lastsup0218. Now as they sat and ate, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me will betray Me.”

Although we do not read of it, Judas must have returned to the twelve after setting up his betrayal back in verses 10 and 11.  Now, the Lord Jesus reveals His knowledge of Judas’ coming betrayal.  This not only demonstrates His complete knowledge and authority over the situation, but also gives Judas the chance to repent.  Unfortunately, he did not take it, but continued on the destructive course he had set out on.
 
19. And they began to be sorrowful, and to say to Him one by one, “Is it I?”  And another said, “Is it I?”

Although the Lord had revealed that one of them would betray Him, and He certainly knew that He was speaking of Judas, the disciples did not know.  They must have been expecting enemies and opposition from the outside, but it is likely that they did not suspect that they were going to be betrayed from within.  The idea that one of their close little group could end up betraying the Lord was enough to make them sorrowful.  And, indeed, it was a very sad thing!  Now, each one is anxious to have it confirmed that he would never betray his Teacher, and so they ask Him one by one, “Is it I?”

20. He answered and said to them, “It is one of the twelve, who dips with Me in the dish.

This “dish” would most likely have been filled with bitter herbs, which were commanded as part of the Passover meal.  Exodus 12:8 reads,

“Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.” 

The meat was dipped in bitter herbs.  This was to remind them of the bitterness of their slavery in Egypt.  They all would have been dipping the meat in the bitter herbs, as was the commandment.  Thus, this statement of the Lord’s did not point specifically to Judas, but only confirmed that it was one of the twelve who would betray Him.  In John’s gospel, we read that the Lord finally definitely identified Judas as the betrayer, although the other disciples did not seem to recognize it.  (John 13:26)

21. “The Son of Man indeed goes just 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 never been born.”

Notice what Christ says about Judas.  Some insist that all men will eventually be saved and have eternal life, including Judas.  Others suggest that Judas was really a believer, and just erred in betraying Christ.  However, if Judas ends up receiving eternal life, then certainly it is much better for him to have been born than not to have been born.  Even if Judas had to suffer greatly for his sin, eternal life is a great blessing that far offsets any temporary suffering.  No, Judas could not have been saved, as then it would have been far better for him to have been born than not.  And as long as there is even one man who would have been better off not having been born, then I cannot believe that there is any universal salvation or universal reconciliation.  This is simply not what the Bible teaches.

22. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”

Now, as they eat the Passover, the Lord takes the unleavened bread of the feast, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them.  Yet, instead of giving it its usual significance, which was that the Lord brought the children of Israel out of Egypt in such a hurry that they did not have time to put leaven in their bread, He gives this bread a new significance.  He says that it is His body.  By saying this, the Lord was using the figure of speech called “Metaphor” or “Representation,” wherein a declaration is made that one thing is another.  This is not literal, as some suggest, but the bread is merely a representation of His body.  The Catholics, not recognizing this figure of speech, apply this verse to their made-up ceremony, and actually argue that the elements of the Eucharist really turn into Christ’s flesh!  But the Lord was not saying any such thing, but rather was giving new significance to the elements of an already established ritual.  Any one of us can do this.  For example, suppose a soldier in the U.S. Army who was going off to war was watching Fourth of July fireworks with his family.  As they watched them together, the soldier told his family that, if he didn’t come back, every time they watched fireworks from then on, they should remember him and that he had gone off to fight for their freedom.  He would have given the fireworks, a tradition around long before his birth, a new significance.  For those who loved him, these fireworks would, from now on, remind them of him and what he had done.  And the Lord had now given new meaning to the Passover bread in the same way.  To those who loved Him, every time they took the Passover from now on, they would think of these words of their Lord and the new significance He had given to these elements of the feast.

23. Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it.

He takes the Passover cup.  Most assume that this was full of wine, but this is just a tradition.  Many seek to justify a bread and wine ritual they have invented by appealing to this passage, and so the idea that the cup is full of wine is assumed.  There is no bread and wine ritual here, but only the Passover.  There is no evidence that wine was served with the Passover.  Exodus 12:8 reads,

Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

Here, the word in Hebrew for “bitter herbs” has nothing to do with herbs.  This is an insertion from the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint.  At the time of the Septuagint’s translation, the tradition was to eat bitter herbs with the Passover, and the translators of the Greek Bible translated it to fit with their tradition.  This method of translating still happens today in many of our English versions!  But the original Hebrew does not read “bitter herbs,” but “bitters.”  This was a bitter drink that was supposed to go along with the Passover meal.  No doubt the Lord would have kept the Passover according to the His original commandment, and had a bitter cup along with it.  In fact, this is probably what they were dipping the food in, as we read back in verse 20.  This bitter cup reminded them of the bitterness of their slavery in Egypt.  Now, it would also speak of the bitterness of the sacrifice of Christ’s blood shed for many.

The Lord takes the cup, and gives thanks, gives it to them, and they drink from it.  This is all according to the way the ritual of the Passover was performed.  There is nothing new going on here.

24. And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.

Now, however, the Lord gives new significance to the Passover cup, just as He had done to the Passover bread.  From now on, this cup would have a new significance in the disciples’ minds.  To understand this, we might get the clearest picture if we think of our memories of Christmas.  Do you remember certain, special Christmas celebrations you have had in the past?  Maybe one, special Christmas, when you celebrated at a certain person’s house, or a certain person was there to celebrate with you, or something particularly special happened?  Maybe every time you think of Christmas that one, special Christmas comes to your mind.  Now, for everyone else in the world, excepting perhaps for a few who might have been with you at that special time, no one else will ever think of that event when they think of Christmas.  Though the holiday is celebrated by millions, for you that one, special Christmas has importance in your mind, and is part of your memories of Christmas.  Well, that was how this was supposed to be in the disciples’ minds from now on.  From this time forward, whenever they thought of the Passover feast, they were to think of this one, special Passover, of their Lord, and of the new significance He had given to the common elements of the Passover.  That is what the Lord was doing here: giving this cup a new significance.  He was not creating a new ritual, or instituting a “church ordinance.”

He says that this cup is the blood “of the new covenant.”  It is shed for “many,” not for all.  We know that the blood of Christ covers the sins of the whole world, not just “many.”  (I John 2:2.)  In this case, however, the blood is considered in its limited sense of applying to the covenant people, the people of Israel.  “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.”  Hebrews 8:8b.  His blood is shed for “many,” the house of Israel, the covenant people.  That His blood was also shed for all cannot be denied, but it is only considered in the limited sense of applying to Israel here.  And that the Gentiles could come to God through it apart from Israel and the new covenant was a truth not revealed until later, when God revealed these great truths to the apostle Paul to record them for us.

25. “Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Though the Lord reveals that this cup held “the fruit of the vine,” this does not prove that it was wine.  Bitter wine or vinegar would have been more appropriate at the Passover, and yet still would have been “the fruit of the vine.”

The Lord promises that He will not drink this fruit of the vine again until He drinks it new in the kingdom of God.  He tasted vinegar, a fruit of the vine, while hanging on the cross, so He may have been referring specifically to the cup of the Passover.  This is a promise that will be someday fulfilled as Christ will drink the fruit of the vine in His coming kingdom.

26. And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

This hymn was probably a Psalm.  Which one it is hard to say.  Then, they leave and go to the Mount of Olives.  Most unusual for Passover night, when they were supposed to remain in their homes until morning.  (Exodus 12:22)  This could have been something that was only necessary at the first Passover.  Yet it is true as well that, while the people were safe at home, the Lord was outside dealing with the Egyptians who held them in slavery.  Now, in the same way, while the people were safe at home, the Lord was going out to save them from their sins.  This, too, is another indication that the common people cannot be implicated in the Lord’s death.  They were all safe at home celebrating the Passover.  How, then, could they even know the danger that the Lord was in, not to mention come to help Him?

27. Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered.’

The Lord reveals to His disciples that none of them will stand with Him this night, but all will stumble because of what is going to happen to Him.  Indeed, His arrest was the very last thing the disciples were expecting or prepared for!  Yet this failure on their part was all in accord with God’s plan, and He had already written about it in the Old Testament Scriptures.  This quotation is from Zechariah 13:7, where the Lord had revealed that this was going to happen.

28. “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”

Though they failed Him, He would gladly accept them back, and would go before them and wait for them at Galilee.  How merciful and gracious the Lord is, even to those who let Him down!

29. Peter said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.”

Peter does not doubt that the others might stumble, but he insists that he will never do so.  He no doubt truly believed this with all his heart.  Yet, sadly, Peter was soon to learn that he was not as strong as he thought he was, and he was certainly not strong enough to overcome the word of God!

30. Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”

The Lord assures Peter that, though he insists it cannot be so, this night, before the rooster crows twice, he, Peter, will deny the Lord three times.  As I pointed out in my studies on Matthew, this prediction of Christ’s concerning Peter’s denials is different from the ones made in the other gospels.  It takes place at the Mount of Olives on the way to Gethsemane, whereas the predictions in Luke and John were at supper.  It differs as well from all the others, including the one in Matthew, in that it predicts that Peter will deny the Lord three times before the rooster crows TWICE, not just before it crows ONCE.  Added to the predictions in the other gospels that he would deny Christ three times before the rooster crowed the first time, we have a total of six denials of Peter, not three.  This explains the strange discrepancy between the gospels in their denials accounts, as the Spirit moved each of the gospel authors to choose a different set of three denials out of the six to write about.  There is no contradiction here, only divinely added details that, when put together, form one, perfect whole and tell us the true story of Peter’s denials.

31. But he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”  And they all said likewise.

Peter, instead of believing the Lord after He makes this solemn prediction, insists all the more vehemently that it could not be so.  Indeed, as I said, he probably believed this when he said it, but sadly, he was not able to live up to this vow.
 
32. Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”

Now they arrive at the place called Gethsemane.  A garden is there now, and probably was also there then.  This was therefore a great place to relax, or to pray, which is what the Lord has come here to do.  Probably this was a nightly stop for them, and so Judas knew to expect the Lord here.  Now, He commands His disciples to sit behind while He goes off to pray.

33. And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed.

Once again it is Peter, James, and John who are to accompany Christ at this important time.  The others are to sit and wait for their return.  They were probably not far away, and so were witnesses to the events, at least from afar, when the Lord was arrested.

Now, the Lord begins to be greatly troubled and distressed.  This seems strange, for why does His courage now fail Him when He has been so unassailable in His determination to go to the cross up until this time?

34. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.  Stay here and watch.”

This sorrow was so severe that it could have led to the Lord’s death.  It is possible that this exceedingly great sorrow was the result of an attack of Satan, and that he was attempting once again to thwart the Lord’s plans by killing Him in the garden.  If He had succeeded, the Lord could not have completed His plan, and could not have gone to the cross.

Now the Lord leaves the three disciples behind as well, and goes off Himself alone, commanding them to watch.

35. He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him.

He only goes a little farther from the disciples before he falls on the ground.  Now, He prays that, if it is possible, this hour might pass from Him.

36. And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You.  Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”

Here Christ uses the term “Abba” for His Father, which in English would be equivalent to “Daddy.”  He cries upon God to remove “this cup” from Him.  That God could have ignored this heart-rending plea for help upon the part of His Son is almost unthinkable.  Many assume that Christ was here asking God to allow Him not to die, referring to His coming death on the cross as “this cup.”  That Christ would have pleaded with God to allow Him not to die when this was the very purpose for which He came and the only way He could redeem us all from sin seems incredible.  Had Christ forgotten His love for us that had prompted Him to come to the cross?  In a moment of weakness did He desire not to have to pay for our sins to secure our salvation?  It seems almost blasphemous that we would even think such a thing of our Lord!  No, Christ was not asking that the burden of His death be removed from Him.  Rather, the cup He is referring to is the very cup mentioned in verses 33 and 34, the great and near-deadly sorrow that had come upon Him and threatened to overwhelm Him and send Him to His death prior to the cross.  We learn moreover in Luke 22:43 that His prayer was answered, as an angel came and strengthened Him.  His request was granted, and this almost supernatural cup of deadly anguish was removed from Him so that He could go to His death on the cross as He desired and as God’s plan demanded.  This call of Christ’s to His Father was not to foil Their plans to save us from our sins, but rather to be allowed to have the strength to complete them, and this strength was provided.

Notice the Lord’s complete subservience to His Father’s will.  Yet I do not believe that He was saying, “Only make Me die on the cross if you really insist upon it.”  No, our Lord cared about us more than that!  Rather, He was asking, “Save Me so that I might die on the cross for their sins, but only as You will it.”  He was asking to be spared for the cross at His Father’s will, not to be spared from the cross.  And, as His Father desired the same thing He did, He was spared, and was able to go to the cross as planned.

37. Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping?  Could you not watch one hour?

The Lord finds the disciples sleeping when He returns.  The word is the Greek word for composing yourself for sleep, which means they had done so purposely.  They were probably tired, and had thought to rest a bit while the Lord prayed.  They had obviously not taken His command to watch seriously.

38. “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

They needed to pray that they would not enter into temptation.  As they had all insisted upon minutes before, they were all willing in their spirits to follow the Lord no matter what.  Yet their flesh was weak, and they needed to pray for strength.  For their flesh would soon let them down, and they would abandon the Lord, as He had said.

39. Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words.

The crisis is not over, and so the Lord again prays to His Father to allow Him to survive this ordeal in the garden.

40. And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him.

Again He finds His disciples sleeping.  It seems they had tried to stay awake this time, and yet without getting up or leaving their reclining positions, and, their eyes being heavy, they had just dropped off again.  They don’t know what to answer Him this time, for now they have clearly disobeyed His command.  Already they are shaming themselves and proving not up to the task of standing with Him, as they had promised they would do.

Whether this sleep was natural or whether Satan was attacking them as well so that Christ’s sense of isolation would be even more profound we cannot tell for certain from this passage.  This sleep almost seems as supernatural as Christ’s sorrow, for it overcomes not one or two but all the disciples in an irresistible slumber.  “Their eyes were heavy,” we read, and that is all the explanation we are given, but again this seems consistent with a last-minute attack on the Lord in an attempt to thwart His ultimate purpose.

41. Then He came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?  It is enough!  The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.

A third time the cycle is repeated, and again the disciples fail to stay awake to watch, as He commanded.  Now, He rebukes them one last time.  Yet now it is too late.  The words, “It is enough!” in Greek mean, “He is receiving.”  This probably refers to Judas, and means that even then the soldiers had spotted the Lord, and were giving Judas his payment before moving in to make the arrest.  Thus at that very moment, as Christ said, He was being betrayed into the hands of sinners.

42. “Rise, let us be going.  See, My betrayer is at hand.”

Now He commands them to get up.  They should have been up anyway, following His command to watch, yet they were not.  And He reveals that He knows His betrayer is at hand.  He knows this, even as He knew that Judas was then receiving his betrayal money.  The Lord was very much on top of the situation, even as He was being betrayed and arrested.

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