STUDY TWENTY-SIX: THE ROAD TO CALVARY [Matthew 26:1-46]

© Rosemary Bardsley 2012 

A. TWO PERSPECTIVES ON THE IMMINENT DEATH OF JESUS  

A.1 God’s eternal purpose
When Jesus had finished his all his teaching he made a specific statement linking the Passover and his death – ‘As you know, the Passover is two days away – and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.’

He has already predicted his death several times:

• Matthew 16:21: From that time Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

• Matthew 17:12: In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.

• Matthew 17:22,23: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.

• Matthew 20:18,19: We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!

• Matthew 20:28: … the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

• Matthew 21:38-39: [in the parable of the tenants]

From these we see clearly that Jesus knows what is going to happen. Not only does he know, but he also deliberately moves towards this purpose: he must go to Jerusalem. It is not something that he can avoid. It is something that he must accomplish. And, as 26:2 indicates, this death will happen on the Passover.

The Passover was the feast commemorating the deliverance of the Israelites from death on the night of the final plague upon Egypt. [Read Exodus 12:1-30]. There, because of the death of the lamb whose blood marked their doors, the Israelites escaped death.

The substitutionary death of the lamb sufficed.

Now Jesus, the real Passover lamb [1Corinthians 5:7], is about to die as a substitute, not just for the Israelites, but for all the world.

Jesus, while understanding his death was determined by the eternal purpose of God, knows that it will be initiated by the Jewish leaders, and carried out by the Romans. He will be ‘handed over’ to be crucified. Only the Romans executed by crucifixion.

Note also that Jesus indicated the timing of his death – in two days, at the Passover.

 

A.2 The wickedness of men
As Jesus has indicated in the many references above, the leaders of the Jews would initiate his death. Just as Matthew recorded Jesus’ predictions of his death, so he recorded the intentions of the scribes and Pharisees:


• Matthew 12:14: the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.
• Matthew 21:46: They looked for a way to arrest him …

Now they have had enough, and come together to plot his arrest. Note that they have the timing wrong: Jesus, knowing the eternal plan and purpose of God, knowing that this death was in God’s mind even when the first Passover first mirrored it, has said that it would happen on the Passover. The leaders of the Jews, fearing a riot, determined that it would be after the feast, that is, more than a week away.

 

B. THE ANOINTING

[Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-11; John 12:1-11]

This incident occurred six days before the Passover [John 12:1]. Matthew and Mark chose to include it in their record after they had recorded both Jesus’ statement and the Sanhedrin’s plot concerning his arrest. In doing so Matthew and Mark re-affirm Jesus’ alignment with and commitment to this death. Jesus sees even this action, this anointing, as preparation for that death/burial. [He also knows that the normal anointing for burial would be excluded by the timing of his death.]

 

C. THE BETRAYAL – 26:14-14

Judas’ deliberate involvement in the plot is what accelerates the process that results in Jesus death. Jesus has said it will be on the Passover. The Jews determined to delay until after the Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread. But now Judas is involved … and he watches for ‘an opportunity’. That opportunity will take the Sanhedrin unawares and precipitate them into actions that will bring Jesus’ death about on the very day that God, in eternity past, had determined.

From Judas’ perspective, the only motive recorded is money: ‘what are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?’ [26:15].

 

D. THE LORD’S SUPPER

The Feast of Unleavened Bread [otherwise known as the Passover] lasted for seven days. The Passover meal was on the first of these days. [Note that Hebrew days were from 6pm to 6pm, not midnight to midnight.]

D.1 Predictions regarding his death
The death of Jesus is very much in focus during this Passover meal:

• Verse 18: ‘my appointed time is near’
• Verse 21: ‘one of you will betray me’
• Verse 23-4: [further references to the betrayal; also link to prophecies about his death – he ‘will go just as it is written about him’ ]

Note again Jesus’ knowledge that this death, at this time, is by God’s appointment.

 

D.2 Jesus institutes the ‘Lord’s Supper’
Although they do not at this point understand his meaning Jesus instructs his disciples in the symbolic, prophetic significance of the wine and the bread they are consuming at the Passover meal:

• ‘… this is my body’
• ‘This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’

This is the last predictive Passover. From this day on that which is symbolically prophesied in these elements will have been accomplished and established by the real thing: the sin-bearing death of Jesus. After that death the symbols will have changed their focus: no longer will they anticipate an eternal reality yet to occur in human time. Rather they will declare an eternal reality that has been accomplished in human time and place, in human flesh and blood. This death, which is about to occur, has been in God’s eternal purpose and in God’s eternal reality since before the beginning of time [Revelation 13:8; Ephesians 1:4; 2Timothy 1:9,10]. This death, which is about to occur, has been foretold time and again in the Hebrew scriptures – in word, in ritual, in history, in law. Now, on this day – the Passover, at this place – Jerusalem, all will be fulfilled and all will be accomplished.

• This bread speaks of this body – the body of the incarnate, perfect, Son of God
• This wine speaks of this blood – the blood of the Christ, the blood ‘of the new covenant’, by which the forgiveness of sins is secured.

This is the last meal that Jesus will eat with them. 

 

 

E. THE DISCIPLES’ DENIAL PREDICTED

Again it is clear that Jesus knows exactly what is about to happen:

• They will all fall away this very night
• He, the Shepherd, will be stricken, and his flock scattered
• He will arise from the dead
• Before the rooster crows Peter will disown him three times.

Morris comments: ‘Jesus is not saying that they will really fall away or abandon faith in him. He is indicating that they will have a grievous lapse, even though it will be a lapse out of character. They will fail him. But that does not mean that they will cease to be disciples or that they will no longer trust him or for that mater that they will be offended at him.’ [page 664]
 
Note the assurance embedded in verse 32. His death, and their denial, will not be the end of the story. He will rise, and he plans to meet them in Galilee after that. Their denial, their lapse, their fear, will not have terminated their relationship with him.

 

F. GETHSEMANE

F.1 Jesus
Up to this point it seems that Jesus did not express any personal revulsion when he talked about his death. It has seemed very much ‘matter of fact’. The Gethsemane interlude reveals the deeply disturbing impact of his impending death upon his own soul.

His shrinking from death revealed here is not shrinking from the physical suffering; many men, great and small, have faced physical death with courage. And Jesus, far more than any of them, knew with absolute certainty that beyond the physical death was the resurrection. He shrinks from this death because it is a death as our substitute – a death for sinners, in which he will stand before the judgement seat of God with all of our sins laid upon him.

What do these verses teach about the substitutionary aspect of Jesus’ death?

Isaiah 53:5-6

 

 

Isaiah 53:10

 

 

Mark 10:45

 

 

Romans 3:25

 

 

Romans 5:6

 

 

2Corinthians 5:21

 

 

Hebrews 9:28a

 

 

1Peter 2:24a

 

 

 

He will stand before God as a sinner, as us, and bear, in his own body, in his own soul, in his own spirit, the just judgement and wrath of God that should rightly fall upon us. In this dying he will feel the Father’s wrath. In this dying he will experience the Father’s rejection. In this dying he will be disconnected not only from physical life, but also from spiritual life. In this dying in our place he will be cut off from God.

And he knows exactly how that will feel.

 

F.2 Jesus and his Father
At this extreme moment Jesus talks with his Father.

Jesus is totally committed to do his Father’s will.

What do these verses teach us about this commitment?

John 5:30

 

 

John 6:38

 

 

Hebrews 10:7

 

 

 

Here as he prays to his Father he is not reneging on this commitment; rather, he is asking if there is any other way possible that the will of the Father can be accomplished. So horrendous is the approaching death as the sinners’ substitute that he comes three times to the Father and asks ‘Is there any other way?’

 

F.3 Jesus and his disciples
In his humanness Jesus seeks the support of the presence of his disciples – the eleven, plus possibly a larger number [see Mark 14:51.52], and, more closely, Peter, James and John.

He did not ask them to pray, simply to ‘keep watch’ with him.

Morris comments: ‘It is one of the saddest things in the Gospel accounts that in this critical time, when Jesus was so disturbed in the face of the ordeal that confronted him, and when he had appealed to the three who were closest to him on earth to watch with him, they were so far from understanding the situation that they went to sleep. …. They had professed their loyalty and their readiness even to die for Jesus (v25). But when the first test came, they were tired ad lacked the strength to watch with Jesus even for one hour.’ [Page 669]

‘Jesus recognized that the disciples wanted to do as he had asked, but that they were not strong enough. Their physical bodies had let them down. It has well been remarked that just at the time when Jesus was showing the victory of spirit over flesh, the disciples were manifesting the victory of flesh over spirit.’ [Page 670]