A few notes on the Passion According to St. Matthew:
Each of the 4 gospels record Jesus’ arrest, his mock trial, and his crucifixion and resurrection. And each tells those stories in their own way.
Matthew’s gospel basically follows the pattern set by Mark, but with these special details or themes:
1. Matthew’s gospel starts out with a clash of kingdoms. “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men came”…offering gifts for a king…and Herod and all Jerusalem were troubled. The crucifixion of Jesus comes down to a final clash of kingdoms: He comes to town humble and riding on a donkey. He doesn’t claim kingship but says: “You say” that I am a king!
2. In Matthew’s gospel, Judas’ repentance and Judas’ suicide are both noted. Ever wonder if we’ll see Judas in heaven?
3. In Matthew’s gospel, a guard of soldiers is stationed at the tomb. On Easter morning, those guards who had fallen asleep and who had not prevented a resurrection, were bribed to tell a lie about Jesus’ disciples stealing his body.
4. Jesus is very much in charge of his own fate, as is also clear in the Gospel of John. No one forcibly arrests him. He dies on his terms.
5. Pilate’s wife’s dream is mentioned in Matthew, a gospel where dreams were important in the early chapters, especially dreams revealing God’s plans to Joseph. Pilate also “washes his hands” of Jesus’ death. The handwashing is political theater. It does not absolve Pilate of responsibility.
6. Matthew has two unique reports, of an earthquake and a guard of soldiers. In that earthquake, there’s a story of graves being busted open and saints being resurrected. This sounds scary! But it’s Matthew’s way of anticipating that resurrection will be all-encompassing one day! (Matthew also reports an earthquake Easter morning that rolls away the stone in front of the tomb!)
7. In Matthew there is just one saying of Jesus from the cross, the cry of Psalm 22 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Is that a cry of faith? Or a cry of abandonment? Or both?
8. What part of this reading touches your heart the most?