Monday, April 3, 2023

Monday it is Matthew

Matthew 26:1—27:66

Matthew reminds us that Jesus has no blind date with the cross but this has been His direction and purpose from His incarnation through to the Palm Sunday welcome.  Matthew is particularly care to tell the Passion as a God-given destiny that was foreshadowed in the Scriptures through the voice of the prophets and is now fulfilled for us and our salvation.  Jesus is the one and true obedient Son of God who was tested by the devil not simply in the temptation but at every turn until now our Lord is obedient even unto death.  The suffering of our Lord is accomplished not as a test of His faithfulness but as the very means by which the disobedient are redeemed.  Death is the final enemy.  Jesus is unrelenting in His trust in the Father even as His will is in perfect unity for your sake and mine.

The faithfulness of Jesus is in contrast to the betrayal of Judas, the weakness of Peter, and the disappearance of the rest of the apostles at the very time when the ultimate accomplishment of all that Jesus had said was going to happen, indeed, did happen.  “My appointed time draws near” (26:18). The Greek word kairos is used here to remind us that this is exactly the full and pregnant time in which all of the love of God and His purpose are fulfilled.  As Jesus dies, so dies the reign of sin and the as His body suffers so does the devil suffer his great defeat.  Clearly, according to Matthew, the death and resurrection of Jesus are in fact the turning point in all of human history.

“Are you the Messiah, the Son of God?” (26:63).  While the answers to that question have seemed hidden or less than clear, Matthew's Gospel brings us to a clear answer now. “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.  For Matthew and therefore for all of us, there can be no Christ without the cross and nothing of the cross without the Christ who suffers there for you and for me and for all the world.  Niebuhr's striking assessment of the emptiness of modern Christianity is condemnation of the true Gospel Matthew so carefully proclaims:   “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.” 

The release of Barabbas displays the empty justice of a sinful world in stark contrast to the justice of God.  Just as there was no lamb caught up in a briar, there would be no release of the Lamb of God from His condemnation as the innocent for the guilty.  In a gesture hauntingly reminiscent of the Deuteronomy 21 ritual for declaring innocence, Pilate washes his hands of Jesus' death, declaring: “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves.” In reply, the “entire people” neither wash their hands nor do they hide from the blood of Christ and loudly own the responsibility for which Pilate was fearful: “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” (27:24-25).  Jesus the King is now condemned by his own people as well as by the Roman authorities. 

The cross of Christ is carried by Simon from Cyrene and nothing is to prevent Jesus from being led to Golgotha for crucifixion. When the executioners fix a placard to the cross: “This is Jesus: the King of the Jews,” what they meant as ridicule come back as the most profound truth ever to be written or said.


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