Matthew 26

Reading for Monday, July 16: Matthew 26

The plot to kill Jesus is now in full force. The chief priests and elders agree to move quietly and stealthily, avoiding an uproar among the people. Meanwhile, Jesus is anointed for His burial in an extravagant demonstration by Mary (John 12:3). She uses an alabaster flask of expensive ointment to anoint Jesus. The disciples balk: “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus understands He will not be with them for much longer. In His economy, this is not a waste; in fact, it is a “beautiful thing” (v10). As in the previous chapter, small acts of kindness — a remembrance, a visit, a meal, a drink of water — carry the seeds of the Kingdom life. The extravagance of Mary’s act matches the moment. Much hangs in the balance here.

Judas agrees to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, the same amount paid by the owner of an ox that gored a slave to death according to Exodus 21:32. Does this imply Judas’ attitude toward his master? Is he apologizing to the religious leaders for the stupidity of his boorish rabbi? It’s hard to say, but if every detail is important in the biblical account, there may be a deeper meaning here.

Jesus observes the Passover with His disciples. As they are eating, Jesus begins something new: “Take, eat, this is my body. Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” I love what the ESV Study Bible says about this section: “Jesus’ body will be the once-and-for-all fulfillment of the ceremonies surrounding the Passover lamb and other OT sacrifices, as he will become the sacrificial atonement for the sins of the people.” This sets the stage for the pivotal moments in Matthew: Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, His betrayal at the hand of Judas, His appearance before Caiaphas, and Peter’s betrayal. Jesus absorbs the worst of humanity: our sin, represented here in the trumped up charges of the Sanhedrin, the spittle of the angry mob, the strikes to the face, the betrayal of his companions, the denial of his friends. Jesus absorbs all of this into Himself, taking the “old” of this life and making possible a radical alternative, a “new” covenant, a new experience, a new way of being in light of the empty tomb that is to come. All of this is expressed here in this wonderfully powerful chapter.

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