This final section of Matthew’s account of Jesus is quite interesting for several reasons and is deserving of a little extra background information. To begin, it is comprised of three parts, the first of which runs from 26:1-56 in which Jesus actively predicts and accepts the course of events that culminate in His death. In these scenes there is a cohesiveness that is comprised of Jesus’ own words that detail coming events, and even set them in motion; they are punctuation by prophetic announcements concerning upcoming scenes (See 26:3, 12, 18, 21, 24, 31, 32, 34, 45, 50, 54, 56). With this continuing contrast between Jesus’ foreknowledge and His constant determination to do the Father’s will (cf. 26:34, 39, 42, 54, 56) Matthew shows us that the Passion of Jesus was not a strange twist at the end of the story, but a conscious and voluntary self-sacrifice made to accomplish God’s will.
The second part extends from 26:57-27:50, in which Jesus moves away from being an active participant and into a passive role, seldom speaking and silently enduring pain and humiliation as God’s suffering servant. Following Jesus’ death in 27:50, God once again takes an active role in the story, confirming His pleasure with His Son’s actions through miraculous signs of approval. As a result, the mocking of the Jewish leaders in 27:38-41 is replaced by Gentile onlookers’ claim that Jesus was “the Son of God” (27:54). The Jewish leaders take every precaution to ensure that no one can claim Jesus had risen from the tomb by posting guards; yet He bursts forth from that very same tomb. You no doubt know the story and the series of events; God is quite active in the remainder of the narrative.
There is another aspect of the Passion that might be of interest: The Passion has many parallels with the opening section of Matthew’s Gospel (1:1-4:17). The concluding section of Matthew’s account brings to a climax the rising Jewish opposition that began way back when Herod attempted to kill Jesus at the time of His birth (2:16-18 cf. Rev. 12:1-4). We might also note that early in the story, the “chief priests and teachers of the law” are aligned with political forces in opposition to Jesus (2:4-6). In addition, the final section resumes the emphasis on prophetic fulfillment in a manner parallel to the opening chapters (Chs. 1-5 cf. 26:56, 59; 27:9-10). The latter chapters also abound with references to Old Testament texts (e.g. Ps. 22, 69; Zech. 11:13; Is. 50-53).
There are many themes, ideas and phrases that were found in early chapters which are repeated in the final section such as forgiveness of sins (1:21; 9:6; 20:28; 26:28), as well as terms relative to Jesus such as Christ, King of the Jews, shepherd and Son of God. Even the mocking scenes have a parallel in the Temptation narrative (4:1-11) when the mockers take on the role of tempters to try and deflect Jesus from His course of doing God’s will.
Finally, the ending of the narrative (28:18-20) recalls the themes of: A mountain as the place of revelation, the universal appeal of the Gospel and the abiding presence of Christ, and with this abiding in the last sentence, it is as though Matthew has taken us full circle, back to Jesus in Galilee. Clearly, with this final command to teach “everything I have commanded you” we find that the entirety of Matthew’s narrative becomes an active part of our Christian lives.