Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 33: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part III, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
MATTHEW 26:45-50; MARK 14:41-46;
45. Then he cometh to his disciples, and saith to them: Sleep on now, and take your rest; lo, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46. Arise, let us go: lo, he who betrayeth me is approaching. 47. While he was still speaking, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, cometh, and with him a great multitude with swords and clubs, 210 from the chief priests and elders of the people. 48. Now he who betrayed him had given them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, it is he: take him. 49. And immediately approaching, he said to Jesus, Hail, Rabbi, and kissed him. 50. And Jesus said to him, Friend for what purpose comest thou? Then they approached, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.
41. And he cometh the third time, and saith to the, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; lo, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42. Arise, let us go: lo, he who betrayeth me is approaching. 43. And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, who was one of the twelve, cometh, and with him a great multitude with swords and clubs, 211 from the chief priests, and scribes, and elders. 44. Now he who betrayed him had given them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, it is he: take him, and lead him away cautiously. 45. And having come, he immediately approacheth him, and saith, Rabbi, Rabbi, 212 and kissed him. 46. And they laid hands on him, and took him.
47. And while he was still speaking, lo, a multitude, and he who was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and approached Jesus to kiss him. 48. And Jesus said to him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?
Matthew 26:45. Sleep on now, and take your rest. It is plain enough, that Christ now speaks ironically, but we must, at the same time, attend to the object of the irony. For Christ, having gained nothing by warning his disciples, not only gives an indirect reproof of their indifference, but threatens, that how indolent so ever they may choose to be, no longer delay will be allowed them. The meaning therefore is, “Having hitherto wasted my words on you, I shall now come to exhort you; but whatever permission I may give you to sleep, the enemies will not allow it to you, but will compel you to watch against your will.” In Mark, it is accordingly added, It is enough; as if he had said, that there is no more time for sleeping. And this is the way in which the Lord usually chastises the indolence of men, that those who wax deaf to words may at length be compelled, by their sufferings, to arouse themselves. Let us, therefore, learn to give immediate attention to the words of the Lord, lest what he wishes to draw from us voluntarily may be too late forced from us by necessity.
46. Arise, let us go. By these words he declares that, after having prayed, he was furnished with new arms. He had formerly, indeed, been sufficiently voluntary as to dying; but, when he came to the point, he had a hard struggle with the weakness of the flesh, so that he would willingly have withdrawn from dying, provided that he had been permitted to do so with the good-will of his Father. He, therefore, obtained by prayers and tears (Heb 5:7) new strength from heaven; not that he ever hesitated through want of strength, but because under the weakness of the flesh, which he had voluntarily undertaken, he wished to labor anxiously, and with painful and difficult exertion, to gain a victory for us in his own person. But now, when the trembling is allayed, and the fear is subdued, that he may again present a voluntary sacrifice to the Father, he not only does not retire or conceal himself, but cheerfully advances to death.
47. While he was still speaking. The Evangelists are careful to state that our Lord foresaw what happened; from which it might be inferred, that he was not dragged to death by external violence, except so far as wicked men carried into execution the secret purpose of God. Although, therefore, a melancholy and frightful spectacle was exhibited to the disciples, yet they received, at the same time, grounds of confidence to confirm them, since the event itself showed that nothing occurred by chance; and since Christ’s prediction directed them to contemplate the glory of his divinity. The circumstance of an armed multitude having been sent by the chief priests, and of a captain and band having been obtained by request from Pilate, makes it evident, that an evil conscience wounded and tormented them, so that they did every thing in a state of terror. For what need was there for so great a force to take Christ, who, they were aware, was not provided with any defensive arms? The reason for such careful preparation was, that the divine power of Christ, which they had been compelled to feel by numerous proofs, inwardly tormented them; but, on the other hand, it is a display of amazing rage, that, relying on the power of arms, they do not hesitate to rise up against God.
48. Now he who betrayed him. I have no doubt that Judas was restrained, either by reverence for our Lord, or by shame for his crime, from venturing openly to avow himself as one of the enemies; and the warning which, Mark tells us, he gave the soldiers — to lead the away cautiously, was given, I conjecture, for this reason, that he recollected the numerous-proofs by which Christ had formerly attested his divine power. But it was, at the same time, astonishing madness, either to attempt to conceal himself by frivolous hypocrisy, when he came into the presence of the Son of God, or to oppose the tricks and dexterity of men to his boundless power.
49. Hail, Rabbi. I have no doubt that Judas, as if trembling for his Master’s danger, pretended by these words to have some feeling of compassion; and, accordingly, in Mark a pathetic repetition is expressed, 213 Rabbi, Rabbi. For though he was impressed with the majesty of Christ, still the devil so fascinated his mind, that he felt assured that his treachery was concealed by a kiss, and by soothing words. This salutation, or exclamation, therefore, was a pretense of compassion. I offer the same opinion about the kiss; for though it was a very common practice among the Jews to welcome friends with a kiss, yet as Judas had left Christ but a little before, he seems now — as if he had become suddenly alarmed at his danger — to give the last kiss to his Master. Thus he excels the rest in the appearance of affection, when he appears to be deeply grieved at being separated from his Master; but how little he gained by his deception is evident from Christ’s reply.
50. Friend, for what purpose comest thou? Luke expresses it more fully: Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss? except that there is greater force in this reproof, that the benevolence of his Master, and the very high honor conferred on him, are wickedly abused for the purpose of the basest treachery. For Christ does not employ an ironical address when he calls him friend, but charges him with ingratitude, that, from being an intimate friend, who sat at his table, he had become a traitor, as had been predicted in the psalm: If a stranger had done this, I could have endured it; but now my private and familiar friend, with whom I took food pleasantly, who accompanied me to the temple of the Lord, hath prepared snares against me. 214 This shows clearly—what I hinted a little ago—that, whatever may be the artifices by which hypocrites conceal themselves, and whatever may be the pretenses which they hold out, when they come into the presence of the Lord, their crimes become manifest; and it even becomes the ground of a severer sentence against them, that, having been admitted into the bosom of Christ, they treacherously rise up against him. For the word friend, as we have stated, contains within itself a sharp sting.
Let us know that this evil, which Christ once sustained in his own person, is an evil to which the Church will always be exposed—that of cherishing traitors in her bosom; and, therefore, it was said a little before, The traitor approached, who was one of the twelve, that we may not be immediately distressed by such instances; for the Lord intends to try our faith in both ways, when, without, Satan opposes us and the Church by open enemies, and, within, he attempts secret destruction by means of hypocrites. We are taught, at the same time, that we who are his disciples ought to worship God with sincerity; for the apostasies, which we see every day, excite us to fear, and to the cultivation of true godliness, as Paul says,
Let every one that calleth on the name of God depart from iniquity,
We are all commanded to kiss the Son of God, (Ps 2:12;) and we ought, therefore, to see that no one give him a traitor’s kiss, otherwise it will cost us dear to have been elevated to so great an honor.
Our english versions have generally rendered ξύλων by staves; but with two exceptions: swerdis and battis, (Wiclif, 1580) swordes and clubbes (Rheims, 1582). Campbell has adopted the term clubs. — Ed.
Our english versions have generally rendered ξύλων by staves; but with two exceptions: swerdis and battis,(Wiclif, 1580) swordes and clubbes (Rheims, 1582). Campbell has adopted the term clubs. — Ed.
“Maistre, Maistre;” — “Master, Master.”
“Il y a une repetition comme d’un homme parlant de grande affection;” — “there is a repetition, as if by a man who spoke from strong feeling.”
Our Author, quoting from memory, has blended two passages of a kindred spirit: Ps 41:10, and Ps. 55:12, 13, 14. — Ed.