Sealed Tombs

Matthew 27:50-66; 28:11-15

A Deep Mystery without Suspense

Matthew takes us into the mystery of Jesus’ cry – the human cry as one abandoned. God takes it into God’s self as Jesus bears human sin and alienation. He knows the absence of God.

We watch in astonishment as no one understands. The disciples don’t anticipate his death and certainly not resurrection, even when Jesus was explicit. The bystanders don’t understand. But Mt doesn’t leave us in suspense. He describes amazing signs pointing to resurrection.

He’s describing something that cannot happen in the ordinary course of events. He is not trying to explain it or document it as an ordinary event, but to give us means to grasp the meaning of this in-breaking of God’s life and future, God’s kingdom, into human life, into our life.

The Dark Light of the Cross

Matthew 27:41-54

Into the Darkness
Everything in Mt come together to this point. The scripture anticipation, the teaching, ministry, healing, temple confrontation. It come to this moment, this event. Mt puts it before us with brevity and mystery, challenging us to look deeply. Here is the heart of God. 
Jesus has moved from celebrated prophet, king to one abandoned by all, disciples, leaders, crowds. We watch it happen: betrayal, denial, mocking. But we know who Jesus is. We’ve seen his birth, baptism, transfiguration, authority, power. He’s the very embodiment of God.

“He Saved Others, He Cannot Save Himself”

Matthew 27:32-44

The Skull of Death – The Missing Horror Matthew leads us to the crucifixion of Jesus itself.
We watch as they take him to Golgotha – “Skull” – symbol of death’s finality and hopelessness. We observe Simon of Cyrene, evidently later a disciple. We see the wine and gall. The clothes divided, the casting lots. But where is the crucifixion itself? One word in a subordinate phrase. No nails or thudding hammers, no bloody, weak body, agonizing pain, deep groans, labored breathing. What would I have written? Think of The Passion of the Christ (2004). Mt counts on his readers to know the horror, degradation, and prolonged torture of the cross. See N. T. Wright (*below). Mt leaves out so much and includes such strange little things: Simon, the wine and gall, the clothes, the lots, the watching, the head wagging, the multiple mocking insults. Mt expects a lot of us. So much that he says depends for its power on us knowing the scriptures. He highlights little details in the often-told story that point us to scriptures (esp. Ps 22 & 69). Mt is not writing for history, or even to move us emotionally. He juxtaposes scripture and mockery to force a quandary. What do you see? What’s happening? What would you say?

"What Shall I Do with Jesus?"

Matthew 27:11-31

A Silent Jesus – King, Messiah, Fool?
Mt. lead us through the swirl of events of Passover. The chief priests “handed Jesus over” to Pilate (Roman Prefect for 4 yrs, hated by the Jews, but worked with Caiaphas). This Passover has already seen one insurrection led by a man named Barabbas, charged with killing (a Roman), sure to be crucified with others (Mk 15:7). Now here’s another threat. Really? Caiaphas asked Jesus if he was “Messiah (Anointed king), Son of God,” in Scripture language. Pilate asks the same question in Roman words: “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus gives the same reply, but then silence. It’s the core question. What does God’s King look like; do?

“I Don’t Know the Man!”

Matthew 26:63b – 27:10

The Mystery of Jesus
Mt carries us from the night hearing at the High Priest’s house to the capital trial before Pilate. He shows us people who in various ways can’t grasp Jesus, his identity, action, or aim. The HP & council, sure, but also his disciples, Judas and Peter. Jesus is handed over & over, but none know him. Mt wants us to learn. Each interaction challenges knowledge & reflection. Peter’s denials are bracketed by hostile chief priests, despairing Judas, & prophetic judgment. For all, Jesus posed a basic challenge: to imagine and trust a God whose kingdom, power, action are profoundly different from all the ways we humans know & expect power to work. The High Priest and the Remorse of Judas

Is He the One?

Matthew 26:45-66

He’s the One. Seize Him!

In this time of Passover, Jesus has been with his disciples and with God. Things are coming that the disciples can’t yet conceive. Mt wants to help us see reality through the fog of false understanding. Jesus gave his disciples a meal to help them look back on the astonishing events. Among the olive trees he grieved and prayed before the need to drink “the cup”– God’s wrath at sin’s enslavement when humans push God out and live in God’s absence. Now there is misunderstanding and irony at every turn. Who is Jesus? What is happening? On one level it’s just an arrest leading to a Roman cross. We know there’s more. But what?

Coming to the Garden with Jesus

Matthew 26:30-46

The Disciples’ Walk in the Dark
It had been a strange Passover. Jesus told them that one of them would hand him over. He described the bread and wine as his body and blood. After they sang a Passover psalms they left Jerusalem to walk in full-moon night across the Kidron valley. Judas disappeared.
The night was more inside them. Jesus matter-of-factly told them they would all stumble (skandalizein) because of him and cited Zechariah’s words about God striking the shepherd. But he also assured them that he would get up from the blow and lead them to Galilee!

"This is My Body...My Blood"

Matthew 26:20-30

A Passover of Deliverance and Betrayal
It’s the time of the great festival of Israel’s birth as a people, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation (Exo 19:6), of God defeating the oppressive gods of Egypt, of deliverance. But a story with a dark side of betrayal and sin. Israel made a golden calf at Sinai; brought on a new exile of 40 yrs in the wilderness. The betrayal of God’s deliverance continued till sins piled up in the great exiles of Assyria and Babylon. Now the Romans! People longed for a new Exodus.

“What will You Give Me for Jesus?”

Matthew 26:6-22

Seeing Jesus’ Crucifixion and My Place There
Matthew’s final sections focus on the supreme moments of the Gospel: Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Mt doesn’t approach them as doctrines but a events that were complex, astonishing, life-transforming. The whole NT is a quest to grasp their impact and meaning.
These stories were told thousands of times in many forms by eye-witnesses and new believers. Mt (using Mk) leads us through, selecting details to focus on, to help us see, be grasped by what happened. We’re his concern, with a priviledged view, watching many characters.
Jesus is clearly at the center, challenging, mysterious, inviting. We’re behind the scenes too with chief priests and others. We see one-time individuals like the woman whose actions or words reveal something significant. Especially we watch the disciples as they learn, falter, grow. But Mt often challenges our feeling superior to the disciples as the events unfold.