Jean’s Gospel: The Passion According To St. Matthew
By Martin H. Franzmann1
“The mockery of Jesus’ enemies and tormentors echoed all that Jesus had ever claimed for Himself.
The titles Prophet, Christ, King, Savior, Son of God, are heard again (Matt 26:68; 27:40, 42). His perfect will of trust and obedience toward God is used to reproach Him (27:43). His prediction that He would rise from the dead is used to brand Him as an impostor (27:63)….
The governance of God was over the whole Passion history; nothing was so slight that it was not worked into His pattern and proclamation. Nothing was so adverse and contradictory but that He controlled it too and made it serve His ends.
Here the arm of the Lord was revealed, in the Servant’s rejection, dereliction, and death; and all men and all things had to serve that revelation. The cosmos served that revelation: ‘From the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour’ (27:45). The disciples might well remember Jesus’ last words concerning the world’s last days: ‘The sun will be darkened’ (24:29) and be led to see in the cross the writing of God’s last chapter in history, an eschatological event. In a very real sense the cross was a last judgment on man and did usher in the Day of the Lord.
The temple served the revelation of God (27:51).
Jesus had called the temple the house of the great King (5:35) and had asserted the sanctity of the temple and all its appurtenances (23:16-20). But He had also pronounced a judgment on the corrupted cultus of that temple when He cleansed it (21:12, 13). He had proclaimed the Son’s freedom over against the temple, and the freedom of all sons (17:24-27). He had pointed to Himself as something greater than the temple, as the new and fuller Presence of God among His people (12:6); and He had predicted the utter ruin of the old temple (24:1, 2).
What His words had said, God enacted at His death.
‘Behold your house is forsaken and desolate’ (23:38), Jesus had said; God’s action executes the verdict — ‘The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom’ (27:51). The curtain no longer serves to veil the Presence; the temple is no longer God’s abode. When men reject the Son of God, they have lost all right to the house of God.
The grave itself served that revelation of the arm of God.
The earth shook, the rocks were split, the tombs were opened, and the dead came forth (27:51-53). The Son of man’s ministry had foretokened the overcoming of man’s diseased dying and a victory over death. The culmination of His ministry, the giving of His life as a ransom for many, signifies the release of the dead and the death of death….
But whatever the mouths of enemies and the eloquent shape of history may have said in witness to the Christ, however mysteriously and wondrously the Father may have attested the Son, the disciples were silent, fearful, and faithless.
On the cross the Law spelled out its last word, and every mouth was stopped. The Gospel is exclusively the Gospel of the Christ; He has no heroes beside Him. He will build His church, thus, in spite of man’s failure and by the Son’s sole triumph. The disciples are not heroes but witnesses, not lords but servants, not religious geniuses, not men gifted with unusual religious intuition but recipients of revelation, not men of outstanding religious attainments but objects of the boundless condescension of God, not heroes but believers. At the cross the disciples learned fully and forever the beggary of faith; they stood at the cross as Abraham had stood at the promise of God — at dead end, where human possibilities end, and God’s possibilities begin (Rom. 4:17-21). And thus they learned, like Abraham, to give God His glory. (Rom. 4:20)
They came to faith as all men must come, by the way of repentance.
The record of the Passion is the disciples’ confiteor, their confession of sins. The whole Passion account voices their confession, ‘All we like sheep have gone astray … the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all’ (Isa 53:6); as such it is also their Tu solus:
‘Thou that takest away the sin of the world,
Have mercy upon us….
For Thou only art holy;
Thou only art the Lord.’ ” Amen.
1Franzmann, Martin H. (2001). Follow Me: Discipleship According to Matthew. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.