Matthew 26

Good morning! Today we only have one chapter to consider (Matthew 26), but it packs a great deal of significance into its 75 verses. We read about Jesus’ creation of the Last Supper ritual at what was at that time a Passover seder, followed by hours of prayer in Gethsemane, then his betrayal, desertion, arrest and trial.

Anyone familiar with the stories of Jesus’ last days will recognize details here. Unlike the gospel of John, all three of the other gospels hold that Jesus’ last supper was on the first night of Passover. Here he initiates the strange mystery that has taken on so much power for myself and other Christians, the Lord’s Supper. The mercy and forbearance in the moment of this universal meal is what catches me this time. Jesus appears to know full well that around the table are those who will desert him and one who will betray him. As unsavory as the betrayal is, the desertion is just as troubling, especially given Peter’s naïve adamancy that he of all people would never desert Jesus. Person by person, the human supports and companions of Jesus fall away, leaving him alone at prayer in Gethsemane, then without any public defenders after Peter’s three-times denial. Nevertheless, even with all these developments just hours away, Jesus still breaks bread and shares the cup with all of them. This veers into theology, but as my regular communion liturgy puts it: While people are faithless, Jesus remains faithful.

The other thing I notice in this passage is that Jesus came to bless the poor and peacemakers, as we read in the beatitudes of Matthew 5. Here he’s following through on that commitment. His arrest demonstrates Jesus’ commitment to nonviolent peacemaking even at the cost of his own freedom and life, because “all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” He’s not the sort of coming-back-to-kick-butt Messiah that Jews had been looking for. Perhaps that’s why Matthew the apologist insists (as expressed in Jesus’ words) that “all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled”. Happy reading!

Read Matthew 26.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Matthew 27-28. Thanks for reading!

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