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R. T. France: The beginning of the passion narrative in Matthew, as in Mark, consists of a “concentric” drawing out of three aspects of the setting. The outer layer, in vv. 1–2 and 17–19, is the approach of the Passover festival, which provides both the historical and the theological context for what is to follow. Within that broader context we hear of the plotting of the priestly authorities against Jesus, and their recruiting of Judas, vv. 3–5 and 14–16. And set within that framework is the symbolic incident of the anointing of Jesus by a woman at Bethany (vv. 6–13). The devotion of this unnamed woman contrasts with the hostility of the priests and the treachery of Judas, while Jesus’ interpretation of her act (v. 12) prepares the reader for the success of their plot. But all this is to be understood in the context of the Passover, the festival of God’s redemption of his people and the occasion of the covenant which constituted Israel as the people of God.

Donald Hagner: In the story of the passion and resurrection of Jesus we come to the climax of the Gospel and by far the longest consecutive narrative in Matthew. Here the goal of Jesus’ mission is realized. The death of Jesus on the cross is no surprise, nor does it indicate the failure of Jesus’ mission. From the evangelist’s point of view, it is the fulfillment of scripture (26:54, 56), the fixed will of God, and the deliberate choice of the obedient Son of God. This, indeed, is the unique time (kairos) of Jesus (26:18). Therefore, the tone of the narrative is not one of tragedy or defeat but one of accomplishment and victory even before we reach the triumph of the resurrection in chap. 28. There remains, to be sure, the deep mystery of the abandonment experienced by Jesus on the cross. Although we cannot penetrate that mystery, its meaning is surely to be related to the procuring of the forgiveness of sins through the redemptive death of the Son spoken of earlier in the narrative (1:21; 20:28; cf. 26:28). Jesus in this narrative accomplishes the purpose for which he came into this world. . .

In this brief transition passage we are at a turning point, being set in motion toward the goal of the cross. The teaching and healing ministry of Jesus is essentially at an end, and we proceed now into the final and climactic stage of the Gospel narrative. Jesus calmly and confidently predicts what is to happen to him. This is indeed why he has come, and it is his primary work. There is a touch of irony in that directly after this prediction the Jewish authorities are recorded as busy in their deliberations concerning the need to be rid of this troublemaker. Thus unknowingly they industriously set about to accomplish the very purpose of God in Jesus. They cannot thwart God’s plan; in their evil opposition to Jesus they become the very instruments of the fulfillment of that plan.

Grant Osborne: There are only two more days remaining in Jesus’ life, and God is handing Jesus over to become the paschal sacrifice.  Jesus is in control and tells his followers what must soon take place.  We then see the part the leaders will play in this central drama of history as they plot Jesus’ death; they only think they are in control!

Charles Swindoll: While Jesus tried to mentally prepare His closest followers for what was coming, His archenemies were on the move in the shadows and behind closed doors, plotting a seek-and-destroy mission against the Messiah (26:4).  He had ruffled their feathers of self-righteousness and riled them up by His bold proclamation of truth against their hypocritical falsehoods.  Now they wanted to put an end to Him once and for all.


A.  (:1) Transition from a Ministry of Public Teaching

And it came about that when Jesus had finished all these words,

He said to His disciples,

Donald Hagner: Here πάντας, “all,” occurs for the first time, probably however referring only to the sayings in chaps. 24–25. On the other hand, very likely it includes a hint that this is formally the end of Jesus’ teaching, the last of the great public discourses (cf. Deut 31:1 LXX, where almost the same formula is used of the formal end of Moses’ teaching).

B.  (:2) Timing of the Crucifixion of the Son of Man

You know that after two days the Passover is coming,

and the Son of Man is to be delivered up for crucifixion.

R. T. France: Before we hear of the priests’ plot against Jesus, we hear Jesus himself foretelling what is to come. The order of these verses thus tells us that Jesus will not be taken by surprise, but willingly accepts his fate. The apparently free initiative of the priests (vv. 3–5) is to be understood within the context of an already determined divine plan.

Donald Hagner: The note about the Passover is more than simply a note of the time. When it is connected, as here, with a reference to the death of Jesus, it gives the latter a sacrificial significance; implicitly Jesus is the paschal lamb (brought out clearly in vv 26–28; πάσχα, “Passover,” is mentioned only in this chapter of Matthew; cf. vv 17–19; for explicit comparison of the Passover lamb and the death of Christ, see 1 Cor 5:7).

Leon Morris: Jesus uses his favorite title for himself, the Son of man, and says that he will be handed over (for this verb see on 4:12) to be crucified. The verb indicates two things: the initiative will be taken by the Jews, who will do the handing over, but the death sentence will be carried out by the Romans, who in any case were the only people who could perform a crucifixion in Judea at that time. The expression indicates that Jesus was well aware of the schemes of his enemies and of the inevitable outcome. This prediction of the passion is found only in Matthew. It is not without its interest that Jesus accurately fixes the time of his death as after two days, while his enemies say that it will be after the feast, that is, more than a week away (v. 5).

S. Lewis Johnson: Now we must not think, however, that because the death of our Lord Jesus was something that took place by the determinant counsel and foreknowledge of God that men are not responsible, for as Peter said, “Him being delivered by the determinant counsel and fore knowledge of God, ye have with wicked hands taken and crucified.” And in verse 3 through verse 5 we have the wicked hands of the chief priests and the scribes and the elders, together with Judas and they consult together in order to bring about the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. So grace and sin are moving toward the same end, and God makes the wrath of men to praise him. He is in control of these circumstances. We shall see this over and over again as we study the passion of our Lord, so we’ll drop it at this point.


A.  (:3) The Gathering of Jewish Conspirators

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together

in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas;

William Barclay: At the same time, the Jewish authorities were laying their plots and stratagems. Joseph Caiaphas, to give him his full name, was high priest. We know very little about him, but we do know one most suggestive fact. In the old days, the office of high priest had been hereditary and had been for life; but when the Romans took over in Palestine, high priests came and went in rapid series, for the Romans appointed and deposed high priests to suit their own purposes. Between 37 BC and AD 67, when the last was appointed before the destruction of the Temple, there were no fewer than twenty-eight high priests. The suggestive thing is that Caiaphas was high priest from AD 18–36. This was an extraordinarily long time for a high priest to last, and Caiaphas must have brought the technique of co-operating with the Romans to a fine art. And therein precisely lay his problem.

The one thing the Romans would not stand was civil disorder. Let there be any rioting, and certainly Caiaphas would lose his position. At the Passover time, the atmosphere in Jerusalem was always explosive. The city was packed tightly with people. . .

It is little wonder that Caiaphas sought some stratagem to take Jesus secretly and quietly, for many of the pilgrims were Galilaeans, and to them Jesus was a prophet. It was in fact his plan to leave the whole thing until after the Passover Feast had ended, and the city was quieter; but Judas was to provide him with a solution to his problem.

Charles Swindoll: Caiaphas, the high priest, becomes the leading antagonist, embodying all the forces of the religious elites bent on protecting their power and promoting their personal interests. Caiaphas may have been behind many of the previous attempts to hinder or trap Jesus, to question His integrity, and to weaken His influence. Now, after the numerous, multipronged efforts to foil Christ’s mission and resist His message have come up empty, the high priest and his wicked cabal have murder on their minds: “They plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him” (26:4). . .

At the time of Christ, the office of high priest in Jerusalem carried a lot of clout. Not only was the high priest the head of the temple proceedings, but he was also the ruler over many civil, social, and political affairs. Those of the priestly class “were the real rulers of the nation, although they did not claim for themselves the title of king.”  Since the Jews were under the thumb of the Roman Empire, the appointment of the high priest had to be undertaken by Rome, and the high priest operated under the authority of the Roman procurator.

At the time of Jesus’ trial, Caiaphas officially held the office (26:3), having been appointed by the Romans, but many recognized Caiaphas’s father-in-law, Annas, as the real power behind the throne. Annas had been appointed high priest in AD 6, but he was deposed nine years later. However, he remained the powerful head of an elite family, not unlike figures we see in modern organized crime syndicates. After his removal from office, he continued to wield power behind the scenes, first through his son Eleazar and then through his son-in-law Caiaphas, which explains his presence in the trials of Jesus. . .

So, as we visualize the plot to kill Jesus, we should not imagine an aboveboard deliberation among otherwise law-abiding rulers who simply made mistakes because of a lack of spiritual insight. Rather, we should picture the kind of backroom scheming we might see in a movie about the Mafia, in which unscrupulous thugs plot how to take out an adversary who is treading on their territory. Members of the high priestly family were in many respects the gangsters of Jerusalem who felt their unchallenged power squeezed by Jesus’ words and deeds. And in order to maintain the status quo of deep corruption, they were willing to commit murder.

B.  (:4) The Goal to Seize and Kill Jesus

and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth, and kill Him.

Donald Hagner: The plotting against Jesus is described as δόλῳ, “by deceit” (only occurrence in Matthew). Implied by this are both the innocence of Jesus and the unrighteousness of his opponents. The word is commonly used in the LXX to describe those who oppress the righteous (e.g., LXX Pss 9:28; 34:20; 51:2; 54:11; Prov 12:20; Jer 5:27).

D. A. Carson: The use of both assembledand plottedis deliberately suggestive of Psalm 31:13: “For I am the slander of many; fear is on every side; while they take counsel together against me, they scheme to take away my life.

C.  (:5) The Game Plan

But they were saying, ‘Not during the festival, lest a riot occur among the people.’

R. T. France: The need for “stealth” (more literally “deceit”) is explained by v. 5. The manner of Jesus’ arrival at the city in 21:1–11 had been enough to alert them to his potential as a popular leader, and his robust performance in debate with Pharisaic and other leaders during the following days in the temple courtyard would be likely to have won further support. Note his popular reputation as a prophet (21:11, 46) like John (21:26). Given the volatile mood of the crowded city during the festival, a public arrest of Jesus would be very risky; the reaction of the Galileans among the pilgrims would be particularly likely to erupt into violence. Yet they could hardly have intended to wait until after the full eight-day festival period, as Jesus would be likely to have left Jerusalem by then. J. Jeremias has therefore argued that the Greek phrase here means “not in the presence of the festival crowd,” and perhaps that represents the gist of their thinking, even though it is not a natural sense of en tē heortē. It certainly represents what in fact happened, a secret arrest at night away from the crowds, especially Jesus’ Galilean supporters; vv. 14–16 will explain how this proved to be possible, more quickly than they may have expected.

Richard Gardner: According to the text, the session ends on a note of unrelieved tension: The conspirators want to arrest Jesus while he is in town for Passover. But how can they do so without inciting a riot among Jesus’ supporters? Not until verses 14-16 will a solution present itself.

D. A. Carson: The leaders were right in fearing the people. Jerusalem’s population swelled perhaps fivefold during the feast; with religious fervor and national messianism at a high pitch, a spark might set off an explosion. They decided to suspend action, but Judas’s offer to hand Jesus over at a time and place when the crowds were not present was too good an opportunity to pass up (vv.14–16). Thus in God’s providence, the connection between Passover and Jesus’ death that he had just predicted (vv.1–2) came about.