What an interesting turn of events in (Matthew 26)! We have been on a journey through all of Matthew learning about Jesus’ miracles, his teachings through parables, how he shows the disciples to fish for men …. And now we come to the messy part, The End. When Jesus had finished these teachings, he said to his disciples, 2 “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” What do you think the disciples thought? Fear had to strike through each of them. What do you think Jesus was thinking? Did you stop while reading and think about it from his perspective? He knew what was coming. He knew exactly what path God had chosen for him. He kept going and fulfilled what was prophesied.
In today’s chapter, we are reminded of Judas’ betrayal. Drama. He wasn’t in it for the long haul. He wasn’t a good friend. He wanted the money. We all know people like this. It’s all about them; it’s all about getting ahead. He was working his own plan behind the scenes and ruined “a good thing” Jesus and the disciples had going. They were preaching God’s word and gaining followers along the way. Judas rained on the parade. Or did he? Jesus knew what was going to happen and that Judas was going to betray him.
Before the plot really thickens, the disciples celebrate together with Jesus. He gives them very strict instructions on how to prepare for the Festival of the Unleavened Bread. The Last Supper. When all were gathered, Jesus breaks bread for the feast participants. We all have seen many images of the table where bread was broken together. In these pictures, it is hard to determine if they are having a good time and relaxing together? Are they happy to be with friends in an upper chamber away from the crowds that sometimes surround them? They can just be themselves and enjoy their own company. We are lead to believe that is not what was happening. Judas and Jesus most likely were not relaxing. Then, the dinner abruptly ends with these statements:
21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”Jesus answered, “You have said so.”
This scene seems surreal. Jesus knows what is happening. Others do not. They sing a hymn together and go to the Mount of Olives. Peter confronts him. He is fearful. Jesus admits to being sorrowful. He needs time away and retreats further to Gethsemane to pray. At this point, we have to think Jesus knows what is about to happen to him but may be asking the “Why?” question. Why me, why now, I know it’s your will, but can we change this plan? “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” No, God’s plan is outlined. He asks for the disciples to stand watch and instead they sleep. Jesus is irritated with them, but while they have been told of what will happen to him, do they really know it’s about to unfold? He goes back to pray a second time. They sleep. He goes back to pray a third time and again they sleep!
Jesus awakes them from their sleep. “The betrayer is here!” Soldiers arrive. They take Jesus away. The disciples must be saying “Why?”. What is happening? Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. They see him hauled away. I picture myself asking the “Why?” question. I would find this turn of events to be surreal too! Yet, it was written and was being fulfilled.
What can we learn from this chapter? A few takeaways for me. “Why?” – we don’t always know what God has in store for us or why he closes some doors and opens others. Do we pay attention to the open doors or are we like Judas and only interested in the prize? What if you were given a chance to dine with your friends and family before you passed away? Do you treat these types of feasts with friends as a chance to relax and enjoy? We do not know what is coming next for us, right? That is hard to think about, but it is true.
Take each day with family and friends as a gift and pay attention to all that is happening or you may miss something important. Take the opportunity to have good conversation or you may find yourself like Peter. Jesus was hauled away, Peter denied him three times, and then the cock crowed. Peter most likely wished he had those last hours back as he might have acted differently. If we ponder “Why?” for too long, we may miss what’s right in front of us.
Pray. Pray once, twice, three times as Jesus did.
I look forward to the next few chapters, which take this story from The End to The Beginning!