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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Luke 22



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Verses 2-5


‘The chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill Him … Then entered Satan into Judas … And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money.’

Luke 22:2-5

No part of our Lord’s history is so fully given by all the Gospel writers as this: only two of them describe the circumstances of Christ’s birth, all four dwell minutely on Christ’s death; and of all the four no one supplies us with such full and interesting details as Luke.

I. The first step in putting Christ to death was taken by the religious teachers of the Jewish nation.—High offices do not preserve the holders of them from great blindness and sin.

II. The second step towards our Lord’s crucifixion was the treachery of one of the twelve Apostles.—‘Then entered Satan into Judas Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.’ These words are peculiarly awful. Judas Iscariot ought to be a standing beacon to the Church of Christ.

III. Observe also the enormous power of the love of money.—It was the secret of this wretched man’s fall. The love of money is one of the choicest weapons of Satan for corrupting and spoiling professors of religion. Gehazi, Ananias, and Sapphira are names which naturally occur to our minds. But of all proofs, there is none so melancholy as the one before us. For money a chosen Apostle sold the best and most loving of Masters! For money Judas Iscariot betrayed Christ!

Verse 15


‘And He said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.’

Luke 22:15

What were the reasons why the Saviour desired so earnestly to join in this last Passover before He suffered?

I. The Passover had now reached its end and found its full meaning.

II. For the support of His own soul in the approaching struggle.

III. His friends needed special comfort.

IV. It looked forward to all the future of His Church and people.

Verse 19


‘This do in remembrance of Me.’

Luke 22:19

We may, perhaps, obtain clear views of the nature of this central rite of the Christian Church if we regard it from four standpoints. Let us look upon it as—

I. An act of obedience.

II. A feast of thanksgiving.

III. A service of allegiance.

IV. A season of refreshment.


‘“How often should we come to the Lord’s Table?” The Bible lays down no rule upon this point, and our Prayer Book only mentions “three times a year, of which Easter shall be one,” as a minimum. The service is one of free, spontaneous gratitude and love. The moment we begin to ask “How often?” we begin to forget its essential character. We then seek to impose hard and fast rules which tend to rob it of the spontaneity of love which should be its chief characteristic. But let us remember one thing: just in proportion as our hearts are set upon Christ and our lives are surrendered to Him, just in proportion as He occupies the centre of our affections, so shall we welcome with joy the opportunities of being the King’s guests at the King’s Table. The invitation, “Draw near with faith,” will never find us ready “to make excuse.” Our love for Him will be an elastic cord stretched between us, drawing us near to our Lord by its own tension.’



The Blessed Sacrament is love’s memorial.

I. It is a Communion.—It is an occasion for praising God for dear ones gone before, on whom the light perpetual shines. In some human faces we have seen the reflection of the Divine: we have seen the face of God. And these faces come back to us in a fair vision at Communion times, when we bless God’s holy Name ‘for all His servants departed this life in His faith and fear.’

II. The Holy Supper speaks of Christ dying.—‘As oft as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death’ (1 Corinthians 11:26). It points back to that ‘meritorious Cross and Passion whereby alone we obtain remission of our sins.’ It brings afresh to our minds the Divinest scene in the Divinest Life.

III. The Holy Supper speaks of Christ’s coming.—The table is to be spread ‘till He come,’ and then there will be ‘one flock and one Shepherd.’ So Christ promised (John 10:16). So Christ prayed (John 17:21). So Christ purposed, for to that end He died (John 11:52).

The Holy Supper is a connecting link between the first and Second Coming of Christ: like a rainbow having one end on Ascension Day and the other stretched out to the Second Advent.

Rev. F. Harper.


(1) ‘“My poor Romola,” mourned her father Bernardo, “I have only to die, but thou hast to live, and I shall not be there to help thee.” “Yes,” replied Romola, “you will help me—always—because I shall remember you.”’

(2) ‘Long ago in the Teaching of the Apostles they prayed: “As this broken bread was once scattered in grains upon the mountains, and, being gathered together, became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy Kingdom.”’

Verse 24


‘And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.’

Luke 22:24

The disciples had not yet clearly understood the true design of Christ’s mission, and the nature of His Kingdom; and hence the strife which rose among them concerning superiority. The true way to greatness taught by Christ to His disciples does not consist in power and authority according to our worldly opinions. It is not external, but internal in essence, and consists in kindness and service.

I. It is natural to aspire after dignity and honour.—It is not the creation of circumstances, but a part of the constitution of the human mind. It is therefore a holy and righteous principle. To be the greatest is no sin; but the desire to be accounted greatest is rebuked here. The principle is natural and right if it be rightly exercised. Some must be greater than others, and there must be the greatest, otherwise God would have dispensed to all the same talents and similar opportunities.

II. The best men may fail.—Observe here—

(a) The cause of their failure.

(b) The spirit of their failure. It was carnal, external, and worldly.

(c) The manifestation of their failure. It appears in various ways among men. Men seem to claim a superiority over others because of their age, but it does not follow that it gives claim to superiority. Character and usefulness are the only claims to superiority in the moral world.

III. Fidelity to Christ qualifies for higher spheres.—Observe—

(a) That adherence to Christ brings us into contact with the greatest trials. Prepare for a true knowledge of Christ.

(b) That all true disciples cleave to Christ, even in His trials. ‘Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations.’ Trials cause a more entire devotedness to Christ and His service.

(c) Christ will honourably acknowledge and reward fidelity in His disciples. ‘And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me.’ Honour and dignity shall be the reward of those who faithfully adhere to Christ in all circumstances of life.

Verse 31-32


Luke 22:31-32

After the strange struggle for the greatest position in that small party, the Lord gives them His warning, and lays down the condition of greatness in the new kingdom, that it is the chief among them who shall serve even as He had served. And then, having no doubt observed that St. Peter had been prominent before them all in claiming for himself the highest place, He turns to him and He says in the words of our text, ‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you all’; for that is the meaning of the passage—‘to have you all, that he may sift you all as wheat; but I have prayed for thee.”

I. What do we think is the meaning of Satan desiring to sift the Apostles?—Has it ever struck you that it is twice in the New Testament that this figure of sifting or winnowing is brought before us, and that, strange to say, the sifter or winnower in the one case is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and in the second case is the wicked Tempter? John the Baptist, you know, when speaking of the coming Messiah, says, ‘Whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor,’ etc. And here we have that very Messiah speaking of the Devil sifting even His Apostles. By ‘sifting’ is meant testing, shaking those to whom the process is applied in such a way that part will fall through and part will remain; either it is the good that will remain when Christ is the Sifter, or it is the good that will remain when the Devil is the sifter. And if we go on to ask how it is that the Tempter strives to sift even those who are the servants of Christ Himself, we shall, of course, find that it is done in very different ways. It is no doubt chiefly by laying snares for us, by taking us unawares, by tripping us up with our special besetting sins, whether it be of temper, or of want of truthfulness, or want of perfect honesty, or want of perfect purity, or by indulging in intemperance; even when we desire to shake off the chain of the old sin, that is the kind of way in which the Tempter again and again sifts those who are striving to be Christ’s servants.

II. But look on to those reassuring words of our common Master, in which, turning to the Apostle who was to be tempted even beyond all the others, He says to him, ‘I make supplication for thee that thy faith shall not fail.’ In the hours of temptation, the bad spirit seems to go out of our hearts, and to give us something of a respite, and then before we are aware, before, so far as we can charge our conscience, we have done anything definite to invite his return, he does return and springs upon us, and the furnace of temptation becomes, before we are aware, seven times hotter than it was before; then are the moments, the critical moments of the human soul, and I know of no source of strength greater in those dark moments than to have possessed our souls with the belief that we are not alone, but that Jesus Christ is making His supplication for us, that we shall not fall, but be the stronger for this temptation.

III. But then, when we have in some degree won this victory, what is the lesson we have still to learn?—‘When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren,’ or as the R.V. has it, ‘Do thou, when once thou hast turned again, stablish thy brethren.’ The meaning of our Lord to St. Peter is not ‘when thou hast undergone a conversion,’ for St. Peter was of course already a converted man, but’ when thou hast turned again from thy fall,’ when thou hast got out of the wrong road of denial and cowardice, and turned again into the right road of loyalty and fidelity, then what art thou to do? To live for thyself, to be thankful that thine own soul is safe, to be always thinking of the joys of heaven for thyself? No; that would not have been the kind of command that our Lord, of Whom it was said, ‘He saved others, Himself He cannot save,’ would have cared to impress chiefly on His repentant Apostle. It was to be an unselfish lustre that was to rest upon St. Peter; he was to think Jess and less of himself, even of his weakness and cowardice, and to think more and more of his brethren who needed his support. And that is the lesson which, with God’s help, we would leave with you as the chief lesson of these sacred words on which we have been dwelling.

Rev. Dr. H. M. Butler.


‘An officer in the army, who fought under Lord Wolseley at the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, has told a touching story of the campaign. He spoke of that strange, dark night-march which preceded that great battle; and how one young officer in particular was charged with the special duty of keeping them in the right direction, as they marched along in the dark, straight up to the earthworks of the enemy. They marched under the stars, they did not lose their way, they arrived opposite the guns of the enemy just as the light of morning began; and with one of the first discharges of the enemy’s artillery, this brave young officer, to whom they owed the precision of the march, was wounded to death. The general in command, Sir Garnet (afterwards Lord) Wolseley, saw him, spoke to him a few kindly words of thanks and sympathy. The young officer had just strength to say, “Didn’t I lead them straight?” and with that he died. Now, that is a parable to those of us who wish to be Christ’s servants and to strengthen our brethren.’

Verse 36


‘Be that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.’

Luke 22:36

This is a remarkable text, but strangely overlooked. It must evidently be taken figuratively. The sword is only an emblem. It was meant to teach His disciples that after their Master left the world they must diligently use all reasonable means to promote and defend the cause of His Gospel; just as a soldier knows he would be useless if he went into battle without weapons, so ought the follower of Christ to know that he must be a fighting man, and leave nothing undone to secure success if he would war a good warfare. There are three growing evils around us which demand the watchful attention of Churchmen in this day, and about each of them I would persuade every Churchman to awake and buy a sword.

I. The times require us to contend earnestly for the inspiration, supremacy, and sufficiency of the whole Bible.

II. The times require us to contend earnestly for the great doctrinal principles of our Church.

III. The times require us to contend earnestly for the continued recognition of Christianity and of God by the Government of this country. In plain words, we must resist the growing disposition to disestablish the Church of England and put an end to the union of Church and State.

—Bishop J. C. Ryle.


‘Many people do not realise what the practical result of Disestablishment would be. I ask them to remember that as soon as the Church is disestablished the rulers of this country will have nothing to do with religion, and would leave the supply of it to the principles of free trade and the action of the Voluntary system. In a word, the Government of England would allow all its subjects to serve God or Baal—to go to heaven or to another place—just as they please. The State would take no cognisance of spiritual matters, and would look on with Epicurean indifference and unconcern. The State would continue to care for the bodies of its subjects, but it would entirely ignore their souls. Gallio, who thought Christianity was a matter of “words and names,” and “cared for none of these things,” would become the model of an English statesman. The Sovereign of Great Britain might be a Papist, the Prime Minister a Mohammedan, the Lord Chancellor a Jew. Parliament would begin without prayer. Oaths would be dispensed with in Courts of Justice. The next King would be crowned without a religious service in Westminster Abbey. Prisons and workhouses, men-of-war and regiments, would all be left without chaplains, or left to the uncertain ministration of the Voluntary system. I loathe the idea of a great nation like England, so highly favoured and privileged, ceasing to recognise God. I had far rather see our next Sovereign crowned in Westminster Abbey by the President of the Wesleyan Conference, with an extempore prayer, and the Archbishop of Canterbury standing as a private individual in the crowd, than see our Government turning its back on Christianity altogether.’

Verse 44


‘And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.’

Luke 22:44

There are no flowers so beautiful as those which grow in Gethsemane and in the Garden by the Cross. Gethsemane has been called ‘the rose garden of God.’

I. The agony of Jesus was unique.—Do you see that lone Figure prostrate on the cold ground under the olives (Matthew 26:39)? Do you hear the night wind moaning through the trees? He asks for human sympathy, but finds none. In His unknown agony the drops of blood fall on the turf. ‘Not My will, but Thine be done’; in those words lay the victory and the glory of Gethsemane. In fact, the battle was won as He wrestled in prayer under the olives, and then He walked calmly to the high altar of the Cross.

II. The Christ of Gethsemane can teach us to say, ‘Thy Will be done’ in earth’s darkest days.

III. Gethsemane’s angel.—‘And there appeared unto Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him’ (Luke 22:43). Every Christian life has its Gethsemane of some kind, but every Gethsemane has its angel.

IV. If it is denied that Christ bare any penalty for sin, how can we explain the agony in the garden, or the cry on the Cross—‘My God, My God, why didst Thou forsake Me?’

Rev. F. Harper.


‘Here are some verses by F. W. Faber on “The Agony,” very touching and beautiful:—

My God! My God! and can it be

That I should sin so lightly now,

And think no more of evil thoughts,

Than of the wind that waves the bough?

I sin,—and heaven and earth go round,

As if no dreadful deed were done,

As if God’s Blood had never flowed

To hinder sin, or to atone.

I walk the earth with lightsome step,

Smile at the sunshine, breathe the air,

Do my own will, nor ever heed

Gethsemane and Thy long prayer.

Shall it be always thus, O Lord?

Wilt Thou not work this hour in me

The grace Thy Passion merited,

Hatred of self and love of Thee?

Oh, by the pains of Thy pure love,

Grant me the gift of holy fear;

And give me of Thy Bloody Sweat

To wash my guilty conscience clear.’

Verse 61


‘And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.’

Luke 22:61

I. The Lord’s look.—Has there ever been a painter who had genius enough—it would have to be genius direct from heaven—to paint the look that Christ cast upon St. Peter? There would be, at least, three things in that look—sorrow, love, and encouragement.

(a) Sorrow that St. Peter, after his promise, ‘I am ready to go with Thee both to prison and to death,’ should prove so sorry a coward.

(b) Love—a love so great, so strong, that it cannot be quenched even by a denial such as this.

(c) Encouragement. ‘I have prayed for thee.’

Has there ever been a poet—the man who is supposed to know most about the human heart—who could write down on paper what St. Peter must have felt when the Lord turned and looked upon him?

II. The denial.—Now what is the use of a story like this? You say, if I had been in St. Peter’s place I should not have acted as he did. But you are not in St. Peter’s place; you are here. St. Peter denied Christ. Do we ever deny Christ to-day? Every time we do Christ turns and looks upon us. On the first Good Friday, Pontius Pilate asked the question: ‘Which do you choose—Jesus or Barabbas?’ Which do you choose to-day?

III. The right choice.—If we only all chose Christ, what a bringing down of that great city the Holy Jerusalem out of heaven there would be! And when we do so choose Him, the Lord turns and looks upon us; but the look is altered. It is no longer a sad one; it is a glad one. We say we love Christ. Do we not want to make Him glad? And so, when the great question is put to us—and it is always being put, every day—‘Are you this Man’s disciple?’ we will turn a deaf ear to our passions, which urge us to deny the Master, and range ourselves bravely on the side of Christ, calling upon our great Elder Brother to help us to make our lives worthy of the children of the Father Which is in heaven.

—Rev. W. C. Heaton.


‘What were some, at least, of the downward “steps” that were to make the “fall”? Pride, neglected duties, jealousy, a deaf ear, sleep, rashness, fear, desertion, falsehood, treachery, alienation, rejection? Side by side let me place, for a moment, the steps up the opposite side of the hill. A look from Jesus, a look to Jesus, bitter tears, faith restored, love—deeper love, simpler love, humbler love—love that makes no comparison, a bravery not his own, a bravery that never failed, a dedicated life, a lifelong humiliation in lifelong service, a sin made grace, and the fall of one, in the beautiful alchemy of Omnipotence, turned into the strength and the comfort and the salvation of many.’


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Luke 22:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

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