It is Good Friday. And our Gospel of Matthew reading has us in chapter 26 today. I spent some time in my own reading of this chapter paying attention to a particular literary technique Matthew used when he told the story of Jesus’ life.
After Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount back in chapters 5-7, Jesus moved on. Matthew recorded it like this, “And when Jesus had finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished …” (7:28).
Later, after Jesus gave his disciples instructions about their apostolic work, Jesus moved on. Matthew recorded, “When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there …” (11:1).
And then, after Jesus taught the people a whole string of parables, Jesus moved on. Matthew wrote, “And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there …” (13:53).
And after Jesus finished teaching Peter and his disciples about forgiveness, Jesus moved on. Matthew wrote, “Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee …” (19:1).
And finally, after Jesus was done teaching his disciples about his coming, Jesus moved on. Matthew wrote, “When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said …” (26:1).
Each time, Matthew gave us a transition. He gave us the people’s reaction to Jesus, and he told us what Jesus did next. The difference in Matthew 26:1, of course, is the word “all.” Jesus had finished “all these sayings.”
People who study these things note that Jesus was done (largely) teaching his disciples. He was finished with instructing his followers about the way of the kingdom of God and about how to be an apostle. He was finished with parables and moral teaching and instructions about his coming. In essence, Jesus had told his disciples all that they needed to know in order to be his disciples. That particular work was complete.
Jesus was done with “all” of it. And now he was moving on to something else. He was moving on to the cross.
Today is Good Friday. Today, we mark Jesus’ death on the cross. And we are doing it, largely, alone. But we know what to do because Jesus has told us. We have the Gospel of Matthew saved and handed down to us as our guide. These are Jesus’ words. These are his teachings – his “sayings.” We have “all” of them.
What a gift! Jesus left his disciples with that gift, with his words, and then he submitted himself to the will of his Father in order to save us. He would be “delivered up to be crucified.”
We keep in mind today that he was delivered up for us. We keep in mind that it’s impossible for us to keep up with all of Jesus’ “sayings.” It’s impossible for us to understand and fully abide by his parables. It’s impossible for us to maintain this standard for forgiveness.
And so Jesus gave us his words, all of them, and then he finished the job. It’s never been enough for God simply to give us his law. We are unable to keep it. We will fail every time. God’s people, on their own, have a long history of failing to stay by God’s side. Given “all” his words, we still tend to wander.
And so in Christ, God spoke his law, and then God acted. Jesus took on the penalty for our sins. He was delivered up so that we wouldn’t have to be delivered up. He was delivered up so that we could be saved by grace through faith, not a result of our good works but a result of God’s mercy. God gave himself up for us.
On this Good Friday, we can remember that Jesus was left all alone on that cross. His disciples had fled. He’d told them everything. They knew it “all.” And yet they fled. (Even Peter, so confident right up until the end.) They abandoned him. And still, Jesus moved on. He moved forward. For his first disciples and also for us.
Spend some time thinking about the cost of your salvation. Spend some time thinking about the penalty for sin. Spend some time in gratitude for your Savior.