The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary & meditation 
Betrayal at Passover time

Gospel Reading: Matthew 26:14-25

14 Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests  15 and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him to you?" And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. 17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?" 18 He said, "Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, `The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'" 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. 20 When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; 21 and as they were eating, he said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." 22 And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, "Is it I, Lord?" 23 He answered, "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. 24 The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man  if he had not been born." 25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Is it I, Master?" He said to him, "You have said so."
Meditation: Why did Judas betray his Master? Was his treachery motivated by greed, bitter disappointment with Jesus or hatred because of disillusionment?  It may be that Judas never intended for his Master to die.  Maybe he thought Jesus was proceeding too slowly and not acting aggressively enough in setting up his messianic kingdom.  Perhaps Judas wanted to force Jesus' hand by compelling him to act.  Nonetheless, his tragedy was his refusal to accept Jesus as he was.  Aren't we tempted to use God for our own purposes? It is not God who must change, but we must be changed by him.  Jesus knew beforehand what would befall him.

As Jesus ate the passover meal with his twelve apostles he put them under trial and suspicion (one of you will betray me) to teach them to examine themselves rightly, lest they be highminded and think themselves more strong than they were. We, also must examine ourselves in the light of God's truth and grace and ask him to strengthen us in faith, hope, and love that we may not fail him or forsake him when we are tempted. Do you pray with confidence in the words Jesus gave us to pray: Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil?

Every male Jew, who was of age and lived within 15 miles of Jerusalem, was bound to celebrate Passover every year in Jerusalem.  This annual feast commemorated the deliverance of the people of Israel from their slavery in Egypt (see Exodus 12).  On that night the angel of death slew the first-born of the Egyptians; but he "passed over" the homes of the Israelites, because the lintel of their doors was smeared with the blood of an unblemished lamb sacrificed for the occasion.  It was at Passover time that Jesus came to Jerusalem knowing he would be betrayed and put to death as the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Jesus fulfilled the Passover.  His death and resurrection, which occured at Passover time, redeems us from enslavement to sin, death, Satan, and the world.  His blood, like the blood of the first Passover lamb, protects God's people from the angel of death and breaks the oppressive rule of Satan. Easter is the Christian Passover (1 Cor. 5:7-8). Do you celebrate the Passover with sincerity and truth (see 1 Cor. 5:7-8)?

"God our Father, we are exceedingly frail and indisposed to every virtuous and gallant undertaking.  Strengthen our weakness, we beseech you, that we may do valiantly in this spiritual war; help us against our own negligence and cowardice, and defend us from the treachery of our unfaithful hearts; for Jesus Christ's sake."  (Prayer of Thomas a Kempis)


Go to | Gospel of Matthew | Daily Readings & Meditations | Words of Life |
(c) 2002 Don Schwager