Matthew 26, pt. 3: Dignity in Suffering

Tonight we will read verses 47-67 of Matthew 26. When we left Jesus last week, He was in the garden praying for mercy from God, yet He was still committed to doing His will. Just as He is chastising the disciples for sleeping when He asked for them to watch and pray with Him, He sees Judas the betrayer coming for Him with an armed mob. 

Judas brings a mob to seize Jesus to fulfill the agreement he made to turn Him over for thirty pieces of silver. Jesus is not fooled by the seemingly harmless charade of Judas greeting Him with a kiss. Judas uses this kiss to identify Jesus to the mob of armed people, who represent the chief priests and elders of the people. 

The leadership sought to retain and punish Jesus for two main reasons: 

1. They thought His teachings were blasphemous because they did not believe His claim that He was God’s Son 

2. They were fearful of the following He had attracted among the people and the power it represented, power taken away from them

Another thing to take note of as we read through verse 56 is Jesus’s continued composure. Just a few minutes earlier, Jesus was praying that God allow the cup of suffering to pass, but now in the face of the mob, our Savior is in control. He recognizes that the arrival of Judas and the mob is an answer to His prayer: it is still very much God’s will that Jesus suffer for mankind on the cross. Jesus allows his arrest to occur even as He knows that twelve legions of angels could be summoned to rescue Him. But Jesus neither needs nor wants rescue; His commitment to doing the will of the Father is absolute and in action. 

It also seems that Jesus recognizes the people and decries the need for them to seek his arrest with weapons. Mindful of His divinity and the import of the current events, Jesus tells the crowd how that very moment is a fulfillment of prophecy. Here are two of these prophecies from the Old Testament:

“Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me.”‭‭ Psalms 41:9

“Our pursuers were swifter Than the eagles of the heavens. They pursued us on the mountains And lay in wait for us in the wilderness. The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the LORD, Was caught in their pits, Of whom we said, “Under his shadow We shall live among the nations.”” Lamentations‬ ‭4:19-20

Continuing on in verses 57-68, Jesus faces the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious governing body. As He is led to them, Peter follows at a distance and observes quietly. Many people are brought forward to publicly give evidence of Jesus’s blasphemy, and initially none of the accusations stick. That is, until two come forth to quote Jesus when He said that He would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. 

This statement Jesus made could have been seen as blasphemous by the leaders because Jesus is talking about destroying the temple, the Jews’ holy place of worship. Rebuilding it in three days would have been seen as an absolute impossibility considering the building capabilities at the time. But Jesus’s comment about the temple was not blasphemous at all and in fact referenced Jesus himself. Just as the temple was seen at the time as where God dwelt among the people, Jesus was at the time, also in fact God dwelling among the people. And tearing down the temple meant Jesus’s death, while the rebuilding in three days was a reference to how Jesus would rise from the dead on the third day. Much like a difficult parable, it is unlikely that anyone would understand the meaning without an explanation from Jesus at the time, yet the meaning is all too clear to us today.

After the “evidence” given by these last two accusers, the high priest presses Jesus to answer His accusers, but Jesus is silent at first. After further pressing, ultimately Jesus responds with:

“It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

To the high priest and the others observing, this is outright blasphemy. The high priest tears his clothes to display anguish and asks the mob what they think Jesus’s punishment should be. Death is their answer. 

The ironic thing about these events is that even though Jesus was telling the truth, these religious leaders did not recognize it. What Jesus stated as absolute truth was seen as false and contributed to His death. Jesus’s death, as it was, was God’s will and His plan for our salvation, so Jesus proclaiming His divinity is used against Him to fulfill God’s will and also prove Jesus’s status as the Son of God after He is resurrected from the dead on the third day. It is complicated, surely, and a full understanding of it is just out of our reach. As we read in Jeremiah 55:8: ““For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.‭‭”

If the high priest would have believed Him publicly, things might have been different. However, this is an impossibility because it was the will of God that Jesus die the way He did for our sins. Everything happened just exactly as God intended. 

Our study tonight concludes with Christ being struck and mocked. A picture of our Savior suffering for all mankind reveals His willingness to do God’s will and the great merciful love and grace that God affords us.

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