Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Insights from Matthew

For the most part, Matthew's narrative of Christ's death is extremely similar to the other gospel accounts. However, Matthew includes a few details and at least one extra anecdote that bring additional shades of meaning to the story of the Lord's death and Resurrection.
First, Matthew's narrative adds additional and unique detail to the story of Judas. While the other gospels tell us that Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus with a kiss and got thirty pieces of silver out of it, Matthew goes further. In chapter 27, verses 2-10, we learn that Judas later regretted his betrayal. When he "saw that [Jesus] was condemned," he went back to the chief priests and returned the thirty pieces of silver, saying, "I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood." The chief priests more or less waved him away, saying, "What is that to us?" Judas, full of remorse than went and hanged himself. I find this additional insight into Judas’ betrayal to be compelling and meaningful. No longer do we see Judas as the one-sided villain, as merely the traitor who sold Jesus for silver. Instead, I at least see Judas as a man who loved Jesus, who perhaps started out really wanting to follow and serve him, but who was blinded by greed and doubt. The Matthian account even says that he “repented” (27:3) of his crime, though we do not know whether this was a full repentance, or what Mormon calls, “the sorrowing of the damned” (Mormon 2:13). None of this excuses Judas’ crime, of course. He betrayed the Son of God, the Christ, to satisfy his own greed. However, Matthew’s account brings an additional layer of meaning to the story, showing a little more of Judas’ humanity, and helping the reader to refrain from judging Judas, a duty that should be reserved for God alone.
Another important aspect in Matthew’s account is his focus on Old Testament prophesies about Jesus. I found two specific instances of this in the Matthian Passion narrative that do not appear in the other gospels. The first is related to the account of Judas’ suicide. When Judas returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests, they used it to buy “the potter’s field, to bury strangers in.” According to Matthew, this fulfills Jeremiah’s prophecy that “they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me” (Matthew 27:9-10). Another example of Matthew’s focus on prophecy occurs in Matthew 27:35, when the soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ clothing. The other gospels mention that His clothing is divided among the soldiers, but Matthew points out that it fulfills that “which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among then, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.” Matthew uses the prophecies of the ancient prophets to show help his audience understand Christ’s divinity and purpose, especially in his narrative of Christ’s death.

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