Matthew Chapter 26, The last Passover, arrest, and trials
Tod Kennedy, September, 2008
Introduction to Chapter 26
1. Matthew 26 continues to give us the story of Jesus’ last days on earth. This is narrative. In narrative we learn through the story or the history. Narrative teaches doctrine through example, while in a parable we learn from the question that Jesus is answering. This narrative begins with Jesus’ prediction of his death then moves to the plot against Jesus, Jesus’ hours in Bethany, Judas’ plan, the last Passover with his disciples, Jesus predicts his arrest and Peter’s denial of him, the time in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus fights his spiritual fight and the disciples sleep, the arrest of Jesus, his trial before Caiaphas, and Peter denies knowing Jesus.
2. The historical setting is the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. This week was March 28 to April 5, AD 33 according to Harold H. Hoehner’s Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, page 143. Jesus ate the Passover, was betrayed, was arrested, and was tried before Caiaphas on Thursday, April 2, AD 33.
3. The Passover and Unleavened Bread are prominent in this chapter. They were the first of the three great annual feasts (Exodus 12.1-28; 23.5; Leviticus 23.4-8; Numbers 28.16-25; Deuteronomy 16.1-8). First fruits was the second day of unleavened bread. The Passover commemorated God’s deliverance from the tenth plague, which brought the death of the firstborn, and the Exodus. It was a spring festival, the first festival of the religious calendar, and occurred on Nisan 14. Nisan was the first month of the religious calendar and was equivalent to March-April. The Passover taught redemption by God. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was a seven day festival that began the evening of the Passover and lasted from Nisan 14-21. The Passover and Unleavened Bread were one unit; the Passover marked the sacrifice, and Unleavened Bread marked the feast following the sacrifice. Unleavened Bread commemorated the separation from Egypt under God’s direction and protection. Unleavened Bread taught separation from the past to a new life with the Lord. The First fruits occurred during Unleavened Bread on Nisan 16, one day after Unleavened Bread began. Israel offered the first part of the grain harvest (barley) to the Lord. This dedicated the harvest to God, thanked him for the crop, and anticipated God’s continued provision. First fruits stressed thanksgiving and taught that God provides the necessities for life for Israel (Leviticus 23.9-14).
Outline, main points, and exposition of Matthew 26
1. The Passover warning and plot to arrest and kill Jesus (Matthew 26:1-5). While Jesus reminds the disciples that the Passover and his crucifixion are imminent, the chief priests and elders were plotting to seize and kill him. This becomes an opportunity for faith or unbelief.
1.1. The Passover and Unleavened Bread commemorated God delivering the Hebrews from Egypt in 1445 BC. The Passover was the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread. Passover was observed the evening of Nisan 14 and Unleavened Bread was from Nisan 14 until evening of Nisan 21. Nisan is our months of the middle of March to the middle of April.
2. Mary prepared for Jesus death (Matthew 26:6-13).
2.1. Simon the leper is also mentioned in Mark 14:3. He lived in Bethany. Apparently he was also a believer and had been healed by Jesus, because people were meeting in his house. The word translated leper covers a range of skin diseases and may or may not have been Hansen’s Disease (leprosy). Why mention him? Well, it was at his home that they gathered. Furthermore, it is a historical note that adds credibility to the narrative; and indicates another person who had accepted Jesus as Messiah. A person with a serious skin disease at that time was shunned and unclean. He is now healthy. He, by Jesus healing, was a part of normal society and serving the Lord.
2.2. Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus had been listening to Jesus and the Scripture. She understood what was coming and now she acted in faith to honor him and his coming death. Compare John 12:1-8. The disciples objected. They were more interested in the outward show of giving than the inner love and faith. Mary applied her faith in a historical situation.
3. Judas makes a deal (Matthew 26:14-16). He will point out Jesus to the religious authorities and they will pay him 30 pieces of silver. This amount of silver may have been equal to five weeks wages. In the Old Testament 30 shekels was the price to pay for a slave (Exodus 21.32; Zechariah 11:12-13). In this incident we see hardened unbelief applied in a historical situation.
4. Jesus’ last Passover with his disciples (Matthew 26:17-30). This occurred on Thursday, April 2, AD 33.
4.1. The certain man knew Jesus (Matthew 26:17-18). This is not unusual. There were many unnoticed people who accepted Jesus as Messiah.
4.2. Judas knowingly and willingly participated in the arrest of Jesus (Matthew 26:25).
4.3. Forgiveness of sins central is to the new covenant (Matthew 26:28). There is no blessing without sin being judged and forgiven.
4.4. The important parts of this ceremony were the blessing (Matthew 26:26), the bread (Matthew 26:26), the cup with fruit of the vine (Matthew 26:26), and singing a hymn (Matthew 26:30). The bread represents Jesus’ physical body and what was in the cup represents the blood of Christ which is a figure of speech for the shedding of blood in death.
4.4.1. What does "this is my body" and "this is my blood" mean (Matthew 26.26, 28)? The verb (ἐστιν estin from eimi= to be or is, in the present active indicative, 3rd singular) is used in the sense of "represents" in this passage. The bread did not become physical body, nor did the fruit of the vine become his blood. There is no positive indication that this miracle occurred or was implied in the statements. On the other side the phrase in Matthew 26:29, "I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until..." indicates that Christ took what was in the cup as real grape wine or juice, and not blood. This meaning is carried over into 1 Corinthians 11.23-29. In that passage there is an interchange between the cup and the blood indicating that both represent something else--the death of Christ. In summary, the bread represents the human body of Jesus—his true humanity. What was in the cup represents the blood of Jesus and the blood of Jesus represents the shedding of his blood—his death in mankind’s place as our substitute.
4.5. The new covenant will replace the old covenant (Matthew 26:26-29). The new covenant is the foundation for the future spiritual and physical salvation and blessing of Israel. This covenant is promised in Jeremiah 31:31. Ezekiel chapter 36 enlarges on what God will do for Israel based on the new covenant promises. When the new covenant is mentioned in the gospels (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20) there is the Hebrew emphasis. This is expected because Jesus came to Israel as her Messiah. First Corinthians 11:25 is Paul’s narration of what Jesus said. Second Corinthians 3:6, a church epistle, brings the church believer into the blessings of the covenant and contrasts the old covenant, the Law of Moses, with the new way of life based upon Jesus’ death and resurrection. The death and resurrection of Jesus completed the law and directed attention to a new kind of life in Jesus Christ. Hebrews, written to Hebrew believers, naturally explains the new covenant in a Hebrew context, filling in the details that were left out in the Old Testament (Hebrews 8:8, 13; 9:15; 12:24).
5. Peter, with great fervor, expresses his loyalty to Jesus (Matthew 26:31-35). Jesus refers (Matthew 26:31) to Zechariah 13:7 to explain what will happen to him and what the disciples will do in the face of the arrest and trials. We learn that clear thinking and faith based upon truth is better than great statements of loyalty based on hasty emotion.
5.1. He again predicts his resurrection and says he will meet them later in Galilee.
5.2. Peter is so certain that he will remain faithful (Matthew 26:32), but of course he will fail.
Jesus and his disciples walk to the Garden Gethsemane (Matthew
26:36-45). There he leaves his disciples except for Peter, James, and John
who go with him a little distance for prayer. He asks the three to stay
alert with him and pray because there was a great spiritual battle going on.
Jesus was struggling with his coming death for the sins of the world. This
would include great spiritual and physical pain plus separation from God the
Father. His will agreed with God the Father’s will. Does our will agree
with God the
6.1. This was an inner struggle (Matthew 26:38).
6.2. The three disciples failed him three times (Matthew 26:40, 43, 45).
6.3. Volition (spirit) and human weakness (flesh) combine in a temptation. God’s support is needed and this support comes through prayer (here), Scripture (Psalm 119), and the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16).
7. Matthew 26:46-75. Judas betrayed Jesus; he was arrested and deserted by his disciples, taken to Caiaphas, and denied by Peter (46-75). In all Jesus faced 6 trials: 3 religious trials and 3 civil trials. The trial before Caiaphas is recorded here. If we trace through the high priests in the first century AD we see their violent rejection of Jesus and the apostles and the young church.
7.1. We know that there were six parts of trials, three Jewish and three Roman. But the Jewish trials ran together. The Roman trials had Jesus moving from Pilate to Herod to Pilate. Each was not a separate trial in the sense that we think of a trial.
7.1.1. Dr Tom Constable has a very simple and clear summary of Jesus’ trials. “It may be helpful to take a brief overview of Jesus’ trials since none of the Gospel evangelists gives the complete picture. There were essentially two trials, one Jewish and one Roman. The Jewish trial began when Annas informally examined Jesus late Thursday night (John 18:12–14, 19–23). During this examination, members of the Sanhedrin were evidently assembling. His accusers then brought Jesus before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin who decided He was guilty of blasphemy (Matt. 26:57–68; Mark 14:53–65). At sunrise on Friday the Sanhedrin decided to send Jesus to Pilate for trial (Matthew 27:1–2; Luke 22:66–71). The Roman trial began with Jesus appearing before Pilate (Matthew 27:11–14; John 18:28–38a). Pilate then sent Jesus to Herod for interrogation (Luke 23:6–12). Finally Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate for a second examination (Matthew 27:15–31; John 18:38b–19:16). The trials were over and Jesus was at Golgotha by mid-morning, about 9:00 a.m. (Mark 15:25).” Tom Constable, Tom Constable's Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003; 2003). Mt 26:55.
7.1.2. On Thursday evening the Roman soldiers and temple police arrested Jesus, bound him, and took him to Annas (John 18:12-14). Annas was Caiaphas’ father-in-law. Both could function as the high priest. Annas John 18:12-14 and 24. Annas was high priest from AD 6-15.
7.1.3. After that the Romans soldiers and temple police brought Jesus to Caiaphas and the gathering Sanhedrin (Matthew 26:57-65; Mark 14:53-65). Caiaphas was head of the Sanhedrin at this time and until AD 36. Annas and Caiaphas probably lived in different wings of the temple. There was questioning, but the Sanhedrin was not allowed to make a judgment at night. Caiaphas was high priest from AD 16-36. See John 11:49 and 18:13-14. In Acts 4:6, Luke recorded that Annas and Caiaphas put Peter on trial for preaching Jesus and the resurrection. What can we say? The religious leadership of Israel rejected Jesus their Messiah. This is the same story that the prophets of old faced. In fact, Jesus said this in Matthew 23:30-34.
7.1.4. Friday morning the Sanhedrin said that Jesus was guilty. They bound him and took him to Pilate because the Sanhedrin could not sentence a man to death without the Roman approval, and the Romans had to carry out the execution (Matthew 27:1-2; Luke 22:66-71). The Sanhedrin was the highest tribunal for Jews at the time of Jesus. It met in Jerusalem. Its powers were extensive, especially over internal affairs. The high priest was president of the Sanhedrin. In Jesus’ time it had administrative authority, civil jurisdiction, and some criminal jurisdiction. The Roman procurator had to confirm capital punishment. In the case of violation of Jewish law, the Sanhedrin had jurisdiction. The Sanhedrin even had jurisdiction over Jewish communities outside of Israel territory.
7.1.5. Friday morning Pilate interviewed Jesus and he remained silent (Matthew 27:11-14; John 18:28-38).
7.1.6. Pilate then sent Jesus to Herod for further interrogation because he could get no answers and Herod had Jurisdiction (Luke 23:6-12). Jesus did not answer Herod.
7.1.7. Finally, Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate asked if the Jews wanted Jesus or Barabbas set free. The Jews wanted Barabbas set free and Jesus crucified. During this trial, Pilate’s wife warned Pilate that she had a dream and that he should free Jesus (Matthew 27:15-31; John 18:38-19:16).
7.2. By 9 am Jesus had been handed over to the Jews for crucifixion (Mark 15:25). In all of this the Jews tried to keep their hypocritical hands clean.
7.3. They had to bring in false witnesses (Matthew 26:59-60). This added no evidence against Jesus.
7.4. In Matthew 26:62-64 note the positive evidence for Jesus being Messiah. They remembered his statement “destroy this temple and rebuild it in three days” (Matthew 26:62). They equated the Christ with the Son of God (Matthew 26:63). They recognized that the title Son of Man referred to Messiah (Matthew 26:64). All the evidence pointed to Jesus being the Messiah and that he had publically taught and demonstrated who he was prior to this time. Only now could they pull together a charade of an arrest and trial.
7.5. Peter denies Jesus in Matthew 26:70, 72, and 74. Peter remembered Jesus prediction. His response to his disloyalty and unbelief was deep regret. Jesus forgave Peter and Peter went on to be the leader of the early apostolic period. Does it ever bother us when we fail the Lord? God does not require regret and tears. He only requires honest confession, but when we think of God grace for us and our failure it should humble us and bring out thanksgiving to God.
Lessons that we learn from Chapter 26
1. Jesus knows the future and has accepted his part in the redemptive plan of God (Matthew 26:2, 18, 21, 31, 34).
2. Religious unbelievers can be very destructive (Matthew 26:3, 47, 59).
3. Service for Jesus out of worship for him is more important than patchwork social service (Matthew 26:10-13).
4. The new covenant is based upon Jesus’ death and resurrection and the new covenant replaced the old covenant at that event (Matthew 26:28).
5. We learn that the Jewish authorities and citizens were very informed about their Messiah.
5.1. They knew what he had said about destroying the temple and rebuilding it in three days (Matthew 26:61).
5.2. They knew that he was the Son of God (Matthew 26:63).
5.3. They knew that he was able to know things that normal people would not know (Matthew 26:68).
6. Emotion changes and decisions made based upon emotion often change when the emotions change. Peter illustrates this (Matthew 26:33-35, 70-75).
7. Jesus’ spiritual struggle was very intense. In this spiritual struggle Jesus asked the Father for help so that he could do the Father’s will (Matthew 26:36-38). If prayer was important to him it ought to be to us. Prayer is not just asking for help, it is also aligning ourselves with God’s will.
8. Our spiritual struggles can be overwhelming at times. Even though “the spirit is willing”—our volition, “the flesh is weak”—our sinful natures get in the way. We need supernatural help (Matthew 26:40-41).
9. There were many clues that Jesus was the Messiah. People saw the clues but did not accept their witness (Matthew 26:61, 63-64).
10. We will fail the Lord. When we do, are we humbled by his grace and forgiveness? Do we thank him?