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The Crucifixion Near at Hand
26:1-2 When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he told his disciples, "You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified."
After teaching about his second coming and the final judgment, Jesus turned to his disciples, telling them privately that during the Passover, which was two days away, he would be handed over to the chief priests who would in turn deliver him to the Romans to be crucified.
26:3-4 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people met together in the palace of the high priest, who was named Caiaphas. They planned to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.
At that time, the chief priests and elders of the people were gathered together to plot his arrest and death; and although they were unaware of it, this was in fulfilment of God’s will and purpose (Acts 2:23; Acts 4:27-28).
26:5 But they said, "Not during the feast, so that there won't be a riot among the people."
The religious rulers prudently decided not to arrest Jesus during the feast, in front of the crowds; for there were so many who followed Jesus that they feared a riot. So they began to look for a way in which to take Christ secretly, which they soon found in the betrayal of Judas.
Judas Decides to Betray Jesus
26:6 Now while Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper,
For his last nights on earth, Jesus found food and lodging in the home of a man named Simon the leper in Bethany, not far from Jerusalem. Since Simon was at home, no doubt Jesus had cured him of his leprosy. The identity of Simon is uncertain – we do not know, for example, whether he was related to the other friends Jesus had in Bethany: Lazarus, Mary and Martha.
26:7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of expensive perfumed oil, and she poured it on his head as he was at the table.
While Jesus was eating the evening meal, a woman came and poured on his head an alabaster jar of expensive perfume as a token of her love and gratitude for his forgiving and saving her soul. It would have cost the woman a lot to purchase this item; it symbolised the giving of her all to Christ.
Even so, the acceptable act of our worship to God should involve all that we have and are (Rom. 12:1-2).
26:8-9 When the disciples saw this, they became indignant and said, "Why this waste? It could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor!"
Matthew records that all the disciples were angered that this woman had poured out her expensive gift on Jesus’ head; they thought it an extravagant waste. John in his gospel records more specifically that the unrest began with Judas Iscariot. He complained that the perfume should have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor, not because he cared about the poor but because he loved money. As a thief with access to Jesus’ treasury he often helped himself to whatever was put into it (John 12:4-6).
26:10-12 When Jesus learned of this, he said to them, "Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a good service for me. For you will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me! When she poured this oil on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.
Jesus rebuked the disciples for their hardness of heart and failure to understand what he had been teaching them, which had resulted in their harsh criticism of this woman. The woman herself had evidently understood Christ’s teaching, for Jesus says that her actions were good, and that by them she had prepared his body for burial.
To show love for someone close to you is even more important than showering gifts upon the poor. The disciples would have ample opportunity to show love to the poor, but Jesus would be on earth for just two more days. In the same way we must show our love to our loved ones while they are still here.
26:13 I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.
For her demonstration of love to the soon to die Saviour, this woman would be continually remembered wherever the gospel was preached, for her actions teach several important lessons. Firstly, she is a lesson in gratitude and devotion, for she gave all she had to Jesus Christ in gratitude for his salvation, and she was not ashamed to do this in the face of the disciples’ criticism. Then secondly she is a lesson in faith, for she believed Christ’s words concerning his death and acted upon them. Finally her story teaches that love for Christ must be expressed, for love which is not demonstrated does no good to anyone. Even the love of God for humankind had to be demonstrated; and it was, in the life and ultimately the death of the Lord Jesus.
26:14-15 Then one of the twelve, the one named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me to betray him into your hands?" So they set out thirty silver coins for him.
We do not know whether this last disagreement with Jesus had brought to a head a long simmering dislike in the heart of Judas, but he took this opportunity to strike a bargain with the chief priests about betraying Jesus to them, away from the public eye. His fee was the price of a slave - thirty silver coins; Joseph was sold as a slave for a similar amount, twenty pieces of silver (Gen. 37:28).
26:16 From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray him.
From that time on Judas sought opportunity to betray Jesus.
Preparations for the Passover
26:17 Now on the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?"
It was customary for the disciples to eat the Passover together with Jesus each year. So they asked him where he would have them to prepare the meal.
26:18 He said, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says, "My time is near. I will observe the Passover with my disciples at your house." ' "
Luke gives us more detail about this encounter. The disciples were to follow an unnamed man carrying a pitcher of water on his head. They were to approach the house he entered, and say to the owner of that house that Christ would eat his final Passover there (for the time was near). It seems that this man had been prepared by God in some way for this event, possibly through a dream or revelation (Luke 22:7-13).
26:19 So the disciples did as Jesus had instructed them, and they prepared the Passover.
The disciples had come to learn obedience to Jesus, and even as they followed these strange instructions they found things exactly as he had told them. This experience would increase their trust in the Lord, who is always right, down to the tiniest detail.
The Institution of the Communion
26:20-22 When it was evening, he took his place at the table with the twelve. And while they were eating he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me. They became greatly distressed and each one began to say to him, "Surely not I, Lord?"
As they sat together that evening to eat the Passover meal, Jesus broke the news that one of them would betray him. Since Christ had already revealed something of the sinfulness of their hearts to each of these men, they were not able to entirely trust their own selves. Each of them was distressed to think that it might be him and asks, “surely not I?” We notice that the disciples did not begin to accuse each other. At the Lord’s table we are similarly instructed to examine the state of our own hearts before God (1 Cor. 11:28).
26:23 He answered, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.
In literal fulfilment of Ps. 41:9, Jesus shares a sop of bread with Judas on the night in which he was betrayed; this fulfilment of prophecy being intended as a sign to Judas himself.
26:24 The Son of Man will go as it is written about him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would be better for him if he had never been born."
Although all that was about to happen was in fulfilment of scripture and God’s divine purpose, yet no one who participated in the evil about to be done would be excused. This verse clearly portrays God sovereignly working out his own purposes without overruling the free will of men; instead he harnesses their will to accomplish his own ends.
26:25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?" Jesus replied, "You have said it yourself."
Judas is backed into a corner and hypocritically feigns surprise and disbelief. But Jesus is never fooled by such duplicity. He knew who would betray him (John 6:64; John 13:11).
26:26-28 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it, gave it to his disciples, and said, "Take, eat, this is my body." And after taking the cup and giving thanks, he gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant that is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Judas having left, Jesus proceeds to institute a new memorial to replace that of the Passover. Just as the Passover involved the death and blood of the lamb, so this act would become a memorial of his broken body and his blood shed on the cross.
As Passover commemorated the Jews deliverance from slavery in Egypt, so the communion pictures the deliverance which Christ provides from the slavery of sin through his death. Christ gave himself that we might be redeemed, purchased for God by his blood. This blessing of redemption is closely related to the forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7).
26:29 I tell you, from now on I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."
The types and pictures found in the Passover were shortly to be fulfilled by Christ’s death and thereafter would no longer be needed. Christ would never take Passover again, but he would share the blessings of the redemption which it symbolised with the believers in his kingdom. Barnes says; “The observance of the Passover, and of the rites shadowing future things, here end. I am about to die. The design of all these types and shadows is about to be accomplished. This is the last time that I shall partake of them with you. Hereafter, when my Father’s kingdom is established in heaven, we will partake together of the thing represented by these types and ceremonial observances - the blessings and triumphs of redemption.”
26:30 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Before going to face his last and fiercest battle at the cross, Jesus paused to sing hymns of praise to God with his disciples. It is commonly accepted that the hymns sung were the Hallel, or Psalm 113-118. In Christ’s singing praise there is a note of the victory which he is about to accomplish. He then sets out to the Mount of Olives, where there is a garden called Gethsemane, to pray there.
Jesus Warns that Self Confidence will Fail
26:31 Then Jesus said to them, "This night you will all fall away because of me, for it is written: 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.
The Lord Jesus Christ knew his disciples better than they know themselves, so he gave them this penultimate warning (Zech. 13:7). Before the night was out every one of them would desert him. Events were about to happen that the disciples would have no control over and they would not be able to surmount.
26:32 But after I am raised, I will go ahead of you into Galilee."
Jesus gave them a ray of hope that in spite of the fact that they would all desert him, after he was raised from the dead he would go before them into Galilee and meet with them there (Matt. 28:7; Mark 16:7).
26:33 Peter said to him, "If they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away!"
Typically, Peter makes the self-confident boast that even if all the other disciples were made to stumble he would never fail Jesus.
26:34 Jesus said to him, "I tell you the truth, on this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times."
But Jesus told Peter the truth about himself; on that very night he would not only fail his Lord by running away, but before the cock crowed he would deny him three times.
26:35 Peter said to him, "Even if I must die with you, I will never deny you." And all the disciples said the same thing.
Peter ignored what the Lord told him and with great energy and force claimed that he would never deny Jesus even if he had to die with him. All the other disciples made the same commitment. Although they had been with Jesus for so long and knew that every word he said was true, they were blinded by their self-confidence and did not comprehend what he said to them.
Jesus Takes the Cup of Suffering
26:36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to the disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray.
Jesus then led his disciples to a place called Gethsemane which was an olive grove where he had often met with them (John 18:2).
26:37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and became anguished and distressed.
As he took Peter, James and John further into the grove than the other disciples, he began to show grief and was deeply troubled.
26:38 Then he said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved, even to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me."
He then told the three disciples that he was almost crushed with grief to the point of death. He asked them to remain where they were and stay awake to keep vigilant watch with him. Here he was giving them an opportunity to support him in his time of great need.
26:39 Going a little farther, he threw himself down with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if possible, let this cup pass from me! Yet not what I will, but what you will."
Going a little way from the three disciples, he threw himself face down on the ground and earnestly prayed to his Father that if it was possible the cup of suffering might be taken away from him. Having prayed this Jesus nevertheless submitted himself to the will of his Father, “let your will be done”. The cup that Jesus referred to was the death he would suffer on the cross as he bore the sins of the world.
26:40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, "So, couldn't you stay awake with me for one hour?
After this he returned to the three disciples and found them asleep. It was to Peter who had boasted that he would die with him that Jesus said “you couldn’t even stay awake with me for one hour?” He did not say this contemptuously but with a heart of compassion for he knew the weakness of the flesh.
26:41 Stay awake and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
He told them the second time to stay awake and pray so that they would not give in to temptation. Jesus knew that their spirit was willing but that their flesh was weak.
26:42 He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will must be done."
Jesus left them for the second time and prayed to his Father that if the cup of suffering could not be taken away unless he drank it, then God’s will must be done.
26:43 He came again and found them sleeping; they could not keep their eyes open.
He came again to the disciples and found them sleeping because they could not keep their eyes open.
26:44 So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same thing once more.
Leaving them to sleep, he went away and prayed for the third time saying the same things.
26:45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is approaching, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Returning to his disciples he found them still fast asleep. Waking them, he forewarned them that the hour had arrived for the Son of Man to be betrayed into the hands of sinners.
26:46 Get up, let us go. Look! My betrayer is approaching!"
Telling them to get up he went to meet his betrayer.
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This Bible study is taken from Faithbuilders: The Gospel of Matthew