Simon of Cyrene (Mt 27:32-27:32)

“As they went out,

They came upon a man

From Cyrene,

Named Simon.

They compelled

This man

To carry

His cross.”

 

Ἐξερχόμενοι δὲ εὗρον ἄνθρωπον Κυρηναῖον, ὀνόματι Σίμωνα· τοῦτον ἠγγάρευσαν ἵνα ἄρῃ τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ.

 

This is similar to Mark, chapter 15:21, who has a very detailed description of Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as well as Luke, chapter 23:26.  John, chapter 19:17, had no mention of Simon, since he said that Jesus carried his cross by himself.  As they went out from the courtyard (Ἐξερχόμενοι δ), the Roman soldiers came upon a man from Cyrene (εὗρον ἄνθρωπον Κυρηναῖον) that had a large Jewish community in current day Libya.  This man was named Simon (ὀνόματι Σίμωνα).  They compelled or forced him to carry Jesus’ cross (τοῦτον ἠγγάρευσαν ἵνα ἄρῃ τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ).  This Simon may have been in Jerusalem for the Passover.  Mark seemed to indicate that this Simon was well known with two sons, but Matthew and Luke did not mention his sons.

Looking for false testimony (Mt 26:59-26:60)

“Now the chief priests

And the whole council

Sought

False testimony

Against Jesus.

Thus,

They might put him

To death.

But they found none.

Even though

Many false witnesses

Came forward.”

 

Οἱ δὲ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ τὸ συνέδριον ὅλον ἐζήτουν ψευδομαρτυρίαν κατὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ὅπως αὐτὸν θανατώσωσιν,

καὶ οὐχ εὗρον πολλῶν προσελθόντων ψευδομαρτύρων.

 

This is almost word for word in Mark, chapter 14:55-56.  However, this is not in Luke, chapter 22, and John, chapter 18.  Matthew and Mark said that the chief priests (Οἱ δὲ ἀρχιερεῖς) and the whole council (καὶ τὸ συνέδριον ὅλον) sought false testimony against Jesus (ἐζήτουν ψευδομαρτυρίαν κατὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ).  They did this so that they might put him to death (ὅπως αὐτὸν θανατώσωσιν).  However, they could not find any witnesses (καὶ οὐχ εὗρον), even though many false witnesses came forward (πολλῶν προσελθόντων ψευδομαρτύρων).  According to Jewish law in Deuteronomy, chapters 17:6 and 19:15, it took 2 witnesses to convict anyone.  This sounds more like a trial than an informal meeting.  Not only were they seeking pseudo or false witnesses, the whole council meeting may have been illegal, since they were not allowed to meet during the festivals, including Passover.  The whole council would have included the elders or presbyters and the Scribes of Jerusalem, along with priests and high priests.  The dreaded Pharisees and Sadducees were not part of this council or meeting.

Jesus goes before Caiaphas the high priest (Mt 26:57-26:57)

“Those

Who had arrested Jesus

Took him

To Caiaphas,

The high priest.

There

The Scribes

And the elders

Had gathered.”

 

Οἱ δὲ κρατήσαντες τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἀπήγαγον πρὸς Καϊάφαν τὸν ἀρχιερέα, ὅπου οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι συνήχθησα

 

This is similar to Mark, chapter 14:53, but Caiaphas was not mentioned there.  In Luke, chapter 22:54, Jesus was simply brought to the high priest’s house, while in John, chapter 18:13-14, they brought Jesus to the house of the father-in-law of Caiaphas, Annas, who had been a high priest. from 6-15 CE, before he was removed by the Romans at the age of 36, even though he lived to the age of 61.  Thus, he had a lot of influence on things.  John remarked that Caiaphas had said it was better for one person to die for the people.  Caiaphas was the high priest from 18-36 CE since he had married the daughter of Annas.  Matthew said that those who had seized, arrested, or captured Jesus (Οἱ δὲ κρατήσαντες τὸν Ἰησοῦν) took him to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest (ἀπήγαγον πρὸς Καϊάφαν τὸν ἀρχιερέα).  Apparently, the Scribes and the elder presbyters had gathered or assembled there (ὅπου οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι συνήχθησα).  Was this an official meeting of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin?  Probably not, because these official meetings could not be held during the festival days or during the Passover.  On the other hand, some kind of informal meeting was possible.  However, there was no mention of the Pharisees and the Sadducees being there either.

The house for the Passover meal (Mt 26:18-26:18)

“Jesus said.

‘Go into the city

To a certain man!

Say to him!

‘The Teacher says.

My time is near.

I will keep

The Passover

At your house

With my disciples.’”

 

ὁ δὲ εἶπεν Ὑπάγετε εἰς τὴν πόλιν πρὸς τὸν δεῖνα καὶ εἴπατε αὐτῷ Ὁ Διδάσκαλος λέγει Ὁ καιρός μου ἐγγύς ἐστιν· πρὸς σὲ ποιῶ τὸ πάσχα μετὰ τῶν μαθητῶν μου.

 

This is similar to Mark, chapter 14:13-14, and Luke, chapter 22:10-12, who both mention that the man has a jar of water, something not mentioned here.  Jesus said that they were to go into the city of Jerusalem (ὁ δὲ εἶπεν Ὑπάγετε εἰς τὴν πόλιν) to a certain unnamed man (πρὸς τὸν δεῖνα).  The other 2 gospel writers said that this man was going to be carrying a jar of water.  They were to say to him (καὶ εἴπατε αὐτῷ) that the teacher said that his time was near (Ὁ Διδάσκαλος λέγει Ὁ καιρός μου ἐγγύς ἐστιν).  Jesus wanted to keep the Passover (πρὸς σὲ ποιῶ τὸ πάσχα) at his house with his disciples (μετὰ τῶν μαθητῶν μου).  There was no explicit mention of a guest room in this house as in the other 2 synoptic gospels.  This Passover was the remembrance of the Israelites fleeing Egypt by eating special foods.

Where will the Passover be? (Mt 26:17-26:17)

“On the first day

Of Unleavened Bread,

The disciples

Came to Jesus.

They said.

‘Where do you want us

To make the preparations

For you

To eat

The Passover?’”

 

Τῇ δὲ πρώτῃ τῶν ἀζύμων προσῆλθον οἱ μαθηταὶ τῷ Ἰησοῦ λέγοντες Ποῦ θέλεις ἑτοιμάσωμέν σοι φαγεῖν τὸ πάσχα;

 

This is similar to Mark, chapter 14:12, and Luke, chapter 22:7-9, but in Luke, Jesus was speaking to Peter and John explicitly.  All three synoptic gospel writers said that this was the 1st day of the Unleavened Bread (Τῇ δὲ πρώτῃ τῶν ἀζύμων).  Mark and Luke explained that this was the Passover (τὸ πάσχα), but Matthew did not feel the need to explain that to his Jewish Christian readers.  Some unnamed disciples came to Jesus (προσῆλθον οἱ μαθηταὶ τῷ Ἰησοῦ).  They wanted to know where Jesus wished them to make preparations to eat the Passover (λέγοντες Ποῦ θέλεις ἑτοιμάσωμέν σοι φαγεῖν τὸ πάσχα).  At that time, it was the custom to go to Jerusalem to eat the Passover (φαγεῖν τὸ πάσχα), not in their homes as later, after the destruction of the Temple.  The question of whether this was the Passover or the day before the Passover seems somewhat moot, since this was the 1st day of the Unleavened Bread, when they ate the matzah bread, the Hebrew word for unleavened.  The Passover meal itself usually included a lamb.

 

Why waste oil? (Mt 26:8-26:9)

“But when the disciples

Saw it,

They were angry.

They said.

‘Why this waste?

This ointment

Could have been sold

For a large sum.

The money could have been

Given to the poor.’”

 

ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ μαθηταὶ ἠγανάκτησαν λέγοντες Εἰς τί ἡ ἀπώλεια αὕτη;

ἐδύνατο γὰρ τοῦτο πραθῆναι πολλοῦ καὶ δοθῆναι πτωχοῖς.

 

This is similar to Mark, chapter 14:4-5, and somewhat similar to John, chapter 12:4-6, where Judas Iscariot complained about wasting money and John made derogatory remarks about Judas.  Matthew said that these unnamed disciples saw what had happened (ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ μαθηταὶ), so that they were angry, incensed, or indignant (ἠγανάκτησαν).  They complained that this was a waste of this precious oil (λέγοντες Εἰς τί ἡ ἀπώλεια αὕτη).  It could have been sold for a large sum (ἐδύνατο γὰρ τοῦτο πραθῆναι πολλοῦ), without mentioning the amount of 300 denarii (about $450.00 US), as did Mark and John, for this was very expensive oil.  Then that large sum of money obtained from the sale of this ointment could have been given to the poor (καὶ δοθῆναι πτωχοῖς).  Giving to the poor at the time of Passover was a common custom.

Fourth prediction about the death of the Son of Man (Mt 26:2-26:2)

“You know

That after two days

The Passover is coming.

The Son of Man

Will be handed over

To be crucified.”

 

Οἴδατε ὅτι μετὰ δύο ἡμέρας τὸ πάσχα γίνεται, καὶ ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδίδοται εἰς τὸ σταυρωθῆναι.

 

This is something similar to this in Mark, chapter 14:1, and in Luke, chapter 22:1, where there was talk of the Passover in 2 days, but no mention of the future death of Jesus.  Jesus said to his disciples that they should know (Οἴδατε) that in 2 days (μετὰ δύο ἡμέρας), the Passover would take place (τὸ πάσχα γίνεται), just like in Mark and Luke.   However, Matthew has Jesus issue his 4th prediction about his death.  He said that Son of Man (καὶ ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου) would be betrayed or handed over to be crucified (παραδίδοται εἰς τὸ σταυρωθῆναι).  This was similar to the same predictions in the preceding chapters, 16:21-23, 17:22-23, and 20:17:19.  The Passover was a major Jewish celebration in Jerusalem, celebrating the Israelite Exodus from Egypt.

Do they pay the temple tax? (Mt 17:24-17:25)

“When they reached

Capernaum,

The collectors

Of the temple tax

Came to Peter.

They said.

‘Does your teacher

Not pay the tax?’

Peter said.

‘Yes!

He does!’”

 

Ἐλθόντων δὲ αὐτῶν εἰς Καφαρναοὺμ προσῆλθον οἱ τὰ δίδραχμα λαμβάνοντες τῷ Πέτρῳ καὶ εἶπαν Ὁ διδάσκαλος ὑμῶν οὐ τελεῖ δίδραχμα;

λέγει Ναί.

 

This section about the temple tax is unique to Matthew.  Jesus and his disciples had come back to Capernaum (Ἐλθόντων δὲ αὐτῶν εἰς Καφαρναοὺμ).  The collectors of the temple tax came to Peter (προσῆλθον οἱ τὰ δίδραχμα λαμβάνοντες τῷ Πέτρῳ).  Once again, this is an indication of Peter’s leadership.  They asked him if his teacher had paid the temple tax (καὶ εἶπαν Ὁ διδάσκαλος ὑμῶν οὐ τελεῖ δίδραχμα).  Peter responded that Jesus did pay the tax with a simple yes answer (λέγει Ναί).  What is this temple tax?  It actually was a half-shekel or “δίδραχμα – didrachma.”  All the Israelite males over the age of 20 had to pay this half-shekel tax to the Jerusalem temple, once a year, sometime in March around Passover time.  In Capernaum, there was no temple, just a synagogue.  However, this might have been a group that was collecting for the temple tax in Jerusalem for those who were not going to go to Jerusalem for the Passover.  The value of a shekel would have been around $5.00 USA, so that each male had to pay about $2.50, not a big deal for a once a year tax.  This incident probably made more sense in Jerusalem itself.

The seventh month offerings (Ezek 45:25-45:25)

“In the seventh month,

On the fifteenth day

Of the month,

For the seven days

Of the festival,

The prince shall make

The same provision

For sin offerings,

Burnt offerings,

Grain offerings,

As well as for the oil.”

The only other 7-day festival mentioned here is the festival of Tents that was on the 15th day in the 7th month of the year, 6 months after Passover. Once again, the prince was to provide the same provisions as at Passover. He had to provide all those animals and grains for the 7-day sin offerings, the burnt offerings, and the grain offerings, including the oil with the grain offerings.

The moon (Sir 43:6-43:8)

“It is the moon

That marks the changing seasons.

The moon governs the times.

It is their everlasting sign.

From the moon

Comes the sign

For festal days.

It is a light that wanes

When it completes its course.

The new moon,

As its name suggests,

Renews itself.

The month is named

After the moon.

How marvelous it is

In this change!

It is a beacon

For the hosts on high!

It shines

In the vault of the heavens!”

Sirach points out how important the moon was for the Israelites. First, the moon marked the changing of seasons. Then the festival days were based on the moon. Both Passover and the feast of the Tents were based on a full moon. In fact, calculating the observance of Christian Easter each year is based on the full moon of spring. We even still talk about a harvest moon and a romantic moon. The moon appears to become full and wane because of its position between the sun and the earth. Thus it looks like the new moon renews itself. The Israelite Hebrews had the same word for moon and month, since they used a lunar calendar to keep track of their days. Yet even today, we appreciate the value of a bright glorious moon in the heavenly sky at night.