Matthew 26:1-5

When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and they conspired to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.” Matthew 26:1-5

Matthew is now turning a corner and leading us, with Jesus, to the climax of his story. Jesus knows what is coming. But what does this mean? The easy answer is that Jesus is both human and divine – his divine nature knows what the future holds, his human nature is willing to walk into his destiny. Jesus has to die so that we can be forgiven. We are along for the ride.

That’s the easy answer. The common answer. The answer that lives in the popular imaginations of people. It is the substitutionary theory of the atonement. It is neat. Clean. It doesn’t involve getting our own hands dirty. It happened. We know it. We believe it. We accept it. We’re in the club.

The only problem is that our neat little theory, as old and as popular as it might be, doesn’t take the story nearly as seriously as it ought to. It papers over it. So, over the next several weeks we are going to walk through the story slowly. As we let it sink it, it will strike us like never before. As it ought to.

The text says that Jesus headed to Jerusalem, knowing what was to come. Whatever earthly fears he might have had, whatever tendencies toward self-preservation might have been inside of him, he turned to walk toward Jerusalem. Among his virtues was courage. The courage to do the right thing. The courage to not back down. The courage that is driven by love, not hate, not greed, not power. The kind of courage, and the kind of cause, that terrifies the power structures of this world, and therefore, the kind of courage that must be stopped.

This year has marked 50 years since the assassinations of Dr. King and Robert Kennedy. Both men brought good news to the poor. Both men spoke truth to the powerful that the powerless deserved justice. Both men changed over their lives. They evolved. They both became, in the eyes of the world, more radical. They needed to be stopped.

Abraham Lincoln was killed on Good Friday in 1865. He too came to see life differently along the way. He too fell at the feet of the powerful forces who resented what Lincoln had done, and continued to do, on behalf of the powerless.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was killed because of his willingness to stand up to a diabolical government that had twisted and coerced even the religious leaders into an evil vision of racial purity and German exceptionalism, dragging the whole world into war.

The text says that the chief priests and elders “gathered in the palace of the high priest.” Of course the high priest lived in a palace (while Jesus had nowhere to lay his head.) They gathered and  “conspired to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.” Of course they did. They recognized the threat Jesus posed to them. But they wanted to be careful lest “there may be a riot among the people” Even in planning an assassination, all they cared about was their base, their blind followers as they blindly led them toward shouts of “Crucify him!”

Let us pray: Dear Lord, heal our blindness. Open our ears. Steel our resolved to follow you to and through the cross, even as it calls for our own surrender, our own letting go, our own repentance for our complicity with the powerful. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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One Response to “Matthew 26:1-5”

  1. Dave Armstrong Says:

    You are right on with this message.

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