The most depressing chapter in the New Testament
As I was reading Matthew 26 during my morning devotion, it occurred to me that this might be the most depressing chapter in the New Testament. In the course of 75 short verses, we read about the Jews' plot to kill Jesus, Judas' betrayal, Peter's denials, the Gethsemane experience (to include the sleepy disciples and Jesus' deep anguish over going to the cross), the testimony of false witnesses against Jesus, and Jesus' arrest and initial beating. Matthew 26 should probably be renamed "Murphy 26" because it seems like anything that could go wrong did go wrong in this chapter.
But I also notice that nestled right in the middle of Matthew 26 is one of the most beautiful events in the New Testament, namely, Jesus' institution of the Lord's Supper. Matthew 26:17-30 records the Lord's final, intimate dinner with his closest friends. It's here that we see Jesus pour out his heart to the disciples and offer to them his body and blood, both in symbolic form through bread and wine and in covenantal form through the spirit of love, remembrance, and communion. Surrounded by tragedy and despair, Jesus finds an opportunity to bring light and fellowship.
Isn't that how life is for us most of the time? We are burdened on all sides, laid waste day after day by the tragedies of this world. Yet, right in the middle of it all--if we pay attention and take the time to commune with him--we find Christ and his covenant with us. When our bodies are in pain and our blood is being spilled (figuratively or literally), we can find the body and blood of Christ to nourish and sustain us and testify to his reality on our lives. In the center of our defeat is always his victory!
So, in some ways Matthew 26 (or Murphy 26) can be viewed as the most depressing chapter in the New Testament. But in many more ways it should be seen as a commentary on the believer's life of faith and, as such, we should celebrate it. In fact, some might argue that it is the most magnificent chapter ever written!