Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
Matthew’s Gospel does two interesting things that we might not notice immediately but which I would like to bring out a little today.
It is relatively easy to see that from the beginning Matthew points us to Jesus’ work fulfilling prophecy. This is particularly intense near the end of the Gospel account, though Matthew mentions it less. In this week’s reading, among the many actions leading up to the crucifixion, even the Gentiles are presented with dreams and visions, make prophetic statements which accord with the Old Testament, and engage in prophetic activities. The crowd even asks that Jesus, the Son of God, should die in place of Barabbas, whose name means “son of father.” They ask that his blood should be upon them. The actions of veses 32-46 specificlly fulfill prophecies, many of which are found in Psalm 22, which Jesus refers to from the cross. The culmination of the Gospel account is that Jesus has fulfilled prophecy.
Another feature of Matthew, which doesn’t show up quite as obviously, is that Matthew almost always leaves people needing to decide for themselves how they are going to understand Jesus. In the end, Pilate seems to have concluded that he is the son of God, a king, and someone he does not wish to offend. Others have decided to revile him regardless, but they seem to have an accurate account of his claims. He claims to be the Son of God, but they are not going to believe. There are bystanders who seem eager to hear whatever he says. Maybe he is calling Elijah who will usher in the kingdom of God! The centurion understands that Jesus’ death was not normal. He concludes that Jesus is the Son of God. The rich man gives his tomb over, indicating that he doesn’t think Jesus is any common (or uncommon) criminal. The Pharisees think something is going to happen, so they ask for guards. Pilate’s orders suggest that he thinks something may just happen and that the guards won’t be of much use.
When we look at the death and burial of Christ, his rest in the tomb, how do we consider him? What conclusions do we make about life, death, and the eternal hope Jesus has promised? Matthew leaves that conclusion to us. Yet is is clear how he wants us to understand it. Jesus, God the Son, lived a life of righteousness in our place, died as an innocent man, tore the veil of separation between God and man apart from top to bottom, and rose victorious over death. He kept all the promises he made. Jesus is presented as the very real and living God, coming for us. I pray that we will all come to the same conclusion, that we will find ourselves in agreement with this good news, for the Gospel is indeed a book of good news.
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