April 6, 2020

Our Matthew readings over the next few days will take us into Holy Week and eventually into Easter. If you want to stick to the liturgical year instead of jumping ahead try reading some of what we have posted over on our daily devotional page.

A reflection on Matthew 27:1-31 by our Assistant Program Director, Angie Smith.

Today’s reading is Jesus’ “trial” before Pilate. I always forget that Pilate’s wife makes an appearance in this story. In the ancient world dreams were taken seriously (think about all the stories in the Old Testament that revolve around dreams and Joseph’s dream in the New Testament). Pilate’s wife having a dream about it was a big deal, Matthew’s original audience would have picked up the significance immediately.

We make a lot of assumptions about this text in part because we don’t consider the historical context and two and in part because we think we know the story. If you didn’t closely read the text for this week, please go back and do so. One of the assumptions that we make is that everyone in the crown knew who Jesus was. Sure, some people in the crowd knew, but we cannot assume that everyone knew. It’s very likely that the crowd was there for the spectacle of seeing which prisoner would be freed, it didn’t really matter who was let go, as long as the crowd was entertained. Not everyone was there to support Jesus.

If you have been paying attention to Matthew from the beginning you know that Jesus will be handed over, what happens at the “trial” shouldn’t come as a surprise. Jesus must die and in order for that to happen certain events have to take place. For centuries the church has used this text in its anti-Semitic arguments, the Jews handed Jesus over, the Jews killed Jesus. No, they didn’t. I know I said it earlier, but I’m going to say it again, the Passion narrative is not to be used as a tool to attack our Jewish brothers and sisters, none of the Bible is. If Jesus didn’t die, where would we be today? There would be no church without the incarnation, death, resurrection, and accession of Jesus.

Our personal versions of the events of Holy Week are oft times tainted our history of racism and by movies that combine the Gospels and add extra drama to an already dramatic story. As we read during this Holy Week, let’s collectively try to set aside our preconceived notions about the events of the Passion. Let’s go to the text with our eyes open, we’ll find things we didn’t realize were there, like Pilate’s wife. If you have some time this week write your version of the Holy Week story, start at Palm Sunday and end wherever you think is best. Then read the Passion accounts in the Gospels. How closely does your version represent what the text says in each Gospel? Is your retelling skewed to one Gospel or is at a mix of all four? There’s no right or wrong here, the point of this exercise is to open ourselves up to the text in a new way.

As we journey through this week, let’s remember one another prayer and take time to reflect on our stories. Amen.