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Matthew 26:69-27:10

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Matthew 26:69-75 -

Peter’s Denial,

by Scott Sperling

 

69Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. 

70But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

71Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 

72He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” 

73After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” 

74Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” 

Immediately a rooster crowed.  75Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

 

The previous section concluded with the beginning of Jesus’ physical suffering, as He was buffeted and mocked by the Sanhedrin (see vs. 67-68).  Now in this section, Jesus is denied three times by His most faithful disciple.  Appropriately, Matthew juxtaposes the two episodes, for Peter’s denial of Christ is part of Jesus’ sufferings.

All four of the Gospel writers in the Bible recount this episode.  Matthew chooses to relate all three of Peter’s denials together in his Gospel, though they took place at different times during the evening (see John 16:16ff; Luke 22:58). There are other differences in the accounts Peter’s denials in the Gospels, mainly as to who the speakers were.  These differences can be explained by the fact that there were a number of people in the area where Peter was, and it is probable that multiple people spoke up, inquiring if Peter knew Jesus.  Remember that Peter was pretty much Jesus’ right-hand man, nearly always with Him as He ministered.  Those who saw Jesus, probably saw Peter with Him.

Peter’s sin of denying Christ did not occur spontaneously, out of the blue.  As we look back at Matthew’s account of the events of the evening of Jesus’, and even earlier events, we can see things that Peter did and said that led up to his denials of Christ.  For instance, when Jesus first laid out to the disciples God’s plan of Jesus’ suffering, dying, and being raised to life, Peter responded by “rebuking” his Lord, saying, “Never, Lord!... This shall never happen to you!” (Matt. 16:22).  Peter clearly did not fully accept God’s plan that Christ would suffer and die for mankind.  This is also reflected by Peter pulling his sword in an attempt to prevent the arrest of Jesus.

Another indication in Peter’s behavior that lead up to his denying Christ was his over-confidence concerning his loyalty to Jesus.  Earlier in the evening, when Jesus predicted that all of the disciples would “fall away”, Peter, rather than carefully considering what Jesus was saying, impulsively answered: “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (Matt. 26:33). “Peter, the bold, venturesome, straightforward disciple, fell by cowardice and lying; as Moses the meek by anger, and Solomon the wise by folly. Often our most flagrant transgressions arise from parts of our character we have not inspected” [Pulpit Comm., 559].

Yet another indication in Peter’s behavior that lead up to his denying Christ was his spiritual negligence in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Rather than being in watchful prayer, and deep spiritual meditation in preparation for the momentous events that Jesus said would occur that very evening, Peter slept.  This spiritual negligence left Peter spiritually unprepared for the challenges he would face that evening.

We can all, of course, learn from the path that Peter took which led to his great sin.  We must seek to understand, and buy into God’s will.  We must seek to understand our own weaknesses.  We must fervently seek God in prayer for guidance and strength, especially when momentous events are about to occur, or important decisions need to be made.

It is significant that all four Gospels relate the episode where one of the Christian religion’s heroes experiences a major fall into sin.  This is not the first time in the Bible where the weaknesses, and even major sins of its heroes, are related to us.  We are told of David’s descent into adultery, and even murder (as he tried to cover his sin of adultery).  We are told of Solomon’s descent into idolatry, and lascivious living.  The relating of these episodes speaks to the truth of the Bible.  The Biblical writers speak truth, even when the truth tars and mars its heroes. “[Peter’s denial of Christ] is one of those events, which indirectly prove the truth of the Bible. If the Gospel had been a mere invention of man, we should never have been told that one of its principal preachers was once so weak and erring, as to deny his Master” [Ryle, 374-375].  “It is remarkable and significant that the story of the denials should have been recorded at all.  When the Gospels were written, Peter was regarded as the leading apostle, the chief man in the church.  It would have been very natural to pass over in silence this man’s fall from grace.  But all four of our Gospels recount it.  They do not do this by way of demoting Peter, for in due course he repented, was reinstated, and continued in a position of leadership.  But the church knew that its leader was a fallible sinner like all others and that he had had a dreadful fall.  The church knew, too, that he had repented and by the grace of God had gone on to greater and better things” [Morris, 687-688].

Yes, Peter, by the grace of God, went on to greater and better things.  We must all remember, and learn from this:  those godly men and women who stumble into sin, can and will be forgiven by God.  They must also be forgiven by men, and be allowed by man (as they are allowed by God) to greatly serve God, even after serious sin.  “Let us mark this history, and store it up in our minds. It teaches us plainly that the best of saints are only men, and men encompassed with many infirmities. A man may be converted to God, have faith, and hope, and love towards Christ, and yet be overtaken in a fault, and have awful falls. It shews us the necessity of humility. So long as we are in the body we are in danger. The flesh is weak, and the devil is active. We must never think, “I cannot fall.” It points out to us the duty of charity towards erring saints. We must not set down men as graceless reprobates, because they occasionally stumble and err. We must remember Peter, and ‘restore them in the spirit of meekness’ (Gal. 6:1)” [Ryle, 375-376].  Sadly, these days, though the religion we profess is based on forgiveness, we are very slow to forgive men of God for significant sins.  Those who have sinned, even significantly, can be restored by God’s forgiveness, and can be still mightily used for His purposes.  We must remember this, and not be an obstacle to the work that God wants to do in the life of a sinner.

Now to the text:  “Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. ‘You also were with Jesus of Galilee,’ she said.  But he denied it before them all.  ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ he said” (vss. 69-71).  It’s difficult to imagine a more innocuous statement, from a less threatening individual, than the one from the “servant girl”.  “Notice that this challenge was as gentle as could be imagined.  It was not a man but a woman, not a mature woman but a girl, not a free woman but a slave… She made no accusation of rebellion, blasphemy, or the like; she simply said that he was with Jesus” [Morris, 588].  “A silly wench daunteth and dispiriteth this stout champion… What poor things the best of us are, when left a little to ourselves, when our faith is in the wane” [Trapp, 267].  Peter, the rock, less a rock than a reed, blown over by a servant girl’s breath [Burkitt, in Lange, 500].

Her statement is taken a bit out of context by Matthew here.  She says, “You also…”  This suggests that she was referring to someone else who was a follower of Jesus—and she was.  This is clear from the recounting of this episode in John’s Gospel:  “Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in.  ‘You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?’ she asked Peter” (John 18:15-17).  Many think that this “other disciple” was John himself (John seems to refer to himself as “the other disciple”, or “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, in other places in his Gospel; see John 13:23, John 19:26; John 20:2; John 21:7; John 21:20), but it may have been someone like Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea, who were known to be disciples of Jesus (though not of the Twelve Apostles), and were also known to have access to the Sanhedrin hearings.  So, here in Matthew, when the servant girl says, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee”, she is effectively saying, “You, just like this ‘other disciple’” (who seemed to have been previously known to her) “were a disciple of Jesus.” 

In light of this, it is even more surprising that Peter denied knowing Christ, for “the other disciple” showed himself to the same servant girl, and the same gathering of people who were near Peter, and yet (presumably) no harm came to the “other disciple”, despite his known connection with Christ.  Her statement seemed to have been an innocent conversation starter, with the intention of carrying on banter in the courtyard about the events going on before the Sanhedrin. Perhaps, because of the arrest, she was curious about Jesus.  It would have been timely for Peter to tell her what he knew of his Lord and Master:  His love; His power; His goodness; His Deity, His coming death and resurrection.

Yet, it seems, Peter’s faith was shaken.  Was Jesus, indeed, still Peter’s Master and Lord, now that Jesus was in chains?  Did Peter believe the words of Jesus, spoken directly to him, just a few days previously:  “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Matt. 20:18-19)?  All was to end well.  This very same evening, Jesus promised:  “But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee” (Matt. 26:32). 

Jesus had prepared Peter for this difficult trial, and yet Peter responds to the servant girl:  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”  This is a kind-of half denial: not specifically denying Christ, but claiming ignorance. It’s more of an evasion than a denial, so (we presume) thinks Peter. This is how the path to great sin begins.  “In the garden St. Peter was brave as a lion, slashing at the high priest's servant with his sword. In the palace court-yard he cowers before a waiting-maid’s joke” [Pulpit Comm., 555].

Why did Peter deny knowing Jesus?  I think more than just fear is involved, especially in light of the fact that the “other disciple” was known, and nearby, and experienced no harm. I think Peter, part of him at least, had lost his faith.  Seeing Jesus arrested and tortured, and then seeing Jesus not even really answer the charges that the Sanhedrin brought, caused Peter to consider washing his hands of Jesus, in effect.  He would pretend he never even knew Jesus.  This agrees with what Jesus said when predicting Peter’s denial: “‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times’” (Matt. 26:34).  The word here translated “disown” is a strong word, meaning, “to deny utterly, to abjure, to affirm that one has no connection with” [Strong’s].  Earlier, before the Transfiguration, Jesus had warned His disciples that He would “suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Matt. 16:21-22).  Peter flatly rejected that things would unfold in this manner:  “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’” (Matt. 16:22).  So back then, Peter was not willing to follow a Master who was to suffer and die; and clearly, as we see here on the night of Jesus’ arrest, Peter was still unprepared to follow a Master who was suffering, and was to very soon die.  The truth of the coming resurrection had not reached Peter’s heart, so he denied even knowing Jesus.

Peter’s denials of Christ continue:  “Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, ‘This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.’  He denied it again, with an oath: ‘I don’t know the man!’” (vss. 71-72). This servant girl does not even speak directly to Peter.  And again, there is no accusation involved, merely banter around a courtyard fire.  “How weak, comparatively, the temptation was; it was not the judge, or any of the officers of the court, that charged him with being a disciple of Jesus, but a silly maid or two, that probably designed him no hurt, nor would have done him any, if he had owned it” [Henry, 235].  “One temptation, unresisted, seldom fails to bring on another and a third” [Quesnel, in Lange, 500].  “Embarked on this course of denial he is led further into evil; the first denial involved a lie, the second time Peter perjured himself.  The first was no more than a declaration that he did not know what the girl was talking about; the second was a clear repudiation of Jesus” [Morris, 689].

Peter moved beyond his previous plea of ignorance, and emphatically denied he knew Jesus, even with an oath. He was determined to deny any knowledge of Jesus. Peter’s direct denial of Christ put his own eternal security in jeopardy.   Jesus stated: “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33).  This was stated by Jesus in the context that there will be bodily danger in this world, for (in the Gospel of Matthew) Jesus followed this statement with:  “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34).  Jesus also made the statement in the context of promising that God will take care of His people, and not let anything happen to them that is outside His will, for immediately preceding this statement, Jesus said:  “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:28-32).  So, these statements of Jesus were meant to prepare Peter for the very situation he faced and, in no uncertain terms, Jesus stated that denial of Christ was a sin:  “But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”

And yet, even the sin of disowning Jesus, Peter’s sin, can be forgiven, for we know that Peter himself was forgiven, and went on to mightily serve Jesus, and went on even to follow Jesus in His death by being put to death for his faith and service to Christ.  In the Gospel of John, after Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?”, and Peter answers, “You know that I love you” (see John 21:15-17).  Then Jesus predicts Peter’s death:  “‘Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God” (John 21:18-19).  “Peter’s example warns us to be ready for testing; but it also summons us to start afresh if we have failed, and to show mercy to those who have already stumbled but wish to return to the way of Christ” [Keener, on vs. 75].

In the third confrontation, in the Sanhedrin courtyard, the people are certain that Peter knew Jesus, offering Peter’s Galilean accent as proof:  “After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, ‘Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.’  Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know the man!’” (vss. 73-74).  The old fisherman in Peter returns; he has reverted to his pre-Christ personage, cursing like a sailor.  “Having lied twice Peter finds himself forced to lie again, this time with more oaths” [Carson].  “This was worst of all; for the way of sin is downhill… We have reason to suspect the truth of that which is backed with rash oaths and imprecations. None but the devil’s sayings need the devil’s proofs. He that will not be restrained by the third commandment from mocking his God, will not be kept by the ninth from deceiving his brother… [Peter] designed it to be an evidence for him, that he was not of Christ’s disciples, for this was none of their language. Cursing and swearing is enough to prove a man no disciple of Christ, for it is the language of His enemies thus to take His name in vain” [Henry, 235].

Just as Jesus predicted, “Immediately a rooster crowed.  Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly” (vss. 74-75).  The recollection of Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s sin, reminded Peter how far he had fallen, and so he “wept bitterly.”  Peter regrets “bitterly” his misguided denials of Christ.  The recollected words of Christ bring Peter back to faith in Christ.  “A serious reflection upon the words of the Lord Jesus will be a powerful inducement to repentance, and will help to break the heart for sin. Nothing grieves a penitent more, than that he has sinned against the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the tokens of his love” [Henry, 236]. 

The “bitter” tears of Peter are tears of true repentance.  “In this troubled pool Peter washed himself, in this Red Sea the army of his iniquities was drowned. As once his faith was so great that he leapt into a sea of waters to come to Christ, so now his repentance was so great, that he leapt, as it were, into a sea of tears for that he had gone from Christ” [Trapp, 268].  “Peter who wept so bitterly for denying Christ, never denied him again, but confessed him often, and openly, and in the mouth of danger” [Henry, 236].

Let us remember Peter’s tears, and not take the same path that led to them.  “This is written for warning to us, that we sin not after the similitude of Peter’s transgression; that we never, either directly or indirectly, deny Christ (the Lord who bought us) by rejecting His offers, resisting His Spirit, dissembling our knowledge of Him, and being ashamed of Him and His words, or afraid of suffering for Him, and with His suffering people” [Henry, 235].

 

 

Matthew 27:1-10 -

Judas’s Death

 

1Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. 2So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

3When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.  4“I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” 

5So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

6The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.”  7So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners.  8That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day.  9Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

 

The Sanhedrin met again early the next morning, apparently to ratify the decision made the previous evening, and to plan a strategy of how to move forward in the Roman court:  “Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor” (vss. 1-2).  “This meeting of the Sanhedrin, which Luke describes in his Gospel, was intended at the same time to meet all the forms of law, and definitely to express the grounds of the charge against Jesus. But, as we have already seen, in point of fact, it only served to cover those violations of the law into which their reckless fanaticism had hurried them. One of the main objects of the Sanhedrin now was, to present the charge in such a light as to oblige Pilate to pronounce sentence of death” [Lange, 501].

Unnecessarily, they “bound” Jesus.  But, however they “bound” Him, Jesus had the power to escape the bonds, if He so desired.  He endured this shame because He chose to, not because He was “bound” by man’s measly shackles.  “He was already bound with the bonds of love to man, and of His own undertaking, else He had soon broke these bonds, as Samson did his. We were fettered with the bond of iniquity, held in the cords of our sins, but God had bound the yoke of our transgressions upon the neck of the Lord Jesus, that we might be loosed by His bonds as we are healed by His stripes” [Henry, 236].

Jesus was “handed over to Pilate the governor.”  As we previously said, the Sanhedrin did not have the authority to put a man to death, and so they would seek the death penalty from the Roman-appointed “governor”.  “Pilate was in fact appointed prefect or procurator by Tiberius Caesar in A.D. 26. Prefects governed small, troubled areas; and in judicial matters they possessed powers like those of the far more powerful proconsuls and imperial legates; in short, they held the power of life and death, apart from appeal to Caesar” [Carson].  “Pilate is characterized by the Roman writers of that time, to be a man of a rough and haughty spirit, willful and implacable, and extremely covetous and oppressive; the Jews had a great enmity to his person, and were weary of his government, and yet they made use of him as the tool of their malice against Christ” [Henry, 236].

As Judas witnessed the results of his betrayal of Christ, his conscience was tormenting him:  “When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.  (vs. 3).  Judas recognized the full force of what he had done.  His actions would lead to Jesus’ death.  Judas felt the weight on his conscience of murdering a man of peace, even the Son of God.

Judas “returned the thirty pieces of silver”, the price of his betrayal, possible (and absurdly) thinking that the Sanhedrin would reconsider their verdict.  Judas wanted desperately to undo what he had done.  Regret always and ever follows sin.  Remember this before you take that first step on the path to sin.  “Though before a sin be committed the bait and allurement is only seen, and the conscience blindfolded, kept captive and benumbed; yet after sin is committed it shall be wakened at last, and see the ugliness of sin discovered” [Dickson, 326].

Judas spoke to the chief priests and elders:  “‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood’” (vs. 4).  Judas mistakenly goes to men, even accomplices in the same crime, for his confession of “I have sinned”.  Far better for Judas if he had kneeled before God, even before Jesus Himself, to confess his sin.  If he had, then Judas—yes, even Judas—could have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus. 

Judas himself proclaims Jesus’ innocence, saying, “I have betrayed innocent blood.”  This is significant.  The betrayer of Christ proclaims His innocence.  If Jesus was a blasphemer, and not the true Son of God, certainly Judas, a close follower of His, would have known, and would have himself been a witness before the Sanhedrin to Jesus’ crimes.  But Judas knew that Jesus was innocent, innocent of everything.  Jesus committed no crime.  He was not a blasphemer; He was the Messiah, the true Son of God.  “We see in the end of Judas a plain proof of our Lord’s innocence of every charge laid against Him. If there was any living witness who could give evidence against our Lord Jesus Christ, Judas Iscariot was the man. A chosen apostle of Jesus, a constant companion in all His journeyings, a hearer of all His teaching, both in public and private,—he must have known well if our Lord had done any wrong, either in word or deed. A deserter from our Lord’s company, a betrayer of Him into the hands of His enemies, it was his interest for his own character’s sake, to prove Jesus guilty. It would extenuate and excuse his own conduct, if he could make out that His former master was an offender, and an impostor… Bad as [Judas] was, he knew he could prove nothing against Christ. Wicked as he was, he knew well that his Master was holy, harmless, innocent, blameless, and true” [Ryle, 379-380].

The response of the chief priests and elders to Judas’s proclamation of Jesus’ innocence is surprising:  “‘What is that to us?’ they replied. ‘That’s your responsibility’” (vs. 4).  The chief priests were sanctioned by God to judge justly, yet they did not care whether Jesus was innocent or not.  They should have been as remorseful as Judas, for they had condemned “innocent blood.”  Their statement, “What is that to us?”, proves their guilt, proves that they deserve the greatest condemnation for their actions.  The Sanhedrin did not ignorantly hand Jesus over to death; they were not seeking truth in their condemnation of Jesus; they purposely sought to kill their Messiah, the one sent to save them.

 “So Judas threw the money into the temple and left” (vs. 5).  The silver had lost its luster to Judas.  The rewards of sin always look better from the outside. “When he was tempted to betray his master, the thirty pieces of silver looked very fine and glittering, like the wine when it is red, and gives its colour in the cup. But when the thing was done, and the money paid, the silver was become dross, it bit like a serpent, and stung like an adder… Sin will soon change its taste. Though it be rolled under his tongue as a sweet morsel, in the bowels it will be turned into the gall of asps” [Henry, 237]. “Conscience reverses our estimates. These silver pieces now seemed red with blood and hot with fire” [Thomas, 519-520].

Judas’s betrayal brought about his end:  “Then he went away and hanged himself” (vs. 5).  As his conscience tormented him, Judas ran away from Christ, and to the hangman’s noose.  Far better if Judas had run toward Christ—if instead, Judas had knelt at the cross of Christ—which he literally could have done. In the midst of our remorse from sin, we have a choice of two directions to run:  toward Jesus to seek forgiveness, or away from Jesus in defiance of the gift of forgiveness that He offers.  Judas chose the latter, and “hanged himself.”  “See here how Judas repented, not like Peter, who repented, believed, and was pardoned: no, he repented, despaired, and was ruined… Judas had a sight, and sense of sin, but no apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, and so he pined away in his iniquity. His sin, we may suppose, was not in its own nature unpardonable, there were some of those saved that had been Christ’s betrayers and murderers; but he concluded, as Cain, that his iniquity was greater than could be forgiven, and would rather throw himself on the devil’s mercy than God’s” [Henry, 237-238].  Peter and Judas shared remarkable similarities, for one so revered and the other so hated:  “1. They both, and they only, are called Satan, (see Matt. 16:23; John 6:70).  2. They both, and they only [of the twelve disciples], turned openly against the Master at the end.  3. They both sorrowed deeply, but in one it was remorse, in the other it was humble and loving repentance.  4. One committed suicide, the other found forgiveness and lived a long life of usefulness” [Broadus, 559].

The chief priests and elders were unmoved by Judas’s remorse.  They were more concerned with what to do with the returned pieces of silver:  “The chief priests picked up the coins and said, ‘It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.’  So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners.  That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day” (vss. 6-8).  There is absurd irony here:  The chief priests are very concerned about dealing with the legality of how to handle the returned “blood money”, and yet they show no concern in violating God’s rules of justice of condemning an innocent man to death.  “These leaders were willing to pay out blood money for Jesus’ capture, willing to allow Judas’s suicide, but too pious to accept their own blood money into the temple treasury” [Keener, on vss. 3-8].  “It is no new thing to see Christ’s most cruel adversaries deep in hypocrisy, pretending to be feared to offend in the least things; as these men stand not to give Judas a hire to betray innocent blood, but will not meddle with the gain, when it is cast back” [Dickson, 326].

Matthew points out a prophetical allusion to the thirty pieces of silver, and their use to buy a potter’s field:  “Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: ‘They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me’” (vss. 9-10).  Matthew’s citation seems to be taken from the book of Zechariah, in which a passage reads (in our modern translation):  “I told them, ‘If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.’ So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.  And the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’—the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord” (Zech. 11:12-13).  So, in the midst of a clearly Messianic passage in the book of Zechariah, we have mention of a transaction of “thirty pieces of silver”, which is the “price at which they valued me”; and then the silver is thrown “at the house of the Lord”, along with references to the silver ending up being thrown “to the potter.”  Clearly, Zechariah’s prophetic, Messianic vision has some level of fulfillment in Judas’s betrayal of Christ. 

There is a minor textual difficulty here, in that Matthew cites Jeremiah instead of Zechariah.  Many commentators have offered up solutions to this difficulty (for instance, the possibility that Matthew was referring to some writings of Jeremiah—such as Jer. 19:1-13—in addition to Zechariah).  The solution to the difficulty may lie in something as simple as traditions at the time for citing prophets.  In the New Testament, only Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel (all so-called major prophets) are mentioned by name, though there are references to the writings of other prophets.  Indeed, there are some seventy-one references in the New Testament to the book of Zechariah [see Kaiser in Mastering the Old Testament, and Nelson in Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology; see also http://www.olive-tree.org/files/sermon_attachments/zechariah_in_the_nt.pdf for a summary of NT references to Zechariah], and yet Zechariah is never mentioned by name.  Given this, some have postulated that the name Jeremiah was used to refer to the writings of Jeremiah, as well as the minor prophets, because those OT books were in the same compilation.

Whatever the case may be (all suggested solutions to this difficulty are speculations), it seems that at this time, thousands of years after the gospel of Matthew was written, we do not have enough information to reconcile the inconsistency so that everyone will be intellectually satisfied.  That’s okay.  We need to realize that the Bible is an incredibly deep book; the minds of humans will never solve the book completely.  “The words quoted are found in the prophecy of Zechariah, in Zech. 11:12. How they are here said to be spoken by Jeremiah, is a difficult question; but the credit of Christ’s doctrine does not depend upon it; for that proves itself perfectly divine, though there should appear something human, as to small circumstances in the penmen of it” [Henry, 238].  “If not quite content with any of [the commentator’s] explanations, we had better leave the question as it stands, remembering how slight an unknown circumstance might solve it in a moment, and how many a once celebrated difficulty has been cleared up in the gradual progress of Biblical knowledge” [Broadus, 559].

 

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Bibliography and Suggested Reading

 

Alexander, Joseph Addison. The Gospel According to Matthew.  New York: Charles Scribner Publishers, 1861. 

Broadus, John.  Commentary on Matthew.  Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1886.

Calvin, John.  Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark and Luke.  3 Vols.  Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1846. (Originally published in Latin in 1555). 

Carson, D. A. “Matthew” from The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. VIII, ed. by Frank Gaebelein.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1984.

Clarke, Adam. The New Testament of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Vol. I.  New York:  G. Lane & C. B. Tippett, 1846.  (Originally published in 1831). 

Dickson, David. A Brief Exposition of the Evangel of Jesus Christ According to Matthew. Cornhill, U.K.:  Ralph Smith, 1651. 

Exell, Joseph S. and Henry Donald Spence-Jones, eds. The Pulpit Commentary. Vols. 33 & 34. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1884. 

Henry, Matthew.  An Exposition of All the Books of the Old and New Testament.  Vol. IV.  London: W. Baynes, 1806. (Originally published in 1710).

Jamieson, Robert; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David.  A Commentary: Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the Old and New Testaments.  Glasgow:  William Collins, Queen’s Printer, 1863.

Keener, Craig S.  Matthew (IVP New Testament Commentary).  Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011.

Lange, John Peter, ed. and Philip Schaff, trans.  A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical.  New York:  Charles Scribner & Co., 1865. 

Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s, 1992.

Ryle, J. C.  Expository Thoughts on the Gospels:   Matthew.  New York:  Robert Carter & Brothers, 1857. 

Spurgeon, Charles.  The Gospel of the Kingdom:  A Popular Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew.  New York: The Baker and Taylor Co., 1893.

Thomas, David. The Genius of the Gospel:  A Homiletical Commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew.  London:  Dickinson & Higham, 1873.  

Trapp, John.  A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. Vol. V (Matthew to Revelation).  Edmonton, Canada: Still Waters Revival Books (www.PuritanDownloads.com). (Originally published c. 1660).

 

All of these books, except Carson, Keener, and Morris can be downloaded free of charge from: 

http://www.ClassicChristianLibrary.com