Matthew’s Passion: The cross is freedom

Matthew’s Passion: Faithfulness and betrayal

40 Blogs of Lent: 14

Matthew 26:17-25

Having set out the background for the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the plot by the High Priest and Jesus being anointed, the story begins with a party. This is told through encounters with Jesus, and the relationships therein:

The cross is about freedom

The Passover meal was a celebration of the Israelites being freed from Egypt. It was one of the big family events in the Jewish religious year. The message of Passover is a message of freedom. There are various theories going around about the atonement that speak only in terms of the feast of atonement, which was an autumnal festival. Jesus Passion was in the spring, at Passover. Although they are good at explaining some parts of the atonement, these theories fall short by only making Jesus sacrifice about sin. It is about sin, but it goes further, the cross is also about freedom.

Peter and John

Peter and John are sent out to prepare the room, which would involve finding the food, including bread, bitter herbs and a lamb without a blemish that had been sacrificed in the Temple. The thing was done in secret, other Gospels tell of a man carrying a water jar who had to be followed. The whole thing was organised in secret, Jesus wanted this meal with his disciples to be uninterrupted. Peter and John were faithful to the task they were given, the room was prepared.


Judas has been given the most important place to the left of Jesus, with John on the right so that he was able to lean in close. Jesus, in what is supposed to be a celebration of freedom, drops a bombshell, one of the disciples is going to betray him. None of the disciples suspected Judas, Jesus knew but did not act any different towards him.

Jesus offers Judas the bread that has been dipped in the herbs, which is an act of friendship. Judas accepted knowing that he was betraying his lord. Jesus offering the bread is a gracious act of hospitality: Judas accepting is an act of treachery.


For those who like to follow the reading:

17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where would you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.

20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”

Matthew 26 ESVUK

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

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