The Gospel of Matthew

This devotional is written by Cara Heppell. Cara has been a member of St Mary's for 15 years. She is a 4th year medical student currently intercalating in medical genetics with a moderate addiction to running. She works part time at cosmetic clinic so hit her up for 20% off botox.

Matthew 26:31-75

31 Then Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee." 33 Peter answered him, "Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away." 34 Jesus said to him, "Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." 35 Peter said to him, "Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!" And all the disciples said the same.

Jesus Prays in Gethsemane

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go over there and pray." 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch[a] with me." 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done." 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, "Sleep and take your rest later on.[b] See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand."

Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

47 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, "The one I will kiss is the man; seize him." 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" And he kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, "Friend, do what you came to do."[c] Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant[d] of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?" 55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. 56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples left him and fled.

Jesus Before Caiaphas and the Council

57 Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58 And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. 59 Now the chief priests and the whole council[e] were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, "This man said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.'" 62 And the high priest stood up and said, "Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?"[f] 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, "I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." 64 Jesus said to him, "You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven." 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, "He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgment?" They answered, "He deserves death." 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, "Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?"

Peter Denies Jesus

69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, "You also were with Jesus the Galilean." 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, "I do not know what you mean." 71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, "This man was with Jesus of Nazareth." 72 And again he denied it with an oath: "I do not know the man." 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, "Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you." 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, "I do not know the man." And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, "Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly.

Reflection

In an earlier chapter in Matthew, Jesus refers to Peter as "the rock [on which] I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18) and we later see this fulfilled when he becomes one of the leaders of the early church. He plays a fundamental role in spreading the gospel amongst both Jews and Gentiles, bringing many people to faith. In this chapter in Matthew, we see that Jesus, as well as seeing his potential, is fully aware of Peter's weakness and has compassion for it. This highlights an important aspect of our relationship with Jesus. Jesus knows us in our entirety, better than we know ourselves. He knows where we fall short and fills us with His grace. His love for us is unconditional, it does not correlate with how closely we comply to the guidance He's laid out for us or how often we go to church or pray. It is an unwavering love that we have done nothing to deserve and need do nothing to maintain. Peter is one of many examples that we see in the Bible of flawed people who God loves, transforms and uses for His purpose, just like He plans to do with all of us. The knowledge of this comes as an enormous relief. It gives us the freedom to make mistakes and use them as stepping stones to learn and grow and the freedom to see ourselves for all that we can be and all that God wants us to be rather than seeing ourselves in the light of our many failings.

Another thing that stood out to me in this passage was Jesus' default to prayer. I think that it is often easy to forget that Jesus is both fully human as well as being fully divine. In his perfection, I find that I often forget that He experiences human emotions much like any of us would, so I cannot imagine the pain and fear he would have felt in this moment; betrayed by one of his closest friends for 30 pieces of silver and knowing that He would be hung on a cross to die the next day. This speaks to how we should respond to the struggles that we experience in our lives. Jesus sets the example of bringing our troubles to God and laying them at His feet. In both of His prayers Jesus uses the words "not as my will, but as you will". This is a reminder that God's will always be better than our own, which seems an obvious statement, but can be challenging to have faith in when God's plan isn't the easiest option, as is often the case. Following God's will guarantees us fulfilment and peace. His plans are 'to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future' (Jeremiah 29:11) and should therefore always be at the focus of our lives.


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