from our sight, so that the salvation obtained by him, so far as relates to the perception of the flesh, is not comprehended. And therefore he declares that he will appear openly at his last coming and, surrounded by the heavenly power, which will be a sign erected on an elevated spot, he will turn the eyes of the whole world upon himself. f147
Perceiving that the greater part of men would despise his doctrine and oppose his reign, he threatens also against all nations mourning and lamentation; because it is proper, that by his presence he should crush and destroy the rebels, who, while he was absent, despised his authority. He says this, partly to bring the haughty and refractory to repentance, by striking them with terror; and partly to confirm the minds of his followers amidst so great obstinacy existing in the world. For it is no slight ground of offense to see the ungodly living without concern, because they think that their mockery of God will remain unpunished; and again, there is nothing to which we are more prone than to be captivated by the allurements of the prosperity which they enjoy, so as to lose the fear of God. That the joy by which they are intoxicated may not excite the envy of believers, Christ declares that it will at length be turned into mourning and gnashing of teeth.
He alludes, I think, to <381211>Zechariah 12:11-14, where God, informing them that a striking display of his judgment will soon be made, declares that there will be lamentation in every family, such as is not usually seen at the funeral of a first-born son. There is no reason, therefore, why any person should expect the conversion of the world, for at length—when it will be too late, and will yield them no advantage—
they shall look on him whom they pierced,
(<381210>Zechariah 12:10.)
Next follows the explanation of that sin, that they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds, who at that time was living on earth in the garb of a despised servant. And thus he warns them that the glory of his kingdom will be heavenly, and not earthly, as the disciples had falsely imagined.
And he shall send his angels. He describes the effect of his power, that he will send his angels to gather his elect from the most distant parts of the world; for by the extremity of heaven is meant the most distant region. But Christ speaks hyperbolically, in order to show that the elect, even though they were carried away from the earth and scattered in the air, will again be gathered, so to be united in the enjoyment of eternal life under Him as their head, and enjoy the expected inheritance; for Christ intended to console his disciples, that they might not be altogether discouraged by the lamentable dispersion of the Church. Whenever, therefore, we perceive the Church scattered by the wiles of Satan, or torn in pieces by the cruelty of the ungodly, or disturbed by false doctrines, or tossed about by storms, let us learn to turn our eyes to this gathering of the elect. And if it appear to us a thing difficult to be believed, let us call to remembrance the power of the angels, which Christ holds out to us for the express purpose of raising our views above human means. For, though the Church be now tormented by the malice of men, or even broken by the violence of the billows, and miserably torn in pieces, so as to have no stability in the world, yet we ought always to cherish confident hope, because it will not be by human means, but by heavenly power, which will be far superior to every obstacle, that the Lord will gather his Church.
Luke 21:25. And when these things begin to take place. Luke expresses more clearly the consolation by which Christ animates the minds of his followers; for, though this sentence contains nothing different from the words of Matthew, which we have just now explained, yet it shows better for what purpose the angels will come, as we are told, to gather the elect. For it was necessary to contrast the joy of the godly with the general sorrow and distress of the world, and to point out the difference between them and the reprobate, that they might not view with horror the coming of Christ. We know that Scripture, when it speaks not only of the last judgment, but of all the judgments which God executes every day, describes them in a variety of ways, according as the discourse is addressed to believers or to unbelievers.
To what purpose is the day of the Lord to you?
says the prophet Amos, (5:18.)
It is a day of darkness and gloominess,f148 not of light; of sorrow, not of joy; of destruction, not of salvation. On the other hand, Zechariah (9:9) bids the daughter of Zion rejoice on account of the coming of her King; and justly, for—as Isaiah (35:4) tells us—the same day which brings wrath and vengeance to the reprobate brings good-will and redemption to believers.
Christ therefore shows that, at his coming, the light of joy will arise on his disciples, that they may rejoice in the approaching salvation, while the wicked are overwhelmed with terror. Accordingly, Paul distinguishes them by this mark, that they wait for the day or coming of the Lord, (<460107>1 Corinthians 1:7) for that which is their crown, and perfect happiness, and solace, is delayed till that day, (<550408>2 Timothy 4:8.) It is therefore called here (as in <450823>Romans 8:23) redemption; because we shall then obtain truly and perfectly the consequences of the deliverance obtained through Christ. Let our ears therefore be awake to the sound of the angel’s trumpet, which will then sound, not only to strike the reprobate with the dread of death, but to arouse the elect to a second life; that is, to call to the enjoyment of life those whom the Lord now quickens by the voice of his Gospel; for it is a sign of infidelity, to be afraid when the Son of God comes in person for our salvation.
MATTHEW 24:32-36; MARK 13:28-32;
LUKE 21:29-33
MATTHEW 24:32-36
MARK 13:28-32
LUKE 21:29-33
32. Now learn a similitude from the fig-tree. When its branch is already tender, and putteth forth leaves, you know that summer is nigh. 33. In like manner, when you shall see all these things, know you that it is nigh, at the door. 34. Verily I say to you, This generation shall not pass away till all these things be done. 35. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. 36. But of that day and hour no man knoweth, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father alone.
28. Now learn a similitude from the fig-tree. When its branch is still tender, and putteth forth leaves, you know that summer is nigh. 29. In like manner, when you shall see these things happen, know you that it is nigh at the door. 30. Verily I say to you, That this generation shall not pass till all those things be done. 31. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. 32. But of that day and hour no man knoweth, not even the angels which are in heaven, nor the Son himself, but the Father alone.
29. And he addressed to them a similitude. Look at the fig-tree and all the trees. 30. When they are already putting forth buds, you perceive of yourselves and know that the summer is already at hand. 31. In like manner, when you shall see these things happen know you that the kingdom of God is at hand. 32. Verily I say to you, This generation shall not pass before all these things are done. 33. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

Matthew 24:32. Now learn a similitude from the fig-tree. I do not suppose the meaning of this to be merely that, during the state of confusion which has been mentioned, there will be as evident a sign that the coming of Christ is nigh, as that by which we know with certainty that the summer is at hand, when the trees begin to grow green; but, in my opinion, Christ expresses something else. For as in winter the trees, contracted by the severity of the cold, show greater vigor, but in spring lose their toughness, and appear more feeble, and are even cleft asunder to open up passage for fresh twigs, so the afflictions by which, according to the perception of the flesh, the Church is softened, do not in any way impair its vigor. As the inward sap diffused through the whole tree, after having produced this softness, collects strength to throw itself out for renovating what was dead, so the Lord draws from the corruption of the outward man the perfect restoration of his people. The general instruction conveyed is, that the weak and frail condition of the Church ought not to lead us to conclude that it is dying, but rather to expect the immortal glory for which the Lord prepares his people by the cross and by afflictions; for what Paul maintains in reference to each of the members must be fulfilled in the whole body, that
if the outward man is decayed the inward man is renewed day by day, (<470416>2 Corinthians 4:16.)
What Matthew and Mark had stated more obscurely, know you that it is nigh at the door, is more fully explained by Luke, know you that THE KINGDOM OF GOD is at hand; and in this passage the kingdom of God is not represented—as in many other passages—at its commencement, but at its perfection, and that according to the views of those whom Christ was teaching. For they did not view the kingdom of God in the Gospel as consisting in the peace and joy of faith and in spiritual righteousness, (<451417>Romans 14:17,) but sought that blessed rest and glory which is concealed under hope till the last day.
34. This generation shall not pass away. Though Christ employs a general expression, yet he does not extend the discourses to all the miseries which would befall the Church, but merely informs them, that before a single generation shall have been completed, they will learn by experience the truth of what he has said. For within fifty years the city was destroyed and the temple was razed, the whole country was reduced to a hideous desert, and the obstinacy of the world rose up against God. Nay more, their rage was inflamed to exterminate the doctrine of salvation, false teachers arose to corrupt the pure gospel by their impostures, religion sustained amazing shocks, and the whole company of the godly was miserably distressed. Now though the same evils were perpetrated in uninterrupted succession for many ages afterwards, yet what Christ said was true, that, before the close of a single generation, believers would feel in reality, and by undoubted experience, the truth of his prediction; for the apostles endured the same things which we see in the present day. f149 And yet it was not the design of Christ to promise to his followers that their calamities would be terminated within a short time, (for then he would have contradicted himself, having previously warned them that the end was not yet;) but, in order to encourage them to perseverance, he expressly foretold that those things related to their own age. The meaning therefore is: “This prophecy does not relate to evils that are distant, and which posterity will see after the lapse of many centuries, but which are now hanging over you, and ready to fall in one mass, so that there is no part of it which the present generation will not experience.” So then, while our Lord heaps upon a, single generation every kind of calamities, he does not by any means exempt future ages from the same kind of sufferings, but only enjoins the disciples to be prepared for enduring them all with firmness.
35. Heaven and earth shall pass away. In order to secure greater confidence in his statements, he illustrates their certainty by this comparison, that it is more firm and stable than the entire structure of the world. f150 But this form of expression is explained by commentators in a variety of ways. Some refer it as the passing away of heaven and earth at the last day, by which their frail constitution will be brought to an end; while others explain it to mean, that sooner shall the entire structure of the world perish than the prophecy which we have just heard shall fail to be accomplished. But as there can be no doubt that Christ expressly intended to raise the minds of his followers above the contemplation of the world, I think that he refers to the continual changes which we see in the world, and affirms, that we ought not to judge of his sayings by the changeful character of the world, which resembles the billows of the sea; for we know how easily our minds are carried away by the affairs of the world, when it is undergoing incessant change. For this reason, Christ enjoins his disciples not to allow their attention to be occupied by the world, but to look down, from what may be called the lofty watch-tower of divine providence, on all that he foretold would happen. Yet from this passage we draw a useful doctrine, that our salvation, because it is founded on the promises of Christ, does not fluctuate according to the various agitations of the world, but remains unshaken, provided only that our faith rises above heaven and earth, and ascends to Christ himself.
36. But of that day and hour. By this sentence, Christ intended to hold the minds of believers in suspense that they might not, by a false imagination, fix any time for the final redemption. We know how fickle our minds are, and how much we are tickled by a vain curiosity to know more than is proper. Christ likewise perceived that the disciples were pushing forward with excessive haste to enjoy a triumph. He therefore wishes the day of his coming to be the object of such expectation and desire, that none shall dare to inquire when it will happen. In short, he wishes his disciples so to walk in the light of faith, that while they are uncertain as to the time, they may patiently wait for the revelation of him. We ought therefore to be on our guard, lest our anxiety about the time be carried farther than the Lord allows; for the chief part of our wisdom lies in confining ourselves soberly within the limits of God’s word. That men may not feel uneasy at not knowing that day, Christ represents angels as their associates in this matter; for it would be a proof of excessive pride and wicked covetousness, to desire that we who creep on the earth should know more than is permitted to the angels in heaven. f151
Mark adds, nor the Son himself. And surely that man must be singularly mad, who would hesitate to submit to the ignorance which even the Son of God himself did not hesitate to endure on our account. But many persons, thinking that this was unworthy of Christ, have endeavored to mitigate the harshness of this opinion by a contrivance of their own; and perhaps they were driven to employ a subterfuge by the malice of the Arians, who attempted to prove from it that Christ is not the true and only God. So then, according to those men, Christ did not know the last day, because he did not choose to reveal it to men. But since it is manifest that the same kind of ignorance is ascribed to Christ as is ascribed to the angels, we must endeavor to find some other meaning which is more suitable. Before stating it, however, I shall briefly dispose of the objections of those who think that it is an insult offered to the Son of God, if it be said that any kind of ignorance can properly apply to him.
As to the first objection, that nothing is unknown to God, the answer is easy. For we know that in Christ the two natures were united into one person in such a manner that each retained its own properties; and more especially the Divine nature was in a state of repose, and did not at all exert itself, f152 whenever it was necessary that the human nature should act separately, according to what was peculiar to itself, in discharging the office of Mediator. There would be no impropriety, therefor in saying that Christ, who knew all things, (<432117>John 21:17) was ignorant of something in respect of his perception as a man; for otherwise he could not have been liable to grief and anxiety, and could not have been like us, (<580217>Hebrews 2:17.) Again, the objection urged by some—that ignorance cannot apply to Christ, because it is the punishment of sin—is beyond measure ridiculous. For, first, it is prodigious folly to assert that the ignorance which is ascribed to angels proceeds from sin; but they discover themselves to be equally foolish on another ground, by not perceiving that Christ clothed himself with our flesh, for the purpose of enduring the punishment due to our sins. And if Christ, as man, did not know the last day, that does not any more derogate from his Divine nature than to have been mortal.
I have no doubt that he refers to the office appointed to him by the Father as in a former instance, when he said that it did not belong to him to place this or that person at his right or left hand, (<402023>Matthew 20:23; <410540>Mark 5:40.) For (as I explained under that passage f153) he did not absolutely say that this was not in his power, but the meaning was, that he had not been sent by the Father with this commission, so long as he lived among mortals. So now I understand that, so far as he had come down to us to be Mediator, until he had fully discharged his office that information was not given to him which he received after his resurrection; for then he expressly declared that power over all things had been given to him, (<402818>Matthew 28:18.)
MATTHEW 24:37-42; MARK 13:33;
LUKE 17:26-37; 21:34-36
MATTHEW 24:37-42
MARK 13:33
LUKE 17:26-37
37. But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38. For as in the days that came before the deluge, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, till the day when Noah entered into the ark, 39. And knew not until the deluge came, f154 and took them all away: so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 40. Two men shall then be in the field; one is taken, and the other is left. 41. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; one is taken, and the other is left. 42. Watch therefore, for you know not at what hour your Lord will come.
33. Take heed, watch and pray; for you know not when the time is. 
26. And as it happened in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. 27. They ate, they drank, they married wives, and were given in marriage, till that day when Noah entered into the ark; and the deluge came, and destroyed them all. 28. In like manner also, as it happened in the days of Lot, they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29. But on the day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. 30. In all these respects shall the day be when the Son of man shall be revealed. 31. In that day, let not him who shall be on the housetop, and his furniture in the house, go down to take them away; and in like manner, let not him who shall be in the field return to what he hath left behind. 32. Remember Lot’s wife. 33. Whosoever shall seek to save his soul, shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose it, will beget it to life. f155 34. I tell you, in that night two men shall be in one bed; one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. 35. Two women shall be grinding together; one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. 36. Two men shall be in the field; one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. 37. Then they answering say to him, Where, Lord? And he said to them, Wherever the carcass is, there will the eagles also be gathered together.

LUKE 21:34-36
34. And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly. 35. For as a snare shall it come f156 on all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36. Watch therefore, praying at all times that you may be permitted to escape all those things which shall happen, and to stand before the Son of man.

Matthew 24:37. But as the days of Noah were. Although Christ lately expressed his desire to keep the minds of his followers in suspense, that they might not inquire too anxiously about the last day; yet, lest the indifference arising out of the enjoyments of the world should lull them to sleep, he now exhorts them to solicitude. He wished them to be uncertain as to his coming, but yet to be prepared to expect him every day, or rather every moment. f157 To shake off their sloth, and to excite them more powerfully to be on their guard, he foretells that the end will come, while the world is sunk in brutal indifference; just as in the days of Noah all the nations were swallowed up by the deluge, when they had no expectation of it, but rioted in gluttony and voluptuousness, and shortly afterwards, the inhabitants of Sodom, while they were abandoning themselves without fear to sensuality, were consumed by fire from heaven. Since indifference of this sort will exist about the time of the last day, believers ought not to indulge themselves after the example of the multitude.
We have now ascertained the design of Christ, which was, to inform believers that, in order to prevent themselves from being suddenly overtaken, they ought always to keep watch, because the day of the last judgment will come when it is not expected. Luke alone mentions Sodom, and that in the seventeenth chapter, where he takes occasion, without attending to the order of time, to relate this discourse of Christ. But it would not have been improper that the two Evangelists should have satisfied themselves with a single example, though Christ mentioned two, more especially when those examples perfectly agreed with each other in this respect, that at one time the whole human race, in the midst of unbroken indolence and pleasure, was suddenly swallowed up, f158 with the exception of a few individuals. When he says that men were giving their whole attention to eating, drinking, marriage, and other worldly employments, at the time when God destroyed the whole world by a deluge, and Sodom by thunder; these words mean that they were as fully occupied with the conveniences and enjoyments of the present life, as if there had been no reason to dread any change. And though we shall immediately find him commanding the disciples to guard against surfeiting and earthly cares, yet in this passage he does not directly condemn the intemperance, but rather the obstinacy, of those times, in consequence of which, they despised the threatenings of God, and awaited with indifference their awful destruction. Promising to themselves that the condition in which they then were would remain unchanged, they did not scruple to follow without concern their ordinary pursuits. And in itself it would not have been improper, or worthy of condemnation, to make provision for their wants, if they had not with gross stupidity opposed the judgment of God, and rushed, with closed eyes, to unbridled iniquity, as if there had been no Judge in heaven. So now Christ declares that the last age of the world will be in a state of stupid indifference, so that men will think of nothing but the present life, and will extend their cares to a long period, pursuing their ordinary course of life, as if the world were always to remain in the same condition. The comparisons are highly appropriate; for if we consider what then happened, we shall no longer be deceived by the belief that the uniform order of events which we see in the world will always continue. For within three days of the time, when every man was conducting his affairs in the utmost tranquillity, the world was swallowed up by a deluge, and five cities were consumed by fire.
39. And knew not until the deluge came. The source and cause of their ignorance was, that unbelief had blinded their minds; as, on the other hand, we are informed by the Apostle, that Noah beheld at a distance, by the eyes of faith, the vengeance of God which was still concealed, so as to entertain an early dread of it, (<581107>Hebrews 11:7.) And here Christ compares Noah with the rest of the world, and Lot with the inhabitants of Sodom, that believers may learn to withdraw, lest they wander and be cut off along with others. But it must be observed that the reprobate, at that time, were hardened in their wickedness, because the Lord did not show his grace to any but his servants, by giving them a salutary warning to beware in proper time. Not that information of the future deluge was altogether withheld from the inhabitants of the world—before whose eyes Noah, in building the ark for more than a hundred years, presented a warning of the approaching calamity—but because one man was specially warned, by divine revelation, of the future destruction of the whole world, and raised up to cherish the hope of salvation. Though the report of the last judgment is now widely circulated, and though there are a few persons who have been taught by God to perceive that Christ will come as a Judge in due time, yet it is proper that those persons should be aroused by this extraordinary kindness of God, and that their senses should be sharpened, lest they give themselves up to the indifference which so generally prevails. For Peter compares the ark of Noah with our baptism on this ground, that a small company of men, separated from the multitude, is saved amidst the waters, (<600320>1 Peter 3:20, 21.) To this small number, therefore, our minds must be directed, if we desire to escape in safety.
40. Two men shall then be in the field. Before mentioning this, Luke inserts some sentences; the first of which is presented by Matthew as belonging to the destruction of Jerusalem, Let not him who shall be on the house-top go down into his house to carry away his furniture. But it is possible that Christ applied the same words to various subjects. Luke slates also a warning, that the disciples should remember Lot’s wife; that is, that they should forget those things which are behind, (<500313>Philippians 3:13) and advance towards the end of the heavenly calling. For Lot’s wife was changed into a pillar of salt, (<011926>Genesis 19:26,) because, hesitating whether there were good reasons for departing from the city, she looked behind her, by which she gave the lie to the heavenly oracle. Perhaps, too, regret at leaving her nest, in which she had dwelt with comfort, induced her to turn her head. Since, therefore, God intended that she should remain as an everlasting demonstration, our minds ought to be strengthened by the constancy of faith, that they may not hesitate and give way in the middle of the course; and they ought also to be trained to perseverance, in order that, bidding adieu to the fascinations of a transitory life, they may rise cheerfully and willingly towards heaven.
Luke adds a third sentence, whosoever shall seek to save his soul will lose it, that the desire of an earthly life may not prevent believers from passing rapidly through the midst of death, to the salvation laid up for them in heaven. And Christ employs a strong expression to denote the frailty of the present life, when he says that souls (Zwogonou~ntai),—that is, are begotten into life—when they are lost. His meaning is the same as if he had declared that inch do not live in the world, because the commencement of that life which is real, and which is worthy of the name, is, to leave the world. Luke afterwards adds what we find also in Matthew, that husbands and wives will then be separated, that the tics by which human beings are bound to each other in the world may not hinder or retard the godly; for it frequently happens that, while men are paying attention to each other, not one of them advances a step. In order, therefor that every man in his own department, freed from every bond and impediment, may run with cheerfulness, Christ informs us that, out of a single couple, one partner will be taken, while the other is left. Not that all who are united must of necessity be thus separated; for the sacred bond of piety will cause a believing wife to cleave to a believing husband, and will cause children to accompany their father. But Christ only intended, in order to cut off every occasion of delay, to enjoin every one to make haste, that those who already prepared may not waste their time in waiting for their companions. Immediately afterwards Luke adds, where the carcass is, there will the eagles also be gathered together; which must not, however, be restricted to the last day, but as the disciples had asked, Where, Lord? that is, “How shall we stand erect amidst so great shaking? and how shall we remain safe amidst such dangerous storms? and to what places of concealment shall we resort for protection, when we are united?” Christ declares, as we find in Matthew—that he is the banner of solid union, and in which all the children of God must be gathered.
42. Watch therefore. In Luke the exhortation is more pointed, or, at least, more special, Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and the cares of this life. And certainly he who, by living in intemperance, has his senses overloaded with food and wine, will never elevate his mind to meditation on the heavenly life. But as there is no desire of the flesh that does not intoxicate a man, they ought to take care, in all these respects, not to satiate themselves with the world, if they wish to advance with speed to the kingdom of Christ. The single word watch—which we find in Matthewdenotes that uninterrupted attention which keeps our minds in full activity, and makes us pass through the world like pilgrims.
In the account given by Mark, the disciples are first enjoined to take heed lest, through carelessness or indolence, ruin overtake them; and next are commanded to watch, because various allurements of the flesh are continually creeping upon us, and lulling our minds to sleep. Next follows an exhortation to prayer, because it is necessary to seek elsewhere the supplies that are necessary for supporting our weakness. Luke dictates the very form of prayer; first, that God may be pleased to rescue us from so deep and intricate a labyrinth; and next, that lie may present us safe and sound in presence of his Son; for we shall never be able to reach it but by miraculously escaping innumerable deaths. And as it was not enough to pass through the course of the present life by rising superior to all dangers, Christ places this as the most important, that we may be permitted to stand before his tribunal.
For you know not at what hour your Lord will come. It ought to be observed, that the uncertainty as to the time of Christ’s coming—which almost all treat as an encouragement to sloth—ought to be felt by us to be an excitement to attention and watchfulness. God intended that it should be hidden from us, for the express purpose that we may keep diligent watch without the relaxation of a single hour. For what would be the trial of faith and patience, if believers, after spending their whole life in ease, and indolence, and pleasure, were to prepare themselves within the space of three days for meeting Christ?
MATTHEW 24:43-51; MARK 13:34-37;
LUKE 12:35-50
MATTHEW 24:43-51
MARK 13:34-37
LUKE 12:35-50
43. But know this, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief would come, he would certainly have watched, and would not have permitted his house to be broken into. 44. Therefore, be you also ready; because the Son of man will come at an hour when you are not aware. 45. Who is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master hath appointed over his household, to give them food in due season? 46. Blessed is that servant, whom his master, when he cometh, shall find acting in this manner. 47. Verily I say to you, He will appoint him f159 over all his property. 48. But if that wicked servant shall say in his heart, My master delayeth to come; 49. And shall begin to beat his fellow-servants, and even to eat and drink with drunkards; 50. The master of that servant will come on a day when he doth not look for him, and at an hour when he is not aware; 51. And shall cut him off; and assign his portion with hypocrites: weeping and gnashing of teeth shall be there.
34. As a man f160 who is going abroad, and hath left his house, and hath given it in charge to his servants, and hath assigned to every man his work, and hath commanded the porter to watch. 35. Watch, therefore; (for you know not when your Lord will come, f161 whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning;) 36. Lest, when he shall come suddenly, he will find you sleeping. 37. But what I say to you I say to all, Watch.
35. Let your loins be girt, and your lamps burning; 36. And yourselves like men who wait for their master, till he shall return from the marriage, that, when he shall come and knock, f162 they may open to him immediately. 37. Blessed are those servants whom their lord, when he cometh shall find watching. Verily I tell you, that he will gird himself, and make them sit down at table, and will come forward and serve them. 38. And if he shall come in the second watch, or if he shall come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. 39. But know this, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief would come, he would certainly have watched, and would not have permitted his house to be broken into. 40. And therefore be you also ready; for the Son of man will come at an hour when you are not expecting him. 41. And Peter saith to him, Lord, sayest thou this parable to us, or likewise to all? 42. And the Lord said, Who is a faithful and wise steward, whom his master will appoint over his household, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? 43. Blessed is that servant, whom his master, when he cometh, shall find acting in this manner. 44. Verily I tell you, that he will appoint him over all that he possesses. 45. But if that servant shall say in his heart, My master delayeth his coming, and shall begin to beat the men-servants, and maids, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; 46. The master of that servant will come on a day when he doth not expect him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him off, and assign his portion with the unfaithful. 47. But that servant, who knew his master’s will, and did not make himself ready, nor did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48. But he who knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. And to whomsoever much hath been given, much will be demanded from him, and to whom men have entrusted much, from him they will exact more. 49. I came to send a fire on the earth, and what do I wish if it be already be kindled? f163 50. But I have to be baptized with a baptism, and how am I distressed till it be accomplished!

Matthew 24:43. If the householder had known. Luke relates this discourse of Christ at a different place from Matthew; and we need not wonder at this, for in the twelfth chapter, where (as we have formerly explained) he collects out of various discourses a summary of doctrine, he inserts also this parable. Besides, he introduces a general preface that the disciples should wait for their master, with their loins girt, and carrying burning lamps in their hands. To this statement corresponds the parable, which we shall soon afterwards find in <402501>Matthew 25:1-12 about the wise and foolish virgins.
In a few words Christ glances rapidly at the manner in which believers ought to conduct their pilgrimage in the world; for first he contrasts the girding of the loins with sloth, and burning lamps with the darkness of ignorance. First, then, Christ enjoins the disciples to be ready and equipped for the journey, that they may pass rapidly through the world, and may seek no fixed abode or resting-place but in heaven. The warning is highly useful; for though ungodly men have likewise in their mouth this form of expression, “the course of life,” yet we see how they lay themselves down in the world, and remain unmoved in their attachment to it. But God does not bestow the honorable title of his children on any but those who acknowledge that they are strangers on the earth, and who not only are at all times prepared to leave it, but likewise move forward, in an uninterrupted “course,” towards the heavenly life. Again, as they are surrounded on all sides by darkness, so long as they remain in the world, he furnishes them with lamps, as persons who are to perform a journey during the night. The first recommendation is, to run vigorously; and the next is, to have clear information as to the road, that believers may not weary themselves to no purpose by going astray; for otherwise it would be better to stumble in the way, than to perform a journey in uncertainty and mistake. As to the expression, girding the loins, it is borrowed from the ordinary custom of Eastern nations in wearing long garments.
Luke 12:36. And you yourselves like men that wait for their master. He uses another parable not mentioned by Matthew, who writes more briefly on this subject; for he compares himself to a householder who, while he is joining in the festivities of the marriage feast, or in other respects indulging in pleasure, out of his own house, wishes his servants to conduct themselves with modesty and sobriety at home, attending to their lawful occupations, and diligently waiting for his return. Now though the Son of God has departed to the blessed rest of heaven, and is absent from us, yet as he has assigned to every one his duty, it would be improper for us to give way to indolent repose. Besides, as he has promised that he will return to us, we ought to hold ourselves prepared, at every moment, to receive him, that he may not find us sleeping. For if a mortal man looks upon it as a duty which his servants owe him, that, at whatever hour he returns home, they shall be prepared to receive him, how much more has he a right to demand from his followers that they shall be sober and vigilant, and always wait for his coming? To excite them to greater alacrity, he mentions that earthly masters are so delighted with such promptitude on the part of their servants, that they even serve them; not that all masters are accustomed to act in this manner, but because it does sometimes happen that a master, who is kind and gentle, admits his servants to his own table, as if they were his companions.
Yet it may be asked, Since Scripture calls us in many passages children of light, (<490508>Ephesians 5:8; <520505>1 Thessalonians 5:5,) and since the Lord also shines upon us by his word, so that we walk as at noon, how does the Lord compare our life to the watches of tire night? But we ought to seek the solution of this difficulty from the words of Peter, who tells us, that the word of God shines like a burning lamp, to enable us distinctly to see our road in a dark place. We ought therefore to attend. to both statements, that our journey must be performed amidst the thick darkness of the world, and yet we are protected from the risk of going astray, while the torch of heavenly doctrine goes before us, more especially when we have Christ himself for a sun.
Matthew 24:43. But know this. Another similitude is now employed by Christ, in exhorting his disciples to keep diligent watch; for if any person shall hear that robbers are prowling in the night, fear and suspicion will not allow him to sleep. Since, therefore, we are informed that Christ’s coming will be sudden and unexpected, like that of a robber, and since we are expressly forewarned that we must always watch, lest he come upon us when asleep, and we be swallowed up with the ungodly, there is no excuse for our indolence; more especially since there is reason to dread not only a breach of the wall, and a loss of our property, but a deadly wound to ruin our soul, unless we are on our guard. The tendency of these words therefore is, that the warning of Christ should arouse us; for, though the last judgment be delayed for a long time, yet it hangs over us every hour; and, therefore, when there is ground for alarm, and when danger is near, it is unreasonable that we should be sluggish.
45. Who is the faithful and wise servant? This passage is more distinctly explained by Luke, who inserts Peter’s question, which gave rise to a new parable. Christ having declared that the suddenness and uncertainty of his coming led to such danger as left no room for sloth, Peter asked, if this doctrine was general, or if it belonged to the twelve alone. For the disciples—as we have formerly seen—were always in the habit of thinking that they were unjustly treated, unless they were exempted from the common lot, and greatly excelled all others. When our Lord now represents to them a condition which is far from being pleasant or desirable, they look around them on every hand, like persons astonished. But the object of Christ’s reply is, to show that, if each of the common people ought to watch, much less ought it to be endured that the apostles should be asleep. As Christ had formerly exhorted the whole family in general to watch for his coming, so now he demands extraordinary care from the principal servants, who had been appointed over others for the purpose of pointing out, by their example, the path of sobriety, watchfulness, and strict temperance. By these words he reminds them that they were not elevated to high rank for the purpose of indulging in ease, indolence, and pleasure; but that, the higher the rank of honor which they had obtained, the heavier was the burden which was laid on them; and therefore he declares that it is especially demanded from such persons that they exercise fidelity and wisdom.
Let all who are called to an honorable office learn from this, that they are so much the more strongly bound, not only to bestow their labor faithfully, but to strive with their utmost zeal and industry to discharge their duty. For while it is enough for ordinary servants to go through their daily toil, stewards, whose office embraces the care of the whole family, ought to go much farther. Otherwise Christ charges them with ingratitude, because, while they have been chosen before others, they do not answer to their honor; for why does our Lord prefer them to the rest, but in order that they may excel all by extraordinary fidelity and wisdom? True, indeed, all are enjoined, without exception, to be sober, and to give earnest attention, but drowsiness would be peculiarly disgraceful and inexcusable in pastors. He next holds out even the hope of a reward to encourage them to diligence.
48. But if that wicked servant shall say in his heart. By these words, Christ briefly points out the source of that carelessness which creeps upon wicked servants. It is because they trust to a longer delay, and thus of their own accord involve themselves in darkness. They imagine that the day when they must render an account will never come; and, under the pretext of Christ’s absence, they promise themselves that they will remain unpunished. For it is impossible but that the expectation of him, when it does occur to our minds, shall shake off sleep, and still more, that it shall restrain us from being carried away by wicked sensuality. No excitement of exhortation, therefore, can be more powerful or efficacious, than to represent to us that rigid tribunal which no man will be able to escape. That each of us may be careful to discharge his duty earnestly, and keep himself strictly and modestly within his own limits, let us constantly make our minds familiar with the thought of that last and sudden coming of the Lord, the neglect of which leads the reprobate to indulge in wickedness.
At the same time, Christ takes a passing glance at the ease with which insolence grows, when a man has once shaken off the bridle, and given himself up to sinning. For Christ does not represent to us a servant who is merely dissolute and worthless, but one who rises up in an outrageous manner to disturb the whole house, who wickedly abuses the power committed to him, exercises cruelty on his fellow-servants, and wastefully spends the property of his master, whom he treats with open ridicule. Lastly, to excite terror, he adds the punishment, which is of no ordinary degree; for severe punishment is due to such unbounded wickedness.
Luke 12:47. But that servant. There is great weight in this circumstance, which is mentioned by Luke alone, that, in proportion as any man knowingly and willingly takes pleasure in despising the Lord, he deserves severer punishment. A comparison is made between the greater and the less to this effect: If punishment does not fail to be inflicted on a servant who errs through mistake, what shall become of the wicked and rebellious servant, who purposely, as it were, tramples under foot the authority of his master? It ought to be remembered, however, that those who are appointed to govern the Church do not err through ignorance, but basely and wickedly defraud their Master of his right.
Yet we ought to gather from this passage a general doctrine, that it is in vain for men to betake themselves to the plea of ignorance, in order to be freed from condemnation. For if a mortal man claims the right of demanding from his servants that they shall inquire into his will, so that nothing may be done in his house in a heedless or confused manner; how much greater authority belongs to the Son of God, that they who serve him should be earnestly desirous to be informed about his injunctions, and not rush forward, at their own pleasure, to act in a state of uncertainty, but depend wholly on the intimations of his will; particularly when he has prescribed what we ought to do, and always gives us a gracious answer, when we ask his direction? It is certain, that our ignorance is always accompanied by gross and shameful negligence. We see, indeed, that it is in vain to resort to this subterfuge, that he who has gone wrong through ignorance is not in fault; for, on the contrary, the Heavenly Judge declares, that though such offenders are visited by lighter chastisement, yet they will not be altogether unpunished. And if even ignorance does not excuse men, how dreadful is the vengeance that awaits deliberate transgressors, who with outrageous violence provoke God, in opposition to the dictates of their conscience? The more abundant the instruction, therefore, which any man has received, so much the greater is the ground for punishment, if he be not obedient and submissive. Hence it appears how trifling and worthless is the excuse of those who, now rejecting the plain doctrine of the Gospel, endeavor to screen such obstinacy by the ignorance of their fathers; as if ignorance were an adequate shield to ward off the judgment of God. But granting that faults committed through mistake were pardoned, it would be highly unreasonable that the same favor should be extended to those who sin willfully, since with deliberate malice they rage against God.
48. To whomsoever much hath been given. Christ shows by another circumstance, that the more highly favored disciples ought to be visited with severer punishment, if they despise their calling, and abandon themselves without reserve to every kind of licentiousness; because the more eminent a man is, he ought to consider that so much the more has been entrusted to him, and on the express condition that he shall one day render an account of it. In the same proportion, therefore, as any of us is endued with higher gifts, if he does not, like a field which has been cultivated at greater expense, yield to the Lord more abundant produce, the abuse of that grace which he has profaned, or uselessly withheld, will cost him dear.
49. I am come to send fire on the earth. From these concluding words it may easily be inferred, that this was one of Christ’s latest discourses, and is not related by Luke at the proper place. But the meaning is, that Christ has introduced into the world the utmost confusion, as if he had intended to mingle heaven and earth. The gospel is metaphorically compared to fire, because it violently changes the face of things. The disciples having falsely imagined that, while they were at ease and asleep, the kingdom of God would come, Christ declares, on the contrary, that there must first be a dreadful conflagration to kindle the world. And as some beginnings of it were even then making their appearance, Christ encourages the disciples by this very consideration, that they already feel the power of the gospel. “When great commotions,” says he, “shall already begin to kindle, this is so far from being a reason why you should tremble, that it is rather a ground of strong confidence; and, for my own part, I rejoice that this fruit of my labors is visible.” In like manner, all the ministers of the gospel ought to apply this to themselves, that, when there are troubles in the world, they may be more diligently employed in their duty. It is proper to observe, also, that the same fire of doctrine, when it burns on all sides, consumes chaff and straw, but purifies silver and gold.
50. But I have a baptism to be baptized with. By these words our Lord asserts that there remains nothing but his last act, that by his death he may consecrate the renovation of the world. For since the shaking which he mentioned was appalling, and since that conflagration of the human race was terrific, he is about to show that the first-fruits must be offered in his own person, after which the disciples ought not to be displeased at feeling some portion of it. He compares death—as in other passages—to baptism, (<450604>Romans 6:4,) because the children of God, after having been immersed for a time by the death of the body, shortly afterwards rise again to life, so that death is nothing else than a passage through the midst of the waters. He says that he is sorely pressed till that baptism has been accomplished, that he may encourage every one of us, by his example, both to bear the cross and to prefer death. Not that any man can have a natural preference for death, or for any abatement of present happiness, but because, when we contemplate on the farther bank the glory, and the blessed and immortal rest of heaven, we not only suffer death with patience, but are even carried forward by eager desire where faith and hope lead us.
MATTHEW 25:1-13
MATTHEW 25:1-13
1. Then shall the kingdom of heaven be like ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2. And five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3. They that were foolish, while they took their lamps, took no oil with them: 4. But the wise took oil in their vessels along with their lamps. 5. And while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 6. And at midnight a cry arose, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go you out to meet him. 7. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 8. And the foolish said to the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are going out. 9. But the wise answered, saying, By no means, lest there be not enough for you and for us; f164 but go you rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. 10. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. 11. And afterwards came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. 12. But he answering said, Verily I tell you, I know you not. 13. Watch, therefore, for you know not the day nor the hour in which the Son of man shall come.

Though this exhortation—as will appear from the conclusion of it—has nearly the same object with the former, yet it is properly added, in order to confirm believers in perseverance. Our Lord knew how strongly the nature of men is inclined to idleness, and how, for the most part, they not only grow weary after a great lapse of time, but give way through sudden dislike. To remedy this disease, he taught his disciples that they were not duly fortified, unless they had sufficient perseverance for a long period. When this is ascertained to be the design of the parable, we ought not to trouble ourselves much with minute investigations, which have nothing to do with what Christ intended. Some people give themselves a good deal of uneasiness about the lamps, the vessels, and the oil; but the plain and natural meaning of the whole is, that it is not enough to have ardent zeal for a short time, if we have not also a constancy that never tires. And Christ employs a very appropriate parable to express this. A little before, he had exhorted the disciples, that as they had a journey to perform through dark and dreary places, they should provide themselves with lamps; but as the wick of the lamp, if it be not supplied with oil, gradually dries up, and loses its brightness, Christ now says, that believers need to have incessant supplies of courage, to support the flame which is kindled in their hearts, otherwise their zeal will fail ere they have completed the journey.
Matthew 25:1. Then shall the kingdom of heaven. By this term is meant the condition of the future Church, which was to be collected by the authority and direction of Christ. He employs this remarkable title, that believers may not deceive themselves by an erroneous opinion that they have arrived at absolute perfection. The parable is borrowed from the ordinary custom of life; for it was a childish speculation of Jerome and others, to adduce this passage in praise of virginity; while Christ had no other object in view than to lessen the uneasiness which they might be apt to feel in consequence of the delay of his coming. He says, therefore, that he asks nothing more from us than is usually done for friends at a marriage-feast. The custom was, that virgins, who are tender and delicate—should, by way of respect, accompany the bridegroom to his chamber. But the general instruction of the parable consists in this, that it is not enough to have been once ready and prepared for the discharge of duty, if we do not persevere to the end.
2. Five were wise. Towards the close of the former chapter, our Lord specially required steward to be wise, (<402445>Matthew 24:45) for it is reasonable, that the heavier the charge which any man sustains, and the more important the matters in which he is employed, the wisdom with which he conducts himself should be the greater. But now he demands wisdom from all the children of God in general, that they may not, through inconsiderate rashness, expose themselves to be the prey of Satan. Now this kind of wisdom he describes by saying, that they are to provide themselves with the supplies necessary for completing the course of their life. For the warmth of our impatience makes us look upon the time, however short, as far too long protracted; and next, our poverty is such, that we need supplies for every hour.
5. And while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. Some interpret this slumbering in a bad sense, as if believers, along with others, abandoned themselves to sloth, and were asleep amidst the vanities of the world; but this is altogether inconsistent with the intention of Christ, and with the structure of the parable. There would be greater probability in explaining it to denote death, which overtakes believers before the coming of Christ; for it is not at that time only that we must look for salvation, but also when we have left the world and are sleeping in Christ. But I take it more simply as denoting earthly occupations, in which believers must be engaged, so long as they dwell in the body; and, though forgetfulness of the kingdom of God ought never to steal upon them, yet the distracting influence of the occupations of this world is not inappropriately compared to sleep. For they cannot be so constantly occupied with the thought of meeting Christ, as not to be distracted, or retarded, or entangled by a variety of cares, in consequence of which, while they watch, they are partly asleep.
6. At midnight a cry arose. With respect to the cry I view it as taken metaphorically for his sudden arrival; for we know, that when any thing new and unexpected happens, men are wont to make a loud noise. True, indeed, our Lord cries daily, that he will come quickly, (<662220>Revelation 22:20;) but at that, time, the whole frame of the world will resound with the cry, and his dreadful majesty will fill heaven and earth in such a manner, as not only to awaken those who are asleep, but to bring the dead out of their graves, (<430528>John 5:28.)
8. And the foolish said to the wise. This is a reproof of the late repentance of those who never think of what they are in want of, till the door is shut against every remedy. For those who do not make provision for a long period are charged with folly, because they are careless, and flatter themselves amidst their poverty, and allow the season of mutual intercourse to pass in such a way as to despise the aids which were offered to them. As they do not, in proper time, bethink themselves about procuring oil, Christ, mocking the knowledge which they have acquired when it is too late, shows how their stupidity will be punished, when they shall see themselves to be empty and unprovided, while there is no remedy.
9. Lest there be not enough for you and us. We know that the Lord distributes his gifts so variously to each, according to his measure, in order that they may give mutual aid to each other, and may employ for the general advantage what has been entrusted to each individual; and that in this way is preserved the sacred connection which exists among the members of the Church. But Christ here points out the time when he shall summon all men to his tribunal, each carrying his bundle, that he may bring with him according as he has done in his body. That portion of grace received, which every man has laid up for himself, is, therefore, justly compared to a stock of provisions for a journey, which would not be enough for a greater number of persons.
But rather go to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. These words immediately follow, and are not intended as an admonition, but a reproof; and the meaning is: “There once was a time for buying, which you ought not to have neglected; for oil was at that time offered for sale, but the means of obtaining it are now withdrawn.” And yet it is foolish in the Papists to infer from this, that by our own virtues or industry we obtain the gift of perseverance. For the word buy does not at all imply that a price has been given; as appears clearly from the passage in Isaiah, (55:1) where the Lord, while he invites us to buy, demands no price, but informs us, that he has wine and milk in abundance, to be gratuitously bestowed. There is no other way of obtaining it, therefore, but to receive by faith what is offered to us.
10. And the door was shut. At length it follows that the door of the heavenly kingdom will be shut against all who have not made provision, because they failed in the middle of the course. We must not enter here into minute inquiries, how it is that Christ says that the foolish virgins WENT TO BUY for it means nothing else than that all who shall not be ready at the very moment when they shall be called will be shut out from entering into heaven.
MATTHEW 25:31-46; LUKE 21:37-38
MATTHEW 25:31-46
LUKE 21:37-38
31. Now when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32. And all the nations shall be assembled before him; and he shall separate them from one another, as a shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats. 33. And he shall place the sheep on his right hand, and the goats on the left. 34. Then will the King say to those who shall be on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you received me kindly; 36. I was naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me. 37. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38. And when did e see thee a stranger, and received thee kindly? or naked, and clothed thee? 39. Or when did we see thee sick, or in prison, and came to thee? 40. And the King answering will say to them, Verily I tell you, So far as you did it to one of these my brethren, you did it to me. 41. Then will he say also to those who shall be on the left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels: 42. For I was hungry, and you gave me no food; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink. 43. I was a stranger, and you did not receive me kindly; I was naked, and you did not clothe me; I was sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me. 44. Then will they also answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not assist thee? 45. Then will he answer them, saying, Verily I tell you, So far as you did it not to any of the least of these, you did it not to me. 46. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, and the righteous into everlasting life. f165
37. And he taught in the temple by day; but at night he went out, and lodged in the mountain, which is called the mountain of Olives. 38. And early in the morning all the people came to him, to hear him in the temple.

Matthew 25:31. Now when the Son of man shall come in his glory. Christ follows out the same doctrine, and what he formerly described under parables, he now explains clearly and without figures. The sum of what is said is, that believers, in order to encourage themselves to a holy and upright conduct, ought to contemplate with the eyes of faith the heavenly life, which, though it is now concealed, will at length be manifested at the last coming of Christ. For, when he declares that, when he shall come with the angels, then will he sit on the throne of his glory, he contrasts this last revelation with the disorders and agitations of earthly warfare; as if he had said, that he did not appear for the purpose of immediately setting up his kingdom, and therefore that there was need of hope and patience, lest the disciples might be discouraged by long delay. Hence we infer that this was again added, in order that the disciples, being freed from mistake about immediate and sudden happiness, might keep their minds in warfare till Christ’s second coming, and might not give way, or be discouraged, on account of his absence.
This is the reason why he says that he will then assume the title of King; for though he commenced his reign on the earth, and now sits at the right hand of the Father, so as to exercise the supreme government of heaven and earth; yet he has not yet erected before the eyes of men that throne, from which his divine majesty will be far more fully displayed than it now is at the last day; for that , of which we now obtain by faith nothing more than a taste, will then have its full effect. So then Christ now sits on his heavenly throne, as fir as it is necessary that he shall reign for restraining his enemies and protecting the Church; but then he will appear openly, to establish perfect order in heaven and earth, to crush his enemies under his feet, to assemble his believing people to partake of an everlasting and blessed life, to ascend his judgment-seat; and, in a word, there will be a visible manifestation of the reason why the kingdom was given to him by the Father. He says that he will come in his glory; because, while he dwelt in this world as a mortal man, he appeared in the despised form of a servant. And he calls it his glory, though he elsewhere ascribes it to his Father, but the meaning is the same; for he means simply the divine glory, which at that time shone in the Father only, for in himself it was concealed. f166
32. And all nations shall be assembled before him. He employs large and splendid titles for extolling his kingdom, that the disciples may learn to expect a different kind of happiness from what they had imagined. For they were satisfied with this single consideration, that their nation was delivered from the miseries with which it was then oppressed, so that it would be manifest that God had not in vain established his covenant with Abraham and his posterity. But Christ extends much farther the benefit of the redemption brought by him, for he will be the Judge of the whole world. Again, in order to persuade believers to holiness of life, he assures them that the good and the bad will not share alike; because he will bring with him the reward which is laid up for both. In short, he declares that his kingdom will be fully established, when the righteous shall have obtained a crown of glory, and when the wicked shall have received the reward which they deserved.
As a shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats. When our Lord says that the separation of the sheep from the goats is delayed till that day, he means that the wicked are now mixed with the good and holy, so that they live together in the same flock of God. The comparison appears to be borrowed from <263418>Ezekiel 34:18, where the Lord complains of the fierceness of the goats, which attack with their horns the poor sheep, and destroy the pastures, and pollute the water; and where the Lord expressly declares that he will take vengeance. And therefore Christ’s discourse amounts to this, that believers ought not to think their condition too hard, if they are now compelled to live with the goats, and even to sustain many serious attacks and annoyances from them; secondly, that they ought to beware of being themselves infected by the contagion of their vices; and, thirdly, to inform them that in a holy and innocent life their labor is not thrown away, for the difference will one day appear.
34. Come, you blessed of my Father. We must remember Christ’s design; for he bids his disciples rest satisfied now with hope, that they may with patience and tranquillity of mind look for the enjoyment of the heavenly kingdom; and next, he bids them strive earnestly, and not become wearied in the right course. To this latter clause he refers, when he promises the inheritance of the heavens to none but those who by good works aim at the prize of the heavenly calling. But before speaking of the reward of good works, he points out, in passing,. that the commencement of salvation flows from a higher source; for by calling them blessed of the Father, he reminds them, that their salvation proceeded from the undeserved favor of God. Among the Hebrews the phrase blessed of God means one who is dear to God, or beloved by God. Besides, this form of expression was not only employed by believers to extol the grace of God towards men, but those who had degenerated from true godliness still held this principle. Enter, thou blessed of God, said Laban to Abraham’s servant, (<012431>Genesis 24:31.) We see that nature suggested to them this expression, by which they ascribed to God the praise of all that they possessed. There can be no doubt, therefore, that Christ, in describing the salvation of the godly, begins with the undeserved love of God, by which those who, under the guidance of the Spirit in this life, aim at righteousness, were predestined to life.
To this also relates what he says shortly afterwards, that the kingdom, to the possession of which they will be appointed at the last day, had been prepared for them from the beginning of the world. For though it may be easy to object, that the reward was laid up with a view to their future merits, any person who will candidly examine the words must acknowledge that there is an implied commendation of the grace of God. Nay more, Christ does not simply invite believers to possess the kingdom, as if they had obtained it by their merits, but expressly says that it is bestowed on them as heirs.
Yet we must observe another object which our Lord had in view. For though the life of the godly be nothing else than a sad and wretched banishment, so that the earth scarcely bears them; though they groan under hard poverty, and reproaches, and other afflictions; yet, that they may with fortitude and cheerfulness surmount these obstacles, the Lord declares that a kingdom is elsewhere prepared for them. It is no slight persuasive to patience, when men are fully convinced that they do not run in vain; and therefore, lest our minds should be east, down by the pride of the ungodly, in which they give themselves unrestrained indulgences—lest our hope should even be weakened by our own afflictions, let us always remember the inheritance which awaits us in heaven; for it depends on no uncertain event, but was prepared for us by God before we were born,—prepared, I say, for each of the elect, for the persons here addressed by Christ are the blessed of the Father.
When it is here said only that the kingdom was prepared from the beginning of the world, while it is said, in another passage, that it was prepared before the creation of heaven and of earth, (<490104>Ephesians 1:4) this involves no inconsistency. For Christ does not here fix the precise time when the inheritance of eternal life was appointed for the sons of God, but only reminds us of God’s fatherly care, with which he embraced us before we were born; and confirms the certainty of our hope by this consideration, that our life can sustain no injury from the commotions and agitations of the world.
35. For I was hungry. If Christ were now speaking of the cause of our salvation, the Papists could not be blamed for inferring that we merit eternal life by good works; but as Christ had no other design than to exhort his people to holy and upright conduct, it is improper to conclude from his words what is the value of the merits of works. With regard to the stress which they lay on the word for, as if it pointed out the cause, it is a weak argument; for we know that, when eternal life is promised to the righteous, the word for does not always denote a cause, but rather the order of procedure. f167 But we have another reply to offer, which is still more clear; for we do not deny that a reward is promised to good works, but maintain that it is a reward of grace, because it depends on adoption. Paul boasts (<550408>2 Timothy 4:8) that a crown of righteousness is laid up for him; but whence did he derive that confidence but because he was a member of Christ, who alone is heir of the heavenly kingdom? He openly avows that the righteous Judge will give to him that crown; but whence did he obtain that prize but because by grace he was adopted, and received that justification of which we are all destitute? We must therefore hold these two principles, first, that believers are called to the possession of the kingdom of heaven, so far as relates to good works, not because they deserved them through the righteousness of works, or because their own minds prompted them to obtain that righteousness, but because God justifies those whom he previously elected, (<450830>Romans 8:30.) Secondly, although by the guidance of the Spirit they aim at the practice of righteousness, yet as they never fulfill the law of God, no reward is due to them, but the term reward is applied to that which is bestowed by grace.
Christ does not here specify every thing that belongs to a pious and holy life, but only, by way of example, refers to some of the duties of charity, by which we give evidence that we fear God. For though the worship of God is more important than charity towards men, and though, in like manner, faith and supplication are more valuable than alms, yet Christ had good reasons for bringing forward those evidences of true righteousness which are more obvious. If a man were to take no thought about God, and were only to be beneficent towards men, such compassion would be of no avail to him for appeasing God, who had all the while been defrauded of his right. Accordingly, Christ does not make the chief part of righteousness to consist in alms, but, by means of what may be called more evident signs, shows what it is to live a holy and righteous life; as unquestionably believers not only profess with the mouth, but prove by actual performances, that they serve God.
Most improperly, therefore, do fanatics, under the pretext of this passage, withdraw from hearing the word, and from observing the Holy Supper, and from other spiritual exercises; for with equal plausibility might they set aside faith, and bearing the cross, and prayer, and chastity. But nothing was farther from the design of Christ than to confine to a portion of the second table of the Law that rule of life which is contained in the two tables. The monks and other noisy talkers had as little reason to imagine that there are only six works of mercy, because Christ does not mention any more; as if it were not obvious, even to children, that he commends, by means of a synacdoche, all the duties of charity. For to comfort mourners, to relieve those who are unjustly oppressed, to aid simple-minded men by advice, to deliver wretched persons from the jaws of wolves, are deeds of mercy not less worthy of commendation than to clothe the naked or to feed the hungry.
But while Christ, in recommending to us the exercise of charity, does not exclude those duties which belong to the worship of God, he reminds his disciples that it will be an authentic evidence of a holy life, if they practice charity, agreeably to those words of the prophet,
I choose mercy, and not sacrifice, (<280606>Hosea 6:6;)
the import of which is, that hypocrites, while they are avaricious, and cruel, and deceitful, and extortioners, and haughty, still counterfeit holiness by an imposing array of ceremonies. Hence also we infer, that if we desire to have our life approved by the Supreme Judge, we must not go astray after our own inventions, but must rather consider what it is that He chiefly requires from us. For all who shall depart from his commandments, though they toil and wear themselves out in works of their own contrivance, will hear it said to them at the last day, Who
hath required those things at your hands? (<230112>Isaiah 1:12.)
37. Then wilt the righteous answer him. Christ represents the righteous as doubting—what they know well—his willingness to form a just estimate of what is done to men. f168 But as this was not so deeply impressed on their minds as it ought to have been, he holds out to them this lively representation. f169 For how comes it that we are so slow and reluctant to acts of beneficence, but because that promise is not truly engraven on our hearts, that God will one day repay with usury what we bestow on the poor? The admiration which Christ here expresses is intended to instruct us to rise above the apprehension of our flesh, whenever afflicted brethren ask our confidence and aid, that the aspect of a despised man may not hinder us from treating him with kindness.
40. Verily I tell you. As Christ has just now told us, by a figure, that our senses do not yet comprehend how highly he values deeds of charity, so now he openly declares, that he will reckon as done to himself whatever we have bestowed on his people. We must be prodigiously sluggish, if compassion be not drawn from our bowels by this statement, that Christ is either neglected or honored in the person of those who need our assistance. So then, whenever we are reluctant to assist the poor, let us place before our eyes the Son of God, to whom it would be base sacrilege to refuse any thing. By these words he likewise shows, that he acknowledges those acts of kindness which have been performed gratuitously, and without any expectation of a reward. And certainly, when he enjoins us to do good to the hungry and naked, to strangers and prisoners, from whom nothing can be expected in return, we must look to him, who freely lays himself under obligation to us, and allows us to place to his account what might otherwise appear to have been lost.
So far as you have done it to one of the least of my brethren. Believers only are expressly recommended to our notice; not that he bids us altogether despise others, but because the more nearly a man approaches to God, he ought to be the more highly esteemed by us; for though there is a common tie that binds all the children of Adam, there is a still more sacred union among the children of God. So then, as those, who belong to the household of faith ought to be preferred to strangers, Christ makes special mention of them. And though his design was, to encourage those whose wealth and resources are abundant to relieve the poverty of brethren, yet it affords no ordinary consolation to the poor and distressed, that, though shame and contempt follow them in the eyes of the world, yet the Son of God holds them as dear as his own members. And certainly, by calling them brethren, he confers on them inestimable honor.
41. Depart from me, you cursed. He now comes to the reprobate, who are so intoxicated by their fading prosperity, that they imagine they will always be happy. He threatens, therefore, that he will come as their Judge, and that he will make them forget those luxurious enjoyments to which they are now so entirely devoted; not that the coming of Christ will strike them with terror—for they think that they
have made a covenant with death, (<232815>Isaiah 28:15,)
and harden themselves in wicked indifference—but that believers, warned of their dreadful ruin, may not envy their present lot. For as promises are necessary for us, to excite and encourage us to holiness of life, so threatenings are likewise necessary to restrain us by anxiety and fear. We are therefore taught how desirable it is to be united to the Son of God; because everlasting destruction and the torment of the flesh await all those whom he will drive from his presence at the last day. He will then order the wicked to depart from him, because many hypocrites are now mixed with the righteous, as if they were closely allied to Christ.
Into everlasting fire. We have stated formerly, that the term fire represents metaphorically that dreadful punishment which our senses are unable to comprehend. It is therefore unnecessary to enter into subtle inquiries, as the sophists do, into the materials or form of this fire; for there would be equally good reason to inquire about the worm, which Isaiah connects with the
fire for their worm shall not die,
either shall their fire be quenched, (<236624>Isaiah 66:24.)
Besides, the same prophet shows plainly enough in another passage that the expression is metaphorical; for he compares the Spirit of God to a blast by which the fire is kindled, and adds a mixture of brimstone, (<233033>Isaiah 30:33.) Under these words, therefore, we ought to represent to our minds the future vengeance of God against the wicked, which, being more grievous than all earthly torments, ought rather to excite horror than a desire to know it. But we must observe the eternity of this fire, as well as of the glory which, a little before, was promised to believers.
Which is prepared for the devil. Christ contrasts with himself the devil, as the head of all the reprobate. For though all the devils are apostate angels, yet many passages of Scripture assign thee highest authority to one who assembles under him, as in one body, all the wicked to perdition; in the same manner as believers assemble to life under Christ, and grow under him, till, having reached perfection, they are entirely united by him to God, (<490413>Ephesians 4:13; <510219>Colossians 2:19.) But now Christ says, that hell is prepared for the devil, that wicked men may not entertain the belief that they will be able to escape it, when they hear that they are involved in the same punishment with the devil, who, it is certain, was long ago sentenced and condemned to hell, without any hope of deliverance.
And his angels. By the devil's angels some understand wicked men, but it is more probable that Christ speaks only of devils. And so these words convey an indirect reproach, that men, who had been called to the hope of salvation through the Gospel, chose to perish with Satan, and, rejecting the Author of salvation, voluntarily threw themselves into this wretched condition; not that they were not appointed to destruction as well as the devil, but because in their crime is plainly seen the cause of their destruction, when they reject the grace of their calling. And thus, though the reprobate were devoted to death, by a secret judgment of God, before they were born, yet, so long as life is offered to them, they are not reckoned heirs of death or companions of Satan, but their perdition, which had been formerly concealed, is discovered and made evident by their unbelief.
44. Then shall they also answer him. The same kind of striking delineation which Christ had formerly employed is now repeated, in order to inform the reprobate, that their vain excuses, by which they now deceive themselves, will be of no avail to them at the last day. For whence comes the great cruelty of their pride towards the poor, but because they think that they will not be punished for. despising them? To destroy this self-complacency, our Lord gives them warning, that they will one day feel—but when it will be too late—what they do not now deign to consider, that those who are now so greatly despised are not less esteemed by Christ than his own members.
MATTHEW 26:1-13; MARK 14:1-9; LUKE 22:1-2
MATTHEW 26:1-13
MARK 14:1-9
LUKE 22:1-2
1. And it happened when Jesus had finished all these discourses, he said to his disciples, 2. You know that after two days is the passover; and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified. 3. Then were assembled the chief priests, and scribes, and elders of the people, in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, 4. And entered into consultation how they would take Jesus by stratagem, and kill him. 5. But they said, Not during the festival, lest there be a commotion among the people. 6. And when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, 7. A woman came to him, having ointment, and poured it on his head, while he sat at table. 8. And his disciples, when they saw it, were angry, saying, Why is this waste? 9. For this ointment might have been sold for a great price, and given to the poor. 10. But Jesus, knowing this, said to them, Why do you trouble the woman? for she hath performed a good action towards me. 11. For you have the poor always with you, but me you have not always. f170 12. For as to this ointment which this woman hath poured on my body, she did it to bury me. 13. Verily I tell you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also which she hath done will be told in remembrance of her.
1. And after two days was the passover, and the feast of unleavened bread; and the chief priests and scribes sought how they would seize him by craft, and kill him. 2. But they said, Not during the festival, lest there be a commotion among the people. 3. And while he was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, while he sat at table, a woman came, having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard, very precious; and she broke the box, and poured it on his head. 4. And there were some who were angry within themselves, and said, Why is this waste of the ointment? 5. For this might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, f171 and given to the poor. And they murmured against her. 6. But Jesus said, Let her alone: why do you trouble her? she hath performed a good action towards me. 7. For you have the poor always with you, and whenever you choose, you may do good to them; but me you have not always. f170A 8. She hath done what she could; she hath come beforehand, to anoint my body to the burying. 9. Verily I tell you, Wheresoever this gospel hath been preached throughout the whole world, this also which she hath done shall be told in remembrance of her.
1. Now the feast of unleavened bread, which is called the Passover, was at hand. 2. And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they dreaded the people.

Christ now confirms again what we have seen that he had sometimes predicted to his disciples; but this last prediction clearly shows how willingly he offered himself to die; and it was necessary that he should do so, because God could not be appeased but by a sacrifice of obedience. He intended, at the same time, to prevent the disciples from taking offense, lest they might be altogether discouraged by the thought that he was dragged to death by necessity. Two purposes were thus served by this statement: to testify, first, that the Son of God willingly surrendered himself to die, in order to reconcile the world to the Father, (for in no other way could the guilt of sins have been expiated, or righteousness obtained for us;) and, secondly, that he did not die like one oppressed by violence which he could not escape, but because he voluntarily offered himself to die. He therefore declares that he comes to Jerusalem with the express intention of suffering death there; for while he was at liberty to withdraw and to dwell in a safe retreat till that time was come, he knowingly and willfully comes forward at the exact time. And though it was of no advantage to the disciples to be informed, at that time, of the obedience which he was rendering to the Father, yet afterwards this doctrine tended in no small degree to the edification of their faith. In like manner, it is of singular utility to us at the present day, because we behold, as in a bright mirror, the voluntary sacrifice, by which all the transgressions of the world were blotted out, and, contemplating the Son of God advancing with cheerfulness and courage to death, we already behold him victorious over death.
Matthew 26:3. Then were assembled the chief priests. Matthew does not mean that they assembled during the two days, but introduces this narrative to show, that Christ was not led by any opinion of man to fix the day of his death; for by what conjectures could he have been led to it, since his enemies themselves had resolved to delay for a time? The meaning therefore is, that by the spirit of prophecy he spoke of his own death, which no man could have suspected to be so near at hand. John explains the reason why the scribes and priests held this meeting: it was because, from day to day, the people flocked to Christ in greater multitudes, (<431148>John 11:48.) And at that time it was decided, at the instigation of Caiaphas, that he should be put to death, because they could not succeed against him in any other way.
5. But they said, Not during the festival. They did not think it a fit season, till the festival was past, and the crowd was dispersed. Hence we infer that, although those hungry dogs eagerly opened their mouths to devour Christ, or rather, rushed furiously upon him, still God withheld them, by a secret restraint, from doing any thing by their deliberation or at their pleasure. So far as lies in their power, they delay till another time; but, contrary to their wish, God hastens the hour. And it is of great importance for us to hold, that Christ was not unexpectedly dragged to death by the violence of his enemies, but was led to it by the providence of God; for our confidence in the propitiation is founded on the conviction that he was offered to God as that sacrifice which God had appointed from the beginning. And therefore he determined that; his Son should be sacrificed on the very day of the passover, that the ancient figure might give place to the only sacrifice of eternal redemption. Those who had no other design in view than to ruin Christ thought that another time would be more appropriate; but God, who had appointed him to be a sacrifice for the expiation of sins, selected a suitable day for contrasting the body with its shadow, by placing them together. Hence also we obtain a brighter display of the fruit of Christ’s suffering.
6. And when Jesus was in Bethany. What the Evangelist now relates had happened a little before Christ came to Jerusalem, but is here introduced seasonably, in order to inform us what was the occasion that suddenly drove the priests to make haste. They did not venture to attack Christ by open violence, and to oppress him by stratagem was no easy matter; but now that Judas suggests to them a plan of which they had not thought, the very facility of execution leads them to adopt a different opinion. As to some slight diversity between John’s narrative and that of Matthew and Mark, it is easy to remove the apparent inconsistency, which has led some commentators erroneously to imagine that it is a different narrative. <431203>John 12:3 expresses the name of the woman who anointed Christ, which is omitted by the other two Evangelists; but he does not mention the person who received Christ as a guest, while <402606>Matthew 26:6 and <411403>Mark 14:3 expressly state that he was then at supper in the house of Simon the leper. As to its being said by John that his feet were anointed, while the other two Evangelists say that she anointed his head, this involves no contradiction. Unquestionably we know that anointments were not poured on the feet; but as it was then poured in greater abundance than usual, John, by way of amplification, informs us that Christ’s very feet were moistened with the oil. Mark too relates, that she broke the alabaster-box, and poured the whole of the ointment on his head; and it agrees very well with this to say that it flowed down to his feet. Let us therefore hold it to be a settled point, that all the three Evangelists relate the same narrative.
8. And when the disciples saw it. This also is not unusual with the Evangelists, when a thing has been done by one, to attribute it to many persons, if they give their consent to it. John says that the murmur proceeded from Judas, who betrayed Christ, (<431204>John 12:4.) Matthew and Mark include all the disciples along with him. The reason is, that none of the others would ever have dared to murmur if the wicked slander of Judas had not served for a torch to kindle them. But when he began, under a plausible pretext, to condemn the expense as superfluous, all of them easily caught the contagion. And this example shows what danger arises from malignant and envenomed tongues; for even those who are naturally reasonable, and candid, and modest, if they do not exercise prudence and caution, are easily deceived by unfavorable speeches, and led to adopt false judgments. But if light and foolish credulity induced the disciples of Christ to take part with Judas, what shall become of us, if we are too easy in admitting murmurers, who are in the habit of carping wickedly at the best actions?
We ought to draw from it another warning, not to pronounce rashly on a matter which is not sufficiently known. The disciples seize on what Judas said, and, as it has some show of plausibility, they are too harsh in forming a judgment. They ought, on the contrary, to have inquired more fully if the action deserved reproof; more especially when their Master was present, by whose decision it was their duty to abide. Let us know, therefore, that we act improperly, when we form our opinion without paying regard to the word of God; for, as Paul informs us,
None of us liveth or dieth to himself, but all must stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, where we must give our account,
(<451407>Romans 14:7, 10; <470510>2 Corinthians 5:10.)
And though there was a wide difference between Judas and the others—because he wickedly held out a plausible cloak for his theft, while the rest were actuated by foolish simplicity—still we see how their imprudence withdrew them from Christ, and made them the companions of Judas.
10. Why do you trouble the woman? It is wonderful that Christ, whose whole life was a rule and pattern of temperance and frugality, now approves of immoderate expense, which appears to have been closely allied to luxury and superfluous indulgence. But we must observe the kind of defense which he employs; for he does not maintain that the woman did right, in such a manner as if he wished that the same thing should be done every day, but maintains that what she had done in a single instance was agreeable to God, because it must have been done for a good reason. Though Christ had no desire for the use of the ointment, yet this anointing pleased him on account of the circumstances in which it happened. Hence we infer that certain extraordinary ways of acting are sometimes approved by God, and yet that it would be improper to make them an example. Nor have we any reason to doubt that Mary was led by a secret movement of the Spirit to anoint Christ; as it is certain that, whenever the saints were called to any extraordinary performance, they were led by an unusual movement, so as not to attempt any thing without the guidance and authority of God. There was no precept in existence enjoining on Mary this anointing, nor was it necessary that a law should be laid down for every single action; but as the heavenly calling is the only origin and principle of proper conduct, and as God rejects every thing which men undertake at their own suggestion, Mary was directed by the inspiration of the Spirit, so that this duty, which she performed to Christ, was founded on assured confidence.
For she hath performed a good action towards me. By this reply, Christ not merely defended the cause of one woman, but likewise maintained the holy boasting of all who rest satisfied with having themselves and their works approved by God. It will often happen that not only censure, but open condemnation, is pronounced on godly men, who are convinced in their own consciences that what they do is agreeable to the command of God; and it is ascribed to pride, if they set at naught the false judgments of the world, and rest satisfied with being approved by God alone. Since this is a hard temptation, and since it is scarcely possible not to be shaken by the agreement of many people against us, even when they are in the wrong, we ought to hold this doctrine, that none will ever be courageous and steady in acting properly, unless they depend solely on the will of God. And therefore Christ settles here the distinction between what is good and evil by his own solitary decision: for by affirming that what the woman has done is a good action, when that action had been already condemned by the disciples, he represses by this word the rashness of men, who freely allow themselves to pronounce judgment.
Relying on this testimony, let us learn to set little value on any reports concerning us that are spread abroad in the world, provided we know that what men condemn God approves. In this manner Isaiah, when oppressed by wicked calumnies, makes reference to God as his voucher, (<235007>Isaiah 50:7,) and Paul likewise appeals to the day of the Lord, (<460403>1 Corinthians 4:3, 4.) Let us therefore learn to pay no deference to the opinions of men farther than that they may be edified by our example in obedience to God, and when the world rises against us with a loud noise, let us satisfy ourselves with this consolation, that what is reckoned bad on earth is pronounced to be good in heaven.
11. For you have the poor always with you. Christ does not simply defend the anointing, so that we may imitate it, but assures us that it pleases God on some particular account. This must be carefully weighed, that we may not fall into the error of contriving expensive modes of worshipping God, as the Papists do; for, hearing it said that Christ was pleased with being anointed by Mary, they supposed that he took delight in incense, wax-tapers, splendid decorations, and pompous exhibitions of that nature. Hence arises the great display which is to be found in their ceremonies; and they do not believe that they will worship God in a proper manner, if they are not immoderate in expense. But Christ plainly makes this exception, that what he wished to be done once would not be agreeable to him in future. For by saying that the poor will always be in the world, he distinguishes between the ordinary service, which ought to be maintained among believers, and that extraordinary service, which ceased after his ascension to heaven.
Do we wish to lay out our money properly on true sacrifices? Let us bestow it on the poor, for Christ says that he is not with us, to be served by outward display. True, indeed, we know and fed by the experience of faith, that he is present with us by power and spiritual grace; but he is not visibly with us, so as to receive from us earthly honors. How utterly mad, therefore, is the obstinacy of those who press upon him foolish expenses which he does not choose, and which he absolutely refuses! Again, when he says that the poor will always be with us, we infer from it, that if many are in poverty, this does not arise from accident, but that, by a fixed purpose, God presents to us those on whom our charity may be exercised. In short, this passage teaches us that, though the Lord commands us to dedicate to him ourselves and all our property, yet, with respect to himself, lie demands no worship but that which is spiritual, and which is attended by no expense, but rather desires us to bestow on the poor what superstition foolishly expends on the worship of God.
12. She hath done it to bury me. By these words Christ confirms what we have said, that the precious ointment was not valued by him on account of its odor, but solely in reference to his burial. It was because he wished to testify by this symbol, that his grave would yield a sweet odor, as it breathed life and salvation through the whole world. Accordingly, we are told by John (12:7) that Christ praised Mary for having reserved that anointing till the day of his burial. But since the truth of this figure has been made fully apparent, and since Christ, in departing from the sepulcher, perfumed not one house, but the whole world, by the quickening odor of his death, it would be childish to repeat an action for which no reason and no advantage could be assigned.
13. Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached. He says that this action will do honor to Mary, because it will be praised by the doctrine of the gospel. Hence we infer, that we ought to estimate our works not by the opinion of men, but by the testimony of the word of God. When he says that she will be held in honorable remembrance throughout the whole world, by this comparison he indirectly censures his disciples; for among strangers, and in distant parts of the world, all nations, with one consent, will applaud this action, which the members of his own household condemned with such bitterness. Christ gently reproves the disciples also, for not entertaining sufficiently honorable views of his future reign; but at the same time, by this expression he bears testimony to the calling of the Gentiles, on which our salvation is founded. In what sense the gospel must be preached throughout the whole world, we have explained under <402414>Matthew 24:14.
MATTHEW 26:14-20; MARK 14:10-17;
LUKE 22:3-14
MATTHEW 26:14-20
MARK 14:10-17
LUKE 22:3-14
14. Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests, 15. And said to them, What will you give me, and I will deliver him to you? And they appointed to him thirty pieces of silver. 16. And from that time he sought an opportunity to betray him. 17. Now on the first day of unleavened bread, the disciples came to Jesus, saying to him, Where dost thou wish us to prepare for you to eat the passover? 18. And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say to him, The Master saith, My time is near; I keep the passover at thy house with my disciples. 19. And the disciples did as Jesus commanded them, and prepared the passover. f172 20. And when the evening was come, he sat down at table with the twelve.
10. And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests, to betray him to them. 11. And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised that they would give him money; and he sought how he might betray him at a convenient time. 12. And on the first day of unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the passover, his disciples say to him, Where dost thou wish us to go and prepare, that thou mayest eat the passover? 13. And he sendeth two of his disciples, and saith to them, Go into the city, and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher full of water: follow him. 14. And wherever he shall enter, say to the master of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guest-chamber, where I may eat the passover with my disciples? 15. And he will show you a large room furnished; there make ready for us. 16. And his disciples went away, and came into the city, and found as he had said to them, and made ready the passover. 17. And when the evening was come, he arrived with the twelve.
3. But Satan entered into Judas, surnamed Iscariot, one of the twelve. 4. And he went away, and talked with the chief priests and magistrates, how he would betray him to them. 5. And they were glad, and agreed that they would give him money. 6. And he promised, and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of the multitude. 7. And the day of unleavened bread came, when the passover must be sacrificed. 8. And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare for us the passover, that we may eat. 9. And they said to him, Where dost thou wish us to prepare? 10. And he said to them, Lo, when you are going into the city, you will meet a man carrying an earthen pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he shall enter. 11. And you shall say to the master of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guest-chamber, where I may eat the passover with my disciples? 12. And he will show you a large room furnished; there make ready. 13. And they went, and found as he had said to them, and made ready the passover. 14. And when the hour was come, he sat down at table, and the twelve apostles with him.

Matthew 26:14. Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot. Christ’s admonition was so far from being of any avail for softening the heart of Judas, or producing any change in it for the better, that he immediately went away, without any concern, to transact an infamous bargain with his enemies. It was amazing and prodigious stupidity, that he considered himself to have found, in the expense of the ointment, a fair excuse for so heinous a crime; and next, that, after having been warned by the words of Christ, he did not perceive what he was doing. f173 The bare mention of the burying ought to have softened a heart of iron; for it would have been easy to infer from it, that Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for the salvation of the human race. But we see in this mirror how great is the blindness of wicked desires, and how powerfully they fascinate the mind. Judas was inflamed with the desire to steal; long practice had hardened him in wickedness; and now when he meets with no other prey, he does not scruple to betray basely to death the Son of God, the Author of life, and, though restrained by a holy admonition, rushes violently forward.
With good reason, therefore, does Luke expressly say that Satan entered into him; not that the Spirit of God formerly directed him, for he would not have been addicted to theft and robbery, if he had not been the slave of Satan. But Luke means, that he was at that time wholly given up to Satan, so that, like a desperate man, he violently sought his destruction. For though Satan drives us every day to crimes, and reigns in us, when he hurries us into a course of extraordinary wickedness; yet he is said to enter into the reprobate, when he takes possession of all their senses, overthrows the fear of God, extinguishes the light of reason, and destroys every feeling of shame. This extremity of vengeance God does not execute on any but those who are already devoted to destruction. Let us therefore learn to repent early, lest our long-continued harshness should confirm the reign of Satan within us; for as soon as we have been abandoned to this tyranny, his rage will have no bounds. It is particularly worthy of notice, that the cause and source of so great blindness in Judas was avarice, which makes it evident that it is justly denominated by Paul the root of all evils, (<540610>1 Timothy 6:10.) To inquire here whether or not Satan entered into Judas bodily is an idle speculation. We ought rather to consider how fearfully monstrous it is, that men formed after the image of God, and appointed to be temples for the Holy Spirit, should not only be turned into filthy stables or sinks, but should become the wretched abodes of Satan.
17. Now on the first day of unleavened bread, the disciples came to Jesus. It is first inquired, Why does the day which preceded the sacrificing of the lamb receive the name of the day of unleavened bread? For the Law did not forbid the use of leaven till the lamb was eaten, (<021218>Exodus 12:18.) But this difficulty may be speedily removed, for the phrase refers to the following day, as is sufficiently evident from Mark and Luke. Since, therefore, the day of killing and eating the passover was at hand, the disciples ask Christ where he wishes them to eat the passover.
But hence arises a more difficult question. How did Christ observe that ceremony on the day before the whole nation celebrated the public passover? For John plainly affirms that the day on which Christ was crucified was, among the Jews, the preparation, not of the Sabbath, but of the passover, (<431914>John 19:14;) and that
they did not enter into the hall of judgment, lest they should be defiled, because next day they were to eat the passover,
(<431828>John 18:28.)
I am aware that there are some who resort to evasions, which do not, however, give them any relief; for no sophistry can set aside the fact; that, on the day they crucified Christ, they did not keep the feast, (when it would not have been lawful to have any public executions) and that they had, at that the a solemn preparation, so that they ate the passover after that Christ had been buried.
It comes now to be inquired, Why did Christ anticipate? For it must not be supposed that, in this ceremony, he took any liberty which was at variance with the prescriptions of the Law. As to the notion entertained by some, that the Jews, through their eagerness to put Christ to death, delayed the passover, it is ably refuted by Bucer, and, indeed, falls to the ground by its own absurdity. I have no doubt, therefore, that Christ observed the day appointed by the Law, and that the Jews followed a custom which had been long in use. First, it is beyond a doubt that Christ was put to death on the day before the Sabbath; for he was hastily buried before sunset in a sepulcher which was at hand, (<431942>John 19:42,) because it was necessary to abstain from work after the commencement of the evening. :Now it is universally admitted that, by an ancient custom, when the passover and other festivals happened on Friday, they were delayed till the following day, because the people would have reckoned it hard to abstain from work on two successive days. The Jews maintain that this law was laid down immediately after the return of the people from the Babylonish captivity, and that it was done by a revelation from heaven, that they may not be thought to have made any change, of their own accord, in the commandments of God.
Now if it was the custom, at that time, to join two festivals in one, (as the Jews themselves admit, and as their ancient writings prove,) it is a highly probable conjecture that Christ, who celebrated the passover on the day before the Sabbath, observed the day prescribed by the Law; for we know how careful he was not to depart from a single iota of the Law. Having determined to be subject to the Law, that he might deliver us from its yoke, he did not forget this subjection at his latest hour; and therefore he would rather have chosen to omit an outward ceremony, than to transgress the ordinance which God had appointed, and thus lay himself open to the slanders of wicked men. Even the Jews themselves unquestionably will not deny that, whenever the Sabbath immediately followed the passover, it was on one day, instead of both, that they abstained from work, and that this was enjoined by the Rabbins. Hence it follows that Christ, in departing from the ordinary custom, attempted nothing contrary to the Law.
18. Go into the city to such a man. Matthew specifies a certain man; the other two Evangelists relate that the disciples were sent as to an unknown individual, because a sign was given to them of a man carrying a pitcher of water. But this difference is easily reconciled; for Matthew passing by the miracle, describes that man who was then unknown to the disciples; for it cannot be doubted that, when they came to the house, they found that it was one of their acquaintances. Christ enjoins him authoritatively to make ready a lodging for himself and his disciples, calling him master; and the man immediately complies But though he might have expressly pointed out the man by name, he chose rather to direct his disciples to him by a miracle, that, when they shortly afterwards saw him reduced to a state of weakness, their faith might remain firm, being supported by this evidence. It was no slight confirmation that, a few hours before he was put to death, he had given an undoubted proof that he was God, that they might know that he was not constrained by necessity, but yielded of his own accord. And though at the very time when the weariness occurred, this was perhaps of no advantage to them, yet the recollection of it was afterwards useful; as even in the present day, in order to rise above the offense of the cross, it is of great importance to us to know that, along with the weakness of the flesh, the glory of divinity appeared in Christ about the very time of his death.
My time is near. Though he celebrated the passover correctly according to the injunction of the Law, yet he appears to assign this reason for the express purpose of avoiding the blame of self-will. tie says, therefore, that there are reasons why he must make haste, and not comply with a received custom, because he is called to a greater sacrifice. And yet, as we have said, he introduces no change in the ceremony, but repeats once and again, that the time of his death is near, in order to inform them that he hastens cheerfully to do what the Father had appointed. And as to his connecting the figure of the sacrifice with the reality, in this way he exhorted believers to compare with the ancient figures what he accomplished in reality. This comparison is highly fitted to illustrate the power and efficacy of his death; for the passover was enjoined on the Jews, not merely to remind them of an ancient deliverance, but also that they might expect future and more excellent deliverance from Christ. Such is the import of what Paul says, that
Christ our passover is sacrificed for us, (<460507>1 Corinthians 5:7.)
19. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them. The readiness with which the disciples comply ought to be observed as a proof of their holy submission; for a doubt might naturally arise, when in search of an unknown man, whether they would obtain from the master of the house what they asked by their Master’s command, while they were aware that everywhere he was not only despised but even hated. Yet they make no anxious inquiry about the result, but peaceably obey the injunction. And if we are desirous to have our faith approved, we ought to abide by this rule, to be satisfied with the command alone and go forward wherever God commands, and, expecting the success which he promises, not to indulge in excessive anxiety.
20. When the evening was come, he sat down at table. Not to eat the passover, which they were bound to do standing, as travelers, when they are in haste, are wont to take food hastily,
with shoes on their feet, and a staff in their hand,
(<021211>Exodus 12:11;)
but I consider the meaning to be, that after having observed the solemn rite, he sat down at table to supper. Accordingly, the Evangelists say, when the evening was come: for, at the commencement of the evening, they killed the lamb, and ate the flesh of it roasted.
MATTHEW 26:21-25; MARK 14:18-21;
LUKE 22:15-16, 21-23
MATTHEW 26:21-25
MARK 14:18-21
LUKE 22:15-16,21-23
21. And while they were eating, he said, Verily I tell you, That one of you will betray me. 22. And they became exceedingly sorrowful, and began every one of them to say to him, Lord, is it I? 23. But he answering said, He who hath dipped his hand with me in the dish will betray me. 24. The Son of man indeed goeth, 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. 25. And Judas, who betrayed him, answering, said, Rabbi is it I? f174 He said to him, Thou hast said it.
18. And while hey were sitting at table and eating, Jesus said, Verily I tell you, f175 One of you that eateth with me will betray me. 19. And they began to be sorrowful, and every one of them to say to him, Is it I? And another said, Is it I? 20. And he answering said to them, It is one of the twelve, who dippeth with me in the dish. 21. The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born.
15. And he said to them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer. 16. For I tell you, henceforth I will not eat of it anymore, till it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. (And a little after.) 21. But yet, lo, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me at the table. 22. And the Son of man indeed goeth, according to what hath been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed! 23. And they began to inquire among themselves, f176 which of them it was that would do this.

Matthew 26:21. One of you will betray me. To render the treachery of Judas more detestable, he points out the aggravated baseness of it by this circumstance, that he was meditating the act of betraying him while he sat with him at the holy table. For if a stranger had done this, it would have been more easily endured; but that one of his intimate friends should form such a design, and—what is more—that, after having entered into an infamous bargain, he should be present at the sacred banquet, was incredibly monstrous. And therefore Luke employs a connecting particle which marks a contrast: BUT YET, (plh<n) 1o, the hand of him that betrayeth me. And though Luke adds this saying of Christ after the supper was finished, we cannot obtain from it any certainty as to the order of time, which, we know, was often disregarded by the Evangelists. Yet I do not deny that it is probable that Judas was present, when Christ distributed to his disciples the symbols of his flesh and blood.
22. They began every one of them to say to him. I do not think that the disciples were alarmed, as persons struck with terror are wont to give themselves uneasiness without any reason; but, abhorring the crime, they are desirous to clear themselves from the suspicion of it. It is, indeed, a Mark of reverence, that when indirectly blamed, they do not reply angrily to their Master, but each person constitutes himself his own judge, (as the object which we ought chiefly to aim at is, to be acquitted by his own mouth;) but, relying on a good conscience, they wish to declare frankly how far they are from meditating such a crime.
23. But he answering said. Christ, by his reply, neither removes their doubt, nor points out the person of Judas, but only confirms what he said a little before, that one of his friends sitting at the table is the traitor. And though they thought it hard to be left in suspense and perplexity for a time, that they might employ themselves in contemplating the atrocity of the crime, it was afterwards followed by another advantage, when they perceived that the prediction of the psalm was fulfilled,
He that ate pleasant food with mef177
hath lifted up his heel against me, (<194110>Psalm 41:10.)
Besides, in the person of Judas, our Lord intended to admonish his followers in all ages, not to be discouraged or faint on account of intimate friends proving to be traitors; because the same thing that was experienced by Him who is the Head of the whole Church, must happen to us who are members of it.
24. The Son of man indeed goeth. Here Christ meets an offense, which might otherwise have greatly shaken pious minds. For what could be more unreasonable than that the Son of God should be infamously betrayed by a disciple, and abandoned to the rage of enemies, in order to be dragged to an ignominious death? But Christ declares that all this takes place only by the will of God; and he proves this decree by the testimony of Scripture, because God formerly revealed, by the mouth of his Prophet, what he had determined.
We now perceive what is intended by the words of Christ. It was, that the disciples, knowing that what was done was regulated by the providence of God, might not imagine that his life or death was determined by chance. But the usefulness of this doctrine extends much farther; for never are we fully confirmed in the result of the death of Christ, till we are convinced that he was not accidentally dragged by men to the cross, but that the sacrifice had been appointed by an eternal decree of God for expiating the sins of the world. For whence do we obtain reconciliation, but because Christ has appeased the Father by his obedience? Wherefore let us always place before our minds the providence of God, which Judas himself, and all wicked men—though it is contrary to their wish, and though they have another end in view—are compelled to obey. Let us always hold this to be a fixed principle, that Christ suffered, because it pleased God to have such an expiation.
And yet Christ does not affirm that Judas was freed from blame, on the ground that he did nothing but what God had appointed. For though God, by his righteous judgment, appointed for the price of our redemption the death of his Son, yet nevertheless, Judas, in betraying Christ, brought upon himself righteous condemnation, because he was full of treachery and avarice. In short, God’s determination that the world should be redeemed, does not at all interfere with Judas being a wicked traitor. Hence we perceive, that though men can do nothing but what God has appointed, still this does not free them from condemnation, when they are led by a wicked desire to sin. For though God directs them, by an unseen bridle, to an end which is unknown to them, nothing is farther from their intention than to obey his decrees. Those two principles, no doubt, appear to human reason Lo be inconsistent with each other, that God regulates the affairs of men by his Providence in such a manner, that nothing is done but by his will and command, and yet he damns the reprobate, by whom he has carried into execution what he intended. But we see how Christ, in this passage, reconciles both, by pronouncing a curse on Judas, though what he contrived against God had been appointed by God; not that Judas’s act of betraying ought strictly to be called the work of God, but because God turned the treachery of Judas so as to accomplish His own purpose.
I am aware of the manner in which some commentators endeavor to avoid this rock. They acknowledge that what had been written was accomplished through the agency of Judas, because God testified by predictions what He fore-knew. By way of softening the doctrine, which appears to them to be somewhat harsh, they substitute the foreknowledge of God in place of the decree, as if God merely beheld from a distance future events, and did not arrange them according to his pleasure. But very differently does the Spirit settle this question; for not only does he assign as the reason why Christ was delivered up, that it was so written, but also that it was so determined. For where Matthew and Mark quote Scripture, Luke leads us direct to the heavenly decree, saying, according to what was determined; as also in the Acts of the Apostles, he shows that Christ was delivered not only by the foreknowledge, but likewise by the fixed purpose of God, (<440225>Acts 2:25) and a little afterwards, that Herod and Pilate, with other wicked men,
did those things which had been fore-ordained by the hand and purpose of God, (<440427>Acts 4:27, 28.)
Hence it is evident that it is but an ignorant subterfuge which is employed by those who betake themselves to bare foreknowledge.
It had been good for that man. By this expression we are taught what a dreadful vengeance awaits the wicked, for whom it would have been better that they had never been born. And yet this life, though transitory, and full of innumerable distresses, is an invaluable gift of God. Again, we also infer from it, how detestable is their wickedness, which not only extinguishes the precious gifts of God, and turns them to their destruction, but makes it to have been better for them that they had never tasted the goodness of God. But this phrase is worthy of observation, it would have been good for that man if he had never been born; for though the condition of Judas was wretched, yet to have created hint was good in God, who, appointing the reprobate to the day of destruction, illustrates also in this way his own glory, as Solomon tells us:
The Lord hath made all things for himself; yea,
even the wicked for the day of evil, (<201604>Proverbs 16:4.)
The secret government of God, which provides even the schemes and works of men, is thus vindicated, as I lately noticed, from all blame and suspicion.
25. And Judas who betrayed him. Though we often see persons trembling, who are conscious of doing wrong, yet along with dread and secret torments there is mingled such stupidity, that they boldly make a fiat denial; but in the end they gain nothing by their impudence but to expose their hidden wickedness. Thus Judas, while he is restrained by an evil conscience, cannot remain silent; so dreadfully is he tormented, and, at the same time, overwhelmed with fear and anxiety, by that internal executioner. Christ, by indirectly glancing, in his reply, at the foolish rashness of Judas, entreats him to consider the crime which he wished to conceal; but his mind, already seized with diabolical rage, could not admit such a sentiment. Let us learn from this example, that the wicked, by bold apologies, do nothing more than draw down upon themselves a more sudden judgment.
MATTHEW 26:26-30; MARK 14:22-26;
LUKE 22:17-20
MATTHEW 26:26-30
MARK 14:22-26
LUKE 22:17-20
26. And while they were eating, Jesus took bread; and when he had given thanks, broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27. And having taken the cup and given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it. 28. For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29. And I tell you, I will not henceforth drink f178 of the fruit of the vine, till that day when I shall drink it new with you in the kingdom of my father. 30. And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the mountain of Olives.
22. And while they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had blessed, f179 he broke it, and gave it to them, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 23. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24. And he said to them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for you. 25. Verily I tell you, henceforth I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, till that day when I shall drink it new in the kingdom of God. 26. And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the mountain of Olives.
17. And he took the cup, and gave thanks and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18. For I tell you, that I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. 19. And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and gave it to them, saying, This is my body, which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me. 20. In like manner also the cup, f180 after that he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

As Luke mentions that the cup was twice presented by Christ, we must inquire, in the first place, if it be a repetition, (as the Evangelists are wont frequently to say the same thing twice,) or if Christ, after having tasted the cup, repeated the same thing a second time. This latter conjecture appears to me to be probable; for we know that the holy fathers, during sacrifices, observed the solemn rite of tasting the cup; f181 and hence those words of the Psalmist,
I will take the cup of salvation,
and will call on the name of the Lord, (<19B613>Psalm 116:13.)
I have no doubt, therefore, that Christ, according to the ancient custom, tasted the cup in the holy feast, which otherwise could not have been correctly observed; and Luke expressly mentions this, before coming to give an account of the new mystery, which was a totally different institution from the paschal lamb. It was in compliance also with received and ordinary custom, that he is expressly said to have given thanks, after having taken the cup. For at the commencement of the supper, I have no doubt, he prayed, as he was accustomed never to sit down at table without calling on God; but now he wished to discharge once more the same duty, that he might not leave out a ceremony which, I have just now shown, was connected with the sacred act of taking the cup and tasting it. f182
Matthew 26:26. And while they were eating, Jesus took bread. I do not understand these words to mean that with the paschal supper was mixed this new and more excellent supper, but rather that an end was then put to the former banquet. This is still more clearly expressed by Luke, when he says that, Christ gave the cup after that he had supped; for it would have been absurd that one and the same mystery should be broken off by an interval of time. And therefore I have no doubt that, in immediate succession, after having distributed the bread, he added the cup; and what Luke relates particularly respecting the cup, I regard as including also the bread. While they were eating, therefore, Christ took bread, to invite them to partake of a new supper. f183 The thanksgiving was a sort of preparation and transition to consider the mystery. Thus when the supper was ended, they tasted the sacred bread and wine; because Christ had previously aroused them from their indifference, that they might be all alive to so lofty a mystery. And, indeed, the nature of the case demands that this clear testimony of the spiritual life should be distinguished from the ancient shadow.
Jesus took bread. It is uncertain if the custom which is now observed among the Jews was at that time in use: for the master of the house breaks off a portion of a common loaf, hides it under the table-cloth, and afterwards distributes a part of it to, each member of the family. But as this is a human tradition not founded on any commandment of God, we need not toil with excessive eagerness to investigate its origin; and it is possible that it may have been afterwards contrived, by a trick of Satan, for the purpose of obscuring the mystery of the Lord’s Supper. And even if this ceremony was at that time in use among the Jews, Christ followed the ordinary custom in such a manner as to draw away the minds of his followers to another object, by changing the use of the bread for a different purpose. This, at least, ought to be considered as beyond all controversy, that Christ, at this time, abolished the figures of the Law, and instituted a new Sacrament.
When he had given thanks. Matthew and Mark employ the word eujlogh>sav f184 (having blessed;) but as Luke employs, instead of it, the word eujcaristh>sav (having given thanks,) there can be no doubt as to the meaning; and as they afterwards use the word thanksgiving in reference to the cup, they expound with sufficient clearness the former term. So much the more ridiculous is the ignorance of the Papists, who express the blessing by the sign of the cross, as if Christ had practiced some kind of exorcising. But we must recollect what I lately noticed, that this thanksgiving is connected with a spiritual mystery. While it is true that believers are commanded to give thanks to God, because he supports them in this fading life, Christ did not merely refer to ordinary eating, but directed his view to the holy action, in order to thank God for the eternal salvation of the human race. For if the food which descends into the belly ought to persuade and arouse us to praise the fatherly kindness of God, how much more powerfully does it excite and even inflame, us to this act of piety, when he feeds our souls spiritually?
Take, eat. That I may not be too tedious, I shall only explain briefly what is the nature of our Lord’s institution, and what it contains; and, next, what is its end and us so far as it may be learned from the Evangelists. And, first of all, it strikes us, that Christ instituted a supper, which the disciples partake in company with each other. Hence it follows, that it is a diabolical invention, that a man, separating himself from the rest of the company, eats his supper apart. For what two things could be more inconsistent than that the bread should be distributed among them all, and that a single individual should swallow it alone? Although then the Papists boast, that in their masses they have the substance of the Lord’s Supper, yet it is evident from the nature of the case, that whenever they celebrate private masses, they are so many trophies erected by the devil for burying the Lord’s Supper.
The same words teach us what sort of sacrifice it is that Christ recommends to us in the Supper. He bids his disciples take; and therefore it is himself alone that offers. What the Papists contrive, as to Christ’s offering himself in the Supper, proceeded from an opposite author. And certainly it is a strange inversion, (ajnastrofh<,) when a mortal man, who is commanded to take the body of Christ, claims the office of offering it; and thus a priest, who has been appointed by himself, sacrifices to God his own Son. I do not at present inquire with how many acts of sacrilege their pretended offering abounds. It is sufficient for my purpose, that it is so far from approaching to Christ’s institution, that it is directly opposed to it.
This is my body. As to the opinion entertained by some, that by those words the bread was consecrated, so as to become the symbol of the flesh of Christ, I do not find fault with it, provided that the word consecrated be understood aright, and in a proper sense. So then, the bread, which had been appointed for the nourishment of the body, is chosen and sanctified by Christ to a different use, so as to begin to be spiritual food. And this is the conversion f185 which is spoken of by the ancient doctors f186 of the Church. But we must at the same time hold, that bread is not consecrated by whispering and breathing, but by the clear doctrine of faith. And certainly it is a piece of magic and sorcery, when the consecration is addressed to the dead element; for the bread is made not to itself, but to us, a symbol of the body of Christ. In short, consecration is nothing else than a solemn testimony, by which the Lord appoints to us for a spiritual use an earthly and corruptible sign; which cannot take place, unless his command and promise are distinctly heard for the edification of faith; from which again it is evident, that the low whispering and breathing of the Papists are a wicked profanation of the mystery. Now if Christ consecrates the bread, when he declares to us that it is his body, we must not suppose that there is any change of the substance, but must only believe that it is applied to a new purpose. And if the world had not been long ago so bewitched by the subtlety of the devil, that, when the monster of transubstantiation had once been introduced, it will not now admit any light of true interpretation on these words, it would be superfluous to spend any more time in investigating their meaning.
Christ declares that the bread is his body. These words relate to a sacrament; and it must be acknowledged, that a sacrament consists of a visible sign, with which is connected the thing signified, which is the reality of it. It must be well known, on the other hand, that the name of the thing signified is transferred to the sign; and therefore, no person who is tolerably well acquainted with Scripture will deny that a sacramental mode of expression ought to be taken metonymically. f187 I pass by general figures, which occur frequently in Scripture, and only say this: whenever an outward sign is said to be that which it represents, it is universally agreed to be an instance of metonymy. If baptism be called the laver of regeneration, (Titus in. 5;) if the rock, from which water flowed to the Fathers in the wilderness, be called Christ, (<461004>1 Corinthians 10:4;) if a dove be called the Holy Spirit, (<430132>John 1:32;) no man will question but the signs receive the name of the things which they represent. How comes it, then, that persons who profess to entertain a veneration for the words of the Lord will not permit us to apply to the Lord’s Supper what is common to all the sacraments?
They are delighted with the plain and literal sense. Why then shall not the same rule apply to all the sacraments? Certainly, if they do not admit that the Rock was actually Christ, the calumny with which they load us is mere affectation. If we explain that the bread is called his body, because it is the symbol of his body, they allege that the whole doctrine of Scripture is overturned. For this principle of language has not been recently forged by us, but has been handed down by Augustine on the authority of the ancients, and embraced by all, that the names of spiritual things are improperly ascribed to signs, and that all the passages of Scripture, in which the sacraments are mentioned, ought to be explained in this manner. When we bring forward a principle which has been universally admitted, what purpose does it serve to raise a loud clamor, as if it were something new and strange? But let obstinate people cry out as they please, all men of sound judgment and modesty will admit, that in these words of Christ there is a sacramental form of expression. Hence it follows, that the bread is called his body, because it is a symbol of the body of Christ.
Now there are two classes of men that rise up against us. The Papists, deceived by their transubstantiation, maintain that what we see is not bread, because it is only the appearance that remains without the reality. But their absurd fancy is refuted by Paul, who asserts that
the bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ,
(<461016>1 Corinthians 10:16.)
Besides, their notion is at variance with the very nature of a sacrament, which will not possess all that is essential to it, if there be not a true outward symbol. For whence shall we learn that our souls feed on the flesh of Christ, if what is placed before our eyes be not bread, but an empty form? Besides, what will they say about the other symbol? For Christ does not say, This is my blood, but, THIS CUP is the new testament in my blood. According to their view, therefore, not only the wine, but also the materials of which the cup is composed, must be transubstantiated into blood. Again, the words related by Matthew—I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine—plainly show that what he delivered to the disciples to drink was wine; so that in every way the ignorance of the Papists is fully exposed.
But there are others who reject the figure, and, like madmen, unsay what they had just said. According to them, bread is truly and properly body; for they disapprove of transubstantiation, as wholly devoid of reason and plausibility. But when the question is put to them, if Christ be bread and wine, they reply that the bread is called body, because under it and along with it the body is received in the Lord’s Supper. But from this reply it may be readily concluded, that the word body is improperly applied to the bread, which is a sign of it. And since those men have constantly in their mouth, that Christ spoke thus in reference to a sacramental union, it is strange that they do not consider what they say. For what is the nature of a sacramental union between a thing and its sign? Is it not because the Lord, by the secret power of his Spirit, fulfills what he promises? So then those later instructions about the letter are not less absurd than the Papists.
Hitherto I have pointed out the simple exposition of the words of our Lord. But now I must add, that it is not an empty or unmeaning sign which is held out to us, but those who receive this promise by faith are actually made partakers of his flesh and blood. For in vain would the Lord command his people to eat bread, declaring that it is his body, if the effect were not truly added to the figure. Nor must it be supposed that we dispute this point, whether it is in reality, or only by signification, that Christ presents himself to be enjoyed by us in the Lord’s Supper; for, though we perceive nothing in it but bread, yet he does not disappoint or mock us, when he undertakes to nourish our souls by his flesh. The true eating of the flesh of Christ, therefore, is not only pointed out by the sign, but is likewise exhibited in reality.
But there are three mistakes against which it is here necessary to be on our guard; first, not to confound the spiritual blessing with the sign; secondly, not to seek Christ on earth, or under earthly elements; thirdly, not to imagine any other kind of eating than that which draws into us the life of Christ by the secret power of the Spirit, and which we obtain by faith alone. First, as I have said, let us always keep in view the distinction between the sign and the thing signified, if we do not wish to overturn every thing; for otherwise we shall derive no advantage from the sacrament, if it do not, according to the measure of our small capacity, lead us from the contemplation of the earthly element to the heavenly mystery. And therefore, whoever will not distinguish the body of Christ from the bread, and the blood from the wine, will never understand what is meant by the Lord’s Supper, or for what purpose believers use these symbols.
Secondly, we must attend to the proper method of seeking Christ; that is, our minds must not be fixed on the earth, but must ascend upwards to the heavenly glory in which he dwells. For the body of Christ did not, by clothing itself with an incorruptible life, lay aside its own nature; and hence it follows that it is finite. f188 But he has now ascended above the heavens, that no gross imagination may keep us occupied with earthly things. And certainly, if this mystery is heavenly, nothing could be more unreasonable than to draw down Christ to the earth, when, on the contrary, he calls us upwards to himself.
The last point which, I said, claimed our attention, is the kind of eating,. We must not dream that his substance passes, in a natural manner, into our souls; but we cat his flesh, when, by means of it, we receive life. For we must attend to the analogy or resemblance between bread and flesh, which teaches us, that our souls feed on Christ’s own flesh in precisely the same manner as bread imparts vigor to our bodies. The flesh of Christ, therefore, is spiritual nourishment, because it gives life to us. Now it gives life, because the Holy Spirit pours into us the life which dwells in it. And though the act of eating the flesh of Christ is different from believing on him, yet we ought to know that it is impossible to feed on Christ in any other way than by faith, because the eating itself is a consequence of faith.
29. But I tell you. This sentence is put by Matthew and Mark immediately after the Holy Supper, when Christ had given the symbol of his blood in the cup; from which some infer that Luke relates here the same thing which we shall find him repeating shortly afterwards. But this difficulty is easily obviated, because it is of little importance in itself at what precise moment Christ said this. All that the Evangelists intend to state by it is, that the disciples were warned both of their Master’s approaching death, and of the new and heavenly life: for the more nearly the hour of his death approached, there was the greater necessity for them to be confirmed, that they might not altogether fall away. Again, as he intended to place his death before their eyes in the Holy Supper, as in a mirror, it was not without reason that he again declared that he was now leaving the world. But as this intelligence was full of sadness, a consolation is immediately added, that they have no occasion for shrinking from the thought of his death, which will be followed by a better life. As if he had said: “It is true, indeed, that I am now hastening to my death, but it is in order that I may pass from it to a blessed immortality, not to live alone without you in the kingdom of God, but to have you associated with me in the same life.” Thus we see how Christ leads his disciples by the hand to the cross, and thence raises them to. the hope of the resurrection. And as it was necessary that they should be directed to the cross of Christ, that by that ladder they might ascend to heaven; so now, since Christ has died and been received into heaven, we ought to be led from the contemplation of the cross to heaven, that death and the restoration of life may be found to agree.
Till that day when I shall drink it new with you. It is plain from these words that he promises to them a glory which they will share with himself. The objection made by some —that meat and drink are not applicable to the kingdom of God—is frivolous; for Christ means nothing more than that his disciples will soon be deprived of his presence, and that he will not henceforth eat with them, until they enjoy together the heavenly life. As he points out their being associated in that life, which needs not the aids of meat and drink, he says that there will then be a new kind of drinking; by which term we are taught that he is speaking allegorically. Accordingly, Luke simply says, until the kingdom of God come. In short, Christ recommends to us the fruit and effect of the redemption which he procured by his death.
The opinion entertained by some—that these words were fulfilled, when Christ ate with his disciples after his resurrection is foreign to his meaning; for, since that was an intermediate condition between the course of a mortal life and the end of a heavenly life, the kingdom of God had not, at that time, been fully revealed; and therefore Christ said to Mary,
Touch me not, for I have not yet ascended to my Father,
(<432017>John 20:17.)
Besides, the disciples had not yet entered into the kingdom of God, so as to drink new wine with Christ, being partakers of the same glory. And when we read that Christ drank after his resurrection, though he declared that he would not do so until he had assembled his disciples in the kingdom of God, the apparent contradiction is easily removed. For it is not exactly of meat and drink that he speaks, but of the intercourse of the present life. Now we know that Christ did not at that time drink for the purpose of invigorating his body by food, or of holding intercourse with his disciples, but only to prove his resurrection—of which they were still doubtful—and thus to raise their minds on high. Let us therefore rest satisfied with the natural meaning, that our Lord promises to his disciples that, having hitherto lived with them on earth as a mortal man, he will hereafter make them his associates in a blessed and immortal life.
Luke 22:19. Which is given for you. The other two Evangelists leave out this clause, which, however, is far from being superfluous; for the reason why the flesh of Christ becomes bread to us is, that by it salvation was once procured for us. And as the crucified flesh itself is of no advantage but to those who eat it by faith, so, on the other hand, the eating of it would be unmeaning, and of hardly any value, were it not in reference to the sacrifice which was once offered. Whoever then desires that the flesh of Christ should afford nourishment to him, let him look at it as having been offered on the cross, that it might be the price of our reconciliation with God. But what Matthew and Mark leave out in reference to the symbol of bread, they express in reference to the cup, saying, that the blood was to be shed for the remission of sins; and this observation must be extended to both clauses. So then, in order that we may feed aright on the flesh of Christ, we must contemplate the sacrifice of it, because it was necessary that it should have been once given for our salvation, that it might every day be given to us.
Matthew 26:27. Drink you all of it. As it was the design of Christ to keep our faith wholly fixed on himself, that we may not seek any thing apart from him, he employed two symbols to show that our life is shut up in him. This body needs to be nourished and supported by meat and drink. Christ, in order to show that he alone is able to discharge perfectly all that is necessary for salvation, says that he supplies the place of meat and drink; by which he gives an astonishing display of his condescension, in thus letting himself down to the feeble capacity of our flesh for the purpose of invigorating our faith. So much the more detestable is the insolence and sacrilege of the Pope, who has not scrupled to break asunder this sacred tie. We learn that the Son of God employed two symbols together, to testify the fullness of life which he bestows on his followers. What right had a mortal man to separate those things which God had joined together?
But it would even appear that the express reason why our Lord commanded all to drink of the cup was in order to prevent this sacrilege from entering into the Church. As to the bread, we read that he simply said, Take, eat. Why does he expressly command them all to drink, and why does Mark explicitly say that they all drank of it, if it were not to guard believers against this wicked novelty? And yet this severe prohibition has not deterred the Pope from venturing to change and violate a law established by the Lord; for he has withheld all the people from using the cup. And to prove that his rage has reason on its side, he alleges that one of the kinds is sufficient, because the flesh includes the blood by concomitancy. f189 On the same pretext they would be at liberty to set aside the whole of the sacrament, because Christ might equally well make us partakers of himself without any external aid. But those childish cavils yield no support to their impiety; for nothing can be more absurd than that believers should, of their own accord, part with the aids which the Lord has given, or allow themselves to be deprived of them; and, therefore, nothing can be more intolerable than this wicked mangling of the mystery.
Mark 14:24. This is my blood. I have already remarked that, when we are told that the blood is to be shed—according to the narrative of Matthew—FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS, these words direct us to the sacrifice of the death of Christ, without the remembrance of which the Lord’s Supper is never observed in a proper manner. And, indeed, it is impossible for believing souls to be satisfied in any other way than by being assured that God is pacified towards them.
Which is shed for many. By the word many he means not a part of the world only, but the whole human race; for he contrasts many with one; as if he had said, that he will not be the Redeemer of one man only, but will die in order to deliver many from the condemnation of the curse. It must at the same time be observed, however, that by the words for you, as related by Luke—Christ directly addresses the disciples, and exhorts every believer to apply to his own advantage the shedding of blood Therefore, when we approach to the holy table, let us not only remember in general that the world has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, but let every one consider for himself that his own sins have been expiated. f190
Of the new testament. Luke and Paul (<461125>1 Corinthians 11:25) express it differently, the new testament in my blood, but the meaning is the same; for it is only by a spiritual drinking of blood that this covenant is ratified, so as to be firm and stable. Yet it may easily be inferred from it, how foolishly superstitious the Papists and others of the same stamp are in rigidly adhering to the words; for, with all their bluster, they cannot set aside this exposition of the Holy Spirit, that the cup is called blood, because it is the new testament IN BLOOD. But the same argument applies to the bread; from which it will follow that it is called the body; because it is the testament IN THE BODY. They have no right now to contend that we ought to rely on the simple words of Christ, and shut our ears against expositions from without. It is Christ himself that speaks, and surely they will not deny that he is well qualified to interpret his own words. Now Christ openly declares that he called the bread HIS BODY, for no other reason than because he has made with us an everlasting covenant, that, the sacrifice having been once offered, we may now be spiritually fed.
There are two things here which deserve our attention; for from the word testament, or covenant, (diaqh>kh,) we infer that a promise is included in the Holy Supper. This refutes the error of those who maintain that faith is not aided, nourished, supported, or increased by the sacraments; for there is always a mutual relation between the covenant of God and the faith of men. By the epithet New he intended to show that the ancient figures now cease, and give way to a firm and everlasting covenant. There is an indirect contrast, therefore, between this mystery and the shadows of the law; from which it is evident how much better our condition is than that of our fathers, since, in consequence of the sacrifice which was completed on the cross, we possess the truth in perfection.
Mark 14:26. When they had sung a hymn. Our three Evangelists leave out those divine discourses, f191 which John relates to have been delivered by our Lord, both in the house and on the road. For, as we have elsewhere stated, their object was rather to embrace the history of our Lord’s actions than his doctrine. They glance only at the fact, that he went out of his own accord where Judas was to come; and their object is to inform us that he made such an arrangement of his time, as willingly to meet him who betrayed him.
MATTHEW 26:31-35; MARK 14:27-31;
LUKE 22:31-34
MATTHEW 26:31-35
MARK 14:27-31
LUKE 22:31-34
31. Then Jesus saith to them, You will all be offended at me this night; for it is written, I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered. 32. But after that I have risen, I will go before you into Galilee. 33. And Peter answering said to him, Though all should be offended at thee, yet I will never be offended. 34. Jesus said to him, Verily I tell thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou wilt thrice deny me. 35. Peter saith to him, Though I should die with thee, I will not deny thee. In like manner also all the disciples spoke.
27. And Jesus saith to them, You will all be offended at me this night; for it is written, I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered. 28. But after I have risen, I will go before you into Galilee. 29. And Peter saith to him, Though all should be offended, yet I will not. 30. Then Jesus said to him, Verily I tell thee, that today, this night, before the cock crow twice, thou wilt thrice deny me. 31. But he spoke still more strongly, Though I should die with thee, I will not deny thee. In like manner also they all spoke.
31. And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, lo, Satan has asked that he may sift you as wheat. 32. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith may not fail; and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. 33. And he said to him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both to prison and to death. 34. But he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock will not crow today, before thou thrice deny that you knowest me.

Matthew 26:31. You will all be offended at me. What Matthew and Mark extend to all the disciples alike is related by Luke as having been spoken to Peter only. But though the statement was equally addressed to all, yet it is probable that Christ spoke to them in the person of one man, who was to be admonished more than all the rest, and who needed extraordinary consolation, that, after having denied Christ, he might not be altogether overwhelmed with despair.
Luke 22:31. Lo, Satan hath desired. The other two Evangelists relate more briefly and simply, that our Lord foretold to his disciples their fall. But the words of Luke contain more abundant instruction; for Christ does not speak of the future trouble in the way of narrative, but expressly declares, that they will have a contest with Satan, and, at the same time, promises to them victory. It is a highly useful admonition, whenever we meet with any thing that gives us offense, to have always before our eyes the snares of Satan; as Paul also teaches, that
we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with spiritual armies, (<490612>Ephesians 6:12.)
The meaning of the words therefore is: “When, a short time hence, you shall see me oppressed, know that Satan employs these arms to fight against you, and that this is a convenient opportunity for destroying your faith.” I have said that this is a useful doctrine, because it frequently happens that, from want of consideration, we are overcome by disregarding temptations, which we would regard as formidable, if we reflected that they are the fiery darts (<490616>Ephesians 6:16) of a vigorous and powerful enemy. And though he now speaks of that singularly fierce attack, by which the disciples, at one time, received dreadful shocks, so that their faith was well nigh extinguished, yet he manifestly conveys a more extensive doctrine, that Satan continually goes about, roaring for his prey. As he is impelled by such furious madness to destroy us, nothing is more unreasonable than that we should give ourselves up to drowsiness. Before there is apparent necessity for fighting, let us already prepare ourselves; for we know that Satan desires our destruction, and with great skill and assiduity seizes on every method of injuring us. And when we come to the conflict, let us know that all temptations, from whatever quarter they come, were forged in the workshop of that enemy.
That he may sift you as wheat. The metaphor of sifting is not in every respect applicable; for we have elsewhere seen that the Gospel is compared to a winnowing-fan or sieve, by which the wheat is purified from the chaff (<400312>Matthew 3:12;) but here it simply means to toss up and down, or to shake with violence, because the apostles were driven about with unusual severity by the death of Christ. This ought to be understood, because there is nothing in which Satan takes less delight than the purification of believers. Yet though it be for a different purpose that he shakes them, it is nevertheless true, that they are driven and tossed about in every direction, just as the wheat is shaken by the winnowing-fan. But we shall shortly afterwards see that a still more disastrous fulfillment of these words was experienced by the disciples. And this is what is meant by the words of our Lord, as related by Matthew and Mark: you will all be offended at me. They mean that the disciples will not only be attacked, but will nearly give way; because the ignominious treatment of Christ will quite overpower their minds. For whereas it was their duty to advance steadily with their Master to the cross, fear kept them back. Their infirmity is thus exhibited to them, that by prayers and groans they may betake themselves to God’s holy protection.
Matthew 26:31. For it is written. By this prediction he encourages them to rise above the offense, because God does not cease to recognize as his sheep those who are driven out and scattered in every direction for a time. After having treated of the restoration of the Church, the prophet, in order to prevent the minds of the godly from being overwhelmed with despair by the extreme distresses which were already at hand, declares, that when the government has been brought into a state of confusion, or even completely overturned, there will be a sad and miserable dispersion, but yet the grace of God will be victorious. And though almost all commentators confine the passage in <381307>Zechariah 13:7 to the person of Christ alone, yet I extend it farther, as meaning that a government, on which the salvation of the people depends, will no longer exist, because the shepherds will be driven from the midst of them. I have no doubt that the Lord intended to include that whole period during which, after the tyranny of Antiochus, the Church was deprived of good shepherds, and reduced to a state of desolation; for at that time God permitted the sword to commit fearful devastation, and, by slaying the shepherds, to throw the people into a state of wretched confusion. And yet this scattering did not prevent the Lord from gathering his sheep at length, by stretching out his hand towards them.
But though the prophet utters a general threatening that the Church will be deprived of shepherds, still this is justly and properly applied to Christ. For since he was the prince of all the shepherds, on whom alone the salvation of the Church depended, when he was dead, it might be thought that all hope was utterly gone. And, indeed, it was an extremity of temptation, when the Redeemer, who was the breath and life of his people, after having begun to collect the flock of God, was suddenly dragged to death. But so much the more strikingly was the grace of God displayed, when out of dispersion and death the remaining flock was again assembled in a wonderful manner.
Thus we see, that Christ quoted this passage appropriately, that the disciples might not be too much alarmed by the future dispersion, and yet that, aware of their own weakness, they might rely on their Shepherd. The meaning therefore is: “Not having yet felt your weakness, you imagine that you are sufficiently vigorous and powerful; but it will soon be apparent that the prediction of Zechariah is true, that, when the shepherd is slain, the flock will be scattered. But yet let the promise which is added exhilarate and support you, that God will stretch out his hand, to bring back to Him the scattered sheep. We are here taught, that there is no unity that brings salvation but that which keeps the sheep united under Christ’s crook.
32. But after I have risen. He now expresses more clearly—what I lately hinted—that the disciples, struck with dread, will resemble for a short time scattered and wandering sheep, but will at length be brought back to the fold. For Christ does not simply say that he will rise again, but promises to be their leader, and takes them for his companions, as if they had never swerved from their allegiance to him; and, to impart to them greater confidence, he mentions the place where they will again meet; as if he had said, “You, who are scattered at Jerusalem, will be again assembled by me in Galilee.
33. Peter answering. Though Peter uses no hypocrisy, but speaks with sincere affection, yet as a false confidence in his virtue carries him away into foolish boasting, he is justly reproved by Christ, and shortly afterwards is severely punished for his rashness. Thus the event showed, that Peter promised more for himself than he was able to accomplish, because he had not been sufficiently careful to examine himself. Hence too we see more clearly, how stupid is the intoxication of human presumption, that, when he is again reminded of his weakness by the Son of God, and that with the solemnity of an oath, he is so far from yielding, or even from making any abatement of his foolish confidence, that he goes on to show those lofty pretensions with more fierceness than ever.
But it is asked, Had not Peter a right to hope what he promises for himself? and was he not even bound, relying on the promise of Christ, to make this promise for himself? I answer, When Christ formerly promised to his disciples the spirit of unshaken fortitude, he referred to a new state of things which followed the resurrection; and, therefore, as they were not yet endued with heavenly power, Peter, forming confident expectations from himself, goes beyond the limits of faith. He erred in two respects. First, by anticipating the time he made a rash engagement, and did not rely on the promise of the Lord. Secondly, shutting his eyes on his own weakness, and under the influence of thoughtlessness rather than of courage, he undertook more than the case, warranted.
This claims our attention, that every man, remembering his own weakness, may earnestly resort to the assistance of the Holy Spirit; and next, that no man may venture to take more upon himself than what the Lord promises. Believers ought, indeed, to be prepared for the contest in such a manner that, entertaining no doubt or uncertainty about the result and the victory, they may resist fear; for trembling and excessive anxiety are marks of distrust. But, on the other hand, they ought to guard against that stupidity which shakes off all anxiety, and fills their minds with pride, and extinguishes the desire to pray. This middle course between two faulty extremes f192 is very beautifully expressed by Paul, when he enjoins us to

work out our salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God that worketh in us to will and perform,
(<503512>Philippians 2:12, 13.)
For, on the one hand, having humbled us, he entreats us to seek supplies elsewhere; and, on the other hand, lest anxiety should induce sloth, he exhorts us to strenuous exertions. And, therefore, whenever any temptation is presented to us, let us first remember our weakness, that, being entirely thrown down, we may learn to seek elsewhere what we need; and, next, let us remember the grace which is promised, that it may free us from doubt. For those who, forgetting their weakness, and not calling on God, feel assured that they are strong, act entirely like drunken soldiers, who throw themselves rashly into the field, but, as soon as the effects of strong drink are worn off, think of nothing else than flight.
It is wonderful that the other disciples, after Peter had been reproved, still break out into the same rashness; and hence it is evident how little they knew themselves. We are taught by this example, that we ought to attempt nothing, except so far as God stretches out his hand; for nothing is more fading or transitory than inconsiderate zeal. The disciples perceive that nothing is more base or unreasonable than to forsake their Master; and, therefore, they justly detest so infamous an action: but, having no reliance on the promise, and neglecting prayer, they advance with inconsiderate haste to boast of a constancy which they did not possess.
LUKE 22:35-38
LUKE 22:35-38
35. And he said to them, When I sent you without purse, or scrip, or shoes, did you want any thing? And they said, Nothing. 36. He therefore said to them, But now let him who hath a purse take it, and, in like manner, a scrip; and let him who hath not a sword sell his garment and buy one. 37. For I tell you, that this also which is written must be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned with the transgressors. For those things which relate to me have an end. f193 38. And they said, Lord, lo, here are two swords. And he said to them, It is enough.

Luke 22:35. And he said to them. The whole object of this discourse of Christ is to show, that hitherto he spared his disciples, so as to lay on them no heavier burden than they were able to bear. He reminds them of the indulgence exercised during the past time, that they may now prepare themselves with greater alacrity for severer warfare. For why did he, while they were altogether destitute of skill and training, keep them in the shade and in repose, at a distance from the darts of the enemy, except that, by gradually gathering courage and strength during the interval of leisure, they might be better prepared for fighting? The meaning is: “Hitherto you have had an easy and prosperous condition, because I wished to treat you gently, like children; the full time is now come, when I must employ you in labor, like men.” But the comparison which he makes between the two periods is still more extensive; for if they wanted nothing, when they proceeded to discharge their office without taking with them a stock of provisions, when a state of peace allowed them leisure to provide for their necessities, much more now, in the midst of tumult and excitement, ought they to lay aside anxiety about the present life, and run wherever necessity calls them. And although Christ makes special mention of what he had done in reference to the twelve apostles, he shows likewise, that while we are still beginners and weak in faith, he continues to indulge us till we grow up to be men; and, therefore, that they act improperly who devote their leisure to the pursuit of luxuries, which abate the rigor of their faith. And let us not doubt that Christ has regard to us in the present day, since he does not hurry us into the battle while we are still untrained and inexperienced, but, before sending us to the field, supplies us with arms and courage.
36. But now let him who hath a purse take it. In metaphorical language he threatens that they will soon meet with great troubles and fierce attacks; just as when a general, intending to lead the soldiers into the field of battle, calls them to arms, and orders them to lay aside every other care, and think of nothing else than fighting, not even to take any thought about procuring food. For he shows them—as is usually done in cases of extreme danger—that every thing must be sold, even to the scrip and the purse, in order to supply them with arms. And yet he does not call them to an outward conflict, but only, under the comparison of fighting, he warns them of the severe struggles of temptations which they must undergo, and of the fierce attacks which they must sustain in spiritual contests. That they might more willingly throw themselves on the providence of God, he first reminded them, as I have said, that God took care to supply them with what was necessary, even when they carried with them no supplies of food and raiment. Having experienced so large and seasonable supplies from God, they ought not, for the future, to entertain any doubt that he would provide for every one of their necessities.
37. That this also which is written must be accomplished in me. This adverb also is emphatic; for Christ means, that he had not yet discharged every part of his office, till he had been ranked with ungodly and wicked men, as if he had been one of their class. But that their minds might not be too much disturbed by the baseness of such a transaction, he quotes a prediction of Isaiah, (53:12) which, it is certain, cannot be explained but as referring to the Messiah. Now since it is there said that he was to be reckoned among transgressors, such a spectacle, however atrocious, ought not to alarm believers, or to alienate them from Christ, who could not have been their Redeemer in any other way than by taking upon himself the shame and disgrace of a wicked man. For nothing is better adapted to remove grounds of offense, when we are alarmed by any strange occurrence, than to acknowledge that it so pleases God, and that whatever takes place by his appointment is not done rashly, or without a good reason; more especially when that which is made evident by the event itself was anciently predicted. Since, then, the disciples ought to expect a Redeemer such as God had formerly promised, and since Isaiah had expressly declared, that in order that he might deliver us from the guilt of offenses the punishment must be laid on him, (<235305>Isaiah 53:5, 6,) this ought to be sufficient for abating the horror of the disciples, and for preventing them from entertaining less esteem for Christ.
For those things which relate to me have an end. By these words, immediately added, he means that the prophets spoke nothing in vain. For this Greek phrase, te>lov e]cei, have an end; means that they are accomplished, or put in effect. Now when every thing that the prophets spoke is verified by the event, it ought rather to contribute to strengthen our faith, than to strike us with alarm or anxiety. But while Christ encourages and comforts the disciples by this single argument, that all the predictions must be accomplished, the very procedure of the divine purpose contains within itself no ordinary ground of confidence, which is, that Christ was subjected to the condemnation which we deserved, and was reconciled among transgressors, that we, who are transgressors, and loaded with crimes, might be presented by him to the Father as righteous. For we are reckoned pure and free from sins before God, because the Lamb, who was pure and free from every blemish, was placed in our room, as we shah have occasion to state again under the next chapter.
38. Lord, lo, here are two swords. It was truly shameful and stupid ignorance, that the disciples, after having been so often informed about bearing the cross, imagine that they must fight with swords of iron. When they say that they have two swords, it is uncertain whether they mean that they are well prepared against their enemies, or complain that they are ill provided with arms. It is evident, at least, that they were so stupid as not to think of a spiritual enemy. As to the inference which the Doctors of Canon Law draw from these words—that their mitered bishops have a double jurisdiction—it is not only an offensive allegory, but a detestable mockery, by which they ridicule the word of God. And it was necessary that the slaves of Antichrist should fall into such madness, of openly trampling under feet, by sacrilegious contempt, the sacred oracles of God.
MATTHEW 26:36-44; MARK 14:32-40;
LUKE 22:39-46
MATTHEW 26:36-44
MARK 14:32-40
LUKE 22:39-46
36. Then Jesus cometh with them to a place which is called Gethsemane, and saith to the disciples, Sit here until I go yonder and pray. 37. And, having taken with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be affected with grief and sorrow. 38. Then Jesus saith to them, My soul is sorrowful, even to death: remain here, and watch with me. 39. And proceeding a little farther, he fell on his face, praying, and saying, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; but yet not as I will, but as thou wilt. 40. And he came to the disciples, and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, Couldst not thou watch with me one hour? 41. Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. 42. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, My Father, if this cup cannot pass from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. 43. And he came, and found them sleeping again; for their eyes were heavy. 44. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed a third time, saying the same words.
32. And they come to a place which is called Gethsemane; and he saith to his disciples, Sit here until I have prayed. 33. And he taketh with him Peter, and James, and John. And he began to be afraid, and to be very sorrowful. 34. And he saith to them, My soul is sorrowful, even to death: remain here and watch. 35. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him; 36. And said, Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me: but yet not what I will, but what thou wilt. 37. And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith to Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? Couldst thou not watch one hour? 38. Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. 39. And he went away again, and prayed, saying the same words. 40. And he returned, and found them sleeping again; for their eyes were heavy, and they did not know what to answer him.
39. And he came out, and went (as he was wont) to the mountain of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. 40. And when he came to the place, he said to then, pray that you may not enter into temptation. 41. And he withdrew from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, 42. Saying, Father, if thou wilt, remove this cup from me; but yet not my will, but thine be done. 43. And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44. And, being in agony, he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45. And when he had risen from prayer, and come to his disciples, he found them sleeping through sorrow. 46. And he saith to them, Why do you sleep? Arise; and pray, that you may not enter into temptation.

Matthew 26:36. Then Jesus cometh with them. Luke mentions the mountain of Olives only. Mark and Matthew add a more minute description of the place. But Luke expresses what is still more to the purpose, that Christ came there according to his custom. Hence we infer, that he did not seek retirement for the purpose of concealing himself, but, as if he had made an assignation with his enemies, he presented himself to death. On this account John says (18:2) that the place was known to the traitor, because Jesus was wont to come there frequently. In this passage, therefore, his obedience is again described to us, because he could not have appeased the Father but by a voluntary death.
Sit here. By leaving the disciples at a distance, he spares their weakness; as if a man, perceiving that he would soon be in extreme danger in battle, were to leave his wife and children in a situation of safety. But though he intended to place them all beyond arrow-shot, yet he took three of them who accompanied him more closely than the rest, and these were the flower and choice, in which there was greater rigor. And yet he did not take them, as if he believed that they would be able to sustain the attack, but that they might afford a proof of the defect which was common to them all.
37. He began to be affected with grief. We have seen that our Lord formerly contended with the fear of death; but as he now fights face to face with temptation, such an attack is called the beginning of grief and sorrow. Hence we infer that the true test of virtue is only to be found when the contest begins; for then the weakness of the flesh, which was formerly concealed, shows itself, and the secret feelings are abundantly displayed. Thus, though God had already tried his Son by certain preparatory exercises, he now wounds him more sharply by a nearer prospect of death, and strikes his mind with a terror to which he had not been accustomed. But as it appears to be inconsistent with the divine glory of Christ, that he was seized with trembling and sadness, many commentators have labored with toil and anxiety to find some way of evading the difficulty. But their labor has been ill-judged and of no use; for if we are ashamed that Christ should experience fear and sorrow, our redemption will perish and be lost.
Ambrose justly says: “I not only do not think that there is any need of excuse, but there is no instance in which I admire more his kindness and his majesty; for he would not have done so much for me, if he had not taken upon him my feelings. He grieved for me, who had no cause of grief for himself; and, laying aside the delights of the eternal Godhead, he experiences the affliction of my weakness. I boldly call it sorrow, because I preach the cross. For he took upon him not the appearance, but the reality, of incarnation. It was therefore necessary that he should experience grief, that he might overcome sorrow, and not shut it out; for the praise of fortitude is not bestowed on those who are rather stupefied than pained by wounds.” Thus far Ambrose.
Certainly those who imagine that the Son of God was exempt from human passions do not truly and sincerely acknowledge him to be a man. And when it is even said that the divine power of Christ rested and was concealed for a time, that by his sufferings he might discharge all that belonged to the Redeemer, this was so far from being absurd, that in no other way could the mystery of our salvation have been accomplished. For Cyril has properly said: "That the suffering of Christ on the cross was not in every respect voluntary, but that it was voluntary on account of the will of the Father, and on account of our salvation, you may easily learn from his prayer, Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. For the same reason that the Word of God is God, (<430101>John 1:1,) and is naturally life itself, (<431125>John 11:25,) nobody doubts that he had no dread of death; but, having been made flesh, (<430114>John 1:14,) he allows the flesh to feel what belongs to it, and, therefore, being truly a man, he trembles at death, when it is now at the door, and says, Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; but since it cannot be otherwise, let it be not as I will, but as thou wilt. You see how human nature, even in Christ himself, has the sufferings and fears which belong to it, but that the Word, who is united to it, raises it to a fortitude which is worthy of God.” He at length concludes: "You perceive that it was not for the sake of the flesh that the death of Christ was voluntary, but that it was voluntary, because, on account of it, according to the will of the Father, salvation and life were bestowed on men.” Such are the views of Cyril.
Still the weakness which Christ took upon himself must be distinguished from ours, for there is a great difference. In us there is no affection unaccompanied by sin, because they all exceed due bounds and proper restraint; but when Christ was distressed by grief and fear, he did not rise against God, but continued to be regulated by the true rule of moderation. We need not wonder that, since he was innocent, and pure from every stain, the affections which flowed from him were pure and stainless; but that nothing proceeds from the corrupt nature of men which is not impure and filthy. Let us, therefore, attend to this distinction, that Christ, amidst fear and sadness, was weak without any taint of sin; but that all our affections are sinful, because they rise to an extravagant height.
The kind of feelings, by which Christ was tempted, is also worthy of notice. Matthew says that he was affected by grief and sorrow (or anxiety;)Luke says that he was seized with anguish; and Mark adds that he trembled. And whence came his sorrow and anguish, and fear, but because he felt that death had something in it more sad and more dreadful than the separation of the soul and body? And certainly he underwent death, not merely that he might depart from earth to heaven, but rather that, by taking upon himself the curse to which we were liable, he might deliver us from it. He had no horror at death, therefore, simply as a passage out of the world, but because he had before his eyes the dreadful tribunal of God, and the Judge himself armed with inconceivable vengeance; and because our sins, the load of which was laid upon him, pressed him down with their enormous weight. There is no reason to wonder, therefore, if the dreadful abyss of destruction tormented him grievously with fear and anguish.
38. My soul is sorrowful. He communicates to them his sorrow, in order to arouse them to sympathy; not that he was unacquainted with their weakness, but in order that they might afterwards be more ashamed of their carelessness. This phrase expresses a deadly wound of grief; as if he had said, that he fainted, or was half-dead, with sorrow. Jonah (4:9) makes use of a similar phrase in replying to the Lord; I am angry even to death. I advert to this, because some of the ancient writers, in handling this passage with a misapplication of ingenuity, philosophize in this way, that the soul of Christ was not sorrowful IN DEATH but only even to death. And here again we ought to remember the cause of so great sorrow; for death in itself would not have so grievously tormented the mind of the Son of God, if he had not felt that he had to deal with the judgment of God.
39. And he went forward a little. We have seen in other passages, that in order to excite himself to greater earnestness of prayer, the Lord prayed in the absence of witnesses; for when we are withdrawn from the gaze of men, we succeed better in collecting our senses, so as to attend more closely to what we are doing. It is not, indeed, necessary—nay more, it is not always proper—that we should retire to distant corners whenever we pray; but when some great necessity urges us, because the fervor of prayer is more freely indulged when we are alone, it is useful to us to pray apart. And if the Son of God did not disregard this aid, it would be the greatest madness of pride in us not to apply it for our own advantage. Add to this, that when God alone is witness, as there is nothing then to be feared from ambition, the believing soul unfolds itself with greater familiarity, and with greater simplicity pours its wishes, and groans, and anxieties, and fears, and hopes, and joys, into the bosom of God. God allows his people to make use of many little modes of speaking, when they pray alone, which, in the presence of men, would savor of ostentation.
And fell on his face. By the very gesture of falling on the earth, Christ manifested his deep earnestness in prayer. For though kneeling, as our expression of respect and reverence, is commonly used in prayer, Christ, by throwing himself on the ground as a suppliant, placed himself in a pitiable attitude on account of the vehemence of his grief.
My Father, if it be possible. In vain do some persons labor to show that what is here described is not a prayer, but only a complaint. For my own part, while I own that it is abrupt, I have no doubt that Christ offered a prayer. Nor is it inconsistent with this, that he asks a thing that is impossible to be granted to him; for the prayers of believers do not always flow on with uninterrupted progress to the end, do not always maintain a uniform measure, are not always arranged even in a distinct order, but, on the contrary, are involved and confused, and either oppose each other, or stop in the middle of the course; like a vessel tossed by tempests, which, though it advances towards the harbor, cannot always keep a straight and uniform course, as in a calm sea. We must remember, indeed, what I lately mentioned, that Christ had not confused emotions, like those to which we are accustomed, to withdraw his mind from pure moderation; but, so far as the pure and innocent nature of man could admit, he was struck with fear and seized with anguish, so that, amidst the violent shocks of temptation, he vacillated—as it were—from one wish to another. This is the reason why, after having prayed to be freed from death, he immediately restrains himself, and, submitting to the authority of the Father, corrects and recalls that wish which had suddenly escaped him.
But it may be asked, How did he pray that the eternal decree of the Father, of which he was not ignorant, should be revoked? or though he states a condition, if it be possible, yet it wears an aspect of absurdity to make the purpose of God changeable. We must hold it to be utterly impossible for God to revoke his decree. According to Mark, too, Christ would seem to contrast the power of God with his decree. All things, says he, are possible to thee. But it would be improper to extend the power of God so far as to lessen his truth, by making him liable to variety and change. I answer, There would be no absurdity in supposing that Christ, agreeably to the custom of the godly, leaving out of view the divine purpose, committed to the bosom of the Father his desire which troubled him. For believers, in pouring out their prayers, do not always ascend to the contemplation of the secrets of God, or deliberately inquire what is possible to be done, but are sometimes carried away hastily by the earnestness of their wishes. Thus Moses prays that he may be blotted out of the book of life, (<023233>Exodus 32:33;) thus Paul wished to be made an anathema, f194 (<450903>Romans 9:3.) This, therefore, was not a premeditated prayer of Christ; but the strength and violence of grief suddenly drew this word from his mouth, to which he immediately added a correction. The same vehemence of desire took away from him the immediate recollection of the heavenly decree, so that he did not at that moment reflect, that it was on this condition, f195 that he was sent to be the Redeemer of mankind; as distressing anxiety often brings darkness over our eyes, so that we do not at once remember the whole state of the matter. In short, there is no impropriety, if in prayer we do not always direct our immediate attention to every thing, so as to preserve a distinct order. When Christ says, in the Gospel by Matthew, that all things are possible to God, he does not intend by these words to bring the power of God into conflict with unchangeable truth and firmness; but as there was no hope—which is usually the case when affairs are desperate—he throws himself on the power of God. The word (poth>rion) cup or chalice—as we have mentioned elsewhere—denotes the providence of God, which assigns to each his measure of the cross and of affliction, just as the master of a house gives an allowance to each servant, and distributes portions among the children.
But yet not as I will, but as thou wilt. We see how Christ restrains his feelings at the very outset, and quickly brings himself into a state of obedience. But here it may first be inquired, How was his will pure from all vice, while it did not agree with the will of God? For if the will of God is the only rule of what is good and right, it follows, that all the feelings which are at variance with it are vicious. I reply: Though it be true rectitude to regulate all our feelings by the good pleasure of God, yet there is a certain kind of indirect disagreement with it which is not faulty, and is not reckoned as sin; if, for example, a person desire to see the Church in a calm and flourishing condition, if he wish that the children of God were delivered from afflictions, that all superstitions were removed out of the world, and that the rage of wicked men were so restrained as to do no injury. These things, being in themselves right, may properly be desired by believers, though it may please God to order a different state of matters: for he chooses that his Son should reign among enemies; that his people should be trained under the cross; and that the triumph of faith and of the Gospel should be rendered more illustrious by the opposing machinations of Satan. We see how those prayers are holy, which appear to be contrary to the will of God; for God does not desire us to be always exact or scrupulous in inquiring what he has appointed, but allows us to ask what is desirable according to the capacity of our senses.
But the question has not yet been fully answered: for since we have just now said that all the feelings of Christ were properly regulated, how does he now correct himself? For he brings his feelings into obedience to God in such a manner as if he had exceeded what was proper. Certainly in the first prayer we do not perceive that calm moderation which I have described; for, as far as lies in his power, he refuses and shrinks from discharging the office of Mediator. I reply: When the dread of death was presented to his mind, and brought along with it such darkness, that he left out of view every thing else, and eagerly presented that prayer, there was no fault in this. Nor is it necessary to enter into any subtle controversy whether or not it was possible for him to forget our salvation. We ought to be satisfied with this single consideration, that at the time when he uttered a prayer to be delivered from death, he was not thinking of other things which would have shut the door against such a wish.
If it be objected, that the first movement, which needed to be restrained before it proceeded farther, was not so well regulated as it ought to have been, I reply: In the present corruption of our nature it is impossible to find ardor of affections accompanied by moderation, such as existed in Christ; but we ought to give such honor to the Son of God, as not to judge of him by what we find in ourselves. For in us all the affections of the flesh, when strongly excited, break out into rebellion, or, at least, have some mixture of pollution; but Christ, amidst the utmost vehemence of grief or fear, restrained himself within proper bounds. Nay more, as musical sounds, though various and differing from each other, are so far from being discordant, that they produce sweet melody and fine harmony; so in Christ there was a remarkable example of adaptation between the two wills, f196 the will of God and the will of man, so that they differed from each other without any conflict or opposition.
This passage shows plainly enough the gross folly of those ancient heretics, who were called Monothelites, f197 because they imagined that the will of Christ was but one and simple; for Christ, as he was God, willed nothing different from the Father; and therefore it follows, that his human soul had affections distinct from the secret purpose of God. But if even Christ was under the necessity of holding his will captive, in order to subject it to the government of God, though it was properly regulated, how carefully ought we to repress the violence of our feelings, which are always inconsiderate, and rash, and full of rebellion? And though the Spirit of God governs us, so that we wish nothing but what is agreeable to reason, still we owe to God such obedience as to endure patiently that our wishes should not be granted; f198 For the modesty of faith consists in permitting God to appoint differently from what we desire. Above all, when we have no certain and special promise, we ought to abide by this rule, not to ask any thing but on the condition that God shall fulfill what he has decreed; which cannot be done, unless we give up our wishes to his disposal.
It comes now to be inquired, what advantage did Christ gain by praying? The apostle, in writing to the Hebrews, says that he was heard (ajpo< th~v eujlabei>av) on account of his fear: for so ought that passage to be explained, and not, as it is usually explained, on account of his reverence, (<580507>Hebrews 5:7.) That would not have been consistent, if Christ had simply feared death; for he was not delivered from it. Hence it follows, that what led him to pray to be delivered from death was the dread of a greater evil. When he saw the wrath of God exhibited to him, as he stood at the tribunal of God charged with the sins of the whole world, he unavoidably shrunk with horror from the deep abyss of death. And, therefore, though he suffered death, yet since its pains were loosed—as Peter tells us, (<440224>Acts 2:24,)—and he was victorious in the conflict, the Apostle justly says, that he was heard on account of his fear. Here ignorant people rise up and exclaim, that it would have been unworthy of Christ to be afraid of being swallowed up by death. But I should wish them to answer this question, What kind off ear do they suppose it to have been which drew from Christ drops of blood? (Luke 22:44.) For that mortal sweat could only have proceeded from fearful and unusual horror. If any person, in the present day, were to sweat blood, and in such a quantity that the drops should fall to the ground, it would be reckoned an astonishing miracle; and if this happened to any man through fear of death, we would say that he had a cowardly and effeminate mind. Those men, therefore, who deny that Christ prayed that the Father would rescue him from the gulf of death, ascribe to him a cowardice that would be disgraceful even in an ordinary man.
If it be objected, that the fear which I am describing arises from unbelief, the answer is easy. When Christ was struck with horror at the divine curse, the feeling of the flesh affected him in such a manner, that faith still remained firm and unshaken. For such was the purity of his nature, that he felt, without being wounded by them, those temptations which pierce us with their stings. And yet those persons, by representing him not to have felt temptations, foolishly imagine that he was victorious without fighting. And, indeed, we have no right to suppose that he used any hypocrisy, when he complained of a mortal sadness in his soul; nor do the Evangelists speak falsely, when they say that he was exceedingly sorrowful, and that he trembled
40. And he came to his disciples. Though he was neither delivered from fear, nor freed from anxiety, yet he interrupted the ardor of prayer, and administered this consolation. For believers are not required to be so constant in prayer as never to cease from conversing with God; but on the contrary, following the example of Christ, they continue their prayers till they have proceeded as far as their infirmity allows, then cease for a short time, and immediately after drawing breath return to God. It would have been no slight alleviation of his grief, if his disciples had accompanied him, and taken part in it; and on the other hand, it was a bitter aggravation of his sufferings, that even they forsook him. For though he did not need the assistance of any one, yet as he had voluntarily taken upon him our infirmities, and as it was chiefly in this struggle that he intended to give a proof of that emptying of himself, of which Paul speaks, (<502007>Philippians 2:7,) we need not wonder if the indifference of those whom he had selected to be his companions added a heavy and distressing burden to his grief. For his expostulation is not feigned, but, out of the true feeling of his mind, he declares that he is grieved at having been forsaken. And, indeed, he had good grounds for reproaching them with indifference, since, amidst the extremity of his anguish, they did not watch at least one hour.
40. Watch and pray. As the disciples were unmoved by their Master’s danger, their attention is directed to themselves, that a conviction of their own danger may arouse them. Christ therefore threatens that, if they do not watch and pray, they may be soon overwhelmed by temptation. As if he had said, “Though you take no concern about me, do not fail, at least, to think of yourselves; for your own interests are involved in it, and if you do not take care, temptation will immediately swallow you up.” For to enter into temptation means to yield to it. f199 And let us observe, that the manner of resistance which is here enjoined is, not to draw courage from reliance on our own strength and perseverance, but, on the contrary, from a conviction of our weakness, to ask arms and strength from the Lord. Our watching, therefore, will be of no avail without prayer.
The spirit indeed is willing. That he may not terrify and discourage his disciples, he gently reproves their slothfulness, and adds consolation and good ground of hope. And, first, he reminds them, that though they are earnestly desirous to do what is right, still they must contend with the weakness of the flesh, and, therefore, that prayer is never unnecessary. We see, then, that he gives them the praise of willingness, in order that their weakness may not throw them into despair, and yet urges them to prayer, because they are not sufficiently endued with the power of the Spirit. Wherefore, this admonition relates properly to believers, who, being regenerated by the Spirit of God, are desirous to do what is right, but still labor under the weakness of the flesh; for though the grace of the Spirit is vigorous in them, they are weak according to the flesh. And though the disciples alone have their weakness here pointed out to them, yet, since what Christ says of them applies equally to all, we ought to draw from it a general rule, that it is our duty to keep diligent watch by praying; for we do not yet possess the power of the Spirit in such a measure as not to fall frequently through the weakness of the flesh, unless the Lord grant his assistance to raise up and uphold us. But there is no reason why we should tremble with excessive anxiety; for an undoubted remedy is held out to us, which we will neither have nor to seek nor to seek in vain; for Christ promises that all who, being earnest in prayer, shall perseveringly oppose the slothfulness of the flesh, will be victorious.
42. Again he went away a second time. By these words Christ seems as if, having subdued fear, he came with greater freedom and courage to submit to the will of the Father; for he no longer asks to have the cup removed from him, but, leaving out this prayer, insists rather on obeying the purpose of God. But according to Mark, this progress is not described; and even when Christ returned a second time, we are told that he repeated the same prayer; and, indeed, I have no doubt, that at each of the times when he prayed, fear and horror impelled him to ask that he might be delivered from death. f200 Yet it is probable that, at the second time, he labored more to yield obedience to the Father, and that the first encounter with temptation animated him to approach death with greater confidence.Luke does not expressly relate that he prayed three several times, but only says that, when he was pressed with anguish, he prayed with greater copiousness and earnestness, as if he had continued to pray without any intermission. But we know that the Evangelists sometimes leave out circumstances, and only glance rapidly at the substance of what took place. Accordingly, when he says towards the close, that Christ came to his disciples, it is a hysteron proteton; f201 just as, in another clause, he relates that an angel from heaven appeared, before he speaks of Christ’s anguish. But the inversion of the order carries no absurdity; for, in order to inform us that the angel was not sent without a good reason, the necessity for it is afterwards stated; and thus the latter part of the narrative is, in some sort, a reason assigned for the former. Now though it is the Spirit of God alone that imparts fortitude, that does not hinder God from employing angels as his ministers. And hence we may conclude what excruciating distresses the Son of God must have endured, since it was necessary that the assistance of God should be granted to him in a visible manner.
43. And found them sleeping again. This drowsiness arose neither from excessive eating and drinking, nor from gross stupidity, nor even from effeminate indulgence of the flesh, but rather—as Luke tells us—from immoderate sorrow. Hence we perceive more clearly how strong is the tendency of our flesh to indifference; since even dangers lead us to forgetfulness of God. Thus on every hand Satan finds suitable and ready opportunities of spreading his snares for us. For if we dread no danger, he intoxicates and drowns us in sleep; and if we experience fear and sorrow, which ought to arouse us to pray, he overwhelms our senses, so that they do not rise to God; and thus, in every respect, men fall away and forsake God, till he restores them. We must observe also this circumstance, that the disciples, after having been sharply reproved, almost at that very moment fall again asleep. Nor is this said of the whole body, but of the three whom Christ had selected to be his chief companions; and what shall we say of the greater number, when this happened to the flower of them? Now the repetition of the same words was not a vain repetition, (battalogi>a) which Christ formerly condemned in hypocrites, (<400607>Matthew 6:7) who hope that they will obtain by idle talking what they do not ask honestly and sincerely. f202 But Christ intended to show by his example, that we must not be discouraged or grow weary in praying, if we do not immediately obtain our wishes. So then, it is not a superfluous repetition of the words, if a repulse which we have experienced is so far from extinguishing the ardor of prayer, that we ask a third and fourth time what God appears to have denied.
MATTHEW 26:45-50; MARK 14:41-46;
LUKE 22:47-48
MATTHEW 26:45-50
MARK 14:41-46
LUKE 22:47-48
45. Then he cometh to his disciples, and saith to them: Sleep on now, and take your rest; lo, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46. Arise, let us go: lo, he who betrayeth me is approaching. 47. While he was still speaking, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, cometh, and with him a great multitude with swords and clubs, f203 from the chief priests and elders of the people. 48. Now he who betrayed him had given them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, it is he: take him. 49. And immediately approaching, he said to Jesus, Hail, Rabbi, and kissed him. 50. And Jesus said to him, Friend for what purpose comest thou? Then they approached, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.
41. And he cometh the third time, and saith to the, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; lo, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42. Arise, let us go: lo, he who betrayeth me is approaching. 43. And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, who was one of the twelve, cometh, and with him a great multitude with swords and clubs, f203A from the chief priests, and scribes, and elders. 44. Now he who betrayed him had given them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, it is he: take him, and lead him away cautiously. 45. And having come, he immediately approacheth him, and saith, Rabbi, Rabbi, f204 and kissed him. 46. And they laid hands on him, and took him.
47. And while he was still speaking, lo, a multitude, and he who was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and approached Jesus to kiss him. 48. And Jesus said to him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?

Matthew 26:45. Sleep on now, and take your rest. It is plain enough, that Christ now speaks ironically, but we must, at the same time, attend to the object of the irony. For Christ, having gained nothing by warning his disciples, not only gives an indirect reproof of their indifference, but threatens, that how indolent so ever they may choose to be, no longer delay will be allowed them. The meaning therefore is, "Having hitherto wasted my words on you, I shall now come to exhort you; but whatever permission I may give you to sleep, the enemies will not allow it to you, but will compel you to watch against your will.” In Mark, it is accordingly added, It is enough; as if he had said, that there is no more time for sleeping. And this is the way in which the Lord usually chastises the indolence of men, that those who wax deaf to words may at length be compelled, by their sufferings, to arouse themselves. Let us, therefore, learn to give immediate attention to the words of the Lord, lest what he wishes to draw from us voluntarily may be too late forced from us by necessity.
46. Arise, let us go. By these words he declares that, after having prayed, he was furnished with new arms. He had formerly, indeed, been sufficiently voluntary as to dying; but, when he came to the point, he had a hard struggle with the weakness of the flesh, so that he would willingly have withdrawn from dying, provided that he had been permitted to do so with the good-will of his Father. He, therefore, obtained by prayers and tears (<580507>Hebrews 5:7) new strength from heaven; not that he ever hesitated through want of strength, but because under the weakness of the flesh, which he had voluntarily undertaken, he wished to labor anxiously, and with painful and difficult exertion, to gain a victory for us in his own person. But now, when the trembling is allayed, and the fear is subdued, that he may again present a voluntary sacrifice to the Father, he not only does not retire or conceal himself, but cheerfully advances to death.
47. While he was still speaking. The Evangelists are careful to state that our Lord foresaw what happened; from which it might be inferred, that he was not dragged to death by external violence, except so far as wicked men carried into execution the secret purpose of God. Although, therefore, a melancholy and frightful spectacle was exhibited to the disciples, yet they received, at the same time, grounds of confidence to confirm them, since the event itself showed that nothing occurred by chance; and since Christ’s prediction directed them to contemplate the glory of his divinity. The circumstance of an armed multitude having been sent by the chief priests, and of a captain and band having been obtained by request from Pilate, makes it evident, that an evil conscience wounded and tormented them, so that they did every thing in a state of terror. For what need was there for so great a force to take Christ, who, they were aware, was not provided with any defensive arms? The reason for such careful preparation was, that the divine power of Christ, which they had been compelled to feel by numerous proofs, inwardly tormented them; but, on the other hand, it is a display of amazing rage, that, relying on the power of arms, they do not hesitate to rise up against God.
48. Now he who betrayed him. I have no doubt that Judas was restrained, either by reverence for our Lord, or by shame for his crime, from venturing openly to avow himself as one of the enemies; and the warning which, Mark tells us, he gave the soldiers—to lead the away cautiously, was given, I conjecture, for this reason, that he recollected the numerous-proofs by which Christ had formerly attested his divine power. But it was, at the same time, astonishing madness, either to attempt to conceal himself by frivolous hypocrisy, when he came into the presence of the Son of God, or to oppose the tricks and dexterity of men to his boundless power.
49. Hail, Rabbi. I have no doubt that Judas, as if trembling for his Master’s danger, pretended by these words to have some feeling of compassion; and, accordingly, in Mark a pathetic repetition is expressed, f205 Rabbi, Rabbi. For though he was impressed with the majesty of Christ, still the devil so fascinated his mind, that he felt assured that his treachery was concealed by a kiss, and by soothing words. This salutation, or exclamation, therefore, was a pretense of compassion. I offer the same opinion about the kiss; for though it was a very common practice among the Jews to welcome friends with a kiss, yet as Judas had left Christ but a little before, he seems now—as if he had become suddenly alarmed at his danger—to give the last kiss to his Master. Thus he excels the rest in the appearance of affection, when he appears to be deeply grieved at being separated from his Master; but how little he gained by his deception is evident from Christ’s reply.
50. Friend, for what purpose comest thou? Luke expresses it more fully: Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss? except that there is greater force in this reproof, that the benevolence of his Master, and the very high honor conferred on him, are wickedly abused for the purpose of the basest treachery. For Christ does not employ an ironical address when he calls him friend, but charges him with ingratitude, that, from being an intimate friend, who sat at his table, he had become a traitor, as had been predicted in the psalm: If a stranger had done this, I could have endured it; but now my private and familiar friend, with whom I took food pleasantly, who accompanied me to the temple of the Lord, hath prepared snares against me. f206 This shows clearly—what I hinted a little ago—that, whatever may be the artifices by which hypocrites conceal themselves, and whatever may be the pretenses which they hold out, when they come into the presence of the Lord, their crimes become manifest; and it even becomes the ground of a severer sentence against them, that, having been admitted into the bosom of Christ, they treacherously rise up against him. For the word friend, as we have stated, contains within itself a sharp sting.
Let us know that this evil, which Christ once sustained in his own person, is an evil to which the Church will always be exposed—that of cherishing traitors in her bosom; and, therefore, it was said a little before, The traitor approached, who was one of the twelve, that we may not be immediately distressed by such instances; for the Lord intends to try our faith in both ways, when, without, Satan opposes us and the Church by open enemies, and, within, he attempts secret destruction by means of hypocrites. We are taught, at the same time, that we who are his disciples ought to worship God with sincerity; for the apostasies, which we see every day, excite us to fear, and to the cultivation of true godliness, as Paul says,
Let every one that calleth on the name of God depart from iniquity, (<550219>2 Timothy 2:19.)
We are all commanded to kiss the Son of God, (<190212>Psalm 2:12;) and we ought, therefore, to see that no one give him a traitor’s kiss, otherwise it will cost us dear to have been elevated to so great an honor.
MATTHEW 26:51-56; MARK 14:47-52;
LUKE 22:49-53
MATTHEW 26:51-56
MARK 14:47-52
LUKE 22:49-53
51. And, lo, one of those who were with Jesus, stretching out his hand, drew his sword, and, striking the servant of the high priest, cut off his ear. 52. Then Jesus said to him, Put thy sword again into its place; for all who take the sword shall perish by the sword. 53. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he will grant to me more than twelve legions of angels? 54. How then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? 55. At that hour f207 Jesus said to the multitudes, You are come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to seize me. I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not take me. 56. But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.
47. But one of those who were present drew his sword, and struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. 48. And Jesus answering said to them, Are you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to seize me? 49. I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But (this was done,) that the scriptures might be fulfilled. f208 50. And they all forsook him, and fled. 51. And a young man followed him, having a linen cloth wrapped about his naked body; and the young men seized him. 52. And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.
49. And those who were around him, seeing what would happen, said to him, Lord, shall we strike with the sword? 50. And one of them struck a servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. 51. And Jesus answering said, Permit it to be thus far; and, having touched his ear, he healed him. 52. And Jesus said to those who had come to him, the chief priests, and rulers of the temple, and elders, Are you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53. When I was daily with you in the temple, you did not lay hands on me; but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.

Matthew 26:51. And, lo, one of those who were with Jesus. Luke says, that all the disciples made an agreement together to fight for their Master. Hence it is again evident, that we are much more courageous and ready for fighting than for bearing the cross; and, therefore, we ought always to deliberate wisely what the Lord commands, and what he requires from every one of us, lest the fervor of our zeal exceed the bounds of reason and moderation. When the disciples asked Christ, Shall we strike with the sword? they did so, not with the intention of obeying his injunction; but by these words they declared that they were prepared and ready to repel the violence of enemies. And, indeed, Peter did not wait till he was commanded or permitted to strike, but inconsiderately proceeded to unlawful violence. It appears, at first view, to be praiseworthy valor in the disciples, that, forgetting. their own weakness, though they are unable to make resistance, they do not hesitate to present their bodies before their Master, and to encounter certain death; for they choose rather to perish with the Lord than to survive and look on while he is oppressed. But as they improperly attempt more than the calling of God commands or permits, their rashness is justly condemned; and therefore let us learn, that in order that our obedience may be acceptable to the Lord, we must depend on his will, so that no man shall move a finger, except so far as God commands. One reason ought, above all, to lead us to be zealous :in cultivating this modesty; which is, that instead of a proper and well-regulated zeal, confused irregularity for the most part reigns in us.
Peter’s name is not mentioned here by the Evangelists; but John (18:10) assures us—and from what occurs shortly afterwards in the narrative it is evident—that it was Peter who is here described, though the name is suppressed. Yet Luke enables us easily to infer that there were others also who took part in the same outrage; for Christ does not speak to one person only, but says to all alike, Permit f209 it to be thus far.
52. Put thy sword again into its place. By these words, Christ confirms the precept of the Law, which forbids private individuals to use the sword. And above all, we ought to attend to the threatening of punishment which is immediately added; for men did not, at their own pleasure, appoint this punishment for avenging their own blood; but God himself, by severely prohibiting murder, has declared how dearly he loves mankind. First, then, he does not choose to be defended by force and violence, because God in the Law forbade men to strike. This is a general reason; and he immediately descends to a special reason.
But here a question arises. Is it never lawful to use violence in repelling unjust violence? For though Peter had to deal with wicked and base robbers, still he is condemned for having drawn his sword. If, in such a case of moderate defense, an exception was not allowed, Christ appears to tie up the hands of all. Though we have treated this question more copiously f210 under <400539>Matthew 5:39, yet I shall now state my opinion again in a few words. First, we must make a distinction between a civil court and the court of conscience; f211 for if any man resist a robber, f212 he will not be liable to public punishment, because the laws arm him against one who is the common enemy of mankind. Thus, in every case when defense is made against unjust violence, the punishment which God enjoins earthly judges to carry into execution ceases. And yet it is not the mere goodness of the cause that acquits the conscience from guilt, unless there be also pure affection. So then, in order that a man may properly and lawfully defend himself, he must first lay aside excessive wrath, and hatred, and desire of revenge, and all irregular sallies of passion, that nothing tempestuous may mingle with the defense. As this is of rare occurrence, or rather, as it scarcely ever happens, Christ properly reminds his people of the general rule, that they should entirely abstain from using the sword.
But there are fanatics who have foolishly misapplied this passage, so as to wrest the sword out of the hands of judges. They contend that it is unlawful to strike with the sword. This I acknowledge to be true, for no man is at liberty to take the sword at his own pleasure, so as to commit murder; but I deny that magistrates—who are God’s ministers, and by whom he executes his judgments—ought to be viewed as belonging to the ordinary rank. And not only so, but by these words of Christ, this very power is expressly ascribed to them: for when he declares that murderers must be put to death, it follows, that the sword is put into the hands of judges, that they may take vengeance for unjust murders. It will sometimes happen, indeed, that men addicted to the shedding of blood are punished by other means; but this is the ordinary way in which the Lord determined that the fierce cruelty of wicked men should be restrained from rioting with impunity. Certain doctors of what is called Canon Law have ventured to proceed to such a pitch of impudence as to teach, that the sword was not taken from Peter, but he was commanded to keep it sheathed until the time came for drawing it; and hence we perceive how grossly and shamefully those dogs have sported with the word of God.
53. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father? Now follows that special reason which I mentioned a little ago; for Christ reminds them, that he would have at his command a better and more legitimate kind of defense, were it not that he must obey the decree of the Father. The substance of what he says is this. “As he has been appointed by the eternal purpose of God to be a sacrifice, and as this has been declared by the predictions of Scripture, he must not fight against it.” Thus Peter’s rashness is condemned on another ground, that he not only endeavors to overturn a heavenly decree, but also to obstruct the path of the redemption of mankind. Not only did Peter draw his sword unlawfully, but the disciples were foolish and mad; for—though they were few in number, and feeble—they attempted to make some resistance to a band of soldiers and a very great multitude. On this account, the Lord, in order to make their folly more manifest, employs this comparison. “If he wished to have a guard to defend his life, he would immediately obtain not eleven angels, but a large and invincible army, and since he does not implore that angels may be sent to assist him, much less would he resort to ill-considered means, from which no advantage was to be expected; for the utmost that could be effected by the disciples would be of no more service than if a few rooks were to make a noise.”
But here some commentators labor to no purpose in inquiring how Christ could have obtained a commission of angels from his Father, by whose decree it was that he had to suffer death. For the two things are inconsistent: that he exposed his Son to death naked and defenseless, because it was necessary that it should be so, and because it had been appointed; and yet, that he might have been prevailed on by prayer to send him relief. But Christ speaks conditionally, that he has a far better method of defending his life, were it not that the will of the Father was opposed to it. This takes away all contradiction, for Christ refrained from presenting such a request to his Father, because he knew that it was contrary to his decree. Yet from this we draw a useful doctrine, that those who resort to unlawful means on the plea of necessity pour dishonor on God. If a man is destitute of lawful aid and support, he runs headlong to wicked schemes and sinful undertakings; and the reason is, that few look for the secret protection of God, which alone ought to be sufficient to set our minds at rest. Are we threatened with danger? Because no remedy can be discovered according to the flesh, we make this or the other contrivance, as if there were no angels in heaven, who—Scripture frequently tells us—are placed as guardians for our salvation, (<580114>Hebrews 1:14.) In this way we deprive ourselves of their assistance; for all who are impelled, by their restlessness and excessive anxiety, to stretch out their hands to forbidden remedies for evils, do unquestionably renounce the providence of God.
54. How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled? By this expression Christ means, that he ought not to attempt any method of escaping death, to which he knew that he was called by the Father. For himself, indeed, he had no need of the Scriptures to inform him that God had appointed that he should die at that time; but because mortals do not know what God has determined to do until it be revealed by his word, Christ, with a view to his disciples, properly refers to the testimony which God gave of his will. We know that whatever affliction happens to us, it is inflicted by God himself; but since we are uncertain as to the result, when we seek remedies which he allows, we do not rise against his government; but when his will has been ascertained, nothing more remains for us than to acquiesce. Though in this passage Christ teaches nothing more than that he ought patiently to suffer death, because the Scriptures have declared that it must be so, yet the use of this doctrine is evidently more extensive, namely, that Scripture is a sufficient bridle for subduing the rebellion of the flesh; because God points out to us what is his. will for the very purpose of keeping us in subjection to his will. Accordingly, Paul ascribes to Scripture this office, that it trains us to patience, (<451504>Romans 15:4,) and supplies us with all the comfort that we need in adversity. His reproof of the disciples, as given by Luke, is more brief, Permit them to do thus far; but still he severely condemns their presumption, in having gone so far as to perform an unlawful action, though at the same time he holds out a hope of pardon, if they suppress their improper zeal, and proceed no farther.
Luke 22:51. And having touched his ear, he healed him. By his foolish zeal Peter had brought grievous reproach on his Master and his doctrine; and there can be no doubt, that this was a contrivance by which Satan attempted to involve the Gospel in eternal disgrace, as if Christ had kept company with assassins and seditious persons for revolutionary purposes. This, I think, was the reason why Christ healed the wound which Peter had inflicted. But a fearful and amazing stupidity must have seized his adversaries, who were not at all affected by having seen such a miracle. And yet there is the less reason to wonder that they did not see the power of Christ displayed in the person of another, when, after having themselves been laid prostrate by his voice, they still continued to rage, (<431806>John 18:6.) Such is the spirit of giddiness by which Satan maddens the reprobate, when the Lord has given them over to blindness. Above all, in the person himself who was healed, there is a striking instance of ingratitude; for neither did the divine power of Christ subdue him to repentance for his hardness, nor was he overcome by kindness so as to be changed from an enemy into a disciple. For it is a foolish imagination of the monks that he was also healed in his soul, that the work of Christ might not be left incomplete; as if the goodness of God were not every day poured out on those who are unworthy.
Matthew 26:55. Are you come out, as against a robber? By these words Christ expostulates with his enemies for having intended to bring odium upon him, by coming provided with a great body of soldiers; for the meaning is this, “What necessity was there for making such a display of arms against me, as if your object had been to overcome some robber? But I have always lived peaceably amongst you, and without using arms; and when I was teaching in the temple, you might easily have seized me without any military force.” Yet, while he complains of their malice in violently rushing upon him, as if he were a seditious man, he again wounds their evil conscience by reminding them, that though they had a traitor for their leader, they approached him with trembling, and with many marks of distrust.
56. Now all this was done. The other two Evangelists express it somewhat differently; for what Matthew relates in his own person, Mark appears to attribute to Christ.Luke employs even different words: this is your hour, and the power of darkness. But the design of the Holy Spirit is, beyond all doubt, that whatever may be the contrivances of wicked men, nothing whatever has been done but by the will and providence of God; for as he had said a little before, God has testified nothing by the prophets but what he had determined with himself, (<422203>Luke 22:3.) First, therefore, we are here informed, that whatever may be the unbridled rage by which Satan and all ungodly men are actuated, still the hand of God always prevails, so as to draw them reluctantly wherever he pleases. Secondly, we are informed, that though wicked men fulfill what was predicted in the Scriptures; yet, since God does not employ them as his lawful ministers, but directs them, by a secret movement, to that which was farthest from their wish, they are not excusable; and that, while God makes a righteous use of their malice, blame still attaches to them. At the same time, let us observe that Christ said this in order to remove the offense, which would otherwise have greatly disturbed weak minds, when they saw him so reproached and outraged.
Still Christ intended not only to promote the advantage of his disciples, but also to repress the pride of his adversaries, that they might not triumph as if they had achieved victory. For this reason, in Luke’s narrative he says, this is your hour; by which he means that the Lord grants them this liberty for a short time. The power of darkness denotes the power of the devil, and this term had also a strong tendency to abase their glory; for though they exalt themselves ever so much, Christ shows that they are still nothing more than the slaves of the devil. While all things are mingled in confusion, and while the devil, by spreading darkness abroad, appears to overturn the whole order of the world, let us know that the providence of God shines above in heaven, to bring at length to order what is confused; and let us, therefore, learn to raise the eyes of faith to that calm sky. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled. Hence we may again infer how much more ready they were to fight rashly than to follow their Master.
Mark 14:51. And a young man. How some persons have come to dream that this was John f213 I know not, nor is it of much importance to inquire. The chief point is, to ascertain for what purpose Mark has related this transaction. I think that his object was, to inform us that those wicked men—as usually happens in riotous assemblies stormed and raved without shame or modesty; which appeared from their seizing a young man who was unknown to them, and not suspected of any crime, so that he had difficulty in escaping out of their hands naked. For it is probable that the young man, who is mentioned, had some attachment to Christ, and, on hearing the tumult by night, without stopping to put on his clothes, and covered only with a linen garment, came either to discover their traps, or, at least, that he might not be wanting in a duty of friendship. f214 We certainly perceive—as I just now said—that those wicked men raged with cruel violence, when they did not even spare a poor young man, who had left his bed, almost naked, and run, on hearing the noise.
MATTHEW 26:57-61; MARK 14:53-59; LUKE 22:54
MATTHEW 26:57-61
MARK 14:53-59
LUKE 22:54
57. But they who had apprehended Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and elders were assembled. 58. And Peter followed him at a distance, as far as to the court of the high priest, and having gone in, he sat with the servants to see the end. 59. And the chief priests and elders, and the whole council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death, 60. And found none; even though many false witnesses came, they found none: but at length came two false witnesses, 61. Who said, This man said, I can destroy the temple of God, and build it in three days.
53. And they led Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, and elders, and scribes, assembled with him. 54. And Peter followed him at a distance, as far as to the palace of the high priest; and he sat along with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire. 55. And the chief priests, and the whole council, sought evidence against Jesus, to put him to death, and found none. 56. For many bore false witness against him, but their declarations did not agree. 57. Then some arose, and bore false witness against him, saying, 58. We have heard him say, I will destroy this temple, which was made with hands, and within three days I will build another, made without hands. 59. But even here their testimony did not agree.
54. And, having seized him, they led and brought him to the house of the high priest; and Peter followed at a distance.

Luke follows a different order from Matthew and Mark in the narrative; but when we come to the proper place, we will endeavor to reconcile the points in which they differ. It will be proper, in the meantime, to glance briefly at those things which claim our attention in the words of Matthew and Mark. First, in order to remove the offense of the cross, we ought to consider the advantage which we have derived from Christ’s emptying of himself, (<502007>Philippians 2:7;) for thus will the inestimable goodness of God, and the efficacy of his grace, be found to remove by its brightness every thing in it that was disagreeable or shameful. According to the flesh, it was disgraceful that the Son of God should be seized, bound, and made a prisoner; but when we reflect that by his chains we are loosed from the tyranny of the devil, and from the condemnation in which we were involved before God, not only is the stumbling-block, on which our faith might have struck, removed out of the way, but in place of it there comes an admiration of the boundless grace of God, who set so high a value on our deliverance, as to give up his only-begotten Son to be bound by wicked men. This will also be a pledge of the astonishing love of Christ towards us, that he spared not himself, but willingly submitted to wear fetters on his flesh, that our souls might be freed from fetters of a far worse description.
Matthew 26:57. But they who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas. Though the Jews had been deprived of what is called, the higher jurisdiction, there still lingered among them some vestiges of that judicial authority which the Law confers on the high priest, (<050108>Deuteronomy 1:8;) so that, while they had lost the absolute authority, f215 they retained the power of administering moderate correction. This is the reason why Christ is brought before the high priest to be interrogated; not that a final sentence may be pronounced on him by theft tribunal, but that the priests may afterwards present him before the governor, under the aggravating influence of their decision. f216 Caiaphas the high priest was also named Joseph, and this man—as we are told by the historian Josephus—was appointed to be high priest by Valerius Gratus, governor of Judea, when Simon, the son of Camithus, was deposed from that office. f217 The Evangelists give his surname only, f218 perhaps because he was more generally named, and better known, by it.
Matthew says that the priests assembled in the house of Caiaphas; and that they were already assembled at midnight, before Christ was brought, but because the place of meeting had been appointed, that, as soon as the information reached them, they might meet hastily at an early hour in the morning; though we have lately seen that some who belonged to the order of the priesthood went out by night, along with the soldiers, to seize Christ. But we have frequently seen, in other passages, that the Evangelists were not very exact in adhering to the order of time. In this passage, certainly, they had no other object in view than to show that the Son of God was oppressed by a wicked conspiracy of the whole council. And here a frightful and hideous spectacle is placed before our eyes; for nowhere else than at Jerusalem was there at that time either a temple of God, or lawful worship, or the face of a Church. The high priest was a figure of the only Mediator between God and men; those who sat along with him in the council represented the whole Church of God; and yet all of them unite in conspiring to extinguish the only hope Of salvation. But as it had been declared by prediction of David, that
the stone which the builders rejected would nevertheless become the head-stone of the corner, (<19B822>Psalm 118:22;)
and as Isaiah had foretold that
the God of armies would be to the whole people of Israel a stone of stumbling, on which they would dash themselves,
(<230814>Isaiah 8:14)
the Lord wisely made provision that such wickedness of men should not perplex believing souls.
59. Sought false witness. By these words the Evangelists remark, that nothing was farther from the design of the priests than to inquire into the cause, so that, when the matter was thoroughly understood, they might decide what was proper. For they had previously resolved to put Christ to death, and now they only seek a pretense for oppressing him. Now it is impossible that equity can have any place where an examination of the cause is not the first step. In seeking false witnesses, their treacherous cruelty is manifested; and when, after being disappointed of their expectation, they still do not desist, this affords a still more striking display of their blinded obstinacy. Thus, amidst the darkness of their rage, the innocence of the Son of God shone so brightly, that the devils themselves might know that he died innocent.
It ought to be observed, also, that the appellation of false witnesses is applied not to those who contrive a lie which had no foundation, but to those who calumniously pervert what was justly said, and turn it into a crime; an instance of which is here expressly related as to the destruction and rebuilding of the temple. Christ had indeed said, that when
the temple of his body was destroyed,
he would raise it up within three days, (<430219>John 2:19.)
The false witnesses do not now resort to some new contrivance, but they put a wrong interpretation on his words, as if he boasted that he would practice some juggling in building the temple. Now as the calumny was trivial and worthless, we may readily infer from it how greatly the priests and scribes were blinded by their fury, since, without any pretext, they demand that Christ shall be put to death.
MATTHEW 26:62-68; MARK 14:60-65;
LUKE 22:63-71
MATTHEW 26:62-68
MARK 14:60-65
LUKE 22:63-71
62. And the high priest, rising up, said to him, f219 Answerest thou nothing? What is it that those men testify against thee? 63. And Jesus was silent. And the high priest answering said to him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us if thou art the Christ, the Son of God. 64. Jesus saith to him, Thou hast said it; but yet I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. 65. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath blasphemed; what further need have we of witnesses? lo now you have heard his blasphemy. 66. What think you? And they answering said, He is worthy of death. 6 . Then they spat in his face, and gave him blows; f220 and others struck him on the face with the palms of their hands, 68. Saying, Prophesy to us Christ, Who was it that smote thee?
65. And the high priest, rising up in the midst, interrogated Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? What is it that those men testify against thee? 61. But he was silent, and answered nothing. Again the high priest interrogated, and said to him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? f221 62. And Jesus said, I am; and you shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. 63. And the high priest rent his garments, and said, What further need have we of witnesses? 64. You have heard the blasphemy: what think you? And they all condemned him to be worthy of death. 65. And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face with a veil, and to give him blows, and to say to him, Divine. f222 And the servants gave him blows.
63. And the men who held Jesus mocked him, and struck him; 64. And, having blindfolded him, struck him on the face. And they interrogated him, saying, Prophesy, Who is it that struck thee? 65. And many other abusive things they spoke against him. 66. And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people, and chief priests, and scribes, assembled, and led him into their council, 6 . Saying, Art thou the Christ? Tell us. And he said to them, If I tell you, you will not believe. 68. And if I also put a question, you will not answer me, nor let me go. 69. Hereafter shall the Son of man sit at the right hand of the power of God. 70. And they all said, Art thou then the Son of God? He said, f223 You say that I am. 71. And they said, What further testimony do we need? for we ourselves have heard from his own mouth.

Matthew 26:62. And the high priest, rising up. It is certain that Christ was silent when false witnesses pressed hard upon him, not only because they did not deserve a reply, but because he did not seek to be now acquitted, knowing that his hour was come. But Caiaphas triumphs over him on account of his silence, as if he was struck dumb by being vanquished; which is usually the case with men who are conscious of having done wrong. But it is an instance of extreme wickedness that he insinuates that Christ is not free from blame, because witnesses speak against him. The question, What is it that those men testify against thee? amounts to this: “How comes it that those men oppose thee, but because they are urged by conscientious views? For they would not have appeared against thee without a good reason.” As if he did not know that those witnesses had been procured by fraud: but this is the way in which wicked men, when they find themselves in the possession of authority and power, throw off sham and indulge in arrogance. Christ was again silent, not only because the objection was frivolous, but because, having been appointed to be a sacrifice, he had thrown aside all anxiety about defending himself.
63. I adjure thee by the living God. The high priest thought that this alone was a crime sufficient to condemn Christ, if he professed that he was the Christ. But since they all boasted of expecting redemption from Christ, he ought first to have inquired if such was the fact. That there would be a Christ, by whose hands the people were to be delivered, they would not have ventured to deny. Jesus came publicly forward, bearing the title of the Christ. Why do they not consider the fact itself? Why do they not examine the signs, by means of which a correct decision might have been formed? But, having already determined to put Christ to death, they are satisfied with this pretense of sacrilege, that he claimed for himself the glory of Divinity. And yet Caiaphas examines the matter on oath, as if he had been prepared to yield as soon as it was fully ascertained; but all the while his whole mind is filled with a malicious hatred and contempt of Christ, and is so blinded by pride and ambition, that he takes for granted, that as soon as the fact has been ascertained, without inquiring whether it is right or wrong, he will have just grounds for condemning him.
If thou art the Christ, the Son of God. From the words of Caiaphas we may infer, that it was at that time common among the Jews to bestow on the Messiah the title of the Son of God; for this form of interrogation could not have originated in any other way than from the ordinary custom; and, indeed, they had learned from the predictions of Scripture that he was not less the Son of God than the Son of David. It appears, too, that Caiaphas employed this epithet, with the view either of terrifying Christ, or of exciting a prejudice against him; as if he had said, “See where you are going; for you cannot call yourself the Christ, without claiming, at the same time, the appellation of Son of God, with which Scripture honors him.” Such is also his reason for using the word Blessed, which Mark gives instead of God; for this pretended reverence f224 for God was intended to bring a heavier charge against Christ than that of profaning the holy name of God.
64. Thou hast said it. Luke inserts another reply, by which Christ reproves the malice of the priests, in not inquiring with a desire to know. If I tell you, says he, you will not believe: by which words he means, that though he were to prove to them a hundred times that he was the Christ, it would be of no avail with obstinate men. For they had not only heard, but had beheld with their eyes miracles, which, though Christ had been silent, would have confirmed his heavenly and divine power, and would even have cried aloud, that he was the promised Redeemer.
He next adds a confession, which, though it is related in many words by Matthew, does not convey a different meaning. Jesus affirms that he is the Christ, not for the purpose of avoiding death, but rather of inflaming the rage of his enemies against him. Though at that time he was exposed to contempt, and almost annihilated, by his mean garb, he announces, that at the proper time he will at length come with royal majesty, that they may tremble before the Judge, whom they now refuse to acknowledge as the Author of salvation. The meaning therefore is, that they are widely mistaken, if from his present appearance they form a judgment of what he is; because it is necessary that he should be humbled, and almost reduced to nothing, before he appear adorned with the emblems of his royal power, and with magnificent splendor. For by this word hereafter he distinguishes between his first and second coming.
We may draw from this a useful doctrine, which is still more extensive. For how comes it that wicked men are so much at their ease? How comes it that they are so insolent in rebellion, but because they do not set a high value on the crucified Jesus? It is therefore necessary to remind them of a dreadful judgment, which, with all their stupidity, they will not be able to avoid. And though they ridicule as a fable what is said about the future coming of Christ, still it is not in vain that the Judge summons them to his tribunal and orders them to be summoned by the preaching of the Gospel, that they may be rendered the more inexcusable. But this announcement is fitted to be of very great use even to believers, that they may now with the eyes of hope look for Christ sitting at the right hand of the father, and patiently wait till he comes, and may likewise believe that the rage of wicked men against him, while absent, will not be without its consequences; for they will be compelled to behold him on high coming from heaven, whom now they not only despise, but even trample upon in their pride.
Sitting at the right hand of power. The metaphor contained in the term right hand must be well known, for it frequently occurs in Scripture. Christ then sits at the right hand of the Father, because he is his deputy; and it is called the right hand or power, a, because it is only through the agency of his Son that God now displays his power, and will execute judgment at the last day.
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, f225 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 26:69-75; MARK 14:66-72;
LUKE 22:55-62
MATTHEW 26:69-75
MARK 14:66-72
LUKE 22:55-62
69. Now Peter was sitting without in the court. And a maid cam to him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus the Galilean. 70. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. 71. And as he was going out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said to those who were there, This man also was with Jesus the Nazarene. 72. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. 73. After a little came those who were standing by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thou are convicted by thy speech. 74. Then he began to curse and to swear, that he did not know the man. And immediately the cock crew. 75. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, who had told him, Before the cock crow, thou wilt thrice deny me. And he went out, and wept bitterly.
66. And while Peter was below in the court, one of the maids of the high priest came; 67. And when she saw peter warming himself, she looked at him, and said, Thou also wast with Jesus the Nazarene. 68. But he denied, saying, I know him not, f226 nor do I understand what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch, and the cock crew. 69. And the maid, when she saw him again, began to say to those that stood by, This is one of them 70. But he denied it again. And a little after, those that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them; for thou art also a Galilean, and thy speech agreeth with it. 71. But he began to curse and to swear, (saying) I know not that man of whom you speak. 72. And the second time the cock crew; and Peter remembered the word which Jesus had spoken to him, Before the cock crow twice, thou wilt thrice deny me; and he began to weep. f227
55. And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and had sat down together, Peter also sat down and amongst them. 56. And when a certain maid saw him sitting near the fire, she fixed her eyes upon him, and said, This man also was with him. 57. But he denied him, saying, Woman, I do not know him. 58. And after a little while, another person, seeing him, said, Thou also wast one of them. But Peter said, Man, I am not. 59. And after the lapse of about an hour, another affirmed, saying, Undoubtedly this man was also with him; for he is a Galilean. 60. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he was still speaking, the cock crew. 61. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he said to him, Before the cock crow, thou wilt thrice deny me. 62. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

Peter’s fall, which is here related, is a bright mirror of our weakness. In his repentance, also, a striking instance of the goodness and mercy of God is held out to us. This narrative, therefore, which relates to a single individual, contains a doctrine which may be applied to the whole Church, and which indeed is highly useful, both to instruct those who are standing to cherish anxiety and fear, and to comfort those who have fallen, by holding out to them the hope of pardon. And first it ought to be observed, that Peter acted inconsiderately, when he entered into the hall of the high priest. It was his duty, no doubt, to follow his Master; but having been warned that he would revolt, he ought rather to have concealed himself in some corner, so as not to expose himself to an occasion of sinning. Thus it frequently happens that believers, under an appearance of virtue, throw themselves within the reach of temptation.
It is therefore our duty to pray to the Lord to restrain and keep us by his Spirit, lest, going beyond our measure, we be immediately punished. We ought also to pray, whenever we commence any undertaking, that he may not permit us to fail in the midst of our efforts, or at the beginning of the work, but may supply us with strength from heaven till the end. Conviction of our weakness ought not, indeed, to be a reason for indolence, to prevent us from going wherever God calls us; but it ought to restrain our rashness, that we may not attempt any thing beyond our calling; and it ought also to stimulate us to prayer, that God, who has given us grace to begin well, may also continue to give us grace to persevere.
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. f228 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, f229 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, f230 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. Tone 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” (<401231>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, (<401039>Matthew 10:39 <421209>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, (<270903>Daniel 9:3; <320306>Jonah 3:6; <401121>Matthew 11:21.)
MATTHEW 27:1-10; MARK 15:1; LUKE 23:1
MATTHEW 27:1-10
MARK 15:1
LUKE 23:1
1. But when it was morning, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus, to put him to death. 2. And they led him away bound, and delivered him to Pointius Pilate the governor. 3. Then Judas, who had betrayed him, perceiving that he was condemned, repented, and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4. Saying, I have sinned in betraying innocent blood. But they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. 5. And having thrown down the pieces of silver in the temple, he retired, and went away, and strangled himself. 6. And the chief priests, having taken the pieces of silver, said, It is not lawful for us to throw them into the treasury, for they are the price of blood. 7. And having taken counsel, they bought with them the potter’s field for a burying-place to strangers; 8. For which reason that field is called, The field of blood, to this day. 9. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, And they took thirty pieces of silver, the price of him who was valued, whom they of the children of Israel valued, 10. And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.
1. And immediately on the break of day, the chief priests, with the elders and scribes, and the whole council, after having deliberated, led Jesus away bound and delivered him to Pilate.
1. And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him away to Pilate.

Matthew 27:1. But when it was morning. The high priest, with his council, after having examined him at an unseasonable hour of the night, finally resolve, at sunrise, to place him at the bar of the governor. By so doing, they observe the form of judicial proceedings, that they may not be suspected of undue haste, when they run to Pilate at an unusually early hour, as usually happens in cases of tumult. But it is probable, that when Christ had been led away from their council, they immediately held a consultation, and, without long delay, resolved what they would do; for we have been already told at what time Christ went out from them and met Peter, which was after the cock-crowing, and just as day was breaking. The Evangelists, therefore, do not mean that they removed from the place, f231 but only relate, that as soon as it was daylight, they condemned Christ to death, and did not lose a moment in earnestly putting into execution their wicked design. What Luke formerly stated, (22:66,) that they assembled in the morning, ought not to be explained as referring to the very beginning, but to the last act, which is immediately added: as if he had said, that as soon as it was day, our Lord having acknowledged that he was the Son of God, they pronounced their sentence of his death. Now if they had been permitted to decide in taking away life, they would all have been eager, in their fury, to murder him with their own hands; but as Pilate had cognizance of capital crimes, they are constrained to refer the matter to his jurisdiction; only they entangle him by their own previous decision. f232 For the stoning of Stephen (<440759>Acts 7:59) took place in a seditious manner, as happens in cases of tumult; but it was proper that the Son of God should be solemnly condemned by an earthly judge, that he might efface our condemnation in heaven.
3. Then Judas, perceiving that he was condemned. By this adverb (to>te) then, Matthew does not fix the exact point of time; for we shall find him shortly afterwards adding, that Judas, when he saw that the priests disdainfully refused to take back the reward of his treason, threw it down in the temple. But from the house of Caiaphas they came straight to the Pretorium, and stood there until Christ was condemned. It can scarcely be supposed that they were found in the temple on that day; but as the Evangelist was speaking of the rage and madness of the council, he inserted also the death of Judas, by which their blind obstinacy, and the hardness of their hearts like iron, were more fully displayed.
He says that Judas repented; not that he reformed, but that the crime which he had committed gave him uneasiness; as God frequently opens the eyes of the reprobate, so as to begin to feel their miseries, and to be alarmed at them. For those who are sincerely grieved so as to reform, are said not only (metamelei~n), f233 but, also (metanoei~n), f233A from which is derived also (meta>noia), f233B which is a true conversion of the soul to God. So then, Judas conceived disgust and horror, not so as to turn to God, but rather that, being overwhelmed with despair, he might serve as an example of a man entirely shut out from the grace of God. Justly, indeed, does Paul say, that the sorrow which leads to repentance is salutary, (<470710>2 Corinthians 7:10;) but if a man stumble at the very threshold, he will derive no advantage from a confused and mistaken grief. What is more, this is a just punishment with which God at length visits the wicked, who have obstinately despised his judgment, that he gives them up to Satan to be tormented without the hope of consolation.
True repentance is displeasure at sin, arising out of fear and reverence for God, and producing, at the same time, a love and desire of righteousness. Wicked men are far from such a feeling; for they would desire to sin without intermission, and even, as far as lies in their power, they endeavor to deceive both God and their own conscience, f234 but notwithstanding their reluctance and opposition, they are tormented with blind horror by their conscience, so that, though they do not hate their sin, still they feel, with sorrow and distress, that it presses heavily and painfully upon them. This is the reason why their grief is useless; for they do not cheerfully turn to God, or even aim at doing better, but, being attached to their wicked desires, they pine away in torment, which they cannot escape. In this way, as I have just said, God punishes their obstinacy; for although his elect are drawn to him by severe chastisements, and as it were contrary to their will, yet he heals in due time the wounds which he has inflicted, so that they come cheerfully to him, by whose hand they acknowledge that they are struck, and by whose wrath they are alarmed. The former, therefore, while they have no hatred to sin, not only dread, but fly from the judgment of God, and thus, having received an incurable wound, they perish in the midst of their sorrows.
If Judas had listened to the warning of Christ, there would still have been place for repentance; but since he despised so gracious an offer of salvation, he is given up to the dominion of Satan, that he may throw him into despair. But if the Papists were right in what they teach in their schools about repentance, we could find no defect in that of Judas, to which their definition of repentance fully applies; for we perceive in it contrition of heart, and confession of the mouth, and satisfaction of deed, as they talk. Hence we infer, that they take nothing more than the bark; for they leave out what was the chief point, the conversion of the man to God, when the sinner, broken down by shame and fear, denies himself so as to render obedience to righteousness.
4. What is that to us? Here is described the stupidity and madness of the priests, since even after having been warned by the dreadful example of Judas, still they do not think about themselves. I do acknowledge that hypocrites, as they are accustomed to flatter themselves, had some plausible excuse at hand for distinguishing between their case and that of Judas; for they did not think that they were partakers of his crime, though they abused the treachery of Judas. But Judas not only confesses that he has sinned, but asserts the innocence of Christ; from which it follows, that they had meditated the death of a righteous man, and, therefore, that they were guilty of a detestable murder. Nor is there any room to doubt that God intended to sear their consciences with a hot iron, to discover the hidden corruption. Let us therefore learn, that when we see wicked persons, with whom we have any thing in common, filled with alarm, those are so many excitements to repentance, and that they who neglect such excitements aggravate their criminality. We ought also to believe, that the crime of one man can have no effect in acquitting all those who are in any way involved in it; and still more, that the leading perpetrators of a crime can gain no advantage by distinguishing between themselves and their agents, that they may not suffer the same punishment.
5. And he went away, and strangled himself. This is the price for which Satan sells the allurements by which he flatters wicked men for a time. He throws them into a state of fury, so that, voluntarily cutting themselves off from the hope of salvation, they find no consolation but in death. Though others would have permitted Judas to enjoy the thirty pieces of silver, by which he had betrayed Christ and his own salvation, he throws them down, and not only deprives himself of the use of them, but, along with the base reward of the death of Christ, he throws away also his own life. Thus, though God does not put forth his hand, wicked men are disappointed of their desires, so that, when they have obtained their wishes, they not only deprive themselves of the enjoyment of unsatisfying benefits, but even make cords for themselves. But though they are their own executioners by punishing themselves, they do not in any respect alleviate or diminish the severity of the wrath of God.
6. It is not lawful for us to throw it into the treasury. Hence it plainly appears that hypocrites, by attending to nothing more than the outward appearance, are guilty of gross trifling with God. Provided that they do not violate their Corban, (<410711>Mark 7:11,) they imagine that in other matters they are pure, and give themselves no concern about the infamous bargain, by which they, not less than Judas, had provoked against themselves the vengeance of God. But if it was unlawful to put into the sacred treasury the price of blood, why was it lawful for them to take the money out of it? for all their wealth was derived from the offerings of the temple, and from no other source did they take what they now scruple to mingle again with it as being polluted. Now, whence came the pollution but from themselves?
8. For a burying-place to strangers. The more that wicked men endeavor to conceal their enormities, the more does the Lord watch over them to bring those enormities to light. They hoped that, by an honorable disguise, they would bury their crime, were they to purchase a barren field for burying strangers. But the wonderful providence of God turns this arrangement to an opposite result, so that this field became a perpetual memorial of that treason, which had formerly been little known. For it was not themselves that gave this name to the place, but after the occurrence was generally known, the field was called, by common consent, The field of blood; as if God had commanded that their disgrace should be in every man’s mouth. It was a plausible design to provide a burying-place for strangers, if any of those who came up to Jerusalem from distant countries, for the purpose of sacrificing, should happen to die there. As some of them were of the Gentiles, I do not disapprove of the opinion of some ancient writers, that this symbol held out the hope of salvation to the Gentiles, because they were included in the price of the death of Christ; but as that opinion is more ingenious than solid, I leave it undetermined. The word corbana, (treasury,) is Chaldaic, and is derived from the Hebrew word (ˆbrq), (corban,) of which we have spoken elsewhere.
9. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet. How the name of Jeremiah crept in, I confess that I do not know nor do I give myself much trouble to inquire. The passage itself plainly shows that the name of Jeremiah has been put down by mistake, instead of Zechariah, (11:13;) for in Jeremiah we find nothing of this sort, nor any thing that even approaches to it. Now that other passage, if some degree of skill be not used in applying it, might seem to have been improperly distorted to a wrong meaning; but if we attend to the rule which the apostles followed in quoting Scripture, we shall easily perceive that what we find there is highly applicable to Christ. The Lord, after having complained that his labors were of no avail, so long as he discharged the office of a shepherd, says that he is compelled by the troublesome and unpleasant nature of the employment to relinquish it altogether, and, therefore, declares that he will break his crook, and will be a shepherd no longer. He afterwards adds, that when he asked his salary, they gave him thirty pieces of silver. The import of these words is, that he was treated quite contemptuously as if he had been some mean and ordinary laborer. For the ceremonies and vain pretenses, by which the Jews recompensed his acts of kindness, are compared by him to thirty pieces of silver, as if they had been the unworthy and despicable hire of a cowherd or a day-laborer; and, therefore, he bids them throw it before a potter in the temple; as if he had said: “As for this fine present which they make to me, which would not be less dishonorable in me to accept than it is contemptuous in them to offer it, let them rather spend it in purchasing tiles or bricks for repairing the chinks of the temple.” To make it still more evident that Christ is the God of armies, towards whom the people had been from the beginning malicious and ungrateful, when he
was manifested in the flesh, (<540316>1 Timothy 3:16,)
it became necessary that what had formerly been spoken figuratively should now be literally and visibly accomplished in his person. So, then, when he was compelled by their malice to take leave of them, and to withdraw his labors from them as unworthy of such a privilege, they valued him at thirty pieces of silver. And this disdain of the Son of God was the crowning act of their extreme impiety.
The price of him that was valued. Matthew does not quote the words of Zechariah; for he merely alludes to the metaphor, under which the Lord then complains of the ingratitude of the people. But the meaning is the same, that while the Jews ought to have entirely devoted themselves, and all that they possessed, to the Lord, they contemptuously dismissed him with a mean hire; as if, by governing them for so many ages, he had deserved nothing more than any cowherd would have received for the labors of a single year. He complains, therefore, that though he is beyond all estimation, he was rated by them at so low a price.
Whom they of the children of Israel did value. This expression, which he uses towards the close, must be taken in a general sense. Judas had struck a bargain with the priests, who were the avowed representatives of the whole people; so that it was the Jews who set up Christ for sale, and he was sold, as it were, by the voice of the public crier. The price was such as was fit to be given to a potter.
10. As the Lord appointed me. By this clause Matthew confirms the statement, that this was not done without the providence of God; because, while they have a different object in view, they unconsciously fulfill an ancient prediction. For how could it have occurred to them to purchase a field from a potter, if the Lord had not turned their blameworthy conduct so as to carry into execution his own purpose?
MATTHEW 27:11-14; MARK 15:2-5; LUKE 23:2-12
MATTHEW 27:11-14
MARK 15:2-5
LUKE 23:2-12
11. Now Jesus stood f235 before the governor. And the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus saith to him, Thou sayest it. f236 12. And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, and he answered nothing. 13. Then Pilate saith to him, Hearest thou not how many things they testify against thee? f237 14. And he did not answer him a single word, so that the governor was greatly astonished.
2. And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said to him, Thou sayest it. f236A 3. And the chief priests accused him of many things. 4. And Pilate again asked him, saying, Answerest thou nothing? Lo, how many things do they testify against thee? f237A 5. But Jesus again answered nothing, so that the governor wondered.
2. And they began to accuse him saying, We have found this man subverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying, that he is the Christ, a King. 3. And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said to him, Thou sayest it. f236B 4. And Pilate said to the chief priests and to the multitudes, I find no fault in this man. 5. But they persisted, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout the whole of Judea, beginning from Galilee even to this place. 6. And when Pilate heard mention made of Galilee, he asked if the man was a Galilean. 7. And as soon as he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who also was at Jerusalem at that time. 8. And when Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad; for he had long cherished a desire to see him, because had heard many things concerning him; and he hoped that he would see some miracle f238 wrought by him. 9. And he asked him in many words; but he made no reply to him. 10. And the chief priests and scribes stood, and vehemently accused him. 11. But Herod, with his attendants, despised him; and having mocked him, sent him back to Pilate clothed with a shining f239 robe. 12. And came friend; for previously they had been at enmity with each other.

Matthew 27:11. Now Jesus stood before the governor. Though it was a shocking exhibition, and highly incompatible with the majesty of the Son of God, to be dragged before the judgment-seat of a profane man, to be tried on the charge of a capital offense, as a malefactor in chains; yet we ought to remember that; our salvation consists in the doctrine of the cross, which is
folly to the Greeks, and an offense to the Jews,
(<460123>1 Corinthians 1:23.)
For the Son of God chose to stand bound before an earthly judge, and there to receive sentence of death, f240 in order that we, delivered from condemnation, may not fear to approach freely to the heavenly throne of God. If, therefore, we consider what advantage we reap from Christ having been tried before Pilate, the disgrace of so unworthy a subjection will be immediately washed away. And certainly none are offended at the condemnation of Christ, f241 but those who are either proud hypocrites, or stupid and gross despisers of God, who are not ashamed of their own iniquity.
So then, the Son of God stood, as a criminal, before a mortal man, and there permitted himself to be accused and condemned, that we may stand boldly before God. His enemies, indeed, endeavored to fasten upon him everlasting infamy; but we ought rather to look at the end to which the providence of God directs us. For if we recollect how dreadful is the judgment-seat of God, and that we could never have been acquitted there, unless Christ had been pronounced to be guilty on earth, we shall never be ashamed of glorying in his chains. Again, whenever we hear that Christ stood before Pilate with a sad and dejected countenance, let us draw from it grounds of confidence, that, relying on him as our intercessor, we may come into the presence of God with joy and alacrity. To the same purpose is what immediately follows: he did not answer him a single word. Christ was silent, while the priests were pressing upon him on every hand; and it was, in order that he might open our mouth by his silence. For hence arises that distinguished privilege of which Paul speaks in such magnificent terms, (<450815>Romans 8:15,) that we can boldly cry, Abba, Father; to which I shall immediately refer again.
Art thou the King of the Jews? Although they attempted to overwhelm Christ by many and various accusations, still it is probable that they maliciously seized on the title of King, in order to excite greater odium against him on the part of Pilate. For this reason Luke expressly represents them as saying, we have found him subverting the nation, and FORBIDDING TO GIVE TRIBUTE TO CAESAR, saying that he is the Christ, A KING. Nothing could have been more odious than this crime to Pilate, whose greatest anxiety was to preserve the kingdom in a state of quietness. From the Evangelist John we learn that he was accused on various grounds; but it is evident from the whole of the narrative that this was the chief ground of accusation. In like manner, even at the present day, Satan labors to expose the Gospel to hatred or suspicion on this plea, as if Christ, by erecting his kingdom, were overturning all the governments of the world, and destroying the authority of kings and magistrates. Kings too are, for the most part, so fiercely haughty, that they reckon it impossible for Christ to reign without some diminution of their own power; and, therefore, they always listen favorably to such an accusation as that which was once brought unjustly against Christ.
On this account Pilate, laying aside all the other points, attends chiefly to the sedition; because, if he had ascertained that Christ had in any way disturbed the public peace, he would gladly have condemned him without delay. This is the reason why he asks him about the kingdom. According to the three Evangelists, the answer of Christ is ambiguous; but we learn from John (18:36) that Christ made an open acknowledgment of the fact which was alleged against him; but, at the same time, that he vindicated himself from all criminality by denying that he was an earthly king. But as he did not intend to take pains to vindicate himself, as is usually the case with criminals, the Evangelists put down a doubtful reply; as if they had said, that he did not deny that he was a king, but that he indirectly pointed out the calumny which his enemies unjustly brought against him.
12. He answered nothing. If it be asked why the Evangelists say that Christ was silent, while we have just now heard his answer from their mouth, the reason is, that he had a defense at hand, but voluntarily abstained from producing it. And, indeed, what he formerly replied about the kingdom did not arise from a desire to be acquitted, but was only intended to maintain that he was the Redeemer anciently promised,
before whom every knee ought to bow, (<234523>Isaiah 45:23.)
Pilate wondered at this patience; for Christ, by his silence, allowed his innocence to be suspected, when he might easily have refuted frivolous and unfounded calumnies. The integrity of Christ was such that the judge saw it plainly without any defense. But Pilate wished that Christ might not neglect his own cause, and might thus be acquitted without giving offense to many people. And up to this point, the integrity of Pilate is worthy of commendation, because, from a favorable regard to the innocence of Christ, he urges him to defend himself.
But that we may not, like Pilate, wonder at the silence of Christ, as if it had been unreasonable, we must attend to the purpose of God, who determined that his Son—whom he had appointed to be a sacrifice to atone for our sins—should be condemned as guilty in our room, though in himself he was pure. Christ therefore was at that time silent, that he may now be our advocate, and by his intercession may deliver us from condemnation. He was silent, that we may boast that by his grace we are righteous. And thus was fulfilled the prediction of Isaiah, (53:7,) that he was led as a sheep to the slaughter.
And yet he gave, at the same time, that good confession, which Paul mentions, (<540612>1 Timothy 6:12,) a confession not by words, but by deeds; not that by which he consulted his own advantage, but that by which he obtained deliverance for the whole human race.
Luke 23:4. And Pilate said to the chief priests and scribes. As Christ was come to bear the punishment of our sins, it was proper that he should first be condemned by the mouth of his judge, that it might afterwards be evident that he was condemned for the sake of others, and not for his own. But as Pilate, from a dread of exciting a tumult, did not venture absolutely to acquit him, he willingly availed himself of the opportunity which presented itself, of submitting him to the jurisdiction of Herod. This Herod was he who bears the surname of Antipas to whom was left the tetrarchy of Galilee, when Archelaus was a prisoner at Vienna, and when Judea had been annexed to the province of Syria. Now though we shall shortly afterwards findLuke relating that this Mark of respect pacified Herod, who had formerly been enraged against Pilate, still his design was not so much to obtain Herod’s favor, as to get quit of a disagreeable affair under an honorable excuse, and thus to avoid the necessity of condemning Christ.
8. And when Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad. Hence it is evident how greatly wicked men are intoxicated, or rather bewitched, by their own pride; for though Herod did not acknowledge Christ to be the Son of God, he at least reckoned him to be a prophet. It was therefore most unreasonable cruelty to take pleasure in seeing him treated with contempt and disdain. But as if an injury had been done to him, so long as he had not obtained a sight of Christ, when he now sees him placed in his power, he triumphs as if he had obtained a victory. We see also what kind of love is cherished by wicked and irreligious men for prophets, in whom the power of God shines brightly. Herod had long wished to see Christ. Why then did he not wish to hear him, that he might profit by his doctrine? It was because he chose rather to amuse himself in beholding the divine power, than to view it, as he ought to have done, with devout and humble reverence. And this is the disposition of the flesh, so to desire to see God in his works, as not to submit to his authority; so to desire to see his servants, as to refuse to hear him speaking by them. And even Herod, though he hoped that some miracle would be performed by Christ, chose to have him placed at his feet as a malefactor rather than to receive him as a teacher. We need not wonder, therefore, if God conceal his glory from wicked men, who wished that he should contribute to their amusement, like some stage-player.
11. And Herod despised him. It was impossible but that a haughty man, who valued himself on his luxuries and royal dignity and wealth, should despise Christ, who had at that time nothing but what was contemptible in his appearance. And yet the pride of Herod, which shut the door on the grace of God, admits of no excuse. Nor can it be doubted that God, in order to punish him for his former indifference, purposely hardened his heart by such a spectacle; for he was unworthy of beholding in Christ any ray of heavenly glory; since he had so long shut his eyes on the full brightness, by which his whole country had been illuminated and adorned Herod, with his attendants. Luke relates not only that Christ was despised by Herod, but that he was despised by the whole of his retinue; and this is intended to inform us, that the honor which is due to God is seldom rendered to him in the courts of kings. For almost all courtiers, being addicted to pompous display, have their senses pre-occupied by so great vanity, that they carelessly despise, or pass by with closed eyes, the spiritual favors of God. But by this contempt of Christ we have acquired new dignity, so that we are now held in estimation by God and by angels.
12. Pilate and Herod became friends. From the fact that Christ was the occasion of reconciling two wicked men, let us learn how much the children of God, and religion itself, are disdained by the world. It is probable that, in consequence of their own ambition by which both were actuated, some dispute arose about their jurisdiction. But whatever may have been the origin of the quarrel, neither of them would have yielded to the other the smallest portion of his own rights in worldly matters; yet because Christ is set at naught, Pilate easily gives him up to Herod, and Herod, in his turn, sends him back to Pilate. f242 Thus in our own day we see, that when the judges enter into disputes with each other about robbers and other malefactors, the children of God are contemptuously thrown aside as if they were the merest refuse. f243 Hatred of religion often produces mutual harmony among wicked men, so that those who formerly had nothing in common unite together to extinguish the name of God. And yet when wicked men on both sides deliver up the children of God to death, it is not by what they consider to be a valuable price that they purchase mutual friendship, but what appears to them to be of no value whatever they not unwillingly surrender, just as if a person were to throw a crust of bread to a dog. But among us it is proper that Christ should produce a different kind of peace by putting an end to quarrels. Having first been reconciled to God, we ought to assist each other, by a devout and holy agreement, to follow righteousness, and to labor to discharge the duties of brotherly affection and of mutual humanity.
MATTHEW 27:15-23; MARK 15:6-14;
LUKE 23:13-23
MATTHEW 27:15-23
MARK 15:6-14
LUKE 23:13-23
15. Now the governor was wont at the festival to release to the multitude one prisoner, whomsoever they wished. 16. And they had at that time a notable prisoner, who was called Barabbas. 17. When hey were assembled, therefore, Pilate said, Which of them do you wish that I should release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus, who is called Christ? 18. For he knew that they had delivered him up through envy. 19. And while he was sitting on the judgment-seat, his wife sent to him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that righteous man; for I have suffered many thing today in a dream on his account. 20. But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the multitude to ask Barabbas, and put Jesus to death. 21. And the governor, answering, said to the, Which of the two do you wish that I shall release to you? And they said Barabbas. 22. Pilate said to them, What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ? They all say to him, Let him be crucified. 23. And the governor said, But what evil hath he done? But they cried so much the more, saying, Let him be crucified.
6. Now at the festival, he was wont to release to them one prisoner, whomsoever they demanded. 7. And there was one who was called Barabbas, who was a prisoner along with his accomplices in the insurrection, that had committed murder in the insurrection. 8. And the multitude, crying out, began to demand that he would do as he always had done to them. 9. And Pilate answered them, saying, Do you wish me to release to you the King of the Jews? 10. For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him up through envy. 11. And the chief priests stirred up the multitude, that he would rather release to them Barabbas. 12. And Pilate answering again, said to them, What then do you wish me to do with him whom you call King of the Jews? 13. But they cried out again, Crucify him. 14. And Pilate said to them, But what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more vehemently, Crucify him.
13. And Pilate, having assembled the chief priests, and magistrates, and the people, 14. Said to them, You have brought before me this man, as one who subverteth the people; and lo, having interrogated him in your presence, I find no fault in this man, as to those things of which you accuse him. 15. Nor even Herod; for I sent you to him, and lo, nothing worthy of death hath been done to him. f244 16. When I have chastised him, therefore, I will release him. 17. Now he was under the necessity of releasing to them one at the festival. 18. Then the whole multitude cried out together, saying, Take away this man, and release to us Barabbas; 19. Who had been put in prison on account of a certain insurrection that had been made in the city, and for murder. f245 20. And Pilate again spoke to them, desiring to release Jesus. 21. But they cried out, saying Crucify him, crucify him. 22. And a third time he said to them, But what evil hath he done? I find in him no fault worthy of death. I will therefore chastise him, and release him. 23. But they persisted with loud voices, demanding that he should be crucified; and their voices and those of the chief priests prevailed.

Matthew 27:15. Now the governor was wont at the festival Here is described to us, on the one hand, the insatiable cruelty of the priests, and, on the other, the furious obstinacy of the people; for both must have been seized with astonishing madness, when they were not satisfied with conspiring to put to death an innocent man, if they did not also, through hatred of him, release a robber. Thus wicked men after having once begun to fall, are driven headlong by Satan, so that they shrink from no crime, however detestable, but, blinded and stupefied, add sin to sin. There can be no doubt that Pilate, in order to prevail upon them through shame, selected a very wicked man, by contrast with whom Christ might be set free; and the very atrocity of the crime of which Barabbas was guilty ought justly to have made the resentment of the people to fall on him, that by comparison with him, at least, Christ might be released. But no disgrace makes either the priests, or the whole nation, afraid to ask that a seditious man and a murderer should be granted to them.
Meanwhile, we ought to consider the purpose of God, by which Christ was appointed to be crucified, as if he had been the basest of men. The Jews, indeed, rage against him with blinded fury; but as God had appointed him to be a sacrifice (ka>qarma) to atone for the sins of the world, f246 he permitted him to be placed even below a robber and murderer. That the Son of God was reduced so low none can properly remember without the deepest horror, and displeasure with themselves, and detestation of their own crimes. But hence also arises no ordinary ground of confidence; for Christ was sunk into the depths of ignominy, that he might obtain for us, by his humiliation, an ascent to the heavenly glory: he was reckoned worse than a robber, that he might admit us to the society of the angels of God. If this advantage be justly estimated, it will be more than sufficient to remove the offense of the cross.
The custom of having one of the prisoners released by the governor on the festival, to gratify the people, was a foolish and improper practice, and, indeed, was an open abuse of the worship of God; for nothing could be more unreasonable than that festivals should be honored by allowing crimes to go unpunished. God has armed magistrates with the sword, that they may punish with severity those crimes which cannot be tolerated without public injury; and hence it is evident that lie does not wish to be worshipped by a violation of laws and punishments. But since nothing ought to be attempted but by the rule of his word, all that men gain by methods of worshipping God which have been rashly contrived by themselves is, that under the pretense of honoring, they often throw dishonor upon Him. We ought therefore to preserve such moderation, as not to offer to God any thing but what he requires; for he is so far from taking pleasure in profane gift that they provoke his anger the more.
19. While he was sitting on the judgment-seat. Although the thoughts which had passed through the mind of Pilate’s wife during the day might be the cause of her dream, yet there can be no doubt that she suffered these torments, not in a natural way, (such as happens to us every day,) but by an extraordinary inspiration of God. It has been commonly supposed that the devil stirred up this woman, in order to retard the redemption of mankind; which is in the highest degree improbable, since it was he who excited and inflamed, to such a degree, the priests and scribes to put Christ to death. We ought to conclude, on the contrary, that God the Father took many methods of attesting the innocence of Christ, that it might evidently appear that he suffered death in the room of others,—that is, in our room. God intended that Pilate should so frequently acquit him with his own mouth before condemning him, that in his undeserved condemnation the true satisfaction for our sins might be the more brightly displayed. Matthew expressly mentions this, that none may wonder at the extreme solicitude of Pilate, when he debates with the people, in the midst of a tumult, for the purpose of saving the life of a man whom he despised. And, indeed, by the terrors which his wife, had suffered during the night, God compelled him to defend the innocence of his own Son; not to rescue him from death, but only to make it manifest, that in the room of others he endured that punishment which he had not deserved. As to dreams, which serve the purpose of visions, we have spoken elsewhere.
20. But the chief priests and elder’s persuaded the multitude. The Evangelist points out the chief instigators of the wicked proceedings; not that the foolish credulity of the people, who were influenced by others, admits of any excuse; but for the purpose of informing us that they were not, of their own accord, hostile to Christ, but that, having sold themselves to gratify the priests, they forget all justice and modesty, f247 as well as their own salvation. Hence we learn how pernicious is the influence of wicked men, who can easily turn in every direction, to all kind of wickedness, the giddy and changeful multitude. Yet we must attend to the design of the Evangelist, which was to show, that the death of Christ was so eagerly demanded by the voice of the people, not because he was universally hated, but because the greater part of them, ambitiously desirous to follow the inclination of their rulers, threw aside all regard to justice, and might be said to have sold and enslaved their tongue to the wicked conspiracy of a few.
22. What then shall I do with Jesus? Perceiving that they are so blinded by madness, that they do not hesitate, to their own great dishonor, to rescue a robber from death, Pilate resorts to another expedient for touching them to the quick, and bringing them to a sound mind. He argues that the death of Christ would bring disgrace on themselves, because it had been commonly reported of Jesus, that he was the King and the Christ. As if he had said, “If you have no compassion for the man, pay some regard, at least, to your own honor; for it will be generally thought by foreigners, that he was put to death for a chastisement to you all.” f248 Yet even this did not abate the fierceness of their cruelty, or hinder them from proceeding to manifest a greater degree of opposition to the public interests than of private hostility to Christ. Thus, according to Mark, Pilate, in order to wound them still more deeply, says that even themselves call Jesus the King; meaning, that this title was constantly used, as if it had been his ordinary surname. Yet, throwing aside all shame,. they obstinately insist on the murder of Christ, which brought along with it the disgrace of the whole nation. The Evangelist John (14:15) states a reply, which the other three Evangelists do not mention; namely, that they had no king but Caesar. Thus they choose rather to be deprived of the hope of the promised redemption, and to be devoted to perpetual slavery, than to receive the Redeemer, whom God had offered to them.
Luke 23:16. I will therefore chastise him, and release him. If any slight offense had been committed, which was not a capital crime, the Roman governors f249 were wont to cause the offenders to be beaten with rods; and this kind of punishment was called, in the Latin language, coerctio. Pilate, therefore, acts unjustly when, after pronouncing Christ to be free from all blame, he resolves to punish him, as if he had been guilty of an ordinary offense; for he not only declares that he has found in him no crime worthy of death, but asserts his innocence in the most unqualified manner. Why, then, does he beat him with rods? But earthly men, who are not confirmed by the Spirit of God in a constant wish to do what is right, even though they are desirous to maintain integrity, are accustomed, in this manner, to yield so far as to commit small injuries, when they are compelled. And not only do they reckon it a valid excuse, that they have not perpetrated a very heinous crime, but they even claim for themselves the praise of mildness, because they have, to some extent, spared the innocent. As to the Son of God, had he been dismissed in this manner, he would have carried with him the shame of having been scourged, without any advantage to our salvation; but on the cross, as in a magnificent chariot, he triumphed over his enemies and ours.
Would to God f250 that the world were not now filled with many Pilates! But we see that what was begun in the head is accomplished in the members. The Popish clergy persecute his holy servants with the same cruelty with which the Jewish priests cried out, demanding that Christ should be put to death. Many of the judges, indeed, willingly offer themselves as executioners to follow out their rage; f251 but when they shrink from shedding blood, so as to save innocent men from dying, they scourge Christ himself, who is the only righteousness of God. For when they compel the worshippers of God to deny the Gospel, for the purpose of saving their life, what else is it than to cause the name of Christ to undergo the disgrace of being beaten with rods? Yet in their defense they plead the violence of his enemies; as if this pretense were a sufficient cloak for their treacherous cowardice, which, if it was not excusable in Pilate, deserves to be viewed in them with the highest detestation. But though our three Evangelists pass by this circumstance, yet it is evident from the Evangelist John, (14:1,) that Christ was beaten with rods, while Pilate was still laboring to save his life, in order that so appalling a spectacle might appease the rage of the people. But John has also added, that it could not be appeased until the Author of life was put to death.
MATTHEW 27:24-32; MARK 15:15-21;
LUKE 23:24-32
MATTHEW 27:24-32
MARK 15:15-21
LUKE 23:24-32
24. But Pilate, perceiving that he gained nothing by it, but that the tumult became the greater, took water, and washed his hands before the people, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man: see you to it. 25. And the whole people, answering, said, His blood be on us and on our children. 26. Then he released to them Barabbas, and after having scourged Jesus, he delivered him up to be crucified. 27. Then the soldiers of the governor conducted Jesus into the Pretorium, and gathered around him the whole band. 28. And having stripped him, they put on him a scarlet robe. 29. And having wreathed a crown of thorns, they put it on his head, and a reed in his right hand; and kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! 30. And having spat on him, they took the reed and struck him on the head. 31. And after having mocked him, they stripped him of the robe, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him. 32. And as they were going out, they found a Cyrenian named Simon: him they constrained to bear his cross.
15. Pilate then wishing to satisfy the multitude, released Barabbas to them, and after having scourged Jesus, he delivered him up to be crucified. 16. And the soldiers conducted him into the hall, which is the Pretorium; and they gather together the whole band. 17. And they clothe him with purple, and put upon his head a crown interwoven with thorns. 18. And they began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews! 19. And they struck him on the head with a reed, and spat on him; and kneeling they worshipped him. 20. And having mocked him, they stripped him of the purple, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him. 21. And they compelled the one Simon, a Cyrenian, who was passing by, who was coming from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.
24. And Pilate decided that what they demanded should be done. 25. And he released to them him who, for sedition and murder, had been put in prison, whom they had desired; and delivered up Jesus to their will. 26. And as they were leading him away, they seized one Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming out of the country, and laid the cross upon him, to carry it after Jesus. 27. And there followed him a great multitude of people and of women, who also bewailed and lamented him. 28. And Jesus turning to them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29. For, lo, the days will come in which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that did not bear, and the breasts which did not give suck. 30. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us. 31. For if they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry? 32. Two others also, who were malefactors, were led with him to be crucified.

Matthew 27:24. But Pilate, perceiving that he gained nothing by it. As sailors, who have experienced a violent tempest, at last give way, and permit themselves to be carried out of the proper course; so Pilate, finding himself unable to restrain the commotion of the people, lays aside his authority as a judge, and yields to their furious outcry. And though he had long attempted to hold out, still the necessity does not excuse him; for he ought rather to have submitted to any amount of suffering than to have swerved from his duty. Nor is his guilt alleviated by the childish ceremony which he uses; for how could a few drops of water wash away the stain of a crime which no satisfaction of any kind could obliterate? His principal object in doing so was not to wash out his stains before God, but to exhibit to the people a Mark of abhorrence, to try if perhaps he might lead them to repent of their fury; as if he had employed such a preface as this, “Lo, you compel me to an unrighteous murder, to which I cannot come but with trembling and horror. What then shall become of you, and what dreadful vengeance of God awaits you, who are the chief actors in the deed?” But whatever might be the design of Pilate, God intended to testify, in this manner, the innocence of his Son, that it might be more manifest that in him our sins were condemned. The supreme and sole Judge of the world is placed at the bar of an earthly judge, is condemned to crucifixion as a malefactor, and—what is more—is placed between two robbers, as if he had been the prince of robbers. A spectacle so revolting might, at first sight, greatly disturb the senses of men, were it not met by this argument, that the punishment which had been due to us was laid on Christ, so that, our guilt having now been removed, we do not hesitate to come into the presence of the Heavenly Judge. Accordingly, the water, which was of no avail for washing away the filth of Pilate, ought to be efficacious, in the present day, for a different purpose, to cleanse our eyes from every obstruction, that, in the midst of condemnation, they may clearly perceive the righteousness of Christ.
25. His blood be on us. There can be no doubt that the Jews pronounced this curse on themselves without any concern, as if they had been fully convinced that they had a righteous cause before God; but their inconsiderate zeal carries them headlong, so that, while they commit an irreparable crime, they add to it a solemn imprecation, by which they cut themselves off from the hope of pardon. Hence we infer how carefully we ought to guard against headlong rashness in all our judgments. For when men refuse to make inquiry, and venture to decide in this or the other matter according to their own fancy, blind impulse must at length carry them to rage. And this is the righteous vengeance of God with which he visits the pride of those who do not deign to take the trouble of distinguishing between right and wrong. The Jews thought that, in slaying Christ, they were performing a service acceptable to God; but whence arose this wicked error, unless from wicked obstinacy, and from despising God himself? Justly, therefore, were they abandoned to this rashness of drawing upon themselves final ruin. But when the question relates to the worship of God and his holy mysteries, let us learn to open our eyes, and to inquire into the matter with reverence and sobriety, lest through hypocrisy and presumption we become stupefied and enraged.
Now as God would never have permitted this execrable word to proceed from the mouth of the people, if their impiety had not been already desperate, so afterwards he justly revenged it by dreadful and unusual methods; and yet by an incredible miracle he reserved for himself some remnant, that his covenant might not be abolished by the destruction of the whole nation. He had adopted for himself the seed of Abraham, that it might be
a chosen nation, a royal priesthood, his peculiar people and inheritance, (<600209>1 Peter 2:9.)
The Jews now conspire, as with one voice, to renounce a favor so distinguished. Who would not say that the whole nation was utterly rooted out from the kingdom of God? But God, through their treachery, renders more illustrious the fidelity of his promise, and, to show that he did not in vain make a covenant with Abraham, he rescues from the general destruction those whom he has elected by free grace. Thus the truth of God always rises superior to all the obstacles raised by human unbelief.
26. Then he released to them Barabbas. Our three Evangelists do not mention what is related by John, (15:13,) that Pilate ascended the judgment-seat to pronounce sentence from it; for they only state that the clamor of the people and the confused tumult prevailed on him basely to deliver up Christ to death. But both of these things must be observed, that a compliance was forced from him contrary to his will, and yet that he exercised the office of a judge in condemning him whom he pronounces to be innocent. For if the Son of God had not been free from all sin, we would have had no right to look for satisfaction from his death; and, on the other hand, if he had not become our surety, to endure the punishment which we had deserved, we would now have been involved in the condemnation of our sins. So then God determined that his Son should be condemned in a solemn manner, that he might acquit us for his sake.
But even the severity of the punishment serves to confirm our faith, not less than to impress our minds with dread of the wrath of God, and to humble us by a conviction of our miseries. For if we are desirous to profit aright by meditating on the death of Christ, we ought to begin with cherishing abhorrence of our sins, in proportion to the severity of the punishment which he endured. This will cause us not only to feel displeasure and shame of ourselves, but to be penetrated with deep grief, and therefore to seek the medicine with becoming ardor, and at the same time to experience confusion and trembling. For we must have hearts harder than stones, if we are not cut to the quick by the wounds of the Son of God, if we do not hate and detest our sins, for expiating which the Son of God endured so many torments. But as this is a display of the dreadful vengeance of God, so, on the other hand, it holds out to us the most abundant grounds of confidence; for we have no reason to fear that our sins, from which the Son of God acquits us by so valuable a ransom, will ever again be brought into judgment before God. For not only did he endure an ordinary kind of death, in order to obtain life for us, but along with the cross he took upon him our curse, that no uncleanness might any longer remain in us.
27. Then the soldiers of the governor. It is not without reason that these additional insults are related. We know that it was not some sort of ludicrous exhibition, when God exposed his only-begotten Son to every kind of reproaches. First, then, we ought to consider what we have deserved, and, next, the satisfaction offered by Christ ought to awaken us to confident hope. Our filthiness deserves that God should hold it in abhorrence, and that all the angels should spit upon us; but Christ, in order to present us pure and unspotted in presence of the Father, resolved to be spat upon, and to be dishonored by every kind of reproaches. For this reason, that disgrace which he once endured on earth obtains for us favor in heaven, and at the same time restores in us the image of God, which had been not only stained, but almost obliterated, by the pollutions of sin. Here, too, is brightly displayed the inconceivable mercy of God towards us, in bringing his only-begotten Son so low on our account. This was also a proof which Christ gave of his astonishing love towards us, that there was no ignominy to which he refused to submit for our salvation. but these matters call for secret meditation, rather than for the ornament of words.
We are also taught that the kingdom of Christ ought not to be estimated by the sense of the flesh, but by the judgment of faith and of the Spirit. For so long as our minds grovel in the world, we look: upon his kingdom not only as contemptible, but even as loaded with shame and disgrace; but as soon as our minds rise by faith to heaven, not only will the spiritual majesty of Christ be presented to us, so as to obliterate all the dishonor of the cross, but the spittings, scourgings, blows, and other indignities, will lead us to the contemplation of his glory; as Paul informs us, that
God hath given him a name, and the highest authority, that before him every knee might bow, because he willingly emptied himself (ejke>nwse) even to the death of the cross, (<502308>Philippians 2:8-10.)
If, therefore, even in the present day, the world insolently mocks at Christ, let us learn to rise above these offenses by elevated faith; and let us not stop to inquire, what unworthy opposition is made to Christ by wicked men, but with what ornaments the Father hath clothed him, with what scepter and with what crown he hath adorned him, so as to raise him high, not only above men, but even above all the angels.
Mark uses the word purple instead of scarlet; but though these are different colors, we need not trouble ourselves much about that matter. That Christ was clothed with a costly garment is not probable; and hence we infer that it was not purple, but something that bore a resemblance to it, as a painter counterfeits truth by his likenesses.
32. They found a man, a Cyrenian. This circumstance points out the extreme cruelty both of the Jewish nation and of the soldiers. There is no reason to doubt that it was then the custom for malefactors to carry their own crosses to the place of punishment, but as the only persons who were crucified were robbers, who were men of great bodily strength, they were able to bear such a burden. It was otherwise with Christ, so that the very weakness of his body plainly showed that it was a lamb that was sacrificed. Perhaps, too, in consequence of having been mangled by scourging, and broken down by many acts of outrage, he bent under the weight of the cross. Now the Evangelists relate that the soldiers constrained a man who was a peasant, and of mean rank, to carry the cross; because that punishment was reckoned so detestable, that every person thought himself polluted, if he only happened to put his hand to it. f252 But God ennobles by his heralds the man who was taken from the lowest dregs of the people to perform a mean and infamous office; for it is not a superfluous matter, that the Evangelists not only mention his name, but inform us also about his country and his children. Nor can there be any doubt that God intended, by this preparation, to remind us that we are of no rank or estimation in ourselves, and that it is only from the cross of his Son that we derive eminence and renown.
Luke 23:27. And there followed him. Although in public all the people, with one shout, had condemned Christ, yet we see that there were some who had not forgotten his doctrine and miracles; and thus, in the midst of that miserable dispersion, God reserved for himself a small remnant. And though the faith of those women was weak, yet it is probable that there was a hidden seed of piety, which afterwards in due time produced fruit. Yet their lamentation served to condemn the wicked and shocking cruelty of the men, who had conspired with the scribes and priests to put Christ to death But Luke’s design was different, namely, to inform us, that when the wickedness of men breaks out into unrestrained disorder, God does not indolently look on, to see what they are doing, but sits as a judge in heaven, to punish them soon for their unjust cruelty; and that we ought not to despise his vengeance, because he delays it till the proper time, but that we ought to dread it before he appears.
28. Weep not. Some have thought that the women are reproved, because foolishly and inconsiderately they poured out tears to no purpose. On the contrary, Christ does not simply reprove them, as if it were improperly and without a cause that they were weeping, but warns them that there will be far greater reason for weeping on account of the dreadful judgment of God which hangs over them; as if he had said, that his death was not the end, but the beginning, of evils to Jerusalem and to the whole nation; and in this way he intimates, that he was not abandoned to the wickedness of man in such a manner as not to be the object of Divine care. For, from the punishment which immediately followed, it was manifest that the life of Christ was dear to God the Father, at the time when all imagined that he had been wholly forsaken and cast off.
These words do indeed show plainly with what exalted fortitude Christ was endued; for he could not have spoken in this manner, if he had not advanced to death with a steady and firm step. But the principal object is to show, that under this mean and revolting aspect he is still under the eye of God, and that wicked men, who now proudly triumph, as if they had obtained a victory, will not long enjoy their foolish mirth, for it will quickly be followed by an astonishing change. This doctrine is even now of use to us, when we learn that Christ was not less dear to his Father, because for a moment he was deprived of his aid, but that he set so high a value on our salvation, that he did not even spare his only-begotten Son. He gave a remarkable proof of this, when he razed to the foundation, and destroyed, along with its inhabitants, the Holy City, in which he had chosen his only sanctuary. Let us learn from this to rise to meditation on the cause of the death of Christ; for since God revenged it with such severity, he would never have permitted his Son to endure it, unless he had intended that it should be an expiation for the sins of the world.
29. For, lo, the days will come. He threatens, that a calamity which is not usual, but fearful and unheard of, is at hand, in which will be perceived, at a glance, the vengeance of God. As if he had said, that this nation will not be carried away by a single or ordinary kind of destruction, but that it will perish under a mass of numerous and great calamities, so that it would be much more desirable that the mountains should fall upon them, and crush them, or that the earth should open and swallow them up, than that they should pine away amidst the cruel torments of a lingering destruction. Nor did those threatenings fall to the ground without effect, but this thunder of words was surpassed by the awful result, as is evident from Josephus. And as the wish to be crushed by the mountains, and the cursing of their children, were expressive of the lowest despair, Christ taught by these words that the Jews would at length feel that they had made war, not with a mortal man, but with God. Thus shall the enemies of God reap the just reward of their impious rage, when they who formerly dared even to attack heaven, shall in vain desire to employ the earth as a shield against his vengeance.
31. If they do these things in the green tree. By this sentence Christ confirms what he had stated, that his death will not remain unpunished, and that the Jews, whose iniquity is ripe, or rather half-rotten, will not remain long in their present condition; and by a familiar comparison, he proves it to be impossible but that the fire of the divine wrath shall immediately kindle and devour them. We know that dry wood is wont to be first thrown into the fire; but if what is moist and green be burnt, much less shall the dry be ultimately spared. The phrase, if they do, may be taken indefinitely for if it be done f253 and the meaning will be: “If green wood is thrown into the fire before the time, what, think you, shall become of what is dry and old?” But some perhaps will prefer to view it as a comparison of men with God, as if Christ had said: “Wicked men, who resemble dry wood, when they have basely murdered the righteous, will find that their time is prepared by God. For how could they who are already devoted to destruction escape the hand of the heavenly Judge, who grants them so much liberty for a time against the good and innocent?”
Whether you choose to interpret it in the one or the other of these ways, the general meaning is, that the lamentation of the women is foolish, if they do not likewise expect and dread the awful judgment of God which hangs over the wicked. And whenever our distress of mind, arising from the bitterness of the cross, goes to excess, it is proper to soothe it by this consolation, that God, who now permits his own people to be unjustly oppressed, will not ultimately allow the wicked to escape punishment. If we were not sustained by this hope, we must unavoidably sink under our afflictions. Though it be the natural and more frequent practice to make a fire of dry wood rather than of green wood, yet God pursues a different order; for, while he allows tranquillity and ease to the reprobate, he trains his own people by a variety of afflictions, and therefore their condition is more wretched than that of others, if we judge of it from the present appearance. But this is an appropriate remedy, if we patiently look for the whole course of the judgment of God; for thus we shall perceive that the wicked gain nothing by a little delay; for when God shall have humbled his faithful servants by fatherly chastisements, he will rise with a drawn sword against those whose sins he appeared for a time not to observe.
MATTHEW 27:33-38; MARK 15:22-28;
LUKE 23:33-34, 38
MATTHEW 26:33-38
MARK 15:22-28
LUKE 23:33-34, 38
33. And they came to a place which is called Golgotha, which is the place of Calvary. f254 34. And they gave him to drink vinegar mingled with gall; and when he had tasted it, he would not drink. 35. And after they had crucified him, they parted his garments by casting lots; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments, and cast lots on my raiment. 36. And sitting down they watched him there. 37. And they placed over his head his accusation written, this is jesus the king of the jews. 38. Then were crucified with him two robbers, one at his right hand, and the other at his left.
22. And they bring him to the place of Golgotha, which is, if you interpret it, The place of Calvary. f254A 23. And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh, but he did not receive it. 24. And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, (to decide) what every one should take. 25. And it was the third hour, and they crucified him. f255 26. And the inscription of his accusation was written, the king of the jews. 27. And they crucify with him two robbers, one at his right hand, and the other at his left. 28. And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, f256 And he was ranked with malefactors.
33. Having come to the place which is called Calvary, f254B there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one at his right hand, and the other at his left. 34. And Jesus said, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And, parting his garments, they cast lots (A little after.) 38. And there was also an inscription written over him, in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew characters, this is the king of the jews.

Matthew 27:33. And they came to the place. Jesus was brought to the place where it was customary to execute criminals, that his death might be more ignominious. Now though this was done according to custom, still we ought to consider the loftier purpose of God; for he determined that his Son should be cast out of the city as unworthy of human intercourse, that he might admit us into his heavenly kingdom with the angels. For this reason the apostle, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, (13:12,) refers it to an ancient figure of the law. For as God commanded his people to burn without the camp the bodies of those animals, the blood of which was carried into the sanctuary to make atonement for sins, (<022914>Exodus 29:14; <031627>Leviticus 16:27;) so he says that Christ went out of the gate of the city, that, by taking upon him the curse which pressed us down, he might be regarded as accursed, and might in this manner atone for our sins. f257 Now the greater the ignominy and disgrace which he endured before the world, so much the more acceptable and noble a spectacle did he exhibit in his death to God and to the angels. For the infamy of the place did not hinder him from erecting there a splendid trophy of his victory; nor did the offensive smell of the carcasses which lay there hinder the sweet savor of his sacrifice from diffusing itself throughout the whole world, and penetrating even to heaven.
34. And they gave him vinegar. Although the Evangelists are not so exact in placing each matter in its due order, as to enable us to fix the precise moment at which the events occurred; yet I look upon it as a probable conjecture that, before our Lord was elevated on the cross, there was offered to him in a cup, according to custom, wine mingled with myrrh, or some other mixture, which appears to have been compounded of gall and vinegar. It is sufficiently agreed, indeed, among nearly all interpreters, that this draught was different from that which is mentioned by John, (14:29,) and of which we shall speak very soon. I only add, that I consider the cup to have been offered to our Lord when he was about to be crucified; but that after the cross was lifted up, a sponge was then dipped and given to him. At what time he began to ask something to drink, I am not very anxious to inquire; but when we compare all the circumstances, it is not unreasonable to suppose that, after he had refused that bitter mixture, it was frequently in derision presented to his lips. For we shall find Matthew afterwards adding that the soldiers, while they were giving him to drink, upbraided him for not being able to rescue himself from death. Hence we infer that, while the remedy was offered, they ridiculed the weakness of Christ, because he had complained that he was forsaken by God, (<402749>Matthew 27:49.)
As to the Evangelist John’s narrative, it is only necessary to understand that Christ requested that some ordinary beverage might be given him to assuage his thirst, but that vinegar, mingled with myrrh and gall, was attempted to be forced upon him for hastening his death. But he patiently bore his torments, so that the lingering pain did not lead him to desire that his death should be hastened; for even this was a part of his sacrifice and obedience, to endure to the very last the lingering exhaustion.
They are mistaken, in my opinion, who look upon the vinegar as one of the torments which were cruelly inflicted on the Son of God. There is greater probability in the conjecture of those who think that this kind of beverage had a tendency to promote the evacuation of blood, and that on this account it was usually given to malefactors, for the purpose of accelerating their death. Accordingly, Mark calls it wine mingled with myrrh. Now Christ, as I have just now hinted, was not led to refuse the wine or vinegar so much by a dislike of its bitterness, as by a desire to show that he advanced calmly to death, according to the command of the Father, and that he did not rush on heedlessly through want of patience for enduring pain. Nor is this inconsistent with what John says, that the Scripture was fulfilled, In my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. For the two accounts perfectly agree with each other; that a remedy was given to him in order to put an end to the torments of a lingering death, and yet that Christ was in every respect treated with harshness, so that the very alleviation was a part, or rather was an augmentation, of his pain.
35. They parted his garments. It is certain that the soldiers did this also according to custom, in dividing among themselves the clothes of a man who had been condemned to die. One circumstance was perhaps peculiar, that they cast lots on a coat which was without seam, (<431923>John 19:23.) But though nothing happened to Christ in this respect but what was done to all who were condemned to die, still this narrative deserves the utmost attention. For the Evangelists exhibit to us the Son of God stripped of his garments, in order to inform us, that by this nakedness we have obtained those riches which make us honorable in the presence of God. God determined that his own Son should be stripped of his raiment, that we, clothed with his righteousness and with abundance of all good things, may appear with boldness in company with the angels, whereas formerly our loathsome and disgraceful aspect, in tattered garments, kept us back from approaching to heaven. Christ himself permitted his garments to be torn in pieces like a prey, that he might enrich us with the riches of his victory.
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet. When Matthew says that thus was fulfilled the prediction of David,
they part my garments among them, and cast the lot upon my vesture, (<192218>Psalm 22:18,)
we must understand his meaning to be, that what David complained of, as having been done to himself metaphorically and figuratively, was literally, (as the common phrase is,) and in reality, exhibited in Christ. For by the word garments David means his wealth and honors; as if he had said that, during his life, and under his own eyes, he was prey to enemies, who had robbed his house, and were so far from sparing the rest of his property, that they even carried off his wife. This cruelty is represented even more strikingly by the metaphor, when he says that his garments were divided by lot. Now as he was a shadow and image of Christ, he predicted, by the spirit of prophecy, what Christ was to suffer. In his person, therefore, this is worthy of observation, that the soldiers plundered his raiment, because in this pillage we discern the signs and marks by which he was formerly pointed out. It serves also to remove the offense with which the sense of the flesh might otherwise have regarded his nakedness, since he suffered nothing which the Holy Spirit does not declare to belong truly and properly to the person of the Redeemer.
Mark 15:25. And it was the third hour. This appears not to agree well with the testimony of the Evangelist John; for he relates that Christ was condemned about the sixth hour, (14:14.) But if we consider—what is evident from other passages—that the day was divided into four parts, and that each of the parts took its name from the first hour of its commencement, the solution will not be difficult. The whole time, from sunrise to the second part of the day, they called the first hour. The second part, which lasted till noon, was called by them the third hour. The sixth hour commenced at noon, and lasted till three or four o’clock in the afternoon. Thus, when the Jews saw that Pilate was wearing out the time, and that the hour of noon was approaching, John says that they cried out the more vehemently, that the whole day might not be allowed to pass without something being done, (14:15.) But this is not inconsistent with the assertion, that our Lord was crucified about the close of the third hour; for it is plain enough, that no sooner was he hastily condemned, than he was immediately executed; so eager was the desire of the Jews to put him to death. Mark therefore means not the beginning, but the close, of the third hour; and it is highly probable that Christ did not hang on the cross longer than three hours.
Luke 23:34. And Jesus said, Father, forgive them. By this expression Christ gave evidence that he was that mild and gentle lamb, which was to be led out to be sacrificed, as Isaiah the prophet had foretold, (53:7.) For not only does he abstain from revenge, but pleads with God the Father for the salvation of those by whom he is most cruelly tormented. It would have been a great matter not to think of rendering evil for evil, (<600309>1 Peter 3:9;) as Peter, when he exhorts us to patience by the example of Christ, says that he did not render curses for curses, and did not revenge the injuries done to him, but was fully satisfied with having God for his avenger (<600223>1 Peter 2:23.) But this is a far higher and more excellent virtue, to pray that God would forgive his enemies.
If any one think that this does not agree well with Peter’s sentiment, which I have just now quoted, the answer is easy. For when Christ was moved by a feeling of compassion to ask forgiveness from God for his persecutors, this did not hinder him from acquiescing in the righteous judgment of God, which he knew to be ordained for reprobate and obstinate men. Thus when Christ saw that both the Jewish people and the soldiers raged against him with blind fury, though their ignorance was not excusable, he had pity on them, and presented himself as their intercessor. Yet knowing that God would be an avenger, he left to him the exercise of judgment against the desperate. In this manner ought believers also to restrain their feelings in enduring distresses, so as to desire the salvation of their persecutors, and yet to rest assured that their life is under the protection of God, and, relying on this consolation, that the licentiousness of wicked men will not in the end remain unpunished, not to faint under the burden of the cross.
Of this moderation Luke now presents an instance in our Leader and Master; for though he might have denounced perdition against his persecutors, he not only abstained from cursing, but even prayed for their welfare. But it ought to be observed that, when the whole world rises against us, and all unite in striving to crush us, the best remedy for over-coming temptation is, to recall to our remembrance the blindness of those who fight against God in our persons. For the result will be, that the conspiracy of many persons against us, when solitary and deserted, will not distress us beyond measure; as, on the other hand, daily experience shows how powerfully it acts in shaking weak persons, when they see themselves attacked by a great multitude. And, therefore, if we learn to raise our minds to God, it will be easy for us to look down, as it were, from above, and despise the ignorance of unbelievers; for whatever may be their strength and resources, still they know not what they do.
It is probable, however, that Christ did not pray for all indiscriminately, but only for the wretched multitude, who were carried away by inconsiderate zeal, and not by premeditated wickedness. For since the scribes and priests were persons in regard to whom no ground was left for hope, it would have been in vain for him to pray for them. Nor can it be doubted that this prayer was heard by the heavenly Father, and that this was the cause why many of the people afterwards drank by faith the blood which they had shed.
37. And placed over his head. What is briefly noticed by Matthew and Mark is more fully related by Luke, (23:38,) that the inscription was written in three languages. John also describes it more largely, (14:19-22.) Under this passage my readers will find what I pass over here for the sake of brevity. I shall only say, that it did not happen without the providence of God, that the death of Christ was made known in three languages. Though Pilate had no other design than to bring reproach and infamy on the Jewish nation, yet God had a higher end in view; for by this presage he caused it to be widely known that the death of his Son would be highly celebrated, so that all nations would everywhere acknowledge that he was the King promised to the Jews. This was not, indeed, the lawful preaching of the Gospel, for Pilate was unworthy to be employed by God as a witness for his Son; but what was afterwards to be accomplished by the true ministers was prefigured in Pilate. In short, we may look upon him to be a herald of Christ in the same sense that Caiaphas was a prophet, (<431151>John 11:51.)
38. Then were crucified with him two robbers. It was the finishing stroke of the lowest disgrace when Christ was executed between two robbers; for they assigned him the most prominent place, as if’ he had been the prince of robbers. If he had been crucified apart from the other malefactors, there might have appeared to be a distinction between his case and theirs; but now he is not only confounded with them, but raised aloft, as if he had been by far the most detestable of all. On this account Mark applies to him the prediction of Isaiah, (53:12) he was reckoned among transgressors; for the prophet expressly says concerning Christ, that he will deliver his people, not by pomp and splendor, but because he will endure the punishment clue to their sins. In order that he might free us from condemnation, this kind of expiation was necessary, that he might place himself in, our room. Here we perceive how dreadful is the weight of the wrath of God against sins, for appeasing which it became necessary that Christ, who is eternal justice, should be ranked with robbers. We see, also, the inestimable love of Christ towards us, who, in order that he might admit us to the society of the holy angels, permitted himself to be classed as one of the wicked.
MATTHEW 27:39-44; MARK 15:29-32;
LUKE 23:35-37, 39-42
MATTHEW 27:39-44
MARK 15:29-32
LUKE 23:35-37, 39-43
39. And they that passed by reviled him, shaking their heads, 40. And saying, Thou who destroyedst the temple, and buildedst it in three days, save thyself; if thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross. 41. In like manner also the chief priests mocking, with the scribes and elders, said, 42. He saved others, himself he cannot save; if he is the King of Israel, let him now descend from the cross, and we will believe him. 43. He trusted in God. Let him deliver him now, if he favors him; for he said, I am the Son of God. 44. The robbers also, who were crucified with him, upbraided him in the same manner.
29. And they that passed by reviled him, shaking their heads, and saying, O, thou who destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, 30. Save thyself, and come down from the cross. 31. In like manner also the chief priests mocking, said among themselves, with the scribes, He saved others, himself he cannot save. 32. Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him upbraided him.
35. And the people stood gazing, and the rulers along with them mocked him, saying, He saved others, let him save himself, if he is the Christ, the elect of God. 36. The soldiers also mocked him, approaching, and offering him vinegar, 37. And saying, If thou art the King of the Jews, save thyself. (And a little after.) 39. And one of the malefactors, who were executed, reviled him, saying, If thou art the Christ, save thyself and us. 40. And the other answering, rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou at least fear God, since thou art in the same condemnation? 41. And we indeed justly; for we receive what is due to our actions, but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42. And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me, when thou shalt come into thy kingdom. 43. Jesus said to him, Verily, I say to thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Matthew 27:39. And they that passed by.. These circumstances carry great weight; for they place before us the extreme abasement of the Son of God, that we may see more clearly how much our salvation cost him, and that, reflecting that we justly deserved all the punishments which he endured, we may be more and more excited to repentance. For in this exhibition God hath plainly showed to us how wretched our condition would have been, if we had not a Redeemer. But all that Christ endured in himself ought to be applied for our consolation. This certainly was more cruel than all the other tortures, that they upbraided, and reviled, and tormented him as one that had been cast off and forsaken by God, (<235304>Isaiah 53:4.) And, therefore, David, as the representative of Christ, complains chiefly of this among the distresses which he suffered; (<192207>Psalm 22:7.) And, indeed, there is nothing that inflicts a more painful wound on pious minds than when ungodly men, in order to shake their faith, upbraid them with being deprived of the assistance and favor of God. This is the harsh persecution with which, Paul tells us, Isaac was tormented by Ishmael, (<480429>Galatians 4:29;) not that he attacked him with the sword, and with outward violence, but that, by turning the grace of God into ridicule, he endeavored to overthrow his faith. These temptations were endured, first by David, and afterwards by Christ him-self, that they might not at the present day strike us with excessive alarm, as if they had been unusual; for there never will be wanting wicked men who are disposed to insult our distresses. And whenever God does not assist us according to our wish, but conceals his aid for a little time, it is a frequent stratagem of Satan, to allege that our hope was to no purpose, as if his promise had failed.
40. Thou who destroyedst the temple. They charge Christ with teaching falsehood, because, now that it is called for, he does not actually display the power to which he laid claim. But if their unbridled propensity to cursing had not deprived them of sense and reason, they would shortly afterwards have perceived clearly the truth of his statement. Christ had said,
Destroy this temple, and after three days I will raise it up,
(<430219>John 2:19;)
but now they indulge in a premature triumph, and do not wait for the three days that would elapse from the commencement of its destruction. Such is the daring presumption of wicked men, when, under the pretense of the cross, they endeavor to cut them off from the hope of the future life. “Where,” say they, “is that immortal glory of which weak and credulous men are accustomed to boast? while the greater part of them are mean and despised, some are slenderly provided with food, others drag out a wretched life, amidst uninterrupted disease; others are driven about in flight, or in banishment; others pine away in prisons, and others are burnt and reduced to ashes?” Thus are they blinded by the present corruption of our outward man, so as to imagine that the hope of the future restoration of life is vain and foolish but our duty is to wait for the proper season of the promised building, and not to take it ill if we are now crucified with Christ, that we may afterwards be partakers of his resurrection, (<450605>Romans 6:5, 6.)
If thou art the Son of God. Wicked men demand from Christ such a proof of His power that, by proving himself to be the Son of God, he may cease to be the Son of God. He had clothed himself with human flesh, and had descended into the world, on this condition, that, by the sacrifice of his death, he might reconcile men to God the Father. So then, in order to prove himself to be the Son of God, it was necessary that he should hang on the cross. And now those wicked men affirm that the Redeemer will not be recognized as the Son of God, unless he come clown from the cross, and thus disobey the command of his Father, and, leaving incomplete the expiation of sins, divest himself of the office which God had assigned to him. But let us learn from it to confirm our faith by considering that the Son of God determined to remain nailed to the cross for the sake of our salvation, until he had endured most cruel torments of the flesh, and dreadful anguish of soul, and even death itself. And lest we should come to tempt God in a manner similar to that in which those men tempted him, let us allow God to conceal his power, whenever it pleases Him to do so, that he may afterwards display it at his pleasure at the proper time and place. The same kind of depravity appears in the other objection which immediately follows :—
42. If he is the King, of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we shall believe him. For they ought not to embrace as King any one who did not answer to the description given by the prophets. But Isaiah (52:14; 53:2) and Zechariah (13:7) expressly represent Christ as devoid of comeliness, afflicted, condemned, and accursed, half-dead, poor, and despised, before he ascends the royal throne. It is therefore foolish in the Jews to desire one of an opposite character, whom they may acknowledge as King; for, by so doing, they declare that they have no good-will to the King whom the Lord had promised to give. But let us, on the contrary, that our faith may firmly rely on Christ, seek a foundation in his cross; for in no other way could he be acknowledged to be the lawful King of Israel than by fulfilling what belonged to the Redeemer. And hence we conclude how dangerous it is to depart from the word of God by wandering after our speculations. For the Jews, in consequence of having imagined to themselves a King who had been suggested to them by their own senses, rejected Christ crucified, because they reckoned it absurd to believe in him; while we regard it as the best and highest reason for believing, that he voluntarily subjected himself on our account to the ignominy of the cross.
He saved others; himself he cannot save. It was an ingratitude which admits of no excuse, that, taking offense at the present humiliation of Christ, they utterly disregard all the miracles which he had formerly performed before their eyes. They acknowledge that he saved others. By what power, or by what means? Why do they not in this instance, at least, behold with reverence an evident work of God? But since they maliciously exclude, and—as far as lies in their power—endeavor to extinguish the light of God which shone in the miracles, they are unworthy of forming an accurate judgment of the weakness of the cross. Because Christ does not immediately deliver himself from death, they upbraid him with inability. And it is too customary with all wicked men to estimate the power of God by present appearances, so that whatever he does not accomplish they think that he cannot accomplish, and so they accuse him of weakness, whenever he does not comply with their wicked desire. But let us believe that Christ, though he might easily have done it, did not immediately deliver himself from death, but it was because he did not wish to deliver himself. And why did he for the time disregard his own safety, but because he cared more about the salvation of us all? We see then that the Jews, through their malice, employed, in defense of their unbelief, those things by which our faith is truly edified.
43. He trusted in God. This, as I said a little ago, is a very sharp arrow of temptation which Satan holds in his hand, when he pretends that God has forgotten us, because He does not relieve us speedily and at the very moment. For since God watches over the safety of his people, and not only grants them seasonable aid, but even anticipates their necessities, (as Scripture everywhere teaches us,) he appears not to love those whom he does not assist. Satan, therefore, attempts to drive us to despair by this logic, that it is in vain for us to feel assured o the love of God, when we do not clearly perceive his aid. And as he suggests to our minds this kind of imposition, so he employs his agents, who contend that God has sold and abandoned our salvation, because he delays to give his assistance. We ought, therefore, to reject as false this argument, that God does not love those whom he appears for a time to forsake; and, indeed, nothing is more unreasonable than to limit his love to any point of time. God has, indeed, promised that he will be our Deliverer; but if he sometimes wink at our calamities, we ought patiently to endure the delay. It is, therefore, contrary to the nature of faith, that the word now should be insisted on by those whom God is training by the cross and by adversity to obedience, and whom he entreats to pray and to call on his name; for these are rather the testimonies of his fatherly love, as the apostle tells us, (<581206>Hebrews 12:6.) But there was this peculiarity in, Christ, that, though he was the well-beloved Son, (<400317>Matthew 3:17; 17:5,) yet he was not delivered from death, until he had endured the punishment which we deserved; because that was the price by which our salvation was purchased. f258 Hence it follows again that the priests act maliciously, when they infer that he is not the Son of God, because he performs the office which was enjoined upon him by the Father.
44. And the robbers also. Matthew and Mark, by synecdoche, attribute to the robbers what was done only by one of them, as is evident from Luke. And this mode of expression ought not to be accounted harsh; for the two Evangelists had no other design than to show that Christ was attacked on every hand by the reproaches of all men, so that even the robbers, who were fast dying, did not spare him. In like manner David, deploring his calamities, exhibits their violence in a strong light by saying, that he is the reproach of all sorts of men, and despised by the people. Now although they leave out the memorable narrative which Luke relates as to the other robber, still there is no inconsistency in their statement, that Christ was despised by all, down to the very robbers; for they do not speak of particular individuals, but of the class itself. Let us now, therefore, come to what is stated by Luke.
Luke 23:39. And one of the malefactors. This reproach, which the Son of God endured from the robber, obtained for us among angels the very high honor of acknowledging us to be their brethren. But at the same time, an example of furious obstinacy is held out to us in this wretched man, since even in the midst of his torments he does not cease fiercely to foam out his blasphemies. Thus desperate men are wont to take obstinate revenge for the torments which they cannot avoid. f259 And although he upbraids Christ with not being able to save either himself or others, yet this objection is directed against God himself; just as wicked men, when they do not obtain what they wish, would willingly tear God from heaven. They ought, indeed, to be tamed to humility by strokes; but this shows that the wicked heart, which no punishments can bend, is hard like iron.
40. And the other answering. In this wicked man a striking mirror of the unexpected and incredible grace of God is held out to us, not only in his being suddenly changed into a new man, when he was near death, and drawn from hell itself to heaven, but likewise in having obtained in a moment the forgiveness of all the sins in which he had been plunged through his whole life, and in having been thus admitted to heaven before the apostles and first-fruits of the new Church. First, then, a remarkable instance of the grace of God shines in the conversion of that man. For it was not by the natural movement of the flesh that he laid aside his fierce cruelty and proud contempt of God, so as to repent immediately, but he was subdued by the hand of God; as the whole of Scripture shows that repentance is His work. And so much the more excellent is this grace, that it came beyond the expectation of all. For who would ever have thought that a robber, in the very article of death, would become not only a devout worshiper of God, but a distinguished teacher of faith and piety to the whole world, so that we too must receive from his mouth the rule of a true and proper confession? Now the first proof which he gave of his repentance was, that he severely reproved and restrained the wicked forwardness of his companion. He then added a second, by humbling himself in open acknowledgment of his crimes, and ascribing to Christ the praise due to his righteousness. Thirdly, he displayed astonishing faith by committing himself and his salvation to the protection of Christ, while he saw him hanging on the cross and near death.
Dost not thou fear God? Though these words are tortured in various ways by commentators, yet the natural meaning of them appears to me to be, What is the meaning of this, that even this condemnation does not compel thee to fear God? For the robber represents it as an additional proof of the hard-heartedness of his companion, that when reduced to the lowest straits, he does not even now begin to fear God. But to remove all ambiguity, it is proper to inform the reader that an impudent and detestable blasphemer, who thought that he might safely indulge in ridicule, is summoned to the judgment-seat of God; for though he had remained all his life unmoved, he ought to have trembled when he saw that the hand of God was armed against him, and that he must soon render an account of all his crimes; It was, therefore, a proof of desperate and diabolical obstinacy, that while God held him bound by the final judgment, he did not even then return to a sound mind; for if there had been the smallest particle of godliness in the heart of that man, he would at least have been constrained to yield to the fear of God. We now perceive the general meaning of his words, that those men, in whom even punishments do not produce amendment, are desperate, and totally destitute of the fear of God.
I interpret the words ejn tw~ aujtw|~ kri>mati to mean not in the same condemnation, but during the condemnation itself; f260 as if the robber had said, Since thou art even now in the jaws of death, thou oughtest to be aroused to acknowledge God as thy Judge. Hence, too, we draw a useful doctrine, that those whom punishments do not train to humility do altogether resist God; for they who possess any fear of God must necessarily be overwhelmed with shame, and struck silent.
41. And we indeed justly. As the reproof founded on the condemnation might be thought to apply to Christ, the robber here draws a distinction between the condition of Christ and that of himself and his companion, or he acknowledges, that the punishment which was common to all the three was justly inflicted on him and his companion, but not on Christ, who had been dragged to the punishment of death, not by his own crime, but by the cruelty of enemies. But we ought to remember what I said a little ago, that the robber gave a proof of his repentance, such as God demands from all of us, when he acknowledged that he was now receiving the reward due to his actions. Above all, it ought to be observed, that the severity of the punishment did not hinder him from patiently submitting to dreadful tortures. And, therefore, if we truly repent of our crimes, let us learn to confess them willingly and without hypocrisy, whenever it is necessary, and not to refuse the disgrace which we have deserved. For the only method of burying our sins before God and before angels is, not to attempt to disguise them before men by vain excuses. Again, among the various coverings on which hypocrisy seizes, the most frequent of all is, that every one draws in others along with himself, that he may excuse himself by their example The robber, on the other hand, is not less eager to maintain the innocence of Christ, than he is frank and open in condemning himself and his companion.
42. Lord, remember me. I know not that, since the creation of the world, there ever was a more remarkable and striking example of faith; and so much the greater admiration is due to the grace of the Holy Spirit, of which it affords so magnificent a display. A robber, who not only had not been educated in the school of Christ, but, by giving himself up to execrable murders, had endeavored to extinguish all sense of what was right, suddenly rises higher than all the apostles and the other disciples whom the Lord himself had taken so much pains to instruct; and not only so, but he adores Christ as a King while on the gallows, celebrates his kingdom in the midst of shocking and worse than revolting abasement, and declares him, when dying, to be the Author of life. Even though he had formerly possessed right faith, and heard many things about the office of Christ, and had even been confirmed in it by his miracles, still that knowledge might have been overpowered by the thick darkness of so disgraceful a death. But that a person, ignorant and uneducated, and whose mind was altogether corrupted, should all at once, on receiving his earliest instructions, perceive salvation and heavenly glory in the accursed cross, was truly astonishing. For what marks or ornaments of royalty did he see in Christ, so as to raise his mind to his kingdom? And, certainly, this was, as it were, from the depth of hell to rise above the heavens. To the flesh it must have appeared to be fabulous and absurd, to ascribe to one who was rejected and despised, (Isaiah 53:3) whom the world could not endure, an earthly kingdom more exalted than all the empires of the world. Hence we infer how acute must have been the eyes of his mind, by which he beheld life in death, exaltation in ruin, glory in shame, victory in destruction, a kingdom in bondage.
Now if a robber, by his faith, elevated Christ—while hanging on the cross, and, as it were, overwhelmed with cursing—to a heavenly throne, woe to our sloth f261, if we do not behold him with reverence while sitting at the right hand of God; if we do not fix our hope of life on his resurrection; if our aim is not towards heaven where he has entered. Again, if we consider, on the other hand, the condition in which he was, when he implored the compassion of Christ, our admiration of his faith will be still heightened. With a mangled body, and almost dead, he is looking for the last stroke of the executioner and yet he relies on the grace of Christ alone. First, whence came his assurance of pardon, but because in the death of Christ, which all others look upon as detestable, he beholds a sacrifice of sweet savor, efficacious for expiating the sins of the world. f262 And when he courageously disregards his tortures, and is even so forgetful of himself, that he is carried away to the hope and desire of the hidden life, this goes far beyond the human faculties. From this teacher, therefore, whom the Lord has appointed over us to humble the pride of the flesh, let us not be ashamed to learn the mortification of the flesh, and patience, and elevation of faith, and steadiness of hope, and ardor of piety; for the more eagerly any man follows him, so much the more nearly will he approach to Christ.
43. Verily I tell thee. Though Christ had not yet made a public triumph over death, still he displays the efficacy and fruit of his death in the midst of his humiliation. And in this way he shows that he never was deprived of the power of his kingdom; for nothing more lofty or magnificent belongs to a divine King, f263 than to restore life to the dead. So then, Christ, although, struck by the hand of God, he appeared to be a man utterly abandoned, yet as he did not cease to be the Savior of the world, he was always endued with heavenly power for fulfilling his office. And, first, we ought to observe his inconceivable readiness in so kindly receiving the robber without delay, and promising to make him a partaker f264 of a happy life. There is therefore no room to doubt that he is prepared to admit into his kingdom all, without exception, who shall apply to him. Hence we may conclude with certainty that we shall be saved, provided that he remember us; and it is impossible that he shall forget those who commit to him their salvation.
But if a robber found the entrance into heaven so easy, because, while he beheld on all sides ground for total despair, he relied on the grace of Christ; much more will Christ, who has now vanquished death, stretch out his hand to us from his throne, to admit us to be partakers of life. For since Christ has
nailed to his cross the handwriting which was opposed to us, (<510214>Colossians 2:14,)
and has destroyed death and Satan, and in his resurrection has triumphed over the prince of the world, (<431231>John 12:31,) it would be unreasonable to suppose that the passage from death to life will be more laborious and difficult to us than to the robber. Whoever then in dying shall commit to Christ, in true faith, the keeping of his soul, will not be long detained or allowed to languish in suspense; but Christ will meet his prayer with the same kindness which he exercised towards the robber. Away, then, with that detestable contrivance of the Sophists about retaining the punishment when the guilt is removed; for we see how Christ, in acquitting him from condemnation, frees him also from punishment. Nor is this inconsistent with the fact, that the robber nevertheless endures to the very last the punishment which had been pronounced upon him; for we must not here imagine any compensation which serves the purpose of satisfaction for appeasing the judgment of God, (as the Sophists dream,) but the Lord merely trains his elect by corporal punishments to displeasure and hatred of sin. Thus, when the robber has been brought by fatherly discipline to self-denial Christ receives him, as it were, into his bosom, and does not send him away to the fire of purgatory.
We ought likewise to observe by what keys the gate of heaven was opened to the robber; for neither papal confession nor satisfactions are here taken into account, but Christ is satisfied with repentance and faith, so as to receive him willingly when he comes to him. And this confirms more fully what I formerly suggested, that if any man disdain to abide by the footsteps of the robber, and to follow in his path, he deserves everlasting destruction, because by wicked pride he shuts against himself the gate of heaven. And, certainly, as Christ has given to all of us, in the person of the robber, a general pledge of obtaining forgiveness, so, on the other hand, he has bestowed on this wretched man such distinguished honor, in order that, laying aside our own glory, we may glory in nothing but the mercy of God alone. If each of us shall truly and seriously examine the subject, we shall find abundant reason to be ashamed of the prodigious mass of our crimes, so that we shall not be offended at having for our guide and leader a poor wretch, who obtained salvation by free grace. Again, as the death of Christ at that time yielded its fruit, so we infer from it that souls, when they have departed from their bodies, continue to live; otherwise the promise of Christ, which he confirms even by an oath, would be a mockery.
Today shalt thou be with me in paradise. We ought not to enter into curious and subtle arguments about the place of paradise. Let us rest satisfied with knowing that those who are engrafted by faith into the body of Christ are partakers of that life, and thus enjoy after death a blessed and joyful rest, until the perfect glory of the heavenly life is fully manifested by the coming of Christ.
One point still remains. What is promised to the robber does not alleviate his present sufferings, nor make any abatement of his bodily punishment. This reminds us that we ought not to judge of the grace of God by the perception of the flesh; for it will often happen that those to whom God is reconciled are permitted by him to be severely afflicted. So then, if we are dreadfully tormented in body, we ought to be on our guard lest the severity of pain hinder us from tasting the goodness of God; but, on the contrary, all our afflictions ought to be mitigated and soothed by this single consolation, that as soon as God has received us into his favor, all the afflictions which we endure are aids to our salvation. This will cause our faith not only to rise victorious over all our distresses, but to enjoy calm repose amidst the endurance of sufferings.
MATTHEW 27:45-56; MARK 15:33-41;
LUKE 23:44-49
MATTHEW
27:45-56
MARK 15:33-41
LUKE 23:44-49
45. Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over the whole land f265 till the ninth hour. 46. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? 47. And some of those who were standing by, when they heard it, said, He calleth Elijah. 48. And immediately one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and fastened it to a reed, and gave him to drink. 49. But others said, Let him alone, let us see if Elijah will come to save him. 50. And Jesus having again cried with a loud voice, gave up his spirit. 51. And, lo, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth trembled, and the rocks were split, 52. And graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had slept arose, 53. And came out of their graves, after his resurrection, and came into the holy city and appeared to many. 54. Now the centurion, and they who were with him guarding Jesus, when they saw the earthquake, and those things which were done, were exceedingly terrified, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. 55. And there were there many women looking on at a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him: 56. Among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
33. But when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over all the land f265A till the ninth hour. 34. And the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, when interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? 35. And some of those who were standing by, when they heard it, said, Lo, he calleth for Elijah. 36. And some one ran, and filled a sponge with vinegar, and fastened it to a reed, and held it out to him to drink, saying, Let him alone, let us see if Elijah will come to take him down. 37. And Jesus, having uttered a loud voice, expired. 38. And the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom. 39. And when the centurion, who was standing opposite to him, saw that he thus expired after crying aloud, he said, Certainly this man was the Son of God. 40. And there were also women looking on from a distance, among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of James the less and of Joses, and of Salome; 41. (Who also, when he was in Galilee, had followed him, and ministered to him,) and many others, who had also gone up with him to Jerusalem.
44. Now it was about the sixth hour; and there was darkness over all the land f266 till the ninth hour. 45. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. 46. And Jesus having cried with a loud voice, said, Father into thy hands I commit my spirit. And having said this, he expired. 47. And when the centurion saw what happened, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man. 48. And all the multitudes who were present at that spectacle, when they saw what was done, returned, smiting their breasts. 49. And all his acquaintances, and the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, beholding these things.

Matthew 27:45. Now from the sixth hour. Although in the death of Christ the weakness of the flesh concealed for a short time the glory of the Godhead, and though the Son of God himself was disfigured by shame and contempt, and, as Paul says, was emptied, (<502007>Philippians 2:7) yet the heavenly Father did not cease to distinguish him by some marks, and during his lowest humiliation prepared some indications of his future glory, in order to fortify the minds of the godly against the offense of the cross. Thus the majesty of Christ was attested by the obscuration of the sun, by the earthquake, by the splitting of the rocks, and the rending of the veil, as if heaven and earth were rendering the homage which they owed to their Creator.
But we inquire, in the first place, what was the design of the eclipse of the sun? For the fiction of the ancient poets in their tragedies, that the light of the sun is withdrawn from the earth whenever any shocking crime is perpetrated, was intended to express the alarming effects of the anger of God; and this invention unquestionably had its origin in the ordinary feelings of mankind. In accordance with this view, some commentators think that, at the death of Christ, God sent darkness as a Mark of detestation, as if God, by bringing darkness over the sun, hid his face from beholding the blackest of all crimes. Others say that, when the visible sun was extinguished, it pointed out the death of the Sun of righteousness. Others choose to refer it to the blinding of the nation, which followed shortly afterwards. For the Jews, by rejecting Christ, as soon as he was removed from among them, were deprived of the light of heavenly doctrine, and nothing was left to them but the darkness of despair.
I rather think that, as stupidity had shut the eyes of that people against the light, the darkness was intended to arouse them to consider the astonishing design of God in the death of Christ. For if they were not altogether hardened, an unusual change of the order of nature must have made a deep impression on their senses, so as to look forward to an approaching renewal of the world. Yet it was a terrific spectacle which was exhibited to them, that they might tremble at the judgment of God. And, indeed, it was an astonishing display of the wrath of God that he did not spare even his only begotten Son, and was not appeased in any other way than by that price of expiation.
As to the scribes and priests, and a great part of the nation, who paid no attention to the eclipse of the sun, but passed it by with closed eyes, their amazing madness ought to strike us with horror; f267 for they must have been more stupid than brute beasts, who when plainly warned of the severity of the judgment of heaven by such a miracle, did not cease to indulge in mockery. But this is the spirit of stupidity and of giddiness with which God intoxicates the reprobate, after having long contended with their malice. Meanwhile, let us learn that, when they were bewitched by the enchantments of Satan, the glory of God, however manifest, was afterwards hidden from them, or, at least, that their minds were darkened, so that, seeing they did not see, (<401314>Matthew 13:14.) But as it was a general admonition, it ought also to be of advantage to us, by informing us that the sacrifice by which we are redeemed was of as much importance as if the sun had fallen from heaven, or if the whole fabric of the world had fallen to pieces; for this will excite in us deeper horror at our sins.
As to the opinion entertained by some who make this eclipse of the sun extend to every quarter of the world, I do not consider it to be probable. For though it was related by one or two authors, still the history of those times attracted so much attention, that it was impossible for so remarkable a miracle to be passed over in silence by many other authors, who have described minutely events which were not so worthy of being recorded. Besides, if the eclipse had been universal throughout the world, it would have been regarded as natural, and would more easily have escaped the notice of men. f268 But when the sun was shining elsewhere, it was a more striking miracle that Judea was covered with darkness.
46. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried. Though in the cry which Christ uttered a power more than human was manifested, yet it was unquestionably drawn from him by intensity of sorrow. And certainly this was his chief conflict, and harder than all the other tortures, that in his anguish he was so far from being soothed by the assistance or favor of his Father, that he felt himself to be in some measure estranged from him. For not only did he offer his body as the price of our reconciliation with God, but. in his soul also he endured the punishments due to us; and thus he became, as Isaiah speaks, a man of sorrows, (53:3.) Those interpreters are widely mistaken who, laying aside this part of redemption, attended solely to the outward punishment of the flesh; for in order that Christ might satisfy for us, f269 it was necessary that he should be placed as a guilty person at the judgment-seat of God. Now nothing is more dreadful than to feel that God, whose wrath is worse than all deaths, is the Judge. When this temptation was presented to Christ, as if, having God opposed to him, he were already devoted to destruction, he was seized with horror, which would have been sufficient to swallow up a hundred times all the men in the world; but by the amazing power of the Spirit he achieved the victory. Nor is it by hypocrisy, or by assuming a character, that he complains of having been forsaken by the Father. Some allege that he employed this language in compliance with the opinion of the people, but this is an absurd mode of evading the difficulty; for the inward sadness of his soul was so powerful and violent, that it forced him to break out into a cry. Nor did the redemption which he accomplished consist solely in what was exhibited to the eye, (as I stated a little ago,) but having undertaken to be our surety, he resolved actually to undergo in our room the judgment of God.
But it appear absurd to say that an expression of despair escaped Christ. The reply is easy. Though the perception of the flesh would have led him to dread destruction, still in his heart faith remained firm, by which he beheld the presence of God, of whose absence he complains. We have explained elsewhere how the Divine nature gave way to the weakness of the flesh, so far as was necessary for our salvation, that Christ might accomplish all that was required of the Redeemer. We have likewise pointed out the distinction between the sentiment of nature and the knowledge of faith; and, there ore, the perception of God’s estrangement from him, which Christ had, as suggested by natural feeling, did not hinder him from continuing to be assured by faith that God was reconciled to him. This is sufficiently evident from the two clauses of the complaint; for, before stating the temptation, he begins by saying that he betakes himself to God as his God, and thus by the shield of faith he courageously expels that appearance of forsaking which presented itself on the other side. In short, during this fearful torture his faith remained uninjured, so that, while he complained of being forsaken, he still relied on the aid of God as at hand.
That this expression eminently deserves our attention is evident from the circumstance, that the Holy Spirit, in order to engrave it more deeply on the memory of men, has chosen to relate it in the Syriac language; f270 for this has the same effect as if he made us hear Christ himself repeating the very words which then proceeded from his mouth. So much the more detestable is the indifference of those who lightly pass by, as a matter of jesting, the deep sadness and fearful trembling which Christ endured. No one who considers that Christ undertook the office of Mediator on the condition of suffering our condemnation, both in his body and in his soul, will think it strange that he maintained a struggle with the sorrows of death, as if an offended God had thrown him into a whirlpool of afflictions.
47. He calleth Elijah. Those who consider this as spoken by the soldiers, ignorant and unskilled in the Syriac language, and unacquainted with the Jewish religion, and who imagine that the soldiers blundered through a resemblance of the words, are, in my opinion, mistaken. I do not think it at all probable that they erred through ignorance, but rather that they deliberately intended to mock Christ, and to turn his prayer into an occasion of slander. For Satan has no method more effectual for ruining the salvation of the godly, than by dissuading them from calling on God. For this reason, he employs his agents to drive off from us, as far as he can, the desire to pray. Thus he impelled the wicked enemies of Christ basely to turn his prayer into derision, intending by this stratagem to strip him of his chief armor. And certainly it is a very grievous temptation, when prayer appears to be so far from yielding any advantage to us, that God exposes his name to reproaches, instead of lending a gracious car to our prayers. This ironical language, therefore—or rather this barking of dogs—amounts to saying that Christ has no access to God, because, by imploring Elijah, he seeks relief in another quarter. Thus we see that he was tortured on every hand , in order that, overwhelmed with despair, he might abstain from calling on God, which was, to abandon salvation. But if the hired brawlers of Antichrist, as well as wicked men existing in the Church, are now found to pervert basely by their calumnies what has been properly said by us, let us not wonder that the same thing should happen to our Head. Yet though they may change God into Elijah, when they have ridiculed us to their heart’s content, God will at length listen to our groanings, and will show that he vindicates his glory, and punishes base falsehood.
48. And immediately one ran. As Christ had once refused to drink, it may be conjectured with probability, that it was repeatedly offered to him for the sake of annoyance; though it is also not improbable that the vinegar was held out to him in a cup before he was raised aloft, and that a sponge was afterwards applied to his mouth, while he was hanging on the cross.
Mark 15:36. Saying, Let him alone, let us see if Elijah will come to save him. Mark relates these words as having been spoken by the soldier, while holding out the vinegar; but Matthew tells us that others used the same language. There is no inconsistency here, however; for it is probable that the jeering was begun by one person, but was eagerly seized by others, and loudly uttered by the multitude. The phrase, let him alone, appears to have implied not restraint, but ridicule; accordingly, the person who first mocked Christ, ironically addressing his companions, says, Let us see if Elijah will come. Others quickly followed, and every one sung the same song to his next neighbor, as usually happens with men who are agreed about any course. Nor is it of any importance to inquire if it was in the singular or plural number; for in either case the meaning is the same, the word being used in place of an interjection, as if they had said, Hush ! Hush !
Matthew 27:50. Jesus having again cried with a loud voice. Luke, who makes no mention of the former complaint, repeats the words of this second cry, which Matthew and Mark leave out. He says that Jesus cried, Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit; by which he declared that, though he was fiercely attacked by violent temptations, still his faith was unshaken, and always kept its ground unvanquished. For there could not have been a more splendid triumph than when Christ boldly expresses his assurance that God is the faithful guardian of his soul, which all imagined to be lost. But instead of speaking to the deaf, he betook himself directly to God, and committed to his bosom the assurance of his confidence. He wished, indeed, that men should hear what he said; but though it might be of no avail to men, he was satisfied with having God alone as his witness. And certainly there is not a stronger or more decided testimony of faith than when a pious man—perceiving himself attacked on every hand:, so that he finds no consolation on the part of men—despises the madness of the whole world, discharges his sorrows and cares into the bosom of God, and rests in the hope of his promises.
Though this form of prayer appears to be borrowed from <193105>Psalm 31:5, yet I have no doubt that he applied it to his immediate object, according to present circumstances; as if he had said, “I see, indeed, O Father, that by the universal voice I am destined to destruction, and that my soul is, so to speak, hurried to and fro; but though, according to the flesh, I perceive no assistance in thee, yet this will not hinder me from committing my spirit into thy hands, and calmly relying on the hidden safeguard of thy goodness.” Yet it ought to be observed, that David, in the passage which I have quoted, not only prayed that his soul, received by the hand of God, might continue to be safe and happy after death, but committed his life to the Lord, that, guarded by his protection, he might prosper both in life and in death. He saw himself continually besieged by many deaths; nothing, therefore, remained but to commit himself to the invincible protection of God. Having made God the guardian of his soul, he rejoices that it is safe from all danger; and, at the same time, prepares to meet death with confidence, whenever it shall please God, because the Lord guards the souls of his people even in death. No as the former was taken away from Christ, to commit his soul to be protected by the Father during the frail condition of the earthly life, he hastens cheerfully to death, and desires to be preserved beyond the world; for the chief reason why God receives our souls into his keeping is, that our faith may rise beyond this transitory life.
Let us now remember that it was not in reference to himself alone that Christ committed his soul to the Father, but that he included, as it were, in one bundle all the souls of those who believe in him, that they may be preserved along with his own; and not only so, but by this prayer he obtained authority to save all souls, so that not only does the heavenly Father, for his sake, deign to take them into his custody, but, giving up the authority into his hands, commits them to him to be protected. And therefore Stephen also, when dying, resigns his soul into his hands, saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, (<440759>Acts 7:59.) Every one who, when he comes to die, following this example, shall believe in Christ, will not breathe his soul at random into the air, but will resort to a faithful guardian, who keeps in safety whatever has been delivered to him by the Father.
The cry shows also the intensity of the feeling; for there can be no doubt that Christ, out of the sharpness of the temptations by which he was beset, not without a painful and strenuous effort, broke out into this cry. And yet he likewise intended, by this loud and piercing exclamation, to assure us that his soul would be safe and uninjured by death, in order that we, supported by the same confidence, may cheerfully depart from the frail hovel of our flesh.
51. And, lo, the veil of the temple was rent. When Luke blends the rending of the veil with the eclipse of the sun, he inverts the order; for the Evangelists, as we have frequently seen, are not careful to Mark every hour with exactness. Nor was it proper that the veil should be rent, until the sacrifice of expiation had been completed; for then Christ, the true and everlasting Priest, having abolished the figures of the law, opened up for us by his blood the way to the heavenly sanctuary, that we may no longer stand at a distance within the porch, but may freely advance into the presence of God. For so long as the shadowy worship lasted, f271 a veil was hung up before the earthly sanctuary, in order to keep the people not only from entering but from seeing it, (<022633>Exodus 26:33; <140314>2 Chronicles 3:14.) Now Christ, by
blotting out the handwriting which was opposed to us,
(<510214>Colossians 2:14,)
removed every obstruction, that, relying on him as Mediator, we may all be a royal priesthood, (<600209>1 Peter 2:9.) Thus the rending of the veil was not only an abrogation of the ceremonies which existed under the law, but was, in some respects, an opening of heaven, that God may now invite the members of his Son to approach him with familiarity.
Meanwhile, the Jews were informed that the period of abolishing outward sacrifices had arrived, and that the ancient priesthood would be of no farther use; that though the building of the temple was left standing, it would not be necessary to worship God there after the ancient custom; but that since the substance and truth of the shadows had been fulfilled, the figures of the law were changed into spirit. For though Christ offered a visible sacrifice, yet, as the Apostle tells us (<580914>Hebrews 9:14) it must be viewed spiritually, that we may enjoy its value and its fruit. But it was of no advantage to those wretched men that the outward sanctuary was laid bare by the rending of the veil, because the inward veil of unbelief, which was in their hearts, f272 hindered them from beholding the saving light.
And the earth trembled, and the rocks were split. What Matthew adds about the earthquake and the splitting oft he rocks, I think it probable, took place at the same time. In this way not only did the earth bear the testimony to its Creator, but it was even called as a witness against the hard-heartedness of a perverse nation; for it showed how monstrous that obstinacy must have been on which neither the earthquake nor the splitting of the rocks made any impression.
52. And graves were opened. This was also a striking miracle, by which God declared that his Son entered into the prison of death, not to continue to be shut up there, but to bring out all who were held captive. For at the very time when the despicable weakness of the flesh was beheld in the person of Christ, the magnificent and divine energy of his death penetrated even to hell. This is the reason why, when he was about to be shut up in a sepulcher, other sepulchers were opened by him. Yet it is doubtful if this opening of the graves took place before his resurrection; for, in my opinion, the resurrection of the saints, which is mentioned immediately afterwards, was subsequent to the resurrection of Christ. There is no probability in the conjecture of some commentators that, after having received life and breath, they remained three days concealed in their graves. I think it more probable that, when Christ died, the graves were immediately opened: and that, when he rose, some of the godly, having received life, went out of their graves, and were seen in the city. For Christ is called the first-born from the dead, (<510118>Colossians 1:18,) and the first-fruits of those who rise, (<461520>1 Corinthians 15:20,) because by his death he commenced, and by his resurrection he completed, a new life; not that, when he died, the dead were immediately raised, but because his death was the source and commencement of life. This reason, therefore, is fully applicable, since the opening of the graves was the presage of a new life, that the fruit or result appeared three days afterwards, because Christ, in rising from the dead, brought others along with him out of their graves as his companions. Now by this sign it was made evident, that he neither died nor rose again in a private capacity, but in order to shed the odor of life on all believers.
But here a question arises. Why did God determine that only some should arise, since a participation in the resurrection of Christ belongs equally to all believers? I reply: As the time was not fully come when the whole body of the Church should be gathered to its Head, he exhibited in a few persons an instance of the new life which all ought to expect. For we know that Christ was received into heaven on the condition that the life of his members should still be hid, (<510303>Colossians 3:3,) until it should be manifested by his coming. But in order that the minds of believers might be more quickly raised to hope, it was advantageous that the resurrection, which was to be common to all of them, should be tasted by a few.
Another and more difficult question is, What became of those saints afterwards? For it would appear to be absurd to suppose that, after having been once admitted by Christ to the participation of a new life, they again returned to dust. But as this question cannot be easily or quickly answered, so it is not necessary to give ourselves much uneasiness about a matter which is not necessary to be known. That they continued long to converse with men is not probable; for it was only necessary that they should be seen for a short time, that in them, as in a mirror or resemblance, the power of Christ might plainly appear. As God intended, by their persons, to confirm the hope of the heavenly life among those who were then alive, there would be no absurdity in saying that, after having performed this office, they again rested in their graves. But it is more probable that the life which they received was not afterwards taken from them; for if it had been a mortal life, it would not have been a proof of a perfect resurrection. Now, though the whole world will rise again, and though Christ will raise up the wicked to judgment, as well as believers to salvation, yet as it was especially for the benefit of his Church that he rose again, so it was proper that he should bestow on none but saints the distinguished honor of rising along with him.
53. And went into the holy city. When Matthew bestows on Jerusalem the honorable designation of the holy city, he does not intend to applaud the character of its inhabitants, for we know that it was at that time full of all pollution and wickedness, so that it was rather a den of robbers, (<240711>Jeremiah 7:11.) But as it had been chosen by God, its holiness, which was founded on God’s adoption, could not be effaced by any corruptions of men, till its rejection was openly declared. Or, to express it more briefly, on the part of man it was profane, and on the part of God it was holy, till the destruction or pollution of the temple, which happened not long after the crucifixion of Christ.
54. Now the centurion. As Luke mentions the lamentation of the people, the centurion and his soldiers were not the only persons who acknowledged Christ to be the Son of God; but the Evangelists mention this circumstance respecting him for the purpose of heightening their description: for it is wonderful ,hat an irreligious man, who had not been instructed in the Law, and was ignorant of true religion, should form so correct a judgment from the signs which he beheld. This comparison tends powerfully to condemn the stupidity of the city; for it was an evidence of shocking madness, that when the fabric of the world shook and trembled, none of the Jews were affected by it except the despised rabble. And yet, amidst such gross blindness, God did not permit the testimonies which he gave respecting his Son to be buried in silence. Not only, therefore, did true religion open the eyes of devout worshippers of God to perceive that from heaven God was magnifying the glory of Christ, but natural understanding compelled foreigners, and even soldiers, to confess what they had not learned either from the law or from any instructor.
When Mark says that the centurion spoke thus, because Christ, when he had uttered a loud voice, expired, some commentators think that he intends to point out the unwonted strength which remained unimpaired till death; and certainly, as the body of Christ was almost exhausted of blood, it could not happen, in the ordinary course of things, that the sides and the lungs should retain sufficient rigor for uttering so loud a cry. Yet I rather think that the centurion intended to applaud the unshaken perseverance of Christ in calling on the name of God. Nor was it merely the cry of Christ that led the centurion to think so highly of him, but this confession was extorted from him by perceiving that his extraordinary strength harmonized with heavenly miracles.
The words, he feared God, f273 must not be so explained as if he had fully repented. f274 It was only a sudden and transitory impulse, as it frequently happens, that men who are thoughtless and devoted to the world are struck with the fear of God, when he makes an alarming display of his power; but as they have no living root, indifference quickly follows, and puts an end to that feeling. The centurion had not undergone such a change as to dedicate himself to God for the remainder of his life, but was only for a moment the herald of the divinity of Christ.
When Luke represents him as saying no more than certainly this was a righteous man, the meaning is the same as if he had plainly said that he was the Son of God, as it is expressed by the other two Evangelists. For it had been universally reported that Christ was put to death, because he declared himself to be the Son of God. Now when the centurion bestows on him the praise of righteousness, and pronounces him to be innocent, he likewise acknowledges him to be the Son of God; not that he understood distinctly how Christ was begotten by God the Father, but because he entertains no doubt that there is some divinity in him, and, convinced by proofs, holds it to be certain that Christ was not an ordinary man, but had been raised up by God.
As to the multitudes, by striving their breasts, they expressed the dread of punishment for a public crime, because they felt that public guilt had been contracted by an unjust and shocking murder. f275 But as they went no farther, their lamentation was of no avail, unless, perhaps, in some persons it was the commencement or preparation of true repentance. And since nothing more is described to us than the lamentation which God drew from them to the glory of his Son, let us learn by this example, that it is of little importance, or of no importance at all, if a man is struck with terror, when he sees before his eyes the power of God, until, after the astonishment has been abated, the fear of God remains calmly in his heart.
55. And there were also many women there. I consider this to have been added in order to inform us that, while the disciples had fled and were scattered in every direction, still some of their company were retained by the Lord as witnesses. Now though the Apostle John did not depart from the cross, yet no mention is made of him; but praise is bestowed on the women alone, who accompanied Christ till death, because their extraordinary attachment to their Master was the more strikingly displayed, when the men fled trembling. For they must have been endued with extraordinary strength of attachment, since, though they could render him no service, they did not cease to treat him with reverence, even when exposed to the lowest disgrace. And yet we learn fromLuke that all the men had not fled; for he says that all his acquaintances stood at a distance. But not without reason do the Evangelists bestow the chief praise on the women, for they deserved the preference above the men. In my opinion, the implied contrast suggests a severe reproof of the apostles. I speak of the great body of them; for since only one remained, the three Evangelists, as I mentioned a little ago, take no notice of him. It was in the highest degree disgraceful to chosen witnesses to withdraw from that spectacle on which depended the salvation of the world. Accordingly, when they afterwards proclaimed the gospel, they must have borrowed from women the chief portion of the history. But if a remedy had not been miraculously prepared by Providence against a great evil, they would have deprived themselves, and us along with them, of the knowledge of redemption.
At first sight, we might think that the testimony of the women does not possess equal authority; but if we duly consider by what power of the Spirit they were supported against that temptation, we shall find that there is no reason why our faith should waver, since it rests on God, who is the real Author of their testimony. f276 Yet let us observe, that it proceeded from the inconceivable goodness of God, that even to us should come that gospel which speaks of the expiation by which God has been reconciled to us. For during the general desertion of those who ought to have run before others, God encouraged some, out of the midst of the flock, who, recovering from the alarm, should be witnesses to us of that history, without the belief of which we cannot be saved. Of the women themselves, we shall presently have another opportunity of saying something. At present, it may be sufficient to take a passing notice of one point, that their eagerness for instruction led them to withdraw from their country, and constantly to learn from the lips of Christ, and that they spared neither toil nor money, provided that they might enjoy his saving doctrine.
MATTHEW 27:57-61; MARK 15:42-47;
LUKE 23:50-56
MATTHEW 27:57-61
MARK 15:42-47
LUKE 23:50-56
57. And when the evening was come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself was a disciple of Jesus. 58. He went to Pilate, and requested the body of Jesus; then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. 59. And Joseph, having received the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. 60. And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock, and having rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, he departed. 61. And Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite to the sepulcher. 
42. And when it was now evening, (because it was the preparation, f277 which goes before the Sabbath,) 43. Joseph of Arimathea, an honorable counselor, who was also himself waiting for the kingdom of God, came and boldly went in to Pilate, and asked the body of Jesus. 44. And Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and having called to him the centurion, he asked him if he had been long dead. 45. And having ascertained it from the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. 46. And he, having brought a linen cloth, took him down (from the cross, f278) and wrapped him in the linen cloth, and laid him in the tomb which had been hewn out of the rock; and rolled a stone to the door of the tomb. 47. And Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of Joses, saw where he was laid.
50. And, lo, a man named Joseph, a counselor, a good and righteous man, 51. Who had not consented to their decision, and to their deed; a native of Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. 52. He came to Pilate, and requested the body of Jesus. 53. And he took him down, and wrapped him in a linen cloth, and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock, in which no man had ever been laid. 54. And it was the day of the preparation, and the Sabbath was approaching. 55. And the women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and saw the tomb, and how the body was laid. 56. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments, and rested on the Sabbath, according to the commandment.

The burial of Christ is now added, as an intermediate transition from the ignominy of the cross to the glory of the resurrection. True, indeed, God determined, for another reason, that Christ should be buried, that it might be more fully attested that he suffered real death on our account. But yet it ought to be regarded as the principal design, that in this manner the cursing, which he had endured for a short time, began to be removed; for his body was not thrown into a ditch in the ordinary way, but honorably laid in a hewn sepulcher. Although at that time the weakness of the flesh was still visible, and the divine power of the Spirit was not clearly seen before his resurrection; yet God determined by this, as a sort of preparation, to shadow out what he was shortly afterwards to do, that he might exalt gloriously above the heavens his Son, the conqueror of death.
Matthew 27:57. And when the evening was come. Let it be understood that Joseph did not come in the dusk of the evening, but before sunset, that he might perform this office of kindness to his Master, without violating the Sabbath; for the Sabbath commenced in the evening, and therefore it was necessary that Christ should be laid in the grave before night came on. Now from the time that Christ died until the Sabbath began to be observed, there were three free days. And though John does not mention Joseph only, but joins Nicodemus as his companion, (14:39;) yet as he alone undertook the business at first, and as Nicodemus did no more than follow and join him, the three: Evangelists satisfied themselves with relating in a brief narrative what was done by Joseph alone.
Now though this affection of Joseph deserved uncommon praise, still we ought first to consider the providence of God, in subduing a man of high and honorable rank among his countrymen, to wipe away the reproach of the cross by the honor of burial. And, indeed, as he exposed himself to the dislike and hatred of the whole nation, and to great dangers, there can be no doubt that this singular courage arose from a secret movement of the Spirit; for though he had formerly been one of Christ’s disciples, yet he had never ventured to make a frank and open profession of his faith. When the death of Christ now presents to him a spectacle full of despair, and fitted to break the strongest minds, how comes he suddenly to acquire such noble courage that, amidst the greatest terrors, he feels no dread, and hesitates not to advance farther than he had ever done, when all was in peace? Let us know then that, when the Son of God was buried by the hand of Joseph, it was the work of God.
To the same purpose must also be referred the circumstances which are here detailed. Joseph’s piety and integrity of life are commended, that in the servant of God we may learn to recognize the work of God. The Evangelists relate that he was rich, in order to inform us that his amazing magnanimity of mind enabled him to rise superior to the obstruction which would otherwise have compelled him to retire. For rich men, being naturally proud, find nothing more difficult than to expose themselves voluntarily to the contempt of the people. Now we know how mean and disgraceful an act it was to receive from the hand of the executioner the body of a crucified man. Besides, as men devoted to riches are wont to avoid everything fitted to excite prejudice, the more eminent he was for wealth, the more cautious and timid he would have been, unless a holy boldness f279 had been imparted to him from heaven. The dignity of his rank is likewise mentioned, that he was a counselor, or senator, that in this respect also the power of God may be displayed; for it was not one of the lowest of the people that was employed to bury the body of Christ in haste and in concealment, but from a high rank of honor he was raised up to discharge this office. For the less credible it was that such an office of kindness should be performed towards Christ, the more clearly did it appear that the whole of this transaction was regulated by the purpose and hand of God.
We are taught by this example, that the rich are so far from being excusable, when they deprive Christ of the honor due to him: that they must be held to be doubly criminal, for turning into obstructions those circumstances which ought to have been excitements to activity. It is too frequent and customary, I acknowledge, for those who think themselves superior to others, to withdraw from the yoke, and to become soft and effeminate through excessive timidity and solicitude about their affairs. But we ought to view it in a totally different light; for if riches and honors do not aid us in the worship of God , we utterly abuse them. The present occurrence shows how easy it is for God to correct wicked fears by hindering us from doing our duty; since formerly Joseph did not venture to make an open profession of being a disciple of Christ, when matters were doubtful, but now, when the rage of enemies is at its height, and when their cruelty abounds, he gathers courage, and does not hesitate to incur manifest danger. We see then how the Lord in a moment forms the hearts to new feelings, and raises up by a spirit of fortitude those who had previously fainted. But if, through a holy desire to honor Christ, Joseph assumed such courage, while Christ was hanging on the cross, woe to our slothfulness, f280 if, now that he has risen from the dead, an equal zeal, at least, to glorify him do not burn in our hearts.
Mark 15:43, and Luke 23:51. Who also himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. The highest commendation bestowed on Joseph is, that he waited for the kingdom of God. He is likewise praised, no