Jesus triumphally entered Jerusalem in Matthew 21, the last destination in the journey with Jesus. Christian churches to this day remember that royal entry on Palm Sunday. After arriving at the royal city, Jesus spends the last week of his life–passion week–with his disciples and among the Passover festival crowd, telling parables, answering questions and besting the arguments of his enemies.
Matthew 26 is a hinge in the story of Jesus. The last two days of Jesus’ life are spent near Jerusalem in Bethany and in the holy city itself. There is so much going on in the 75 verses of this chapter that we set aside one week to cover the 7 readings from Matthew 26 in Journey with Jesus – Book 4. In this chapter Jesus goes from anointed to arrested, from highly honored to despised and beaten. It is not an easy journey to make as we witness these events.
For today, take time to read through the chapter on your own–it will only take you five minutes or ten if you slow down to ponder the words. The condemnation, the sufferings and the death of Jesus is called the Passion from the ancient word passio, which meant suffering.
Bethany was a small village only two miles east of Jerusalem. Jesus stayed at the home of Simon the leper, which is where he is anointed by a woman with an alabaster jar of expensive perfume. It is a beautiful sacrifice, and though the woman is criticized by some, Jesus praises her.
Judas agrees to betray Jesus to the Jewish authorities.
The next day Passover is celebrated by Jesus and his followers in Jerusalem. This is the last supper Jesus will eat with his disciples. Later he spends the night in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane on the slope called the Mount of Olives just outside of Jerusalem looking east. That is where he is betrayed by Judas and arrested. All his followers flee and desert him while he is taken to face trial alone. Many charges are brought against him, and finally the high priest claims Jesus has blasphemed when he frankly confesses that he is the Christ, the messiah of prophecy.
This journey grounds down as doom hangs in the air. The kingdom Jesus announced, the miracles he performed, the radical teachings of love and mercy and God’s concern have been ignored. The prophecies have been fulfilled, which now include the prophecies of doom and suffering for God’s servant.
Ugliness, petty jealousy, betrayal and fear carry the day. Must it happen again? How many times will darkness and fear and doom prevail? As many times as we ignore what Jesus taught us and showed us, as many times as we choose fear instead of putting all our faith in God like Jesus did in the garden.
Join me in this prayer: God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for rich and extravagant acts of devotion by the fearless who worship you. Thank you for bread and wine and your powerful presence among us (Immanuel!). Thank you for Passover and sacrifice, for your boldness in dealing the death blow to evil, betrayal, sin, hatred, greed, envy, pettiness, pride and prejudice. I will not deny you; I know you, and I will not be silent!