Today’s reading: Matthew 27:51-66
Today we read of the Crucifixion and death of Jesus. There are many things to note:
- The crucifixion and death finally closes the Passover meal that started at the Last Supper two days before. Remember that there are four cups to the Passover meal. After the third cup Jesus said that he would not drink of the fruit of the vine until he was with the Father in heaven and then went out to the garden of Gethsemane. On the cross, just before he dies, Jesus drinks from a sponge soaked in spoiled wine. This drink is the fourth cup, the cup of consummation.
- We see still more allusions to the Passover in other ways. At the Passover the Hebrews painted their doorposts with lamb’s blood. Here Jesus is the lamb and the wooden posts of the cross are painted with his blood. At Passover the doorposts were painted with hyssop branches. Here the spoiled wine is held up to Jesus on a branch (which we learn in other gospels was in fact a hyssop branch).
- Jesus’ statement from the cross, “Eli, Eli, lama sabach-thani?”, is the first line of Psalm 22 in which a righteous man who suffers much is vindicated by God. The psalm contains several verses that clearly allude to Jesus including that they will ‘pierce his hands and feet’ and that they will divide his garments.
- The tearing of the Temple veil has great significance. The veil separated the inner sanctum of the Temple, the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, from the people (and even the priests). It shows that the old covenant is now completed as the Ark no longer needs to be shrouded. In contrast, it is Jesus’ body that now is covered in a shroud. The tearing of the veil shows that God is now approachable, not shielded off from the world. That the veil was torn from the top down shows that this is God’s action, not a man’s.
Tomorrow: Matthew 28