“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Have you heard that phrase before? Did you know that it comes from Matthew 26:41? You do now. It seems that all of a sudden things have become so much more intense than they have up to now in our readings. You have Jesus today on Maundy Thursday with his disciples getting ready for the Passover. But before this takes place don’t lose sight of the first story that is recounted which I believe is one of the most important stories in all of Scripture.
Starting at vs.6 we have Jesus who is prepared for burial by a woman who breaks a jar of costly ointment in order to anoint him and, as Jesus interprets it, prepare him for burial. She was probably just showing how much she loved Jesus, but he took it to mean so much more. The disciples are furious, especially the keeper of the purse, Judas. What a waste of money. Jesus’ response is one that we have to remember and that should be ringing in our ears our entire life as disciples. “You always have the poor with you…”
When you first hear this it might sound like Jesus is not taking too seriously the poor and kind of flinging them aside as if no matter what we do we will always have the poor with us. In fact, he is saying exactly the opposite. He is chastising his disciples for using the poor as an excuse to fill up the coffers of the disciples. They are furious that this money was wasted because they felt like they could have used that money for something else. They use the poor as the public reason for why they were furious, but deep down, they probably just wanted to have a little padding. Jesus’ response is that you do always have the poor with you so you should always have them as a priority and focus upon them as you go through life. Don’t use this one opportunity to bring up the fact of the poor when throughout the rest of your life they really haven’t been a concern to you. Ouch, those are pretty harsh words.
There are times when we will use straw horses to try to prove a point when in reality we don’t care about those horses. Jesus says in regards to the poor, we should always care about the poor, not just when it is to our benefit to care about the poor. It is a great lesson for any time that we feel somewhat self-righteous in judging others for their wasteful lives.
But there is so much more in this chapter, where do we begin? Judas betrays Jesus as a result of this harsh lesson. Judas finally realizes that he is not going to get wealthy by following Jesus. This was not Jesus’ priority for either him or his disciples, but it was a priority for Judas.
We find Jesus at the last supper with his disciples and the whole mystery that surrounds who is the person who is going to betray Jesus. Again, this Scripture has been misinterpreted. His teaching in vs.21 reveals to us what he is trying to tell his disciples. “You all will betray me.” There is not one single person who is the betrayer. We falsely accuse Judas as being the traitor as if he were the only one. Do we forget vs. 56 which tells us: “Then all the disciples deserted him (Jesus) and fled.” It is exactly as he predicted and exactly as Scripture said it would come about. I am getting some great feedback from people on this study. I am so pleased you are following it and enjoying it. One point that was brought up in a conversation is the phrase that Jesus uses often – “for it is written…” and then it is followed by a quote or a statement. Whenever Jesus says “for it is written” he is referring to a Scripture in the OT that was written which directly speaks to what is about to take place. If you look at vs. 31 you will see Jesus quoting Zechariah 13:7, and the disciples would have been familiar with that Scripture.
We find in vs. 26-29 the words that we call the Words of Institution. They are the words that are spoken at the beginning of communion every month. Now I choose to use the Words of Institution that are found in I Corinthins 11:23ff, but some pastors do use these words. We will find these words, or a rendition of them, in Mark and Luke. Only John doesn’t contain them, but we will see in John where we can find them even in that Gospel.
The betrayal scene is legendary. The disciples fall asleep and Jesus three times gives them a chance to redeem themselves. When we went to Israel and to the place that could have been the Garden of Gethsemane right outside of Jerusalem, it was overwhelmingly powerful for me to imagine what it would have been like at night in that garden with Jesus alone. The garden is full of olive trees and terraces and you can imagine Jesus being able to see his disciples and their heads nodding in sleep. How heartbreaking to imagine that your friends, by this time your family, is not able to stay up just a few hours at your request. It was one of the most sobering times in the trip for me as I thought about my life and the times that I chose to pursue my desires instead of staying up for the Savior. A great video that speaks to this concept of overlooking eternity in favor of the present is found here:
We end the chapter with Peter’s denial, which mirrors his not being able to stay awake three times in the garden. All of it powerful, all of it sobering, all of it pointing back to us and the times that we are not able to stay awake in vigilance for the coming of God, all of it reminding us that we have said: “Jesus who?” in various times in our life. The resurrection is coming soon, I can’t wait!