“Praying at Gethsemane” by Chinese artist He Qi
Matthew 26 (NRSV)
The Plot to Kill Jesus
When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 2“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”
3Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, 4and they conspired to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.
Psalm 2:2 (New American Standard Bible)
The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the LORD and against His Anointed.
5But they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”
They didn’t want to put Jesus to death during the Passover feast, but that is exactly how it happened. This is another subtle indication that Jesus was in control of events, as they in fact killed Him on the very day that they didn’t want to.
The Anointing at Bethany
“A Woman Anoints Jesus” by Floridian artist Jan Richardson, 2006.
6Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table.
8But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste? 9For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.”
10But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. 11For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. 13Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Nothing we give to Jesus is ever wasted, but may indeed be greater than we think.
Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus
14Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
No high and noble motives here — Judas betrays Jesus for his own greed, and for a relatively small amount of money.
The Passover with the Disciples
Jews celebrate Passover today with a meal which includes a Seder plate. Often the food on the plate is roasted egg, bitter herbs, roasted lamb shankbone, an apple-walnut salad called charoset, horseradish, and parsley. Matzo bread, red wine, and salt water are also important to the meal.
17On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
18He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.
20When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; 21and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
22And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?”
23He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”
Psalm 41:9 (New American Standard Bible)
Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
Who ate my bread,
Has lifted up his heel against me.
25Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”
He replied, “You have said so.”
A final call to repentance for Judas.
The Institution of the Lord’s Supper
“Bread and Wine” by Norwegian painter Kjersti Timenes, 2003.
26While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”
27Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks
In the ancient Greek language, “thanks” is the word eucharist. This is why the commemoration of the Lord’s Table is sometimes called the Eucharist.
he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
30When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
HERE is “Come to the Table” sung by Michael Card. Yes, you are surely invited!
Peter’s Denial Foretold
31Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”
33Peter said to him, “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.”
34Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”
35Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples.
Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
The traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives.
36Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. 38Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.”
39And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”
Psalm 40:6-8 (New American Standard Bible)
Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired;
My ears You have opened;
Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God;
Your Law is within my heart.”
40Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? 41Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”
43Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.
45Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
Hymn: “Go to Dark Gethsemane” (verse 1)
Go to dark Gethsemane,
All who feel the tempter’s power;
Your Redeemer’s conflict see.
Watch with him one bitter hour;
Turn not from his griefs away:
Learn from Jesus Christ to pray.
–James Montgomery (1771-1854)
The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
47While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
Judas kisses Jesus — fresco by Giotto di Bondone at the Arena Chapel (Cappella Scrovegni), Padua, Italy, painted between 1304-1306.
50Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.”
Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. 51Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
52Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?”
55At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
Jesus before the High Priest
“Christ Before the High Priest” by Garrit van Honthorst, 1617 (National Gallery, London)
57Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58But Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest; and going inside, he sat with the guards in order to see how this would end.
59Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, 60but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward.
Psalm 27:12 (New American Standard Bible)
Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries,
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
At last two came forward 61and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’”
62The high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” 63But Jesus was silent.
Then the high priest said to him, “I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
64Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
65Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66What is your verdict?”
They answered, “He deserves death.”
67Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him, 68saying, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?”
Peter’s Denial of Jesus
69Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.”
71When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.”
73After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!”
At that moment the cock crowed. 75Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
The St. Matthew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach, BMV 244, composed in 1727, sets Matthew chapters 26 and 27 to music. HERE is an excerpt with the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and soloists.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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