Reading through the Bible together
Matthew 26 begins the final hours of our Lord’s earthly life, as recorded in the Gospel. In this chapter we have a plot to kill Jesus, the Passover, the Lord’s Supper, Jesus’ betrayal and arrest, and Peter’s denial. The symbolism of the Passover and Lord’s Supper is highly familiar, hence we shall focus on the dynamics of plotting to kill Jesus and his betrayal.
We have seen the record of over three years of public ministry by Jesus. The religious leaders have tested Jesus and cannot trap or fool Him. Jesus had taught and lived a life of moral purity like no one before or since, and yet the priests and religious leaders, the self-proclaimed guardians of Jewish theology and morality are plotting to kill Him, an innocent man. They did this because He is perceived to be a threat to their power over the people. How could the teachers of divinely revealed morality be so morally corrupted?
When religion becomes a tool for personal significance and power, such a person tends to develop an ideological identity which he is ready to defend to the death (or so he thinks). At this point, personal identity becomes more dominant in moral decision making than the actual facts or even divine revelation. Any threat to that identity will be met with ferocious resistance. Jesus’ teaching on personal power, that the greatest among you will be your willing servant, flies in the face of identity-driven theology and ethics. The priestly identity as authoritative experts, with power over the people, was seriously challenged by Jesus’ teachings and example. For these religious leaders, preserving their identity as spiritual leaders, and preserving the identity of their institutional structures, permitted them to use any means possible, whether moral or immoral. As we face challenging discussions in the church, we must be careful that personal and corporate identity does not supplant a teachable spirit that seeks the Lord’s will, whatever the cost.
Stephen Bauer, Ph.D.
Professor of Theology and Ethics
Southern Adventist University