NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
GOSPEL OF MATTHEW
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX
One of the longest chapters in Matthew begins with the revelation of a plot by the Jewish chief priests and elders who assembled at high priest Caiaphas’ house, not just to marginalize this rogue prophet from Galilee named Jesus son of Joseph, but to put an end to His life and ministry. Politically and militarily He was no match for the Judeans and Romans. He had no huge armed following. He went around preaching peace and healing the sick. But one wrong move on their part could cause the many followers He did have to riot, and that would not sit well with the Roman governor.
In the meantime, Jesus warned His followers that such a secret plan was underway. But they were distracted by a woman who came to the house of Simon the Leper in Bethany and poured out very expensive perfume on our Lord’s head while He was eating. Some of His disciples thought it was a disgrace that such fine perfume was wasted instead of selling it so they could help feed the poor. But much to their surprise, Jesus rebuked them saying: “This is a wonderful thing she has done by preparing me for burial, and her act of reverence will be preached around the world.”
While all this was going on in Bethany, Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ own disciples was secretly meeting with the chief priests and elders at Caiaphas’ house to discuss their plan on arresting Jesus and bringing Him to trial. Judas agreed to point Him out with a greeting and kiss on the cheek. Such a betrayal is hard to imagine, especially after Judas had seen His Master heal the sick, cleanse lepers, and raise the dead. On the other hand, Peter brazenly stood up and proclaimed himself as his Master’s protector, only to be told that before this was all over he would have thrice denied even knowing Jesus.
But Jesus had other things to do. So with Passover coming in a few days, He sent His disciples into the next village to arrange a place so that He could eat His last meal with them to commemorate the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It was at this meal Jesus would identify His betrayer. And it was also here that He would use the meal’s bread and wine to commemorate His own sacrifice as the Passover Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world.
His disciples were shocked that anyone would betray their Lord and Master. But Judas Iscariot would be singled out as the culprit who would do this cowardly deed for thirty pieces of silver. Once the meal was over, He led them over to the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives He asked them to pray with Him as He faced this awesome and earth shattering task that was planned before the world began. But they were not up to the challenge and fell asleep.
Jesus woke them up just in time to see the armed group of Temple guards along with some of the leading priests and elders arrive for His betrayal and the hands of Judas Iscariot. Peter did as he said he would do. He drew the dagger that was tucked in his belt and swung wildly in defense of his Lord, cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant. But Jesus had no interest in such bravery, no matter how well-intentioned it was. So He healed the servant’s ear out of the graciousness of His heart.
But even that kind deed went unnoticed, as the guards seized Him, tied His hands, and led him off to the high priest’s palace where members of the Sanhedrin were waiting for Him. Jesus’ interrogation by these priests and elders was a sham and disgrace, as they broke many of their verbal laws on how such an inquiry should be conducted. What no doubt was intended to be a formal hearing, soon deteriorated into a humiliating exercise of hatred and pride. The man who was known for His kindness in feeding the hungry, healing the sick, raising the dead, and preaching the good news of God’s kingdom, was laughed at, spit on, slapped in the face, and called a liar.
While all this was going on inside the high priest’s house, outside the brave and bodacious Peter, affectionately called the Rock, was doing exactly what Jesus said he would do. And that was denying that he was one of Jesus’ followers, and then swearing in God’s name that he did not know who this blasphemer was. But the sudden crowing of a rooster, brought Peter back to reality as he remembered what Jesus said about his denying Him three times. It was enough to bring Peter to tears as he quickly left the court of the high priest’s house and went out into the darkness to weep bitterly for his failure to stand up for the One who would soon be lifted up on a cross to die for him.
As we will see in the next chapter, Peter handled his betrayal one way but Judas Iscariot handled it another. All of this should give us reasons to ask if our loyalty to Jesus is ever tested and we fail Him too, whose example will we follow. May God richly bless you for you love and desire to know more about Him by knowing more about His Word. We will begin chapter twenty-seven of Matthew on Monday. See you then!