Morris, Leon. The Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1992.
“Matthew 26” pp. 642-690.
Matthew chapters 26 and 27 are very lengthy chapters. Chapter 26 is Matthew’s account of the events leading to the cross. This is presented using vivid, direct speech. Morris considers this may emphasize Jesus as the one in charge of the events (Morris 1992, 642). In chapter 26 verses 1-5 Morris notes that Jesus is finished teaching. He will now be moving to the end (Morris 1992, 643). The vivid picture of the Passover as the time that a sacrifice would set God’s people free is clear (Morris 1992, 644). The plan of the high priest was a covert operation to kill Jesus (Morris 1992, 645).
Verses six through 16 focus on interactions with Jesus’ followers. In the home of Simon the leper in Bethany Jesus is anointed by a woman. Morris contrasts this account of Matthew, Mark, and John with a very different one early in Luke’s Gospel (Morris 1992, 646). Morris gives several possible explanations for the statement that the event is at the house of a leper. He may have been cured, left the home, or have died and his name remained associated with the house (Morris 1992, 647). The extravagant anointing of Jesus did not make sense to the disciples but was embraced by Jesus (Morris 1992, 648). By referring to a preaching of “this gospel” Jesus affirms that the message of his death will be very widely known (Morris 1992, 650). Judas, one of the Twelve, makes an agreement to betray Jesus to death, assisting in the high priest’s covert plan. Morris recognizes that all four Gospels are clear in the identity of Judas as the betrayer (Morris 1992, 651).
In verses 17-30 Matthew continues Jesus’ work with his disciples at the Last Supper. The rite of the Last Supper is repeated in Communion. Morris sees this as the Passover meal recorded by the Synoptics, though John places it before the Passover (Morris 1992, 653). Morris’ solution to the variance of the accounts is based on a difference in the calendars used by the Essenes and in Jerusalem (Morris 1992, 654). Morris asserts that by the New Testament period the habit at Passover had changed from standing to reclining (Morris 1992, 655). At the meal Jesus announced his coming arrest. While the disciples questioned their own possible guilt Jesus made it clear that he would be arrested regardless (Morris 1992, 656). Morris portrays the roots of Communion as very simple, though he admits not to know of early liturgies or practices recorded prior to Matthew (Morris 1992, 658). He goes on to comment on the specifics, betraying a decidedly Zwinglian view of communion (Morris 1992, 659). Significantly, Morris makes no arguments, only assertions.
In verses 31-46 Jesus’ disciples affirm their loyalty but do not show themselves dependable. While Jesus knows what will happen, the others are heedless (Morris 1992, 663). Jesus is quite plain that the betrayal will be during that night, and that the disciples will flee (Morris 1992, 665). The disciples Jesus chose to be with him as he prayed also failed to do so (Morris 1992, 667). Morris confirms Jesus’ desire to avoid death but to do the Father’s will regardless (Morris 1992, 668). After going to pray three times Jesus awakens his disciples because his betrayal is happening (Morris 1992, 671).
Matthew moves on to Jesus’ arrest in 26:47-56. Morris points out that in all the details of his arrest Jesus shows himself as the person in charge of the situation. For instance, he rebukes his defenders as well as those who came to arrest him (Morris 1992, 672). The greeting of Judas, calling Jesus “friend” as he betrayed him, is a particular piece of irony (Morris 1992, 674). Jesus makes no attempt to escape, though Peter attempts to defend him (Morris 1992, 675). Jesus stops the conflict, telling Peter that he has no need for human defense (Morris 1992, 676).
In 26:57 Matthew moves Jesus to his trial before the high priest. Morris describes the careful balance set up by the Romans in occupied territory. They would allow the local civil government some sovereignty but would reserve some powers only for Rome (Morris 1992, 678). Jesus was first tried by a Jewish court, the Sanhedrin (Morris 1992, 679). Morris point out several points of Jewish court practice which were violated. The overall goal of the trial was to condemn Jesus to death (Morris 1992, 681). The witnesses against Jesus were eventually able to point to his statements about destroying the temple and raising it up (Morris 1992, 682). The high priest then pushed Jesus to say whether he was the Messiah (Morris 1992, 683). Jesus accepted the title, which was sufficient to condemn him (Morris 1992, 684).
In verses 69-75, after Jesus has been condemned, Matthew returns to Peter, who is outside in a courtyard (Morris 1992, 687). Jesus’ prophecy that Peter would deny him is shown to be true. The account may well be preserved as a reminder that even the leader of Christians is fallible and fearful (Morris 1992, 688). The account must have been preserved by Peter (Morris 1992, 688). His denials were to association with Jesus. Morris notes he is not accused of rebellion or any other crime.