Matthew's Passion Narrative follows his model Mark in basic outline and content. But Matthew's narrative more carefully binds the passion and death of Jesus the Messiah to his role as teacher and Son of Man who comes at the end of the age. In a uniquely Matthean addition, the formulaic conclusion of Jesus' words in his last teaching discourse is immediately joined to one more prediction of the coming betrayal and crucifixion of the Son of Man (26:1-2). With other added details Matthew heightens the crime and death of Jesus' betrayer (26:14-16; 27:3-10), notes a dream revelation to the wife of Pilate that Jesus is a "righteous man" (dikaios; NRSV reads "innocent"), has Pilate "wash his hands" of any responsibility for Jesus' death, accompanies Jesus' death with an earthquake and a resurrection of the saints, and reports a posting of a guard at the tomb by the Jewish leaders to prevent the theft of Jesus' body. Matthew's narrative of Jesus' passion and death is composed of the following sections and themes:
Matthew 26:1-5 opens the narrative with the plot to kill Jesus. Jesus announces that the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified. In ironic fulfillment, the leaders of the people conspire to arrest Jesus and put him to death.
In Matthew 26:6-13, Jesus' anointing with costly perfume by a nameless woman at Bethany is described by him as a preparation for his burial and as a key part of the preaching of the good news.
In Matthew 26:14 16, Matthew alters Mark's narrative by making Judas appear greedy, asking how much the leaders are willing to pay him in order to betray Jesus. They agree to pay him thirty pieces of silver.
After sending his disciples to prepare, Jesus gathers with them to eat the Passover meal, (Matthew 26:17-35). Jesus first foretells that one of them will betray him, and then takes a loaf of bread and a cup of wine and, after blessing them, shares them with the disciples as his body and blood of the covenant of the Father's kingdom. Framing the meal and parallel to the announcement of the betrayal, Jesus predicts that Peter along with all of the disciples will deny and desert him.
After the meal, Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray (Matthew 26:36-46). While the disciples sleep, three times Jesus prays earnestly to the Father that he might be spared the drinking of the "cup" of his death. Obediently he submits to the Father's will and the betrayal is at hand.
The arrest of Jesus takes place as Judas arrives with a crowd and betrays Jesus with the agreed upon signal, a kiss (Matthew 26:47-56). Twice Jesus emphasizes that all of this is happening in fulfillment of the scriptures. The truth of his assertion is confirmed by the note that, as he has predicted, all the disciples desert him and flee.
In Matthew 26:57-68; 27:1-2, Jesus is put on trial before the High Priest. Various charges are brought against Jesus, but he remains silent. To the high priest's question whether he is the Messiah Jesus responds with a somewhat ambiguous, "You have said so," and a scriptural quotation about the Son of Man. Jesus' remarks are seen as blasphemy and worthy of death. Jesus is bound and handed over to Pilate.
Ironically, in the midst of Jesus' trial, Peter, too, is interrogated regarding his relationship to Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75). As Jesus has predicted, three times Peter denies that he knows Jesus. The cock crows and Peter repents.
In a unique motif, Matthew narrates the death of Judas, Matthew 27:3-10. When Judas sees what his betrayal has occasioned, he repents of his sin of having betrayed "innocent blood" and attempts to return the thirty pieces of silver to the leaders. Upon their refusal, in despair he hangs himself, and in fulfillment of scripture the leaders use the money to buy a burial field.
Jesus now goes on trial before Pilate (Matthew 27:11-31). To Pilate's question whether he is "King of the Jews," Jesus responds as to the chief priest, "You say so," but otherwise remains silent amid the accusations. Matthew adds unique features to the trial scene before Pilate. Pilate's wife notes that she has been warned in a dream (see Matthew, chapters 1 and 2) to have nothing to do with this "righteous man" (27:19; see 1:19 and throughout). After agreeing to release a prisoner, Barabbas, instead of Jesus, Pilate washes his hands of this "innocent" man's blood, while the people answer "His blood be on us and upon our children!" (27:24-25). Pilate then hands Jesus over to be crucified. The soldiers dress Jesus up in a robe, a crown of thorns, and a reed and mock him as "King of the Jews" and then lead him away to be crucified.
On the way to Jesus' crucifixion and death (Matthew 27:32-56), a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, is compelled to carry the cross to Golgotha, where Jesus is placed on the cross with two bandits on either side. Those who pass by mock him as "Son of God" and "King of Israel." Darkness comes over the land from noon until three o'clock, when Jesus cries out "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" and then breathes his last. To Mark's note regarding the rending of the temple curtain at Jesus' death, Matthew adds that there is a great earthquake and that many of the dead come out of their tombs (27:51-53). Many women who have followed Jesus from Galilee stand watching from a distance.
After Jesus' death, Joseph of Arimathea, described as a "disciple" of Jesus, goes to Pilate and asks for the body. Joseph receives the body and lays it in his own new tomb and rolls a large stone in front of the door, while Mary Magdalene and the other Mary sit opposite the tomb, watching (Matthew 27:57 61).
The passion narrative concludes with the setting of a guard at the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66). In this unique addition to the narrative, Matthew notes the concern of the leaders that Jesus' disciples will come and steal the body and then claim he has been raised from the dead. Pilate orders them to make the tomb secure by setting a guard.
26When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 2You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.
3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, 4and they conspired to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. 5But they said, Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.
6 Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,* 7a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. 8But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, Why this waste? 9For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor. 10But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. 11For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. 13Truly I tell you, wherever this good news* is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.
14 Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15and said, What will you give me if I betray him to you? They paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
17 On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover? 18He said, Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples. 19So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.
20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve;* 21and while they were eating, he said, Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me. 22And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, Surely not I, Lord? 23He answered, The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born. 25Judas, who betrayed him, said, Surely not I, Rabbi? He replied, You have said so.
26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, Drink from it, all of you; 28for this is my blood of the* covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Fathers kingdom.
30 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
31 Then Jesus said to them, You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written,
I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.
32But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee. 33Peter said to him, Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you. 34Jesus said to him, Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times. 35Peter said to him, Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you. And so said all the disciples.
36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, Sit here while I go over there and pray. 37He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. 38Then he said to them, I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me. 39And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want. 40Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? 41Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial;* the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. 42Again he went away for the second time and prayed, My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done. 43Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. 45Then he came to the disciples and said to them, Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.
47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him. 49At once he came up to Jesus and said, Greetings, Rabbi! and kissed him. 50Jesus said to him, Friend, do what you are here to do. Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. 51Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 52Then Jesus said to him, Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way? 55At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled. Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered.
58But Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest; and going inside, he sat with the guards in order to see how this would end.
59Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death,
60but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward
61and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.
62The high priest stood up and said, Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?
63But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah,* the Son of God.
64Jesus said to him, You have said so. But I tell you,
From now on you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of Power
and coming on the clouds of heaven.
65Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66What is your verdict? They answered, He deserves death. 67Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him, 68saying, Prophesy to us, you Messiah!* Who is it that struck you?
69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, You also were with Jesus the Galilean. 70But he denied it before all of them, saying, I do not know what you are talking about. 71When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.* 72Again he denied it with an oath, I do not know the man. 73After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you. 74Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, I do not know the man! At that moment the cock crowed. 75Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times. And he went out and wept bitterly.
27When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death. 2They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.
3 When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus* was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4He said, I have sinned by betraying innocent* blood. But they said, What is that to us? See to it yourself. 5Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. 6But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money. 7After conferring together, they used them to buy the potters field as a place to bury foreigners. 8For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah,* And they took* the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set,* on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price, 10and they gave* them for the potters field, as the Lord commanded me.
11 Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, Are you the King of the Jews? Jesus said, You say so. 12But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. 13Then Pilate said to him, Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you? 14But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus* Barabbas. 17So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus* Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?* 18For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 19While he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him, Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him. 20Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21The governor again said to them, Which of the two do you want me to release for you? And they said, Barabbas. 22Pilate said to them, Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?* All of them said, Let him be crucified! 23Then he asked, Why, what evil has he done? But they shouted all the more, Let him be crucified!
24 So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, I am innocent of this mans blood;* see to it yourselves. 25Then the people as a whole answered, His blood be on us and on our children! 26So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governors headquarters,* and they gathered the whole cohort around him. 28They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! 30They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
32 As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. 33And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots;* 36then they sat down there and kept watch over him. 37Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.
38 Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39Those who passed by derided* him, shaking their heads 40and saying, You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross. 41In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, 42He saved others; he cannot save himself.* He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 43He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, I am Gods Son. 44The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.
45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land* until three in the afternoon. 46And about three oclock Jesus cried with a loud voice, Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? that is, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 47When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, This man is calling for Elijah. 48At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49But the others said, Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.* 50Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.* 51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, Truly this man was Gods Son!*
55 Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. 56Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. 61Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63and said, Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, After three days I will rise again. 64Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, He has been raised from the dead, and the last deception would be worse than the first. 65Pilate said to them, You have a guard* of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.* 66So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.
The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
10 February 2011