Matthew 26:47-56 Part 2


We stopped last Lord’s Day at the kiss of the traitor; and by necessity this is a continuation of that sermon.  And I think we can safely say that by whatever means a hypocrite conceals himself, and whatever pretenses are used to cover his real nature and intent, when he comes into the very presence of the Lord sooner or later what he really is becomes plain – almost “comically” so.

You remember we are commanded (Psalm two) to “kiss the Son”… that is, to honor and dignify the One Whom God has placed at His right hand to rule the nations.  He is to so rule that, as Paul says, we are to bring every thought captive to Him.  In other words, we are to submit to Him in every way – even to our thoughts, or our thinking process.

But as Judas approaches Jesus and greets Him and kisses Him, there is, to us, almost an absurdity here.  And it’s so absurd that the whole incident strikes us as very strange.  We know that it’s Jesus’ hour.  And He has just suffered so intensely… “unto death”, as the evangelist puts it.  And He is moving inexorably toward death for the sin of the world.

But this “one of the twelve” is still basking in his hypocrisy.  Filled up with himself and his own sensitivities, he continues in his pretenses until he completes every facet of his prophetic destiny.  And his egregious act looks to us to be so preposterous that it’s almost “burlesque” in nature.  So what seemed to him to be a “natural” sequence of events in identifying Jesus to the crowds appears now to be, at the minimum, “eccentric”, and could even be described as “grotesque”.

The hypocrite approaches the Son of God in all His perfections and holiness, and the contrast between darkness and Light is clearly seen for all peoples and for all ages.  And I think that this may be what we feel (the tension) when we deeply ponder this passage and attempt an explanation for this man’s plan for identifying Jesus for the crowd.

But the kiss is, by no means, irrelevant… as we heard last time.  All things are taken from Jesus in His suffering… even the perfection of “the twelve”.  And the kiss is the “blow” to the face of Christ as His suffering is intensified the more.  (Psalm two requires to “kiss the Son”.)  God the Father strips Him of every vestige, every possibility, of hope; and He says, “Will You still obey Me?”  “In suffering to the extreme, will You deliver Yourself for My people?”  And in complete abandonment He resolutely and unyieldingly approaches the storm of judgment which is due Him as our substitute.

Now, I hope that’s a feasible explanation to you concerning the “Kiss”… because, in addition to the fulfillment of the Scriptures (which is enough for us, really, isn’t it?), this event manifests a transparent hypocrisy.  There’s often a transparency to hypocrisy… sometimes even to the point of the ludicrous.  It’s even so to pagans who use hypocrisy as it appears in the Church as a reason (or an excuse) for discounting the Church.

But my primary point here in bringing this up is that in contradistinction to the holy perfections of Christ (as is the case here in the contrast between Jesus and Judas), the hypocrite’s kiss (as serious as it was) is viewed almost as a caricature of foolishness!

Which helps lead me to the conclusion that the Light of Christ provides an x-ray or an MRI of all hypocrites.  And the closer they come to Him the clearer and brighter the picture!!  The contrast here between Jesus and Judas is truly spectacular… and so it is with others.

Hold up the person of a hypocrite – his life; and set beside that a thorough description of the Person and work and demands of Jesus Christ.  Like with an overhead projector, the hypocrite is immediately shown to be exactly what he is.  Because the clarity and transparency is there for everybody to see!  And the closer the comparison, the more foolishly transparent the hypocrite becomes.

And I think that that’s Matthew’s impression of this scene as well.  Nothing else is required to be said.  In his splendid simplicity the whole scene is left almost undescribed.

And in his record of Jesus’ response to Judas we see the same thing.  But although unsaid it is required of us to remember the great suffering being presently experienced by our Lord… the Father’s withdrawal and abandonment of Him (and the subsequent near-disintegration of His Person); the unimaginable torture of becoming sin for us; the “delivering Himself over” for us as sacrificial Lamb; the “perversion” of the perfect “twelve” with Judas kissing Him as Psalm two requires; the isolation from His intimate disciples; the nations of the earth gathered together against Him….  Every vestige of comfort – gone!

And there’s no crying out.  No objections.  No condemnation.  No explanation.  No fear of the men.  Not even a “hint” of anything.  And His words to Judas are completely generic.  “Fellow”… He says.  Not “friend”; not hypocrite; not “You savage beast!”; not “Get out of my life!”

Some translations have put a question here.  And I think that’s because Luke records a rhetorical question concerning the kiss of Judas.  But I don’t see a question in the text.  It’s a statement.  And Jesus says, simply, “To which you are here.”  “Get on with it.”

Whereupon those in the crowd “laid hands on Him and seized Him” (verse fifty).  And immediately, as verse fifty-one says,


“one of those with Jesus, having extended the hand, drew his sword; and having struck the servant of the high priest, he did cut off his ear.”


The disciple who did this is named in the Gospel of John to be Peter (since he is the “impetuous” one); and from other writings we know the name of the personal servant of the high priest at that time… he was one Malchus.  So Caiaphas (the high priest of the temple and president of the Sanhedrin) had sent his own servant with the soldiers, to see to it that this deal was done.

Please recall again that this was late at night, and it was Passover; and most everyone was full from the feast and probably at home in bed.  Thousands were there for Passover and the large crowds that had followed Jesus to Jerusalem were either with friends and family in the area or encamped in the hills and pastures.  They too were all bedded down.  So this was the best of all possible times to apprehend this Man Jesus and rid Jerusalem of the embarrassment and the political danger that an attempted coup would bring from Rome.

So Caiaphas was probably pretty sure that, if this man Judas knew what he was doing, the several hundred people he had sent would bring Jesus in.  And he would be dealt with during this very night!  And I think we can assume that the high priest was nervously waiting in his quarters for some word.

But as Matthew says here, some of the men of the crowd have now jumped forward and seized Jesus.  And I don’t imagine that their treatment of Him was gentle.

But their aggression spurred one of the twelve to reach for his sword.  Now these swords, which were carried by almost everybody for personal protection against robbers and thieves (especially by those who traveled out in the countryside), weren’t for “fencing”.  In trying to picture a sword we usually think of a long, rapier-like instrument with a sharp point on the end – used for piercing an opponent.

But that’s not what the Roman short-sword looked like.  Usually carried in some kind of a scabbard hung so that they’re carried on the back, these swords were short, broad, double-edged instruments that were swung at an opponent.  Rather than “parrying”, as with rapiers, these sharp-edged swords were used to “hack”… with the same motion that axes are used.

Now, Matthew says that “one of those with Jesus extended the hand….”  So, whoever it was (John says it was Peter), extended his hand behind his head and drew this heavy short-sword from its scabbard and swung it downward at Malchus, who was one of those who had grabbed hold of Jesus.  And he cut off his ear!

You might think that, in the scuffling and the heat of anger, his intent was to do more harm than that, and his aim wasn’t as good as he wished.  That’s probably correct.  But nonetheless he had struck a blow for Jesus’ defense (as all the disciples had agreed they would do).  And Caiaphas’ servant was seriously wounded.

Matthew, in typical fashion, tells us nothing about the scene, but concentrates all his attention on those things which he considered important to the Gospel.  Luke says a little more, and I’ll mention that later.

But Jesus immediately turns His attention to Peter (again, John, in the eighteenth chapter of His Gospel, says that’s who it was) and says this (beginning with verse fifty-two):


“Return your sword into its place, for all who have taken up a sword will destroy themselves in conjunction with a sword.  Do you think that I am not able to call upon My Father and He would provide Me now more than twelve legions of angels?  How therefore the Scriptures should be fulfilled, thus it is necessary to be.”


Now, there are a number of things here which have been addressed at greater length – things having to do with intemperance, aggressive behavior and violence.  But here it comes up again, and I have to say some things about it.

And although one of the reasons for the severe chastening of Peter in this case is the ultimate fulfillment of the prophetic Scriptures, that doesn’t exhaust the reasons that are given here for that chastening.  For Jesus also addresses aggressive behavior itself… apart from the issue of His being the Fullness of the Scriptures!  He said, “…for all who have taken up a sword will destroy themselves in conjunction with a sword.”

Jesus commands Peter to put the sword away.  Although they all carried swords to defend themselves against those who would rob and kill, which is reasonable and Biblical, Peter is condemned here for drawing his sword.

The general rule in the Law is that a man may not kill or wound or maim another in any way except in self-defense.  And the Old and New Testaments make it plain that intemperance and hatred and vengeance and belligerence and irregular passions are already implied in that Law!  And Jesus here states that those who take up those passions, and who take up the sword to act on those passions, will destroy themselves in conjunction with them.

Who is lawfully enjoined to take up the sword?  The authorities who God has established, and He establishes them all.  So if those who carry out aggressive passions are to destroy themselves in conjunction with the sword, who is it, generally, that will execute that principle?  It is generally by means of the established authority that the zealot will destroy himself!

Be aware that God will not be mocked.  Those who take up the sword will destroy themselves (and this is clearly the passive voice… destroy themselves...) in conjunction with the sword!  And, again, the God-established authority is generally the instrument through which that destruction takes place!  And since it is clearly passive, the destruction is self-inflicted!  All of the blame is placed on the one who takes up weapons in aggressive behavior!

You see, the Scriptures continually condemn immoderate and intemperate passions.  Believers are to have control over themselves and mortify those.  And we are to bring ourselves under the Spirit… under the Law… under the love of God.  God sent His Son (and Jesus delivered Himself to the terrible suffering that we’ve seen so far) in order that His elect people would be reborn out of that old nature!  And we are to “beat ourselves’ (figuratively) until we come under His holy Law-Word.  There’s no justification possible for our doing anything else as reborn creations of God!

So those who display a profane propensity for aggression and violence are carnal and fleshy, and they have forfeited the love of Christ.  And in its place is hatred.  And that hatred is usually directed at God’s established authority.  Government, police, parents and ministers are the usual targets.

And what’s more, that hatred betrays an underlying self-righteousness!  For they live by their own critical natures and their own passions rather than by the Word or our just and holy God.  And because of those passions, they justify their hatred and belligerence.

The magistrate is the one who has been charged by God to use the sword.  And this mob which came to seize Jesus came from the president of the Sanhedrin, which was the ruling Jewish body in Jerusalem.

And Malchus was his personal servant and the representative of that authority.  And that authority was established by God!  So Peter was guilty of breaking God’s holy Law by committing violence against God’s ordained authority.

So there is a confluence of issues here, isn’t there?  Not only do we have the fulfillment of the prophetic Scriptures in the seizure of the condemned Christ, but we also see that it was God’s ordained and established authority that was the instrument through which the Scriptures were to be fulfilled.  As evil as that authority was, it was His; and Peter had struck that authority with his sword when it was executing the wrath of God.

It was the ordained sword of the magistrate that was put into action here; but it was the sword of an ordinary citizen taken up against it in a fit of hatred and vengeance.  In irony, Peter had unlawfully used the sword against the institution which was supposed to use the sword!  He was defending his Master in a convoluted, but self-righteous, act of loyalty; but in his rage and passion he perverted the Law of God!

This is something no doubt many of us might have done in one form or another.  But we would have been due the same, severe chastening which Peter received form the Lord.  “Put the sword back in its place; for all who have taken up the sword will destroy themselves in conjunction with the sword.”

If you take up arms against God’s ordained authority, generally speaking you will destroy yourselves in conjunction with that sword; because God’s authority will wield the sword in vengeance.  And you will have done it to yourself!

This incident in the text has twelve men facing a great crowd… all of who were bearing swords and clubs.  Surely if it had continued, they would have all been killed in short order – and all justifiably!  If any had survived they would, more than likely, have claimed a sanctification for their actions.  But according to Jesus’ chastening it would not only have been foolish… it would have been self-inflicted!

The statutes and commandments won’t be superceded by the passion and justifications of men.  One cannot justify taking up the sword against the institution which God ordained to wield the sword.

A great commentator once called that “sporting with God’s Law.”  That was Calvin.  And he followed that up with specific terminology which he applied to those who are self-righteous enough to do that.  He called them “dogs”.

We’re going to continue this same discussion the next time we meet.  Because Jesus’ comment about the “twelve legions” of angels has to do with the same subject.


And now we come to the Table of our Lord.  And this ought to be an event, practiced often, of rejoicing and delight.

Just as we no longer have circumcision as the mark of God (since Jesus was our ultimate circumcision), neither do we have Passover (since Jesus was our Passover).  Now we have baptism and communion.

Just as circumcision was the covenantal mark of God on His people, now baptism is that covenantal mark.  And just as Passover was the covenantal meal of communion among all of God’s people, now the Lord’s Table is the covenantal meal of communion among all of God’s people.

Both of the sacraments of the Older Scripture looked forward to the coming Christ of God.  One was prophetic of His being “cut off” on the cross; the other being prophetic of the transliterated KOINONIA which exists in the Savior among His covenantal heirs.  To quote a famous book title, there has been redemption accomplished and applied!

As we’ve been reading from this text, Matthew twenty-six, the Son of God/Son of Man was cut off from the living, abandoned, and suffered gruesomely at the hand of His Father, rejected of men – even His own disciples – especially one of His Own “twelve”; left completely alone – to suffer alone – in order that He (alone) might be the ransom for many.

Therefore “the many”, in remembrance of Him, gleefully join together in sacramental unity in His body.  These elements (bread and wine) are the signs and seals of the Covenant that God made for the salvation of His people.  The sign of His body (His Person) sealed by God that it is true; and the sign of His blood, shed for many; and the seal from God that it is true.

These signs and seals from God are worthy of great rejoicing and thanksgiving!  The word eucharist comes from a Greek word which means thanksgiving!  Which is exactly what our Lord did when He passed the bread and the wine to His eleven disciples.  He gave thanks.