2021_03_29 Insight Post- Kim Feld
This week's reading- Matthew 26
Chapter 26 of Matthew gives us some striking contrasts as we look at the different characters involved in the story. We see the extravagance of love and also the selfishness of greed. We see how remorse led to repentance and also how remorse led to self-destruction. We don’t get many details, but we can still feel the impact of these events.
Early in Matthew 26, Jesus is having dinner in the home of Simon, a man who had been healed from leprosy. While they were eating, a woman came in with a beautiful jar of expensive perfume and poured it on Jesus’ head. This “anointing” was full of meaning.
If you remember, Matthew’s biography was written primarily for Jewish readers, so Matthew includes many Old Testament references to tie the prophecy about the Messiah to Jesus. It was prevalent in the days of the Old Testament for Kings to be anointed by having oil poured over their heads (see 1 Samuel 10:1 for the anointing of Saul and 2 Kings 9:3, 6 for the anointing of Jehu). The word Messiah means “anointed One.” The perfume’s cost is believed to be equal to a year’s wage, which explains why the disciples balked at it being used this way. But Jesus corrects them and says the woman has prepared His body for burial and that she will forever be remembered for this act. (Perfume was often used to help mask the odor of decay in the dead.) Did the woman understand that Jesus was going to be crucified and die? I don’t know, but she seemed to recognize Him for who He was, and her gift was one of extravagant love.
Right after Matthew records the anointing story, he tells of Judas going to the chief priests and offering to betray Jesus by delivering Him to them. Remember, the biographies are not necessarily written in chronological order, but even if they didn’t happen one after the other, these events were connected in Matthew’s mind. The chief priests are delighted and offer Judas 30 pieces of silver, the price of a slave (see Exodus 21:32), which he accepts. It’s interesting to note that 30 pieces of silver are thought to have represented 120 days’ wages. Judas’ selfish greed earned 1/3 of the cost of the woman’s extravagant gift of love (HCSB Study Bible, 2010). We’ll see more on the 30 pieces of silver in chapter 27.
Merriam-Webster (n.d.) defines remorse as “a gnawing distress arising from a sense of guilt for past wrongs. Remorse suggests prolonged and insistent self-reproach and mental anguish for past wrongs and especially for those whose consequences cannot be remedied.” We see two examples of remorse in chapter 26 flowing into the early section of chapter 27 (spoiler alert) in Peter and Judas. Peter denies Jesus three times, just as Jesus said he would, after Jesus’ arrest. Jesus tells him this will all happen before Peter hears the rooster crow. 75 Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.
We have no idea what prompted Judas to betray Jesus, although many have speculated. In chapter 27, when Judas realized that Jesus would be sentenced to die, Matthew says he was filled with remorse. Judas takes the money back to the chief priests and admits that he has sinned and condemned an innocent man. More on that next week, but verse 5 says 5” Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.” What if Peter had chosen the same fate and had killed himself. Or had just walked away from his faith altogether? What if Judas had just hung in there a little longer? Would his remorse have driven him to repentance instead of self-destruction? We’ll never know, but this verse is lived out in the actions of these two men (Wright, 2002):
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV)
I’m glad that we get to extend Easter by reading Matthew’s telling of the events. Jesus’ sacrifice was costly, and it was given out of love. By His wounds, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).
HCSB Study Bible. (2010). Holman Bible Publishers.
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Remorse. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved April 2, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/remorse
Wright, N. T. (2002). Matthew for everyone: Part 2 chapters 16-28. Westminster John Knox Press.
Executive Director of Education and Outreach