Matthew 26:17 (Passion Week Chronology Part 1)

Recall that six days before the Passover Jesus arrived in Bethany (Joh 12:1), and it was that evening at the house of Simon the Leper that Mary anointed Him with the costly perfume to set in motion the events leading to His crucifixion (Mat 26:6-7, Joh 12:2-3).  That day was Friday, not Saturday as would be the case if the Passover occurred the following Friday as traditionally supposed, for He would not have traveled on Saturday, the Sabbath, being an observant Jew.  Hence, the Passover, at least as reckoned by John, took place on Thursday, not Friday as traditionally held; see also our study Three Days and Three Nights; The Paschal Controversy on Matthew 12:40.

The next day after Jesus had arrived in Bethany was Saturday and the Sabbath.  Because people were not working and Bethany was near Jerusalem (Joh 11:18), about a Sabbath day’s journey away (Luk 24:50, Act 1:12) a large crowd of Jews who learned He was there came to see both Jesus and Lazarus whom He had raised from the dead (Joh 12:9).  Then on the following day, Sunday, He made His triumphal entry to Jerusalem (Joh 12:12-15) to the loud praises of a multitude that was happy to receive Him as the King they hoped would save them from the Romans, but in God’s providence were setting apart an unblemished Lamb Whom the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel would kill four days later; cf. Exo 12:3,6, Mat 27:20,25.  Knowing the fickleness of the crowd, Jesus wept over the city as He approached it for its obstinacy to the truth that only salvation from their sins could save them from their enemies (Luk 19:41-44).  Because it was late, He only briefly visited the temple to look around, but perhaps healed some blind and lame persons and began cleansing the temple before returning that evening to Bethany; Mat 21:12-17, Mar 11:11.

On the next day, Monday, Jesus came again to the temple, cursing the fig tree for its barrenness along the way, which represented the barrenness of the Jewish nation for which it was close to being cursed; Mar 11:12-14.  With whatever motions He began to cleanse the temple the previous evening, it is clear that He went at it with even greater earnest on this day (Mar 11:15), which agitated all the more the Jewish leaders who already hated Him, fearing the potential repercussions from their Roman overlords to their own rule.

On the next day, Tuesday, as Jesus was returning to the city, His disciples noticed that the fig tree He had cursed the previous day was withered from the roots up (Mar 11:20), foreshadowing the reception He was about to receive from the Jewish leaders who were already dead in their sins and about to seal the fate of the Jewish nation to wither and die as well.  For it was on this day that He was met by the rulers demanding on what authority He was doing such things, i.e., authoritatively cleansing the temple of the worldly merchandising that was happening, and accordingly teaching the people God’s true righteousness that contradicted their own.  This prompted the parables of the Two Sons, the Landowner, and the Marriage Feast (Mat 21:28-22:14), and then the attempt by the Pharisees and Sadducees to trap Him in something He might say in order that they might deliver Him up to death (Mat 22:15,23, Luk 20:20).  Jesus denounced their hypocrisy in seven-plus woes (Mat 23), concluding that their house was left to them desolate before forsaking the temple for the last time and predicting its utter destruction (Mat 23:38-24:2).

It was later that Tuesday afternoon on the Mount of Olives that He delivered the Olivet discourse answering His disciples’ questions about when such things would occur, and what would be the signs of His coming and of the end of that age of the Jews (Mat 24:3-25:46).  When Jesus finished that discourse, He noted that the Passover was coming after two days (Mat 26:2); again, on what day did that put the Passover?  Considering that it was then, or at this time, after Jesus’ interaction with them on Tuesday that they were seeking to seize Him by stealth, but not during the festival (Mat 26:3-4), is it likely that Judas would have met with them before this time and agreed to deliver Him up to them?  Hence it was likely also on this afternoon or even sometime early the next day that Judas met and bargained with the chief priests to deliver Jesus up to them, exactly as described in the synoptic accounts if they were relating a chronological account.  Cf. Matthew’s use of “then” in Mat 26:3 & 14 to relate chronological succession compared to the different construction “now when” in Mat 26:6 that goes back to the previous Friday to explain Judas’ motivation to betray Jesus.