Matthew concludes his grand eschatological vision of the exalted Son of Man with the harsh reality of present suffering, leading directly into his account of Jesus' betrayal, arrest and execution. As Mark connects Jesus' suffering (Mk 14--15) with that of the disciples (Mk 13) in a climax that fits the rest of his narrative, so for Matthew the passion narrative reminds disciples in this age of our present testing until our final, end-time deliverance (for example, 24:42-43; 25:13; 26:41). Because the story of our Lord's death provides the historical record of our once-for-all redemption, it reveals to us in intimate detail the concrete expression of God's love for us, as well as the awfulness of sin. At the same time, because Jesus' sacrifice becomes the model for that of his disciples (16:24), it invites us to count the cost of discipleship in a world hostile to the purposes and agendas of a God of justice, holiness and compassion.
In one of the opening scenes of this section, a woman plays the role that women continue to play in the accounts of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection: a foil that reveals the inadequate commitment of the male disciples. But most significant, her sacrifice provides a stark contrast to Judas's determination to profit somehow from Jesus, and his ultimate betrayal of Jesus to his enemies. That Jesus suffered at the hands of a close associate and disciple should encourage us when we experience rejection from those we seek to help. That most of the male disciples failed to stand firm challenges us to watch and pray that we may be ready for testing.
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