Palm Sunday (Passion According to St. Matthew)

Matthew 26:1-35

Jesus is surrounded by failures. The woman who anoints him does a beautiful work, Judas who betrays him, the eleven other disciples who claim to be faithful but later abandon him.

And this is nothing unique to this moment in time. Among people, we are a mixed bag. We have good intentions at times, evil at others. We do some good things, but other times we’d rather just look out for ourselves. We show good judgment and self-control, but we also can be incredibly stupid. If we’re judging the success of Jesus’ passion, it best not be by looking at those around Him.

The one constant in all of this is where this mixed bag of men and women have hope, where the Church in every age is built on the rock. It’s on Jesus and the covenant He makes: “Take eat; this is My Body” “Drink of it, all of you, for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The covenant is the unbreakable promise of God to men with all of our failures. Jesus’ Body broken on your behalf; Jesus blood poured out for the remission of sins.

With the rabble around Jesus in His Passion, He is one constant. When we thrive in the Holy Spirit or foolishly yield to our flesh, Jesus is our one constant. It is to Him that we return, and in Him we are saved. Amen.

Matthew 26:36-56

In a script for a play, everything is determined. The actors follow the stage directions, they say the lines assigned to them, they react the way they are supposed to. This is a bit like how it was with the Scriptures.

Jesus, the Son of Man, knew the part that He had to play. It was laid out before Him, and everything had been going according to the prescribed events. He had taught the people what He needed to teach, performed the great signs which signaled the Messiah’s arrival. Now was the most difficult part—that of the “Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief…one from whom men hid their faces, despised, and rejected.” (Isa 53:3). He pleaded with the Author that, “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” But He was willing to play His part: “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus submitted Himself to the definite plan of God, the Script-ures.

The others played their part, too. The disciples grew sleepy keeping watch because of the weakness of their flesh. Judas and his crew came out to arrest Jesus with a kiss. Peter, thinking he would creatively turn the tide, attacked the servant of the high priest. But no matter what the desire of sinful actors, whether it be to seemingly save Jesus or have Him destroyed, the Scriptures of the prophets must be fulfilled.

And even though the Scripture prescribed that He would be betrayed and rejected, they also announce that, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isa 53:4-6) Amen.

Matthew 26:57-75

There are some times when telling the truth will get you into more trouble. Other times, you might tell a white lie and think it will save you from worse consequences. From experience, we know that it’s right to tell the truth, if nothing else than the quote attributed to Mark Twain: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” But we inevitably make things complicated by lying or telling a selective truth. Many broken marriages and conscience-stricken addicts can show the foreboding consequences of lying.

Here we see both. Telling the unedited truth winds up getting Jesus the sentence of death, while Peter weasels his way out of trouble with a thrice-told bald-faced lie. And what does Peter’s false testimony gain him, but a selfish benefit of being spared ridicule. Trying to save his own hide, he does nothing. But it was right that Jesus told the truth, because that telling of the truth, though it cost Him His life, was the very testimony that must be said. In His confession, He received the just consequences for us, for the Psalmist says with alarm, “all mankind are liars” (Ps. 116:11).

His testimony also gained for us what no mere man’s truth could. In confessing that He was the Christ, the Son of Man, His Word was that of the “mediator of a new covenant…the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:24) It is now His testimony that He gives before the Father, where He speaks on our behalf and we are declared innocent and righteous. Amen.

Matthew 27:1-31

The last words that Jesus spoke before being nailed to the cross were, “From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (26:64) There was no more for Him to say, because He had preached the Kingdom of God, He had confirmed it with signs. Now it was left to others how they would respond and what they would do.

Judas said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” but without faith, he carried out sentence on himself. Pilate asked, “Are you the King of the Jews?” and marveled at how Jesus made no answer to defend himself. The crowds cried for Barabbas instead of Jesus, cried out for His death, so confident of their rejection of this King that they said, “His blood be on us and on our children.” The soldiers dressed Jesus up in mock royal robes and said, “Hail, King of the Jews” as they abused Him. This is how they all responded—Jew and Gentile—to the Word of the Lord and His Christ.

This was all as it had to be, for God to save sinful man. In order to save those who rejected the Lord, the Lord’s Servant had to be rejected. Even though Jesus was silent then, He had been spoken of before, “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth…Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush Him; He has put Him to grief…the will of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” (Isa. 53:7, 10) This is how God saved them because that was is His gracious will—to save His enemies and account them righteous. This is God’s will: to save you. Amen.