As you read each passage, pray for God’s help. Ask yourself:
- What does God reveal about Himself?
- How is your own heart revealed?
- How does this passage underline the wonder of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, and your own need of Christ as Saviour and Lord?
- Turn these truths into prayer and praise.
15 May Mt 26:47-56
Whenever we share in the Lord’s Supper, we date it back to “the night on which He was betrayed.” Judas has an armed crowd with him, but Jesus is the One who controls events. He gives Himself over to death (v.50) and forbids any attempt to prevent His arrest (v.52). He could be delivered with ease (v.53), but He is committed instead to fulfilling the Scriptures (vv.54,56). Not blind fate, but a Father’s love, directs His course, in order to save us. Thus Jesus died willingly for those who deserted Him.
16 May Mt 26:57-68
The Sanhedrin scramble for evidence – true or false – to enable them to put Jesus to death. Finally the High Priest gets to the heart of the matter: is Jesus the Messiah? “It is as you say,” replies Jesus (v.64), emphasizing the point by identifying Himself with Daniel’s Son of Man to whom is given divine honour (v.64, compare Dan 7:13-14). “Blasphemy worth of death” is the verdict of the earthly court (vv.65-66). The verdict of a Higher Court will be given on Easter morning (Mt 28:5-7, 18).
17 May Mt 26:69-75
Jesus had warned Peter of this fall and urged him to pray, but Peter didn’t listen (vv.34-5; 40-41, 43). The result was failure and bitter tears (vv.74-75). Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves, and when He warns us of our weakness we need to believe Him. He has provided for us to stay close to Him through prayer and the Scriptures; do we neglect these means? If so, we are heading for a fall. Yet how wonderful that Peter was later restored! He forsook Jesus, but Jesus did not forsake him.
18 May Mt 27:1-10
Judas came to regret what he had done, but that is not the same as repentance. We may regret our sins merely for the consequences they bring. Repentance, however, involves not only sorrow, but turning in faith to Christ for salvation. Judas did not seek forgiveness, but instead went to his destruction (Mt 26:24; Jn 17:12). The stories of Peter and Judas are placed side by side so that if we fall into sin, we might not stop at regret, but seek the forgiveness promised to all who desire a new start (1 Jn 1:9).
19 May Mt 27:11-26
Having condemned Jesus, the Sanhedrin took Him to Pilate hoping that He would be executed (vv.1-2). Pilate’s wife has dreamt of Jesus’ innocence (v.19), and Pilate confirms this verdict (vv.23-24). Yet still he orders Jesus’ execution, fulfilling Isaiah’s words: “By oppression and judgement He was taken away …” (Isa 53:8). As Jesus takes the place of Barabbas, we’re given a picture of the meaning of His death: He died as a righteous man as a substitute for the unrighteous (1Pe 3:18).
20 May Mt 27:27-31
Pilate’s soldiers mocked the idea that Jesus was a king. A little later on, the title “King of the Jews” was attached to Jesus’ cross in ridicule (v.37), and soon the religious elite joined in the mockery (vv.41-42). His enemies believed that Jesus could not possibly be a king if He yielded passively to such humiliation. Yet it was precisely through His willing sacrifice of Himself that Jesus established His kingdom. By His cross He overcame sin and death and won for His people eternal glory (Rev 5:9-10).
21 May Mt 27:32-44
It seems the whole world despises Jesus: not only the religious leaders (v.41) but also the casual passers-by (v.39) and even those crucified with Him (v.44). No doubt these mockers thought themselves clever, but the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom (1Cor 1:25). Jesus was destroying the temple of His body, and in three days it would be “rebuilt” (v.40, compare Jn 2:19-22). And He did indeed save others precisely because He refused to save Himself (v.42). Glory be to God!