Matthew 26

The New Advent page for St Matthew 26, which covers the events of Jesus celebrating the Paschal feast with his disciples, his arrest, the desertion of the disciples, and Peter's betrayal, can be found here.  It is read on Palm Sunday.

From the interrogation of Jesus by the Chief Priests:

59. Now the Chief Priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death;

60. But found none: yes, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses,

61. And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.

62. And the High Priest arose, and said to him, Answer you nothing? what is it which these witness against you?

63. But Jesus held his peace. And the High Priest answered and said to him, I adjure you by the living God, that you tell us whether you be the Christ, the Son of God.

64. Jesus said to him, You have said: nevertheless I say to you, Hereafter shall you see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

65. Then the High Priest rent his clothes, saying, He has spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now you have heard his blasphemy.

66. What think you? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.

67. Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,

68. Saying, Prophesy to us, you Christ, Who is he that smote you?

The Catena Aurea:

When the Chief Priests were thus assembled, this conventicle of ruffians sought to give their conspiracy the character of a legal trial. But it was entirely a scene of confusion and uproar, as what follows shows, Though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. 

False witnesses have place when there is any good color for their testimony. But no pretext was found which could further their falsehoods against Jesus; notwithstanding there were many desirous to do a favor to the Chief Priests. This then is a great testimony in favor of Jesus, that He had lived and taught so irreproachably, that though they were many, and crafty, and wicked, they could find no semblance of fault in Him.

At last came two false witnesses. How are they false witnesses, when they repeat only what we read that the Lord spoke? A false witness is one who takes what is said in a different sense from that in which it was said. Now this the Lord had spoken of the temple of His Body, and they cavil at His expressions, and by a slight change and addition produce a plausible charge. The Lord's words were, Destroy this temple; this they make into, I can destroy the Temple of God. He said, Destroy not 'I will destroy,' because it is unlawful to lay hands on ourselves. Also they phrased it, And build it again, making it apply to the temple of the Jews; but the Lord had said, And I will raise it up again, thus clearly pointing out a living and breathing temple. For to build again, and to raise again, are two different things. 

CHRYS. Why did they not bring forward now His breaking the Sabbath? Because He had so often confuted them on this point. 

Headlong and uncontrolled rage, unable to find even a false accusation, moves the High Priest from his throne, the motion of his body showing the emotion of his mind. And the High Priest arose, and said to him, Answer you nothing to the things which these witness against You? 

He said this with a design to draw from Him some indefensible answer which might be made a snare for Him. But Jesus held his peace, for defense had availed nothing when none would listen to it. For here was only a mockery of justice, it was in truth nothing more than the anarchy of a den of robbers. 

ORIGEN; This place teaches us to contemn the clamors of slanderers and false witnesses, and not to consider those who speak unbeseeming things of us worthy of an answer; but then, above all, when it is greater to be manfully and resolutely silent, than to plead our cause in vain. 

JEROME; For as God, He knew that whatever He said would be twisted into an accusation against Him. But at this His silence before false witnesses and ungodly Priests, the High Priest was exasperated, and summons Him to answer, that from any thing He says he may raise a charge against Him. 

Under the Law, we do indeed find many instances of this adjuration; but I judge that a man who would live according to the Gospel should not adjure another; for if we are not permitted to swear, surely not to adjure. But he that regards Jesus commanding the demons, and giving His disciples power over them, will say, that to address the demons by the power given by the Savior, is not to adjure them. But the High Priest did sin in laying a snare for Jesus; imitating his father, who twice asked the Savior, If you be Christ the Son of God. Hence one might rightly say, that to doubt concerning the Son of God, whether Christ be He, is the work of the Devil. It was not fit that the Lord should answer the High Priest's adjuration as though under compulsion, wherefore He neither denied nor confessed Himself to be the Son of God. For he was not worthy to be the object of Christ's teaching, therefore He does not instruct him, but taking up his own words retorts them upon him. This sitting of the Son of Man seems to me to denote a certain regal security; by the power of God, Who is the only power, is He securely seated to Whom is given by His Father all power in heaven as in earth. And there will come a time when the enemies shall see this establishment. Indeed this has begun to be fulfilled from the earliest time of the dispensation; for the disciples saw Him rising from the dead, and thereby saw Him seated on the right hand of power. Or, In respect of that eternity of duration which is with God, from the beginning of the world to the end of it is but one day; it is therefore no wonder that the Savior here says, Shortly, signifying that there is but short time before the end come. He prophesies moreover, that they should not only see Him sitting at the right hand of power, but also coming in the clouds of heaven. These clouds are the Prophets and Apostles, whom He commands to rain when it is required, they are the clouds that pass not away, but bearing the image of the heavenly, are worthy to he the throne of God, as heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. 

The same fury which drew the High Priest from his seat, impels him now to rend his clothes; for so it was customary with the Jews to do whenever they heard any blasphemy, or any thing against God. 

CHRYS. This He did to give weight to the accusation, and to confirm by deeds what He taught in words. 

JEROME; And by this rending his garments, he shows that the Jews have lost the priestly glory, and that their High Priest's throne was vacant. For by rending his garment he rent the veil of the Law which covered him. 

Then, after rending his garment, he did not give sentence of himself; but asked of others, saying, What think you? As was always done in undeniable cases of sin, and manifest blasphemy, and as by force driving them to a certain opinion, he anticipates the answer, What need we any further witnesses? Behold, now you have heard his blasphemy. What was this blasphemy? For before He had interpreted to them as they were gathered together that text, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit you on my right hand, and they had held their peace, and had not contradicted Him. How then do they call what He now says blasphemy? They answered and said, He is guilty of death, the same persons, at once accusers, examiners, and sentencers. 

ORIGEN; How great their error! to pronounce the principle of all men's life to be guilty of death, and not to acknowledge by the testimony of the resurrection of so many, the Fount of life, from Whom life flows to all that rise again. 

CHRYS. As hunters who have started their game, so they exhibit a wild and drunken exultation. 

They spit in his face, and buffeted him, to fulfill the prophecy of Esaias, I gave my cheek to the smiters, and turned not away my face from shame and spitting. 

Prophesy to us; is said in ridicule of His claim to be held as a Prophet by the people. 

JEROME; But it would have been foolish to have answered them that smote Him, and to have declared the smiter, seeing that in their madness they seem to have struck; Him openly. 

CHRYS. Observe how circumstantially the Evangelist recounts all those particulars even which seem most disgraceful, hiding or extenuating nothing, but thinking it the highest glory that the Lord of the earth should endure such things for us. This let us read continually, let us imprint in our minds, and in these things let us boast. 

AUG. That, they did spit in his face, signifies those who reject His proffered grace. They likewise buffet Him who prefer their own honor to Him; and they smite Him on the face, who, blinded with unbelief, affirm that He is not yet come, disowning and rejecting His person.

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