Daily Bible Reading for March 8, 2014: Matthew 26-28
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Context: The final reading for Matthew is rather packed. If we were watching a movie, we would be approaching the final act, where all the action takes place. We begin with the religious leaders planning an attack on Jesus and swiftly shift scenes to the disciples and Jesus. A discussion was occurring between Jesus and his disciples while Jesus is getting his feet perfumed. The disciples considered such an act a waste, as the perfume was quite expensive, worth nearly a year in wages. Such a bottle could go a long way to helping the poor. What the disciples failed to realized is that Jesus is only on earth for a limited time, while the poor will remain and can be helped. Honoring the Lord is never a waste. We are not given much information on Judas, only that he is willing to betray the Son of God, for unknown reasons. The final supper combines an old tradition (Passover) with a new tradition (communion). Jesus also predicts His betrayal and Peter's denial. Following the supper, the disciples go to pray. Through Jesus' prayer, we learn that we are to pray honestly. Honestly reveal what we want. Jesus did not want to be separated from His Father, yet He grew in resolve to follow His Father's will. Three times Jesus caught the disciples sleeping instead of praying. He knew what was to come; they did not. They did not realize that without prayer, their strength would fail them, which it did following Jesus' arrest. They fled in fear. Think about it. They had seen Jesus raise the dead, heal the permanently sick, best demons, and control weather, and now Jesus was simply giving up?! After Jesus was arrested, they took Him to defend Himself before religious leaders. When He refused to testify, they forced Him to testify (I charge you under oath by the living God, 26:63). Jesus turned their words on themselves, admitting it is as they say. Peter, relying on himself instead of on the Lord, fulfilled Jesus' prophecy and denied knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. Judas regretted his betrayal and attempted to return the money, which was rejected, before he killed himself. Jesus was taken before Pilate. Pilate was weak. He refused to do his job, instead catering to the people, in the hopes of keeping order. Since Pilate deferred his responsibility to the people, was Jesus sentenced to be crucified. After being on the cross for six hours, the moment Jesus feared most came to pass: He was separated from His Father. Upon His death, Joseph of Arimathea asked for His body to bury Him. Mary of Magdalene and another Mary witnessed His burial and knew where the tomb was located. They knew which tomb to which to return. Instead of a body, they discovered an angel, which told them that Jesus had risen. The guards, prompted by the chief priests spread the story that Jesus' body was stolen. Jesus met with the disciples in Galilee, giving them the great commission.
World History: A legion of soldiers (mentioned by Jesus during His arrest) is six thousand men. Of course, Jesus was talking of angels, one of which could wipe out an army of men. After Judas returned the money, they refused to allow it back into the temple treasury since it was blood money. The priests cared more about following the rules in relation to money than about putting an innocent man to death. A crucifixion was reserved for the worst of the worst. It was an extremely painful and often long way to die. While hanging on the cross, those passing by would hurl insults at the condemned. Following Jesus' death, the curtain in the temple split from top to bottom, an important notation. The split indicates that it was initiated by God. Furthermore, the curtain separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple. The Holy of Holies was believed to have been where the presence of God resided within the Temple, with only the high priest being able to enter once a year. The destruction of the curtain symbolized that God could now be approached by anyone. Joseph of Arimathea was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin, the group who had Jesus killed. Likely he was a secret follower of Christ, until His death. The penalty for the 16 guards at the tomb of Jesus failing to stop anybody from stealing His body would be their deaths.