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M. Observe His gentle reproof, "What! could ye not watch with me one hour?" such an hour too as this! "the spirit, indeed, is willing, but the flesh is weak." So graciously did He make allowance for their infirmity, and give them credit for real affection to Him, instead of reproaching them for deserting Him at so trying a time.
But we must continue the melancholy narrative, so distressing to us to read, but so necessary for us to know. The hour was now come, the hour of darkness, to which our Lord had so often alluded; and whilst He was gently remonstrating with His disciples, the traitor Judas came, and "with him a great multitude, with swords, and with staves, from the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders:" for Judas knew this sacred spot, having often been among the little company with whom Jesus had been accustomed to resort there; thus turning, as indeed the Psalmist had foretold, the very friendship of his Saviour against Him! Yet even in this moment of apparent weakness and destitution, the greatness of Christ was displayed: for when the band approached, He advanced calmly to meet them, and declared that He was that Jesus of Nazareth whom they sought. Unable to bear His holy eye, "they went backward and fell to the ground :' so easy was it for Christ to overcome His enemies, by His own personal majesty, or else to have called to His service innumerable angels to defend Him.
E. But then the prophecies would not have been fulfilled, Mamma?
M, No; neither would men have been redeemed. Jesus, therefore, suffered Himself to be betrayed by Judas, even with a treacherous kiss, into the hands of
His enemies, not attempting to save Himself, but begging only for the safety of His disciples; saying to the rude people who seized Him, "If, therefore, ye seek me, let these go their way." You see what care He takes of His people, when He could not forget them, even in such a moment as this. And that mighty power, which might now have been exerted to astonish and confound His enemies, was simply employed to remedy the evils which the violence of His disciples had inflicted.
E. Their violence, Mamma?
M. Yes; Peter, in the warmth of his zeal for his Master, drew his sword, and struck one of the servants of the high priest, and cut off his ear. But Jesus said unto him, “ Put up thy sword in its place; for all they that take the sword, shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou not that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how shall the Scripture be fulfilled that thus it must be? And he touched the servant's ear and healed him.”
So bright in the midst of this dark scene was our Saviour's charity! But the mercy that dwelt in His breast, was more than men-was more than angels could feel. Nevertheless He remonstrated with His enemies, for coming thus with swords and staves to take Him in the night, as if He had been a thief, instead of coming openly to Him when He taught daily and publicly in the temple. But the Scripture had foretold, that He should "be numbered with the transgressors," and in this manner, partly they were fulfilled. He was seized by His persecutors as a criminal; and even by His disciples He was now abandoned; and
left to "tread the wine press" of His affliction "alone. Of the people there was none with Him;" not even one of those who had hitherto been the favoured attendants upon His sacred person. The courageous Peter was gone the beloved, the affectionate John had deserted his Master. A few hours ago He was leaning His head "on Jesus' breast" at supper: but now, with all the rest, he "forsook Him and fled."
Here, though unwillingly, we must pause for to night, and leave the rest of this melancholy history for another evening.
See John xiii. 1-xviii. 11. Matt. xxvi. 21-25, 30-56. Mark xiv. 18-21, 26-52. Luke xxii. 21-53.
FIFTY-FOURTH SUNDAY EVENING.
CHRIST CONDEMNED BY THE JEWISH COUNCIL.
M. From the garden of Gethsemane our blessed Lord was led bound like a criminal to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas the high priest, that Caiaphas who had formerly advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people. But Annas, however active a part he might have taken in this awful transaction, was not at the time in chief authority; therefore he sent Jesus, still bound, to the house or court of the high priest, where all the chief priests and scribes had assembled together for the express purpose of sitting in judgment upon Jesus.
E. How dreadful it is, Mamma, to think of Jesus being led about bound as if He had been a thief or a murderer!
M. Yes, those sacred hands! to see them wrung and bruised with those merciless cords, is enough to make our eyes run down with tears.
E. And even when they had brought Him before Caiaphas, I do not see what they could find to accuse Him of. Our Lord had never done any thing wrong, but had spent His whole time in doing good, and teaching the people what was right.
M. Certainly He had: and it was, in reality, that very goodness of our Lord, that stirred up the malice of His enemies to seek His death. They could not bear His faithful admonitions and rebukes: they were put continually to shame by His holy example; they were filled with jealousy at His very miracles; for they were afraid, that He would in this way draw the people after Him away from themselves, who had hitherto been, unchecked, "the blind leaders of the blind." Then too they were afraid, lest their masters the Romans should take alarm at the appearance of so extraordinary a person among them, and come with an army upon them; little thinking, alas! that the very way to bring upon themselves the armies of Rome, as we remarked before, was this, which they were now pursuing the rejection of their Messiah. But, though worldly fear, and still more bitter malice, were the real causes of the conduct of the chief Priests and Scribes, it was necessary that they should appear to act with justice, and have some seeming ground for condemning our Lord. Accordingly, they sought out for false witnesses against Jesus, but found none to suit their purpose. Many, indeed, came forward; but their testimony did not agree; they contradicted each other. At length, two false witnesses came and
said, "We have heard him say, I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another, made without hands,” an offence highly atrocious in the eyes of a Jew; with whom a word against the temple was little less than blasphemy.
E. What a shame it was to misconstrue our Lord's words in that way, Mamma! Jesus was speaking of His own body when He talked of destroying the temple and building it again.
M. Yes; for "in Him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily ;" and His words were evidently figurative. But even here their witness did not agree; it was not sufficient and did not come up to the point. The high priest himself was obliged to acknowledge that the charge was a very vague one. Thus no testimony could be found against Him. There had been so much goodness and wisdom in all that Jesus both did and said, that none were able to convict Him of sin, nor to bear witness of any evil either in His words or in His works." Oh, Saviour, what a perfect innocence was in thy life, what an exact purity in thy doctrine, when malice itself cannot contrive how to slander thee!” Well might the prophet say, "He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter," as a lamb without spot or blemish, as the Lamb of God. "Yet as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth." He answered not a word to the false charges which they brought against Him. At length the high priest, exercising the authority belonging to his office, answered and said unto Him: " I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be Christ, the Son of God.” To such an appeal our Lord could not refuse to reply, without treating the anthority of the high priest