Matthew Challenge Day 27
For the 28 days of February, a bunch of us are reading through the 28 chapters of Matthew (1 chapter a day). The purpose is to learn more about the life & teachings of Jesus ... and how those should be impacting our lives. We are going to post a short devotional guide each day on this spot so you can get a little help thinking through each chapter. Day 27 starts below.
Yesterday’s devo didn’t get us all the way through Matthew 26 (and this one won’t get us all the way through 27) but it got us to the early hours of Friday morning. We stopped with Jesus being arrested in Gethsemane. Time was of the essence to the authorities … but so was “the appearance” of doing things legally. In 26:57-68, we read that Jesus was taken to an assembly of “the teachers of the law, and the elders,” who were awaiting his arrival. In v59 we see that “the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin” (which would include both Pharisees and Sadducees) “were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death.” Initially, the whole Sanhedrin probably was not present. The entire group would be 70 members plus the high priest; but 23 could constitute a quorum. A larger group would need to meet at daylight. Matthew does not give all the details of the night. Nothing was presented that would stick in court … until the high priest put Jesus under oath and said, “Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” (v63). Jesus, who had been silent to this point (fulfilling Isaiah 53:7), answered, “Yes, it is as you say.” [Note: many say Jesus never claimed to be all that the church today proclaims him to be. That would ignore this statement and his acceptance of what the disciples confessed (in 16:16ff).] Jesus added that the time would come when they would see him at the right of God and coming in glory. That was all they needed; in their opinion he had blasphemed and deserved to die. They had no authority to carry it out, however.
In 26:56, we are told that Peter had followed “at a distance” (someone said— midway between courage & cowardice) as Jesus was taken to Caiaphas’ house. What happened there, recorded in 26:69-75, is well-known; Peter denied that he knew Jesus … 3 separate times. A rooster crowed and immediately Peter, remembering that Jesus had prophesied this, left weeping bitterly. As crushing as was his experience, at least he didn’t do what his fellow disciple did. 27:1-10 is the account of Judas realizing that he too had made a mistake. As the authorities, who either waited to do it formally in the daytime (since legal action could not be done at night), or after a separate meeting, bound Jesus and sent him to Pilate (who did have authority to execute Jesus), Judas tried to take back his actions by giving back the money he had been paid to betray Jesus. He confessed sin and proclaimed Jesus innocent … but things were already too far along. Judas, seeing no way forward, went out and hanged himself.
None of the gospels give full (or harmonized) details of all that happened to Jesus. Matthew tells us, in 27:11-26, that Jesus was taken to Pilate; this was key in the sequence of events. The Roman governor didn’t want to get involved in this religious dispute but the leaders presented it as a matter of treason against Caesar. Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus was, just not like Pilate was talking about. But since asked, Jesus answered, “Yes, it is as you say.” He answered honestly to the Jews and now to the Romans; still Pilate didn’t think him guilty of death. Even his wife urged him not to do anything to “that innocent man.” Pilate tried to avoid sentencing Jesus by offering someone in his place (Barabbas), but Jesus had come to die in our place; Pilate couldn’t avoid accomplishing God’s plan. He denied having Jesus’ blood on his hands and “All the people answered, ‘Let his blood be on us and on our children.’” His blood was offered for them & their children … and all of us … to cleanse us from sin.
27:27-30 record that Jesus was then given into the custody of the Roman soldiers who would take him and crucify him. Before they did that, they cruelly mocked & abused him … after flogging (scourging) him. (Scourging, by itself, often killed a prisoner.) Finally, according to 27:31-50, he was led out of the city to Golgotha (“The Place of the Skull”). The act of crucifying him is not presented elaborately or with gory details in any of the gospels; people knew what was involved. He was stripped, nailed though his hands & feet (while offering forgiveness), mocked, etc. He endured 3 hours of darkness as “he became sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21) … and then he died. “Surely he was the Son of God!” the Roman centurion said.
I think we need to stop right here today and not rush forward. There is more … tomorrow.