This week we take time to focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection. At GPBC our Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday services will both focus on Matthew’s gospel—how Jesus’ death and resurrection is the launchpad for the mission of the church.
As you’re preparing your heart this week, consider reading about Jesus’ week leading up to the cross each day from Matthew. Below you’ll find the verse break down and a few summary comments.
Sunday/Monday— Matthew 21:1-17 || The Triumphal Entry, Cleansing of the Temple
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was a highly public affair, with explicit acknowledgement by at least his followers from Galilee that he is the Son of David, the Messiah. The cry “Hosanna” means “please save,” and in this context is loaded with Messianic implication. Note that the people of Jerusalem were curious as to who he was.
On Monday Jesus begins daily trips from Bethany on the Mount of Olives to the Temple. His first act is cleanseing the Temple from the money-changers. This is a declaration of all out war on the Jewish religious leadership in Jerusalem. Note how Matthew highlights the leaders’ unbelief.
Tuesday Morning—Matthew 21:18-25:46 || The Fig Tree Withered, Jesus Teaches at the Temple, Discusses Times to Come
Jesus’ cursing of the Fig Tree is a symbolic act picturing his rebuke of the corrupt Temple system and Jewish religious leaders. This launches into a long section where Jesus is teaching on the Temple Mount and the various groups of Jewish leaders confront him, seeking to assert their authority over him. They fail.
In Matthew 24-25 Jesus is leaving the Temple Mount and takes time to prophesy that the temple will be destroyed. He is not only speaking of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, but also of the fact that his death and resurrection will fulfill the OT Law and thus remove the need for the sacrificial system. He then takes time to speak of his return and to warn the disciples to beware false Messiahs and rumors of wars. He prepares his followers for suffering and persecution. He focuses on the suddenness of his return, exhorting the disciples to be alert. He tells two parables to help the disciples understand the need for spiritual vigilance and investment in his kingdom work. He end this discussion with a focus on the judgment and a reminder that to care for the poor and needy is hallmark of his followers.
Tuesday Evening—Matthew 26:1-16 || Jesus Speaks of His Crucifixion, Plot to Kill Jesus
Jesus warns the disciples of his imminent crucifixion, even as the chief priests and elders were meeting to plan how to arrest and execute Jesus. Matthew records here the anointing of Jesus with perfume, although it had probably happened earlier. He places it here because Jesus describes it as his preparation for burial. In all of this note that Jesus is fully aware of the price he must pay to accomplish our redemption. What Judas views as a waste is actually the perfect use of such valuable perfume.
Thursday—Matthew 26:17-29 || The Passover/Last Supper
Jesus and the disciples head to Jerusalem to observe the Passover. During the meal he focuses on his betrayal by Judas. Note how he purposefully refers to himself as the Son of Man. In this unique celebration of the Passover, Jesus gives new meaning to the unleavened bread and wine. He affirms that by his death he will establish the new covenant, the forgiveness of sins. Here we catch a glimpse of the larger Biblical narrative—Matthew wants us to see that Jesus’ death and resurrection deal with the problem in the universe since Genesis 3, sin.
Thursday Night—Matthew 26:30-56 || In the Garden of Gethsemane
Matthew’s account of Jesus’ arrest, death, and resurrection is filled with Old Testament quotations. Multiple times he will mention the fulfillment of Scripture in the events of the passion week. Matthew doesn’t want his readers to miss that Jesus is the Son of David, the Son of Abraham, who fulfills the Old Testament. On the way to the Garden of Gethsemane in the Kidron Valley, Jesus prophesies Peter’s denial. He and the other disciples protest, affirming their steadfast commitment to Jesus.
Jesus’ affliction in the olive grove is evidence of the spiritual battle he was facing. To go to the cross was such a trial, bearing the weight of sinners was no small task. Yet Jesus conforms his will with the will of the Father, a reminder of absolute unity of the Godhead. The fact that the disciples are sleeping rather than praying shows they didn’t fully grasp the weight of the moment.
As Jesus is betrayed and arrested, one of his disciples (Peter, but Matthew doesn’t identify him) draws his sword and goes into battle mode. But Jesus corrects him, healing the high priest’s representative. He affirms that his mission, including the fulifllment of the Scriptures, requires his betrayal. At this his disciples flee.
Friday Early Morning—Matthew 26:57-75 || Trials Before Caiaphas & Sanhedrin, Peter’s Denial
Jesus is lead to the high priest Caiaphas and other leaders for a kangaroo court. Jesus is silent facing false charges until Caiaphas asks him is he is the Messiah. Jesus quotes from Daniel 7, identifying himself as the Son of Man who will return with divine authority to judge. Jesus faces physical beatings while Peter denies being a follower. Don’t miss that Jesus’ identity and his suffering continue to fulfill Scripture. Peter’s failure, though tragic, also confirms Jesus’ prophetic words. In the end, Jesus stands alone as our rescuer.
Friday/Saturday—Matthew 27:1-66 || Jesus Before Pilate, Condemnation, Crucifixion, Burial
Judas regrets his decision to betray Jesus, but his regret is not repentance. His regret and hopelessness leads him to end his own life, again in fulfillment of OT Scriptures. Pilate, with hestitations, gives in to the desire of Sanhedrin to have Jesus crucified. Polling the crowd, Pilate is surprised that the people choose a known criminal to free rather than Jesus.
Now headed to the cross, Jesus faces more intense beatings and persecution. They dress him up, crown of thorns and all, and mock his claim to be Israel’s king. On the way to the crucifixion site they commandeer Simon from North Africa to carry Jesus’ cross. Even the public insulted Jesus as they passed by, mocking him for claiming to be the Son of God. Note the poignant irony—they mock Jesus for not being what he was proving to be in his suffering: the Messiah.
Darkness covered the land, and Jesus cries out by quoting Psalm 22. As he died the earth shook and two remarkable things happened: the curtain in the temple separating the holiest place from the rest of the temple was torn in two and many tombs were shook open and people were raised from the dead. The centurion managing the crucixion confessed that Jesus truly was the Son of God. Don’t miss the imagery here: Jesus’ death makes a way for us to be united with God, and his death is actually victory over death brining resurrection to life.
Jesus’ burial shows the mourning and commitment of some of his disciples. The next day Pilate is alerted to Jesus’ claim to rise on the third day. Thus the Sanhedrin place guards at the tomb, to prevent any tampering with the body by Jesus’ followers.
Sunday—Matthew 28:1-15 || The Resurrection
Sunday morning there is another earthquake and Jesus rose from the dead. An angel rolled the large stone blocking the entrance to the tomb. He instructs the ladies who came to attend to Jesus’ body to inform the disciples he had risen. This is our hope—Jesus conquered sins and death, by faith in him we are confident of the forgiveness of our sins and look forward to our resurrection to eternal life.