Thursday, April 23, 2020

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: Misericordias Domini (Easter 3)

John 10:11-16
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
Luther's Explanatory Notes

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.
I am the good shepherd. He mentions three kinds of persons, who have to do with the sheep: The good shepherd, the hireling and the wolf. "I am the good shepherd," says Christ. Christ alone is the good shepherd, since He alone gives His life for the sheep. Therefore He justly calls himself "the good"; that is, a comforting, helpful shepherd; for although Moses, the prophets and other preachers, who deal with the law, preach well, yet they are not such who can give their lives for the sheep and can help them.

A sheep is the very simplest of animals; yet it has this quality above all other animals, that it soon hears the voice of its master, and follows nobody but its shepherd, and is always so disposed, that it adheres to its shepherd, and seeks help from him alone; it can not help itself. Thus Christ will say: "My kingdom is nothing else, than that I rule the poor, thirsty and miserable men, who see and feel very well, that nothing else can help or advise them."

But that we may perceive this the better, we will quote a passage from the prophet Ezekiel, 34:2-6. (see verse 16. ) Here he says in the first place: We should strengthen the sheep that are weak; that is, the consciences that are weak in faith, and are depressed in spirit and are of a tender disposition, must not be driven.

Secondly, the sick should be helped. Who are the sick? Those who have external defects in strange works, so that one rattles along, acts strangely and fails here and there, or transgresses through anger or other foolish acts; as the apostles also sometimes failed most egregiously. He is here to heal us from our faults.

In the third place, "You have not bound up that which was broken." Broken; that is, when a Christian is not only weak and has a fault, so that sometimes he fails, but also comes into great temptation, and breaks a limb. As when it happens, that he falls and denies the gospel, like St. Peter did, when he denied Christ. Now, when one stumbles in this manner, you shall not cast him off, as if he had never belonged to this kingdom.

In the fourth place the prophet continues, "Neither have ye brought again that which was driven away." What is that which was driven away? It is a despised soul, that has come to grief, so that one thinks that everything concerning it is lost; yet Christ does not wish us to treat it severely.

In the fifth place he concludes: "Neither have ye sought that which was lost." Lost is that which is condemned, so that one thinks it can not come back, as in the gospel the publicans and harlots, and at the present day also the ruthless wild people; yet even these must not be abandoned, but we must do all we can to bring them back. See 1 Cor. 5:5. and 2 Cor. 2:6ff.

A good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. These words can be treated in two ways, like other works of Christ; First in regard to faith; second in regard to love.

According to faith the meaning is, that Christ is the only man or the shepherd who dies for his sheep, and no one else. Therefore no one can speak the words which Christ speaks here. He will therefore draw us to Himself and teach us that we shall believe that the sufferings of all the saints are to be accounted as nothing in comparison with his sufferings. The reason is, that He is the right and only true shepherd, who has "given his life for the sheep," that by His death and resurrection alone they can be redeemed and saved from the power of the devil. And although many are put to death on account of the doctrine, faith and confession, yet He will raise them up together with all the elect.

The other teaching is, that all the work of our dear shepherd is held up before us as an example, as St. Peter shows (1 Pet. 2:21, 24, 25). Just as Christ died for us, that He might save us from sin and eternal death by His own work, without any help from us, so we also shall serve one another, without regard to any suffering it may cost us. Although He alone is the shepherd, yet He bestows this name also upon those who have the office of the ministry in Christendom.

Those are the real hirelings who preach only for their own profit and avarice, and are not satisfied that God gives them their daily food as an alms. For we preachers should not have more from our office than sufficiency of all things; but those who want more are hirelings that care not for the sheep.

In like manner are those hirelings, who besides Him preach also the law and teach good things, how we should live and what we should do, and yet do not point to Christ, as did the scribes and Pharisees in their time among the Jewish people.

In the third place, he calls him a wolf who wants to be among the sheep, and rule over them, but produces only mischief and ruin. This is the devil himself, who also has his messengers and preachers, who have not the word of God, neither the Ten Commandments nor the Gospel, but only false doctrine and heresy. Paul also calls that the doctrine of devils which those preach who speak lies in hypocrisy, deceiving the souls (1 Tim. 4:1, 2).

He also points out the state of the sheep, where Christ Himself does not keep, guide and lead in His office of shepherd; no other preaching helps and benefits, though it may otherwise be good and correct; for it can not stand against the devil in times of distress.
14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.
I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As if he would say: "Every thing depends upon this, if you will be my sheep, that you rightly know Me as your shepherd, and there will be no danger." Therefore a good preacher should preach nothing but Christ to the people that one may learn to know Him, what He is and what He gives, so that no one should depart from His word, and Christ alone be regarded as the shepherd, who gives His life for the sheep. "I am the good shepherd," he repeats once more, deeply to impress its truth.

I know my sheep. He says to the Jews, Your sheep have their marks; but My sheep have another mark, and are so marked, that no one knows them. but Myself. For though Christians have outward signs given them by Christ; namely, Baptism, the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and preaching of the gospel, yet many a one who hears the gospel and with others goes to the sacrament of the altar is a rogue and unchristian; but who can see into the hearts of others except Christ?

And am known by My own, says He, "and they know me so well that they will not permit themselves to be enticed or drawn away from Me." A sheep has such a nature and capacity which no other animal possesses; for experience teaches that it has such a certain and sharp ear, that if ten thousand sheep were together in one flock, and all the ewes bleated, yet every lamb would know its own mother's voice.

Thus we also must have good ears which can distinguish the voice of Christ from the voice of all others, let it be ever so clear, lovely and friendly. 

This it is to know Christ aright that He is given to us by the pure grace of God, with all that He has, and that He has made satisfaction and secured salvation for us.

With this Scripture he teaches us that the church neither is nor shall be such a crowd that must be circumscribed by outward government and order; but it is a spiritual assembly that hears this shepherd and believes on Him, and is governed by Him through the Holy Ghost.
15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 
As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father. This is a glorious, consoling knowledge, whereby the Father knows His dear Son with an unspeakable and eternal love, as he also publicly testified by a voice from heaven, "This is my beloved Son," etc., (Matt. 3:17). In like manner Christ comes also to us with the same unspeakable, everlasting love.

Now as the Father knows Christ thus, and Christ also knows us as his sheep, there results from it one knowledge, which comes from the Father through Christ also to us, through which again we are to know the Father's heart toward us through Christ; namely, that as He loves Christ, His Son, so He cherishes also toward us true paternal love, provided we only know Christ, as the sheep know their shepherd. This is, indeed, an exceeding great comfort; but it is also a very spiritual, that is, a hidden and secret knowledge before our eyes and senses, that God the Father knew His only begotten, dear Son, while He had to lie in the manger, like the child of the meanest beggar.

So Christ also acts as though He had forgotten his church. But not withstanding this, He still knows His sheep. Again, "I know my Father," says Christ, Hand know that he will lead Me to glory through the cross. (See vs. 17, 18) Thus shall it be also with you, My sheep."
16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring. With this He takes leave of the Jews who cling to Moses, with their synagogue, people and priesthood, and says: Though they receive Him not, nor regard Him as their shepherd, for which He was appointed by God, as also by the testimony of Moses, yet He will nevertheless find sheep, both among them and among others; that is, among the heathen (Hos. 2:23 ; Deut. 32:21). For in Him the beginning of the gospel was preached to the Jews, and this people was the fold. This is the meaning of "one shepherd and one fold," that God will accept all, for Christ's sake, as His children, who believe the gospel, whether they be Jews or Gentiles.


Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 330-333


Monday, April 13, 2020

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: Quasimodo Geniti (Easter 2)

John 20:19-31
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Luther's Explanatory Notes
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
In this Gospel the fruit of faith is praised, and its nature indicated. The fruits of faith are, among others, these two: peace and joy, as St. Paul writes in Gal. 5:22.

Then the same day at evening (that is, on Easter evening,) " the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them." What do the disciples fear? They fear death; yea, they were in the midst of death. But whence came their fear of death? From sin; for if they had not sinned, they would not have been afraid; neither could death have harmed them; for the sting of death by which he kills, is sin. (1 Cor. 15:56) But they are lacking yet in the true knowledge of God. Now it is well to notice that the Lord does not wait till his disciples go after him; but he goes after them through closed doors, salutes them kindly, comforts them and strengthens them in the faith of his resurrection.

Christ's resurrection body. But that he comes to the disciples through closed doors, indicates that after his resurrection, he is no longer bound in his kingdom on earth to a bodily, visible, tangible and worldly existence, such as time, place and space, and can always help unhindered. Further he points out, that where he comes with his power through the office of the word, there he comes not with noise and tumult, storm and uproar, breaks and destroys nothing in external human life and government; breaks and disturbs nothing inwardly in man, in the mind or reason of man, as the devil disorders both by his fanatics, but enlightens and betters the heart.

That he "came and stood in the midst," indicates two things: preaching and faith. That he comes to us means preaching; for the Lord comes into our hearts through the ministry. But that he stands in our hearts is faith.

Peace be unto you. He could not have acted more friendly, than to offer them peace, and show them his hands and his side, in order that they might be comforted by the certainty of his resurrection, and be strengthened by such faith against distress, fear and terror. The salutation is sweet and lovely. For peace, in the Hebrew language, means all good, fortune and prosperity; peace they call it where all goes well, the heart is satisfied and contented. But this peace in Christ is very secret and hidden from the eyes and senses; it is not a visible or tangible peace in outward feeling; but it is inward and spiritual in faith, which seizes and comprehends nothing else than what it hears here: "Peace be with you and fear not," and is satisfied and content with this, that Christ is his friend and God is gracious to him. Worldly peace consists in this, that the outward evil, which causes discord (enemies, poverty and sickness) is removed. But Christian or Spiritual peace reverses it, so that the external misfortune remains, such as enemies, sickness, poverty, sin, devil and death; they are here, pass not away, lie all around us; yet inwardly there is peace, strength and comfort in the heart, that it cares not for misfortune; yea, becomes more courageous and joyful where it is, than where it is not. Thus, it is very properly called such "a peace which passes all understanding and mind." Phil. 4:7.

Whence the peace comes. But such peace comes only from this, when Christ shows us "his hands and his side;" that is, when he points out to us that Christ was crucified for us, His blood was shed and He died, and thereby atoned for our sins, appeased and averted the wrath of God.

The other fruit. From peace now follows the other fruit, as it is writ ten here in the Gospel: "Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord." Yes, indeed, they could not but be glad; for this is truly the greatest joy that the human heart can experience, when it sees again and recognizes the Lord Christ, who before was to him dead and buried. Now the heart knows that it has in him a dear Savior, and through him nothing but peace with God.

The office of the gospel ministry. Next follows the subject of the gospel ministry. The power of faith now extends into love; for it is not yet sufficient, that I have the Lord, so that he is mine; but I must henceforth also do as he has done; that I may bring other people also up to the faith; for thus it follows in the text: "As my Father has sent me, even so send I you." These are excellent words, by which He institutes the office of the ministry, and brings the sufferings and resurrection of Christ into their proper use and exercise; for if there had nothing been given but the history without the gospel ministry, it would not have been of any use to us. With the ministry he shows what he has accomplished by his resurrection; namely, that he has instituted a new government, Christ is therefore appointed as eternal King, that He may be the Lord over sin and righteousness, over death and life; with this His kingdom is to have to do and over this to rule. This is what the Lord means here, when He says, "I send you as the Father hath sent me." For as the holy prophet Isaiah had taught long before how the Father hath sent Christ, (Chap. 61:1,2) "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, to preach good tidings unto the meek," etc. With these his words, "As the Father hath sent me," etc, He takes from the disciples the carnal mind. He does not send them to be occupied with worldly things, but to preach the word of the forgiveness of sins.  Secondly, he appoints the apostles and their successors also unto the end of the world as lords, and gives them such great power and might (according to the office,) as Christ, the Son of God, himself possessed.

A special power. To exercise such an office and government requires also a special power, which is not human, but divine; therefore He does not give them swords and weapons, but breathes upon them and says, " Receive the Holy Spirit."

To whom this power is given. Now this power is given to all Christians; that is, to him who is a Christian. But who is a Christian? He who believes. He who believes has the Holy Spirit. All of us, indeed, have this power; but no one shall presume to exercise it openly; (that is, in the church,) except he that has been chosen for this purpose by the congregation. Yet privately I may exercise it, when my neighbor is oppressed in his conscience, that I preach the gospel to him and tell him that his sins are atoned for by Christ.

Whose soever sins you remit, etc. Here we have the true spiritual government. See and learn here how this government is circumscribed and how far it reaches; namely, as far as the world, and yet shall have to do with nothing else but "sin." The Lord comprises here the whole gospel ministry or office of the church in this commandment (not only the absolution.)

Now this is a great and excellent thing, that every true pastor and preacher is the mouthpiece of Christ, and his word and forgiveness is Christ's word and forgiveness. We shall not vainly gaze up to heaven for consolation and forgiveness; but we shall always have it with us in our mouth and in our heart. (Rom. 10:68) But who can express what an unspeakable, mighty and blessed comfort it is, that with one word, one man can open heaven and close hell for another. But if you go on securely and sin obstinately and your pastor reproves you, and retains your sin until you repent, then your sins will be retained against you by Christ himself and by the heavenly Father.

But how can a man forgive sin, when this belongs only to God? This is true; that no man can forgive any sin out of his own worthiness, repentance, merit of the saints or pure order, yet we do it in the name and command of Christ.
24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.
The doubting Thomas. Yes, you say, but who knows whether it is certain and sure with God, that my sins are forgiven? Rest upon what Christ says here, verses 21 and 23, and elsewhere (Matt 18:20) "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them."

This is a real Johannean history, who pays special attention to the miraculous works of the Lord Christ, which pertain to the doctrine of faith. And this history serves the purpose, that the resurrection of Christ is not only proved and asserted by this unbelieving and stubborn Thomas; but that also the power of the resurrection is known and we are benefited thereby.

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. That the Lord came just when Thomas was absent the first time, is for our instruction, both for doctrine and consolation, in order that the documentary proof of the resurrection of the Lord may be the stronger.
25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, etc. One might wonder at first, why the apostles have thus described their own sin and shame; and why the church afterwards so ordered, that these very histories were selected for preaching on the Apostles' Days. But it does not especially concern us, (as it does the papacy) to extol and honor the saints, but that we learn from them, how God is gracious and merciful and has much patience with sinners, if they do not continue in their impenitence. For in the apostles we see what a poor thing the human heart is. Among them all, it seems, Thomas was the most daring and courageous, when he said, (John 11:16 ) "Let us also go, that we may die with him;" then he also recently had seen, how Christ raised up Lazarus ; and yet he imagines that it is at an end with Jesus. Now, he means to say, "No one shall persuade me to believe it, even though I see it, as you say you have seen him." Here we find various sins. The first and greatest is, that he regards Christ no more than one of the other prophets who were mere men.

The second sin is, that he despises his fellow disciples as fools, and regards himself only as wise.

The third sin is, that he thinks Christ must do for him just what he wants, or he will not regard Him. Yea, the dear apostle will himself be lost and condemned, in that he will not believe. For in the article of the resurrection of Christ lies all the power of faith and eternal life. 1. Cor. 15:14, 17, 18.

Thus the Holy Spirit shows us in this example, how unspeakably great is both the obduracy and the timidity of the human heart.
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”  
Chirst's appearance to Thomas. Now, what does Christ do with the poor unbelieving man? He does not delay long, but on the eighth day after His resurrection, when Thomas had strengthened himself in his unbelief, and was almost dead, and no one hoped that Christ would show Himself to him specially, He appears to the disciples again and at the same time to Thomas also, and says, "Peace be unto you," comprising in this word also the poor, great sinner, Thomas, that he may have a joyful heart.

“Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side."  (favoring him so much more that he not only should see, as the others had seen, but also touch and feel him, as he had said) only that you be no longer "unbelieving, but believing." These things are written for our sake, that we should learn how Christ loves us, and how friendly, paternally, kindly, and mildly He treats us, and will continue to treat us. It may be that He has retained the same signs and marks, which perhaps will shine much brighter and more glorious than his whole body, and that He will exhibit them before the whole world, as the Scripture says, "They shall look upon him whom they have pierced." But that the Lord shows his hands and his feet, he thereby gives us to understand, that His works and no others belong to salvation, for by hands and feet the Scriptures understand the works and conduct. But should any one ask, My dear friend, you speak much of faith, and that our salvation depends entirely upon it, may I ask you, how can we obtain faith? I will tell you. Our Lord Christ has said, "Peace be unto you! Behold my hands, etc." Behold, O man, I am the only one who has taken your sins away, and has redeemed you.
28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 
My Lord and my God. This is an excellent word. Thomas is not intoxicated, does not speak sarcastically or jestingly, nor does he mean a false god; therefore he certainly does not lie. Thus he is enlightened by the power of the resurrection of Christ, so that he now certainly believes and confesses that He is his Lord, true God and man, through whom, as he himself now also rose from unbelief — the head fountain of all sins — so he shall arise from death at the last day and live with Christ, in unspeakable glory and blessedness.
29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Blessed are they that have not seen and yet believe. Mark well and diligently this saying, not only on account of the adversaries, who call it heresy, when we preach that we must be saved by faith only; but also for your own sake, that you may know how to obtain salvation.

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

These signs were done that ye might believe, etc. Such faith must not be a mere dead opinion of the history concerning this Jesus, but one which concludes and is certain that He is the Christ; that is, the promised King and Savior, the Son of God, through whom we are all redeemed from sin and eternal death.

Through his name; that is, not by the law, or our own worthiness, or works; but alone through and on account of his merits, (See Acts, 4:12) "For there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved!"

The resurrection the most important article of faith. It is a fundamental article, because it is the highest and most important, and should therefore remain certain and firm, together with other articles on which our salvation depends. For this article has met with and still meets with the most opposition, and is the most difficult to believe. But upon such testimony, the heart of every Christian should leap with joy, and certainly and without doubt believe that Christ arose from the dead on the third day. For Pilate, the governor, and Caiaphas, the high priest, and all the people of Jerusalem, together with King Herod, are witnesses on the one side; then the apostles testify on the other side, and their testimony goes through the whole world. Thirdly, the work testifies for itself; and lastly, the Holy Scriptures testify. On this we can certainly confide, and need no further special revelation.


Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 397-401


Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: Good Friday – Jesus' Atoning Death

John 18:1-19:42

This is a longer reading, which we will not include here ahead of the notes. The notes comprise nearly 12 pages.

Luther's Notes

John 18
1 When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered. 
The last work of our Lord Christ on earth was His prayer (John 17) with which He gave His disciples farewell. But after He has concluded the prayer, He becomes a priest, and offers the right sacrifice; namely, Himself upon the wood of the cross. This His passion may be divided into three parts:

The first is His spiritual suffering in the garden; the second is His bodily suffering; the third is mixed; that is, the scorn and mockery which He had to suffer in part bodily and in part spiritually.

After the supper Jesus went with his disciples into the field called Gethsemane. It must have been a fertile, beautiful meadow, a beautiful, lovely garden, with precious plants in it. But the Evangelist John is silent in regard to the Mount of Olives and the beautiful, lovely place, and mentions only the dark brook "Kidron," as one most appropriate to this subject of the imprisonment and death of Christ. For the name Kidron means a black or dark brook; and the brook Kidron is near to the city of Jerusalem. But why does the Evangelist write thus? First, to indicate how poor Christ was on earth, that He had no house or chamber of His own. Secondly, it had always been the custom of the Lord; when He remained in Jerusalem until evening He went out of the city. Such pious children were in Jerusalem, who could not entertain the Lord Jesus over a single night, and indeed He did not wish to stay with them (Luke 21:37; John 11:54). This he did very often.
2 And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples. 
And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place. This the Evangelist mentions, so that no one should ask, How did Judas know that Christ was outside of the city, in the garden? or why did He not flee? Answer: He did not wish to flee from the cross, or He might have gone a mile or two away from the city; but He went to meet his death, and yet did not seek the cross himself. This is a common teaching, that we should neither seek the cross (for God has implanted this by nature into our hearts, that we should shun harm) nor flee from the cross when God sends it.
3 Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.
Judas, one of the twelve. Matthew (26:47) says, ','One of the twelve." Will we therefore say, that because it is one of the twelve apostles, it was the fault of the Lord Christ, and the doctrine, which he heard from Christ? No, but the fault is that of the abominable devil, who comes with his evil seed and fills the land with weeds. But therewith he does not yet succeed to cause nothing but tares to grow. The other disciples do not fall into such a horrible sin. Thus although the scandals are many and only too common, nevertheless, one finds many fine, pious Christians. Therefore we should be satisfied and thank God.

Then again, this example of the degenerate child Judas is to teach us that this dreadful fall should lead us to fear God. For, as such a terrible misfortune befell so great a man, who was an apostle, and doubtless was possessed of many excellent qualities, we also have reason to be on our guard.

Judas. With Judas the case is thus: He was a covetous man; he gives the reins to this sin and inclines to it. If we mistake in a small matter, (as it seems,) an unspeakably great mischief may follow. (See Luke xi. 24-26.)

Judas takes with him two kinds of military forces, Roman soldiers and Pharisees. When a disturbance is about to arise the highest authorities are called into service.
 4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?” 5 They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Jesus said to them, “I am.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. 
Jesus said to them, “I am.” At this simple and plain word, "I am," (Ἐγώ εἰμι) Christians will consider, who He is, what is His will, or what is His mind, and how great Christ is. Who is Christ? It is the man who shortly before had said (John 17:10) "Father, all mine are thine and thine are mine." When this is well considered it must inspire fear, and cause one to be heartily ashamed of his own sufferings. Secondly, we should earnestly consider, who, and how great Christ is; that is, why He endured such sufferings. Now, His works testify of Him, how good, beneficent and highly deserving He was. And yet this high, beneficent person must endure such sufferings. This, His obedience, sufferings and death must far overbalance all of our sufferings.

The third thing to be considered is: Why does Christ suffer all this, or what is the cause? There are two reasons: The one reason is with the people, because the Jews could not bear Him. The other reason is with Christ himself, because He bears such great love for us, and suffers on account of our sins, that He may redeem us from death, hell and the devil (Rom. 5:6-8). Though you boast greatly: Lord, I have suffered so much; yet you must confess: Though I have done this and that, I am nevertheless a child of Adam (Psalm 51:7), a child of wrath by nature (Eph. 2:3). But Christ says, "I am the Son of God."

6 Now when He said to them, “I am,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

I am. (Ἐγώ εἰμι) But to prove who this person is, the Evangelist introduces this history and says: "Now when He said to them, “I am,” they drew back and fell to the ground" John did not wish to pass this over in silence, in order that he might certainly show by the deed who this person was; so that no one could think He was a mere man, but such a person who with these few letters, "I am" threw them down altogether on the ground: both the multitude and the servants of the high priests and Judas the traitor also in addition. This was an extraordinary and divine power, which the Lord then intended to show; not only to frighten the Jews, but also to strengthen His disciples. But alas, it was too soon forgotten by both parties. This was the "hour of darkness," when the offense predominated.

Here we can also learn what an abominable thing an obdurate man is. They feel that they go backward and fall to the ground, yet in their hearts they do not desist from their intention and evil purpose; they imagine, "Our going back and falling to the ground is the effect of sorcery. And the villain, Judas, also stands by, is so obdurate and hard, falls to the ground with the others, and yet he is not in the least moved."
7 Then He asked them again, “Whom are you seeking?”
And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
8 Jesus answered, “I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,”
Let these go their way. The other miracle is almost like the first, when Christ answers the second time, "I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way." He is alone; by rights therefore the poor Jesus, who is so strongly outnumbered, should speak fair and beseeching words; but He proceeds, commands and bids the Jews to let His disciples alone. With these words He has released all His disciples, that none of them had to be arrested, though Peter and John came into the palace of the high priest. Christ can overcome His enemies and defend His disciples by a word.

But why does the Lord do this? It has not been incorrectly interpreted, that thereby he intended to prove that he was more concerned for his disciples than for himself. (John 10:14f; 15:13f.) But this was, nevertheless, not done without a purpose. Our dear Lord Christ will not have a partner in His sufferings; for God hath laid upon Him alone the iniquity of us all. Is. 53:6.
9 that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, “Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.” 
That the saying might be fulfilled, etc. The Evangelist here points out that with these words the Lord speaks here of being temporarily lost; yet above, (John 17:12) the text shows clearly that He speaks of being lost eternally. But these expressions do not conflict with each other; for if the disciples had been arrested at this time, they would also have been lost eternally, body and soul. But these words of the Lord Christ are very consoling. When men accept Christ and his word, then they are "given" to Christ, as Christ himself explains it. John 18:6.
10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.
11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?”
 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it . This history gives a necessary and useful instruction on the sword, or worldly power, as to who shall use it, and who shall not use it, and what punishment he deserves who uses it without authority. As far as the person of Peter is concerned, it is evident that he is a preacher and officer of the church to whom the sword does not belong, as the Lord says, "The princes of this world rule, but not you."
12 Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him.
Arrested Jesus and bound Him. This is to be understood thus: After Christ had told Peter to put the sword into the sheath, He immediately gave Himself into their hands without any resistance, and left the company of his disciples. There is no doubt that they treated Jesus roughly. For every one, as may be imagined, intended to be foremost in this transaction, and to court favor with the high priests and the captain, and to please them. But the dignity and greatness of the person make sufferings higher and greater, and reasonably excite our sympathy.
13 And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year.
And led him away (by the way) to Annas first (to flatter him.) By this John wishes to give us to understand that Caiaphas was not high priest all the time, but straight against God's order they committed a knavery and a villainy, in that they interchanged the priesthood with each other. (See Luke 3:2 and Josephus Antiquities of the Jews - Book XIX, chapter 5) The Romans took a bribe and permitted Annas to be high priest this year and Caiaphas the next year. Though they practiced such villainy in the priesthood, yet the priesthood was of God, and was instituted by God and not to be rejected; for misuse and divine position or office are two different things.

From this we should learn not to put our trust in men, though they may be in a position ordained by God.
14 Now it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people. 
Now it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews, Caiaphas gave this counsel first, (John 11:47, ff.) Was this not a fine counsel? Worse and more poisonously he could not have acted; but John gives it a good application, and says, (John 11:51, 52) The counsel came down from God in heaven. With this word Caiaphas began to crucify Christ.
15 And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest. 16 But Peter stood at the door outside. Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought Peter in. 17 Then the servant girl who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this Man’s disciples, are you?”
He said, “I am not.”
18 Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself.
Peter's denial. The fall of Peter interests me very much, for he was the most prominent among the apostles; therefore his fall is the hardest, that he may henceforth learn to deal kindly with the consciences. Peter was to advance so far that he should be filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

It would have been impossible not to become proud and presumptuous, and finally to fall with the devil into the abyss of hell. Therefore God permits him to fall, that he might re main humble.

In the whole history of the passion, nothing is so minutely described as the denial of Peter. These are to be the fruit and the benefit of the sufferings of Christ, that therein we have the forgiveness of sins; and therefore the denial of Peter suits best to be recorded in the history of the passion. If I could paint Peter, I would write upon every hair of his head, "Forgiveness of sins."

The lesson of the fall of Peter. Here we are to learn first from the fall of the pious Peter our own weakness, and that we should build with certainty neither upon ourselves nor upon any one else. For our hearts are so very weak and unstable, that they may change any hour. (John 2:24)

When the damsel without any danger to Peter, and perhaps out of compassion, said to him, "You are not also one of this Man’s disciples, are you?" his heart and courage failed. For when God does not sustain you by his Holy Spirit, you are lost. You can not govern or uphold yourself one hour.

The consolation from Peter's fall. In the second place, the history of Peter's fall serves also as a consolation to us, not only that we find in Peter an excellent example of the grace and mercy of God, but we also learn when we have fallen into sin, how we can again be restored to favor. Yes, you say, but how fares it with poor Judas? Answer: Judas pursues his sin designedly, but Peter falls into his sin accidentally. Notwithstanding, when a man is in terror on account of his sins and the wrath of God, he should not judge of forgiveness and grace according to the magnitude, number or diversity of his sins. But this we ought to learn from the teachings of this Gospel, that we should know and hold fast to the grace and goodness of the Son of God, and that his grace is mightier than all sin. In this point Judas and Peter differ from each other. For Judas sees only the magnitude of his sin, and falls into despair. But Peter also weeps bitterly, he is terribly alarmed on ac count of his sin; but he had heard the word of Christ more diligently and learned it better. See Luke 22:32.
19 The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine.
The High Priest then asked Jesus of his disciples and of his doctrine. I suppose this question was asked in the house of Caiaphas; for John calls him the High Priest that year. But when it is afterward said, (v. 24,) Jesus was sent bound to Caiaphas the High Priest, it is understood that John repeats what he has omitted before, (v. 15, when he begins to relate the denial of Peter.) But when, in verses 19-23, he reverts again to the fall of Peter, he repeats only what he ought to have said before.

When the witnesses do not agree, and are in themselves contradictory, Caiaphas steps forth, and the judge or high priest asks Christ of his disciples and his doctrine, as if he would say: "What kind of new doctrine do you teach? Is Moses not enough for you? Where are those now who regard your doctrine as right and divine? It is the common rabble who know nothing of the law, whom you have attached to yourself."
 20 Jesus answered him, “I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing. 21 Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said.” 
I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, etc. The Lord will not have his doctrine despised, and says He did not shun the light, but preached publicly; therefore it should not be reported as having been preached in a corner. Here the question presents itself: How can Christ have taught nothing in secret, when he himself says, "What I tell you in darkness," etc.? (Matt. 10:27. Compare with Mark 10:10). This knot can be untied in this way: Both are true; Christ taught both secretly and publicly; yet, so that the doctrines taught secretly should also become public, and nothing should remain hid in a corner. But as the High Priest asked of the doctrine in general, and not in particular, Christ answered the question of the High Priest, concerning the doctrine, also in general, and says: "There is no part of my doctrine of which I am ashamed, either before you or the whole world; I appeal to my hearers." (Rom. 1:16). Caiaphas knows very well what Christ has taught; yet he asks, merely to entrap the Lord, and tries to catch him in his answer. This answer of our Lord is an example that we are to be fearless, and courageously abide by the doctrine. (2 Tim. 2:9)
22 And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, “Do You answer the high priest like that?”
23 Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?”
Why do you strike Me? That Christ refers the High Priest to his hearers sounds a little proud and offends the parson, and the rowdy and slave of the priest, who stands by, inflicts a stroke upon the face of the Lord. But Christ says: "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?" The monks in the cloisters and the doctors of the high schools have perverted this text and said, Christ Himself did not turn the other cheek, but reproved the servant who smote him, and that therefore this which Christ said (Matt. 5:39-41) was not a command, but an advice, and good opinion. But this is beyond measure an evil explanation. How could Christ think of giving such advice, and then contradict such advice by his own works? Christ does not say, "I will not offer you the other cheek." For in offering his whole body, it is easy to think that He would not refuse to offer the cheek. But that He said to the servant: "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil, " you should understand that there is a great difference between these two things: the offering of the cheek, and the reproving with words him that strikes us. I am not to shut my mouth and sanction the wrong; but the hand shall be quiet and not avenge itself. Christ by saying, "Why do you strike Me?" confidently turns the wrong from Himself upon the servant, and is therefore prepared to look for the other blow also; and if you look carefully on the text in Matthew, you will find that Christ does not say that you shall command him who strikes you on the one cheek to strike you also on the other; for why should I ask villains and knaves to do wrong? But Christ's cheerful and plain answers invariably pain the devil and sting him severely, for all his scratching is intended to weaken the doctrine. He is not satisfied that our fingers bleed; but he insists upon it that we become disheartened, and that we begin to speak more timidly and consider how we may order our words, so as not to offend the children.
28 Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover. 
The Jews did not go into the Praetorium, etc. For if they had gone into the house of a Gentile they would have become defiled, especially into a judgment hall; for as they regarded those defiled who by chance came into a house in which some one had died, they thought that because in this house sentence was passed on blood, this might do them harm. Here they make for themselves a narrow conscience and regard it as a great unholiness; but these blinded people do not think that the shedding of innocent blood is a far greater sin
29 Pilate then went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?”
What accusation do you bring against this Man? In order that the Jews and persecutors of Christ should not only be convinced in their consciences, but that other people also might understand their malice, Pilate the heathen must also convince them. The innocence of the Lord was made manifest in the house of Caiaphas to the witnesses, and here also before the whole people. The sentence must not be passed on a Christian, unless the guilty who persecute the Christians first know themselves that they are doing wrong; yea, that even the rough and ignorant people under stand this and say that He is unrighteously condemned.
30 They answered and said to him, “If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you.”
The hypocrisy of the Jews. This long discourse and diffuse transaction which took place before Pilate is recorded in the Gospel, that the innocence of the Lord and His confession which He made before the judge might become apparent, as well also as the guilt of the Jews. These feel very well that they cannot substantiate their accusation, and therefore ask that Jesus should be secretly condemned to death. Just as if they were so sincere and pious, that one must not suppose that they could do anything wrong; and answered insolently and proudly: "If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you." But Pilate is not at all satisfied with such words, and replies to them very firmly and says:
31 Then Pilate said to them, “You take Him and judge Him according to your law.”
Therefore the Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,” 
You take Him and judge Him according to your law. That is, to speak according to Roman ideas, as if he would say, "If you want to be the judges over him you may also be his hangmen. It is not the custom among us Romans to judge any one without previous knowledge of the case. If this is the law among you Jews, then you may take and kill him."

It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death, thus the Jews reply. Thereby they confess this much: "If we were allowed to put a man to death, we would not hesitate very long, nor beg permission of you." Thus these murderers became convinced both inwardly in their own conscience and outwardly before all reason, that they are villains and murderers.
32 that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die. 
The prophesy fulfilled. Here John adds : "that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die." (Matt. 20:18, 19 ; Luke 18:32f ) namely that the Jews will condemn him to death, but the Gentiles, however, will fulfill and execute the sentence passed. Therefore the Jews must lose the power over life and death and come under the authority of the Romans, and the heathens crucify the Son of God, so that no one could boast, but that both Jews and Gentiles should praise God's grace and mercy.
33 Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”
34 Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?”
35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?”
Are You the King of the Jews? But Pilate does not hastily give his consent, but goes into the judgment hall, and orders Jesus to be brought before him, asks Him and says: "Are You the King of the Jews?" Jesus touches two things in his reply: an excuse and a confession. First, he excuses himself thus: “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?” This is not (as it might appear) a haughty answer, but a necessary excuse; for if something false is said of anyone he shall not rest upon Himself, but freely defend His innocence. Christ will say, "I take both your conscience and your eyes to witness. I appear in the form of an imprisoned and bound man, therefore I cannot be accused of rebellion against the emperor. If therefore you speak this of yourself, then you speak against yourself; but if others have told you this of Me, then let them prove it." Although this reply was necessary, yet it displeased Pilate a little, that the Lord (as it seems) gives him such a haughty answer, and says, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me." As if he would say, I know nothing of your Jewish laws and controversies; I also do not speak this of myself, but You are accused before me.
36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?”
Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
My kingdom is not of this world. This is the other part of His defense; namely, the confession which He makes before Pilate (1 Tim. 6:13) here He also gives his body and life for the word which He has preached. It is, however, a strange and dangerous confession, when He says that He is not the king of the Jews, and yet confesses that He has a kingdom; that is as much as to say that He will cause a great sedition in the world, and yet was no rebel against the emperor. But it is spoken according to the Gospel and according to the nature of the kingdom of Christ. For the Gospel does not proceed with out opposition (Luke 12:49-53). We are peaceable people, inculcate peace, pray for peace, (Matt. 5:9) and we assist the emperor in his kingdom; but here we come rumbling in because to bring a better understanding into the hearts of men is a higher object than the kingdom of the emperor.

When then Pilate asks the second time: “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered: “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth." To bear witness means to preach, as John used the term several times; and the Lord points out briefly what kind of kingdom he has. "My kingly office," says He, "is not to ride on horses and to bear the sword, but the preaching of the oral word." But truth embraces the virtue and power of His word. For man is justified before God through Christ, and opposed to the truth are the evil deeds and sins of the Jews, and Christ will say, "this persecution comes not otherwise and from nowhere else, than that I have publicly reproved the lies and confessed the truth. My kingdom has nothing to do with lies and falsehood, nor with masks, but it is an eternal, continual kingdom, wherein are constant, eternal and true benefits."

Who are now his disciples? "Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.My voice, He says ; that is, "My word of the gospel one must hold with heart and faith, and who so holds it, is of the truth and My disciple."

But why does He assume the title of a king? Answer: He is such a king who is just and having salvation, (Zech. 9:9). He forgives sin, bestows righteousness, redeems from death and gives eternal life. This kingdom begins here on earth, but it begins in word and faith. Here there must be suffering, but the glory and happiness will be found in the future world.
38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all." 
What is truth? I know not whether Pilate means this in earnest or ironically; yet I understand it to be a pure mockery; for Pilate was a cunning, proud heathen; therefore he despises Christ and says: "One troubles himself little about the truth. If you are this kind of king, you will do the emperor very little harm. If you occupy yourself with the truth you are lost, and it is no wonder that you are brought here, imprisoned and bound." When Pilate asked Jesus: "Art you king of the Jews?" "Yes," said Christ, "I am; but not such a king as the emperor is, for then My servants would fight and strive to deliver and defend Me; but I am a king sent to preach the gospel, and give record of the truth which I must speak." "Why," said Pilate, "are you such a king and have a kingdom that consists in word and truth? Then surely you can do no harm to me." Doubtless Pilate took our Savior Christ to be a simple, honest, ignorant man, a hermit, who knew or understood nothing of the world or of government.
39 “But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”
40 Then they all cried again, saying, “Not this Man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.
Barabbas or Jesus? If anyone should not have learned from the Lord's confession sufficiently what the world is, and what the devil's kingdom is and does, let him learn it out of this account. The world which will not endure Christ can on account of the truth kill Christ the Son of God, in the most shameful manner, and reveal itself to such a degree, that reason can grasp it; yea, the world is so enraged and embittered that, rather than let the truth go uncondemned, it would prefer all the vices and crimes that could be named on earth. Just so the Jews would rather have asked that the devil should be set loose rather than they would have freed the Son of God.

This is the way of the world: The nobler the treasure and the good are, which God gives, the more do the world and the devil hate such treasure and good. Gold is the least good, yet the devil cannot endure that we should make a right use of gold. But when you come to the great gifts of God, which are the Holy Scriptures, the Gospel, divine truth, Christ, etc., when that treasure comes into the world, which brings everlasting righteousness and life, then it goes here as the text says: Barabbas shall be set free; Christ shall be crucified. Herewith it is indicated, how the Gospel shall be treated in the world, and all those who live according to the Gospel. (John 15:20)

Chapter 19
1 So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. 2 And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. 3 Then they said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck Him with their hands.
Scourged Jesus. Here Pilate again exhibits himself as a cunning man and wise heathen Roman; because the Jews could be satisfied in no other way, he tries this way, and has Jesus scourged; but neither are they satisfied with the scourging.

A crown of thorns. Let everyone think what a horrid, pointed, devilish mockery this is, that a man who confesses the truth, and was previously scourged without any cause, is thus torn and lacerated by them with such poisonous scorn.
4 Pilate then went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.” 
I find no fault in him. Pilate still has hope of being able to release Christ. Therefore he leads him forth and says: "Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him." That is, "I bring him out to you, so that you may know that I have had him scourged without any cause or fault, and this I did that I might satisfy and quiet you."
5 Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!”
Behold the Man! You see, he means to say that he is treated worse than he deserved; will you not now be moved to compassion for him? Pilate is a heathen and a real blood hound; and yet this heathen and blood-hound is moved. But all this does not avail with the Jews.
6 Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”
Pilate said to them, “You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.”
They only cry out : Crucify Him, crucify Him. John wrote this to point out most clearly how the hatred and jealousy was so great and poisonous, and how Christ was innocently condemned to death. For the Jews not only accuse Jesus falsely, but they are also at the same time accusers and judges and pronounce the sentence. And here Pilate is a servant and minister of God without knowing it; that in him are confounded all the best and holiest people on earth, in order that the innocence of Christ and the malice of the perverted Jews might appear the clearer.

Pilate is offended at this unjustifiable demand, and therefore he replies to them curtly: "You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him." Although Pilate had declared him guiltless several times, yet he had Him scourged, and still holds Him a prisoner, until at last he yields and lets Christ be crucified. Now Pilate was one of the wise and cunning men, and had many wise and cunning men about him; and the Jews are the most learned and holy. Thus it is at all times on earth, that the wisest, most learned and holy become pure devils in regard to Christ and his gospel.
7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”
According to our law he ought to die. This is such a loose, rotten accusation (especially before judge Pilate who was a heathen, and knew nothing about the Jewish law). Pilate might have answered: "What have I to do with your law?" He might also have said, "Why do you Jews act against your own law? Your law commands a blasphemer should be stoned, not crucified" (Leviticus 24:16). Therefore it was a great thoughtlessness in the Jews. But such things come to pass, that truth may be manifested more gloriously, and that their folly may become more apparent. The calling of one's self the Son of God would not have been the greatest sin among the Jews. It is also a good instruction and prophecy for us, that Christ must die, because He declared himself to be the Son of God.
8 Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid,
Pilate afraid. Pilate was not of the Jews, but of the Romans. Because he finds no fault in Christ, he does not wish to condemn Him, for he is afraid of the Romans, lest he act against their order and manner of proceeding, and as he now hears that He was the Son of God he was still more afraid of the Romans. He does not actually believe that Christ is the Son of the true and living God; for he knows nothing of this God; but he thinks, as the Romans have many and various kinds of gods, might not this be one of these kinds of gods? Here we see again how the devices of the ungodly recoil upon themselves when they should be at their best.
9 and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 
Where are You from? Asks Pilate, as if he would say: "I should like to know the son of which god you are in order that I may govern myself accordingly." — But Jesus gave him no answer. The reason is this: He has already given an answer to Pilate, but Pilate said ironically, "What is truth?" Therefore Christ regarded him unworthy, that He should give him any further information. Had he received the truth from Christ, he would soon have become aware where Christ was from. Christ treats the Jews in like manner. (See John 8:25)
10 Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?”
Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me?" Pilate gets angry, because Christ will not speak with him, since he is the judge, and exercises his power like a heathen. Christ cannot conceal this from Pilate; therefore he answers and says:
11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” 
You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. This is also a strong warning, for Pilate goes here too far (as worldly governors very often sin by such haughtiness). But he does not say, "You have no power over me;" but, "You have power as you say, but you do not have it from yourself. Therefore use it right." Thereby Christ has given us an instruction, that we should admonish and reprove the great prominent men and children on account of their wrong doings. One should suffer in jury and oppression, but not keep silence. "Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin." This is a heavy sentence. Though Jesus confesses that Pilate has power from above yet He accuses him. — But He passes a dreadful sentence upon those who delivered Him to Pilate, that is the whole multitude of the Jews; the Jews are worse than the heathen.
12 From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.”
Caesar's friend. Pilate accepts the warning, wants to become pious and seeks again to release him. But the people of God, the Jews, cry out against this: "If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend." Previously Pilate had answered this question finely; but the word, "If you are Caesar's friend," disconcerts and overwhelms him; for to have Caesar for his enemy means nothing less, than to hazard body and life, goods and honor. Pilate is a picture of all saints who are holy before the world, but do not have God's word, faith and Christ. As long as the enjoyment lasts they are pious; but when the enjoyment is past the piety is also at an end.
13 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.
Pilate does not ask Jesus any further; for the word, “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend," has cast down all his righteousness. But the Evangelist describes very diligently, how openly and gloriously Christ was judged; not in a corner, but openly, before everyone, for Pilate led him forth.
14 Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”
Behold your King. The Evangelist designates the time, person, place and all the circumstances and occasions; all of which must be known for the sake of the Jews, so that they can be certainly convicted. Pilate delayed the sentence a long time (five hours) in order that he might release Jesus, and the innocence of Christ might be come apparent.
15 But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!”
Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?”
The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!”
We have no king but Caesar. Then Pilate made another attempt to release Him and said: "Fie, shame upon you, that you urge me to crucify your king, while you should protect Him against me." But it was all in vain; "They cried out, Away with him, crucify him."
16 Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away.
17 And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, 18 where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. 19 Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was:
JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Bearing His cross. Now Matthew says further, that he was compelled to bear his own cross. Whether it was the custom that all who were thus condemned had to carry their cross, of which Christ speaks (Matt. 10:38,) as if it were a common custom, or whether this was done to Christ only, that he was compelled to bear his own cross as an additional dishonor, I know not; perhaps it was both.

Golgotha. The place is called "the place of skulls," because there were many dead heads or skulls lying there. This was the place of execution. The Evangelist writes this to show that Jesus was not led to a special secret place, but to the common public place where malefactors were put to death. The high priests did this that it might be the more ostensible and looked upon as though he had deserved death. And the high priests said, "If he were a true prophet God would not have let him come to this place."

They crucified him. And now we must also say something on the subject of the Son of God, our dear Lord and Savior, having, by the special counsel of God, to die on the cross, which the Jews regarded as the most ignominious, scandalous death, and far, far more abominable than the gallows or the wheel with us. The reason of it is given in Deut. 21:22, 23. This passage is discussed by St. Paul, Gal. 3:13, 14.

The ancient teachers had very fine thoughts about the cross and the cursed tree. There in Paradise (say they) a beautiful tree was the cause of our falling into sin and death; but here an old dry tree, yea, a cursed tree, is the cause of our redemption from sin, and the entrance into eternal life. For here the Son of God is suspended with outstretched arms, for a testimony that he rejects none, but will gladly receive every one, and as he says, (John 12:32) will draw all men to himself. His head is directed toward heaven, and points out to us the way to eternal life. His feet are extended downward toward the earth; for he bruises the head of that old serpent, the devil, that crawls upon the earth, and deprives him of his power.

Two thieves crucified with him. It is not enough for them that Christ carried his own cross, and is crucified on the common, ordinary place of execution; but they give him also two companions, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, (Isa. 53:12) "He is counted among the transgressors." So fiendishly mad is Satan, and also his servants, that he is not satisfied that Christ is crucified, but he does yet the worst he can. Thus the shame imposed on Christ goes on, mixed with spiritual and bodily sufferings.

The King of the Jews. With this superscription the Romans indicated that it is no small matter to take a man's life, which can never be restored to him. But Christ was condemned, because he was the King of the Jews; this had to be his accusation.
20 Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. 
The inscription on the cross. With this inscription Pilate wished to exonerate himself, as if he had crucified Christ not without cause and also that he put the blame on the Jews, of having crucified their own king.

The title is also written in three languages, so that everybody could read the accusation, and that the people should not murmur, that he was crucified without having done any thing worthy of death.
21 Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said, “I am the King of the Jews.” ’ ”
22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
The Jews ashamed of this title. Such a title agrees very silly with the outward appearance. (Is. 53:2, 3) That it is written, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews," of this the proud saints were ashamed. For they feared that afterwards they must hear the question, "Why is your king crucified?" The is why they said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but that 'He said, I am King of the Jews.'" 

He responds, "What I have written I have written." This sentence they had pronounced against themselves, and it must stand thus as long as people live on earth. They have no king, for thus it is prophesied, that at the time when the Messiah shall come, their kingdom shall cease. And if the Jews had not been so obdurate, they would have said, "Since we have no king at present, then probably this is the true Messiah, according to the prophecy." But because they killed God's dear Son, therefore they are thus punished, that nowhere in the whole world have they a government or authority and priesthood.

Pilate is a Roman, and will not change the title for the sake of the Jews, and says, "What I have written I have written." Thus the Lord's title must remain entire upon the title must remain entire upon the cross, not from Pilate's foresight, but from God's decree. Because this title belongs to Christ alone, and is a testimony against the Jews, that they did not rest till they had brought their king to the cross. (See Psalm 110:2) " Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies." This is God's rhyme, which he wrote for his Son.
23 Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. 24 They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says:
“They divided My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots.”
Therefore the soldiers did these things.
Divided His garments, and cast lots. Two things are indicated here; first, how the world is not satisfied with murdering the Christians; it divides also their goods and plunders them. How securely, steadily and firmly the persons who crucified Christ proceed, is indicated by this conduct of the soldiers. These appropriate the garments of the Lord, as if he were a rogue and a murderer. This is the manner of the ungodly, that they feel perfectly secure and bold, and carry on without fear. An honest Christian, on the contrary, is full of fear, struggles and fright.
25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.
The mother of Jesus. After the prayer (for those who are crucifying Him) Christ beholds from the cross his mother, leaves to her also a testament whereby she shall remember him and says, "Woman, behold your son," and to John, "Behold you mother." He, the dear Lord Christ, will bless the whole world, as he departs from it. He has nothing more on earth, neither gold nor goods. Here he now departs entirely from the world, and also gives his dear mother and his be loved disciple away. When the Christian comes to his end all the world must be given up.

It is a small word that he speaks to Mary, "Him, the beloved disciple, you shall have in my stead." But here we see how the heart of Jesus is inclined toward his mother, and how deeply the mother felt for him; for the Holy Ghost does not break down our natural feelings wherever He comes, but betters them and makes the people like himself, friendly, kind, lovely, long-suffering, etc.

This is the outward testament of Christ, which he leaves here at the last to his mother. For it is well done and acceptable to God, that the people, before they die, bring their worldly goods into proper order.

This history is usually interpreted in relation to the fourth commandment, "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long," etc, as John, who is praised for this good work, lived yet 68 years after the resurrection of Christ. Though this interpretation is not incorrect, yet the interpretation is much too narrow. The Lord comprises in his work and word the whole world, but especially the Christian church. All Christians shall be to it as mother and son. But especially as the Lord uses the words mother and son, he has regard to church government, that is to both parts: first to those that preach the word, and secondly to the hearers. 1 Cor. 4:14f; Gal. 4:19.

This text is used by Papists to make an idol of Mary. Not she, but Christ died for us on the cross. If he himself gives his mother away and will not live with her on earth nor cling to her, we also should not cling to the mother and forsake the Son.
28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” 29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 
Christ thirsts. These words indicate that he is weary and wished for a refreshment. For the mockery lasted probably an hour, and it is to be supposed that Christ was full of bruises and many wounds, so that there was nothing well on his body; therefore his tongue also which speaks yet a little sweetly, drinks gall, that all may become bitter.
30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
It is finished. As if he would say, "The world and the devil have done as much as they could; so I also have suffered as much as is necessary for the salvation of men and the fulfillment of the Scripture prophecies. And no one dares to dispute that any thing is still left unfulfilled."

"Into thy hands I commend my spirit; and having said this he gave up the ghost."  This is the farewell of Christ, which he speaks for our sake, that we may see the paternal heart. For as Christ is presented in the body, so were we in the soul before God; and the severity which God shows here in his Son, we have deserved. Therefore we must repent, then follows forgiveness of sins for the sake of Christ; that as God redeems his Son from death and the devil, thus He will also redeem us.

31 Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. 36 For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”

The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, etc. It was the manner and custom of the Jews; yea, also the commandment of God (Deut. 21:22, 23) that the bodies of the crucified or hanged must not remain on the cross unburied till the sun had set, especially not before the high Sabbath. The breaking of the bones was a great torture. Such torture must have been hard for the malefator on the left hand, that he must go down to hell with such pain. On the other hand it must have been easy for the pious malefactor, though the pains of his body must have been great.

Not a bone in his body is broken. That the soldiers did not break a bone of the Lord, and that one of them opened his side with a spear, these two things do not appear to be of much consequence; but John shows that they happened not by chance, — Christ's body is flesh and blood, and dies like our body: but because his flesh and blood is without sin, he yet dies in such a manner, that even in death there remains an indication of life. For as otherwise the blood soon gets cold and stops, in the Lord Christ's body it remains pretty warm and alive.

Blood and water from his side. But why is it, that blood and water flow at the same time from the side of the Lord Jesus? Answer: Our salvation is hid in the miraculous work which John himself explains, (1 John 5:8) "And there are three, the spirit, the water and the blood: and these three agree in one." The two things, water and blood, we must carefully separate, though they agree.

The blood, which flowed from the side of the Lord is the treasure of our salvation, the payment and satisfaction for our sins. 1 John 1:7 ; Rev. 1:5.

With the blood at the same time also water flows from the side of Christ. For though the precious blood of Christ is our payment and satisfaction before God; yet we are not perfect and pure from sin as it regards our sinful nature. For the sin which still remains in our flesh and blood continues without intermission, so that we daily sin, fall and fail. To this belongs the water flowing out of the side of Christ, that we may be daily purified from our remaining sins and daily transgressions and failures. Ps. 91:4.

But this same water is holy baptism, (Titus 3:5) the sacrament of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the dear Word of God, which we preach and hear.

John's record. It is a right apostolic manner and special grace in the apostle John, that he always quotes and explains the Scripture so finely. Besides he also asserts this miraculous sign with so many earnest words and says: "And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. "

Why the Scriptures were quoted. It is well to consider why the Evangelists cite more Scripture passages in the history of the sufferings of Christ, than on other subjects. This is done for this reason: that they wish to avoid the offense which such sufferings bring with them, and especially tried the faith of the disciples. Because the dear disciples have learned by their own experience the loss which they sustained because they did not follow the Scriptures; therefore they cite the Scriptures in the history of the passion.

How now does the Evangelist John come to say, "For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” Answer: He means this, that we shall look upon the Lord Christ on the cross as the right Passover Lamb, of which the Passover in the Old Covenant was only a type. Of the Passover lamb nothing must remain, not even a bone must be broken in it; thus also, he who will be a true Christian, must accept and believe all that Christ says.

The piercing of Christ's side. And again another Scripture saith (Zech. 12:10) : "They shall look upon him whom they pierced." The "piercing" of which the apostle speaks, is fulfilled on the cross. But what was to follow from such piercing, the prophet points out and says, "They (who have the spirit of grace and supplication) shall look upon Him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns for his only Son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born." Such grief and bitterness is nothing else, than that in our love for Christ we truly learn to know sin, for which he suffered on the cross. Such suffering causes us to mourn over our sin, ask God's forgiveness and comfort ourselves with the sufferings of Christ.

38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. 39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.
Joseph of Arimathea. When the distress had become the greatest, and those who had been the finest Christians cringe and hide themselves, and out of fear, sorrow and sadness know not what to do, or where to stay, then Joseph of Arimathsea comes in, not an humble citizen as the Apostles were, but a councilor at Jerusalem, and a very rich man.

Asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus. This was for him a dangerous venture; for thereby he sets himself against the whole council and also Pilate himself, who had condemned the Lord, and gave them to understand that he regarded Jesus as a pious, righteous man, who was wronged before God and the world. This now is the fruit of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, that the weakest and most timid hearts come forth without fear or timidity, and confess Christ, and bury his body hanging in such disgrace upon the cross. God, as a rich householder, will have all kinds of servants, not only strong and tall, but also small and weak ones. Now, in order that the strong may not despise anyone, they must experience their own weakness in themselves; and that no one shall judge another, the Holy Ghost comes upon the weak, exhorts, comforts and strengthens them to such a degree, that every one must see and praise the divine power in them.

Laid it in his own new tomb. The Evangelists tell particularly that the tomb was in a garden; that it was a new tomb, in which no one had yet lain, and Matthew relates that Joseph had it made for himself. This was done not only that the testimony of Christ's resurrection should be the more positive; but also because a remarkable corpse was to be buried here; it must have a new tomb. And yet this tomb was not his own, but belonged to Joseph. For he lies in the tomb for our sake. But as he had no tomb of his own, so that he would not remain in death and the grave, so also shall we through the power of his resurrection be raised up at the last day and live with him to all eternity.

It is well, also, to notice the example of Joseph, who had his tomb made while he was still living in the body; from which me may assume, that he had not neglected to think about his last hour on earth.


Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 382-394.

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