Matthew’s Passion: Living by the sword
40 blog gas of Lent: 20
Matthew’s Gospel tells the story of Jesus’ trial, crucifixion and ascension not as a complete narrative but as a series of encounters between people. What matters to Matthew are the relationships between people, especially between Jesus and the other people.
It looks here as if Jesus is about to be taken to be judged, but instead here in the garden is where God’s justice is announced.
In the garden
Gardens are where a lot of things happen in the Bible. In the book of Genesis, God placed man in a garden, the fall happened in the garden and God judged Adam in the garden. A few years after this a Jewish rabbi, Saul of Tarsus, will become a follower of Jesus, change his name to Paul and spell out the theology that Jesus is the second Adam. Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience who know the creation story, about the fall of humankind and of the judgement of God. The parallels are intended.
Adam was placed in the garden of Eden, Jesus enters the garden of Gethsemane. Adam was tempted and fell, Jesus is tempted to find another way and does not fall. God judges Adam, it looks like Jesus is about to be judged, but this is where the stories diverge.
Judas acts like a friend, but is given away by calling Jesus “Rabbi” or teacher. Many people approached Jesus as a rabbi, but the disciples called Jesus Lord or master. All except Judas. Judas in alone among the Disciples for never calling Jesus Lord. Judas followed Jesus as a teacher, but never as a servant, Jesus was never Judas’s master. Jesus returns the greeting with “Friend.” Judas may be only an intellectual follower of a teacher, but Jesus, even at this late stage offers him something closer.
What is your relationship with Jesus? Do you follow him as a great moral teacher, or as a philosopher? Or have you put yourself under Jesus as your master, is your whole life subject to Jesus or are you only an intellectual followers? Intellectually following Jesus is good, I am not knocking it, but Jesus calls us to something deeper, more intimate. Jesus is master and friend if you will accept him as that.
Other Gospel accounts show that two of the Disciples were armed, and that it was Peter who cut off the ear of the High Priest. Matthew would have known that, but does not reveal the name because what Jesus has to say is universal. Jesus is about to reveal the justice of God.
All who take the sword will die by the sword.
How do you live your life? If we wish to reject God’s way God judges us by saying to us, “have it your way.” The lifestyle we choose is the judgement we receive. If we live as if God does not matter we will be judged as if we do not matter. If we live our life as if other people do not matter, we will be judged as if we do not matter, Jesus put love for others second only to love of God and told us that how we treat others is how we treat him.
How do you treat others. Love other people, even enemies, is the way of Jesus. If you forgive others God will forgive you is the way of Jesus. Ask yourself this, who do I oppress by the way I live, who is oppressed by the society I live in?
But if we live as the people of God’s kingdom, as the society of God, as people of the new creation that God is building through Jesus Christ, then God will judge in our favour. One of the Hebrew names for God is YHWH Shaphat, God is our judge, God judges on our side if we are his people.
God will judge. A comforting thought to his people, but a terrifying thought to those who are not God’s people. Are you in God’s kingdom. If the answer is no then God welcomes all people, male and female, old and young, gay and straight, rich and poor, all are called, all will be welcomed. If the answer is yes, if you have answered God’s call then live in the kingdom, live your life under the values of the kingdom you live in.
Back to Matthew’s Passion. It may look like Jesus is not in control but Jesus’ last words before he if taken from the garden, “All this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled,” show that he is still in control of everything and fulfilling the reason why he came.
Some of you may like to follow the reading I am commenting on, here it is:
47 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” 55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. 56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.