The story of Jesus, the Messiah, Son of David and Son of Joseph now enters the last day of His life on this earth. Matthew goes into great detail here - Matthew 26 is the longest chapter of his gospel - and it is tempting to talk for page after page about each snippet we are given. Indeed, I suspect I could easily write a full entry about each one of these stories and still only scratch the surface.
Instead, I want to take a birds-eye view of what Jesus’ last 24 hours were like and deal, not with each detail, but the broad strokes. What kind of day did He have? How did we treat the Savior of the world immediately before He chose to die for us all?
The chapter begins with the Chief Priest and the religious elders of Jerusalem plotting to kill Jesus. The very men entrusted by God to teach His Word, led by the High Priest - the only man permitted to enter the Holy of Holies - made it their mission to kill the very King they claimed to worship. This is followed by an episode where Jesus’ disciples harshly criticize the only person who showed Him any kindness that day - a woman who anointed Him with oil, as you would a body to prepare it for burial. It is significant that the only person in this entire chapter to understand what was a woman who, by the rules of her society, would have been given no authority or respect.
As Jesus and His disciples prepare to eat the Passover, one of Jesus’ closest friends and companions sneaks away to make a deal with the very people plotting to kill Him. After the meal, He takes His closest followers to the gardens to keep Him company while He prays. He was so distraught that Luke tells us He wept tears of blood. Yet despite His pleas to stay up and pray with Him, Jesus repeatedly looks up at His disciples only to find them asleep.
On the heels of this embarrassing failure, Judas arrives to betray Jesus. As He is arrested, His friends abandon Him, running into the night. Peter denies that he ever even knew Jesus not once but three times. Finally, Jesus is put on trial - if it can even be called that - in the highest court of the Jews - the people of God. But instead of justice, He receives a sham trial on trumped up charges. Following His conviction, he is spit on, mocked, and beaten by supposed holy men.
In short, Jesus’ last day on earth is a showcase of human stupidity, cowardice, and cruelty. He was made to look upon the worst that we as a species have to offer - hypocrisy, injustice, betrayal, hatred and intolerance of the worst sort. A group of people to whom He had nothing but kindness and love spat in His face and condemned Him to die.
And despite it all, He still chose to die for us. Jesus chose to give up His life as a sacrifice for the people who hated and despised Him, for the disciples who abandoned Him - and for us, who would have done the same if we had been given the chance.
That is the miracle of the cross - that God, fully knowing how twisted and evil we are, nonetheless gave His life to save ours.