You will find an introduction and outline to the Gospel According to Matthew here.
The contrast between chapters 26-28 and what has just come before is stark. Recall, we have just read about Jesus’ return as king and judge, now in these chapters Jesus is judged by temporal rulers.
VI: Passion and Resurrection 26:3-28:20
A. Jesus Last Hours with His Disciples 26:3-56
26:1-16 The Preparation: Four Perspectives:Notice the juxtaposition the scenes in this section. Verses 1-2; this is the final use of the statement that ends each of the five discourses, notice the “all” used this time. Verses 3-5 Notice there is no interest in a fair trial or an investigation. The matter is decided. Even though the chief priests and elders believe their plot involves “sly way(s)” or “stealth”, Matthew’s readers know that Jesus has declared their intentions four times before this. Verses 6-13 Contrast Jesus’ location- the home of Simon the Leper with the chief priests and elders location in the palace. The pouring of oil suggests several things, an act of hospitality that was performed at meals, the anointing of priests, commissioning to a special service for God, and preparation for burial. Do we need to select one meaning or can all of these inform our understanding of this unnamed woman’s act? What does Jesus’ statement “For you will always have the poor with you…” mean? Verses 14-16 from the woman’s anointing to Judas betrayal. Thirty pieces of silver is the compensation for a slave gored by an ox (Ex 21:32), probably not a significant amount of money in those days.
26:17-35 The Last Supper: Passover is a celebration of Israel’s redemption, salvation by God. “Surely not I, Lord?” indicates and expected negative answer. The disciples do not apparently expect to betray Jesus. Notice the disciples call Jesus “Lord” and Judas called him “Rabbi”. Commentators believe the hymns of verse 30 are the “Hallel” psalms (113-118).
26:36-46 Agony in Gethsemane: The three disciples are the same ones who witness the transfiguration (17:1) and who claim to be willing to drink from the same cup (20:22). Do Jesus’ statements to the disciples echo the parables and warnings of the Fifth discourse?
26:47-56 The Arrest: Again Judas says “Rabbi”. Why does one of the disciples have a sword? Is this a sign of the disciples lack of understanding? Or does it serve another purpose in this story? Why is the slave’s ear cut off? Does this signify the lack of hearing of the elite?
B. Jesus On Trial 26:57-27:26
26:57-68 Jesus’ Trail before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin: On the Sanhedrin, see here. Verse 59 notice there is no interest in discovering the truth. Verses 60-61 however is seems there was difficulty even manufacturing the testimony.
26:69-75 Peter’s Betrayal: Jesus prays three times in Gethsemane, Peter denies Jesus three times. Jesus makes his statement to the high priest, Peter makes his denial to servants. Peter swears an oath (contrary to Jesus’ instructions in 5:33-37), Jesus does not.
27:1-2 Jesus Brought to Pilate: Pilate, as governor had great power. Before him Jesus seems powerless, but as Matthew’s readers know, this is not the case.
27:3-10 Judas’s Money: Notice Judas is no longer referred to one of the Twelve. Peter and Judas both betray Jesus. What is different and what is similar about their betrayals? In what ways do these two stories inform each other? The chief priests seem to accept Judas’ description of what they have all done- betrayed innocent blood. This doesn’t stop them from taking back the money but they worry about it’s “lawful” (v6) disposition.
27:11-26 Jesus’ “Trial” before Pilate: Pilate’s question is a political one, asking if Jesus is leading a rebellion against Rome. In verse 14, why is Pilate amazed? We do not know what crime Barabbas was accused of. The word “notorious” suggests a bandit or terrorist. “Barabbas” means “son of his father”. Matthew has set up a contrast between Jesus, son of the Father, non violently confronting the Empire and Barabbas whose methods are violent. Two ways of opposing Rome, representatives of the two kingdoms (God’s and Empire) are represented by the two men. Pilate, oddly, asks the people which method of opposition they prefer. Does Pilate offer to release Jesus because he thinks Jesus is innocent or to thwart the desires of the Jewish elite? Verse 19, remember the role dreams played in Jesus birth story. Also note a gentile woman is the recipient of the dream. Verse 25 needs to be thoughtfully interpreted. It has been used to excuse much harm. “The people as a whole” are the crowd present at the trial, under the influence of the religious elites, not all Jews everywhere. Likewise the phrase “and on our children” does not mean all future generations but refers to the next generation. Matthew believes the destruction of the Temple in 70 is God’s judgment for the rejection of Jesus. The children of the crowd are the people affected by the war and destruction of the Temple. Also recall there are no Christians yet. Matthew and his church are still a Jewish sect, although with very strained relations with other Jews. This is Jewish polemic against other Jews.
C. Jesus Is Crucified and Buried 27:27-66 Read Psalm 22 also.
27:27-44 Jesus is Mocked and Crucified: The Jewish trial ends with Jesus mocked at the Christ, the Roman trial ends with Jesus mocked as king. Cyrene is in modern Libya. The charges “This is Jesus, The King of the Jews” is meant to mock but as Matthew’s readers know, the sign is true. Additionally the taunting crowds intending to mock, end up unknowingly speaking the truth.
27:45-56 Jesus Dies: Notice the apocalyptic nature of Matthew’s description. It recalls Jesus words of Chapter 24.Both Jewish and Roman traditions expected dramatic signs to mark the death of important people. Verse 54, now even gentiles recognize who Jesus is. Verse 55, the women had come with Jesus from Galilee. The disciples are no absent but the women are still present.
27:57-66 Jesus’ Burial: Joseph of Arimathea has not been previously mentioned. This rich man, has evidently not given his wealth away but does use it to serve Jesus. How do the actions of this Joseph recall the actions of Joseph in the birth narrative? Are their similarities of character? Two women still are with Jesus and are, perhaps waiting for the resurrection? In verses 62-66 the chief priests and Pharisees are also concerned about the Resurrection. But the power of Rome cannot hinder the Resurrection.
D. Jesus Is Raised 28:1-28:15
28:1-10 Jesus Is Risen: Why do the women come “to see the tomb”? Verse 5; In Greek the angel uses the perfect tense. The perfect tense indicates a completed act that has ongoing consequences. The passive construction, “has been raised” indicates this is an act of God. Verse 9, “took hold of his feet”, Jesus is not a ghost or an apparition.
28:11-15 The Report of the Guard: The Elites’ Alternate Story: The guards, like the women, go tell what has happened. Again the two kingdoms are contrasted.
28:16-20 Jesus Commissions the Disciples: Mountains are where people encounter God. The disciples, like the women, worship Jesus. Why do some doubt? Verse 19 discipleship is not longer restricted to the 12 but open to all.
Read More About It:
Boring, M. Eugene, “The Gospel of Matthew: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VIII, Leander E. Keck,ed. (Nashville, Abingdon Press)1994.
Carter, Warren, Matthew and the Margins: A Sociopolitical and Religious Reading (Maryknoll,New York: Orbis Books) 2001.
Johnson, Luke Timothy, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, rev. ed. (Minneapolis:Fortress Press) 1999. Chapter 8 “The Gospel of Matthew”.
Powell, Mark Allan, “Matthew” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, rev. ed.James L Mays, ed. (New York: Society of Bible Literature) 2000.
Tilden, Elwyn E., Bruce M. Metzger, “Matthew” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Bruce M. Metzger, Roland E. Murphy eds. (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.