Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:1-75, Leviticus 23:5-6, Isaiah 53:7, Jeremiah 31:31
“What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” (Matthew 26:15).
This historical record of Jesus Christ contains some of the most chilling sentences in all of literature and history. In this chapter of Matthew 26, we follow Christ through His final days and hours and watch, blow by agonizing blow, how He gives His life away in little pieces, even before He gasps His last breath on Golgotha. Judas plays his role, but Christ handed Himself over.
What did it look like for Christ to give His life, while He still breathed, as He willingly walked to His death? He gives it away in so many big and small ways in this chapter alone, that I don’t have space here to touch on each. (If you can, take time to circle all the ways you see Christ giving away His life in these verses.) But we can look at a few here together.
Within the first two verses of the chapter, Jesus tells His disciples the exact day He will die. He specifies that it will happen in two days’ time. We don’t have a record here of their response, but judging from their other responses in Scripture, disbelief is a fair guess. Jesus gives His life by declaring His intention to do so.
He then allows the woman to prepare His body for burial. He defends her extravagance and celebrates her for seeing a small part of the truth of what would happen to Him, declaring her actions as noble (vv. 6-13). He knows what is coming, yet He doesn’t run from it. Jesus gives His life by preparing for His own burial.
While He shares His final meal with the disciples, Jesus distresses His disciples by saying, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me” (v. 21). He suffers one of the deepest human sorrows: betrayal by a friend. In spite of their protestations, His disciples continue to betray Him as they fall asleep (vv. 36-46), desert Him (v. 56), and deny Him (vv. 69-75). Jesus gives His life by suffering betrayal.
In all these little ways and more, Jesus gave up His life for us. He suffered the whole gamut of human pain from heartbreak to torture. Reading all of this horror would feel gratuitous, except this is the narrative of our own happy ending. Because of Jesus’ thousand tiny deaths, and one literal death, we can live. We not only live, but we get to live happily ever after, with Him. This harrowing history is the key. He slayed the dragon of death and sin, and we can live in grateful joy for His precious sacrifice.