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Gospel of Sunday 02 April: Matthew 26, 14-27, 66

Palm Sunday, Matthew 26, 14-27, 66

Matthew 26: Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

14 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests

15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?”

So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver.

16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

The Last Supper

17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

18 He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’”

19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.

21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.

24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered, “You have said so”

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying,

 “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:

“‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”

34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.

Gethsemane

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.

38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.

41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.

44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.

46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Jesus Arrested

47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people.

48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.”

49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

50 Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.

51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.

53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

55 In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?

Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me.

56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.”

Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

Jesus Before the Sanhedrin

57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled.

58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.

59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death.

60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.

Finally two came forward

61 and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”

62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?”

63 But Jesus remained silent.

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?”

“He is worthy of death,” they answered.

67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him

68 and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”

Peter Disowns Jesus

69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.

70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”

73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.”

74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”

Immediately a rooster crowed.

75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Judas Hangs Himself

27 Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed.

2 So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

6 The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.”

7 So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners.

8 That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day.

9 Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10 and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

Jesus Before Pilate

11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer.

13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?”

14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd.

16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas.

17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.

19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”

20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.

“Barabbas,” they answered.

22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

The Soldiers Mock Jesus

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him.

28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him,

29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said.

30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.

31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

The Crucifixion of Jesus

32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.

33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”).

34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it.

35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there.

37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews.

38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads

40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”

41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him.

42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.

43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

The Death of Jesus

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.

46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink.

49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split

52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.

53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs.

56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

The Burial of Jesus

57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus.

58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him.

59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,

60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.

61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

The Guard at the Tomb

62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate.

63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’

64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day.

Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead.

This last deception will be worse than the first.”

65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.”

66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).

Today I share with you a short meditation on the Gospel, with particular reference to the theme of mercy.

THE PASSION AND DEATH OF JESUS

ACCORDING TO MATTHEW (26-27)

Bible scholars generally agree that this part of the Gospel tradition was the first to acquire a fixed structure.

No part of the life of Jesus is written with equal abundance of detail and with equal concordance of sources.

The space allocated to the passion narrative in Mark in relation to the rest of his Gospel is an indication of the important role this narrative played in the Apostolic Church; the disproportion is also notable in Matthew, although less so.

The early preaching of Jesus was centred on the account of his death and resurrection.

This was the great saving act of God and the high point of the salvific action in salvation history.

Paul said that he preached Christ and he was crucified (1 Cor 2:2).

While the ‘Lives of Heroes’ in vogue in antiquity recounted the successes and prodigies of great figures, and fleetingly hinted at their end, the early Christians devoted most of the Gospels to recounting the tragic passing of their Master and Lord, his passion, death and resurrection.

This was a theme that deeply disturbed the early community: it was inconceivable that a God could suffer and die. It is interesting to note that when Jesus had announced that ‘the Son of Man must suffer greatly, and be reproved…, and then be killed, and after three days rise again…, Peter took him aside, and rebuked him’ (Mk 8:31-32)!

Israel’s expectation was for a Messiah who would bring freedom, salvation, peace, and happiness through a manifestation of glory and power.

The high priests and scribes, at the foot of the cross, will say to Jesus: “He saved others, he cannot save himself! Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe” (Mk 15:31-32).

And the first heresies disputed precisely that the Son of God could have suffered and died. Moreover, the first believers were shocked to see not only the death of God, but that God died in a tragic manner, “counted among evildoers” (Lk 22:37, cf. Is 53:12; Jn 18:30).

The passion narrative in Matthew contains some extensions of its own. Some of these are legendary, others are the result of an interpretation of “fulfilment” texts of the Old Testament Scriptures similar to that frequently noted in the infancy narratives, and less frequently in other parts of the Gospel.

The passion narrative is not an account of Jesus’ words, although Jesus speaks more frequently in Matthew than in Mark, but of facts containing revelations.

It may seem strange to us, but in fact the Gospels do not contain any theological exposition of the passion, either through Jesus’ words or using the words of others.

This was left to the apostolic teaching, which is clear from Paul’s letters.

PECULIARITIES OF THE ACCOUNT OF MATTHEW

Matthew depends on Mark, but has seven interpolations of his own:

a) the word to the disciple who was struck with the sword: 26.52-54

b) the death of Judas: 27:3-10

c) the dream of Pilate’s wife: 27:19

d) Pilate washing his hands: 27:24-25

e) the opening of the tombs: 27:51-53

f) the guards at the tomb: 27,62-66

g) the hired guards: 28,11-15

Theological characteristics of the Passion according to Matthew

a) The Passion is the fulfilment of all Scripture

b) Jesus dominates the scene: in more than twenty instances Matthew names Jesus explicitly, while in Mark it is only implicit; Jesus knows everything in advance (“gnòus”: 26,10); he has titles of kingship: Lord (22,26), Messiah (26,68; 27,17.22), Son of God (27,40.43)

c) The responsibility of the Jews in the death of Jesus, emphasised by three interpolations of his own: Pilate washing his hands (27:24-25), the guards at the tomb (27:62-66), the bribed guards (28:11-15).

d) Passion and resurrection are apocalyptic events: the opening of the tombs (27.51-53).

The section is divided into six parts, each consisting of three units:

  • Preparations for death (26:1-16)
  • The Paschal Supper (26:17-29)
  • At Gethsemane (26:30-56)
  • The Jewish trial (26:57-27:10)
  • The Roman trial (27:11-31)
  • Calvary (27:32-61)

MATTHEW 26, JESUS’ DEATH ON THE CROSS, SUPREME GIFT OF LOVE

Contemplating, as we are invited to do by today’s Liturgy, the Passion and Death of the Lord, we must purify our current concept of “sacrifice” from so many pagan and certainly not evangelical dross that often accompanies it.

First of all, the Gospel emphasises that the bloody death of the Son is not the Father’s will, instead emphasising the responsibility of the forces of evil that gang up against Christ.

It is the religious and political powers of Jesus’ time that unite against him because they oppose his message of goodness, love and justice.

“Jesus met a death inflicted on him by unjust men because, in an unjust world, the just can only be condemned, rejected, killed” (E. Bianchi).

“In the gesture by which Jesus is betrayed and “delivered into the hands of sinners” (Mt 26:45) is summed up all the rejection of Israel, and more globally of humanity, towards the one whom the Father has sent” (A. Bozzolo).

The Gospels do not recount the death of Jesus as a ritual death, but as a blatant injustice; Matthew tells us that Pilate “knew full well that they had handed him over to him out of envy” (Mt 26:18), and that his wife had had a dream that led her to declare him “righteous” (Mt 26:19).

The cross is thus not the moment of “satisfaction” of a vengeful God, but the sublime revelation of what his “justice” is (Rom 1:17; 3:21-26), that is, his willingness to enter into communion with us totally, sharing human life to its end, even if tragic! Jesus transforms the cross from what it was, that is, a symbol of the violence of men, into a sign of love: it is in fact the historically supreme moment of his Incarnation, of a life that was entirely a gift, “kenosis”, “stripping” for men (Phil 2:7: Second Reading).

Karl Rahner states: “The Gospels desacralise the religious category of sacrifice, replacing the concept of atoning blood and vicarious satisfaction with that of a love that forgives and saves.

Jesus’ death on the Cross is truly his supreme gift of Love.

Good Mercy to all!

Whoever would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some in-depth analysis, please ask me at migliettacarlo@gmail.com.

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