Please note that the November and December meetings will happen on the first Wednesday of the month, due to a scheduling conflict. Join us in the Parish Hall on November 6 and December 4 at 7:00pm.
We undertake this week our first read-through of the Passion (the suffering), Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is so much in these three chapters that is so very familiar – the Easter story, Pontius Pilate, the arrest in the garden, the Last Supper – that I urge you to take it slow, to attend to the details, to not let the versions of these stories already in your head dictate how you read them. Matthew has his own particular take on all of this, including a focus (again!) on the fulfilling of scriptural prophecies, a minimal number of resurrection appearances (though the last to a large crowd), and the inclusion of Judas's regret and the guarding of the tomb, all of which serve as goads to his intended audience, the Jewish people of his time.
Most intriguing, however, is the movement from the steady abandonment of Jesus in chapter 26 – the crowd of disciples at the house in Bethany where a woman anoints him, the disciples who have the Last Supper with him, the betrayal by Judas, Peter's denials predicted, the failure of the disciples to stay awake, their flight after his arrest – to his isolation in chapter 27 – which is intensified by those who mock him, and alleviated only by the faithful response of the centurion and the patient presence of the women – to finally Jesus reconnecting in the resurrection events of chapter 28: first to the women, then to the crowd, and at last to the whole world.
Might this overall movement, which is not unique to Matthew but seems to be emphasized by him more than the other gospel writers, also serve as a mirroring of the relationship of God to the ancient and first-century people of Israel? in that the people abandon God but God keeps pursuing them? Are there times in our lives when we've felt as if we've abandoned our God, abandoned our faith, only to find God pursuing us, inserting awareness of his presence into our lives, renewing our faith, and calling us back again into the community of believers?