Matthew 26. The Passion. Part I.

Key Notes: Jesus' many prophetic warnings. Pairing of people and ideas. He was not betrayed, but handed over. Jesus in the "olive press." Violence and the Community.

The passion of Christ is told in rich detail. It is difficult to make a running narrative that is not cluttered with information and comparisons. This lesson will put much of the background before the reading, so that the student’s understanding is heightened from the outset.

The name “Jesus” is used more (80x) in Matthew than in the other Gospels. The word “Lord” is used as much (79x). This is the book of Jesus the Savior and Lord.
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Jesus says “Amen” ( or “truly”) 31x in Matthew, more than in the other Gospels.

The reader is wise to review the main OT passion prophecies in advance:
            Isaiah 53, as well as the other Servant Poems in Isa. 42, 49, 50
            The Passion Psalms: 22, 31, 35, 41, 69 and 118.

You can find about sixteen (16) short prophetic remarks by Jesus sprinkled through His final conversations.
“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” 26:2
"...she has done it to prepare Me for burial.” 26:12
“...what she has done will be told in memory of her.” 26:13
“My time is at hand….” 26:18
“…one of you will betray Me.” 26:21
"...this is My body." 26:26 yet unbroken
"...this is My blood of the covenant... poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." 26:28
"...until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's Kingdom." 26:29
"You will all fall away...." 26:31
"...after I am raised up I will go before you to Galilee." 26:32
Peter will deny me three times before the cock crows. 26:34
"...the hour is at hand...." 26:45
"...the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners." "...my betrayer is at hand." 26:45–46
"...all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." 26:56
"...hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of Heaven. 26:64
"My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me?" 27:46

The illegalities of Jesus’ trial include the following:
It was held at night.
False witnesses were used.
Self-incrimination was compelled.
The death sentence required a 24 hour grace period; it was not respected.
A riot was incited in order to get the death sentence.

There are many pairings of people and ideas.

Mary anoints; the disciples protest the expense.
Jesus speaks of “the cup” {of the new covenant} and “this cup” {of the wrath of God.}
Two disciples are on opposite sides: Peter fights; Judas kisses.
The priests are against the Priest.
Jesus prophesies; Peter contradicts Him.
Jesus, Son of the Father, and Barabbas ( bar, abba, “son of the father”) exchange places.
Peter has  three naps and three denials.
Judas and Pilate are both concerned about  “innocent blood”.

There are  at least  eight derisive and mocking charges, all telling the truth about Him.

Three times Jesus said “You said it.” when the other person told the truth.
            Judas 26:25
            the High Priest 26:64
            Pilate 27:11

The word “betrayed” hides an important truth. The Greek word is "paradidomai", which means to “hand over.” The word  is used 21x in Matthew. It is commonly translated “betrayed” in Scripture, but “betrayed” makes Jesus appear as a victim. “Handed over” indicates God’s predestined plan.
The word appears significantly in the prophecy of Isaiah 53. (Greek, LXX)
            “The Lord has ‘handed over to Him ‘ the iniquity of us all.” (53:6)
            “His soul was 'handed over' to death.” (53:12)
            “For the sake of their transgressions He was 'handed over'.” (53:12)
Three transfers are shown:
            Sin was transferred to Him.
            He was handed over to those who killed Him.
            His death was an active move, a “hand-over”, not a tragic accident.

Although the word is not used on every occasion, we can see the series of hand-overs in Matthew.
Jesus was handed over to Judas, then to the priests, then to the Romans, then to the soldiers, then to death, then sin is handed over on Him. Only the first hand-over would be considered a betrayal in the ordinary sense.

       “…if I deliver Him to you?” (Matt.26:15) from Judas to the priests.
            “…and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate” (27:2 KJV) from the priests to Pilate.
            “…he delivered Him to be crucified.” (27:18 from Pilate to the Roman battalion.

Now to the text.

26:1 “When Jesus had finished all these sayings….” This phrase closes the fifth “book” of Matthew’s writing. (The others were the Sermon on the Mount (7:28) and so on to 11:1, 13:53, and’:1.

26:2–5 Jesus said He would be delivered up for crucifixion in two days. The priests and elders among themselves said it must not be until after Passover for political reasons.

26:6–13 ( See also Jn.12:1–11). The anointing of Jesus was in the house of Simon the Leper (presumably cured), by Mary, sister of Martha. The perfume was heavy and very expensive. The odor filled the house. The disciples grumbled about the waste of precious fragrance that could have fed a lot of poor people. (They were all poor.) This may have upset Judas in particular (Jn.12:6) because he kept the money for the disciples and was a thief. He stole money from the common account.
Jesus said “She has done a beautiful thing to me. ” “ …wherever this Gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” That is the highest praise. Mary’s act of spontaneous and extravagant devotion is still famous two thousand years later.

Jesus said there would always be poor people. “You always have the poor with you….”
The text is in Deuteronomy.“But there will be no poor among you … if only you will obey the voice of the Lord your God….” Deut.15:4. Jesus’ statement is really a criticism  of Israel’s obedience,  as Moses said. “For the poor will never cease out of the land, therefore I command you, you shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor in the land.” Deut.15:11

26:14–16 In the meantime Judas went to the chief priests and asked for money to betray Jesus. After Mary’s wonderful gift of love, he is going away from the same party to perform an outrageous act of treachery. The money he was willing to take was the price paid to settle the accidental death of a slave. (Ex.21:32). It was also the price Zechariah was paid when he was discharged as a shepherd of Israel; he also threw the money into the Temple. (Zech.11:8–13). We are surprised that Judas would accept such a bad bargain. There have been many attempts to analyze him, as with many other criminals—mass-murderers, for example. Did he need the money? It is “the mystery of iniquity”.

26:17–30 Jesus and the disciples arranged the Passover according to custom. The first thing Jesus did when they were at table was to announce the betrayal. Eventually Judas was shown to be the guilty one, and John (Jn.13:30) says he left immediately.
“The Son of Man goes as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would have been better for that man if he had not been born. “ (26:24). We see Judas’ predestination ("as it is written of him") and his fateful responsibility ("woe to that man") set side by side. The mystery of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility is insoluble.

Jesus made a revolutionary change in the tradition of Passover by attaching the symbolism of His body to the unleavened bread, and His blood to the wine. That must have shocked the disciples. His death was to be the opening of the New Covenant made for the forgiveness of sins. He promised to celebrate with them again once the Kingdom was consummated. The hymn they sang no doubt came from the traditional psalms (114–118) sung at Passover.

(For more discussion of the Lord’s supper, see notes on I Corinthians 11:17-  and Hebrews 8–10,  a history of the Eucharist.)

26:30–35 On the way to Gethsemane, Jesus told them that when He was captured they would run away as Zechariah had written. (Zech.13:7). He forgave them in advance. He told them He would go to Galilee ahead of them after the Resurrection. Peter was sure he could over-ride Jesus’---and Zechariah’s ---prophecy. He would never run away.

26:36–46 Gethsemane was a private garden. The word means “olive press”; it reminds us of Jesus' distress. Jesus brought His three inner-circle disciples away from the others to stand watch and pray. He went away from them to pray to the Father that He might escape the coming agony. He came back to check on the sleeping disciples and chided Peter. When He prayed the second time, He had moved from a request to escape death to a resignation to the Father’s will. He was alone. He got no prayer help from His helpers. Only the Holy Spirit would pray for Him. (Rom.8:26). A second and third time He found the disciples asleep. Then He roused them for the crisis. By this time He is poised and in control.

26:47–56 Judas came on as a loyal friend, having informed the guards to seize the One he treated to a hearty kiss. What Jesus replied is hard to interpret but could mean “Friend, do what you came to do.” {I would have said something else.}  One of the disciples (Peter, Jn.18:10) tried to kill the high-priest‘s servant and missed. Jesus rebuked him with a word that has rung down the ages.
            “…all who take up the sword will perish by the sword.”

It is a truism that violence begets violence, but what is its lesson for the Christian community? Certainly we are not to use force or violence in the business of the Kingdom. (Matt.13:28–30). Passive resistance,  non-defensiveness, and love for enemies is our mandate. But what of the innocent and weak, our families, the young and the old? Should Christians not own guns? If there was an attempt to wipe out the Christian community with fire and automatic weapons, what would we do? What should we do? The Burmese government was recently reported to say that the Christians could be easily eliminated because they were soft and would not resist. One thing is clear: we never use violence to defend Jesus' name and reputation.

Jesus did not need a dozen disciples to defend Him. He had a dozen legions of angels (12x(6000 each) at His disposal. Scripture was being fulfilled. He chided the mob for coming with swords and clubs. When the disciples saw that Jesus would not defend Himself, they ran.

What would we have done?