Matthew 26:57-68

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered. But Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest; and going inside, he sat with the guards in order to see how this would end.

Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward.

At last two came forward and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’” The high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” But Jesus was silent.

Then the high priest said to him, “I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” They answered, “He deserves death.”

Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?” Matthew 26:57-68

Jewish law demanded the testimony of at least two or three witnesses in accusing someone of sin (Deuteronomy 19:15). The irony is delicious. All of the religious leaders present are willing to stick to the letter of the law even as they purposely conspire to kill an innocent and harmless man on trumped up charges. Person after person came forward to accuse Jesus, perhaps to curry favor with the powerful religious leaders, but it wasn’t until someone made a charge against the temple itself that Jesus was condemned.

The trial was a sham. The religious leaders are blinded by their own self-preservation. This was a lynching. A sacrificial death intended to preserve the status quo of power, prestige, and position just as the lynching of thousands of African Americans served to preserve the power structures of white supremacy as well as warning others to stay in line or they might get it too.

I didn’t always see the death of Jesus in this way. I used to see it as a spiritual requirement and a noble death. I bought into the idea of the substitutionary atonement – that Jesus died so that we don’t have to face the penalty of our sins. Almost as if Jesus committed suicide in a noble cause.

I haven’t looked at it that way for a long time now. I have been convinced by the voices who have helped me see the story more clearly. Jesus was rejected, no doubt about that. And we will soon see that it was the religious leaders, the political leaders, and the crowds who each did their part. But Jesus didn’t fight it. He didn’t struggle against his attackers or mount a defense before his accusers. He handed himself over to them.

Jesus was the epitome of non-violent resistance. His motivation was always love. Even love for those who spat in his face and struck him. This is love. This is the love Jesus has for us.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, to listen closely and to walk slowly with you through your arrest and your trial is to be humbled by your courage, touched by your love, and frustrated by the perversity of the powerful who ought to know better. Perhaps they do. Perhaps they don’t care. But we know now that we find our lives not in surrendering ourselves to your love and your ways of being in the world. Give us a measure of your love today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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One Response to “Matthew 26:57-68”

  1. Carolee Groux Says:

    Dear Lord, I surrender myself to your love and to your ways of being in the world. Though a sinful creature by nature you chose to save me by your ultimate sacrifice. You gave your life on the cross for my sins so that I might be saved and have eternal life. Thanks be to God.

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