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138. The plot to capture Jesus (Matthew 26:1-16; Mark 14:1-11; Luke 22:1-6)
The Passover was only two days away, and Jesus knew its significance in relation to his coming death. Israelites kept the Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread as an annual week-long festival in commemoration of ancient Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. God ‘passed over’ those houses where a lamb had been sacrificed in the place of those under judgment (Exodus 12:1-13). The people then escaped from bondage. For the next week they ate bread made without leaven, because they had to cook it in haste as they travelled (Exodus 12:14-20,Exodus 12:39). The time for a greater deliverance had now arrived. Jesus would die as the true Passover lamb, to bear the penalty of sin and release sinners from its bondage (Matthew 26:1-2; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7).
People in Jerusalem were excited as the festival approached. The chief priests therefore planned to wait until it was finished before arresting Jesus, as they did not want to be responsible for a riot (Matthew 26:3-5). But when Judas came to them and offered to betray Jesus to them, their task was made easier. Judas could advise them of Jesus’ movements, so that they could arrest him quietly without the people knowing (Matthew 26:14-16).
Between the account of the Jews’ plotting and Judas’ treachery, Matthew and Mark have inserted the account of an anointing of Jesus at Bethany. This may have been the anointing recorded earlier by John, and could have been put into the story at this point to contrast the loving devotion of a true believer with the violence and treachery of others. If the three accounts refer to the same occasion, Simon the leper must have been the owner of the house where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived. Possibly he was their father (Matthew 26:6-13; see notes on John 12:1-8).
139. Jesus prepares the Passover (Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13)
Normally the Jews killed the sacrificial lamb on the afternoon of Passover day, and ate it together in a meal that night (cf. Exodus 12:6,Exodus 12:8). Jesus knew he was to die as the sacrificial lamb on Passover day, and therefore he prepared the meal a day earlier. He would eat the meal with his disciples the evening before Passover, but probably without a lamb, since he himself was to be the lamb.
Knowing that the Jews were looking for him to arrest him, Jesus secretly made careful arrangements for the feast. No one knew where it would be held except two unnamed disciples, who were apparently unknown even to the twelve apostles. This arrangement prevented Judas from giving any advance information to the Jewish leaders (Mark 14:12-15). Two of the apostles met the two unnamed disciples, and between them they prepared the place for the Passover (the ‘upper room’) and the food and drink for the meal (Mark 14:16).
141. A traitor among them (Matthew 26:20-25; Mark 14:17-21; Luke 22:21-23; John 13:21-35)
The apostles were surprised when Jesus announced that one of them would betray him, for they did not suspect treachery among them. Perhaps they thought that one of them might unintentionally betray him through speaking carelessly. But Judas knew what Jesus meant (Matthew 26:20-22; John 13:21-25). When Jesus took a piece of bread, dipped it in the dish and gave it to Judas, he was giving Judas a special honour. It was as if Jesus was making a last appeal to him. But Judas’ heart was set on doing evil. Jesus knew Judas’ intentions, but the apostles still did not suspect him of being a traitor (Matthew 26:23-25; John 13:26-30).
Judas’ departure from the room made the death of Jesus certain, though for Jesus that death would be not a misfortune but a glorious triumph. His death would bring glory to God by displaying his immeasurable love for sinful men and women. It would also bring grief to his disciples as they saw their master taken from them. But they were to show no bitterness in their grief; rather, a forgiving love, by which others would see that they were indeed disciples of Jesus (John 13:31-35).
142. The Lord’s Supper instituted (Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:14-20)
By the time of Jesus, the Jewish Passover had developed into a set form with a number of added procedures. Among the additions was a cup of wine, for which the head of the household offered a prayer of thanks (or blessing; cf. 1 Corinthians 10:16). He filled this cup and passed it among the participants, both before and after the eating of unleavened bread. The participants also sang a collection of psalms known as the Hallel (Psalms 113-118). They sang two of the psalms before eating the lamb, the other psalms after. Some of these features are evident in the Gospels’ account of the Passover meal that Jesus had with his disciples the night before his crucifixion. It is sometimes called the Last Supper, and was the occasion on which Jesus instituted the communion meal later known as the Lord’s Supper (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Jesus took some of the bread and wine on the table, gave thanks, and distributed it among his disciples as symbols of his body and blood to be offered in sacrifice. His blood sealed God’s covenant, that unconditional promise of forgiveness and eternal life to all who receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Israelites kept the Passover in remembrance of God’s gracious work in saving them through the Passover lamb; the disciples of the Lord Jesus keep the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of the one through whose death they are saved from sin and given eternal life (Matthew 26:26-27; Luke 22:17-20; cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34).
When Jesus returns, they will no longer need to remember him with bread and wine. Jesus and his people will be together in his triumphant kingdom, sharing the joy of the great messianic feast (Matthew 26:28-29; Luke 22:14-16).
During the meal in the upper room, Jesus had much to say to his disciples. This is represented by the teaching recorded in John Chapters 14-16, to which is added a prayer of Jesus in Chapter 17. At the end of the meal they left the room for the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26:30).
149. Disciples’ failure foretold (Matthew 26:31-35; Mark 14:27-31; Luke 22:24-38; John 13:36-38)
Despite all that Jesus had shown and taught his disciples about humility, and in spite of the death he was about to die for them, they were still arguing about who was the greatest among them. Jesus reminded them again of the different standards in the earthly and heavenly kingdoms. He had given them an example in the way he lived among them, showing that true greatness lay in serving others (Luke 22:24-27). They had stood by him in all his trials, and he wanted them to maintain their loyalty through the time of his suffering and death. Their reward would be to share his rule in the triumphant kingdom (Luke 22:28-30).
Jesus knew, however, that they would all run away and leave him in his final hour. They would be like sheep who scatter in panic when the shepherd is killed. Peter boldly assured Jesus that though others might leave him, he would not. But Jesus knew Peter better than Peter knew himself. Peter would deny him, but the experience would teach him lessons that would remove his self-assurance and give him a new strength in God. After Jesus rose from death and returned to the father, Peter would be the one through whom the group of disciples would learn to be confident and courageous (Matthew 26:31-35; Luke 22:31-34; John 13:36-38; cf. Acts 4:13-31; Acts 5:17-32).
In figurative language Jesus then told them to prepare for the new life ahead. It would be much tougher than anything they had previously known or experienced; they would have difficulty just in preserving their lives (Luke 22:35-37). The disciples misunderstood Jesus’ words, but Jesus felt he had said enough on the matter for the time being, and he left them to think about it (Luke 22:38).
150. Jesus prays in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1)
It must have been getting towards midnight by the time Jesus and his disciples reached the Garden of Gethsemane. Then, taking Peter, James and John with him, Jesus moved to a spot where they could be alone. He was filled with anguish and horror as he saw clearly what his death would mean. The three friends could do little to lessen his anguish except stay awake in sympathy with him. He had to battle against the temptation to avoid the suffering that lay ahead, but the battle was one he had to fight and win alone (Mark 14:32-34; Luke 22:39-40).
The ‘cup’ of suffering that caused Jesus such distress was not just physical suffering, great though that was. Above all it was the inner agony as the sinless one, God’s Son, took upon himself the sin of his human creatures and bore God’s wrath on their behalf (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 2:9; 1 Peter 2:24). It was an experience no one else could know, for no one else had Jesus’ sinlessness or shared his relationship with the Father. Jesus had a real human will, and when he considered the ordeal that lay ahead, a conflict arose within him. As he fought against the temptation to avoid the cross, his agony of mind was so intense that he perspired what appeared to be blood. But he won the battle, and determined that he would willingly submit to whatever his Father would have him go through (Mark 14:35-36; Luke 22:41-44).
Perhaps the reason why the disciples were unable to stay awake was not simply that they were over-tired, but that they were unable to withstand the satanic forces at work in the garden. Jesus saw their weakness and urged them to be alert and pray for strength, because they too were going to be put to the test. They would face the temptation to deny Jesus in order to save themselves (Mark 14:37-40; Luke 22:45-46).
Jesus, by contrast, would give himself without reservation, in order to save others. The decisive victory he won in the garden enabled him to meet his betrayal, trial and death with renewed courage and assurance (Mark 14:41-42).
151. The arrest of Jesus (Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-11)
In the strength of the victory won at Gethsemane, Jesus went to meet his enemies. Judas knew the garden, for Jesus had often met there with his apostles. In the middle of the night, Judas took a group of temple guards and Roman soldiers to seize Jesus. By working under the cover of darkness, he kept the operation hidden from any who were likely to be sympathizers with Jesus. But Jesus needed no supporters to defend him, and Judas needed no force to arrest him. The armed men who came with Judas fell to the ground when they met Jesus, but he surrendered himself to them. He requested only that they not harm his friends (Matthew 26:47-50; Luke 22:47-48; John 18:2-9).
The apostles, however, wanted to fight. Jesus told them that if they practised violence they would suffer violence. Moreover, if Jesus wanted defenders he could draw upon supernatural forces (Matthew 26:51-56a; Luke 22:49-53; John 18:10-11). A scuffle apparently broke out and the apostles all fled. The soldiers managed to grab a young man who had followed Jesus to the garden, but he escaped (Matthew 26:56b; Mark 14:51-52).
From early Christian times the common belief has been that the young man of this story was Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark. It appears that his family home was the house of the upper room (where Jesus had just come from) and that it became a common meeting place for the apostles in the early days of the church (see Mark 14:14-15; Acts 1:12-14; Acts 2:1; Acts 12:12).
152. At the high priest’s house (Matthew 26:57-75; Mark 14:53-72; Luke 22:54-65; John 18:12-27)
Annas and his son-in-law Caiaphas apparently lived in the same house. Annas had been the previous high priest and, though replaced by Caiaphas, was still well respected and influential. Jesus’ captors took him to Annas first, while Peter and John, who had followed at a distance, waited in the courtyard. By now it was well past midnight and into the early hours of the morning (John 18:12-18; Luke 22:54).
When Annas asked Jesus questions about his teaching, Jesus replied that it was known to all. He had no need to testify on his own behalf (contrary to Jewish law) when many other witnesses could be called in. After being ill-treated for giving an honest and unanswerable reply, he was sent to Caiaphas (John 18:19-24).
Caiaphas had called the Sanhedrin together, determined to condemn Jesus without delay, even though it was illegal for the Sanhedrin to meet at night to judge an offence that carried the death sentence. The Jewish leaders’ whole purpose was to get some statement from Jesus that they could use to charge him with blasphemy and so condemn him to death (Matthew 26:57-63; Mark 14:53-61). They were soon satisfied when Jesus said he was the Messiah, the Son of God and the Son of man, and he was on the way to receiving the glorious kingdom given him by God (Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62; see earlier section, ‘Jesus and the Kingdom’). With an outburst of violent abuse the Jewish leaders condemned him as worthy of death (Matthew 26:65-68; Mark 14:63-65).
While Jesus was before Caiaphas and the other Jewish leaders inside the building, Peter sat in the courtyard, waiting anxiously. When a servant girl recognized him as a follower of Jesus, he denied any association with him (Matthew 26:69-70; Luke 22:55-57). A little later another person recognized him and told the people standing by, but again he disowned Jesus, this time with an oath (Matthew 26:71-72; Luke 22:58).
About an hour later some of the bystanders approached Peter again, convinced he was a follower of Jesus, but Peter’s denial was even stronger than before. The crowing of a cock indicated to all that daylight was approaching. It also reminded Peter of his folly in boasting that he could never fail. Just then Jesus happened to see Peter in the courtyard, and as their eyes met Peter was overcome with grief and went away weeping bitterly (Matthew 26:73-75; cf. v. 31-35; Luke 22:59-62; cf. v. 31-34).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Matthew 26". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29