Matthew 26 Pt 2: Denial

For the text of this chapter, click here.

Last week, we started Matthew 26 with the plot to kill Jesus and then His anointing with expensive ointment, and the Lord’s Supper at Passover. This ended with some thoughts on the importance of something like the Lord’s Supper that unites us every day or at least every so often as Christians with this moment when Jesus was with us and the idea that we are a part of Him and His work.

To pick back up again, we were on verse 30 and the part of the story where Jesus tells Peter that he’s going to deny Him three times before morning. Peter, of course, is shocked. He had been hearing for a while that Jesus was going to be crucified, it had just been reiterated that He was going to be betrayed, but I’m sure that Peter was feeling all kinds of warm and comfy having just had the Passover and the Lord’s Supper. He would have been recently assured that he wasn’t the one that was going to betray Jesus and then came this revelation from Jesus Himself that they would scatter away from Him and Peter just couldn’t imagine it. I’d never really thought about it too in depth before reading it for this post, but I can really see it. I can really see feeling sure that you would never leave someone’s side and then a crisis happens and your fight or flight goes into crisis mode and you’re acting way outside of what you thought was possible. It must have hurt all the more that Jesus knew and told him right to his face. Then again, I can’t imagine being in that place and feeling all the love off of these people that you know are going to turn their back on you in about five minutes.

From dinner, Jesus goes with Peter and “the two sons of Zebedee” to Gethsemane to pray. He tells them to wait somewhere while He goes off but first says to them:

“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death: remain here, and watch with me.”

A few things come to mind here. First of all, He does just ask them to wait but then mentions that He is “sorrowful”. He just had this beautiful holiday with people He loves who He knows are seconds from betraying Him or denying Him or just scattering away from Him. I can’t imagine how alone that must feel. I mean, I get a pretty bad vulnerability hang over after having too good a time around too many people for too long, but this is obviously on some other level that I don’t think we really talk about. By the way, if you’re curious about the vulnerability hangover, check out Brene Brown here. I get a little bit that they would not have the wherewithal to understand how He feels, but I feel like our modern day hindsight should take better consideration of Jesus’s emotional state right here.

I also love “watch with me”, not “for” me, but with me. Jesus is alert too, but He wants them to watch out, to know that something is coming and to be with him in this final moment. To not waste it. But waste it they do and fall asleep while He’s in the garden asking for it to all not have to happen. Again, I try to imagine His emotional state. Jesus knows what He needs to do it but I can’t imagine right after this holiday dinner while everyone was so lovely and all but one of the disciples are so insistent that they’ll never leave Him that He’d rather sit in that moment a while longer. I imagine that’s why He wanted them to come with Him to the garden in the first place. Stay with me in this moment. He asks for it to not happen, but knows His responsibility and then goes back to find them asleep. He chastises them and goes back again to continue praying and then it happens again. After the third time, Jesus gives up and let’s them sleep a minute before waking them to the inevitable moment when He is betrayed.

Judas comes with a “a great crowd with swords and clubs”. I don’t think it’s ever really depicted that way. The images I remember from movies is that Judas came with some Roman guards or something to have Him taken away but not “a great crowd”. This sounds more like an armed mob. My mental image quickly turned into Gaston going after the Beast. Of course Jesus is calm about it, He saw it coming for days, He knew it was going to be Judas. Still, the image of the Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast still hangs out in my mind’s eye. I think of when he says “Let them come” because he’s so brokenhearted over Belle leaving.

He knows what has to happen. He knows the prophecies He’s required to fulfill. He knows that these people who have been with Him and who He has taught and loved and who love Him are about to be their worst selves. I can’t imagine that there isn’t at least a similarity to His demeanor. Let them come. Let this be over.

On the one hand it would make sense to feel so alone just then, on the other hand, there’s the very next thing He says. When one of the disciples attempts to defend Him, though it doesn’t say which, Jesus stops him.

“Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”

I  read that with such a patient voice. After all that, at least someone tried to be there. But He knows it needs to happen and its too late for this show of force. And then Jesus sasses the crowd a bit and points out that He was available for much longer than this and everyone knew where He was and they could have gotten Him at any time. He was never hiding. He also points out that it’s only happening to fulfill the Scriptures. Mentioning that twice suggests to me that the first time was just to the disciples and the second was to the crowd.

Then He’s led to a sham trial with false testimony until someone points out that He has said this:

“I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.”

It’s an interesting thing to say, again with our hindsight. In many ways He did just that, but not the specific structures. I feel like people were waiting for something more literal, just like the people seemed to have expected with His arrival in the first place. They call Him blasphemous and begin to abuse Him. Somehow I always missed this part, that they were slapping Him and mocking Him even right then. It makes more sense out of Peter being totally freaked out while he was outside waiting to see what would happen. That good feeling from dinner is long gone and Jesus is arrested and getting abused in there and now people start asking him if he was one of the followers of Jesus. I can’t imagine thinking anything but how to get out of that situation without getting thrown into the abuse with Him. It’s not that Peter was a total coward either, just very freaked out in that moment. I can see that. He is, after all, standing right outside the court or wherever. It’s the mention of the rooster again, that really gets me. He’s so wrapped up in his fear until the rooster crows and he immediately remembers what Jesus said to him and realized what he just did. It would stand to reason that had a dual affect of realizing that Jesus has always known him better than he’s known himself and that everything else Jesus said was going to happen soon is really going to happen soon. But I think there are some things to come up that suggest Peter did not have that realization just yet. We’ll see.


For downloadable study guides, click here.

Chapter links go to the ESV translations at Biblehub.com but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App.

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