How to kill Jesus
- 26:1 When Jesus finished teaching the people, he told his disciples,
- 26:2 “You know that in two days it will be Passover.1 That’s when the Son of Humans will be arrested and crucified.”
- 26:3 Leading priests and Jewish elders called a meeting. They met at the palace of the high priest, a man called Caiaphas.
- 26:4 They hatched a plot to secretly arrest Jesus and kill him.
- 26:5 They said, “We can’t arrest him during this festival. The people would riot.”
- 26:6 When Jesus was in Bethany,2 visiting in the house of Simon the leper,3
- 26:7 a woman came over to him. She carried a jar crafted from alabaster stone and filled with an expensive perfume.4 She poured the perfume over the head of Jesus while he reclined5 beside the table.
- 26:8 When his disciples saw what she was doing, they got mad. They said, “What a waste!
- 26:9 This perfume could have been sold for a lot of money, which could have been given to the poor.”
- 26:10 Jesus knew what was going on and he said, “Why are you giving this woman a hard time? She has done something kind for me.
- 26:11 Look, you’ll always have the poor people you can help. But you’re not always going to have me.
- 26:12 When this woman poured the perfume on my body, she anointed me for my burial.
- 26:13 I’ll tell you something else, and it’s the absolute truth. Whenever the good news is preached anywhere in the world, people will hear the story of what she has done for me. She’s going to be remembered.”
Judas turns on Jesus
- 26:14 At that point, Judas Iscariot, one of the 12 disciples, slipped out and went to see the leading priests.
- 26:15 He asked them, “What are you willing to give me if I betray him and give him to you?” They negotiated the deal and agreed to pay 30 silver coins.6
- 26:16 From then on, Judas started watching for a good time to have Jesus arrested.
Prep for one last supper for Jesus
- 26:17 On the first day of the Festival of Yeast-free Bread, the day for slaughtering the Passover lamb, the disciples of Jesus asked him, “Where do you want us to set up the Passover meal?”
- 26:18 He told them, “Go into town. When you find a certain man7 tell him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time has come. I will celebrate the Passover in your house with my disciples.”’”
- 26:19 So the disciples did what Jesus told them to do. They set up the Passover meal.
Jesus predicts his betrayal
- 26:20 That evening, Jesus and his disciples reclined8 by the table to eat.
- 26:21 While they were eating, Jesus said, “What I’m about to tell you is the truth. One of you is going to betray me.”
- 26:22 That shocked the disciples. They started asking him, one after another, “It’s not me is it, Master? It can’t be me!”
- 26:23 Jesus said, “The one who has shared my dipping bowl will betray me.”
- 26:24 The Son of Humans will die, as the Scriptures predicted. As for the betrayer, it would be better if he had never been born.
- 26:25 That’s when Judas, who would betray him, asked, “It’s not me is it, Teacher?” Jesus answered, “You said it.”9
Jesus: This is my body and blood
- 26:26 While they were still eating, Jesus picked up some bread. He said a prayer of thanks, then he broke the bread and passed it out to his disciples. He told them, “Take this and eat it. It’s my body.”
- 26:27 Then he picked up a cup of wine and said a prayer of thanks. He passed the cup off to his disciples and said, "I want each of you to take a drink.
- 26:28 This is my blood. It will establish God’s new agreement with people.10 My blood will be poured out so that many people will find forgiveness for their sins.
- 26:29 I’ll tell you this, I won’t drink wine again until I drink a new kind of wine with you in my Father’s Kingdom.”
- 26:30 They sang a hymn. Then they all went outside and walked over to the Mount of Olives.11
Jesus: Peter will chicken out before rooster crows
- 26:31 As they walked, Jesus told the disciples, “All of you will desert me tonight. It’s written in the Bible: “Kill the shepherd and all the sheep in the flock will scatter.”12
- 26:32 But I’ll be raised from the dead. After that, I’ll go ahead of you back to Galilee.”
- 26:33 Peter told Jesus, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I won’t!”
- 26:34 Jesus told Peter, “Here’s the truth. Before this night is over and before the rooster crows twice, you’ll deny that you ever knew me. And you’ll do it three times.”
- 26:35 Peter said, “Absolutely not! Even if it killed me, I would never deny knowing you!” Every one of the disciples said the same.
Jesus prays before he’s arrested
- 26:36 Jesus and the disciples arrived at a place called Gethsemane.13 Jesus told his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”
- 26:37 Jesus took three of his disciples with him: Peter and the two sons of Zebedee.14 He quickly became troubled and depressed.
- 26:38 Jesus told them, “My soul is aching. The pain is crushing me, and I feel like I could die. Stay here. But stay alert.”
- 26:39 Jesus walked on a little further to be alone. He fell down to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it’s okay with you, please don’t make me drink this cup of death. But I don’t want my way if it’s not your way.”
- 26:40 Jesus went back to the three disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Really? You men are sleeping? Weren’t you able to stay on guard for one hour?”
- 26:41 Stay alert. Pray that you won’t be tempted. The spirit wants to do what’s right. But sometimes the body is too weak to do it.”
- 26:42 Jesus went off by himself again and prayed, “My Father, if this is something you want me to do, let’s do it.”
- 26:43 He returned and found the three disciples sleeping again because they were exhausted.
- 26:44 So he let them sleep and he went away a third time to pray what he had prayed before.
- 26:45 Jesus went back to the three disciples again and said, “Still sleeping? Getting your rest? You think we’ve got lots of time? Time’s up. The Son of Humans has been betrayed and is about to get arrested by sinful people.
- 26:46 Get up. Let’s go. Take a look, the man who has betrayed me is here.”
Jesus is under arrest
- 26:47 Jesus was still talking when Judas, one of the 12 disciples, showed up. He came with a crowd carrying swords and clubs. They were sent by Jewish leaders: top priests and the elders.
- 26:48 Judas had arranged to give the arresting officers a signal that would pick Jesus out of the group. He told them, “I’ll greet Jesus with a kiss. That’s when you arrest him.”
- 26:49 Judas walked right up to Jesus and greeted him with a kiss, saying, “Hello there, Teacher.”
- 26:50 Jesus told him, “Friend, go ahead and do what you came to do.” The arresting officers came forward, grabbed hold of Jesus, and took him into custody.
- 26:51 One of the people15 with Jesus pulled his sword and sliced off one of the ears of a man—a servant of the high priest.
- 26:52 Jesus told the man, “Put your sword away. Everyone who lives to fight will die fighting.16
- 26:53 Do you really think I don’t have any pull with my Father? Don’t you realize that if I asked him, he would immediately give me command of an army of 6,000 angels—12 legions?
- 26:54 But if I called them, how would the prophecies of Scripture be fulfilled?”
- 26:55 Jesus turned to the crowd that came to arrest him. He said, “Have you really come with swords and clubs to arrest me like I’m some kind of a dangerous robber? I was out in the Temple courtyards every day this week. You didn’t arrest me.
- 26:56 But the predictions of the prophets needed to be fulfilled.”17 At that point, the disciples scattered. They all ran away, deserting him.
- 26:57 The men who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest. That’s where Jewish elders were meeting with religion scholars known as scribes.
- 26:58 Peter followed Jesus from a safe distance. He eventually blended into the group of people waiting in the courtyard of the high priest. Peter sat beside some Temple guards. He wanted to see how this would end.
- 26:59 The ruling priests and the entire Jewish Council18 convened to hear the case against Jesus. They scrambled to find people willing to testify against Jesus because they wanted to execute him.
- 26:60 But they couldn’t find any credible witnesses. The produced a lot of liars, though. Eventually two men stepped forward.
- 26:61 They testified, “We heard this man say, ‘I have the power to destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”
- 26:62 The high priest stood up. He said to Jesus, “Are you just going to stand there? Or are you going to defend yourself against these charges?”
- 26:63 Jesus didn’t say a thing. Then the high priest said, “I’m putting you under oath. As God is your witness, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
- 26:64 Jesus said, “You said it.19 And I’ll tell you something else. You’ll see the Son of Humans sitting at the right hand of God Almighty. Look to the clouds in the sky because that’s where I’ll be coming from.”
- 26:65 The high priest ripped his robe in anger20 and said, “Blasphemy! Why waste our time with more witnesses? You’ve all heard him slander God.
- 26:66 What’s your verdict?” The Council said, “He deserves to die!”
- 26:67 They spit in his face. They pounded him with their fists. Some slapped him.
- 26:68 They said, “How about a prophecy, Messiah? Prophesy this: Who just hit you?”
Peter chickens out
- 26:69 While all this was going on, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over to him and said, “You were with Jesus of Galilee.”
- 26:70 Peter denied it right there in front of everyone. He said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
- 26:71 Peter went out by the gate. Another servant girl saw him and she said to the people around her, “This guy was with Jesus the Nazarene.”
- 26:72 Peter denied it again, this time with a vow: “I swear I don’t know that man!”
- 26:73 A little while later some of the people standing around came over to Peter and said, “Come on. You know you’re one of them because you have the same accent they do.”
- 26:74 Peter swore a curse on himself, inviting something bad to happen to him if he wasn’t telling the truth. Then he said, “I swear that I don’t know this man!” On cue at that very moment, the rooster crowed.
- 26:75 Suddenly Peter remembered what Jesus had said. “Before the rooster crows, you’ll deny knowing me three times.” Peter left, sobbing.
Jews call this holiday by its Hebrew name: Pesach (PAY sah). It was also called the Festival of Unleavened Bread. This was flatbread made with no yeast. Yeast is what makes bread dough rise. Many Jews today celebrate the holiday by eating cracker-like matzo. Tortillas would also qualify. The festival is a seven-day celebration beginning on the 14th day of the first month in the Jewish new year: Nisan, usually sometime in March or April. It varies because the Jewish calendar is based on the cycles of the moon. Jewish pilgrims came from all over the world to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem, much like Christian pilgrims today go to Bethlehem at Christmas and Jerusalem at Easter. At Passover, Jerusalem swelled to many times its normal size.
Bethany was a village on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives, about two miles (3 km) from Jerusalem—a short walk.
Luke’s version of the story (Luke 7:36-50) reports that Jesus was invited to eat in the home of a Pharisee.
The Gospel of Mark identifies the perfume as nard. Nard, which has the earthy fragrance of cyprus, was one of the most expensive perfumes and anointing oils available. Nard was extracted from spikenard plants native to India’s Himalayan Mountains, some 2,500 miles (4,000 km) east of what is now Israel. It took about a year’s salary for the average working man to buy a flask of 16 ounces (.5 l).
Tables were often low, much like coffee tables today. Instead of sitting on chairs, people sat on the floor beside the table.
Judas will later take the money back and throw it into the Temple. The priests won’t want anything to do with the blood money, so they’ll buy some land from a potter and use it as a burial place for strangers. Matthew 27:3-10 says this fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 11:13.
The Gospels of Mark and Luke both say the disciples will recognize the man because he will be carrying a jug of water (Mark 14:13; Luke 22:10). Both Gospels also say Jesus sent only two disciples on this mission. Luke identifies the two as Peter and John (Luke 22:8).
See note for 26:7.
Jesus, more literally, said, “You have said.” Some Bible experts say this was an oblique way of saying, simply, “Yes.” Or, as readers at this point in the story might have preferred, “Yes, you greedy, hypocritical wad of camel spit. It’s you.”
More literally, “This is my blood of the covenant.” It’s phrased in a way that would remind Matthew’s readers of what Moses said after he splashed blood on an altar: “This blood confirms the covenant the LORD has made with you” (Exodus 24:8 New Living Translation). The agreement God made with the Jewish people was essentially that if they obey his laws, he would protect them and bless them with peace and prosperity. But the Bible says the Jewish nation repeatedly failed to live up to its part of the agreement. They broke the agreement. In 586 BC, Babylonian invaders from what is now Iraq erased the Jewish nation from the world map, destroying the cities along with Jerusalem and the Temple, and exiling many of the survivors. It took decades before remnants of the Jewish nation were able to return and start rebuilding their country.
The Mount of Olives was just a few minutes away. It’s a ridge of hills parallel to the ridge on which Jerusalem was built. The narrow Kidron Valley separates the two ridges.
Gethsemane” means “oil press.” In the fall of the year, farmers harvested olives from olive trees, and then crushed most of the olives to produce olive oil. A few olive trees and ruins of an ancient olive oil press are located on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives.
Zebedee’s sons were James and John, nicknamed the Sons of Thunder. Peter, James, and John seemed to be the three best friends of Jesus, his closest disciples. He took them with him on several occasions, including the famous mountaintop Transfiguration (17:1-13).
Peter was the swordsman according to John 18:10.
Jesus may have been thinking of the similar saying, “Kill a human, then by a human you’ll be killed” (Genesis 9:6). But he may also have been referring to an ancient proverb that dates back to a Greek playwright named Aeschyus born 500 years earlier. The proverb: Live by the sword, die by the sword.
It’s unclear what prophecies Jesus meant. Perhaps he had in mind the scattering of the disciples that he mentioned in 14:27. This is the moment most of them scattered. Among many other prophecies Jesus may have had in mind, there’s Daniel 9:26, “The Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing” (New Living Translation).
This council was known as the Sanhedrin. They were a group of 70 Jewish leaders led by the high priest. They functioned as the top legislative and judicial body among Jews. They were a bit like a combination Congress-Supreme Court. They made the laws and they punished the people who broke them. They did not, however, have the authority to execute anyone. The Roman occupiers kept that authority for themselves.
This is the same answer Jesus gave Judas (26:25). It’s one variation on the more direct response that Mark reported: “I am” (Mark 14:62).
Today, someone that upset might punch a hole through the drywall. One difference might be that punching a hole in the drywall is not considered acceptable or intelligent. But in ancient times, ripping clothes was a conventional way of expressing anger or grief.
While Jesus was eating a meal at Bethany, Matthew says, a woman poured onto the head of Jesus “expensive perfume” (26:7). Mark does so, too (14:3). Neither writer says why she did this. What might be some possible reasons she would have emptied onto Jesus a jar full of perfume worth a year’s salary?
In defending the woman who anointed him with extravagantly expensive perfume, Jesus said, “Why are you giving this woman a hard time… Look, you’ll always have poor people you can help” (26:10-11). How is that not selfish and insensitive of Jesus?
We can only guess why Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 silver coins and then regretted it when Jewish leaders sentenced Jesus to death— regretted it enough to hang himself. Pick a guess or add one of your own.
- Jesus gave him enough rope to hang himself, so he did.
- If the game was poker, Judas was calling Jesus. He wanted Jesus to show his hand—the hand of a Messiah who would free Israel from the Roman occupying force.
- “Satan got inside the head of Judas Iscariot” (Luke 22:3).
- Judas was the treasurer for the disciples (John 13:29). He liked money and stole from the money bag (John 12:6).
Matthew doesn’t say what motivated Judas to betray Jesus (26:14-16). Luke says that “Satan got inside the head of Judas” (22:3). Other Bible versions translate it as “Satan entered into Judas” (New Living Translation). What do you think happened? Did Judas become demon possessed? Or did Satan simply plant an idea in the mind of Judas, and Judas embraced it?
Let’s say Judas was not demon possessed, and that Satan merely tempted him to do something he had been considering. Do you think Judas hoped to force Jesus into a public confrontation with Jewish leaders who supported the Roman occupying army, so the Messiah could lead Jewish rebels to freedom? Or do you think he had some other motive?
When Jesus passed out pieces of bread to the disciples he said, “Eat it. It’s my body” (26:26). Luke adds this: “I’m giving it for you—for your sake. When you do this, remember me” (22:19). Was he talking about what became the ritual of communion or Mass? Or was he talking about any time we eat a meal?
When Jesus gave his disciples the bread at the Last Supper, he said, “It’s my body” (26:26). Really? His actual body? Many Christians argue that the wine and the bread served during Communion or Mass are miraculously transformed into the actual blood and body of Jesus. Other Christians say the wine and bread are only symbols. What do you think about that?
Jesus said “I won’t drink wine again until I drink a new kind of wine with you in my Father’s Kingdom” (26:29). What do you think he was talking about? Could he have been talking about after his resurrection, since the Bible says he ate fish afterward and perhaps drank wine as well (Luke 24:41-43)? Or do you think he was talking about end times, after his Second Coming?
Why do you think Judas chose a kiss as the signal to arresting officers that Jesus was the target (26:48-49)?
As Matthew tells the story, Jesus was his own worst enemy at his trial before the Jewish Council. He was quickly convicted of blasphemy against God when he answered the high priest’s request “Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God” (26:63). It’s not clear if the priest was asking if Jesus was the divine Son of God, or merely a child of God. But Jesus made it clear that he was on awfully good terms with God: “You’ll see the Son of Humans sitting at the right hand of God Almighty. Look to the clouds in the sky because that’s where I’ll be coming from” (26:64). If you had been a member of the Jewish Council, and you proposed releasing Jesus because he is obviously a bit crazy, what counterpoints would you expect to hear?
When Caiaphas and Pilate each asked if Jesus was king of the Jews, Jesus answered, “You said it” (26:64; 27:11). That’s a strange answer, it seems. Bible translators aren’t sure what to do with it. One translation: “It is as you say” (New American Standard Bible). Another: “Those are your words” (New Century Version). What do you think Jesus meant?
When the top Jewish leaders sentenced Jesus to execution (26:66), they had to clear it with the Roman governor, Pilate. How do you think they would have felt about having to clear their executions with the occupying forces?
What do you think most people feel when they read the story of Peter telling people he didn’t know who Jesus was (26:69-75)? Do they think less of him? Do they pity him? Do they relate to him?
LIFE APPLICATION. Some people at the dinner Simon hosted in Bethany complained about the woman who poured perfume onto Jesus. It was worth a year’s salary and they thought the money would have been better used by donating to the poor (26:9; Luke 14:5). What do you think would be some examples today of spending money on something that others might say is a waste because it could have been donated to the poor and better used there?
LIFE APPLICATION. When Judas betrayed Jesus (26:14-16), some Bible writers say he did it because Satan somehow got inside of him (Luke 22:3). Humans do evil things all the time. Do you think it’s because Satan is inside of us? Or is something else going on to make us do those terrible things?
LIFE APPLICATION. All of the disciples ran away when Jesus got arrested, just as he predicted they would (26:56). At the end of the story, Jesus forgives them, as well as his executioners. Without giving any names, how have you seen people react when they felt abandoned by the people they counted on most?