Reading for Tuesday, July 17: Matthew 27
It’s interesting that Matthew records how remorseful Judas was after his betrayal of Jesus. V3 says, “When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.” Was Judas expecting something other than the condemnation of Jesus?
Another thought: what seems to separate Judas and Peter is how they respond to their failures. While Judas betrays Jesus and ultimately decides to end his life, Peter — although he betrayed Jesus through denying him — endures to see the risen Christ and experience the reconciliation we read about in John 21. I suppose you could argue that Peter’s denial of Jesus pales in comparison to Judas’ betrayal…but note their responses. Judas can’t seem to forgive himself for what he’s done; Peter remains in community, surrounded by the other disciples, and this is the place that provides him the strength he needs until Jesus returns. There’s a message in there for us, too.
I think we can all relate to an individual like Barabbas. Jesus literally takes his place, absorbs his punishment. The choice PIlate puts to the crowd is the same one that is put to us: “Which one do you want? Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” We can choose either the lawless path of the criminal or the obedient way of the Messiah. What we cannot do is what Pilate did: wash our hands, as if we’re not responsible for the choice. Even not choosing is ultimately a choice.
The soldiers mock Jesus, putting a scarlet robe on his shoulders and a crown of thorns on his head. The sign above His head is surely intended as an insult: Jesus, King of the Jews. We can hear the soldiers mocking Him: “Hail the crucified king! What king sports so noble a crown, so lofty a throne?” And the crowd joins in as well: “He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him.” Little did they know it probably took every ounce of reserve God could muster to not lash out and rescue His beloved Son from this cruel fate. But God follows through on the plan long ago set in motion, before the foundations of the earth. Jesus cries out to God, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And though this may strike some as a cry of doubt and even anger, I think this is a deep expression of faith. Jesus trusts God the Father enough to bring His most deeply held feelings to Him.
The chapter closes with the tomb being closed, the seal being set (v66), preparing us for Matthew’s final glorious chapter.