We have been working our way through the Gospel of Matthew since Christmas 2014. We near its end. However, I realized about a month ago that we had a problem if we were going to get to the Easter passages during the Easter season, something needed to give. Over the last 2 weeks, we were in Matthew 22 where Jesus answers every charge of the religious leaders. Following this, there are 3 full chapters of teaching from Jesus – Matthew 23-25. He teaches about religious leaders or religious people that have plenty of religion but no heart for God. Then He teaches on the end time and how to be a disciple in anticipation of the end. These are very relevant topics for us today. Yet they would take several messages to get through. Yet Easter is about 7 weeks away. Matthew’s spends a lot of time on the final hours of Jesus’ life. He gives us a very long account in Matthew 26 and 27.
So we either had to rush through Matthew 23-25 or rush through the Easter passages. Neither is a good idea. So I decided we need to skip ahead to the Passion narrative so we can walk through it up to Easter. Then after Easter we will go back to Matthew 23-25 to complete those very important texts at a manageable pace.
Chapters 26-27 contain Matthew’s passion narrative of the Christ. We call it the passion narrative because of the late Latin term “passionem” which means suffering or enduring. So the passion is the short final period of suffering in Jesus’ life leading to his crucifixion and death. Matthew writes very long chapters about it, 72 and 66 verses respectively. In fact, all the Gospel writers devote substantial portions of their Gospels to these final hours because Jesus’ suffering and death are central to the Christian faith. Commentator Craig Keener writes, “Because the Passion story provides the historical record of our once-for-all redemption, it reveals in intimate detail both the concrete expression of God’s love for His people and the awfulness of their rebellion against his will.” Journalist Malcolm Muggeridge exclaimed “Jesus’ death was manifestly the most famous one in history. No other death has aroused one-hundredth part of the interest, or been remembered with one-hundredth part of the intensity and concern.”
Today, we begin the passion narrative of Matthew. We will go through four scenes in rapid succession. Matthew has placed them together very strategically. I want to invite you to do some detective work with me. What do these four scenes tell us? What is Matthew alerting us to? When we discover the answer to that question, we will then consider some possible responses to it.