A fascinating chapter, because of the humanity that pervades it. The chief priests are the bad guys, but while I don’t defend their actions, I can see where they’re coming from: Jesus was really laying into them a few chapters ago. And Jesus knows what’s coming, so he doesn’t turn away the “very precious ointment” in Matthew 26:6-12; and the organization of the chapter then suggests that Judas gets fed up with Jesus because of that, and goes and talks to the high priests.
That passover must have been one of the most depressing meals ever (and I’m sure the creepy cannibalism bits didn’t help). And then, in their last night together, Jesus is lonely and unsure, asking the disciples to stay with him, but they fall asleep while he repeatedly asks “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (from Matthew 26:39/42/44).
Then there’s Peter: Jesus says Peter will deny him, Peter says never, but Peter does, leading to the end of the chapter Matthew 26:74-75: “Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.” And I can’t read Peter as being a bad person here: he’s one of many scared, fallible people in this chapter, and he remains the foundation of Jesus’s church.
And even in the middle of being seized by the priests’s men, Jesus gives us one last lesson in compassion and non-violence: when one of Jesus’s followers attacks one of the priest’s followers with a sword, Jesus says “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (from Matthew 26:52). Or at least that’s how I choose to interpret it: the context presents it more as a fulfilling of prophecy, and Jesus having faith that, ultimately, he has the upper hand. Still, that’s the lesson that I’d prefer to take from it.
This post has not been revised since publication.