Matthew 26 is the longest chapter in the book of Matthew. As such, fitting it into a single blog post will require overlooking a few parts. Even the summary will be a bit more summary than we normally get to. Matthew 26 opens with the news of a clear plot to kill Jesus by the chief priests and elders of Israel. Worth noting is this: their plan is to wait until after the festival, in this case, Passover.
Prior to the Passover, Jesus is in Bethany and is anointed for burial beforehand. The other Gospel accounts tell us that this is Mary, the sister of Martha. There is a rebuke of the expense, but Jesus highlights that her devotion is laudable. His response is that the poor will always be around—but He, incarnate, will not. That should not be taken as instruction that we should ignore the poor to build buildings.
After the anointing, Jesus and the Apostles prepare and celebrate the Passover, instituting the Lord’s Supper. From there, they go to the Garden for prayer. At this point, Judas brings the arresting forces into the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus is arrested through his betrayal.
Matthew then recounts the trials of Jesus. Most of which were not quite legal under the codes of the time and all of which were unfair. Any trial that starts off with a plan to kill the defendant cannot possibly be fair. In the midst of this, Peter shows his true colors. He is asked about his association with Jesus and denies it with all his being. Peter is made of the same stuff we all are: apart from the power of God, he’ll save his skin every time.
Let us put the Passover and the first Lord’s Supper into focus. The common reference to this event is the Last Supper, and as such is depicted in much of art and history. Jesus and His disciples, which at the least includes the Twelve Apostles and may include more, sit down to remember the deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. They take the time to go through the same remembrance ceremonies that the Israelites have done for fifteen hundred years.
During the supper, Jesus points out that one of them will betray Him. He does not tell them at first which one it is, and their response is telling. While Peter had, earlier, declared he would die for Jesus, he does not make such a declaration here. All of the disciples wonder if they could be the culprit.
The Last Supper, the first Lord’s Supper, is attended by a mixture of sinners. The only one who is clean from sin is the Lord Himself. Everyone else is a frail sinner, holding on by a thread to the hope they won’t fail first.
What do we do with this? First, recognize this: you will never be worthy to come into the presence of God, worthy to take the remembrance of the death of Christ, on your own. Without the grace of Jesus, we don’t get to go. None of the Apostles were worthy.
Second, remember that our job is to bring others to the presence of God. The Lord’s Supper is a picture of sitting at the table in the presence of Jesus. We would do well to bring others to the table rather than push them away.
Now, a caution: 1 Corinthians 11 warns believers to be cautious about our sins when we come to the Table of the Lord. That takes several thoughts, not least of which is that those who live in blatant sin should stay away. So also should those who reject the community of believers—it’s not a personal feast. It’s a remembrance of the cost of sin and a celebration of grace. Treat in such a way.
1. Peter gets close enough to be questioned and recognized. But he’s not arrested. The Jewish leadership is after Jesus, not the followers. At least for now.
2. The need of betrayal: the authorities needed a person to clearly identify Jesus. Why? Darkness? And maybe a few other reasons, but we’re not sure.
3. We do see Peter’s infamous sword strike here. Don’t use a sword to prevent what God has decreed.
4. Twelve legions of angels would still be a picnic compared to the wrath of God.
5. Three denials by Peter would be enough to consider his testimony final--but by the grace of God, it's not.