Preparing for Death Mt. 26:1 - 16
Passage: Matthew 26:1–26:16
1When Jesus had finished all these words, He said to His disciples, 2“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.”
3Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; 4and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him. 5But they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people.”
6Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, 7a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table. 8But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, “Why this waste? 9“For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” 10But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me. 11“For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. 12“For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. 13“Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”
14Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15and said, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. 16From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus.
1When Jesus had finished all these words . . .
That is our lead in to the final 3 chapters in Saint Matthew's gospel. We've seen it four other times and it is Matthews unique signature that ends each of 5 major teaching sections in this gospel. 5 major "red letter" sections.
I'll digress just a moment and talk about red letter Bibles. Some of you may have a red letter edition Bible that has Jesus words seperated out with red text.
Beware of something I just discovered for the first time this week. It seems that some christians feel evangelicalism is disgraced by an imbalance of interest in the latest election. We won't mention any names.
But it seems there's a group of counter-reaction christians who would like to seperate themselves from the rest of evangelicalism and they've coined themselves as "red letter christians".
When you go and have a look you discover that they are embarrassed by Paul and the Old Testament in general and have invented a Jesus who is only nice nice nice. Only love and acceptance. Never judement like what we looked at last week. Thus they want to be "red letter" christians.
They want to define a Jesus that is much more user friendly for millenials. Jesus was lovey dovey and Paul wrecked it. And the Old Testament! That's another story altogether with a very un-Jesus like God who's always smiting somebody.
Caution. The book says All Scripture is given by inspitation of God and is profitable. Of course, Paul wrote that, so there you go. Just some friendly shepherding.
Back to Matthew, who has put his signature on the Olivet discourse, and we're entering the final phase of the gospel.
These next three chapters are the story within the story. The Bible in total is the story of God's loving rescue of lost men. From Genesis to Revelation, that is what the book is about.
God could have cleaned slate immediately after the fall in the garden. He could have righteously judged Adam and Eve and Satan. Locked them up in eternal fire and begun over again. But He decided to redeem fallen men. Forgive their sins by paying the unpayable debt, Himself. For us. Something it was impossible for us to do. The rest of the book is that story of redemption, and Matthew 26 - 28 is the crux.
I remember years ago reading Steinbeck's East of Eden which was supposed to be his swansong book. And when I put it down I thought, mercy, that has to be the longest introduction to the shortest story ever. The story was contained in the last few chapters. The rest was laborious background material to set the stage. Like 400 pages of background and 80 pages of story.
Sometimes we feel that way about our Bibles. Centuries of jews and blessings and cursings leading up to Jesus. All of it is background to get us to these 3 chapters. This is the climax of the story. These chapters contain the story of redemption. God purchasing His elect, out of slavery and into His glorious kingdom.
I feel reasonably adequate, most of the time, to stand up here and share with you what I've studied and learned concerning this book. Until now. Now we enter into things too marvelous for me to teach. I can't do it justice.
Of course the folly of that is nothing worthwhile for eternity can originate with me anyways. Anything of lasting value is a blessing of grace. So we'll soldier through and pray for God to give the increase.
Matthew 26 is the preparation chapter. All of the different things occuring at the same time in preparation for the coming death on the cross. Matthew has one purpose here. To show us that God is in control of every bit of it. Every act in the preparations of these events is under direct sovereign control.
Then Matthew 27 is the execution and burial, and 28 is the resurrection and sending of the good news to the nations.
Vss. 1 When Jesus had finished all these words, He said to His disciples, 2 “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.”
This is the third time He's told them this. They're in denial, but no one challenges what He has said. Peter gave that a shot earlier on and it got crushed. Instantly. Get thee behind Me, satan. No one wants to give that another go. It's like they're sort of dismissive. Can we talk about something else. How 'bout look at these spectacular temple buildings? That one didn't work out so well either.
I picture a sort of confused depressed silence at these words. That's conjecture, but there's no record of anybody touching the elephant in the room.
Consider the words themselves though. They are prophetic. They decree a distinct time. Two days. Passover. Crucifixion.
God has the time and the method chosen from before the foundation of the world. Nothing happens by chance. These hours are pre-determined in the will of the Father and totally in His control. This will happen. In 2 days. Arrest. Handed over by His friend, to the Jews. Crucified. According to the predeterminate counsel of God.
Listen to Peter in Acts 2:22 - 24 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
We see the strange tension of God's sovereignty and man's guiltiness.
God planned it. Evil men are guilty for carrying it out. Every event is planned and executed according to the plan of a Sovereign God. But that does not excuse the men who carry out the murder.
And we'll see a conflict arrising in the next verses. The chief priests will devise a plan different from the Almighty's.
3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; 4 and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him. 5 But they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people.”
While Jesus is preparing His disciples, telling them the events that are to come, and God is preparing every second in eternity past, here's a group doing some plotting of their own.
The scene here is a rich man's house. He has a courtyard, and the movers and shakers who control the jewish destiny of Israel, even though Rome rules, are deciding what to do with the problem of one Jesus of Nazareth. The rich man and his father in law who is even richer still, own the temple concessions.
Him and his father in law, Annas, are combined High Priest which is un-scriptural, but they rule the place with a heavy hand. Josephus calls the money changing and the buying and selling on the temple square, the bazaar of Annas.
According to Josephus, Annas was holding a fortune in silver worth 3.2 milliod dollars when Rome seized his assets. That's an astonishing amount for that time period. Probably trillions in our money. All of it robbed from the people of Israel by forcing them to exchange money for sacrifice and for selling animals to sacrifice.
Annas was only high priest for 8 years but he held onto the control because all 5 of his sons were high priest, and finally, Caiaphas his son in law is high priest at this time. Annas, the father in law of Caiaphas is the single driver working toward the execution of Jesus. If all the blame were studied for root cause, he is the motive force.
Jesus is his problem. What are we going to do with Jesus. How are we going to get rid of this problem.
Jesus claims the temple belongs to His Father. He clears the buyers and sellers out of the place with a whip. He turns their merchandising tables over, kicks their money all over the place. The rulers lose every argument with Him. And the people are loving it. The rulers and high priests stand to lose the respect and honor (and cash!!) of the citizens of Israel. Jesus must die.
4 and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him. 5 But they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people.”
So, Jesus needs to die, but the folks, the common people, love what's going on. They love watching the rulers looking stupid, daily, and the rulers need to make it happen, somehow, out of the peoples view. Seize Him by stealth. It needs to be a quiet place, at night, where the crowds are not there.
Thus they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people
We can't have a riot. Rome really hates riots. We need Rome to get on board with our execution. We can't have a problem with Rome, caused by rioting, and this guy is massively popular, so we need to wait for the feast to be over. Let the million jews who don't live here, go back home after the festival, and then we'll get this done. Such was their plot.
Do you see a conflict on the horizon? What did Jesus just tell His disciples. 2 days. It will happen during the festival, during the feast according to the sovereign plan of God, even though these hypocrites are plotting to not do it at that time.
Who do you think will win this one? Clue: Jesus always wins.
He IS the passover lamb. He is the lamb of God, given to take away the sins of the world. John the baptist said so. Behold, the lamb of God.
Excuse me God, would it be OK for us to murder your Son after the festival, so we can avoid a riot and stay in good with Rome? Probably not.
The whole situation is bizarre. These men are supposed to be the spiritual pulse beat of this nation and they are planning a murder. Pure and simple. The curtain closes on this dark preparation scene, and we have a story that is the polar opposite. False religion : True religion, False worship : True worship, vitriolic hatred : untethered love.
Jesus has that effect.
6Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table.
This story is told here, and in Mark and also in John's gospel. The Luke story that is similar is a different time and place. Mary and Martha live at Bethany and so does their brother Lazarus, who was raised from the dead by Jesus.
Simon who we don't know anything about, is called Simon the leper, and surely Jesus must have healed him of that leprosy, or he would be banished away from these that he is enjoying a meal with.
Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus is perhaps the single person who is farther along in her spiritual reality of who Jesus is, than anyone else.
We see her three times in the gospels, and every time we see her, she is at Jesus feet. First, when Martha was busy serving and Mary was camped at Jesus feet, listening.
Then when her brother died and Jesus arrived, post death, we find Mary weeping at Jesus feet. Again. And Jesus is moved to tears by the moment.
And finally, here, she pours out the vial of costly nard on Jesus head, and John adds; Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
She's always at His feet. And the result was, she was in lock step with the heart of Jesus.
She gives us a picture of worship that we can all strive to emulate. She understands that He is giving all for her, his very life, and she responds by giving everything she has, in worship of Him.
The reaction of the disciples slams us back to this place. Stark reality. The worship is lofty, heavenly. The reaction is worldly.
8But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, “Why this waste?
John tells us a bit more. It was Judas who was driving this indignancy. The others foolishly join him, but Judas is at the root. And John also tells us his motive. He was stealing from the money box. He was a thief and only sees this extravagance of worship as an extravagant waste.
I'm reminded of the quote that I have on my email correspondence both at work and also as signature when I answer questions on line. It says; He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep..to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949
Mary is giving all she has in worship. Ultimately she can't keep the value of the pure nard perfume. It will pass with this world, one way or another. But by pouring it out on Jesus in worship, she is investing that value in eternity. Just like Jim Elliot's quote.
We are like that alabaster vial. The perfume doesn't do any good, safe inside the vial. We need to pour out our lives for Jesus. That is where the fragrance is. Not locked up inside.
The world sees that as foolishness. Crazyness. Unhinged from reality. And Judas is part of that world. Not Mary's. And the foolish disciples unthinkingly get on board with Judas. A seemingly righteous cause. The poor.
My neice is all worked up this week about the people in Tennessee. She's been emailing me and encouraging me to use my influence with you good folks to raise money for the poor people in Tennessee who have lost their homes.
That's a good cause. But I weigh it in the balance with the masses of starving unsaved people in India who have never had the opportunity to even hear the gospel, and I have to tell you, if I had some extra money to give away this week, it would go to the cause of the Kingdom. The spread of the gospel in lands that are even less fortunate than the folks in Tennessee.
Judas makes a good argument. What about the poor! Why this waste! No one questions his motives. We find out later he's a thief. He wants that 300 days wages. In fact the loss of it infuriates him to do something in the verses that describe the next scene.
“Why this waste? 9“For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” 10But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me.
So often there's the "good thing" and then the "better thing". Sympathy for the poor, the distraught, is a good thing. Necessary, especially for us who have an overabundance. Mary, for the third time, has chosen the "better" thing.
You remember the story. Martha is preparing the feast. Working her heart out. Mary is at Jesus feet, taking in . . Jesus. All she can get. No distractions. Martha goes ballistic. Tell her to help me! Jesus says, no, she has chosen the better thing.
Every time we meet her, she's always making the better choice. Worship. Sitting at Jesus feet. Taking Him into our hearts. Listening to Him. Worshipping Him. We do that first, then we take care of the poor.
11“For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. 12“For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial.
I think her motivation was to prepare Jesus for burial. She wisely did it while He was still alive.
13“Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”
I think that it's interesting that Jesus is looking into the future. This gospel. Already done. It will be written. It will be preached in all the world. The remarkable thing is Jesus speaks of it as if it has already happened. Wherever this gospel is preached. Future tense. Already accomplished. By the word of God.
Did that prophecy come true? Pinch yourselves. Here we are. In the 21st century. Remembering Mary. Speaking of the example of her life, her costly love. Her unhinged worship. Wanting to emulate her. Wanting to be like a Mary, not like the disciples who were easily blown by the winds of the world. At this point.
They'll get it done later. But right now, thank heavens for someone like Mary. We want to be like that.
But now, this chapter of preparation for the Lord's demise, turns dark.
Judas is angry that 300 days wages slipped through his grasp. That money and a whole lot more needs to be in his treasury box.
Trying to get into Judas mind is a slippery slope. Assigning motives can be dangerous. We know he's angry about the money. John tells us he was pilfering it. His heart is far away from worship.
The name used for him, Iscariot, has connotations of radicalism against rome. That may be a clue to his personality. He has traveled with the 12, seen all the miracles along with the 12, heard all of the teaching, along with the 12, but what was the bottom motive.
If it was to be with someone who he believed would immediately overthrow Rome and nationalize Israel as a sovereign state, which is a good guess, then it's easy to understand where his mind is at.
Overthrowing Rome is getting farther removed by the day. This Jesus has said not only is that not going to happen at this time, Rome is going to come and make Israel and it's temple, a waste place.
And Jesus has made up His mind, He's going to die. Therefore, for Judas, it's a waste of 3 years. This isn't working out the way he had it planned. Jesus, clearly, is not going to overthrow Rome and reign in Israel. Israel and Rome are going to overthrow, and kill Him.
It's time to cut and run. The rebuke about helping the poor is a fresh and perhaps a final wound. That perfume should have been sold. The money should have gone in the box he is holding. Jesus crushes that. It's a rebuke to the disciples, but according to John's gospel, mostly to Judas.
For Judas, I think it's time to cut and run. Salvage what can be salvaged, at whatever cost, and move on. I think that's where Judas' troubled mind is at. Some conjecture there, but not alone.
14Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15and said, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?”
It seems to us that perhaps he stood outside of Annas and Caiaphas courtyard and listened to the very conversation that we looked at 2 scenes ago.
Did he go after the rebuke about the money for the poor and immediately head to their house to turn Him over? And then listening to their discusssion think to himself, they need someone from the inside. Someone like me. I'll bet they would pay for such a service.
That isn't in the Bible that way, and I probably watch too many TV movies, but it just seems like this is all going down like a screenwriter had written it. Judas leaves in disgust. He's over the Jesus thing. Time to move on.
He goes to the chief priests house. That's exactly what they're talking about. He missed out on the 300 days wages he could have sold the perfume for. To help out the poor, of course. Wonder what he can get for Jesus, instead.
I'm just making stuff up. Take that for what it's worth. Perhaps we'll get to heaven and see the replay and the real scenario is even more diabolical.
Diabolical. You can take that word to the bank, even if the other ones are conjecture. Diabolos. A name for Satan. And in both Lukes and John's gospel, it says, then Satan entered Judas.
Lk. 22:2 and the chief priests and scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death; for they feared the people. 3Then Satan entered Judas Iscariot, who was one of the Twelve. 4And Judas went to discuss with the chief priests and temple officers how he might betray Jesus to them.…
And John tells us; in John 13:27 After Judas took the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Then Jesus said to Judas, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”
Johns reference is to the last supper. A second time Satan enters Judas. And I call it to your attention here for a second purpose.
Recall the conflict between God's plan and Satan's plan. The murderous chief priests would wait for the festival to be over. Let the visitors go back home. Let Jerusalem cool down a bit. Then seize Him.
But Jesus is the passover lamb. It must happen on God's schedule, not on Satan's. And here Satan enters Judas and Jesus orders, ORDERS that the deed happen NOW. Not later. “What you are about to do, do quickly.”
“What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?”
And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. 16From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus.
30 pieces of silver. 30 days wages. He couldn't get his grubby hands on the 300 days wages that were spent on worshipping Jesus. He'll take the 30.
This is prophetic. In Exodus, 30 pieces of silver was the price you paid a slave owner if your ox killed his slave. It's compensation for 1 slave. In Zechariah's prophecy, 30 pieces of silver is seen sarcastically as a princely sum. What will you give for Jesus?
Mary gives all she has. The chief priests and rulers of Israel will give 30 pieces of silver to dispose of Him. We're going to kill your slave, here's the money to go buy a replacement. And Judas, last of all will sell his very soul for 30 pieces of silver.
All of these reactions to the same man. Jesus of Nazareth.
To the elect, those who love Him, no cost is too much. We will give up everything we own in this world to have Him. Not even a second thought. To know Jesus, to have Him and Him to have us, is worth more than all the worlds created.
To the lost, to the dead, He only has the value of a gored slave, if you can get that. For the ones who hate Him most, they will actually pay to cause Him harm.
What will you do with Jesus. This is being played out in front of us . . . as we speak. We still have all of these folks with us today.
I noted in passing this week a public shaming of the folks who do that show; Fixer Upper. Chip and Joanna Gaines You may have seen something about it. Pam loves that show. I'll sit and watch it occasionally. I want to hire them to fix up my house in half an hour. Maybe I'll move to Waco Texas.
In any case, what happened last week is that Buzz Feed, a place on the internet to avoid, called out Chip and Joanna Gaines and shamed them publicly. Why? Guilt by association. They go to a church, (like ours) that holds up and honors the design of God, of one woman, one man, partnered for life in marriage. Something no one even questioned for 2000 years.
Shame on them for going to a church that does not recognize LGBTQ and same sex marriage. Shame on them, even though they've never made a statement one way or another, for going anywhere near a church like that.
Shame on them for believing what christians have believed, that which is clearly laid out in the word of God, for over 60 century's.
Kate Arthur who wrote the piece, and BuzzFeed which published it, and Chip and Joanna Gaines are all just pawns in a bigger war being fought behind the surface. No different really than Judas, and the chief priests, and Mary of Bethany. Same thing going on, exactly.
Satan is at war with God. It's about to finish badly for him. Very badly. Maybe say a prayer for Chip and Joanna to stay firm while the fiery darts get hurled at them, not for their sake so much as for the glory of the Saviour. We'll be next. Get ready.
More in The Gospel of Matthew
March 26, 2017The Authority and Commission of Jesus Mt. 28:16 - 20
March 19, 2017Jesus IS Alive! The Tomb is Empty Mt. 28: 1 - 15
March 12, 2017The Burial of Jesus Mt. 27:55 - 66 pt. 2