Read the Passage: Matthew 26:1-35
Blessings and Betrayal (26:1–16)
Jesus had predicted His own death numerous times during His ministry (cf. Matt. 12:40; 16:21; 17:22–23; 20:19). Further, many times Christ had eluded the religious leaders’ attempts to capture or to kill Him (cf. Luke 4:29–30; John 10:39). Finally, though, here in this chapter Jesus’ informs His disciples that His time to die—that is, to make atonement for the sins of mankind—was at hand (cf. Matt. 26:18). Clearly, Jesus was in control of His own death, for He had earlier taught, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18). At Matt. 26:3–5 we learn that the religious leaders had assembled in order to plan Jesus’ death. Ironically, they planned not to kill Christ during the Passover, out of fear of the people; yet, Jesus would die in two days, which demonstrates God’s divine timetable.
Matt. 26:6–13 records an event that occurred when Jesus was dining at the home Simon the Leper. Simon the Leper is mentioned nowhere else in Scripture. He was likely a former leper—one of the many whom Jesus had healed—for unclean lepers did not host dinner parties. Matthew reports that a women put “very costly fragrant oil” (Matt. 26:7) on Jesus’ head. Mark notes that the oil cost nearly a years’ wages (cf. Mark 14:3) and John informs us that the woman was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (cf. John 12:2). John also notes that Mary put the oil on Jesus’ feet and wiped it with her hair. The disciples, especially Judas (cf. John 12:4–6), were apparently incensed at this sacrificial act. Jesus then rebuked the disciples, as He told them this event was in preparation for His burial. Further Christ notes this act will be known wherever the gospel is preached.
Preparation and Celebration (26:17–29)
Jesus’ rebuke of the disciples was the motivation for Judas to agree to betray Christ for thirty pieces of silver (cf. Matt. 26:14–16), which was the price of a slave (cf. Exod. 21:32; Zech. 11:12). On the next day, which was Thursday, Jesus instructed His disciples to begin making preparations for the Passover. Christ directed his disciples to a certain man, whom He said would be carrying a pitcher of water (cf. Mark 14:13; Luke 22:10), who led them to a large furnished room Jesus would use to observer the Passover. It is likely that Christ had made these arrangements earlier, but kept them secret in order to prevent Judas from betraying Him before the Passover. Note Jesus’ specific claim at Matt. 26:18, “My time is at hand.” It was important to Jesus to celebrate the Passover, for as Paul later wrote, “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7).
Matt. 26:20–29 records Jesus’ actual celebration of the Passover meal. At the meal Jesus specifically identified Judas as His betrayer. Mark and Luke do not record Jesus’ dialog with Judas, but Matthew reports that Jesus specifically told Judas He was aware of his betrayal (cf. Matt. 26:25). John notes that at this time Satan entered Judas and Jesus commanded Judas to act quickly (cf. John 13:27). The most important event at the Passover meal is Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper (cf. Matt. 26:26–29). This event, then, was both the last Passover (for, as our sacrifice, Jesus’ fulfilled the Passover) and the first Lord’s Supper. Note, that while Luke (cf. Luke 22:19) and Paul (cf. 1 Cor. 11:24–25) emphasize the retrospective nature of the Lord’s Supper, Matthew and Mark (cf. Mark 14:23–25) emphasize the prospective nature of this ordinance.
Prediction and Desertion (26:30–35)
After celebrating the Passover, Jesus and the disciples “sung a hymn” (Matt. 26:30), which traditionally would have been Ps. 118. Judas had already departed, before the institution of the Lord’s Supper (cf. John 13:30), although the disciples were uncertain why he left. After this, the disciples retreated with Christ to the Mount of Olives. Here Jesus predicted that all of His disciples would abandon Him that very evening—an event that was only a few hours away. Understandably, the apostles all denied that they would be disloyal to Christ (cf. Matt. 26:35), with Peter even declaring his willingness to die with Jesus. Peter’s forceful declaration prompted Jesus to specifically declare, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times” (Matt. 26:34). This prophecy would be fulfilled at Matt. 26:69–75.
- After clearly avoiding the religious leaders attempts to kill Him for over three years, why did Jesus decide to lay down his life at the Passover?
- How can we reconcile the authorities’ freely devised plan to kill Jesus, with Christ’s claim that He was in control of His own death (cf. John 10:18)?
- Do you think Mary was aware that her anointing of Jesus was in preparation for His burial?
- When observing the Lord’s supper are we supposed to focus on what Jesus has done for us or upon what He will do for us?
- Do you think the disciples were being dishonest in their declaration of loyalty to Jesus? Why did they all later abandon Christ?