When Jesus had finished these sayings… after warning His disciples of what was to come in an eternal and universal sense, Jesus returns to the immediate: “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified." The chief priests and elders of the people are prepared to orchestrate this, “But not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”
Remember the influence of the crowd throughout this Gospel. Because the crowd cried out “Hosanna, Son of David,” the Jerusalem elders were indignant. Because they held that John was a prophet, the Pharisees could not answer Jesus’ question about John’s baptism. Because they held that Jesus was a prophet Jesus could not be seized in the Temple. And now, lest there be an uproar, Jesus would have to be disposed of quickly. And there will be still other roles for the crowd to play.
This is not a mere literary curiosity. Two of the great themes of Matthew’s Gospel – Jesus’ authority and position on David’s eternal throne – converge over the assembly of Israel. Who has the right to interpret the law and the prophets? Who has the capacity to lead, to judge, to teach: is it the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, or Jesus? Jesus has compassion on the crowds; the elders fear them. Jesus tries to escape the crowds, but they keep flocking to Him. The elders fight to retain the crowds, to redirect them, but Jesus is winning. Consider how historical and cultural upheavals unfold: because of the crowds… something must be done.
The narrative is brisk and teaching comes through action rather than lecture. Jesus retreats again to Bethany, where He receives a gift that will be spoken of wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world. Meanwhile, Judas makes a deal with the chief priests, presumably for a handsome sum. And Jesus shares the Passover meal with His disciples.
Listen to how Matthew calls Judas “One of the twelve” each time he’s mentioned. Listen to how Jesus’ “You have said so…” response serves to rebuke His questioners. Sit at the table with Jesus at Passover and wait for Him as He prays at Gethsemane. Listen for Jesus’ threefold prayer and Peter’s threefold denial. And pay attention to the one accusation that Jesus doesn’t avoid.
Our verse for this week is Micah 6:8: He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Matthew chapter 26. Now let’s read it!
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?