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tion. But Jesus assured them, that they would
all take offence and be scattered from him before
morning. Peter still insisted, that, however it
might be with the others, it should not be so with
him. Jesus answered, that they were about to go
through a peculiarly severe trial; that for him he
had especially prayed, that his faith might not fail;

Matthew XX vi. 31. Mark xiv. 27. Luke xxii. 3l>

Jobn xiii. 36,


and bade him, when recovered from the shock it
should receive, strengthen that of his brethren.

In relating the severer trials they were to en-
counter, he further said, that the days were past
when they could go from place to place as they
had done, without purse, or sandals, or sword,
secure from assault and evil, and welcomed where-
ever they went. The times had changed. He
himself was to suffer as a malefactor, and they
would henceforth be subjected to want and perils,
such as would make it necessary to provide for
their own sustenance, and to be ready to part with
their clothing for the sake of a sword. The dis-
ciples, still in the dark, fancied that he recom-
mended them to arm themselves, and said, " Here
are two swords." He replied, "It is enough;" —
as if he had said. Very well, — with a sigh of
disappointment to find that their obtuse minds
were still blind to the real posture of affairs.

As the ceremony proceeded, Jesus took the
unleavened cake, and agreeably to the usage of
the occasion as already described, broke it and
divided it among the disciples. But he told them
that henceforth its meaning and object were to be
changed. It was no longer to be eaten in com-
memoration of their fathers in Egypt. They must
regard it as a memorial of himself, and consecrate
the occasion to his memory. — So also he took the
cup of wine, which it was customary, at the


close of the supper, to bless and distribute among
the company. This, too, he told them, was hence-
forth to commemorate a greater event than the
deliverance from Egyptian bondage. It was to
denote the shedding of his blood for the ratifica-
tion of a new covenant, and was to be drunk in
memory of himself. Thus he changed for them
the character of this ancient festival; he con-
verted it from its original national purpose, into a
purely spiritual commemoration of himself. He
thus established that simple but touching obser-
vance, which is a peculiar rite of his religion,
and which has been cherished by believers in all
ages since, dear and hallowed as the memory of
its Founder.

It was impossible that this act should not deep-
ly affect the minds of the disciples. He had often
spoken to them of late on the subject of his ap-
proaching death; but they had not understood
him, nor believed that he was to die. But now,
when he spoke of treachery, and formally charged
them to keep this feast thenceforward as a memo-
rial of his death, — declaring that he never should
again partake of it with them; — they must have
been filled with fearful forebodings and alarm.
Jesus perceived their distress, and applied himself
to console it. " Let not your hearts be troubled,"
said he; "ye believe in God, believe also in me."
Let it comfort you to reflect, that I have only gone


before you to my Father's house, and shall return
to receive you thither, that we may at last be al-
way together. Still, however, their minds were
not perfectly clear. Thomas, and Philip, and
Judas, the brother of James, put questions to
him, which showed that they were yet groping in
the dark. He explained himself to them; remind-
ed them how dear he was to the Father, and that
therefore they should rather rejoice that he was
going to him; assured them that they should not
be left comfortless, that they should be objects of
the Father's love and favor, and be blessed by the
gift of the Holy Spirit. And finally he said,
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto

But his discourse did not consist wholly of
words of comfort. The truest consolation is al-
ways found in the strength of virtuous principle
and preparation for virtuous action; and it would
have been of little avail to the apostles, that their
present apprehensions were soothed, unless they
had also been made to understand what was re-
quired of them, and nerved to bear the sufferings
and do the work appointed them. They were
going forth on the most important errand on which
men had ever been commissioned. They were
going into the midst of trials to which men had



never been exposed. Every thing was to depend
on the constancy and fidelity with which they should
execute their trust. Jesus felt that in vain had
he begun an enterprise the most beneficent to man
and the most glorious to God, unless it were pros-
ecuted in his spirit. This spirit he labored to
infuse into them. He strove to make them com-
prehend how much was depending on their feel-
ing their connexion to himself, and devoting
themselves exclusively to his cause. He urged
them to adhere to him in all affection and confi-
dence, because they could otherwise have no
strength and success, any more than a branch
could live and bear fruit without connexion with
the vine. He urged them to adhere to one ano-
ther in brotherly love, and thus to recommend their
cause and their Master to the world. He pleaded
with them the memory and example of his own love
for them, and warned them against the ruinous
consequences of remissness and unfaithfulness.
At the same time, he did not disguise the perils
to which this course would expose them; he told
them, that they had much opposition to encoun-
ter and severe sufl^erings to endure. But they
should not be unsupported. The spirit of God
would be with them to guide, sustain, and bless
them, and no request which they should make of
the Father in his name would be denied them.
Much of this consoling and admonitory Ian-


guage appears to have been lost on the disciples
at the time. There was still a mist before their
eyes. They did not clearly see what he meant
by "going to the Father." They whispered
among themselves inquiring what he could mean;
and Jesus explained himself to them more perfect-
ly. Still there remained much, the full import of
which could enter their minds only when, some
time afterward, the resurrection of their Lord and
the gifts of the Spirit, had opened their eyes to
the true purposes of his mission, and the real
character of their enterprise. Then the solemn,
exciting, and soothing discourses of this painful
evening, must have come to their recollection
with a sustaining and invigorating influence; and,
mingled with the image of their gracious friend
and the tones of his benignant voice, must have
filled their hearts with the confidence and peace
of which he spoke in the concluding words:
" These words I have spoken unto you, that in
me ye might have peace. In the world, ye will
have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have
overcome the world."

Having finished what he had to say to his dis-
ciples, Jesus lifted up his eyes, and prayed. He
prayed for himself, for his apostles, for all his disci-
ples, for his followers and his truth in all ages. He

John xvii.


poured out his earnest and affectionate desires in
a strain of supplication unspeakably pathetic and
sublime. His beloved disciple has put his prayer
on record. In reading it we gain admittance into
the soul of his Master; we feel how powerful and
elevating is his truth. We are overcome with
admiration, that one about to perish by a violent
and ignominious death, should exhibit this con-
sciousness of an intimate union with the supreme
Father; should display this calm assurance, that
the grandest purposes of the Divine government
were connected Vvith his own fate; should thus
lift himself above the present time and present
scenes, and speak of the invisible and eternal
as if familiar with their glories. We know that
no one before him had thus spoken; and, as we
listen to his words we exclaim, " Truly this was
the Son of God."




It is not perfectly clear, whether the whole of
the scene just related took place in the room in
which the Passover supper was eaten; or whether
a large portion of the last discourse of Jesus were
not held in the open air as he was proceeding
with his disciples toward the Mount of Olives.
The latter is thought by many to be the more
probable ; and they conceive, that the image which
he used of the vine and its branches, was sug-
gested by the vineyards through which they pass-
ed on their way.

However this may have been, they left the
city, as had been their custom every night, and
retired over the brook Kedron, to the Mount of
Olives. This brook runs through the bottom of
the valley which lies between Olivet and Jerusa-
lem. After crossing it, they proceeded for about
half a mile, when they came to a garden called
Gethsemane, lying just at the foot of the moun-
tain. It seems to have been a favorite resort of

Matt. xxvi. 36. Mark xiv. 32. Luke xxii. 39.

John xviii. 1,


Jesus, being probably attached to the house of
some one of his followers, and well situated for
retirement. Here they had hitherto been safe
from pursuit; but Judas, who had always been
with them, knew the place, and he had now left
them for the purpose of conducting to it the offi-
cers of the Sanhedrim.

The Passover was always celebrated at the full
of the moon. And nothing can well be more
lovely than the moonlight night of that season of
the year in that beautiful part of the world. But
the hearts of this little company were too heavy
to allow them to feel the beauty of external na-
ture. On the minds of the disciples, the events
of the evening had left a vague but strong im-
pression of grief and apprehension. To their
Master's mind all was clear. He saw the whole
reality. He knew exactly the horrors that were
approaching. He felt them more and more as
the hour drew nigh. Leaving the other disciples,
he took Peter, James, and John to a more retired
part of the garden, " My soul is exceeding sor-
rowful," said he, "even unto death; tarry ye
here and watch with me." He went a little dis-
tance, and threw himself on his face, upon the
ground, and prayed, that, if it were possible, the
hour might pass from him. " Abba! Father!"
he cried, " all things are possible unto thee; take
away this cup from me! Nevertheless, not what


I will, but what thou wilt," Three times at inter-
vals, he repeated this prayer. The struggle of
feeling, Luke tells us, amounted to agony. The
sweat poured from him like drops of blood, and
he prayed more and more earnestly. He was not
unanswered. An angel appeared from heaven,
strengthening him. And he rose up, calm, strong,
and ready to endure, with a fortitude which never
for a moment shrunk back.

Meantime the disciples, overcome with excite-
ment, fatigue, and grief, gave way to drowsiness
and fell asleep. He returned to them again and.
again in the intervals of his own distress, hoping
to find one word, at least, of sympathy, from
those who loved him; but they were asleep,
*' Simon," said he, addressing the Apostle who
had been most forward in his promises of aid,
'* Simon, sieenest thou? Couldst thou not watch
with me one hour.''" Then reminding them of
their situation and perils, he urged them to watch
and pray; for, however prepared they might be
in disposition and heart, in body they were weak,
and might be overcome when least expecting it.
But they did not sufficiently comprehend either
his situation or their own, to be kept awake by it.
They fell asleep again as soon as he turned away
from them.

He had just roused them the third time, when
lights were seen approaching, and the band of


officers and soldiers entered the garden to appre-
hend him, with Judas at their head. This false
disciple, adding insult to treachery, came boldlj
to his Lord, cried " Hail, Master!" and kissed
him. This was the sign by which his person was
to be pointed out to the officers. " Judas," said
the Saviour meekly, " betray est thou the Son of
man with a kiss? " Then advancing to the com-
pany, he inquired, "Whom seek ye?" "Jesus
of Nazareth," they replied; and when they found
themselves in the presence of the person of whose
power and goodness they had heard so much, they
were struck with involuntary awe, and started
back, and fell to the ground. He again spoke to
them, and, begging them to permit his disciples
to depart, surrendered himself into their hands.

The disciples, roused suddenly from their sleep,
and perceiving the band of armed men, appear to
have been amazed and panic-struck. Peter, al-
ways hasty, drew his sword, and wounded one of
the men. But Jesus healed the wound with a
touch, and rebuked the impetuous disciple; he
reminded him that force could only lead to evil;
that his submission was voluntary; that even now,
if he should ask it, Heaven would interpose for
his rescue; but that this would be inconsistent
with the great purposes of God; for " how then
should the Scriptures be fulfilled?" The other
disciples offered no resistance. They appear to


have stood by, passive and bewildered. They
were taken by surprise, and obeyed the impulse
of the moment, and fled. A few hours before,
they had declared, as they had doubtless felt, that
they would abide by their Master to the last.
But they did not know themselves, so well as he
did; and when the hour of which he had warned
them came, they forgot their affection and their
promises, and deserted him. They left their
teacher, their benefactor, their friend, to pass
alone, without sympathy, through the trying scenes
of his extremity. Two ventured to follow him
at a distance; but the others disappeared.

Jesus was led away, bound, to the presence of
the Sanhedrim, by whose orders he had been ap-

This Council, the highest and most sacred
court of the Jews, consisted of seventy persons,
and is often intended in the New Testament
when " the chief priests, elders, and scribes "
are spoken of. Some argue that it was the same
council with that constituted by Moses in the wil-
derness, continued down through all the changes
of the nation; but it was, more probably, of a later
origin. It had supreme authority in all matters
peculiar to the Mosaic institutions, and was allow-
ed to exercise it even under the dominion of the

The regular place of meeting of the Sanhe-


drim was in a circular hall of the Temple, in
the court of the priests. The Jews say, that
about forty years before the destruction of the
city, the meetings ceased to be held in that
place. On the present occasion, the venerable
court assembled at the palace of the High-priest,
Caiaphas; — the same who, at a former meeting,
had recommended the policy of putting Jesus to
death in order to save the nation from the dis-
pleasure of the Romans. The members of the
council seem to have remained there during the
night, awaiting the performance of Judas 's prom-
ise. And there they were, when, in the darkness
of the early morning, their officers arrived v/ith
the man whose life they had so long and so
eagerly sought. They had in vain attempted to
seize him during the day; the night was the
only time, and it was a fit time, for their work of

Before these prejudiced men, — who had long
ago resolved on his death, whose malice had
become exasperated by his so long escaping
them, and who were now probably more than
ever excited because obliged to assemble at an
unseasonable hour for fear of the people, — their
innocent victim was brought in bound. The
proceedings began with a show of moderation,
but not as a fair trial would have begun. The
High-priest interrogated the prisoner respecting


his disciples and his doctrine. To this Jesus re-
plied, that he had lived and taught publicly; what
he had done was before the world; witnesses
might easily be found to testify on this head; he
was not himself the proper person to be inquired
of. It shows the temper of the tribunal, that for
this reply one of the officers was permitted to
strike Jesus. Yet he had plainly done nothing
but state the proper course of proceeding. If he
was on trial, witnesses should be summoned.

A show was then made of calling witnesses.
But it was not easy to find such as would answer
the purpose. At lengtn two men came forward,
and declared that they had heard him say, " I
am able to destroy the temple of God, and to
build it in three days." Something like this he
had said at the preceding Passover; and that
must have been a faultless life indeed, from which
nothing more could be gathered that would bear
a criminal construction. As if this were a hein-
ous ofience, and nothing further need be requir-
ed, the High-priest rose from his seat, and asked
the prisoner what he had to reply, Jesus had
already perceived how vain it was to speak, and
remained silent. But it was necessary, if possi-
ble, to extort from his own mouth something which
might serve to justify their proceeding against
him. Therefore the High-priest said, "I adjure
thee, by the living God, that thou tell us whether


thou be the Christ, the Son of God." This was
the regular form of a judicial oath. Jesus felt
bound to reply; and declared, that he was not
only the Messiah, but that they should witness
his glory and exaltation. Upon hearing this, the
High-priest declared it to be blasphemy, rent his
garments to express his horror, and appealed to
the Council that no further testimony was ne-
cessary. To this they all assented, and pronoun-
ced sentence of death. Then ensued a scene
■of outrage, which would not be tolerated in the
presence of any modern tribunal in the civilized
world. He was buffeted, spit upon, derided, and
the officers and servants made him their mockery
and sport.

If we rightly understand the account, there
w^as now a little pause in the doings of the coun-
cil; for it is said to have come together again at
day break, to consult as to the manner of carry-
ing their sentence into execution. By the law
of Moses, a person convicted of blasphemy should
be stoned to death. But whether the council
really did not now possess this power, which is
uncertain, or whether they apprehended that the
people would rise to prevent them, or whether
they sought to gratify their malice by exposing
him to a death more cruel and ignominious; —
whichever the reason might be, they determined



to carry him before the governor on a charge of
sedition and treason.

During all this pamful scene, no one had ap-
peared for Jesus, no one had spoken for him.
Only tvvo of his disciples had even had the cour-
age to follov.' him. One of these, generally sup-
posed to be John, being known to the High-
priest, had found easy admission to his house^
and obtained admittance for Peter also. Where
John placed himself, he has not told us. Peter
mingled v/ith the servants who were sitting
around a fire in the hall, and hoped to escape
notice while he observed what was going forward.
What he saw and heard, agitated and intimidat-
ed him; so that when one person after another
recognised him as a follower of Jesus, he stoutly
denied it; and when at last the proof seemed to be
growing stronger, and detection to be unavoidable,
he, a third time, denied it with oaths. At this
moment the cock crew, and the recollection of
his Master's words and a sense of his own base-
ness, rushed upon his mind. He looked toward
Jesus, and met his eye fixed full upon him. He
could not bear it. He rushed out, and burst into

So fell the first and most ardent of the Apostles.
But he repented, and rose again, and obtained
mercy, and lived to compensate for his temporary


defection. Not so with that more unhappy man,
who had deliberately betrayed his Lord. He, in-
deed, sorrowed for his sin; but it was the sorrow
-of despair. When he found that Jesus was con-
demned, he was seized with remorse ; he carried
back the money to the priests, declaring that he
had betrayed innocent blood; they derided him
for his scruples; and he went away in a state of
desperation, and destroyed himself.




The stated residence of the Roman governors
of Judea, was Cesarea, a town on the sea-coast.
At the great festivals, they came to Jerusalem to
enjoy the pomp of the occasion, and attend to the
administration of justice. Pilate was accordingly
now in the city. He had been governor for
about five years; and was acquainted with the
peculiarities of the people and of their institu-

It was yet early in the morning, when the
members of the Council, removing from the house
of Caiaphas, presented themselves with Jesus at
the Proetorium, for so the palace of the governor
was called. Jesus was led into the presence of
Pilate; but his accusers remained without; for
they could not enter the house of a Gentile with-
out danger of contracting a pollution, which would
unfit them for participating in the festival. They
could do a great injustice, but they would not
endure a small defilement. So much stronger
was their superstition than their principle. Ac-
cordingly they remained at the tribunal in front of

Mat. xxvii. 11. Mark xv. 1. Luke xxiii. 1.

•Tohn xviii. 28.


the palace. The governors were accustomed to
administer justice in the open air; and the tribu-
nal was erected for that purpose on a pavement of

The governor came out to them to inquire into
the nature of the accusation; and being probably
desirous to get rid of an affair which he supposed
to concern their own peculiar customs, directed
them to take Jesus and deal with him according
to their law. They replied, that it was not law-
ful for them to put any man to death. It has
been a great question, whether this was true in
its full extent, or whether they only meant to be
understood as intimating that the offence of Jesus
was against the Roman government, and not
against their own institutions. They added, what
is to be considered as their formal indictment,
" We found this man perverting the nation, and
forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that
he himself is Christ, a king." It was a charge of
sedition and rebellion.

Pilate retired, and interrogated Jesus, He did
not deny that he was king of the Jews; but he ex-
plained, that his was a kingdom not of this world,
and such as would n')t at all interfere with the
kingdom of Csesar; adding, that the great office
which he had to discharge was that of establish-
ing Truth. Pilate not understanding this, or
thinking it nothing to the purpose, immediately


went out again, and declared to his accusers,
that he found the prisoner innocent of all crime.
This rendered them only the more fierce, as Luke
expresses it; and, varying the terms of the accusa-
tion a little, they charged him with exciting sedi-
tion among the people, from Galilee to Jerusalem.

Finding Jesus to be a Galilean, Pilate sent him
to Herod, who was at this time in the city, having
come up to pass there the season of the festival.
He doubtless felt relieved at the prospect of shift-
incr off the responsibility of so delicate a case upon
another magistrate.

Herod, as has appeared in the course of the
history, had long been desirous of seeing the ex-
traordinary prophet who had been so famous in his
province; but Jesus had taken care to avoid him.
The tetrarch was rejoiced to meet him at last;
and strove to gratify his curiosity by inducing
him to perform some such miracle as he had
heard of, and by asking a variety of questions.
But Jesus refused to answer the idle questioner,
Herod was irritated; and learning the nature of the
accusations against him, insulted his royal preten-
sions by clothing him in a gorgeous robe, and sent
him back to Pilate. This interchange of civilities
was the means of restoring a good understanding
between the two magistrates. It could not have

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Online LibraryHenry WareThe life of the saviour → online text (page 13 of 15)