We have here Christ’s discourse with his disciples after supper, much of which is new here; and in St. John’s gospel we shall find other additions. We should take example from him to entertain and edify our family and friends with such discourse at table as is good and to the use of edifying, which may minister grace to the hearers; but especially after we have been at the Lord’s table, by Christian conference to keep one another in a suitable frame. The matters Christ here discoursed of were of weight, and to the present purpose.
I. He discoursed with them concerning him that should betray him, who was now present. 1. He signifies to them that the traitor was now among them, and one of them, Luke 22:21. By placing this after the institution of the Lord’s supper, though in Matthew and Mark it is placed before it, it seems plain that Judas did receive the Lord’s supper, did eat of that bread and drink of that cup; for, after the solemnity was over, Christ said, Behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table. There have been those that have eaten bread with Christ and yet have betrayed him. 2. He foretels that the treason would take effect (Luke 22:22): Truly the Son of man goes as it was determined, goes to the place where he will be betrayed; for he is delivered up by the counsel and foreknowledge of God, else Judas could not have delivered him up. Christ was not driven to his sufferings, but cheerfully went to them. He said, Lo, I come. 3. He threatens the traitor: Woe to that man by whom he is betrayed. Note, Neither the patience of the saints under their sufferings, nor the counsel of God concerning their sufferings, will be any excuse for those that have any hand in their sufferings, or that persecute them. Though God has determined that Christ shall be betrayed and he himself has cheerfully submitted to it, yet Judas’s sin or punishment is not at all the less. 4. He frightens the rest of the disciples into a suspicion of themselves, by saying that it was one of them, and not naming which (Luke 22:23): They began to enquire among themselves, to interrogate themselves, to put the question to themselves, who it was that should do this thing, that could be so base to so good a Master. The enquiry was not, Isa. it you? or, Isa. it such a one? but, Isa. it I?
II. Concerning the strife that was among them for precedency or supremacy.
1. See what the dispute was: Which of them should be accounted the greatest. Such and so many contests among the disciples for dignity and dominion, before the Spirit was poured upon them, were a sad presage of the like strifes for, and affections of, supremacy in the churches, after the Spirit should be provoked to depart from them. How inconsistent is this with that in the Luke 22:23! There they were enquiring which would be the traitor, and here which should be the prince. Could such an instance of humility, and such an instance of pride and vanity, be found in the same men, so near together? This is like sweet waters and bitter proceeding at the same time out of the same fountain. What a self-contradiction is the deceitful heart of man!
2. See what Christ said to this dispute. He was not sharp upon them, as might have been expected (he having so often reproved them for this very thing), but mildly showed them the sin and folly of it.
(1.) This was to make themselves like the kings of the Gentiles, who affect worldly pomp, and worldly power, Luke 22:25. They exercise lordship over their subjects, and are ever and anon striving to exercise lordship too over the princes that are about them, though as good as themselves, if they think them not so strong as themselves. Note, The exercising of lordship better becomes the kings of the Gentiles than the ministers of Christ. But observe, They that exercise authority, and take upon themselves to bear sway, and give law, they are called Benefactors—Euergetas, they call themselves so, and so their flatterers call them, and those that set themselves to serve their interests. It is pretended that they have been benefactors, and upon that account they should be admitted to have rule; nay, that in exercising authority they are benefactors. However they may really serve themselves, they would be thought to serve their country. One of the Ptolemies was surnamed Euergetes—The Benefactor. Now our Saviour, by taking notice of this, intimates, [1.] That to do good is much more honourable than to look great; for these princes that were the terror of the mighty would not be called so, but rather the benefactors of the needy; so that, by their own confession, a benefactor to his country is much more valued than a ruler of his country. [2.] That to do good is the surest way to be great, else they that aimed to be rulers would not have been so solicitous to be called Benefactors. This therefore he would have his disciples believe, that their greatest honour would be to do all the good they could in the world. They would indeed be benefactors to the world, by bringing the gospel to it. Let them value themselves upon that title, which they would indeed be entitled to, and then they need not strive which should be the greatest, for they would all be greater- treater blessings to mankind than the kings of the earth, that exercise lordship over them. If they have that which is confessedly the greater honour, of being benefactors, let them despise the less, of being rulers.
(2.) It was to make themselves unlike the disciples of Christ, and unlike Christ himself: “You shall not be so,” Luke 22:26, 27. “It was never intended that you should rule any otherwise than by the power of truth and grace, but that you should serve.” When church-rulers affect external pomp and power, and bear up themselves by secular interests and influences, they debase their office, and it is an instance of degeneracy like that of Israel when they would have a king like the nations that were round about them, whereas the Lord was their King. See here, [1.] What is the rule Christ gave to his disciples: He that is greater among you, that is senior, to whom precedency is due upon the account of his age, let him be as the younger, both in point of lowness of place (let him condescend to sit with the younger, and be free and familiar with them) and in point of labour and work. We say, Juniores ad labores, seniores ad honores—Let the young work, and the aged receive their honours. But let the elder take pains as well as the younger; their age and honour, instead of warranting them to take their ease, bind them to double work. And he that is chief, ho hegoumenos—the president of the college or assembly, let him be as he that serves, hos ho diakonon—as the deacon; let him stoop to the meanest and most toilsome services for the public good, if there be occasion. [2.] What was the example which he himself gave to this rule: Whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat or he that serveth? he that attendeth or he that is attended on? Now Christ was among his disciples just like one that waited at table. He was so far from taking state, or taking his ease, by commanding their attendance upon him, that he was ready to do any office of kindness and service for them; witness his washing their feet. Shall those take upon them the form of princes who call themselves followers of him that took upon him the form of a servant?
(3.) They ought not to strive for worldly honour and grandeur, because he had better honours in reserve for them, of another nature, a kingdom, a feast, a throne, for each of them, wherein they should all share alike, and should have no occasion to strive for precedency, Luke 22:28-30. Where observe,
[1.] Christ’s commendation of his disciples for their faithfulness to him; and this was honour enough for them, they needed not to strive for any greater. It is spoken with an air of encomium and applause: “You are they who have continued with me in my temptations, you are they who have stood by me and stuck to me when others have deserted me and turned their backs upon me.” Christ had his temptations; he was despised and rejected of men, reproached and reviled, and endured the contradiction of sinners. But his disciples continued with him, and were afflicted in all his afflictions. It was but little help that they could give him, or service that they could do him; nevertheless, he took it kindly that they continued with him, and he here owns their kindness, though it was by the assistance of his own grace that they did continue. Christ’s disciples had been very defective in their duty. We find them guilty of many mistakes and weaknesses: they were very dull and very forgetful, and often blundered, yet their Master passes all by and forgets it; he does not upbraid them with their infirmities, but gives them this memorable testimonial, You are they who have continued with me. Thus does he praise at parting, to show how willing he is to make the best of those whose hearts he knows to be upright with him.
[2.] The recompence he designed them for their fidelity: I appoint, diatithemai, I bequeath, unto you a kingdom. Or thus, I appoint to you, as my Father has appointed a kingdom to me, that you may eat and drink at my table. Understand it, First, Of what should be done for them in this world. God gave his Son a kingdom among men, the gospel church, of which he is the living, quickening, ruling, Head. This kingdom he appointed to his apostles and their successors in the ministry of the gospel, that they should enjoy the comforts and privileges of the gospel, help to communicate them to others by gospel ordinances, sit on thrones as officers of the church, not only declaratively, but exhortatively judging the tribes of Israel that persist in their infidelity, and denouncing the wrath of God against them, and ruling the gospel Israel, the spiritual Israel, by the instituted discipline of the church, administered with gentleness and love. This is the honour reserved for you. Or, Secondly, Of what should be done for them in the other world, which I take to be chiefly meant. Let them go on in their services in this world; their preferments shall be in the other world. God will give them the kingdom, in which they shall be sure to have, 1. The richest dainties; for they shall eat and drink at Christ’s table in his kingdom, of which he had spoken, Luke 22:16, 18. They shall partake of those joys and pleasures which were the recompence of his services and sufferings. They shall have a full satisfaction of soul in the vision and fruition of God; and herein they shall have the best society, as at a feast, in the perfection of love. 2. The highest dignities: “You shall not only be provided for at the royal table, as Mephibosheth at David’s, but you shall be preferred to the royal throne; shall sit down with me on my throne, Rev. 3:21. In the great day you shall sit on thrones, as assessors with Christ, to approve of and applaud his judgment of the twelve tribes of Israel.” If the saints shall judge the world (1 Cor. 6:2), much more the church.
III. Concerning Peter’s denying him. And in this part of the discourse we may observe,
1. The general notice Christ gives to Peter of the devil’s design upon him and the rest of the apostles (Luke 22:31): The Lord said, Simon, Simon, observe what I say; Satan hath desired to have you, to have you all in his hands, that he may sift you as wheat. Peter, who used to be the mouth of the rest in speaking to Christ, is here made the ear of the rest; and what is designed for warning to them all (all you shall be offended, because of me) is directed to Peter, because he was principally concerned, being in particular manner struck at by the tempter: Satan has desired to have you. Probably Satan had accused the disciples to God as mercenary in following Christ, and aiming at nothing else therein but enriching and advancing themselves in this world, as he accused Job. “No,” saith God, “they are honest men, and men of integrity.” “Give me leave to try them,” saith Satan, “and Peter particularly.” He desired to have them, that he might sift them, that he might show them to be chaff, and not wheat. The troubles that were now coming upon them were sifting, would try what there was in them: but this was not all; Satan desired to sift them by his temptations, and endeavoured by those troubles to draw them into sin, to put them into a loss and hurry, as corn when it is sifted to bring the chaff uppermost, or rather to shake out the wheat and leave nothing but the chaff. Observe, Satan could not sift them unless God gave him leave: He desired to have them, as he begged of God a permission to try and tempt Job. Exetesato—“He has challenged you, has undertaken to prove you a company of hypocrites, and Peter especially, the forwardest of you.” Some suggest that Satan demanded leave to sift them as their punishment for striving who should be greatest, in which contest Peter perhaps was very warm: “Leave them to me, to sift them for it.”
2. The particular encouragement he gave to Peter, in reference to this trial: “I have prayed for thee, because, though he desires to have them all, he is permitted to make his strongest onset upon thee only: thou wilt be most violently assaulted, but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not, that it may not totally and finally fail.” Note, (1.) If faith be kept up in an hour of temptation, though we may fall, yet we shall not be utterly cast down. Faith will quench Satan’s fiery darts. (2.) Though there may be many failings in the faith of true believers, yet there shall not be a total and final failure of their faith. It is their seed, their root, remaining in them. (3.) It is owing to the mediation and intercession of Jesus Christ that the faith of his disciples, though sometimes sadly shaken, yet is not sunk. If they were left to themselves, they would fail; but they are kept by the power of God and the prayer of Christ. The intercession of Christ is not only general, for all that believe, but for particular believers (I have prayed for thee), which is an encouragement for us to pray for ourselves, and an engagement upon us to pray for others too.
3. The charge he gives to Peter to help others as he should himself be helped of God: “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren; when thou art recovered by the grace of God, and brought to repentance, do what thou canst to recover others; when thou hast found they faith kept from failing, labour to confirm the faith of others, and to establish them; when thou hast found mercy with God thyself, encourage others to hope that they also shall find mercy.” Note, (1.) Those that have fallen into sin must be converted from it; those that have turned aside must return; those that have left their first love must do their first works. (2.) Those that through grace are converted from sin must do what they can to strengthen their brethren that stand, and to prevent their falling; see Ps. 51:11-13; 1 Tim. 1:13.
4. Peter’s declared resolution to cleave to Christ, whatever it cost him (Luke 22:33): Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison and to death. This was a great word, and yet I believe no more than he meant at this time, and thought he should make good too. Judas never protested thus against denying Christ, though often warned of it; for his heart was as fully set in him to the evil as Peter’s was against it. Note, All the true disciples of Christ sincerely desire and design to follow him, whithersoever he goes, and whithersoever he leads them, though into a prison, though out of the world.
5. Christ’s express prediction of his denying him thrice (Luke 22:34): “I tell thee, Peter (thou dost not know thine own heart, but must be left to thyself a little, that thou mayest know it, and mayest never trust to it again), the cock shall not crow this day before thou even deny that thou knowest me.” Note, Christ knows us better than we know ourselves, and knows the evil that is in us, and will be done by us, which we ourselves do not suspect. It is well for us that Christ knows where we are weak better than we do, and therefore where to come in with grace sufficient; that he knows how far a temptation will prevail, and therefore when to say, Hitherto shall it come, and no further.
IV. Concerning the condition of all the disciples.
1. He appeals to them concerning what had been, Luke 22:35. He had owned that they had been faithful servants to him, Luke 22:28. Now he expects, at parting, that they should acknowledge that he had been a kind and careful Master to them ever since they left all to follow him: When I sent you without purse, lacked you any thing? (1.) He owns that he had sent them out in a very poor and bare condition, barefoot, and with no money in their purses, because they were not to go far, nor be out long; and he would thus teach them to depend upon the providence of God, and, under that, upon the kindness of their friends. If God thus send us out into the world, let us remember that better than we have thus begun low. (2.) Yet ye will have them own that, notwithstanding this, they had lacked nothing; they then lived as plentifully and comfortably as ever; and they readily acknowledged it: “Nothing, Lord; I have all, and abound.” Note, [1.] It is good for us often to review the providences of God that have been concerning us all our days, and to observe how we have got through the straits and difficulties we have met with. [2.] Christ is a good Master, and his service a good service; for though his servants may sometimes be brought low, yet he will help them; and though he try them, yet will he not leave them. Jehovah-jireh. [3.] We must reckon ourselves well done by, and must not complain, but be thankful, if we have had the necessary supports of life, though we have had neither dainties nor superfluities, though we have lived from hand to mouth, and lived upon the kindness of our friends. The disciples lived upon contribution, and yet did not complain that their maintenance was precarious, but owned, to their Master’s honour, that it was sufficient; they had wanted nothing.
2. He gives them notice of a very great change of their circumstances now approaching. For, (1.) He that was their Master was now entering upon his sufferings, which he had often foretold (Luke 22:37): “Now that which is written must be fulfilled in me, and this among the rest, He was numbered among the transgressors—he must suffer and die as a malefactor, and in company with some of the vilest of malefactors. This is that which is yet to be accomplished, after all the rest, and then the things concerning me, the things written concerning me, will have an end; then I shall say, It is finished.” Note, It may be the comfort of suffering Christians, as it was of a suffering Christ, that their sufferings were foretold, and determined in the counsels of heaven, and will shortly determine in the joys of heaven. They were written concerning them, and they will have an end, and will end well, everlastingly well. (2.) They must therefore expect troubles, and must not think now to have such an easy and comfortable life as they had had; no, the scene will alter. They must now in some degree suffer with their Master; and, when he is gone, they must expect to suffer like him. The servant is not better than his Lord. [1.] They must not now expect that their friends would be so kind and generous to them as they had been; and therefore, He that has a purse, let him take it, for he may have occasion for it, and for all the good husbandry he can use. [2.] They must now expect that their enemies would be more fierce upon them than they had been, and they would need magazines as well as stores: He that has no sword wherewith to defend himself against robbers and assassins (2 Cor. 11:26) will find a great want of it, and will be ready to wish, some time or other, that he had sold his garment and bought one. This is intended only to show that the times would be very perilous, so that no man would think himself safe if he had not a sword by his side. But the sword of the Spirit is the sword which the disciples of Christ must furnish themselves with. Christ having suffered for us, we must arm ourselves with the same mind (1 Pet. 4:1), arm ourselves with an expectation of trouble, that it may not be a surprise to us, and with a holy resignation to the will of God in it, that there may be no opposition in us to it: and then we are better prepared than if we had sold a coat to buy a sword. The disciples hereupon enquire what strength they had, and find they had among them two swords (Luke 22:38), of which one was Peter’s. The Galileans generally travelled with swords. Christ wore none himself, but he was not against his disciples’ wearing them. But he intimates how little he would have them depend upon this when he saith, It is enough, which some think is spoken ironically: “Two swords among twelve men! you are bravely armed indeed when our enemies are now coming out against us in great multitudes, and every one with a sword!” Yet two swords are sufficient for those who need none, having God himself to be the shield of their help and the sword of their excellency, Deut. 33:29.