We have here an account of Christ’s keeping the passover. Being made under the law, he submitted to all the ordinances of it, and to this among the rest; it was kept in remembrance of Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt, the birth-day of that people; it was a tradition of the Jews, that in the days of the Messiah they should be redeemed on the very day of their coming out of Egypt; and it was exactly fulfilled, for Christ died the day after the passover, in which day they began their march.
I. The time when Christ ate the passover, was the usual time appointed by God, and observed by the Jews (Matt. 26:17); the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, which that year happened on the fifth day of the week, which is our Thursday. Some have advanced a suggestion, that our Lord Jesus celebrated the passover at this time of day sooner than other people did; but the learned Dr. Whitby has largely disproved it.
II. The place where, was particularly appointed by himself to the disciples, upon their enquiry (Matt. 26:17); they asked, Where wilt thou that we prepare the passover? Perhaps Judas was one of those that asked this question (where he would eat the passover,) that he might know the better how to lay his train; but the rest of the disciples asked it as usual, that they might do their duty.
1. They took it for granted that their Master would eat the passover, though he was at this time persecuted by the chief priests, and his life sought; they knew that he would not be put by his duty, either by frightenings without or fears within. Those do not follow Christ’s example who make it an excuse for their not attending on the Lord’s supper, our gospel passover, that they have many troubles and many enemies, are full of care and fear; for, if so, they have the more need of that ordinance, to help to silence their fears, and comfort them under their troubles, to help them in forgiving their enemies, and casting all their cares on God.
2. They knew very well that there must be preparation made for it, and that it was their business, as his servants, to make preparation; Where wilt thou that we prepare? Note, Before solemn ordinances there must be solemn preparation.
3. They knew that he had no house of his own wherein to eat the passover; in this, as in other things, for our sakes he became poor. Among all Zion’s palaces there was none for Zion’s King; but his kingdom was not of this world. See John 1:11.
4. They would not pitch upon a place without direction from him, and from him they had direction; he sent them to such a man (Matt. 26:18), who probably was a friend and follower of his, and to his house he invited himself and his disciples.
(1.) Tell him, My time is at hand; he means the time of his death, elsewhere called his hour (John 8:20; 13:1); the time, the hour, fixed in the counsel of God, which his heart was upon, and which he had so often spoken of. He knew when it was at hand, and was busy accordingly; we know not our time (Eccl. 9:12), and therefore must never be off our watch; our time is always ready (John 7:6), and therefore we must be always ready. Observe, Because his time was at hand, he would keep the passover Note, The consideration of the near approach of death should quicken us to a diligent improvement of all our opportunities for our souls. Isa. our time at hand, and an eternity just before us? Let us then keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity. Observe, When our Lord Jesus invited himself to this good man’s house, he sent him this intelligence, that his time was at hand. Note, Christ’s secret is with them that entertain him in their hearts. Compare John 14:21; Rev. 3:20.
(2.) Tell him, I will keep the passover at thy house. This was an instance of his authority, as the Master, which it is likely this man acknowledged; he did not beg, but command, the use of his house for this purpose. Thus, when Christ by his Spirit comes into the heart, he demands admission, as one whose own the heart is and cannot be denied, and he gains admission as one who has all power in the heart and cannot be resisted; if he saith, “I will keep a feast in such a soul,” he will do it; for he works, and none can hinder; his people shall be willing, for he makes them so. I will keep the passover with my disciples. Note, Wherever Christ is welcome, he expects that his disciples should be welcome too. When we take God for our God, we take his people for our people.
III. The preparation was made by the disciples (Matt. 26:19); They did as Jesus had appointed. Note, Those who would have Christ’s presence with them in the gospel passover, must strictly observe his instructions, and do as he directs; They made ready the passover; they got the lamb killed in the court of the temple, got it roasted, the bitter herbs provided, bread and wine, the cloth laid, and every thing set in readiness for such a sacred solemn feast.
IV. They ate the passover according to the law (Matt. 26:20); He sat down, in the usual table-gesture, not lying on one side, for it was not easy to eat, nor possible to drink, in that posture, but sitting upright, though perhaps sitting low. It is the same word that is used for his posture at other meals, Matt. 9:10; Luke 7:37; Matt. 26:7. It was only the first passover in Egypt, as most think, that was eaten with their loins girded, shoes on their feet, and staff in their hand, though all that might be in a sitting posture. His sitting down, denotes the composedness of his mind, when he addressed himself to this solemnity; He sat down with the twelve, Judas not excepted. By the law, they were to take a lamb for a household (Exod. 12:3, 4), which were to be not less than ten, nor more than twenty; Christ’s disciples were his household. Note, They whom God has charged with families, must have their houses with them in serving the Lord.
V. We have here Christ’s discourse with his disciples at the passover-supper. The usual subject of discourse at that ordinance, was the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt (Exod. 12:26, 27); but the great Passover is now ready to be offered, and the discourse of that swallows up all talk of the other, (Jer. 16:14, 15). Here is,
1. The general notice Christ gives his disciples of the treachery that should be among them (Matt. 26:21); One of you shall betray me. Observe, (1.) Christ knew it. We know not what troubles will befal us, nor whence they will arise: but Christ knew all his, which, as it proves his omniscience, so it magnifies his love, that he knew all things that should befal him, and yet did not draw back. He foresaw the treachery and baseness of a disciple of his own, and yet went on; took care of those that were given him, though he knew there was a Judas among them; would pay the price of our redemption, though he foresaw some would deny the Lord that bought them; and shed his blood, though he knew it would be trodden under foot as an unholy thing. (2.) When there was occasion, he let those about him know it. He had often told them that the Son of man should be betrayed; now he tells them that one of them should do it, that when they saw it, they might not only be the less surprised, but have their faith in him confirmed, John 13:19; 14:29.
2. The disciples’ feelings on this occasion, Matt. 26:22. How did they take it?
(1.) They were exceeding sorrowful. [1.] It troubled them much to hear that their Master should be betrayed. When Peter was first told of it, he said, Be it far from thee; and therefore it must needs be a great trouble to him and the rest of them, to hear that it was very near to him. [2.] It troubled them more to hear that one of them should do it. It would be a reproach to the fraternity, for an apostle to prove a traitor, and this grieved them; gracious souls grieve for the sins of others, especially of those that have made a more than ordinary profession of religion. 2 Cor. 11:29. [3.] It troubled them most of all, that they were left at uncertainty which of them it was, and each of them was afraid for himself, lest, as Hazael speaks (2 Kgs. 8:13), he was the dog that should do this great thing. Those that know the strength and subtlety of the tempter, and their own weakness and folly, cannot but be in pain for themselves, when they hear that the love of many will wax cold.
(2.) They began every one of them to say, Lord, is it I?
[1.] They were not apt to suspect Judas. Though he was a thief, yet, it seems, he had carried it so plausibly, that those who were intimate with him, were not jealous of him: none of them so much as looked upon him, much less said, Lord, is it Judas? Note, It is possible for a hypocrite to go through the world, not only undiscovered, but unsuspected; like bad money so ingeniously counterfeited that nobody questions it.
[2.] They were apt to suspect themselves; Lord, is it I? Though they were not conscious to themselves of any inclination that way (no such thought had ever entered into their mind), yet they feared the worst, and asked Him who knows us better than we know ourselves, Lord, is it I? Note, It well becomes the disciples of Christ always to be jealous over themselves with a godly jealousy, especially in trying times. We know not how strongly we may be tempted, nor how far God may leave us to ourselves, and therefore have reason, not to be high-minded, but fear. It is observable that our Lord Jesus, just before he instituted the Lord’s supper, put his disciples upon this trial and suspicion of themselves, to teach us to examine and judge ourselves, and so to eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
3. Further information given them concerning this matter (Matt. 26:23, 24), where Christ tells them, (1.) That the traitor was a familiar friend; He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, that is, One of you that are now with me at the table. He mentions this, to make the treachery appear the more exceeding sinful. Note, External communion with Christ in holy ordinances is a great aggravation of our falseness to him. It is base ingratitude to dip with Christ in the dish, and yet betray him. (2.) That this was according to the scripture, which would take off the offence at it. Was Christ betrayed by a disciple? So it was written (Ps. 41:9); He that did eat bread with me, hath lifted up his heel against me. The more we see of the fulfilling of the scripture in our troubles, the better we may bear them. (3.) That it would prove a very dear bargain to the traitor; Woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed. This he said, not only to awaken the conscience of Judas, and bring him to repent, and revoke his bargain, but for warning to all others to take heed of sinning like Judas; though God can serve his own purposes by the sins of men, that doth not make the sinner’s condition the less woeful; It had been good for that man, if he had not been born. Note, The ruin that attends those who betray Christ, is so great, that it were more eligible by far not be at all than to be thus miserable.
4. The conviction of Judas, Matt. 26:25. (1.) He asked, Isa. it I? to avoid coming under the suspicion of guilt by his silence. He knew very well that it was he, and yet wished to appear a stranger to such a plot. Note, Many whose consciences condemn them are very industrious to justify themselves before men, and put a good face on it, with, Lord, is it I? He could not but know that Christ knew, and yet trusted so much to his courtesy, because he had hitherto concealed it, that he had the impudence to challenge him to tell: or, perhaps, he was so much under the power of infidelity, that he imagined Christ did not know it, as those who said, The Lord shall not see (Ps. 94:7), and asked, Can he judge through the dark clouds? (2.) Christ soon answered this question; Thou hast said, that is, It is as thou hast said. This is not spoken out so plainly as Nathan’s Thou art the man; but it was enough to convict him, and, if his heart had not been wretchedly hardened, to have broken the neck of his plot, when he saw it discovered to his Master, and discovered by him. Note, They who are contriving to betray Christ, will, some time or other, betray themselves, and their own tongues will fall upon them.