Passover: This festival (Greek paʹskha from Hebrew peʹsach from the verb pa·sachʹ, meaning “to pass over; to pass by”) was instituted the evening preceding the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt. It commemorates the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt and the ‘passing over’ of their firstborn when Jehovah destroyed the firstborn of Egypt.
Son of man: Or “Son of a human.” This expression occurs about 80 times in the Gospels. Jesus used it to refer to himself, evidently emphasizing that he was truly human, born from a woman, and that he was a fitting human counterpart to Adam, having the power to redeem humankind from sin and death. (Ro 5:12, 14-15) The same expression also identified Jesus as the Messiah, or the Christ.
elders: See study note on Mt 16:21.
high priest: When Israel functioned as an independent nation, the high priest held his office for life. (Nu 35:25) However, during the Roman occupation of Israel, the rulers assigned by Rome had authority to appoint and to depose the high priest.
Caiaphas: This high priest, appointed by the Romans, was a skillful diplomat who held his office longer than any of his immediate predecessors. He was appointed about 18 C.E. and remained in office until about 36 C.E.
While Jesus was in Bethany: The events described at Mt 26:6-13 evidently took place after sunset when Nisan 9 began. That timing is indicated by the parallel account in John, where Jesus is said to arrive at Bethany “six days before the Passover.” (Joh 12:1) He must have arrived before the beginning (at sunset) of the Sabbath on Nisan 8, which was the day before the meal at Simon’s place.
Simon the leper: This Simon is mentioned only here and in the parallel account at Mr 14:3. He may have been a former leper whom Jesus had healed.
a woman: According to Joh 12:3, this woman is Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.
alabaster jar: See Glossary, “Alabaster.”
costly perfumed oil: Mark and John’s accounts specify that it was a pound of “genuine nard,” worth 300 denarii. That sum represented about a year’s wages for an ordinary laborer. (Mr 14:3-5; Joh 12:3-5) The source of such perfumed oil is generally thought to be an aromatic plant (Nardostachys jatamansi) found in the Himalayas. Nard was often adulterated, even counterfeited, but both Mark and John say that this oil was “genuine.”
pouring it on his head: According to Matthew and Mark, the woman poured the oil on Jesus’ head. (Mr 14:3) John, who wrote years later, supplied the added detail that she also poured it on his feet. (Joh 12:3) Jesus explains that this loving act was figuratively to prepare him for burial.
the disciples: Only in John’s account is Judas Iscariot identified as the one objecting to Mary’s use of expensive oil. (Joh 12:4-7) Evidently, other apostles merely agreed to what seemed to be a valid point.
she put this perfumed oil on my body: The woman (see study note on Mt 26:7) performed this generous act out of love and appreciation for Jesus. He explained that she was unknowingly preparing his body for burial, since such perfumed oil and ointments were often applied to dead bodies.
Truly: Greek, a·menʹ, a transliteration of the Hebrew ʼa·menʹ, meaning “so be it,” or “surely.” Jesus frequently uses this expression to preface a statement, a promise, or a prophecy, thereby emphasizing its absolute truthfulness and reliability. Jesus’ use of “truly,” or amen, in this way is said to be unique in sacred literature. When repeated in succession (a·menʹ a·menʹ), as is the case throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus’ expression is translated “most truly.”
is preached in all the world: Similar to his prophecy at Mt 24:14, Jesus here foretells that the good news would be proclaimed in all the world and would include this woman’s act of devotion. God inspired three Gospel writers to mention what she did.
Judas Iscariot: See study note on Mt 10:4.
30 silver pieces: Matthew is the only Gospel writer to mention the amount for which Jesus was betrayed. These were possibly 30 silver shekels minted in Tyre. This sum appears to show the chief priests’ contempt for Jesus, since under the Law, it was the price of a slave. (Ex 21:32) Likewise, when Zechariah asked for his wages from unfaithful Israelites for his prophetic work among God’s people, they weighed out to him “30 pieces of silver,” suggesting that they considered him to be worth no more than a slave.
On the first day of the Unleavened Bread: The Festival of Unleavened Bread began on Nisan 15, the day after the Passover (Nisan 14), and lasted for seven days. (See App. B15.) In Jesus’ time, however, the Passover had become so closely connected to this festival that all eight days, including Nisan 14, sometimes were referred to as “the Festival of the Unleavened Bread.” (Lu 22:1) In this context, the phrase “On the first day of” could be rendered “On the day before.” (Compare Joh 1:15, 30, where the Greek word for “first” [proʹtos] is rendered “before” in a similar construction, namely, “he existed before [proʹtos] me.”) So the original Greek, as well as Jewish custom, allows for the disciples’ question to have been asked of Jesus on Nisan 13. During the daytime of Nisan 13, the disciples made preparations for the Passover, which was later celebrated “after evening had fallen” at the beginning of Nisan 14.
dips his hand with me: People usually ate food with their fingers, or they used a piece of bread somewhat like a spoon. This expression could also be an idiom meaning “to share food together.” Eating with a person signified close fellowship. To turn against such an intimate companion was considered the vilest form of treachery.
bowl: The Greek word denotes a relatively deep bowl from which a meal was eaten.
You yourself said it: A Jewish idiom here used to affirm the truth of a statement made by a questioner. Jesus was, in effect, saying: “You have said so, and what you say is true.” Jesus’ reply evidently pointed out that Judas’ own words were an admission of responsibility for Jesus’ betrayal. At some point after this, Judas must have left the room before Jesus instituted the observance of the Lord’s Evening Meal, as shown by a comparison with the account at Joh 13:21-30. Here in Matthew’s account, Judas is next mentioned at Mt 26:47, together with the crowd in the garden of Gethsemane.
took a loaf . . . broke it: The loaves common in the ancient Near East were thin and, if unleavened, brittle. There was no spiritual significance to Jesus’ breaking the bread; this was the normal way to divide that type of loaf.
saying a blessing: This expression evidently refers to a prayer offering praise and thanks to God.
means: The Greek word e·stinʹ (literally meaning “is”) here has the sense of “signifies; symbolizes; stands for; represents.” This meaning was evident to the apostles, since on this occasion Jesus’ perfect body was there in front of them and so was the unleavened bread that they were about to eat. Therefore, the bread could not have been his literal body. It is worth noting that the same Greek word is used at Mt 12:7, and many Bible translations render it “means.”
blood of the covenant: The new covenant, between Jehovah and anointed Christians, was made operative by Jesus’ sacrifice. (Heb 8:10) Jesus here uses the same expression Moses used when acting as mediator and inaugurating the Law covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai. (Ex 24:8; Heb 9:19-21) Just as the blood of bulls and goats validated the Law covenant between God and the nation of Israel, Jesus’ blood made valid the new covenant that Jehovah would make with spiritual Israel. That covenant went into effect at Pentecost 33 C.E.
praises: Or “hymns; psalms.” According to one Jewish tradition, the first Hallel Psalms (113, 114) were sung, or recited, during the Passover meal; the last four (115-118) at its conclusion. The latter contain some of the prophecies that apply to the Messiah. Ps 118 begins and ends with the words: “Give thanks to Jehovah, for he is good; his loyal love endures forever.” (Ps 118:1, 29) These may well have been the last words of praise that Jesus sang with his faithful apostles on the night before his death.
before a rooster crows: All four Gospels mention this statement, but only Mark’s account adds the detail that the rooster would crow twice. (Mt 26:74, 75; Mr 14:30, 72; Lu 22:34, 60, 61; Joh 13:38; 18:27) The Mishnah indicates that roosters were bred in Jerusalem in Jesus’ day, lending support to the Bible account. This crowing likely occurred very early in the morning.
Gethsemane: This garden was evidently located on the Mount of Olives across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem. It was probably equipped with an olive press, since its name is derived from a Hebrew or Aramaic expression (gath shema·nehʹ) meaning “oil press.” Although the exact location cannot be determined, one tradition identifies Gethsemane with a garden located at the foot of the Mount of Olives, at the fork of the road on its W slope.
I am: Or “My soul is.” The Greek word psy·kheʹ, traditionally rendered “soul,” here refers to a person’s entire being. So “my soul” can be rendered “my whole being” or simply “I.”
keep on the watch: Lit., “stay awake.” Jesus had emphasized the need for his disciples to stay awake spiritually because of not knowing the day and hour of his coming. (See study notes on Mt 24:42; 25:13) He repeats that exhortation here and again at Mt 26:41, where he links staying awake spiritually with persevering in prayer. Similar exhortations are found throughout the Christian Greek Scriptures, showing that spiritual alertness is vital for true Christians.
fell facedown: Or “threw himself down with his face to the ground,” perhaps resting on his hands or elbows. In the Bible, several postures for prayer are mentioned, including standing and kneeling. However, a person in fervent prayer might actually lie facedown with his body outstretched.
let this cup pass away: In the Bible, “cup” is often used figuratively of God’s will, or the “assigned portion,” for a person. (See study note on Mt 20:22.) Jesus no doubt felt great concern over the reproach that his death as one charged with blasphemy and sedition could bring on God, moving him to pray that this “cup” pass away from him.
you: Here the Greek text uses the second person plural pronoun, indicating that Jesus is addressing not only Peter but also other disciples.
spirit: Here referring to the impelling force that issues from a person’s figurative heart and causes him to say and do things in a certain way.
flesh: In the Bible, the term is often used to represent man in his imperfect sinful state.
Look!: See study note on Mt 1:20.
gave him a tender kiss: The Greek verb rendered “to give a tender kiss” is an intensive form of the verb for “kiss,” used at Mt 26:48. By greeting Jesus in such a warm, friendly manner, Judas showed the depth of his deceitfulness and hypocrisy.
legions: Principal units of the Roman army. In the first century C.E., one legion usually consisted of some 6,000 soldiers. Here “12 legions” apparently denotes an indefinite, large number. Jesus is saying that if he asked, his Father would send more than enough angels to protect him.
the Scriptures: An expression often used to refer to the inspired Hebrew writings as a whole.
for the writings of the prophets to be fulfilled: See study note on Mt 1:22.
Caiaphas the high priest: See study note on Mt 26:3.
Sanhedrin: That is, the Jewish high court in Jerusalem. The Greek word rendered “Sanhedrin” (sy·neʹdri·on) literally means a “sitting down with.” Although it was a general term for an assembly or a meeting, in Israel it could refer to a religious judicial body or court.
the Christ: Here the title “Christ,” meaning “Anointed One,” is preceded by the definite article in Greek. This is a way of indicating that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the one who had been anointed in a special sense.
You yourself said it: Jesus did not sidestep Caiaphas’ question, since he recognized the high priest’s authority to put him under oath to state the facts. (Mt 26:63) This expression was apparently a Jewish idiom affirming that a statement was true. This is supported by Mark’s parallel account, which renders Jesus’ reply “I am.”
the Son of man . . . coming on the clouds of heaven: Jesus here alludes to the Messianic prophecy at Da 7:13, 14, affirming that he would be the one who would gain access to God’s presence and be given rulership in heaven.
right hand of power: To be on a ruler’s right hand meant being second in importance to the ruler himself. (Ps 110:1; Ac 7:
ripped his outer garments: Here a gesture expressing indignation. Caiaphas likely tore open the part of his garment that covered his chest to dramatize his sanctimonious outrage at Jesus’ words.
Prophesy . . . Who struck you?: Here “prophesy” does not mean to make a prediction but to identify by divine revelation who had hit him. The parallel accounts at Mr 14:65 and Lu 22:64 show that Jesus’ persecutors had covered his face, evidently explaining their taunt to identify who had hit him.
gatehouse: Lit., “gate.” Mark’s account uses a term that can mean “entryway” or “vestibule,” indicating that this was more than a simple gate. (Mr 14:68) It was evidently a structure, perhaps a passageway or a hall, leading from the courtyard to the exterior doors that opened to the street.
your dialect: Or “your accent; the way you speak.” Peter’s Galilean dialect or accent may have reflected regional vocabulary or pronunciation that differed from the Hebrew spoken in Judea. Some suggest that the distinct Galilean accent or vocabulary was due to foreign influence.
curse: Most likely, Peter is invoking a curse on himself, saying, in effect, that he ‘wishes to be cursed if he is lying and actually knows the man.’
swear: Or “swear with an oath.” Motivated by fear, Peter is trying to convince those around him that his denials are truthful. By swearing to the matter, he is taking an oath that his words are true and that a calamity might befall him if they are not.
These small vaselike vessels for perfume were originally made of stone found near Alabastron, Egypt. The stone itself, a form of calcium carbonate, came to be known by the name Alabastron. The jar shown here was discovered in Egypt and dates from somewhere between 150 B.C.E. and 100 C.E. A less costly material, such as gypsum, was used to make similar-looking jars; these too were called alabasters, simply because of the use to which they were put. However, cases made of genuine alabaster were used for the more costly ointments and perfumes, like those with which Jesus was anointed on two occasions
Essential items at the Passover meal were: roast lamb (no bones in the animal were to be broken) (1); unleavened bread (2); and bitter greens (3). (Ex 12: