In today’s chapter, a good deed goes unpunished, but only barely.
Having finished Matthew, it’s time to do something I should have done as soon as I finished Luke: start reading Acts. The second of Luke’s two books in the Bible, Acts picks up where Luke’s gospel left off, detailing the development of the early church. And by the time it occurred to me to go from Luke to Acts, I was already in the middle of Matthew. Hindsight is 20/20, better late than never, and other overused adages. It’s Acts time.
Of all the gospel authors, Matthew spends the least time on Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. He’s tied with Mark for the number of verses in the final chapter of his gospel (twenty), but while Mark’s last chapter is around 500 words, Matthew’s is closer to 450. After the women discover the empty tomb, they encounter Jesus, and later on he meets the disciples at a mountain in Galilee. But Matthew also has an exclusive scene with the tomb guards and the chief priests which continues a point of interest from the previous chapter.
When I said yesterday that Judas’ remorse is just one of the things we’ll find in today’s chapter, I wasn’t kidding. Matthew 27 is full of events: Jesus appearing before Pilate, the crowds demanding the release of the criminal Barabbas, the Roman soldiers flogging and mocking Jesus, the procession to Golgotha, the crucifixion, an earthquake at the moment of Jesus’ death that splits the veil of the temple and opens several tombs (out of which after Jesus’ resurrection come several saints’ bodies, which is weird), and Joseph of Arimathea providing a tomb for Jesus’ own body, which Pilate secures with a guard of Roman soldiers. See? Lots of events. But in particular, the chief priests and scribes quote Psalm 22 to mock Jesus on the cross, and from the cross, Jesus responds with another verse from Psalm 22. I’m curious what’s going on there, so let’s check it out.
Judas doesn’t show up much in the synoptic gospels. He gets mentioned in the roll call of the disciples in Matthew 10:2-4 and Luke 6:13-16 as “the one who betrayed Him,” and that’s pretty much it until today’s portion of the narrative, Matthew 26. But when it comes to Jesus’ last hours, that’s Judas’ time to shine.
If you like parables, then good news: by popular request, we’re returning to Matthew 25 for the Parable of the Talents and the Parable of the Sheep and Goats. And by “popular request,” I mean that one person requested it. If you don’t like parables, then I don’t know what to tell you.
In junior high, I somehow came by a compilation album titled Right from Wrong. I think it may have come with my parents’ copy of Josh McDowell’s book Right from Wrong, which of course I also read, because it was a book and I was myself. But the CD Right from Wrong collected several songs from such Christian bands as the Newsboys, DC Talk, and Audio Adrenaline, built around the theme of countering moral relativism. One of the tracks on this album, by perennial Christian hard rockers Petra, was “Midnight Oil,” about the Parable of the Ten Virgins. And today’s chapter, Matthew 25, begins with the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Now you see where I was going with this. Bam, relevance.