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MATTHEW CHAPTERS 26-28
MARK CHAPTERS 1-2
Plot and Extravagant Devotion chapter 26:1-16
Chapter 26 opens with Jesus again predicting his arrest and crucifixion. This, along with his earlier predictions, shows that Jesus himself inaugurates the events to follow, which he will not only endure, but of which he is also in some sense master. Passover celebrates God’s liberation of the people from Egyptian slavery. Passover, therefore, is the setting selected by God to free humankind from slavery to sin. The religious leaders plot to kill Jesus, but they want to avoid the Passover. God’s plan prevails.
A woman anoints Jesus’s head in preparation for burial. This is the only burial preparation noted in Matthew. Each of the Gospels has a similar scene, although the details are different. Jesus’ comment about the poor serves to distinguish between the constant priority of helping the poor and the unique priority of worshipful devotion to Jesus as Lord. In contrast to the extravagant act of the woman, Judas, one of the disciples, agrees to hand over Jesus to the religious leaders for a paltry 30 pieces of silver.
The Passover/Last Supper chapter 26:17-30a
The disciples’ preparation for the Passover meal is important because Matthew is pointing out that the commanding authority of Jesus extends also to those addressed by the disciples.
Starting with 26:20, we begin the familiar movement of Jesus toward the cross. As they sit at the Passover meal, Jesus predicts that one of them would betray him. Notice that the other disciples call Jesus Lord, but Judas calls him Rabbi. To Judas, Jesus was only a teacher. Jesus then institutes the Lord’s Supper. Jesus does not talk here of a new covenant. Instead Matthew draws all peoples into God’s covenant with Abraham. When Jesus talks of the forgiveness of sin, he uses the word relating to the year of Jubilee, the year of societal restructuring, freeing slaves, canceling debt, returning property. Jesus’ death anticipates a just society at his return and establishment of God’s kingdom.
Abandonment, Betrayal, Arrest chapter 26:30b-56
Jesus goes to the garden called Gethsemane and as he finishes praying, Judas and the religious leaders arrive to arrest him. Jesus denounces violence and heals the high priest’s slave. There is no mention of Roman soldiers in Matthew’s version of the arrest. The confrontation here is between Jesus and the Jewish authorities.
Jesus’ Trials, the Death of Judas chapter 26:57-27:31a
Jesus is first tried by the Jewish leaders and then turned over to the Romans. In Matthew’s view, the Jews could condemn Jesus, but the Romans had to carry out the execution. Parenthetically, Matthew tells us about Judas’ remorse as he sees Jesus condemned. Matthew’s telling of the Roman trial makes it abundantly clear that the crucifixion of Jesus was a Jewish decision.
The Crucifixion and Resurrection chapter 27:31b-28:20
None of the Gospel writers narrate the resurrection event itself; that event remains hidden in mystery. What we see is the discovery of the empty tomb and appearances of the risen Jesus. Matthew sets the scene of Jesus with the two women and the scene with the guards as parallel events. The women are told to go and tell the good news of his resurrection: the guards are told to go and tell that Jesus’ body was stolen. Matthew ends with the disciples appearing together for the first time since the arrest and the giving of the Great Commission.
Resurrection faith does not arise on the basis of evidence, of which the chief priests and soldiers had plenty, but on the basis of the experienced presence of the risen Christ (28:8-10, 16-17), by the testimony of those to whom he appeared (28:10, 16), and by his own continuing presence with the disciples (28:20). Faith in the resurrection is a matter of worship, not of analysis and inference. Even so, it does not exclude doubt but takes doubt into itself.
The Gospel of Mark appears to be the earliest written account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Mark asserts that the story he tells is good news, in spite of the fear, suffering and death it portrays. This assertion is based on Mark’s premise that, through Jesus’ ministry and death, God’s promise to end this evil world and create a new existence becomes inevitable and imminent.
The Beginning of Jesus’ Ministry chapter 1
The first fifteen verses introduce the hero of the story, Jesus, and identifies his importance as God’s Son. The story of John’s initial huge success followed by his arrest foreshadows Jesus’ fate.
The remainder of chapter one tells of Jesus calling his first disciples and beginning his healing and preaching ministry. In Mark, the unclean spirits know who Jesus is, perhaps indicating the cosmic world’s full recognition of Jesus’ authority, an authority which in the human world is continually challenged. It is interesting to note in verse 29 that Simon Peter was married, although his wife is never mentioned in the Gospels. It is also important, in verse 41, that Jesus touched the leper when he healed him. Lepers were “unclean” in Jewish society, and whoever touched them also became unclean.
Christianity began with a new message about what the God known through the Jewish Scripture had done in Jesus Christ. The stories are simple enough to be told and remembered for years before they were written down. There is nothing obscure about our faith: Christ came to demonstrate God’s love for the world and he died so that we can partake of that love. Why is it so difficult for us to proclaim such a simple message?
Jesus in Capernaum chapters 2-3
We know that Jesus is from Nazareth, but it appears he lived with Peter and Andrew when he was in Capernaum. This section contains a series of controversy stories, ending with a plot against Jesus’ life. In these stories Jesus demonstrates the superiority of his new teaching to that of the religious leaders.
The story of Levi’s call shows that no occupation makes one less a disciple of Jesus. Jesus looks beyond social prejudice to call forth the disciple in Levi.
Does Mark 2:27 tell us that each of us is free to establish our own approach to the Sabbath? Perhaps this verse says instead that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath and that we should keep the Sabbath in the same spirit that Jesus exhibits in these stories. Those who never consider corporate worship an important part of faith should consider Jesus’ example.
In 3:35 Jesus includes women in his description of the new family. This distinguishes Jesus’ disciples from the male-only society of his day. Rather than honoring the verbal combat of the public arena, Jesus embraces the picture of the loving family for his followers.
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