The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 26:14-25

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 29, 2015

14. “Then,” may have no reference whatever to time, and may simply mean, that on account of this tacit reproach, addressed to him by our Redeemer, while defending the act of the woman, and seeing all hopes of securing the price of the precious ointment baffled, Judas, out of a spirit of revenge, and blinded by avarice, resolved to betray Him. Or, if “then” refers to time, it has reference to what is recorded (v. 3), the intermediate account of the anointing of our Saviour’s feet, being merely parenthetically introduced.

One of the twelve,” shows the magnitude of his guilt and ingratitude, since it was not even one of the seventy-two disciples; but, one of His constant companions, a member of His own family, whom He destined to be one of the future pillars of His Church. This circumstance, however, rendered him a fit instrument for betraying our Lord, as being well acquainted with His domestic habits, His going out and coming in.

Who was called Judas Iscariot.” He mentions his name, “Judas,” to save the character of the other Apostles. “Iscariot,” to distinguish him from Jude, the author of the Catholic Epistle (John 14:22).

Went,” spontaneously, of his own accord; “the devil having entered into him” (Luke 22:3), instigating him, and acting on his blind passions and perverted will, urged him on to this mad act. St. John more clearly expresses it (13:2), “the devil put it into the heart of Judas … to betray Him.”

To the Chief Priests,” to which St. Luke adds, “and to the magistrates” (22:4). This refers to the meeting mentioned (v. 3). Very likely, he went into Jerusalem, on Wednesday morning, under pretext of some business, and hearing of the assembly of the High Priests, &c. (v. 3), he conjectured what the cause of their meeting was, for, he knew that “the Pharisees and High Priests gave a command, that if any one knew where our Lord was, he should tell, in order that they might apprehend Him” (John 11:56).

15. “And he said to them,” &c. It is most likely, that Judas, before making the base offer of betraying his Master, made some charge against Him, in order to palliate his own treachery, and to make it appear that he was himself trustworthy, such as allowing Himself the luxury of having His head and feet anointed, to which he may have added other charges, not recorded by the Evangelists.

What will you give me?” &c. These words are interpreted by some (among the rest, St. Jerome), to convey, that Judas regarded our Redeemer of such little value, as to leave it to themselves to give what they pleased; that he would receive any price for Him. Others understand the words to mean, that Judas wished to know, if they meant to give a suitable, a sufficiently large price for Him; and, that he would betray Him, if they meant to compensate him as was fit for them to do. “The wretch,” says St. Jerome, “wished to indemnify himself for the loss of the price of the ointment, by the price of his Master.” He is so blinded by avarice, that he merely bargains for the money, regardless of how they would afterwards treat his Master. So blinded, that he forgets every feeling of humanity, gratitude, friendship; nay, the omniscience and omnipotence of Jesus, of which he had already witnessed so many proofs. “They appointed him,” which some understand to mean, measured out to him, actually gave him. Others, more probably; they promised to give, they covenanted with him for, “thirty pieces of silver.” There is a diversity of opinion as to the precise value of this sum. It is, however, generally maintained, that whenever there is mention of αργυριον (argenteus, Vulgate) in the New Testament, it means, the Jewish silver sicle, which was equivalent to the Greek stater, and was equal to two didrachmas, or four Attic drachmas. Hence (Exodus 21:32), for “thirty sicles of silver,” according to the Hebrew reading, the Septuagint have, “thirty didrachmas of silver,” the price of a slave among the Jews (Exodus 21:32). The value of a “silver piece,” or sicle, was something about 2s. 6d. of our money. Hence, the price set on our Redeemer was something under £3, 15s, of our money, the price of n common slave. This sum, though small, was still, considering the increased value of money in these early days, sufficient to purchase the potter’s field (27:7). It is probable, this field was in a most wretched condition, the best part of the soil having been taken away from it. Moreover, its extent is not stated in SS. Scripture, nor is it said, that this sum was exclusively appropriated to the purchase.

16. “From thenceforth”—this happened on Wednesday morning—“he sought an opportunity,” both as to time and place, “to betray Him” into the hands of His enemies. Instigated by the spirit of avarice, he watched our Redeemer, when, on the following (Thursday) night, he proceeded to the garden of Gethsemani, and there found the desired opportunity of privately betraying Him, and thus securing the price of innocent blood. Base ingratitude of Judas; yet, how often may not we have sold the Son of God, not once, but hundreds of times, and handed Him over to the devil, not for even thirty crowns, but for a base, brutal passion. Hence, when contemplating the perfidy of Judas, and viewing with horror all its circumstances, we may justly apply to ourselves the words of Nathan to David, “Thou art the man” (2 Kings 12:7). For, we are assured by the Holy Ghost, that as often as we commit mortal sin, which does not so much as gain us thirty pieces of silver, “we crucify again the Son of God, and make a mockery of Him.” (Heb. 6) How frequently should we not exclaim from the bottom of our hearts, and in a truly penitential spirit, “Miserere mei Deus,” &c. “Tibi soli peccavi … peccatum meum contra me est semper.”

17. “And on the first day of Azymes,” that is, of unleavened bread, which commenced with the Paschal solemnity, viz., on the evening of the 14th Nisan. On that evening, they should eat the Paschal lamb with unleavened bread (Exod. 12:8). On that evening commenced the feast of unleavened bread, called also the Feast of the Pasch, which continued seven days. The 14th Nisan is called the first day of Azymes, because the Feast of Azymes, or the Pasch, which was celebrated on the 15th Nisan, commenced, according to the Jewish computation of festivals, from sunset to sunset, on the previous evening of the 14th. Hence, the first day of the Feast of Azymes, or Pasch, may be said to be the 14th or 15th Nisan; for, it commenced at sunset of the 14th, and ended at the sunset of the 15th. The feast continued for seven days.

But, as our Lord sent His two disciples into Jerusalem, to prepare the Pasch at an earlier date than that on which the festival of the following day commenced, a question may arise, how could it be said that, at the hour they were sent in, it was the first day of Azymes? The answer commonly given is, that the Jews, as may be seen from their records, were wont to clear their houses of all leaven, early on the 14th, in preparation for the festival; the 14th was, therefore, popularly termed the first day of Azymes, as all leaven was entirely removed from their houses, from an early part of the day.

The disciples came to Jesus, saying: Where,” &c. There is some difference between the narration of St. Luke and that of St. Matthew. The most probable way of reconciling both is, that our Redeemer first, put His disciples in mind, as St. Luke relates (22:8), of preparing for the coming Pasch; and that they, then, asked Him, as is given by the three Evangelists. “Where wilt Thou, that we prepare for Thee to eat the Pasch?

The disciples came to Jesus,” after having been sent for. St. Mark (14:13) says, “two of His disciples;” and these, St. Luke (22:8) says, were “Peter and John.”

Where,” that is, in what house; for, Jerusalem alone was appointed by law (Deut. 16:5, 6, 7), to be the place to which all the Jews should resort for celebrating the Paschal solemnity.

Wilt Thou we prepare for Thee the Pasch?” According to some writers, not the Priests alone, but those also who were deputed by the heads of a family, as Peter and John were deputed here (Luke 22:8) by our Lord, were allowed to sacrifice the Paschal lamb at home, to roast it and prepare it for consumption. For this, these writers quote the authority of Philo. Others, more probably, maintain, with Patrizzi (de Evangeliis) that the Priests alone could receive the blood of the victims, and, with it, sprinkle the rim of the altar.

18. “Go ye into the city”—hence, He was by this time at Bethania—“to a certain man.” He points out the man without naming him, on account of the presence of Judas, lest he might prematurely, or in any unseemly way, interrupt the solemnity of the Last Supper. Both St. Mark (14) and St. Luke (22) give a more particular account of the man in question, or rather, of the circumstances, that distinguished him from any other. On entering the city, they were to meet a man carrying a pitcher of water; they should follow him into the house he was to enter, and there addressing the master of the house, who was clearly different from the man carrying the water, they were to address him in these words: “The Master saith, My time is at hand,” My time for leaving this world, and, after redeeming mankind, and leaving them the most affecting proof of My love, to return to My Father.

I will keep the Pasch,” &c. This He adds, to let him know the number, thirteen, for whom he was to provide suitable accommodation. It is generally supposed, that this man was one of our Saviour’s followers. The word “Master,” a common designation of our Lord among His followers, would seem to confirm this opinion. There is a tradition, that this was the house of John Mark, the companion of St. Paul and Barnabas, in preaching the Gospel. There, the Apostles lay concealed after our Redeemer’s death. There, He appeared to them on the evening of His resurrection. There, they received the Holy Ghost on Pentecost Sunday. Thither, St. Peter repaired after his liberation by the Angel. Some are of opinion, that our Redeemer had previously arranged with him, to celebrate the Pasch in his house. Others seem to think, that there was no such previous arrangement, but that, as our Lord had exerted His power, and shown His dominion in the case of the owner of the ass and the colt, who at once gave them up; so, here also, without any previous concert, and, in order to confirm the faith of His Apostles, He wishes to show His power and authority in influencing the mind of the householder to comply with His wishes.

It seems, that this man made becoming preparation for them, for, “he had a large dining-room furnished.” The Greek—ανωγεων—would imply, in the upper part of the house. This was prepared, either in consequence of a previous understanding with our Redeemer; or, having it prepared already, for some other party, he placed it at once at the service of our Lord.

19. The disciples, viz., Peter and John—his most confidential and intimate friends among the Apostles—went “and prepared the Pasch,” that is, got ready everything necessary for eating the Paschal lamb. They had the lamb itself, a male of one year, without blemish, duly sacrificed and prepared, through the intervention of the Priests, who received the blood of the lamb between the two evenings, sprinkled the altar with it, and placed the victim on the altar, and then returned it to the families who offered it. That this was the rite of sacrifice, we are informed by Josephus (De Bello, Lib. 6, c. 1), who tells us, that, in reply to the question of Cestius, regarding the number of Jews who assembled at Jerusalem, the Priests, in order to determine this exactly, as ten persons should partake of each lamb, told precisely the number of lambs sacrificed, which they could not do, unless the lambs were prepared, and the sacerdotal services performed at the stated hour. The Apostles also got ready unleavened bread, and wild lettuces. After the sacrificing of the Paschal lamb, the Jews could not have leaven in their houses for seven days. The use of unleavened bread continued from the evening of the 14th Nisan till the evening of the 21st of the same month (Exod. 12:18).

20. “Now when it was evening,” after sunset. The lamb was immolated between the third hour of the day and sunset, but not eaten till after sunset. The Hebrew in Exodus (12:6) Ben-arbaiim, which St. Jerome translates, “ad vesperam,” “in the evening,” or rather, “towards evening,” signifies, between the two evenings, that is, between the ninth hour, or three o’clock of our day, when the sun begins to decline, and sunset. This time was set apart for sacrificing the Paschal lamb, which corresponds with the hour at which the true Paschal Lamb was sacrificed (Matt. 27:46). After sunset, “when it was evening;” or, as St. Luke has it (22:14), “when the hour was come, He sat down to eat it with His twelve disciples.” They constituted His family, who were to eat the Paschal lamb with Him. It is insinuated, that all were present, not excepting the traitor, Judas. We are informed by Philo (Lib. de Sacrif. Cain and Abel), that the Jewish Pasch was partaken of by men in a standing posture. The law, however, does not command this, although it implies it (Exod. 12:11). The words of St. Matthew, “He sat down,” merely convey, that He partook of food, without determining the posture, in which He did so, whether standing or reclining.

Possibly, our Redeemer might have partaken of the Paschal lamb in a standing posture. Others maintain, that He had partaken of the Jewish supper, and other viands, served up on that occasion, in a reclining posture. This is held by St. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and others (John 13:4).

In describing banquets in our day, we commonly say, a man sat down to dinner, accommodating ourselves to the ordinary forms of expression, although, in that particular instance, He might have been standing, while partaking of it. Calmet (in hunc locum) says, the Jews of his day, eat the Pasch in a sitting posture; perhaps, because they regarded a standing posture commanded in Exodus (12:1) as appertaining only to the first occasion of the institution of the Pasch by Moses. St. Hilary is the only one among the Fathers, who denies that Judas was present. That he was, is clear from Matthew 26:21; Mark 14:18; Luke 22:21; John 13:11, 26, 30.

21. St. Luke (22:21), says, these words were used by our Redeemer, not before, as here, but after, the institution of the adorable Eucharist. And this seems more likely, as our Redeemer would hardly have disturbed the minds of His Apostles before preparing for this solemn supper, by the announcement recorded here. Hence, St. Matthew records the matter here by anticipation. Others, however (St. Augustine, &c.), say, that our Redeemer twice alluded to His betrayal, before the Last Supper, and after it. He alluded to it in a very general way before the Last Supper, not naming the traitor. Then the Apostles, having asked who it was, He, still in a very indefinite way, describes him to be the party who dipped his hand in the dish with Him (v. 23). This, however, is intended more to show the close intimacy existing, and the consequent aggravated guilt of the traitor, than to determine the person. After that, He institutes the Eucharist, and then declares, the traitor was with Him at the table (Luke 22:21; John 13:21). Then, St. Peter beckoned to St. John, who was reclining on our Redeemer’s breast, to ask who it was; and it was told him in reply, that it was the person to whom He would give bread dipped (John 13:26); after which, Judas left to consummate his wickedness.

Amen I say to you.” He premises a solemn asseveration, as the matter seemed so incredible. “One of you,” My chosen friends, whom I have thus honoured and exalted, “will betray Me.” He often before predicted, that He would be delivered to the Gentiles, &c.; but, it is only now He predicts by whom this was to be done. And this He does, to show them, that He was fully conscious of all that was to happen, and that He was freely to undergo death. He did not expressly name Judas, in order, by this consideration for his feelings, to incline him to repent for the wicked deed he meditated—to teach us, how to act towards occult sinners—and, also, lest the Apostles might lay violent hands on him, in vindicating the honour of their Master.

22. They were very much terrified, from a consciousness of their own weakness, however, and a dread of the secret judgments of God, although not conscious to themselves of any wicked design against their Divine Master, whose assurance, they could not call in question.

23. The same is given (Mark 14:20). Our Redeemer still refrains from naming him; and He mentions the circumstance of great intimacy and familiarity, to aggravate the guilt and ingratitude of the party. The mention of “his hand” is very significant, as if to say, the hand that is in the dish with Me, the same it is, that shall betray Me. It may be, that in the word, “dish,” we have the container for the thing contained, so that the words would mean: the man who uses the same food and table with Me, he it is that is to betray Me. This is conformable to the words of the Psalmist (40:10), “qui edebat panes meos,” &c. (Mark 14:18; Luke 22:21.) Hence, in this answer, our Redeemer does not say, who is, or who is not to betray Him. He only repeats His former assertion, adding a circumstance implying great familiarity, calculated to aggravate and heighten the guilt of the traitor.

24. Meekness having failed, He now has recourse to threats of punishment, in order to incline him to repentance. “The Son of man goeth,” that is, leaving the world, He “goeth” to death, of His own free will, and returns to His Father, in accordance with the predictions of the Prophets and the determined decree of Heaven (Luke 22:22). But, although immense advantage shall accrue to the human race from My death, and great glory to My Father, still, “woe,” eternal torture shall be the fate of the wretch “by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed.” He is not, on that account, to be reputed guiltless. Although the human race may profit by it; still, it were better for him, that he were never born, than be tortured for all eternity.

25. The traitor, fearing discovery from his silence, also asked, with the others, and in terms of greater respect, “Is it I, Rabbi?” while the others addressed Him, as “Lord.” The holy Fathers here express their amazement at the cool effrontery of Judas. It does not seem likely, that he asked our Redeemer separately from the others, after He said (verse 23), “he that dippeth his hand,” &c., as the account given here by St. Matthew would seem to indicate; for, otherwise, the Apostles could have clearly seen he was the party alluded to, but, that he asked the question with the others (verse 22). Others, however, are of opinion that Judas asked this question, after our Redeemer intimated to St. John, who it was, by giving him the morsel of bread.

He saith: Thou hast said it”—a mild form of saying: Yes, thou art the man. This is also the signification the words bear when addressed to Caiphas (verse 64), whilst St. Mark says, “I am He” (14:62). It is most likely, that our Lord said this, in so low a tone of voice, as to escape the notice of the other Apostles, who were thrown into confusion by the announcement (verse 21). For, we find, that even after our Lord had given a definite sign to St. John, and told Judas, “quod facis, fac citius” (John 13:27); still, they did not understand what was meant (28, 29).

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