Note: Devotion based on last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 26:47-56.
Matthew 26:53 Thinkest thou that I cannot pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?
54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?
After our Lord’s prayer in Gethsemane, Judas led the mob to arrest him. Peter drew his sword and struck a glancing blow, cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant (see Matthew 26:51). Christ however commanded that Peter put the sword back in its place, stating, “for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (v. 52).
Christ then proceeded to say to Peter and the rest in v. 53: “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” A Roman legion consisted of 6,000 soldiers, so twelve legions of angels would have been 72,000 angels.
We are reminded here of the incarnate Son’s intimate communion with the Father. We are also reminded of the Son’s passive obedience regarding his passion. It is not that he lacks the power to throw off this puny mob that has come to arrest him, as though he were a thief, with swords and staves. He did not need Peter’s toothpick of a sword to defend him. He had myriads of angels at this command. But he goes to the cross as an act of obedience.
This point is cinched in v. 54 in the question he posed: “But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” The last phrase is of interest, “Thus it must be.” In Greek this phrase includes a short particle (dei) with the infinitive, indicating that something is necessary to come about. It is sometimes called the divine dei. It is God’s will that Christ go to the cross.
Christ’s death upon the cross is not, in the end, according to the evil will of men, but according to the good will of God, the Father. We can look back at Christ’s words in 26:24a: “The Son of man goeth as it Is written of him.”
This has been Matthew’s constant emphasis throughout his Gospel, stressing that the events of Christ’s life take place in fulfillment of Scripture. This started with his virgin birth (Matt 1:22-23), continued in his public ministry in Galilee (4:13-16); and now includes his passion.
In being arrested and going to the cross for sinners, Christ fulfilled in obedience the divine plan of salvation in the covenant of redemption. Thus it must be.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle