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Matthew 23-28

THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT ISRAEL'S KING

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF MATTHEW

Introduction to the King (1-4)
1. The family tree of the King (1:1-17)
2. The reception for the King (2:1-12)
3. The birth of the King (1:18-25)
4. The King's early journeys (2:13-23)
5. The herald of the King (3:1-12)
6. The anointing of the King (3:13-17)
7. The testing of the King (4:1-11)
8. The good news about the King (4:12-25)

GUIDELINES FOR KINGDOM LIVING (5-7)
1.   We must recognize our heart's need for God's kingdom (5:1-6)
2.   How God's kingdom will be expressed in our hearts (5:7-12)
3.   The influence of God's kingdom (5:13-16)
4.   The moral standards for God's kingdom (5:17-48)
5.   The standard for purity in God's kingdom (6:1-18)
6.   The priority in God's kingdom: Choosing God's riches over the world's
riches (6:19-24)
7.   Guidelines for faith in God's kingdom (6:25-34)
8.   Judgment in God's kingdom (7:1-6)
9.   The pursuit of success in God's kingdom (7:7-12)
10. The narrow road into God's kingdom (7:13,14)
11. The counterfeits of God's kingdom (7:15-23)
12. The battle for security in God's kingdom (7:24-27)

THE KING'S MINISTRY (8-20)
THE LAST DAYS OF THE KING (21-28)

 

Introductory Information About the Book of Matthew

1. The author: The early church leaders were in agreement that Matthew the Apostle was the author of this book.

2. The date: The date that Matthew wrote this Gospel is uncertain.  Because it appears to be written to Jews, it may have been written in the 50s while the church was still primarily Jewish.

3. The theme and purpose:  It is a transitional book between the Old Testament and the New Testament: "its subject matter serves as a bridge between the Old and New Testaments.  Matthew's purpose obviously was to demonstrate that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, that He fulfilled the requirements of being the promised King who would be a descendant of David, and that His life and ministry fully support the conclusion that He is the promised Messiah of Israel." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."  This book by Matthew the Apostle seeks to prove that Jesus was the promised King that was to sit on the throne of David. See Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5 and Matthew 15:22

 

THE MESSAGE OF THE BOOK OF MATTHEW

THE LAST DAYS OF THE KING (21-28) (Continued)

JESUS EXPOSES THE HEARTS OF THOSE WHO WERE REJECTING HIM (23)
In our fallen world, we are surrounded by both the beautiful and the ugly—the playful dolphin and the killer shark, love and hate, beautiful devotion to God and hardened rejection of God.  But, even devotion to God can become twisted and ugly.  In Matthew 23, Jesus exposes the ugly in religion as He exposes the hypocrisy in the religious leaders of Israel.  In this chapter, Jesus exposes the hypocrisy in Israel's most religious men—the Pharisees.  These "separated ones" were quite confident of their own holiness, but Jesus saw them as they really were—He saw that they were using their position as God's representatives to further their own prestige and selfish goals.  There was nothing that angered Jesus more than when men (or women) used God for their own selfish purposes.  It was the reason behind Jesus' anger when He chased the merchandisers out of the temple, and it was behind His anger in this chapter as He strongly attacks the Pharisees' hypocrisy.

1. Jesus contrasts the self-serving hearts of the Pharisees with the pure heart of a servant. (23:1-12)

a. Jesus exposes the ugliness of the Pharisees' religion. (23:1-7)

(1) Do what they say and not what they do. (23:1-4)
"Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 'The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.'"

Thought Question: What are some ways that we can protect ourselves from not being like these Pharisees—being those who say the right things, but do not do the right things?

 

 

"Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 'The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.'"

The "Pharisees" had one of the most respected positions in God's chosen nation of Israel.  They had become the official interpreters of Moses' law for God's nation.  So, the people of Israel looked up to them to guide them to do what God wanted them to do.  But, they had obviously allowed their exalted position in their society to swell their egos.  In their pride, they had actually become like God to the people of Israel.  As we can see in these verses, they gave out the law to the people, but at the same time had come to see themselves as being above the law.  It is very human to require more of others than we require of ourselves—to expect perfection in others while choosing to be blind to our own imperfections and faults.

The "Pharisees" were like this to the extreme.  They made very harsh demands on others and very light demands on themselves.  They added detail upon detail to the 613 commands they found in Moses' law.  The requirements that they developed were so heavy that no one could actually keep them.  They piled these requirements on peoples' "shoulders," but they did not even "lift a finger to" help "them." 

We see in these verses, how we are to respect an office even when the person or the persons holding that office do not deserve to be respected.  In this case, the people of Israel needed to respect the law of Moses, even though the ones teaching it did not obey it.

The office of the scribes or "teachers of the law" gained preeminence during the time of Nehemiah through Ezra the scribe.  Here is how it happened after Israel's return to the their land after their exile under the Babylonians and Medo-Persians.  "All the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel. So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam. Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read." (Nehemiah 8:1-8)

As a result, Israel became a people of Moses' law.  This was good.  But the "Pharisees" and scribes, over the years, degenerated into what Jesus describes in this chapter.

How can pure devotion to God degenerate like it did in Israel?  True teachers of the Bible should be humbled by what is taught and required in it.  The more we are in the light of God's perfect holiness, the more we should see our own unholiness. See 1:5-2:2  But, when all that is gained is head knowledge, it puffs us up rather than humbles us.  " . . . We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." (1 Corinthians 8:1b)

The "Pharisees" and scribes had the knowledge, but they had not been humbled by their inability to live up to God's holy standards—even though they taught that others did need to live up to them.  They passed on knowledge and required others to obey what they taught, rather than themselves being humbled by the knowledge that selfish people like themselves and others are unable to obey God's law.

G. Campbell Morgan observes that the obedience to what the "Pharisees" taught, which Jesus ordered the Jews to obey here, did not extend to obedience to human traditions.  For Jesus broke their human traditions by healing on the Sabbath and His disciples gleaned from the fields on the Sabbath when human traditions taught against doing it. See Matt. 12:1-14

(2) They do everything to be seen. (23:5-7)
"'Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them “Rabbi.”'"

Thought Question: How can we protect ourselves from being like the Pharisees and having as our goal the desire to impress men rather than seeking to privately obey God, whether or not anyone knows about it?

 

 

"'Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them “Rabbi.”'"

Vincent puts it this way:  "The scribes and Pharisees deport themselves with a view to being contemplated as actors in a theater; so that men may fix their gaze on them admiringly." "Taken from Word Studies by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors." 

"They make their phylacteries wide"  "Phylacteries" comes from a Greek word meaning "to guard . . . a safeguard, protecting charm or amulet." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  They were "boxes containing Scripture verses, worn on forehead and arm." "NIV note."  They took what is taught in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 literally.  "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." See also Exod. 13:9; Deut. 11:18-21

"The size of the phylacteries indexed the measure of zeal, and the wearing of large ones was apt to take the place of obedience." "Robertson quotes F. F. Bruce."

"and the tassels on their garments long;"  In Numbers 15:38, the Jewish nation was given this instruction from God through Moses.  "The Lord said to Moses, 'Speak to the Israelites and say to them: “Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the Lord your God.”'" (Numbers 15:37-41) See also Deut. 22:12  These religious leaders made their "tassels" "long" to make it obvious to all that their devotion to God was extraordinary.

"'they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them “Rabbi.”'"  Because of their great piety, they felt that they deserved to be treated with great respect by the ordinary people.  They did not recognize that they were very ordinary people themselves.  For this reason—their belief that they were superior people—they loved the most important seats in the synagogue; they loved "to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them “Rabbi.'" 

They loved to be seen as being in an elite class that was religiously above ordinary men.  We need to admit that we have more than a little desire in us to be the recipients of this type of honor.  But, when we give in at all to this temptation, we are receiving honor that only God deserves.

In these verses, Jesus describes some ways where men are singled out as being above other men:  1) Honored seating:  "These chief seats (Zuchermandel) were on the platform looking to the audience." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  2) Titles of honor:  "'they loved to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them “Rabbi.”'"

"In some circles ordained ministers are taken aback if they are not greeted with the title 'Reverend,' which literally means 'one worthy of reverence, one who should be revered.'" "Taken from Matthew by Craig Keener.  Copyright 1997 by Intervarsity Press."

This desire to be honored above other men is very human.  The disciples showed that they also had these desires.  "Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest." (Luke 22:24) See also Lk. 22:25-26; Matt. 20:20-28  Nothing is more human than the desire to see ourselves as greater than others; but it is an ugly, pride-driven desire.  There is no place for it in Christ's church, where Jesus died for us because we are sinful, lust-driven, and pride-driven.  Instead, it is more appropriate that we be amazed that we are forgiven and part of God's kingdom—a kingdom that we are completely unworthy of.  It is not because of our spiritual prowess that we are part of God's church, but it is completely because of God's grace.  Also, if we have done anything of real value in this world, it was completely generated and enabled by God.  "'but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,' declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 9:24)  "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14)

b. Jesus describes what pure religion is like. (23:8-10)
"'But you are not to be called “Rabbi,” for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth “father,” for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called “teacher,” for you have one Teacher, the Christ.'"

Thought Question: Why do you think that Jesus tells us not to allow ourselves to be called by a title in His church?

 

 

"“But you are not to be called “Rabbi,” for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth “father,” for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called “teacher,” for you have one Teacher, the Christ.'"

The Bible is clear that we are to show respect to those who serve us with love and humility.  "Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other."
(I Thessalonians 5:12-13)  "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you." (Hebrews 13:17)  But, they are "still after all, only men." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."  It is so easy for us to look to a man or to men instead of looking to God.  "Human nature would always rather lean on a visible minister, than an invisible Christ." "Ryle."

No man sent his son to die for us; no man has existed for eternity; no man is sovereign over all things; no man knows all and is present everywhere; and no man is perfectly holy and loving.

So, how does this apply to us?  We should not desire to be honored by men, but we should humbly serve men.  "Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." (1 Peter 5:5-6)

Before we leave this section, let us look again at what we are not to be called and seek to understand why we are not to be called by these names.  "“But you are not to be called “Rabbi,” for you have only one Master and you are all brothers."  A man should never be seen as having the final world on God's truth.  "Rabbi means 'my great one,' apparently a comparatively new title in Christ's time." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  Jesus says here that no one is our "Master."  No man is to be exalted to a place where only God deserves to be.

"And do not call anyone on earth “father,” for you have one Father, and he is in heaven."  There is such a thing as spiritual fathers.  Paul saw himself as a spiritual father.  "To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." (1 Timothy 1:2)  "To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior." (Titus 1:4)  "I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn
you, as my dear children. Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church." (1 Corinthians 4:14-17)

Paul was focusing on having a father's responsibility for young Christians.  Jesus, though, is focusing on a father as the initiator of the life in a new child.  Only God is the Father in the sense that he is the initiator of all physical and spiritual life.  When we share the gospel with someone, we are to take on a fatherly role with this baby Christian.  But we are never to forget that it was God's Son who died for this new Christian, it is God's life in them that gave them the new birth, and God wrote the Bible we use to teach this baby Christian.  We have the responsibility to nurture their new life in Christ, but we are never to take credit for it.

"'Nor are you to be called “teacher,” for you have one Teacher, the Christ.'"  The Greek word translated "teacher" is not the same Greek word translated "teacher" in Eph. 4:11 and James 3: "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers," (Ephesians 4:11)  "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." (James 3:1)  In these two verses, the Greek word is a form of didaskalos.  Here, the Greek word is kathegetai, which can be translated "masters" (KJV), "instructors' (ESV), and "leaders" (NASB, Vincent).  The Disciples' Literal New Translation appears to capture the meaning that Jesus meant for the word: "master-teachers . . . That is, the honored teaching expert who leads the way in a thing." "Taken from the Disciples' Literal New Testament by Mike Magill.  Copyright 2011 by Reyma Publishing."  "This word occurs here only in the N.T. . . . It is the modern Greek word for professor." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  No man is the "master teacher"; only Jesus holds that role.

(2) Instead, seek to be a servant. (23:11-12)
"The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

Thought Question: Why do you believe that the truly great are those who are the greatest servants?

 

 

"The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."  The "Pharisees" used their positions as religious leaders to exalt and serve themselves.  Jesus Christ humbled Himself and served us sacrificially—at a very great cost to Himself.  For we who are believers, the "Pharisees" represent the very opposite of what we are to be like.  Jesus Christ, on the other hand, represents what is to be our highest desire—to humbly and sacrificially serve others.  As Jesus was exalted, so will His humble servants eventually be exalted.  "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:5-11) See also Matt. 18:4; 20:26-28; Lk. 14:11, 18:9-14

2. Woe to the hypocrites (23:13-32)
Certainly, the most common excuse for rejecting Christianity is the "hypocrites in the church."  Their attack, however, is not the strongest attack against hypocrisy.  We find Jesus making the strongest attack against hypocrisy here in Matthew 23.  "Hypocrite" means "to take up a part on the stage, to act a part." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  "It is the regular Greek word for an actor. . . a pretender . . . one who wears a mask to cover his true feelings, one who puts on an external show while inwardly his thoughts and feelings are very different." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

Hypocrisy is giving one impression outwardly to people and being something totally different inside—pretending to be godly on the outside while being full of ugly ungodliness on the inside.  A Christian is not someone who has no ugliness on the inside, but he or she is someone who admits to the ugliness that is on the inside and seeks God's grace, strength, and life so that he or she can become more like Christ.  He or she is thankful that Jesus Christ died for that ugliness and is graciously producing the fruit of the Spirit in them to replace the ugliness with that which is beautiful.  As Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of these "Pharisees," we need to hate it like He does.  But we also need to admit that we are just as capable of this type of hypocrisy as they were.  For we can become the "hypocrites" in the church that everyone talks about.  Jeremiah 17:9 tells us what is true of every man and woman apart from the grace of God.  "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"  We all have the ability to pretend to be someone that we are not.

We will notice that "eight times He uses the solemn expression, 'woe to you.'  Seven time He calls them 'hypocrites.'  Twice He speaks of them as 'blind guides—twice as fools and blind—once to 'serpents and a brood of vipers.' . . . It shows how utterly abominable the spirit of the Scribes and Pharisees is in God's sight, in whatever form it may be found." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

a. Woe to the false teachers (23:13)
"'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.'"

Thought Question: What do you believe Jesus' attitude was toward these He called "hypocrites"? (anger, sorrow, hate, disgust, etc.?)

 

 

"The Greek word for woe is ouai; it is hard to translate for it includes not only wrath, but also sorrow.  There is righteous anger here, but it is the anger of the heart of love, broken by the stubborn blindness of men." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press." 

The "Pharisees" gave the impression that their hearts were hot toward God.  Is there anything more tragic?  They gave impression that they were leading men and women to God, when they were actually leading them away from God.  Jesus calls them "hypocrites."  They were acting like they were zealous for God, but their goal was really to impress the people.

"Here, as everywhere, we may do strange violence to the very spirit of the King by missing His tone, and failing to discover the pity which is evident throughout the whole of these strange and undoubtedly terrible words.  The final impression of the reading of this passage is that of the severity of Jesus and His unbending loyalty to righteousness.  But while that is true, it is impossible to read this carefully without discovering the method was the method of tears, that from beginning to end there was evidence of sorrow." "Taken from The Gospel According to Matthew by G. Campbell Morgan.  Copyright 1929 by Fleming H. Revell Company."  That Morgan is correct can be seen in the final words of this denunciation.  "'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”'" (Matthew 23:37-39)

Today, we see these "teachers of the law and Pharisees" as obviously being legalistic and "hypocrites."  "But the Pharisees' contemporaries thought of them as very devoted practitioners of the Bible, and of the scribes as experts in biblical laws.  In today's terms, Jesus was thundering against many popular preachers and people who seemed to be living holy lives—because they were practicing human religion rather than serving God with purified hearts." ." "Taken from Matthew by Craig Keener.  Copyright 1997 by Intervarsity Press."

How can we tell if we are in any way like them?  And, how can we tell if we are influenced and even being led by those who are like them?  In this chapter, we find each section introduced with "woe to you."  The Beatitudes are introduced with "Blessed are."  How can we tell if we are like these religious leaders Jesus condemned.  Are we like those described in the Beatitudes that God blesses or are we like those described here that God curses?  Jesus' words enables us to see our own motives.

b. Woe to those who build kingdoms of evil for themselves. (23:15)
"'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.'"
All kingdom builders are building one of two kingdoms: a kingdom with them at the center or a kingdom with God at the center—a kingdom to bring us glory or a kingdom to bring God glory; a kingdom with the plans designed by us or a kingdom designed by God.  The Pharisees' kingdom was designed to bring them glory.  It was based on laws that they devised.  They started with God's laws but when they wrote tomes of regulations on how to obey the law, what they ended up with were their laws and regulations rather than God's laws.  They were zealous in making converts, but it was not to draw people to God; instead, their goal was to increase their kingdom and to increase their own importance.

It is obvious that what these religious leaders of Jesus' time were seeking to do is also a temptation for us to do today.  We must ask ourselves the question, whose kingdom are we building?  Are we, in faith, obedience, humility, and gentleness serving God so that He can use us to build His kingdom, or are we in Jesus' name actually building our own kingdoms?  Do our successes swell us with pride or does God get all the praise for what He is doing through us?  Do our failures drive us to our knees or to projecting blame on others?  "Help us, dear Lord, that we be zealous to be used to build Your kingdom.  And help us to see the ugliness of building our own towers of Babel.  Help us to despise it as You do."

c. Woe to those who make false and twisted oaths. (23:16-22)
"'Woe to you, blind guides! You say, “If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.” You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, “If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.” You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.'"

Thought Question: When can what Jesus prohibits here be done in our society?

 

 

"'Woe to you, blind guides! You say, “If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.” You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?'"

The "Pharisees" taught that they were bound to commitments or oaths made to others only under certain circumstances.  In these verses, Jesus explains how they decided when their oaths were binding and when they were not binding.  It seems very confusing to us today and does not seem to apply to our lives.  To help us understand how to apply Jesus' teaching to our modern-day situations, the following example is helpful.  We are told that, at one time, all that was needed for a commitment to be binding was for someone to verbally state that he or she was going to do something.  Or, perhaps, a person's promise plus a handshake was all that was needed.  Today, we do what the "Pharisees" were doing if we commit to something verbally, but say later that our commitment is not binding because we did not put our signature on a piece of paper.

Why are we hesitant to involve ourselves in commitments?  Obviously, it is because commitments do bind us to something and they limit our freedom to do something else.  For example, if we make a commitment to buy one house, we do not have the freedom to buy another house—even if we like the other house better.  If we make a commitment to someone in marriage, we do not and should not have the freedom to marry someone else.

The "Pharisees" had devised a very complex system so that they could avoid and evade making binding commitments.  We have examples here of their evasive ways of avoiding binding commitments.  They said that vows made by "the temple" were not binding, but vows made by "the gold of the temple" were binding.

Jesus goes on to give another example.  "You also say, “If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.”'" 

Next, we see Jesus' response to this pattern of using technicalities to avoid binding commitments.  "You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.'" 

Jesus says that, actually, "the temple" and "the altar" were more sacred than the "the gold of the temple" and "gift" on "the altar."  "The temple" and "the altar" were designed by God to be holy.  "The gold" was made holy because it was in "the temple."  "The gift" on "the altar" was made holy by "the altar."  So, their view of what was "sacred" was exactly the opposite of what it should have been.  Actually, all were "sacred" because they were part of God's temple.

But, that was not the key concern that Jesus had.  They should not be looking for ways to get out of their commitments, but they should seek to keep their commitments—whatever they made their oath on.  Jesus already spoke on this in the Sermon on the Mount.  "'Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.” But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No”; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.'" (Matthew 5:33-37)  This continued to be an issue among Jewish Christians years later, for James the brother of Jesus addresses it in James 5:12: "Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your 'Yes' be yes, and your 'No,' no, or you will be condemned." (James 5:12)

Jesus was not against oaths, but against making deceptive oaths.  Paul made oaths. See Rom. 9:1; II Cor. 1:12, 23; Gal. 1:20  God has made oaths to us. See Lk. 1:73; Heb. 6:12, 16-17  We are to keep oaths, even when it is hard to do.  " . . . who keeps his oath even when it hurts," (Psalm 15:4b)

Oaths of commitment are important because breaking oaths of commitment can have profound impact on relationships.  For example, when someone breaks the marriage commitment, it is destructive to many lives.  Most of all, commitments are important because God has made commitments to us.  The Christian life and our future hope is based on our trust that God will keep His oath of commitment to us—His commitment to us called the New Covenant in Jesus' blood. See Lk. 22:20

"'Woe to you, blind guides!" "You blind fools!"  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said the following: "'You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca,” is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.'" (Matthew 5:21-22, NIV)  Why is it appropriate for Jesus to use such strong language in describing these "Pharisees," when He appears to condemn this type of language in the Sermon on the Mount?  Robertson gives the following explanation of the words used: "Ye fools (moroi).  In 5:22 Jesus had warned against calling a man moros in a rage, but here he so terms the blind Pharisees for their stupidity, description of the class.  'It shows that not the word but the spirit in which it is used is what matters.' (Mc Neile)" "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  Jesus was not attacking them in an angry rage nor seeking to destroy them by His words.  Quite the opposite was true.  He was greatly saddened by their blind foolishness.

Can people count on what we say, even if something more interesting comes up?  Nothing disappoints us about people more than when they break their commitments.  But there is nothing easier to do than break our commitments.  No commitment should be taken lightly.  Commitments to small children are taken lightly by adults, but they are not taken lightly by the children.  Today, we are living in an age that is weak in the area of commitments.  There are so many fun and interesting things to do; there are many reasons not to make commitments and to break commitments in our fast-paced world filled with fun things to do.  We all recognize that the marriage commitment—that is made is made for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part—no longer has the strength that it once had.  And our whole society feels the pain of the thousands of broken marriage commitments.  The whole Christian life is based on a commitment to us by God; and it is also based on our commitment to Him.

"And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." (2 Corinthians 5:15)  Like the marriage commitment, where each partner is to forsake the single life and commits themselves to the other, the Christian is one who has forsaken living for himself or herself and has made the commitment to live for Christ.  It we break the marriage commitment, we become an adulterer; and if we break our commitment to Christ, we become a spiritual adulterer.  Our commitment to Christ involves every area of our lives. See Rom. 12:1-16

The church is held together by a mutual commitment to Christ and by loving commitments to each other.  That is why Jesus was so strong about the "Pharisees" seeking deceptive ways to get out of commitments.  It's the very opposite of what God desires to happen among His people!

d. Woe to the nit-pickers. (23:23-24)
"'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel."'

Thought Question: What are some ways this type of thing could be done today (majoring on the minors and not majoring on the majors)?

 

 

"'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel."'

A "nit-picker" is someone who is overly concerned with small details.  An actual "nit-picker" is someone who removed insect eggs from someone's hair or some animal's hair.  This is a fitting description of what the "Pharisees" were doing.  In Leviticus 27:30, Israel is instructed to give 10% of everything they grew or raised to the Lord. "I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the Tent of Meeting." (Numbers 18:21) See also Deut. 14:22  The "Pharisees" were so meticulous about this that they even tithed their herbs and "spices" to the Lord—their "mint, dill and cumin."  These herbs were grown in small quantities for personal use in the same way that we might grow chives.  So, the "Pharisees" would even tithe a tenth of their very small plants to the Lord.

But Jesus makes the charge that at the same time that they were concerned about tithing from a small plant, they were also neglecting the central spirit of "the law""justice, mercy and faithfulness."  It is not wrong to be as meticulous as they were, but it is wrong when being meticulous about small things is the major concern of someone.

Verse 24 describes something else that they did that was out of balance.  In Leviticus 11:20-23, Israel was taught that most flying insects were unclean to them.  "All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be detestable to you. There are, however, some winged creatures that walk on all fours that you may eat: those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. But all other winged creatures that have four legs you are to detest." (Leviticus 11:20-23)  Out of concern that they might inadvertently "swallow" an unclean "gnat," the "Pharisees" would "strain" their wine with muslin gauze to remove all unclean insects that might be there.  But, again, they "neglected" "justice, mercy and faithfulness."  They were, in effect, straining "out a gnat" but swallowing "a camel."

They were majoring on the minors and minoring on the majors.  They were making the minor details of the law more important than the major intentions of the law.  Why were they doing this?  Behind their abuse of the major intentions of the law was their self-centeredness and their selfish goals and desires.  They were not seeking God's intention for the law, but were using God's law to further their own purposes to gain personal prestige.  This is at the root of all legalism.  God's law is used not for God's glory and man's good, but as a tool to elevate the more pious to a higher social status than the less pious.  Minor details of God's law take on a major importance, and the main concerns of God's law becomes less and less important over time.  Until, for example, someone can unlovingly judge others for smoking and not even notice that, before God, their lack of love is a much greater problem than the smoking.  A key question that we need to ask ourselves is, are we demanding that others meet our standards before we will accept them?  Or, are we concerned mostly with whether or not they will experience the full blessings of God's kingdom?

We all have experienced coldness from someone who feels that we are not measuring up to their standards.  We also can put others on this same type of performance basis—if they perform up to our standards, we will accept them and if they do not live up to our standards, we will not accept them.  There is no place for this in the church of Christ that would not even be in existence except that God chose to be merciful and gracious to us rather than give us what we deserve.

e. Woe to the empty ritualists. (23:25-26)
"'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.'"

Thought Question: What will this look like if it takes place today?

 

 

"'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.'"  In Leviticus 11-15, Israel was given details on what made people ritually unclean before God.  From these chapters, you will notice that certain foods, a woman after childbirth, disease, dead bodies, mildew, and certain human discharges were considered ritually unclean.  This was God's symbolic way of teaching them that they needed to be morally pure in their hearts before they could enter His presence.  These religious leaders practiced these religious rituals faithfully.  They even added very detailed teachings on how to clean anything that became unclean.  They were ritually pure, but they had missed God's message—they still could not enter God's presence because their hearts and lives were impure.  They were like cups or dishes that had been cleaned on the "outside," but were filthy on the inside.

Our church rituals mean nothing if they do not come from the heart.  False religion emphasizes the outward; true religion begins with the heart.  Today, this means that we should be more concerned about the heart attitude we have all week long than the clothes we wear in a church service.

"Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.'"  A central emphasis in the Bible is the moral state of the heart.  What is needed most of all is for us to purify our heart.  "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." (Proverbs 4:230  "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." (Luke 6:45)  "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." (Matthew 5:8)  "The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (1 Timothy 1:5)  "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." (2 Timothy 2:22)  A major emphasis in the book of James is the need to purify our hearts.  "Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (James 4:8-10)

f. Woe to the man-pleasers. (23:27-28)
"'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.'"

Thought Question: How can we avoid being like these religious leaders?

 

 

 

"'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.'"

Every year in the spring, just after the rains and just before the Passover, Israelites of Jesus' time "whitewashed" the graves of the poor that were found along the roadsides and the fields.  "They were whitewashed a month before the Passover that travelers might see them and so avoid being defiled by touching them (Num. 19:16)." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson."  They did this so that those who were coming to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast would recognize them as graves and avoid touching them and thereby become unclean through their contact with the grave of a dead person at the festival time. "Anyone out in the open who touches someone who has been killed with a sword or someone who has died a natural death, or anyone who touches a human bone or a grave, will be unclean for seven days." (Numbers 19:16)

Jesus said that this pictured what "the teachers of the law and Pharisees" were like.  "So, as a man journeyed the roads of Palestine on a spring day, these tombs would glint white and almost lovely, in the sunshine; but within they were full of bones and bodies whose touch would defile.  That, said Jesus was a precise picture of what the Pharisees were.  Their outward actions were the actions of intensely religious men, their inward hearts were foul and putrid with sin." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  The "Pharisees" were successful in fooling people; but Jesus was not fooled.

What is the message to us?  We each need to focus on the state of our heart and on what Jesus sees in our heart; and not focus on convincing men and women of our piety by going through the motions of acting like a pious man or woman.

g. Woe to the prophets in sheep's clothing. (23:29-32)
"'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, “If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!'"

Thought Question: How, do you believe, it is possible to be very religious, yet really hate God and His spokespersons?

 

 

"'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, “If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!'"

The "Pharisees" honored "the prophets" by building memorials to them and they claimed that if they "had lived in the days of" their "forefathers," they would have sided with the godly "prophets."  But their outward allegiance to these "prophets" was only sheep's clothing that covered up the very same type of viciousness that had led to the murder of these "prophets."  For, in the near future, they would not kill a prophet of God, but they would murder the Son of God.  Jesus invites them to "fill up" or fully express the wickedness in their hearts by killing the One that their anger was really directed toward all along—kill God in the flesh.

From Jesus' words in these verses and His words throughout Matthew, we can conclude, "It is possible to be very religious and yet hate God's message and messengers!" "Taken from Matthew by Craig Keener.  Copyright 1997 by Intervarsity Press."

"tombs of the prophets"  "There are four monuments called Tombs of the Prophets . . . at the base of the Mount of Olives.  Some of these may have been going up at the very time that Jesus spoke." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson."

h. Israel's epitaph (23:33-39)

(1) "You snakes!  You brood vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? (23:33-36)
"'You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.'"

Thought Question: Why was it holy for Jesus to use such strong words to describe these religious leaders? ("snakes," "brood of vipers")

 

 

"'You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?"  Jesus uses "snakes" to describe these religious leaders.  What value are snakes in our world?  If we find a rattlesnake in our yard, what do we do with it?  We are not comfortable until the snake is dead.  There religious leaders also had no value in God's world.  They were like "snakes" that needed to be removed and destroyed.

"Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town."  What Jesus describes here is what did occur, and it is recorded for us in the book of Acts. See Acts 4:1-3, 5:17, 7:54-8:3, 9:1-2, 12:1-4, 13:45, 50, 14:4-7, 17:5-9, 18:6, 12-17, 20:3, 21:27-36, 22:22-23, 23:12-15

"and pursue from town to town." See Acts 14:19, 17;13

"And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.'"

Jesus sums up all the righteous men who had died as martyrs for their faith from "Abel" at the beginning of the Old Testament to "Zechariah" at the end of the Old Testament. See Abel's death described in Gen. 4:1-17 and Zechariah's death described in II Chron. 24:20-22

The nation of Israel and all of the God-hating people of the world who stand united in their hatred of God are also united by God in deserving the just punishment that will come on this world.  This wrath of God that Israel deserved would come in part to Israel when the Romans would totally destroy the city of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

There is a problem with verse 35.  Matthew calls "Zechariah" the "son of Berekiah," which is what the prophet "Zechariah" is named.  " In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo:" (Zechariah 1:1)  Yet, Matthew seems to be describing how the "Zechariah" died that is described in II Chron. 24:20-22:  "Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, 'This is what God says: “Why do you disobey the Lord’s commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has forsaken you.”' But they plotted against him, and by order of the king they stoned him to death in the courtyard of the Lord’s temple. King Joash did not remember the kindness Zechariah’s father Jehoiada had shown him but killed his son, who said as he lay dying, 'May the Lord see this and call you to account.'"

We are told here that this "Zechariah" was the "son of Jehoiada the priest."  "This man died hundreds of years earlier than "Zechariah" the prophet." "Dr. Constable's notes."  What is the solution?  Dr. Constable offers us this possible solution.  "Berechiah may have been the actual father of this martyr, and writer of 2 Chronicles may have designated him as the son of his famous grandfather, Jehoiada." "Dr. Constables' notes."

The New Testament Transline offers another possible solution.  "Others think that there was an earlier copyist's error." "Taken from Transline New Testament by Michael Magill.  Copyright 2002 by Zondervan."  A copyist error seems most likely.  It would have been easy for a copyist to think that Jesus was referring here to the more famous "Zechariah" the prophet.

(2) Yet, He longed to gather them together as a hen gathers her chicks. (23:37-39)
"'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”'"

Thought Question: How could Jesus long to "gather" "together" those that He had just called "snakes"?

 

 

"'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”'"

It is clear hear that it was Jesus'—God's—will to save and protect His people Israel, but it was their will not to be saved.  It is clear from this verse that Jesus was rejecting Israel only because they had rejected Him over and over again.  Since Jesus is God, they rejected God each time they rejected Him.  Jesus—God—desired "to gather" them to Himself "as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings."  Israel rejected God and now is rejecting His Son.  He was willing; Israel was not willing.  Soon, He would leave them a barren, "desolate," and empty nation.

Part of the Calvinist TULIP belief is what is called "Irresistible Grace."  It is the belief that no one will or can come to God unless God irresistibly draws them to Himself.  Through an inward call, those who have no desire at all to come to God are given the desire to come to Him.  According to this view, those who are not the elect are not given this inward call and desire to come to Him.  They will resist God to the end and receive their just punishment in eternal hell.  If this were true, why should Jesus have grieved that Israel had willfully resisted Him through the years?  All He had to do was give them the irresistible inward call and they would have come to Him.  Here, instead, Jesus yearns for them in love, but they "were not willing."  It is clearly true that God was willing, but they were not willing.  Listen to what Jesus said about why these very religious Jews were not saved: "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5:39-40)  Listen to what the martyr Stephen said to the religious leaders who stoned him:  "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!" (Acts 7:51)

The issue as to why some will spend eternity with God and others will suffer eternal punishment is clear here—God was willing, but they were not.  "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."     (II Peter 3:9)

"Look, your house is left to you desolate."  "Let us understand that the ruin of those who are lost, is not because Christ was not willing to save them—nor yet because they wanted to be saved but could not—but because they would not come to Christ." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

"'For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”'"  Their "house" is "desolate" because God was not present in their midst.  The Promised Nation rejected their promised Messiah.  After they murdered Him, they were left with a barren and godless nation.  In a short time, the Romans would tear down their temple.  See Matt. 24:1-2  Though the church was to begin in Jerusalem, the nation itself would again reject the message of the Messiah given through the early Christians and they would experience the consequences of their choice—they would be empty of all that Jesus Christ offered them.

They rejected Him then, but a time is promised here by Jesus when they would receive Him.  Jesus had lost a battle, but He would win the war for the hearts of His nation, for He will come again to His people; and at that time they will say, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."

The Old Testament contains many prophesies that Israel will receive Him as their King when He comes the second time. See Deut. 30:1-10; Isa. 65:17-25; Jer. 31:1-14, 27-37; Zech. 8, 12:10-14, 14:9-21; Rom. 11:25-27

THE PREDICTION OF MANKIND'S FINAL REJECTION OF GOD AND GOD'S FINAL JUDGMENT ON THE WORLD. (The Olivet Discourse on the Mount of Olives) (24-25)
Jesus' last words before Matthew 24 are the following:  "'Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”'" (Matthew 23:38-39)  As Jesus and the disciples left the temple area where these words were spoken, certainly His disciples were still thinking about what He had just said.  Apparently, they came to a turn in the road or to a spot where the temple could be seen in full view.  It was similar to what happens to those who live in Portland or the Seattle-Tacoma area when they make a turn in the road, suddenly see Mt. Hood or Mt. Rainier in front of them in full view.  The temple in Jerusalem was also majestic and beautiful.  The temple "was built of white marble plaited with gold, and it shone in the sun so that a man could scarcely bear to look at it. . . . The Temple area was surrounded by great porches, Solomon's Porch and the Royal Porch.  These porches were upheld by pillars, cut out of solid blocks of marble in one piece.  They were 37 ½ feet high, and of such a thickness that three men linked together could scarcely put their arms round them.  At the corners of the Temple angle stones have been found which measure from 20 to 40 feet in length, and which weigh more that 100 tons.  How they were ever cut and placed in position is one of the mysteries of ancient engineering.  Little wonder that the Galilean fishermen looked and called Jesus' attention to them." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

When Jesus said, "'Look, your house is left to you desolate,'" His disciples must have thought, "How could God forsake a beautiful building like that?"  "As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, 'Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!'" (Mark 13:1) See also Lk. 21:5-6  They saw the beauty of the building; He saw the ugliness of the nation.

1. Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple. (24:1-2)
"Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 'Do you see all these things?' he asked. 'I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.'"

Thought Question: When, do you believe, this prediction was fulfilled or will be fulfilled?

 

 

"Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 'Do you see all these things?' he asked. 'I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.'" See 21:23 for when Jesus went to the temple.

One of the primary ways that a prophet could prove that he was a messenger from God was to predict in detail something that was about to happen.  "You may say to yourselves, 'How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?' If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him." (Deuteronomy 18:21-22)

Here, Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple—even predicting that the massive stones of the temple would be "thrown down."  In A.D. 70, "the Roman armies under Titus came in and fulfilled the prediction to the very letter.  With Titus was a Jewish historian named Josephus who recorded the terrible story in minute detail.  It was one of the most ghastly sieges in all history.  When the Romans came the city was divided among three warring factions of Jews who were so at each others' throats that they paid no heed to the approach of the Romans.  Thus Titus came up and surrounded the city while it was distracted by its own internecine warfare [internal warfare with each other].  The Romans assaulted the walls again and again, and gave every opportunity to the Jews to surrender and save their capital from destruction.  During the long siege a terrible famine raged in the city and the bodies of the inhabitants were literally stacked like cordwood in the streets.  Mothers ate their children to preserve their own strength.  The toll of Jewish suffering was horrible but they would not surrender the city.  Again and again they attempted to trick the Romans through guile and perfidy.  When at the last the walls were breached Titus tried to preserve the Temple by giving orders to his soldiers not to destroy or burn it.  But the anger of the soldiers against the Jews was so intense that, maddened by the resistance they encountered, they disobeyed the order of their general and set fire to the Temple.  There were great quantities of gold and silver there which had been placed in the Temple for safekeeping.  This melted and ran down between the rocks and into the cracks of the stones.  When the soldiers captured the Temple area, in their greed to obtain this gold and silver they took long bars and pried apart the massive stones.  Thus, quite literally, not one stone was left standing upon another.  The Temple itself was totally destroyed, though the wall supporting the area upon which the Temple was built was left partially intact and a portion of it remains to this day, called the Western Wall." "Taken from What on Earth's Going To Happen by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1970 by Regal Books."

2. Signs of the end (24:3-28)
Jesus' prediction leads the disciples to ask the questions that are given in 24:3.  The rest of the chapter contains Jesus' answer to their questions.

a. The disciples' questions (24:3)
"As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. 'Tell us,' they said, 'when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?'"

The disciples asked the following three questions:  1) When will the temple be destroyed?  2) "What will be the sign of your coming?"  3) When will be the "end of the age?"  To understand their questions better, we need to try to understand how they were looking at Jesus at the time that they asked these questions.  They, first of all, did not believe that Jesus was about to die.  Not did they know that He would ascend to heaven and not return for at least two thousand years.  They, undoubtedly, expected that it was about to happen.  They also thought that "the end of the age" would be the end of the Gentile rule—the end of the Roman rule.

We do not have Jesus' answer to the disciples' first question in Matthew—"When will the temple be destroyed?"  But, we do have Jesus' answer to the question in Lk. 21:20-24: "'When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.'"

It appears that what happened in A.D. 70 was a forerunner to what will occur in the last days.  "A day of the Lord is coming when your plunder will be divided among you. I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city." (Zechariah 14:1-2)

b. The signs of the end will be preceded by birth pains. (24:4-8)
"Jesus answered: 'Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.'"

Thought Question: Are these "birth pains" about the same size today and about the same distance in time apart from each other, or are they increasing in size and occurring more frequently?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"Jesus answered: 'Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.'"

The disciples, who certainly expected Jesus' coming as a conquering Messiah to happen in their lifetimes and in His lifetime as a man, must have been completely confused by Jesus' answer to their questions.  It takes a long time for nations to rise against nations.  As we look back a couple of thousand years on Jesus' words, we have a completely different perspective than those disciples who lived over two thousand years ago.

Jesus tells us today, from our vantage point in history, that His kingdom will be preceded by "birth pains."  He may have been saying that these "birth pains" will increase in intensity and frequency just prior to the birth of His kingdom, just as the birth pains of an expectant mother increase in intensity and frequency just prior to the birth of the baby.  This does seem to be the case, for the book of Revelation describes the final and most intense of these birth pains in Revelation 6.  "I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?'" (Revelation 6:12-17)

Let's look together at the "birth pains" that will precede the birth of Jesus' kingdom.  Birth pain #1: Deceivers"Jesus answered: 'Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.'"  This "birth pain" corresponds to seal #1 in Revelation 6.  It is described in Revelation 6:1-2:  "I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, 'Come!' I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest." 

When this seal is opened, a rider on a white horse is revealed.  He is, I believe, the ultimate deceiver—the antichrist.  He will give the impression that he has come to bring peace to the world, when he actually is coming to conquer the world.  As Jesus tells us in Matthew 24, the ultimate false christ will be preceded my many false Christs.

Ray Stedman quotes Charles Feinberg to give us information on how many false messiahs there have been since Jesus' time.  "Dr. Charles Feinberg, a noted Jewish Christian scholar, says that in Israel's history since the time of our Lord, sixty-four different individuals appeared claiming to be the Messiah." "Taken from The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books."

The apostle John describes Gnosticism, a part of the antichrist movement of his time, in the following way.  "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antiChrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." (1 John 2:18-19)  "but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world." (1 John 4:3)  

Jesus predicts here that this trend will increase in the last days just before His return.  As our faith in man and man's ingenuity decreases, we see even today that men are looking more and more to spiritual leaders for help.  New cults and new spiritual pied pipers are springing up and are captivating surprising numbers in their hypnotic spell.  According to Jesus, here, this trend will continue to increase as we approach the end. See also II Thess. 2:9-12; I Tim. 4:1-3

"Birth pain #2: Wars"'You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.'"

Some believed that World War I would be the last war, and then came           World War II.  Today, the tensions in our world continue to increase.  I write these words shortly after the bombing at the Boston Marathon.  When you read these words, it is likely the threat of world war will have increased or could even be taking place.  Certainly, this birth pain is growing in both intensity and frequency.

This birth pain clearly corresponds to the "second seal" in Revelation 6.  "When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, 'Come!' Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword." (Revelation 6:3-4)

Birth Pain #3: Famines.  "'There will be famines.'"  As I am writing these words, "famines" are not an issue on the news shows.  But "famines" have come upon our world for many reasons.  National calamities such as a large earthquake, extreme cold, typhoons, tsunamis, droughts, and other types of weather extremes leave "famines" in their wake.  There are also man-caused "famines" such as wars, persecution, and poverty.  By the time you read these words, it is not unlikely that there will be a severe famine in some part of the world.  As wars, earthquakes, poverty, and persecution increase, so will "famines" increase.

This birth pain corresponds to the "third seal" in Revelation 6.  "When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, 'Come!' I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, 'A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!'" (Revelation 6:5-6)

Birth Pain #4: Earthquakes.  "'There will be . . . earthquakes in various places.'"  In recent years, as I write these words, there have been massive "earthquakes" The earthquake in Chile in 2010 and the massive earthquake in Japan in 2011 come immediately to mind.  The Bible predicts that there will be even larger "earthquakes."  "I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. . . . " (Revelation 6:12)  "Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible." (Revelation 16:18-21)

You may be thinking, "How can a God of love allow these horrible and life-destroying 'earthquakes' to occur?"  Another question can be asked, "How can a holy God allow all the sin in the world to continue?  One day, sin will be removed from this world.  In the meantime, God gives us time to repent and turn to Him.  Years ago, I was teaching a Sunday School class in Los Angeles.  A lady in the class explained to us during a discussion in the class that she had turned to God for forgiveness and became a Christian due to the first of the large "earthquakes" in Los Angeles.  Sometimes, God has to give us a strong shaking to get our attention. 

"'All these are the beginning of birth pains.'"  Luke 21 is a parallel account to these verses in Matthew 24.  In Luke 21:11, Luke records these words of Jesus:  "There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven." (Luke 21:11)  "Pestilences" or plagues could be the "death" that is predicted in Revelation's fourth seal that will lead to the death of a fourth of the earth.  "When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, 'Come!' I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth." (Revelation 6:7-8)

As I type these words, the Ebola virus has become a threat in our country.  As you read these words, there may be other plagues that have become a threat.  Plagues are a part of the "birth pains" that will precede Jesus' return.

c. The final birth pains before the end. (24:9-14)
These verses summarize the darkest time in man's time on earth.  The last days of earth as we know it, will also be the darkest days of man's time on earth.  As man reaches the last stages of separation from God, all nations will hate God and His people.  Many will turn away from belief in God and turn on those who continue to believe in God.  Love will grow cold.  Nevertheless, the gospel will be preached to the whole world.

(1) All nations will hate you. (24:9)
"'Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.'"  Jesus, here, partly answers the disciples' second question—"What will be the sign of your coming?"  One "sign" of Jesus' "coming" will be that God's people "will be hated" by all people "because of" Jesus.

This "birth pain" corresponds to the fifth seal.  "When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained." (Revelation 6:9) See also Rev. 20:4

Luke describes this "sign" in more detail.  "'But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me.'" (Luke 21:12-17)

The Bible also predicts that it will be a time when God's people Israel will also be persecuted.  It is called the time of Jacob's trouble.  "How awful that day will be! None will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it." (Jeremiah 30:7)  "I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves." (Zechariah 12:2-3)  "A day of the Lord is coming when your plunder will be divided among you. I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city." (Zechariah 14:1-2)

(2) Many will fall away from the faith and betray their fellow-believers (24:10)
"At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,"  At the very end, those whose faith is not genuine, but only a superficial faith, will fall away.  In I Jn. 2:18, John says, "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."

Just as occurs in many countries when Christians began to be persecuted, those who are not true Christians will separate from the church as it begins to cost them—it could cost them their prestige, possessions, and even their lives.  True Christians will be shocked to see those who they thought were with them, turning on them in bitter hatred.

(3) Many false prophets will appear. (24:11)
"and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people."  "False prophets" are those who are experts at twisting things until evil sounds good and good sounds evil.  False teachers tend to go to one of two extremes: toward legalism or toward license.  The following verses predict that there will be legalistic false teachers in the end times: "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth." (1 Timothy 4:1-3)  And the following describes the false teacher who teaches license: "For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." (Jude 4) See also Revel. 2:20

(4) Love will grow cold. (24:12)
"Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,"  Love is seeking another's best, even if it costs a great deal.  Selfishness is seeking our best, even if it costs others a great deal.  An example of love grown cold is the strong support of abortion today.  Abortion is the killing of a baby within a mother's womb.  The baby involuntarily sacrifices his or her life because it is believed to be in the mother's best interest that the baby die.  Is not this an example of "love" growing "cold"?  As "wickedness" increases, so will "love" "grow" colder. Romans 1:28-32 and II Tim. 3:1-5 describe what an increase in selfishness look like.

(5) But those who stand firm to the end will be saved. (24:13)
"but he who stands firm to the end will be saved."  True believers will stand firm in their faith even when they are persecuted, even when they see their former friends turn on them, even when false teaching brings great confusion, and even in the midst of great wickedness.  Many Christians will be killed during this time.  "When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, 'How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?'" (Revelation 6:9-10)  Again, this whole period corresponds to the fifth seal.

Pretribulationists are those who believe that true believers will be raptured prior to this time of persecution.  The word "rapture" or "raptured" comes from the Latin word for catching up in I Thessalonians 4:17: "After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

Pretribulationists believe that Christians will be "caught up" before the seven-year period that is described by the term "tribulation."  This seven-year period is based on the final seven-year period of a seventy-year period described in Daniel 9:24-27.  "He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him." (Daniel 9:27)  Actually, there is no place in the Bible when this 7-year period is called the "tribulation."  Only the least 3 ½ years is given this title.  "For then there will be great distress [tribulation], unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again." (Matthew 24:21)  "I answered, 'Sir, you know.' And he said, 'These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'" (Revelation 7:14) See also Dan. 12:1

Although the "tribulation" period, given in the verses just quoted, begins when the Antichrist breaks his peace treaty with Israel, the whole 7-year period has come to be called the "tribulation."  Pretribulationists believe that we will be raptured before the peace treaty and before the persecution begins—before the seven-year period they call the "tribulation."  I would prefer to believe that they are right—I would prefer to be raptured before the Antichrist takes over and the persecution begins, but I cannot find it here in Matthew 24, in the book of Revelation, or in any other place in the Bible.  Rather, as Jesus is talking to His disciples who will be leaders in His church He says this to them: "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other" (Matthew 24:9-10)  I can only conclude that Christians will experience this persecution (Pretribulationists say that Jesus is saying that He is speaking to them as Jews and not as Christians.).  I also believe that the rapture is described very clearly later in Matthew—after the persecution has begun.  "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other." (Matthew 24:30-31)

6. The final birth pain: When the gospel of the kingdom is preached to the whole world. (24:14)
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."  This description of what must occur before "the end will come," could not have happened in the disciples' time.  It is occurring today—through international missions, radio, satellite television, the internet, translation of Bibles in many languages, through books, international travel, and by many other means.

Even though the world will hear the gospel, that does not mean that the world will be converted.  The world will have an opportunity to believe, but they will not all believe.  There is a view, sometimes called postmillennialism, that has the belief that the kingdom of God will eventually so transform the world that it will bring in the millennial rule of Christ.  Jesus did not teach that here, nor do we see this happening today.  Rather, there will be a falling away from God.  Only true believers will persevere until the end.

3. The end: man's final day (24:15-28)
The death process began in man when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit.  From that point on, people have been born separated from God and His spiritual life.  As a result of this separation, a rotting and a decay of man began and has continued through the years.  Just before the flood, it had reached its last stages and the stench of the sin-rotted world could no longer be tolerated by God.  He did what always needs to be done to a rotting and decaying carcass, He disposed of it with a world-wide flood.  "The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time." (Genesis 6:5)  "Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, 'I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.'" (Genesis 6:11-13)

After the flood, the same process of death began again.  In Genesis 11, we see that the world was rapidly heading the same direction as men were seeking to unite together to build a city and tower to worship themselves.  God steps in a second time.  But this time He slows down the rotting process by confusing their languages.  This prevented them from being able to unite together to worship themselves.  In Genesis 12, we see that God steps in once again to slow down the rotting process in the world.  This time, He calls out a special nation to be salt in the world.  Salt is used to preserve meat and to prevent meat from immediately rotting.  The nation of Israel was meant to have this same effect on a rotting world.  When Israel became useless as salt, God called out another group of people to be salt—the church. See Matt. 5:13-16  In these verses in Matthew 24, we are looking at a time in future when the death and decaying process will have again reached its final stages.

a. Man's final hatred toward God: the abomination of desolation (24:15)
"'So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—'"  Here, Jesus gives the disciples a clear "sign" "of the end of the age."  It is an event that will happen at a specific time and at a specific place.  When this event takes place, all believers that are alive at that time can be certain that the END has come! 

What is this "abomination that causes desolation" that Jesus speaks of here?  It is also predicted in Dan. 9:26, 11:31, and 12:11.  In each of these verses, it is referring to a time when a unique, Satan-empowered individual will desecrate the future temple of the Jews by setting up the worship of himself in the Holy of Holies of the temple.  This event is described here in Matthew 24.  It is also described in II Thessalonians.  "Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God."
(II Thessalonians 2:1-4)

This total defiance of Satan is also described in the book of Revelation.  "Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name." (Revelation 13:11-17)

Daniel 11:31 is both a prediction of the future "abomination of desolation" and recording of a historical "abomination of desolation."  During the time between the Old and New Testaments, a man by the name of Antioches Epiphanes ruled over the Jews.  Out of hatred for the Jews and their religious practices, he converted their temple into a pagan shrine.  In the Holy of Holies, he put a statue of Zeus and required the Jewish people to sacrifice pigs' flesh to it.  Nothing could have been more revolting to them than for them to be required to sprinkle the blood of an unclean pig in the Holy of Holies; and to sprinkle that unclean blood in worship of an idol. See I Maccabees 1:54, 59, 4:38; II Maccabees 6:1-5

"The altar was covered with abominable offerings which were forbidden by the laws." (II Maccabees 6:5)  "Not long after this, the kings sent an Athenian senator to compel the Jews to forsake the laws of their fathers and cease to live by the laws of God, and also to pollute the temple in Jerusalem and call it the temple of Olympian Zeus . . . " (II Maccabees 6:1-2)

Another man like Antioches Epiphanes will come in the last days to desecrate a future temple of the Jews.  When that takes place, those who are alive will know that the END has come. See also Jn. 5:43

"let the reader understand"  It appears that Matthew gave an aside to his readers.  He was speaking to all of us who have read or are reading this Gospel of Matthew.  At the moment we are reading these words, we are closer in time to the event Jesus described than all those who have lived before us.  Could we be living in the time when this event will occur?

There are those who believe that this "abomination of desolation" has already taken place.  They believe that it occurred when the Romans attacked and conquered Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

b. Man's hatred of God's people (24:16-22)
"'then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.'"

Thought Question: Do you believe that Christians will be present at the time of the "abomination of desolation"?  Please explain why you believe this?

 

 

"those in Judea flee"  God's people "in Judea" will be most urgently in danger, for they will be in the immediate proximity to where the "abomination of desolation" is taking place.  But, all of God's people will also be in danger at that time.

The book of Revelation predicts that there will be those who will be killed by the forces of the antichrist.  "Then one of the elders asked me, 'These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?' I answered, 'Sir, you know.' And he said, 'These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.' (Revelation 7:13-14)  "I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years." (Revelation 20:4) See also Dan. 7:23-24

"'then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak."  This is called in Jeremiah 30:7, "a time of trouble for Jacob"—for Israel. See also Dan. 12:1; Joel 2:2, 11; Zeph. 1:14-18

The time of great distress begins with the "abomination of desolation."  When the Jewish people and believers from all nations see this event taking place, it will begin a time of persecution of God's people, like never before.  When God's people see this taking place, we are warned here by Jesus to drop everything and "flee to the mountains."  We must not delay our flight by going to pack, for any delay may mean we will be taken away by the forces of the Antichrist.

"How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath."  Those who are God's people will either be caught or they will experience difficult hardship as they seek to run away or to hide.  "Pregnant women" and mothers with babies are some of those who will find it more difficult to escape from the Satan-empowered forces of the Antichrist.  Also, if this takes place in the winter, the cold will also make it difficult to escape.  The Sabbath travel restrictions and possibly the crowds in Jerusalem on the Sabbath will also make it a more difficult time to escape.

Those who do not escape will experience the full wrath of Satan against them for being God's people.  The murder of the Jews by Nazi Germany gives us some idea of what it will be like.

"For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again."  This is not some prophet saying this, but the Son of God saying that the persecution that will take place at this time in the future will be unequaled.  It will be worse than Stalin's mass murders, the Rwanda massacres, the killing fields of Cambodia, and every other persecution in history.  The book of Revelation describes how many will die during Satan's reign of terror.  "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands." (Revelation 7:9)  "Then one of the elders asked me, 'These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?' I answered, 'Sir, you know.' And he said, 'These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'" (Revelation 7:13-14)

"If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.'"  The pre-tribulationists would say that "the elect" here are either the "elect" nation of Jews or they are people who have come to believe after the church was raptured.  But, if the church is not raptured until after this time, then "the elect"  here are the church. See Matt. 24:30-31  Then, the "days" are "shortened" is stating that Jesus will return before this time of "great distress" is over—before the 3 ½ years is over so that some will "survive."

The length of this time of "great distress" is given in Revelation: "I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, 'Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there. But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.'" (Revelation 11:1-3)  "The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days." (Revelation 12:6)  "The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach." (Revelation 12:14)  "The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months." (Revelation 13:5)

The pre-wrath position believes that the church will go through the time of "great distress" caused by the rule of the antichrist, but will be caught up to heaven—raptured—just before God's wrath begins.

c. Man's distortion of the truth (24:23-27)

(1) False Christs and false prophets will multiply (24:23-25)
"'At that time if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Christ!” or, “There he is!” do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time.'"

Thought Question: What are some ways that you can distinguish "false prophets" and "false Christs" from true prophets and the true Jesus Christ?

 

 

"'At that time if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Christ!” or, “There he is!” do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time.'"

As miracles accompanied the spreading of the gospel through Jesus and His apostles, so false miracles will accompany the spreading of lies and darkness by the Antichrist and his false prophets.  "The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie . . . ." (II Thessalonians 2:9-11)

The world at that time will be in total confusion.  Today, it is confusing enough.  There are so many religions that it is easy to see why so many give up trying to find the truth.  It is only because God is greater in power than the evil one that anyone finds the truth.  "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood." (1 John 4:1-6)

It will be even more confusing in the time of "great distress."  It will be so confusing that it will almost confuse "the elect."  But God will again defeat the father of lies, and "the elect" will be able to distinguish the truth from the lies.

(2) So, do not be deceived by those who claim to be Christ who are somewhere on the earth, for Christ will come like lightning. (24:26-27)
"'So if anyone tells you, “There he is, out in the desert,” do not go out; or, “Here he is, in the inner rooms,” do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.'"

Thought Question#1:  From Jesus' words here, what will be some false rumors be like?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  From Jesus' words here, how will Jesus return the second time?

 

 

"'So if anyone tells you, “There he is, out in the desert,” do not go out; or, “Here he is, in the inner rooms,” do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.'" 

Those who seek after Jesus at this time of the end will hear many rumors that He has come and that He is hidden in a secret "room" or He is hiding "out in the desert."  Jesus tells His disciples that they and fellow believers should not be confused by these false reports.  For, when Jesus returns the second time, everyone will know it.  When He comes the next time, He will not come in a quiet and private way as He came the first time.  The next time His coming will be both spectacular and very public; for He will come as "lightning" flashes across the sky.  "Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen." (Revelation 1:7)  "They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 'Men of Galilee,' they said, 'why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.'" (Acts 1:10-11)  "'There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.'" (Luke 21:25-27) See also Lk 17:24

The next verse will tell us that previous to His coming in "lightning," the sky will be black as night.  So, when he returns as "lightning," there will be a contrast between total darkness and total light.  Isaiah predicts what His coming will be like.  "Men will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from dread of the Lord and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth." (Isaiah 2:19)  "'Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.'" (Isaiah 60:1-3)

d. Just as a carcass draws vultures, so will the earth draw all that is mentioned here. (24:28)
"Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather."  Just as "vultures" are a sign of death, so these signs will be a sign of the death of the world as we have known it.

"This was a familiar Hebraic expression, the meaning of which would be, moral corruption requires divine judgment (cf. Job 39:27-30; Rev. 19:17-18.)  'Wherever the carcass is'  conveys the idea of moral corruption, stench, and decay.  'There will the eagles ["vultures" in the NIV] be gathered together" implies divine judgment on all corruption (sin and it progeny).  If God is holy and just, then He must of necessity, punish evil.  Judgment on unrepentant, wicked men requires His return and will be on the King's agenda at His coming." "Taken from The Pre-wrath Rapture of the Church (pp. 40-41) by Marvin Rosenthal.  Copyright 1990 by Thomas Nelson Publishers." See also Lk. 17:37

"Just as when an animal dies, the vultures gather, so when there is moral corruption, there must be divine judgment." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press." 

4. The Day of the Lord (24:29-31)
The Day of the Lord is the day when Jesus will return.  This day, of course, is a lot closer to us now than it was to Jesus' disciples.

a. The last sign before Jesus appears: the heavens will go black. (24:29)
"'Immediately after the distress of those days “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”'" 

On May 21, 1980, most of central Washington state—our home—experienced a time of darkness in the middle of the day.  Mt. St. Helen's eruption resulted in ash from the eruption covering the sky and darkening it so that in the middle of the afternoon it was like the dark of night.  At that time I realized how darkness all over the earth could happen.

The parallel passages in Luke and Revelation describe it also as a time of earthly and heavenly upheaval.  "'There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.'" (Luke 21:25-26)  "I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place." (Revelation 6:12-14)

Man has chosen moral darkness.  At some time in the future, God will give mankind the darkness that they have chosen—the sky will turn totally black.  This black day of judgment was predicted in Isa. 13:9-11, and was quoted by Jesus.  "See, the day of the Lord is coming —a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger— to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless." (Isaiah 13:9-11) See also Joel 2:31; Ezek. 32:7-8; Mk. 13:24-25; Lk. 21:25

In Joel, this future darkness is pictured by locusts darkening the sky.  "Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand— a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come. Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste— nothing escapes them. They have the appearance of horses; they gallop along like cavalry. With a noise like that of chariots they leap over the mountaintops, like a crackling fire consuming stubble, like a mighty army drawn up for battle. At the sight of them, nations are in anguish; every face turns pale. They charge like warriors; they scale walls like soldiers. They all march in line, not swerving from their course. They do not jostle each other; each marches straight ahead. They plunge through defenses without breaking ranks. They rush upon the city; they run along the wall. They climb into the houses; like thieves they enter through the windows. Before them the earth shakes, the sky trembles, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine. The Lord thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command. The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?" (Joel 2:1-11)  "The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." (Joel 2:31)

This corresponds to the sixth seal in Revelation 6:12.  According to Revelation 6, this darkness is followed by God's wrath.  "I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red," (Revelation 6:12)  "For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" (Revelation 6:17)

It is my belief that previous to God's wrath, the Lord will come and take the church up to be with Him.  That is the next event in Matthew 24, as we will see in the following verses.  In the next chapter in Revelation, we see that the elect who have come out of this time of great distress are in heaven.  "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: 'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.' All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: 'Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!' Then one of the elders asked me, 'These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?' I answered, 'Sir, you know.' And he said, 'These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'" (Revelation 7:9-14)  This, I believe, describes the Christians of the church after they have been taken into heaven—after they have been raptured into heaven.

Christians are clearly promised that they will not experience God's day of wrath.  "For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 5:9)  But there is no promise that we will not suffer persecution.

Robert Van Kampen wrote a book on prophecy with the title The Sign.  His view is that a sign will precede the Lord's Second Coming to rapture the church and begin His judgment of the world.  That sign is the sun turning black.  Immediately after this sign, as we see in the next verses, the Lord will appear.

b. Then, the Lord will appear in the sky. (24:30-31)
"'At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.'"

Thought Question: Do you believe that these verses describe the rapture of the church and the Lord's coming in judgment or do you believe they describe only the Second Coming of Christ in judgment (the Rapture having occurred previously)?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"'At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.'"

Man has been able to ignore God for thousands of years, but when He returns, no one will be able to ignore Him!  The nations in their unbelief will suddenly see the One they have been ignoring.  "Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen." (Revelation 1:7)
In II Thessalonians, Paul gives additional insight on why they will mourn.  " . . .  This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8)

Israel will also mourn as they recognize that they crucified their Messiah.  "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, and all the rest of the clans and their wives." (Zechariah 12:10-14)

We can think of Jesus as being far away in heaven.  But, the truth is that He is always near to us.  We just do not see Him in all of His glory.  The book of Revelation is what happens when the veil is removed and we see His glory.  There are times when the glory of heavenly beings invade earth.  Here is an unusual day in the life of the prophet Elisha and his servant.  It happened when they were surrounded by enemy soldiers.  "'Don’t be afraid,' the prophet answered. 'Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.' And Elisha prayed, 'O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.' Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, 'Strike these people with blindness.' So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked." (2 Kings 6:16-18)

Here is an unusual day that happened to the prophet Daniel.  "On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the men with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground. A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said, 'Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.' And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling." (Daniel 10:4-11)

But the most unusual day of all is described here.  Suddenly, the darkness will be replaced by stunning light.  "They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.'"  This is the blessed hope of all Christians.  "while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ," (Titus 2:13) See also II Tim. 4:8; Matt. 16:27; 26:64; Dan. 7:13

"'And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.'"  This sounds identical to what is described in I Thessalonians 4:  "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." (I Thessalonians 4:13-17) See also Isa. 24:12-13

Those who hold the pre-tribulation view of the end times believe that the coming described in I Thessalonians 4 will happen seven years before this coming of Jesus Christ described in Matthew 24.  Then, they say that the coming described in Matthew 24 is Jesus' Second Coming in judgment, whereas the coming in
I Thessalonians 4 will be His first coming to secretly rapture the church.

Here is one well-known pre-tribulationist's description of their view:  "Unlike the rapture of the church, which apparently the world will not see or hear, the second coming of Christ will be witnessed both by believers and unbelievers who are on earth at that time." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."

At one time, I held this position, mainly because almost everyone I knew held this position.  But, I had trouble getting these words in Matthew 24 to teach this position on prophecy.  These verses that we are looking at sounded like it was the same event as described in I Thessalonians 4.  For example, in both cases there is a "trumpet call."  A return of Jesus with a "trumpet" blasting does not sound like a quiet event that no one hears, but it sounds like a public event that everyone hears.  How can a "trumpet" be silent?  I believe, therefore, that what is described in I Thessalonians 4 and Matthew 24:30-31 are the same event; and that the rapture of the church will happen, according to Matthew 24, after the "abomination of desolation."  I would prefer that the church be raptured before the time of "great distress," but it appears to me that Matthew 24 teaches that the "elect" here are not the Jewish nation, but rather are the believing "elect"—they are the church.

Also, in I Thessalonians 4 and here in Matthew 24, we are told that Jesus will come "in the clouds."  Again, it sounds like the same event.

4. Jesus' final instructions about the kingdom (24:32-25:46)

a. A lesson from the fig tree (24:32-34)
"'Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.'"

Thought Question: Some have said that the "fig tree" is Israel, and that the fig tree budded when Israel became a nation in 1948.  What do think about that?

 

 

"'Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.'"  Jesus teaches us here that just as we can tell that when a tree begins to bear leaves, the summer is near; so when we can tell that when the signs that Jesus just gave start to happen, the end is near. 

So, then, how is this to be interpreted and apply to us today?  These simple words of Jesus are interpreted in a number of different ways.  Some believe that Jesus meant that in the generation of His time that all would be fulfilled.  They believe that most of it was all fulfilled about 40 years later in A.D. 70, when the Romans completely conquered Israel and destroyed the temple.  This view is called the preterist view—describing that which has happened in the past.  How much was fulfilled in A.D. 70 differs among those who hold this view.

Another view, that was championed by Hal Lindsay and others, is that the "fig tree" symbolizes Israel.  So, when Israel became a nation in 1948 that was the budding of the fig tree.  If you take a "generation" to represent forty years, then Jesus should have returned in 1988.  This, of course, is no longer a popular belief.

We learn, once again, that it is dangerous to predict the exact time of Jesus' return.  Jesus Himself told us that in Matthew 24:36 and 42:  "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matthew 24:36)  "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." (Matthew 24:42)  Nevertheless, Jesus has been predicted to come at the following times: 650, 1000, 1033, 1044, 1065, 1186, 1420, 1843, 1911, 1931, 1968, 1976, 1984, 1988, 1990, 2000 and 2012; and many more. Some of the dates came from the "Date Setters Diary." And there certainly will be more predictions of the exact date of Jesus' return.

The simple message here is that the generation that sees these signs, particularly the "abomination of desolation," can know that their generation will also see Jesus' return.  If these events will precede Jesus' return, believers will know when it is near to His return.  "But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet." (1 Thessalonians 5:4-8)

Jesus gave us who are believers in Him these signs so that we might know what must precede His return, so when we see these signs, we can be sure that all that He said will happen will soon take place.  Primarily, we will know that He will return in glory at the end of those times.  There will be great persecution, but on the other side of it, He will come again.  And, we can count on it!

b. These words of Christ describing the last days will continue to be true, even if the universe should cease to exist. (24:35)
"'Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.'"  We need this type of certainty; particularly as the world falls farther away from God and His ways.  Those who live in the days Jesus predicted will need these words of assurance when order is turned to chaos, when deception is at its worst, and when Satan reigns in full evil on this earth.  "First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, 'Where is this “coming” he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.' But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:3-9)

c. Jesus' return will be unexpected. (24:36-51)
The future has a more important effect on our lives than we often realize.  Many, if not most of our decisions are based on what we hope for in the future.  The young couple hopes to buy a home that will be big enough to house the family that they hope to have some day.  So, they begin to save up money for that house.  As Christians, our hope of being with the Lord should determine the decisions that we make each day.  But, many are not living in this way; and those who live like this will not be ready when the Lord returns. See II Pet. 3:11-14

(1) No one knows the exact day when Jesus will return (not even the angels nor the Son, but only the Father). (24:36)
"'No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

Even Jesus, with His earthly limitations did not know the "day" when He would return.

(2) The days before Jesus' return will be like the days before the flood in Noah's day (24:37-39)
"'As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.'"

Thought Question: Based on Jesus' words here, what do you believe it will be like just before Jesus returns?

 

 

"'As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.'"

When the "flood" came in Noah's time, it was business as usual; right up to the "flood."  They "were eating," "drinking, and "marrying" as usual; and the 'flood" caught them totally by surprise—even though they had been thoroughly warned by Noah during the time the "ark" was being built.

How long did it take to build the "ark"?  It may have been 120 days.  "Then the Lord said, 'My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.'" (Genesis 6:3)  It may been 120 days more that God would "contend" with man until the flood.  But, the "120 days," instead, may refer to the shortened life span after the "flood."

The people of Noah's time ignored his warnings, as they saw him building the 450 foot by 45 foot "ark."  They continued on with their normal lives as if nothing would ever change.  Quickly, they found out that God was very serious about His warnings.  In the last days, the gospel will be preached to the whole world.  "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (Matthew 24:14)  But people will again go on living their lives as usual, leaving God, His good news, and His warnings out of their plans.  Suddenly, they will discover that God has not left them out of His plans.  "Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, 'Peace and safety,' destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape." (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3)

Just as the judgment in Noah's time began when Noah and his family were safe, so God's wrath in the future will begin after the church is raptured and safe.  Sodom and Gomorrah's judgment also came right after Lot's family left the region of these cities. See Gen. 19:1-29

(3) At that time, some will be taken and some will remain. (24:40-41)
"'Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.'"

Thought Question: Do you believe that these verses describes the rapture when believers are taken or does it describe when unbelievers are taken away in judgment?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"'Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.'"

Those who believe in the Pre-wrath rapture position and those who believe in the Pre-tribulation rapture position see these verses completely differently.  Those who believe that the rapture of the church will occur just previous to God's wrath, see the man and the woman as being "taken" away to be with God just before He pours out His wrath on the world.  Those who believe that church will be raptured before the 7-year tribulation period begins believe that the man and woman are "taken" away to be judged by God, while the other man and woman will remain to be part of Jesus' earthly kingdom in the millennium.

Walvoord explains the pre-trib position on these verses:  "The one is left, is left to enter the kingdom; the who is taken is taken in judgment.  This is in keeping with the illustration of the time of Noah when the ones taken away are the unbelievers." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."  Another way of looking at it is that Noah and his family, the believers, were the ones "taken" away by the Ark.

A possible support for Walvoord's pretribulation view is the parables of the weeds and the net where and weeds and the bad fish are 'taken" away from the wheat and the good fish. See Matt. 13:36-43, 47-50  But even in the parable of the net, the fishermen collect the good fish first.  "When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away." (Matthew 13:48)

But, these verses, rather, appear to be a parallel to the account in Matt. 24:30-31:  "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other." (Matthew 24:30-31)  In these verses, the ones who are gathered are the "elect" and not those who are to be judged.  Then, these verses and verses 40-41 are simply describing the rapture of the church—the church will be taken, the rest will be left behind.

(4) Therefore, keep watch at all times. (24:42-44)
"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.'"

Thought Question: If Jesus comes after the abomination of desolation, won't believers know when He is coming?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.'"

If we knew a "thief was coming" to our house at a specific time, we would have the police waiting for him.  But, if we did not know when he was coming, we would need to be ready all of the time.  We know Christ is coming, but we do not know exactly when He is coming.  So, we need to be ready all of the time.

How can Jesus come like a "thief" in the night and surprise us if the "abomination of desolation" will precede His coming?  Christians should not be surprised at His coming.  But even though we should know when His coming is near, we do not know the exact day and time that He will come.  So, we need to be ready at all times.

He is speaking here to His disciples.  They were to be ready.  "So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."  Is Jesus, then, also telling the church today to be ready and alert for the taking away described in 24:40-41?  If the answer is, "yes," then, the church will be present in the world at that time.  Then, also, we will not be raptured nearly 7 years before this time.

There are a number of other times when Christians are clearly taught to be alert because Jesus' return will come like a "thief" in the night.  "But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." (Luke 12:39-40, NIV)
"Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, 'Peace and safety,' destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 5:1-9)  "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare." (2 Peter 3:10)  "Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you." (Revelation 3:3)  "Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed." (Revelation 16:15)

If Christians will be raptured years before the events described here in Matthew 24, it is hard to explain why this warning to be alert was relevant to the early disciples Jesus was talking to or why it is relevant to us today.  But, it would have been relevant to them, and it is relevant to us if Christians will still be present at that time.

Years ago, I had trouble harmonizing the pre-trib view with what I saw being taught in the Bible.  I concluded at that time that the only thing I was sure of was that we would not go through God's wrath.  Later, I heard a Jewish missionary to Israel share a view similar to what I believed.  Then, later, a friend had the book, The Pre-wrath Rapture of the Church on her bookshelf.  I asked if I could read it.  It described the view I had come to believe, but with much more Biblical support and details.  Later, I read the book, The Sign by Robert Van Kampen.  Though I do not agree with everything in these books, for the most part, their view is my view.  A friend once told me that the only books that I would completely agree with would be something that I wrote or the Bible.  Matthew 24, though, is the part of the Bible that most caused me to reject the pre-trib view of when the rapture will occur—particularly Matthew 24:30-44

(5) Keep busy in the service of God until the end, for the reward will be great. (24:45-47)
"'Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.'"

Thought Question: How do you believe these verses apply to you personally?

 

 

"'Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.'"

Jesus describes in these verses, a universal tendency among workers—to take it is easy when the boss is not there.  This is how you find out who are the good and "faithful" workers and who are not.  Good and "faithful" workers work as hard when the boss is not there as they do when he is there.  Jesus promises here that it will be good for His "faithful" servants when He returns, for He will put them "in charge of all his possessions."  "'His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”'" (Matthew 25:21)

Ray Stedman believed that "give them their food at the proper time" refers to pastors and Christian workers teaching and sharing God's word with others.  His interpretation does harmonize with the charge that Jesus gave to Peter: "Feed my sheep" (Jn. 21:17)  But it also describes all Christians' responsibility to serve the Lord in many ways.  Most of all, it describes our responsibility to share the gospel message "at the proper time." (I Pet. 3:15)

(6) But those who choose to be wicked, because the Master is not present, will be severely punished when He returns unexpectedly. (24:48-51)
"'But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, “My master is staying away a long time,” and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"

Thought Question: Why do you believe that God will be so severe with those who are unfaithful servants who are wicked toward others?

 

 

"'But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, “My master is staying away a long time,” and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"

Through the years, television preachers have been exposed for using their ministries to gain personal wealth.  Instead of living lives of service in Jesus' name, they were stealing from Jesus' sheep.  I have often wondered what it will be like when they face Jesus.  We are told here what it will be like.  These verses, though, are a sobering message to all of us.  We can forget, because Jesus has been gone so long, that we all will one day stand before Him.  With that reality constantly in our mind, we need to concentrate on being His good and "faithful" servants.  We want to hear the words that were quoted above:  "' . . . “Well done, good and faithful servant! . . . '" (Matthew 25:21)

d. Some will be left behind when Jesus returns—the parable of the Ten Virgins (25:1-13)
This parable is a warning to those who profess to be believers, but will be left behind when Jesus returns.

(1) Five virgins make a wise choice and five virgins make a foolish choice. (25:1-5)
"'At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.'"

Thought Question: What do you believe the "oil" in the "lamps" represents?

 

 

"'At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.'"

The wedding account in this parable does not sound at all like our wedding ceremonies, but it was familiar to the Jews of Jesus' day.  At that time, when a groom took a wife, he really did take her.  On the night before the wedding, the groom and his party went to the bride's house and took her and her party to his father's house.  When they did this, they tried to catch the bride by surprise.  The bridal party had no idea when the bridegroom's party would come.  It could be any time of day or night.  So, the bridal party needed to be ready at all times to go out into the streets to meet them.

Barclay points out the importance of having sufficient oil when the "bridegroom" came.  "No one is allowed out in the streets after dark without a lighted lamp, and also that, when the bridegroom once arrived, and the door has been shut, latecomers to the ceremony are not admitted." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

"The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.'"  Jesus has been a "long time in coming," so even the true church can become "drowsy."  True Christians can even become "drowsy" in a church service.

"Five" of the "virgins" in the bridal party foolishly did not take any extra "oil" with them besides the "oil" that was in their "lamps."  We see next what happened when the "bridegroom" comes.

"lamps" They may have been hand-held lamps or torches.

(2) When the bridegroom comes, it was too late for the foolish virgins to be wise (25:6-9)
"'At midnight the cry rang out: “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.” “No,” they replied, “there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.”'"

Thought Question: Who do those who did not have enough "oil" represent?

 

 

"'At midnight the cry rang out: “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.” “No,” they replied, “there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.”'"

When the bridegroom came, the "oil" in the "lamps" of the "foolish" "virgins" had nearly all burned up while they were waiting, and their "lamps" were about to go out.  And, they were unable to borrow any "oil" from the other "virgins,"  because the other "virgins" had only brought enough "oil" for themselves.  So, the "foolish" "virgins" were unable to go into the streets and join in the festivities as the wedding party joyously headed toward the father of the bridegroom's house.

These "foolish" "virgins" represent those who have heard God's message and profess to be Christians, but are not born again of God's Spirit.  When Jesus returns or when they die, they will not be able to join in the festivities of going to be with Jesus.

(3) And the foolish virgins will be forever shut out of the wedding banquet. (25:10-13)
"'But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. “Sir! Sir!” they said. “Open the door for us!” But he replied, “I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.” Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.'"

Thought Question: How can we be confident that we will not be like the "virgins" who were unable to go into the "wedding banquet"?

 

 

"'But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. “Sir! Sir!” they said. “Open the door for us!” But he replied, “I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.”'" 

These "five" "virgins" made one last attempt to get "oil."  While they were on the way to get the "oil" that they needed, the "door" to the "wedding banquet" is shut.  When the "foolish" "virgins" appear outside, they cry out to be let in, but they are too late and are not allowed to enter.  They are sent off with these words: "I don't know you."  Their foolishness resulted in them missing out completely on the wedding.

"'Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.'"  Jesus used this parable to warn us about what it will be like when He comes again.  For some, it will be just like what happened to these "foolish" "virgins."  Some who think they are ready will hear these words, "go away, I never knew you."  And they will be forever shut out of the heavenly "banquet" that God will have for the church, the bride of Christ.

The obvious questions that we ask are (1) Who do the "foolish" "virgins" represent?  And (2) What does the "oil" represent?  Ray Stedman answered the first question:  The "foolish" "virgins" represent professing Christians who are not born again and are not indwelt by God's Spirit.  They cannot come to the wedding feast of the Lamb that is predicted in Rev. 19:7-8, because they are not part of God's family.  "Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)" (Revelation 19:7-8)

"Oil" represents the Holy Spirit in Zech. 4:1-6: " Then the angel who talked with me returned and wakened me, as a man is wakened from his sleep. He asked me, 'What do you see?' I answered, 'I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, with seven channels to the lights. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.' I asked the angel who talked with me, 'What are these, my lord?' He answered, 'Do you not know what these are?' 'No, my lord,' I replied. So he said to me, 'This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.'" (the "two olive trees" produced olive "oil")

The burning of the "oil" produced light.  God's Spirit enables us to be lights in the world. See Matt. 5:14-16; Jn. 1:4-5; Eph. 5:8-14

Jesus words here, "I don't know you" reminds us of Jesus' words in Matt. 7:21-23: "'Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”'" 

We are given many warnings in the Bible.  Here are two of them.  "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!" (1 Corinthians 10:12)  "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?"          (II Corinthians 13:5)  We should make absolutely sure that we are prepared to see Jesus and that we have God's Spirit indwelling us.  In other words, we should make absolutely sure that we are not Christians in name only.  Rather, we should make sure that we are Spirit-indwelt Christians who have chosen to die to the self life—we have fully embraced Christ's death on the cross and the new life God has made available to us by His resurrection from the dead.

Does what Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:20-24 describe you and me?  "You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."

e. Jesus' instructions on what to do while the Master is away—the parable of the Ten Talents (25:14-30)
In this parable, Jesus is not speaking of some human giftedness when He says a "talent," but He is speaking of what was then a measurement for the weight of a metal—for example, a "talent" of silver. 

"A talent was a large sum of money, varying greatly in value according to whether it was silver or gold, and could weigh from fifty-eight to eighty pounds.  A silver talent could be worth as much as $2,000 and a gold talent could be worth as much as $30,000.  With the rise in the price of these metals, today the value would be even higher.  When taking into consideration that a man's wage in Christ's time was sixteen cents a day, the purchasing power of this amount of money was very large." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."

(1) The distribution of the talents and what each person did with them (25:14-18)
"'Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money."

Thought Question: What do you believe the "talents" represent?

 

 

"'Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money."

The parable has three parts.  In the first part of the parable, the "master" gives his money to his servants.  He gives differing amount to them.  "To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability."  In the second part of the parable, we learn what the three men did with the "talents."  In the third part of the parable is described the rewards or punishments that each man received based on what he did with the "talents." 

Ray Stedman saw four clues to the meaning of the parable.  The first clue is that the "master" gives something to the three men to manage for him.  The meaning to us, then, is that there is something that our Master has given to us to manage for Him.  The second clue is that the "master" gives different amounts to each of the three men.  Our Master also gives differing amounts of abilities to each of us—some get more and some get less.  The third clue is the "master" expects these "servants" to invest the "talents" he distributed in such way as "to produce gain." 

"The fourth clue is likewise implied.  It is that the investment must be made wholly for the benefit of the absent Lord.  The talent is not given to the servant for his own use.  It remains the property of his absent lord and if it is risked it must be on  the lord's behalf . . .  As far as the servant could see, all the loss would be his, all the profit would be the lord's." "Taken from What on Earth's Going To Happen by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1970 by Regal Books."

(2) The giving out of rewards when the master returns (25:19-23)
"'After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.” His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” The man with the two talents also came. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.” His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”'"

 

Thought Question: How do you believe some "servants" receiving more "talents" than others applies to us?

 

 

"'After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.” His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” The man with the two talents also came. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.” His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”'"

We are given here a glimpse of how Jesus Christ will reward those who have been faithful to Him.  We notice that both the five-talent man and the two-talent man got the same reward.    They appeared to be rewarded based on what they did with what they had.  Therefore, our faithfulness to invest what God has given us is the primary criterion.  What, then, is the reason that the five-talent man receives more "talents" than the two-talent man?  It could be a general way of saying that some are more blessed than others.  There is a considerable difference between a gifted child raised in a Christian home in the U. S., and child raised in an atheistic home in a country where Christianity is prohibited.  If both children become Christians and are faithful Christians, they both will be told,  "Well done, good and faithful servant!"  But the man in the U. S. has been blessed more, and so more will be expected of him.  There are many ways that some are blessed more, and so more will be expected of them.  There are many ways that some are blessed more by God than others.  We are expected by God to fully invest all the ways that we are blessed in service to God.

Another possibility for the difference between the five-talent man and the two-talent man is that there are differences in spiritual gifting.  Some have greater gifting than others.  But each person's responsibility is to use their gifting to the full.  For example, Peter's and John's gifting may have been greater than the gifting of the other apostles.  Thus, they were responsible to fully express their gifting.  The other apostles, though their gifting may not have been as great, were also to fully express their gifting.

(3) The punishment for unfaithfulness when the master returned (25:24-30)
"'Then the man who had received the one talent came. “Master,” he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.” His master replied, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”'"

Thought Question: Why, do you believe, the one-talent man receives such a strong judgment for not investing his "talent"?

 

 

"'Then the man who had received the one talent came. “Master,” he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.” His master replied, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents.”'"

At the master's return, the one-talent man explains that he did not invest his "one talent" because he was convinced that his "master" was a "a hard man," who would demand more of him than he could give.  This is the characteristic of unbelief: it is when we do not fully give ourself to God, because we believe that if we do, we will come out on the short end of the deal—it will not pay off for us.

But Jesus exposes here that this attitude is a product of a twisted type of thinking that comes from self-centeredness.  The real reason that this servant did not invest his talent was because he was "wicked" and "lazy."  He had no interest in the master's welfare or he would have put the money in the bank so it could have gained interest for the "master." 

How does this apply to us?  The reason that the unbeliever does not invest his life for the Lord is because he is only interested in his own selfish pursuits and is not interested in furthering God's purposes.  This is also the reason many professing Christians are not involved in God's work—they are actually only interested in themselves.  This lack of interest in God's work exposes the heart of someone who does not really know God.  When Jesus comes, they who have rejected Him will be rejected by Him.  When those who have chosen not to know Jesus face Him, He will remove all He has given to them and cast them eternally from His presence.

Hebrews 11:6, I believe, describes the very opposite of what was in the heart of the "wicked" and "lazy" "servant."  "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."

Do we believe that if we give ourselves fully to God's work that it will pay off for us?  It all depends on what we believe about God and on what we desire for ourselves.  Listen again to what Jesus says to the five-talent men and two-talent men:  "'His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”'" (Matthew 25:21)  We learn here that those who are God's servants in this life will be rulers in the next life.  We also learn that we will share our Master's "happiness."  Listen to Paul's hope just before he died.  "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

"'“Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”'"

Here, is a principle in Christian service: the more you use what God has given to you, the more opportunities God will give you to serve.  The more you learn and apply what is in the Bible, the more it makes it possible for you to learn even more.  Those who forsake their opportunity to serve, their area of service will be given to others.

Ultimately, those who have forsaken God will experience God's judgment.  It appears that this one-talent man was given enough by God for him to become a believer, but he chose not to trust God and not to seek God. See Lk. 19:12-27  See also Lk. 8:16-18, 17:33

f. What will happen when the Master returns: the parable of the Sheep and Goats (25:31-46)
In our relativistic, tolerant society where moral absolutes have blended into being grays, the subject of this parable has become very unpopular.  For this parable describes the time when Jesus will judge men, sending some to His heaven and sending some to eternal punishment.

(1) The dividing of the sheep and the goats (25:31-33)
"'When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.'"

Thought Question: Who do you believe these people—the "sheep" and "goats"—will be?

 

 

"'When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.'"

Some of the most respected and powerful people in our society are our judges.  They are given respect in their courtrooms.  Few people have more power in the lives of others in this country than our judges.  Yet, courtroom scenes in this country are nothing compared to a time that will occur in the future here on earth when Jesus returns in all of His glory to judge the nations.  He will sit as the world's Judge in all of His glory, accompanied by His "angels." See Matt. 13:41, 16:27; II Thess. 1:7 for other times "angels" are mentioned associated with Jesus' Second Coming.

At that time, He will, like the shepherds of Jesus' time, divide people like shepherds divided "sheep from the goats."  Joel 3:2 and Ezek. 34:17 are parallel passages.  "I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land." (Joel 3:2)  "As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats." (Ezekiel 34:17)

When will this judgment take place?  It appears that this judgment occurs just before the beginning of the thousand year reign of Christ.  Then, Jesus will separate those who will go into His kingdom from those who will not.  Walvoord, a pre-tribulationist, believed this.  The time of judgment is stated here to be the period following the second coming of Christ.  "This judgment, therefore, should be distinguished from the judgment of the church in heaven, the judgment of the wicked at the end of the millennium, and the judgment of Israel." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."

Van Kampen, a pre-wrather, also placed this judgment before the millennium—before the thousand-year reign of Christ.  "Those who, in addition to surviving God's wrath, survive Christ's judgment of the nations (Matt. 25:31, 32; cf. Rev. 20:4) will become citizens of the non-Jewish nations that go into the millennial kingdom on earth that will be ruled by Christ." "Taken from The Sign by Robert Van Kampen.  Copyright 1992. p. 399."

Pre-Millennialists are those who believe there will be a thousand-year kingdom on earth, ruled by Jesus Christ.  "Amillenarians, who deny a future millennial reign of Christ, believe that this is a general judgment of all men that ushers in the eternal state." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."

The judgment of Israel is described in Ezekiel 20:34-38:  "I will bring you from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered—with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath. I will bring you into the desert of the nations and there, face to face, I will execute judgment upon you. As I judged your fathers in the desert of the land of Egypt, so I will judge you, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will take note of you as you pass under my rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. I will purge you of those who revolt and rebel against me. Although I will bring them out of the land where they are living, yet they will not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord."

(2) The fate of the sheep (25:34-40)
"'Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”'"

Thought Question: Is this salvation by works?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"'Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”'"

In the rest of Matthew 25, we learn how Jesus will determine who are His "sheep"  and who are the "goats."  We also will learn the reward and punishment each will receive.

What will determine who will go into Jesus' "kingdom"?  Jesus says, it will be determined by what they do for "the least of these brothers of mine."  What was done for them was the same as doing it for Him.  When will this happen?  It appears that Jesus is describing what they had done during the reign of the antichrist. See Matt. 24:9, 15-21

If the church was raptured before God's wrath as described in Matt. 24:30-31, then, who are these "sheep"?  It appears that they will be those who will not yet be believers, but they will be those who will have helped both Jesus' people Israel and His people in the church before the rapture of the church.  When they reached out in compassion to Jesus' persecuted people, Jesus rewards them by choosing them to be part of His kingdom.

(3) The fate of the goats (25:41-46)
"'Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” He will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.'"

Thought Question: In our world, there are those who are sympathetic to persecuted Christians, though they are not Christians.  Also, there are those who see Christians unjustly persecuted and do nothing.  What, do you believe, is the difference between the two groups?

 

 

"'Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” He will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.'"

The wrath of God can be defined as His deep and intense hatred of evil.  There will come a day when God will reveal His anger toward sin and toward all who choose selfishness, sin, cold-heartedness, and wickedness over Him and His holy ways.  Just as heaven is the best we can imagine and more, so hell is the worst we can imagine and worse.  Just as God loves good and desires to do good to us, so He hates evil and will express His eternal anger toward those who, with hardened hearts, eternally choose evil.  To them, He will say, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.'"  Why were not the "sheep" that Jesus refers to here not taken in the rapture?  Van Kampen gives this explanation.  "It is essential to understand, however, that the ultimate basis for salvation of the 'sheep' as they stand before Christ on the first day of the Millennium is not founded on works.  The Scriptures teach without exception that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone solely in response to God's sovereign election before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-5; 2:8-9).  It would seem that the 'sheep' will not have trusted in Christ, however, before coming face to face with Him at the Sheep and Goats Judgment, and yet they will be given their saving faith (that will be accounted to them as righteousness) 'when the Son of Man comes in His glory' (Matt. 24:31) at the Sheep and Goats Judgment." "Taken from The Sign by Robert Van Kampen.  Copyright 1992. p. 404."

THE EVENTS BEFORE THE CROSS (26:1-27:31)
Jesus again predicts that He is about to be killed.  But this time, He also predicts that He will be crucified. See also 20:17-19  Yet, they still do not take Him seriously.  Their minds are still filled with their dreams about Christ's kingdom.  So, there is no room in their plans for Jesus dying.

1. Just before the crucifixion—who cared? (26:1-16)

a. They hated the One who loved them. (26:1-5)
"When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 'As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.' Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. 'But not during the Feast,' they said, 'or there may be a riot among the people.'"

Thought Question: List all that you can that is wrong with what is described in these verses.

 

 

"When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 'As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.' Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. 'But not during the Feast,' they said, 'or there may be a riot among the people.'"

The most devout religious leaders in Israel gather "in the palace of" "Caiaphas," "the high priest" and plot the murder of Jesus.  These supposed lovers of God show their true colors as they plan to eliminate the One who is hindering them from administering their religious system their way.  Their way of worshiping God did not include a visit to earth by God's own Son.  But they were very careful not to murder Him during the Passover "Feast."  They were concerned that the devout Jews might rebel against them if they desecrated their holy day.  Also, if they murdered Jesus on the Passover, their hypocrisy would be evident to all.  The Passover was holy, though, because it was a memorial of the Passover lamb which saved the first-born sons of the Israelites in Egypt from being killed by the "destroyer" that took the lives of the first-born of the Egyptians. See Exod. 12:23  The Passover lamb was a prediction of Jesus Christ, the Passover Lamb for all mankind, who was about to be slain by these devout religious leaders.  "Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed."       (I Corinthians 5:7)

Barclay gives us some additional enlightening information about "Caiaphas" "the high priest."  "In the old days the office of High Priest had been hereditary and had been for life, but when the Romans took over Palestine, High Priests came and went in a rapid series, for the Romans erected and deposed High Priests to suit their own purposes.  Between 37 B.C. and A.D. 67, when the last was appointed before the destruction of the Temple, there were no fewer than twenty-eight High Priests.  The suggestive thing is that Caiaphas was High Priest from A.D. 18 to A.D. 36.  This was an extraordinary long time for High Priest to last, and Caiaphas must have brought the technique of cooperating with the Romans to a fine art.  And therein precisely lay his problem." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

"But not during the Feast,"  "It is possible that they had in mind waiting until after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which would be ten days later." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."  But, their hatred of Jesus and the betrayal by Judas led them to risk a riot during the Feast days when the city was packed with people.

b. She loved Him completely. (26:6-13)

(1) Out of love, she anoints Jesus with expensive perfume. (26:6-7)
"While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table."

Thought Question: List all that you can that was right about what is described in these verses.

 

 

"While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table."

Matthew contrasts the hatred of these religious leaders with the love that a very special woman had for Jesus.  According to the Gospel of John, she was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus—the Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead.  "Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume." (John 12:1-3)

John tells us that this event occurred "Six days before the Passover."  Matthew appears to place it here to contrast it with the hatred of the Pharisees.

According to the Gospels of Mark and John, the perfume was worth "three hundred denarii" (NIV note) and "more than a entire year's wages." (Mk. 14:5;   Jn. 12:5)

Also, according to Mark and John, the "perfume" was "nard." (Mk. 14:3; Jn. 14:3)  "'Nard, which is an aromatic herb grown in the high pasture-land of the Himalayas, between Tibet and India.  In view of the fact that it had to be procured in a region so remote, and carried on camel-back through miles and miles of mountain passes, it was very high priced." "Taken from New Testament Commentary on John 12 by William Hendriksen.  Copyright 1953 by Baker Book House."

(2) Jesus' disciples are angry at the waste of the perfume. (26:8-9)
"When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. 'Why this waste?' they asked. 'This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.'" 

Thought Question: Why were "the disciples" wrong in what they said?

 

 

"When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. 'Why this waste?' they asked. 'This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.'"  The Gospel of John singles out Judas as the one who was the most "indignant."  "But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 'Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.' He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it." (John 12:4-6)

But from these verses in Matthew and in Mark 14, we learn that it was not only Judas that was "indignant."  "Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, 'Why this waste of perfume?'" (Mark 14:4) 

Not all understand those that make great sacrifices out of love for Jesus.  It appears that she was the only one in the room that day that understood that Jesus was about to die for her.  He may have shared this with her when she sat at His feet. See Lk. 10:38-42

(3) Jesus defends what she did. (26:10-13)
"Aware of this, Jesus said to them, 'Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.'"

Thought Question: Why was it better for her to anoint Jesus with the "expensive perfume" than for her to have sold it to help the poor?

 

 

"Aware of this, Jesus said to them, 'Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.'"

It must have been upsetting to Mary when the disciples started to criticize her.  But, she quickly found out that there was One who understood why she anointed Him with that "expensive perfume."  She was using the "perfume" to say to Jesus, "I love you and I care for you more than words can say."  Her extravagant expression of love to Jesus meant more to Him than we will ever know—especially since she did it such a short time before His death.

"I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.'"  Jesus' prediction is coming true as I write these words and as you read these words.  For we are remembering her extravagant expression of love for Jesus.  May her example provide motivation for us to love Jesus with the same type of sacrificial love.  Jesus gave His all for us.  Can we ever give Him too much of our time, devotion, money or anything?  When we give to Him out of love, our acts of love are sweet to Him—like the aroma of the "perfume" that filled that room so many years ago.

Why was it better for her to anoint Jesus with the "expensive perfume" than for her to have sold it to help the poor?  She had an opportunity to thank Jesus for the sacrifice He was about to make for us.  Are we not glad that she took that opportunity for all of us through the ages who have benefitted from what He did on the cross?  Her example blessed Jesus and has benefitted millions who have read of her act.  Helping out the poor is always good, but her timely expression of love and thanks to Jesus while He was still here was so much more pleasant to Him because of the cold-hearted and murderous rejection He knew that He was about to experience.  She showed Him that there was at least one person who understood.

c. He betrayed Jesus (26:14-16)
"Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, 'What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?' So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over."

Thought Question: Please contrast "Judas" with Mary.

 

 

"Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, 'What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?' So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over."

Matthew contrasts Mary—the one who truly loved Jesus—with "Judas"—the one who only loved himself.  From outward appearance, "Judas" was just like the other disciples.  When Jesus predicted that one of them would betray Him, no one guessed it would be Judas.  Somewhere along the way, "Judas" who kept the money bag for Jesus and the disciples and regularly helped himself to what was in the money bag, decided that it was not to his benefit to keep following Jesus. See   
Jn. 12:6  So, he arranged another plan that would be more lucrative for him.  He arranged with the "chief priests" for him to betray Jesus for "thirty silver coins."

"Thirty silver coins" was the price that was to be paid when a bull killed a slave.  "If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull must be stoned." (Exodus 21:32)  The "chief priests" likely chose that price intentionally as an insult to Jesus.  In Zechariah 11:12, God the Shepherd of Israel asks what price He is worth to His nation.  There in Zechariah, this price of "thirty pieces of silver" is given.  It is a prediction of Christ's betrayal for "thirty silver coins."  "I told them, 'If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.' So they paid me thirty pieces of silver." (Zechariah 11:12) See Zech. 11:4-13

Why could not the "chief priests" have taken Jesus whenever they chose to take Him?  As we learned in an earlier verse, they were afraid that there would "be a riot among the people." (Matt. 26:5)  They needed to arrest Jesus when it could be done quietly and out of the public eye.  The actual arrest took place at an out-of-the-way place very early in the morning.  They needed "Judas" to take them to Jesus at a time and place when it would be least likely to be noticed by anyone but those who were part of the plot.  They needed Judas' help to carry out their wicked scheme, and "Judas" came through for them.  From this point on, the "chief priests" had an inside man to help them.  There was a "mole" inside of Jesus' disciples.

"Let us learn, in the first place, from these verses that a man may enjoy great privileges, and make a great religious profession, and yet his heart all the time may not be right before God.  Judas Iscariot had the highest possible religious privileges.  He was a chosen apostle, and companion of Christ.  He was an eye-witness of our Lord's miracles, and a hearer of His sermons.  He saw what Abraham and Moses never saw, and heard what David and Isaiah never heard.  He lived in a society of the eleven apostles.  He was a fellow-laborer with Peter, James, and John.  But for all of this his heart was never changed." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

Luke tells us that Satan entered into Judas before he went to the "chief priests."  "Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus." (Luke 22:3-4) 

2. The Lord's Supper—a symbolism of the new era that was to come (26:17-30)

a. Preparation for the Passover (26:17-19)
"On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?' He replied, 'Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, “The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.”' So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover."

Thought Question: Do you think that it was supernatural knowledge, miraculous providence, or something Jesus prearranged that enabled the "disciples" to find the "certain man" who then directed them to the place where they would celebrate the "Passover"?

 

 

"On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?' He replied, 'Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, “The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.”' So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover."

"At Passover, a constant steam of humanity ribboned the highway leading into first-century Jerusalem.  Devout Jews poured in from distant corners of the world to worship Jehovah in the mountain of His holiness.  If at all possible, those Jews who lived within a few days' journey came up to Jerusalem three times a year: at Passover, at Pentecost, and at the Feast of Booths.  But for many who lived very far from Jerusalem, the lengthy pilgrimage at Passover was the fulfillment of a once-in-a-lifetime dream—from Asia Minor, from Egypt, from Africa, from Italy, from Greece, from Mesopotamia—and soon the stream became a river. . . . The number of permanent residents in the Jerusalem that Jesus knew was about six hundred thousand.  A conservative estimate of the vast multitude of Passover pilgrims is about two million, who swelled the city's population to almost four times its normal size."  "Taken from Christ in the Passover by Ceil and Moishe Rosen.  Copyright 1978 by Moody Press. pp. 41-42."

It was so crowded in Jerusalem that many lodged outside the city.  Jesus and His disciples were staying in Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem. See Matt. 26:6  But they would celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem.  In these verses, Jesus instructs His disciples to go to a specific man in Jerusalem and instruct the man that He and his disciples would celebrate the Passover at the place where he directed them to go.  We see in Mark 14:13-15 and Luke 22:10-12 that Jesus predicts that the only way that they would know this man is that he would meet them carrying a water jar.  One the eve of the Passover, Jesus would eat the Passover meal with His disciples—the Passover lamb that was symbolic of His sacrificial death on the very next day.  "He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there." (Mark 14:15)  "He replied, 'As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.'" (Luke 22:10-12)

Was what Jesus predicted about the man carrying the "jar of water" a miraculous prediction or was it, as Ray Stedman believed, merely something that Jesus "prearranged." Ray wrote that a man carrying a water jar would stand out because "only women carried jars of water on their heads." "Taken from The Ruler who Serves by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books."

Nevertheless, for them to find just the right man in busy and crowded Jerusalem would require some type of miraculous intervention and guidance by God.  "For the second time in that week the Lord had shown a superhuman knowledge of circumstances as yet unrealized." "Taken from Wuest's Word Studies (Mark 14:15) by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.  He quotes Swete."

b. Judas, the man of sin, is removed from Jesus and His disciples (26:20-25)
"When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, 'I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.' They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, 'Surely not I, Lord?' Jesus replied, 'The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.' Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, 'Surely not I, Rabbi?' Jesus answered, 'Yes, it is you.'"

Thought Question: Why do you think that the other disciples did not immediately know which of them was going to betray Jesus?

 

 

"When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, 'I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.' They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, 'Surely not I, Lord?' Jesus replied, 'The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.'"

While Jesus and the other disciples are "reclining at the table" during the Passover meal, Jesus predicts that one of them would "betray" Him.  After the horrified disciples each ask, "Surely not I, Lord?" Jesus predicts that it will be "the one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me."  According to John 13:23-36, we learn that Jesus gave this in answer to John who was on His right.

"One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, 'Ask him which one he means.' Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, 'Lord, who is it?' Jesus answered, 'It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.' Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon." (John 13:23-26)

Judas, then, would have been on Jesus' left, for it would have been the one on His left that He would have given the bread to.  And the verses quoted above from John 13 tell us that He gave the bread to Judas. 

"They were lying on couches around a low table in the Roman custom, which the Jews of this time also observed.  In that arrangement, the head of John the disciple lay close to the breast of Jesus.  But on the other side of Jesus, equally close to him, was Judas, so that the head of Jesus lay near the breast of Judas."" "Taken from The Ruler who Serves by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books." "Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve." (Luke 22:3) "As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. 'What you are about to do, do quickly,' Jesus told him," (John 13:27)  "In the Gospels this expression is used on two separate occasions:  (1) before Judas went to the chief priests and offered to betray Jesus (here) [in Luke 22:3] and (2) during the Last Supper (Jn. 13:27)  Thus, the Gospel writers depict Satan's control over Judas, who never displayed a high motive of service or commitment to Jesus." "NIV Study Bible note on Luke 22:3."

Satan filled Judas' heart on different occasions to carry out the betrayal of Jesus.  "The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus." (John 13:2) See also Eph. 4:26-27; James 3:14-16

It  is amazing that the other disciples were not aware of who it would be who would deny Jesus.  From this we can see that Judas was not the obvious monster that we sometimes portray him to be.  Then, why did he do such a monstrous act?  The answer seems to be that while the other disciples were growing closer and closer to Christ, "Judas" was growing farther and farther away from Him.  For three years, the self-centered "Judas" was accumulating jealousy, frustration, and resentment; until it was apparent to him that all of his time following Jesus was not going to pay off in a selfish way for him.  So, he goes to the "chief priests" in hope that he can gain something from all of his efforts.  Even though it ended up being only "thirty silver coins." 

"Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, 'Surely not I, Rabbi?' Jesus answered, 'Yes, it is you.'"  The Gospel of John continues on from here.  "As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. 'What you are about to do, do quickly,' Jesus told him, but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night." (John 13:27-30)

"But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.'"  "Judas" did not need to do what he was about to do.  It was his choice.  It was a hardened choice of one who had developed a calloused conscience.  "It has been said that our greatest security against sin lies in our being shocked by it." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  "Judas" was no longer "shocked" at what he was about to do. 

"It would be better for him if he had not been born.'"  Tragically, that is true and will be true of many more who have also become hardened in their sin and selfishness and will one day face Jesus as their judge.  They will join "Judas" in eternal regret.

c. The Last Supper (26:26-30)
After "Judas" left on his mission of greed and selfishness, Jesus explained His mission of selfless sacrifice and love to the remaining "disciples."  Jesus interpreted part of the Passover celebration as being symbolic of the giving of His body and blood in sacrificial love.

"While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take and eat; this is my body.' Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.' When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."

Thought Question: Do you believe that the "bread" and the "cup" actually in some way become the "body" and "blood" of Jesus, or do you believe that they symbolize Jesus' "body" and "blood"?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take and eat; this is my body.'"  Jesus was using the "bread" to symbolize that He was about to give His "body" as a sacrificial payment for our sins—He was about to pay for all of mankind's sins.  Jesus was not saying that the "bread" was His "body," for He was in His "body" when He said these words.  "Jesus, of course, does not mean that the bread actually becomes his body and is to be worshipped.  The purpose of a memorial is to remind us of his death for our sins." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." 

"The ceremony of the Lord's Supper has been a point of controversy in the history of the church.  Of the bread and the cup the Roman church holds to transubstantiation, that the elements actually are transformed into the body and blood of Christ.  The Lutheran church, historically, has held that while the bread remains bread and the wine remains wine, it is actually invested with the character of the body and blood of Christ, and the partaking of one is the same as partaking of the other." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."

"The true doctrine about our Lord's human nature forbids us to believe that bread in the Lord's Supper can be His body, or the wine His blood.  The natural body of Christ cannot be at one time in more places than one.  If our Lord's body could sit at the table, and at the same time be eaten by the disciples, it is perfectly clear that it was not a human body like our own. . . . The Lord's Supper was ordained for a continual remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ's death, until He comes again. . . .  It was meant to help our poor weak faith have clearer fellowship with our crucified Savior." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

"Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."

The third "cup" in the Passover meal was called the "cup' of redemption.  Jesus held this "cup" up and told them that it represented His blood which was to be "poured out' for them, to make it possible for a new "covenant" or new agreement between God and them.

"poured"  "The words 'is shed' ["poured"]  are present tense, durative action, 'which is being shed,' our Lord looking upon His sacrifice on the Cross as imminent and regarded as always present." "Taken from Wuest's Word Studies (Mark 14:24) by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing."  "Poured" in Matthew is the same Greek word and also is in the present tense.

"This is my blood of the covenant,"  The book of Hebrews expands on the meaning of Jesus' words here: "For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant." (Hebrews 9:15) See also Heb. 7:22, 8:6, 13

This new "covenant" was predicted in Jeremiah.  "'This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,' declares the Lord. 'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,' declares the Lord. 'For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.'" (Jeremiah 31:33-34) See also Ezek. 36:26-27

Paul describes the blessing that God has made possible to us in this new "covenant" through Jesus' blood: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:3-14)

"'I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.'"  Jesus here predicts that He would never take another drink of wine in His body that was like our body.  The next time He would drink wine, it would be in His "Father's kingdom."  The Greek word translated 'new' is kainos; "not neos 'new' as to time, kainos 'new' as to quality.  The wine of the future millennial kingdom will be new in quality, spiritual not material." "Taken from Wuest's Word Studies (Mark 14:25) by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing."

"When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."  The singing of hymns was normal part of the Passover meal.  "The Passover fellowship was concluded with the second half of the Hallel Psalms (Ps 115-118)."  NIV Study Bible note."

3. Peter's denials and the disciples' abandoning of Jesus predicted (26:31-35)

a. The abandoning of Jesus predicted (26:31-32)
"Then Jesus told them, 'This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.'"

Thought Question: How do Jesus' words here help us to know His attitude toward us when we fail Him?

 

 

"Then Jesus told them, 'This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.”'"

On the night before His arrest, Jesus announces that the prediction in Zechariah 13:7 that the "shepherd" would be struck and the "sheep" would scatter was about to be fulfilled.  Matthew later describes how they abandoned Him.  "At that time Jesus said to the crowd, 'Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.' Then all the disciples deserted him and fled." (Matthew 26:55-56)  Jesus knows our human weakness; we do not.  Jesus predicts, though, that they would follow Him again.

"But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.'"  We see here that He wanted them to know that though they would fail Him, all would not be lost.  For though the "shepherd" would be struck—be killed, He would rise from the dead, and His sheep would once more gather with Him.  They would gather together with Him in "Galilee."

They would fail Him, but He would not fail them.  God would remain in charge even though their world was about to suddenly fall apart.  Though they would lose their faith, God would not forsake them.

Surely, God's faithfulness to them during this dark time helped them to have faith in the dark times in their ministries that would come.  God's faithfulness to them, even when they failed Him, can also encourage us.  God is still in charge, even when our plans are suddenly shattered on the rocks.  It is encouraging for us to know that Jesus knew of His disciples' upcoming failure; yet, He still accepted them and still would use them to start His church.  Also, He knew ahead of time of all of our failures; and He still loves and accepts us; and He still can use us.

b. Peter's cockiness will go away when a cock crows (26:33-35)
"Peter replied, 'Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.' 'I tell you the truth,' Jesus answered, 'this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.' But Peter declared, 'Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.' And all the other disciples said the same."

Thought Question: How is "Peter" like all of us?

 

 

"Peter replied, 'Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.'"  "Peter" provides all of us with an example of the need that we all have to be humbled, so that we will realize our inability to serve God in our own strength and admit our need for God's strengthening of us.  Peter, like all of us, put his faith in his own sincerity and dedication.  It is obvious to us that this was true of Peter, because what was inside of him always came out.

"'I tell you the truth,' Jesus answered, 'this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.' But Peter declared, 'Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.' And all the other disciples said the same."  In these verses, "Peter" and Jesus have a disagreement.  "Peter" is convinced he won't deny Jesus and Jesus knows that he will.  To listen to "Peter," we get the impression that Jesus needed Peter's help, rather than "Peter" needing Jesus' help.  But, if we are hard on "Peter," we need also to be equally hard on ourselves; for, do we ever think like "Peter" that God needs our help rather that we are desperately in need of God's help?

Mankind's greatest need is for us to admit our need for God—our need for God's forgiveness of our sins, our need for God's life and strength in us, and our need for God's guidance.  Every great man or woman of God needed to go through a breaking process before they could be used by God.  For example, Moses, David, Elijah, and Paul all had their wilderness experiences.  Joseph, Jeremiah, Daniel, and Paul spent time in prison.  Can we become God's men and women without also going through these types of tough times that crush our self-sufficiency?

Luis Palau sums it up in this way:  "Everyone of us who wants to know the secret of being filled by Christ and becoming an effective, fruitful Christian has to go through an agonizing progression of thrilling blessings and heartbreaking failures.  There is no way to speed up the process.  There is no way to learn obedience and trust without Christ having to deal with us.  We are so stubborn, so rebellious, so self-confident that the Lord has to teach us to face ourselves, not as others see us, but as He sees us.  Only then do we realize in abject humility how much we need him.  We cannot change ourselves.  We are too hampered by obstacles to maturity.  Jesus Christ must deal with these obstacles to maturity and remove them one by one.  When God allows the believer to go through troubles and problems, it is because He is trying to remove from our lives these things that stand in the way of our growing up." "Taken from Walk on the Water, Pete! pp. 45-46 by Luis Palau.  Copyright 1982 by Multnomah Press."

"Peter" had his times of failing: when Jesus said to him, "get behind me Satan"; when he refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet; and his denials that he was a follower of Jesus.  But, Jesus would use his failures to crush the self-sufficiency out of "Peter" and to transform him into the man who became the "rock" who placed his faith in Jesus instead of in himself.  "Peter" had given up all to follow Christ (see Matt. 4:18-20); he knew that Jesus alone had the words of eternal life (see Jn. 6:68); and he knew that he was a sinful man (see Lk. 5:8).  But, "Peter" did not experience fullness of life in Christ, and he was not powerfully used by God until he was crushed by his own failures—until the cocky confidence, the self-reliance, and the trust in his own strength was replaced by a humble awareness of his need for God.  Can we experience God's strength as "Peter" did in any other way?  If we want to experience God's life and be used by Him, we need also to come to realize that it is not what we can do for God, but what He can do for us, through, us, and in us—we need to acknowledge our total dependence on Him.

"But Peter declared, 'Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.'"  "But Peter insisted emphatically, 'Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.' And all the others said the same." (Mark 14:31)

"Peter" could not have been stronger in his confidence that he would "never disown" Jesus.  Even though he did later "disown" Jesus, his dedication to Jesus was sincere.  He simply was unaware of his own weakness.  At the very end of his life, "Peter" did not deny Jesus, even though it cost him his life!

4. Gethsemane (where Jesus accepts His cup) (26:36-46)
The Bible talks about many different types of cups: the cup of wrath (Isa. 51:17 and Rev. 14:10); the cup of consolation (Jer. 16:7); the cup of fulfillment (Ps. 23:5); and the cup of salvation (Ps. 116:13).  Here, Jesus is referring to the cup which is His life and what is to go into it—what is to be a part of His life.  Our cup is what has already happened to us—what has been poured into our lives so far; and what is yet to happen to us—what will be poured into our lives in the future.  Jesus was unique among all men, for He chose His cup before the world began.  God's plan for Him was predicted in the Old Testament.  It is predicted there that He would die for the sins of all mankind.  All the lambs and animals that were slain on the temple altar in Jerusalem pointed to what would be in His cup.  The Passover lambs that were slain in the last of the ten plagues in Egypt pointed to what would be in His cup.  And such predictive parts of the Bible such as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 pointed to what would be in His cup.  But Jesus did not feel the full impact of drinking this cup until the night before His crucifixion in a garden called Gethsemane.

The city of Jerusalem is on a hill where there is little room for gardens.  "In Jerusalem there were no gardens of any size, for a city set on the top of any hill has no room for open spaces; every inch is of value for building.  So, then, it came about that wealthy citizens had their private gardens on the slopes of the Mount of Olives.  The word Gethsemane very probably means an olive-vat, or an olive-press; and no doubt it was a garden of olives to which Jesus had the right of entry." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

The owner of the Garden of Gethsemane allowed Jesus and His disciples to use his garden as a place of retreat.  It was in this garden where Jesus the God-man felt the full impact of what was before Him—what would happen to Him the very next day.

a. "If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me." (26:36-39)
"Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.' He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.' Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.'"

Thought Question: How does what happened here personally impact you as you read what Jesus was feeling on the day before He died for your sins?

 

 

"Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.' He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.'"

Peter, James, and John ("the two sons of Zebedee") had an especially close relationship. See Mk. 5:37, 9:2, 13:3; Lk. 22:8  He tells these three who were closest to Him, "'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.'"  He was always there for them, would they be there for Him at His time of greatest sorrow and greatest need?  Our daughter one time complained that she was always available to hear her friends' sorrows, but when she was going through a rough time, they were not interested in listening to her.  Would these closest followers be compassionate and be there for Him?

Why did Jesus choose these three to be with Him on special occasions?  Was it because they were weaker and needed Him more, as G. Campbell Morgan poses as a possibility?  Why did God choose Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Mary, and us?  God does not reveal to us the answers to these questions.  They were people, though, that would ultimately trust God through the ups and downs of life and ministry.  "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)  The mystery of it all, though, is accentuated by the fact that James, one of the three, would die shortly after the church began. See Acts 12:1-2  We may not know all the answers to our questions, but we do know that we are to trust God.

"Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.'"  According to Luke 22:44, " . . . his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground."  "Probably perspiration in large drops like blood, or possibly hermatidrosis, the actual mingling of blood and sweat as in cases of extreme anguish, strain, or sensitivity." "NIV Study Bible note on Luke 22:44."  Only Luke the doctor records this.

Why was Jesus' agony so great?  Was it because He faced death or because He faced a horrible death by crucifixion?  Men have faced cruel torture and death before, but no one has ever faced the bearing of the sins of all mankind before.  The Son of Man was facing the infinite wrath and judgment of His Father against all that we humans have done or ever will do.  This is the "cup" Jesus wanted "taken" from Him. See also Heb. 5:7-8; II Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13

But He chose what His Father willed for Him over His desire to not face this darkest of all hours.  May He be a model for us when dark moments come into our lives.  We also can go to the Father and pour our heart before Him.  May we also, even when it would be so easy not to do it, choose not our "will" but God's "will."

b. His disciples did not understand. (26:40-41)
"Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. 'Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?' he asked Peter. 'Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.'"

Thought Question: How does Jesus' words apply to us?  (What is meant by "watch"?)

 

 

"Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. 'Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?' he asked Peter. 'Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.'"

Peter has just said, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will." (26:33)  It is as if Jesus is saying as He awakes Peter who had failed in keeping watch with Him by falling asleep: "Where is your zeal and devotion now?"  Jesus could have said, "Are you not aware that greatest battle in the universe and of all time is taking place right in front of you?  And you have slept through it!  Can't you be alert and in prayer for me in my time of greatest need?"  But, Jesus knew their weakness and their innate selfishness.  Instead of falling into self-pity in response to their insensitivity to Him in His time of great need, He warns them that they need to "watch and pray so that" they "will not fall into temptation."

Ryle gives us this insight as to how this warning of Jesus applies to us.  "If we desire to walk with God comfortably and not fall like David or Peter, let us never forget to watch and pray.  Let us live like men on enemy's ground, and be always
on guard. . . . The world is very ensnaring.  The devil is very busy." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."  We are to "watch" because the devil is watching.

"The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.'"   "Christ did not question their desire to stay alert, but their will was not equal to the occasion." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."

All of us know this experience.  We commit to spend time in prayer.  Then, when the time to pray comes, we have no desire to pray.  We know it is what we should do, but the energy to pray is sadly lacking.  Then, at other times, we pray and pray with great energy.  There is a great difference between our fleshly energy that is weak and God's energy from His Spirit that is strong.  Paul urges us to "pray in the Spirit."  "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Ephesians 6:18)  God's Spirit would later strengthen these very human disciples and would empower them to be the prayer warriors that they became.  John describes the type of prayers he came to pray in I John.  "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him." (1 John 5:14-15)

c. Jesus accepts His cup. (26:42-46)
"He went away a second time and prayed, 'My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.' When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, 'Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!'"

Thought Question: Why do you believe Jesus chose to accept His "cup"?

 

 

"He went away a second time and prayed, 'My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.'"  After the first appeal to the Father, Jesus is ministered to by an angel.  "An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him." (Luke 22:43)  His "cup" was not removed, but He received help so that He could face the "cup" that was before Him. Since Luke 22:40-44 only records one time of prayer, that angel could have ministered to Jesus after His second or third time of prayer. 

So, He returns to His disciples the first time and finds them asleep.  He rebukes them for their lack of perseverance in prayer for Him.  In this verse, we see Him going off by Himself a second time.  Now, He is willing to accept His "cup." 

"When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing."  Mark 14:40 tells us that they had no excuse for falling asleep once more.  "When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him." (Mark 14:40)  Have we ever felt like that?  We have no excuse for doing something the second, third, or however many times.

"Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, 'Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!'"  On this return to His "disciples," Jesus can see the torches of those who were coming for Him.  he awakens the "disciples" so that they might go out with Him to meet His "betrayer."

And so, "Gethsemane" is behind and the farce of a trial, the beatings, the cross, and the wrath of God for our sins is ahead.  Satan has lost again and Jesus has triumphed again, for Jesus chose the Father's will in spite of the temptation to not choose it.  Jesus now approaches his enemies, ready and strengthened to do the will of the Father.  It was not a cringing and pained Jesus that the soldiers saw that night, but a divinely composed Jesus. See Jn 18:28

"''Are you still sleeping and resting?'"  Jesus expresses His disappointment with His sleepy disciples.  The time for them to comfort and help Him was over.  He triumphed completely without their aid.

May we learn from these weary disciples not to rely upon our human flesh to persevere effectively in God's work.  We continually need God's strength.  Only He can win the battle over a supernatural foe and over our fleshly inclinations.

5. The arrest (26:47-56)
Jesus' disciples were not at all prepared for what was about to happen.  They thought that they were on a road to a crown, but they were on a path to a cross.  They thought that they were heading toward a kingdom where they would be served, not to a kingdom where they would need to serve.  They thought that they were heading toward a kingdom where they would get without having to give up anything.  They were expecting a crown without a cross.  They were not ready for what was about to happen on that Friday A.M.

a. Judas' betrayal (26:47-50)
"While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: 'The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.' Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, 'Greetings, Rabbi!' and kissed him. Jesus replied, 'Friend, do what you came for.' Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him."

Thought Question: What do you believe was in Jesus' heart toward "Judas" when He called Him "friend"?

 

 

"While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: 'The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.' Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, 'Greetings, Rabbi!' and kissed him."

After Jesus returns to His disciples, and while He is still speaking to them, "Judas" arrives with a "large crowd armed with swords and clubs."  And, so, "Judas" backed by this army of "armed" men, bravely walks up to Jesus and gives Him the betrayal "kiss." 

"Jesus replied, 'Friend, do what you came for.' Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him."  We can hear the disappointment and love in Jesus' words, "Friend, do what you came for."  And, so, the crowd moved forward and seized the yielded Jesus.

"kissed him."  "The kiss was a common mode of greeting and Judas chose that sign and actually 'kissed him fervently' (kataphilesen, verse 49) though the compound verb sometimes in the papyri has lost its intensive force. . . . This same compound verb occurs in Luke 7:38 of the sinful woman, in Luke 15:20 of the Father's embrace of the Prodigal Son, and in Acts 20:37 of the Ephesian elders and Paul." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." 

Wuest has this to say about the kiss.  "The verb 'kissed' [in Mark 14:45] is kataphileo, not the simple verb, but with a prefixed preposition which lends intensity to the already existing meaning of the verb.  It was an affectionate, fervent kiss the traitor gave our Lord, of course, hypocritical." "Taken from Wuest's Word Studies (Mark 14:45) by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing."  "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." (Proverbs 27:6)

Ray Stedman discussed the "kiss" as follows: "in the actual moment, when Judas carries this [the "kiss"] out, Mark uses an emphasized form of that word, a word that means a prolonged kiss, a lover's kiss.  I do not think that there is anything in all the annals of treachery more contemptuous than this kiss of Judas—a prolonged, apparently loving act, done with cold determination to accomplish his own purpose." "Taken from What on Earth's Going To Happen by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1970 by Regal Books."

The fact that "Judas" "kissed" Jesus shows the affection that there was between Jesus and His followers.  Jesus was not stern and aloof, but there was affection between Jesus and His followers—Jesus was affectionate toward His followers.  Sadly, there are still those who feign affection as "Judas" does here. See also Exod. 18:7; I Sam. 20:41; Acts 20:36-38

"friend" 
"Jesus addressed Judas as 'friend' which is translated from the Greek hetaire meaning friend or associate, but in contrast to phile, which would have meant a beloved friend." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."  "Judas" was part or a group of friends that followed Jesus, but he was not a "beloved friend."  Jesus knew from the beginning that "Judas" was filled with greed and satanic motives; he knew that he was not His friend. See Jn. 13:18-30, 17:12

b. Peter's fire of the flesh (26:51-54)
"With that, one of Jesus’ companions [Peter] reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 'Put your sword back in its place,' Jesus said to him, 'for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?'"

Thought Question #1:  What was the difference between how Peter looked at Jesus' arrest and how Jesus looked at it?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What would you have done if you had been there and awoke to see a group of armed men coming to take away Jesus?

 

 

"With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 'Put your sword back in its place,' Jesus said to him, 'for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?'"

If any one of us had been one of the disciples at that time, what would we have done?  Our minds also would have been filled with thoughts of ruling with Jesus and enjoying riches like Solomon did; and then we wake up to see our King about to be overpowered by an armed mob.  Would we have been so bold as Peter was and attacked them with a "sword" or would we have run away in fear?  Peter attacked them with a "sword," and though he was not aiming for the "ear," an "ear" was all he hit of the body of this "servant of the high priest."  The Gospel of John tells us that this servant's name was "Malchus." (Jn. 18:10) 

Peter and those who fled responded to a very real threat in a very human way—they panicked!  It easy for us to say that Peter should have had faith, for we know about the purpose of the cross and we know about Jesus' victory over death on the other side of the cross.  We know now that everything was under control.  But Peter did not understand about the necessity of the cross and he did not know about the resurrection.  Peter felt that if he did not do something quick, things would be totally out of control.

We see the application to us: we need to believe in a God that always has everything under control, even when it makes no sense to us.  Faith is not giving in to panic, no matter what is happening.  Since I first wrote these words years ago, I have had a time when I did give in to panic.  I cannot go into detail about what happened without involving others in my words, but it was a time when my plans were shattered.  Nevertheless, God's plans for me were not shattered.  In fact, it has resulted in an expanded ministry beyond what one would have thought possible.

In John 14, it says that God will give us whatever we ask for in Jesus' name.  "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." (John 14:13-14)  If Peter had prayed here, what would he have asked for?  Certainly, he would have asked God to give him the ability to defeat this small army and prevent them from arresting Jesus and taking Him captive.  Would that have been a prayer in accordance with God's will?  This may give us some insight into why some of our prayers are not answered as we would like them to be answered.  Like Peter, we are often out of touch with God's purposes and wisdom.  We should not be hard on Peter, for he is not the only Christian who has panicked when things seemed to be tumbling down.  We have all panicked and lopped off our share of ears.  We also know that Jesus is still good at mending the ears that we have lopped off. See Lk. 22:51 where Jesus restores the cut-off ear.

Jesus, Himself, models for us the proper response when all seems to be falling apart.  "'Put your sword back in its place,' Jesus said to him, 'for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?'"  "A Roman legion consisted of three thousand to six thousand men, and, therefore, twelve legions was a company far in excess of the multitude that had gathered against Jesus." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press." 

We see, in Jesus' response here, the proper response we should make when things seem to be falling apart.  We are to realize that no set of circumstances, no size of army, or type of calamity is greater than God's power. See II Kings 6:18-23  Peter learned this lesson well. See I Pet. 1:3-7, 2:20-23, 4:12-13

"'for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.'"  From Jesus' words here, we learn that Jesus' kingdom is not to be gained "by the sword."  Violence will only lead to more violence.  "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." (2 Corinthians 10:4)  Although religious wars through the years have been some of the bloodiest wars, this was not the way Jesus wanted us to fight His battles.

"He knew that God's purpose can be worked out only by sacrificial love.  And history proved him right; for the Jews who took him with violence, and who gloried in violence, and who would have gladly dipped their swords in Roman blood, saw forty years later, their city destroyed for ever, while the man who would not fight is enthroned for ever in the hearts of men." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  I am not sure, though, what Barclay meant by Jerusalem being "destroyed for ever," as it has recently been restored.

Ray Stedman gives the following practical spiritual application about Peter lopping off the servant's "ear."  "That is such a beautiful example of the flesh at work!  We may strike out in our attempts to carry out our purposes, but all we accomplish is the lopping-off somebody's ear.  As I look back on more than twenty-five years of pastoral ministry, I am sure that if the symbols of my actions were visibly apparent, one could look back and find lopped-off ears lying all over the place!  They are symbols of my attempts to do what I thought was right—but it was not the Lord.  We have all done this.  The glorious thing, Luke tells us, is that Jesus reached out and touched that servant and healed his ear.  I am so grateful for the Lord's healing touch on the lopped-off ears that I have been responsible for during my lifetime." "Taken from The Ruler who Serves by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books."

"one of Jesus’ companions"  Only John's Gospel reveals that it was Peter who cut off the "ear."  The Gospel of John was written after Peter's death—at a time when the giving of his name no longer put him in jeopardy.

c. Jesus calmly challenges His arrest. (26:55-56)
"At that time Jesus said to the crowd, 'Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.' Then all the disciples deserted him and fled."

Thought Question: What do we learn from Jesus' composure compared to the disciples' panic?

 

 

"At that time Jesus said to the crowd, 'Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me."  A composed Jesus puts everything into perspective by asking them to consider what they were doing: "Here you are, in the middle of the night, armed to the teeth.  What horrible thing have I done, for you to bring this army against me?  Have I been "leading a rebellion" against you?"  No, He had been "teaching" openly and publicly "in the temple courts." 

Had He been hiding from them?  No, He had been right where they could have easily taken Him.  Why did they not capture Him then?  It was because God was in charge and not them.  They were not able to arrest Him until all the prophecies about Him were fulfilled.

"'But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be `fulfilled.'"  They did not realize that they were acting out what had already been predicted would happen.  "This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." (Acts 2:23)

"Then all the disciples deserted him and fled."  Though everything was happening as God had planned and it was all completely under God's control, the "disciples" saw everything as being completely out of control.  When they saw Jesus was not resisting being arrested, they gave up hope "and fled."  In their minds, they undoubtedly thought: "If Jesus cannot take care of Himself, He certainly cannot take care of us."  And, so, they ran off into the night.  "Let us settle it in our minds, that there is nothing so bad that the best of us may not do it, unless he watches, prays, and is held up by the grace of God.  And let it be one of our daily prayers, 'Hold me up, and I shall be safe.' (Ps. 119:117)" "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

6. The illegal trials (26:57-68)
As we approach the time when men attempted to put their Creator on trial, we must ask, "How could this happen?"  What we see in these verses is the last stages in the hardening process.  When we do something wrong or prefer what is wrong to what is good, we have two choices: 1) we can admit that it is wrong or (2) we can justify ourselves.  Confession is a humbling and difficult road for us humans.  It is much easier to justify ourselves.  But as we choose to sin and then justify ourselves, a hardening begins to set in.  As we do it again and again, we increasingly harden ourselves to the truth about what is right and wrong.  The more we do it, the easier it gets.  In this state, the last person we want to be around us is someone who, by even by his or her presence, reminds us of the wrong we are doing.

Israel had hardened themselves to the truth throughout their history.  They had hated and even killed God's spokespersons.  These prophets were called by God to speak to them about their sins.  Stephen summed it up in Acts 7:51-52:  "'You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him" (Acts 7:51-52)

This was the nation that Jesus had been born into.  They had heard the words of God, but they would not listen and properly respond to these truths about them.  They hid from their guilt before God by being very religious.  Did Jesus expect that they would welcome Him?  No!  He represented everything that they were hiding from.  Jesus knew that they would have to get rid of Him.  We will see how they went about it in the coming verses.

a. Hate looks for a way to find Jesus guilty. (26:57-63a) (even when a contrived case built on false witnesses could not find Him guilty)

(1) Even though many false witnesses came forward, they were unable to find Jesus guilty.  (26:57-60a)
"Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome. The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward."

Thought Question #1:  Was Peter courageous or a coward?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Thought  Question #2:  If you were tried in this way in a court of law, what would be wrong about it?

 

 

"Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome."

Evil deeds are typically done in the dark.  Here, the wicked leaders who paid Judas to betray Jesus are now meeting in the dark to rid themselves of the One who is a threat to their place of power and prestige in Israel.  In the light, Jesus is innocent.  It is only in the dark that He can be found guilty. See my notes on 26:3 for information about "Caiaphas."

"Peter" was a mixture of courage and fear as he followed Jesus and the armed mob right into "the courtyard of the high priest."  He was courageous to follow so closely.  He was courageous, for he could have also been arrested if they recognized him.  He was fearful also, for he is about to deny Jesus.

"The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward."  They began the trial by looking for those who would be lying witnesses against Jesus.  A fair trial occurs only when those who are the judges or the judge are neutral and are willing to hear both sides of the case.  In our legal system, lawyers on both sides are allowed to remove jurors who have some reason to be bias on one side or the other.  A biased trial occurs when those who make the final judgment hear only the evidence against someone.  An even more biased case takes place when those who make the final judgment actually pursue evidence against the accused.  In Jesus' case, they were actually pursuing false evidence.

These hardened men who had ignored God's laws also ignored their own legal codes.  In their legal code, each of the witnesses was to receive the following instruction about the type of evidence that was considered acceptable evidence against someone: "It is not conjectures, or whatever public rumour has brought to thee, that we ask of thee; consider that a great responsibility rests upon thee; that we are not occupied by an affair, like a case of pecuniary interest, in which the injury may be repaired.  If thou causest the condemnation of a person unjustly accused, his blood and the blood of all posterity of him, of whom thou wilt have deprived the earth, with fall upon thee; God will demand of thee an account, as he demanded of Cain an account of the blood of Abel. Speak." "Taken from the The Six Trials of Christ by John Lawrence. (p.55)  He quotes from the The Testimony of the Evangelists by Simon Greenleaf. Copyright 1977."

The Sanhedrin was to abide by the following standards:  "The axiom of this body was 'The Sanhedrin is to save, not destroy life.'  The president of the Sanhedrin at the very outset of the trial was solemnly to admonish the witnesses concerning the preciousness of human life, and carefully and calmly reflect whether they had not overlooked some circumstance which might favor the innocence of the accused.  For capital offenses the verdict of acquittal could be given on the same day, but the verdict of guilty had to be reserved for the following day.  Therefore, such trials could not commence on the Sabbath or a feast day, nor on the day preceding them.  No criminal trial could be carried through the night, nor even in the afternoon.  The Judges who condemned a criminal had to fast all day.  The condemned was not executed on the same day on which sentence was passed.  The property of the accused was not confiscated, but passed over to his heirs.  Voting was from junior members to senior so that the lower members might not be influenced by the highest.  If the Sanhedrin voted unanimously for a verdict of guilty, the accused was supposed to be set free since the necessary element of mercy was lacking." "Lawrence. See above."

Jesus' accusers ignored all of these guidelines of their own legal system.  Their obvious goal was to get rid of Jesus Christ, and it did not matter how.  They had "the best witnesses that money could buy," yet they could not get the witnesses to agree with each other. "Taken from The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books."  "The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree." (Mark 14:55-56)

(2) False witnesses against Jesus are found (26:60b-63a)
"Finally two came forward and declared, 'This fellow said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.”' Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, 'Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?' But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, 'I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.'"

Thought Question: Why do you believe that Jesus remained silent?

 

 

"Finally two came forward and declared, 'This fellow said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.”'"  Jesus actually said, "'Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.'" (John 2:19)  He did not say, though, that He would destroy it.  Also, He was referring to them murdering Him and His resurrection "in three days."  The religious leaders knew what He meant, for they put a guard at His tomb because He had promised that He would raise His body from death to life in three days. See Matt. 27:62-66

"Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, 'Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?' But Jesus remained silent."  "This charge was formulated by maliciously misrepeating and misinterpreting certain things which Jesus had said.  To that charge Jesus utterly refused to reply.  Therein the law was on his side, for no person could either be asked or compelled to answer, any question that would incriminate him." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

Sometimes, a charge someone makes against us is so obviously wrong that we know that nothing we say will change the minds of those making the charges.  The issue is no longer whether the charge is accurate or inaccurate, the accusers want the charge to be accurate.  Years ago, a charge was made against me.  Someone proved that the charge was completely inaccurate.  But that changed nothing.  On another occasion, someone made a charge that members of a youth group that I was leading were starting not to come to church.  But, I explained that it was not due to lack of desire, but due to other reasons that they were not coming to church  For example, one was on a team due to her scholarship achievement and was sometimes traveling on the weekends with this team.  Still another was traveling with her family.  But my explanation did not help, for there were other goals in play that I was not yet aware of.  Sometimes, defending one's self is futile.  That was the case with Jesus and His accusers.

"He was silent because He knew full well the purpose of the lie, and that correction was useless.  They were men with the one set purpose of putting him to death.  When a court proceeds upon such lines as that, there is no hope." "Taken from The Gospel According to Matthew by G. Campbell Morgan.  Copyright 1929 by Fleming H. Revell Company."

b. Hate found a way: under oath, Jesus declares that He is the Son of God (26:63b-68)

(1) "Yes, I am the Son of God." (26:63b-64a)
"The high priest said to him, 'I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.'  'Yes, it is as you say,' Jesus replied."

Thought Question: Why do you believe that Jesus answered Caiaphas' question?

 

 

"The high priest said to him, 'I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.'" It was not looking good for Caiaphas at this time; his witnesses had bungled things, and Jesus would not be shaken.  Caiaphas steps in with his last weapon—he puts Jesus under solemn oath to tell them whether or not he was "the Christ, the Son of God."  By Levitical law, Jesus was required to answer.  "If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge to testify regarding something he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible." (Leviticus 5:1)  But Caiaphas had again ignored their own legal code, for the accused could not be compelled to incriminate himself.  It was like our fifth amendment.

Deep down, Caiaphas knew that Jesus was the Messiah and that there was only one way that Jesus could answer.  He would have preferred to have convicted Him without compelling Him to convict Himself.  "We might well say that all the universe held its breath as it waited, for Jesus' answer.  If Jesus said, 'No,' the bottom fell out of the trial; there was no possible charge against Him.  He had only to say, 'No,' and walk out a free man, and escape before the Sanhedrin could think out another way of entrapping Him.  On the other hand, if he said, 'Yes,' He signed his own death warrant.  Nothing more than a simple 'Yes' was needed to make the Cross a complete and inescapable certainty." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  "To refuse to answer would be tantamount to a denial." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson."

"'Yes, it is as you say,' Jesus replied."  "There are many critics and liberal scholars of the New Testament who insist that at no time did Jesus ever claim to be the Messiah or the Son of God.  They tell us that these claims were made about him by his disciples.  If you ever hear anyone say that, just turn to this passage of Scripture.  There are other places where Jesus clearly claims to be the Messiah and the Son of God, but this one is the clearest because he was under solemn oath to tell the truth, and he simply and clearly states, 'I am the Messiah—I am the Son of God.' There is no doubt about it." "Taken from The Ruler who Serves by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books."

(2) And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of God and coming in the clouds. (26:64b)
"'But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.'"

Thought Question: Why should Jesus' words here have brought chilling fear to Caiaphas?

 

 

Jesus answered, "Yes."  He, by that answer, stated clearly that He is "the Christ, the Son of God."  But He goes much further in His answer.  He predicted that as "Caiaphas" was judging Him, one day "Caiaphas" would stand before Him and He would judge him.  "Caiphas" would stand before God, and Jesus would be     "sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One." 

Jesus was predicting that He was the "Son of Man" that Daniel predicted would receive dominion over mankind from the "Ancient of Days."  "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed." (Daniel 7:13-14)

This was the very truth that "Caiaphas" and the others were trying to avoid; and it was why they were trying to get rid of Him.  The symbolic "high priest" of Israel stands before the true High Priest and presumes to be His judge.  Rather, the very opposite was happening.  The true High Priest predicts a time in the future when it will be completely reversed for "Caiaphas," and he will be the one who will be judged.  "Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books." (Revelation 20:11-12)

"'and coming on the clouds of heaven.'"  Jesus "coming on the clouds of heaven" is predicted throughout the Bible.  "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence." (Daniel 7:13)  "After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 'Men of Galilee,' they said, 'why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.'" (Acts 1:9-11)  "Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen." (Revelation 1:7)  "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."  (I Thessalonians 4:16-17) See also Matt. 17:5; Exod. 13:21, 19:16

"'But I say to all of you:'"  The NASB, KJV, and the Disciples' Literal New Testament have "nevertheless."  The ESV also has "but."  The Greek word can be translated both ways.  If "nevertheless" is correct, Jesus may have been saying to "Caiaphas," as Morgan believed, that in spite of his unbelief, "Caiaphas" would "nevertheless" one day see plainly and unmistakably that Jesus is the "Son of Man"!  Right now, we choose whether or not to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the "Son of God."  But, one day, we will have no choice, for we will see Him in His full glory.  We will see Him as our Lord and Savior or we will see Him as the One who will condemn us for our rejection of Him and His ways.  "'Nevertheless.'  Nevertheless, that is, in spite of thine unbelief, thou shalt see!" "Taken from The Gospel According to Matthew by G. Campbell Morgan.  Copyright 1929 by Fleming H. Revell Company."

(3) The high priest cries, "Blasphemy" and they spit on Him and beat Him with their fists. (26:65-68)
"Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, 'He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?' 'He is worthy of death,' they answered. Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, 'Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?'"

Thought Question: What is wrong with what is described here?

 

 

"Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, 'He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?' 'He is worthy of death,' they answered."

The judgment of the Sanhedrin was supposed to begin with the junior judges, so that they would not be influenced by the senior judges.  Here, the high priest himself is the first to give his verdict.  He gives his verdict by performing a totally forbidden act; he ripped "his clothes" to shreds.  "The rending of the garments is designed to be a sign of intense sorrow or anguish, in this case because the High Priest heard blasphemy.  By tearing his garments, he was saying to the other judges, 'I mourn because my ears have had to listen the greatest possible blasphemy they could hear!'  But you who sit in Moses' seat and judge according to the Law, do you hear the Law?  Leviticus 21:10 reads: 'And he that is high priest among his brethren, upon whose head anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes." "Taken from the The Six Trials of Christ by John Lawrence. pp. 79-80.  Copyright 1977." See also Levit. 10:6  With this act, all appearance of dignity and all the phony piety disappeared, and we see what was in their hearts all along.

"Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, 'Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?'"  What was in their hearts?  These religious leaders actually hated God for here they "spit in his face" of God's Son.  Never has there been an uglier time.  Imagine a trial in this country ending like this.  It was not a trial; it was a planned murder; a murder carried out in the most hateful way possible.

Why was there so much hatred toward Jesus?  He had not done anything sinful.  He had, though, exposed their sinfulness.  The light exposes the darkness in our souls.  Do we, then, seek light where our sins will be exposed or do we seek darkness so that our sinful side is not exposed?  Furthermore, if we seek to be in the light, we will also light up and expose the darkness of others as Jesus did, and we will most certainly be hated.

"'Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?'"  "Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, 'Prophesy!' And the guards took him and beat him." (Mark 14:65) See also Lk. 22:64  Isaiah prophesied that this would be done to the Messiah:  "I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting." (Isaiah 50:6)  Peter referred to what happened here in I Peter:  "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.' When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." (1 Peter 2:21-23)

We are told that one of the Sanhedrin was not present.  "Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God." (Luke 23:50-51)  Did they purposely not invite him because he would not have agreed with their evil goal for Jesus?

7. Peter denies Jesus (26:69-75)
Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him three times before the cock crowed.  "'I tell you the truth,' Jesus answered, 'this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.'" (Matthew 26:34) See also Mk. 14:30; Lk. 22:34; and Jn 13:38  Jesus did not predict that Peter would deny him exactly three times before the cock crows or before it crowed twice, but He predicted the Peter would not be able to make it through that night and until the cock crowed without denying Him at least three times.  Peter did not make it.  In fact, there are recorded possibly as many as eight denials.

Each of the Gospels records but three of these denials.  "Each Gospel is content to record just three denials out of the many that took place.  It took only three to fulfill the prediction of  Christ, and to record more than this would be only adding insult to an already pathetic situation.  What appears to happen is this:  Peter was so sure of himself and so vehement about it that the Lord just had him stumble all over the place by multiplying his denials." "Taken from the The Six Trials of Christ by John Lawrence. p. 87.  Copyright 1977."

The following is a possible list of Peter's denials" #1 John 18:17 (trial before Annas and to a woman—not found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke); #2 John 18:25 (standing by the fire at Caiaphas' home); #3 Matthew 26:69-70; Mark 14:66-68; Luke 22:55-57 (sitting by the fire at Caiaphas' home to a servant girl); #4 Mark 14:69-70 (to the same woman)  #5 Matthew 26:70-71 (another women and with an oath); #6 Luke 22:58 (to a man); #7 John 18:26 (to a servant of the high priest and a relative of Malchus whose ear Peter cut off; and #8 Matthew 26:73-75; Mark 14:70-72; Luke 22:59-62 (before all and with curses).

Peter had followed John to Annas' home.  It was because John knew Annas that he and Peter were able to gain entrance in the courtyard that was located in the center of Annas' home. See Jn. 18:12-18  It took courage for John and Peter to follow the bound Jesus and the soldiers into Annas' home.  It was clearly not the place for them to be.  This was especially true for Peter, who had just attacked one of the high priest's servant.  But within this enclosure, Peter's human courage would fail and He would be ashamed and he would be too fearful to acknowledge Christ before men. See Matt. 10:32-33  Now, let us look at the three denials that Matthew records.

a. Peter's denial #1 (26:69-70)
"Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. 'You also were with Jesus of Galilee,' she said. But he denied it before them all. 'I don’t know what you’re talking about,' he said."  "Peter" was never one to hide what was inside.  Here, we see the fear within coming out as he denies to a "servant girl" that he had ever been with Jesus.

Previously, he was willing to pull out his sword and fight the whole army that came to arrest Jesus.  Here, though, he becomes a coward before a "servant girl."  We can look at "Peter" and be disappointed with his failure, and not recognize that he is all of us.  Which Christian has not resolved to obey Christ, but has sought to do it in our own strength.  Is it not true, that many times in our lives we have earnestly sought to obey Christ, but have failed.  "Peter" is all of us.

b. Peter's denial #2 (26:71-72)
"Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, 'This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.' He denied it again, with an oath: 'I don’t know the man!'

"Another girl" states the he was with Jesus and "Peter" denies it even more strongly.  "He even refers to Jesus as 'the man' (ton anthropon), an expression that would convey contempt, 'the fellow.'" "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"with an oath:"  "Peter, thus declares himself subject to the divine curse if he is not telling the truth when he disclaims all acquaintance with Jesus." "Taken from Wuest's Word Studies (Mark 14:69-72) by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing."  Peter's denial of Jesus gets stronger.  It was like "Peter" denying Jesus in our courts after swearing in "oath" that he was telling the truth.

c. Peter's denial #2 (26:73-74a)
"After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, 'Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.' Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, 'I don’t know the man!'"

Peter's lies were not able to fool them, for his Galilean "accent" gave him "away."  "The Galileans had difficulty with gutterals." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  "Gutterals" are sounds that come from the throat.  Because of his "accent," those in the courtyard are certain that he had been with Jesus, but "Peter" denies it as strongly as he can.  He even calls "down curses on himself" if he is not telling the truth.

"He repeated his denial with the addition of profanity to prove that he was telling the truth instead of the lie that they all knew.  His repeated denials gave him away still more, for he could not pronounce the Judean gutterals.  He called down on himself (katathematizein) imprecations in his desperate irritation and loss of self-control at his exposure." "Robertson."

Luke tells us that this occurred an hour later.  "About an hour later another asserted, 'Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.'" (Luke 22:59)

d. Immediately a rooster crowed and Peter remembered in bitter tears. (26:74b-75)
"Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: 'Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.' And he went outside and wept bitterly."  Luke gives us additional details of what took place at this time.  "Peter replied, 'Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!' Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: 'before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.' And he went outside and wept bitterly." (Luke 22:60-62) 

"At the very instant that Peter was swearing and cursing, Christ was close enough to His disciple to pick up every word.  With the crowing of the cock, 'the Lord turned and looked up Peter' (Luke 22:61).  "Eye met eye, and while no words were spoken, yet a volume of words were communicated.  What a look it must have been.  It had to bring conviction, and yet be filled with compassion, else Peter would not have been brought to despair.  It was both a sword to cut, and balm to heal.  It was used as the climactic turning point in Peter's life.  It brought Peter back to reality and spiritual truth." "Taken from the The Six Trials of Christ by John Lawrence. (p. 97) Copyright 1977." 

Peter's broken heart led him to realize his continual desperate need for God's grace and strength; which we all need as well.  "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."        (II Peter 1:3-4)  The weak and frail "Peter" became the Christ-empowered leader of Jesus' disciples and their spokesman at Pentecost. See Acts 2

9. The Sanhedrin turns Peter over to Pilate (27:1-10)

a. The legal trial before the Sanhedrin (27:1)
"Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death."  The two trials at night were illegal in every way—one was led by Annas and the other by Caiaphas. (The trial led by Annas is described only in John 18:12-14, 19-24.)  So, it was necessary to try Jesus legally in the light of day.  This trial is given in greatest detail in Luke 22:66-71. See also Mk. 15:1  Compare to Matt. 26:67-68 and Lk. 22:63-65

As soon as it was day and very early in the morning, the official Sanhedrin again gets Jesus to admit that He is the Son of God, thereby making their sinister dealing in the darkness of night seem to be pure and just in the morning sunlight.  But the daylight trial did not reveal what had happened in the dark.  Jesus does not resist them or try to reason with them, for He knew they were not seeking to give Him a fair trial.  Their goal was to sentence Him to death.  And whatever it took to accomplish that goal would be done.   So, they found Him guilty illegally in a legal way.

b. Jesus is bound and handed over to Pilate. (27:2)
"They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor."  "The necessity for this lay in the fact that, while the Jews could themselves deal with an ordinary charge, they could not inflict the death penalty.  That was a sentence which could be pronounced only by the Roman governor, and carried out by Roman authorities." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

c. Judas returns the thirty pieces of silver. (27:3-5a)
"When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. 'I have sinned,' he said, 'for I have betrayed innocent blood.' 'What is that to us?' they replied. 'That’s your responsibility.' So Judas threw the money into the temple and left."

Thought Question: Why do you believe Peter's remorse for denying Jesus was forgiven by God and Judas' remorse for his sin of betraying Jesus was not forgiven by God?

 

 

"When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. 'I have sinned,' he said, 'for I have betrayed innocent blood.'"  As "Judas" sees the bound Jesus, he is struck by guilt over his betrayal of Him, and he goes to the religious leaders of Israel and seeks to somehow undo what he has done.

"It was despair, and his a desperate resolve.  He must get rid of these thirty pieces of silver, which like thirty serpents, coiled round his soul with terrible hissing of death.  Than at least his deed would have nothing of the selfish in it; only a terrible error, a mistake, to which he had been incited by these Sanhedrists.  Back to them with the money, and let them have it again!  And so forward he pressed amidst the wondering crowd, which would give way before that haggard face with the wild eyes, that crime had made old in those few hours, till he came upon that knot of priests and Sanhedrists, perhaps at the very moment speaking of it all.  A most unwelcome sight and intrusion on them, this necessary but odious figure in the drama—belonging to its past and who should rest in its obscurity.  But he would be heard; nay, his words would cast the burden on them to share it with him, as with a hoarse cry he broke into this: "I have sinned—in that I have betrayed innocent blood!'" "Taken from The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim. (Part II, p. 574)  Copyright 1971 by W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."

Lawrence argues that the Greek word translated "remorse" here is not the same Greek word as the Greek word for repent.  It, rather, describes an emotional "regretting" of his deed but not a repenting from it.  "The word translated here 'repented' ["remorse" in the NIV] (metamelomai) is used only six times in Scripture.  This word is in contrast with a much more frequently used verb and noun (metanoeo and metanoia) used 34 and 24 times respectively in the New Testament.  The last two words involved in Scripture the idea of a change of mind and consequently, of action and life.  It is the only word used when we are commanded to repent in the book of Acts or Revelation.  The other word translated also 'repent,' used here of Judas and five other times has more of a connection with emotion, and thus 'remorse' and 'regret.'" "Taken from the The Six Trials of Christ by John Lawrence. (p. 97) Copyright 1977." 

Robertson agrees with this translation of the Greek word translated "seized with remorse."  "This verb (first aorist passive participle of metamelomai) really means to be sorry afterwards . . . But mere sorrow avails nothing unless it leads to change of mind and life (metanoia), the sorrow according to God (II Cor. 7:9).  The sorrow Peter had when he wept bitterly.  It led Peter back to Christ.  But Judas had only remorse that led to suicide." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"'What is that to us?' they replied. 'That’s your responsibility.' So Judas threw the money into the temple and left."  "Judas" was like the criminal who is sorry he was caught and that his crime did not turn out like He had hoped that it would, but he really had no real desire to change.  "Judas" was rejected by even the enemies of Jesus.  All he had was the "thirty silver coins."  And all these "coins" were to him were a reminder of what a selfish person that he had become.  He was completely alone with the money he had gotten for betraying the innocent One.  So, he "threw the money into the temple and left."  "Ill-gotten treasures are of no value, but righteousness delivers from death." (Proverbs 10:2)

There is nothing in the descriptions that we have of Judas to give us any hope that he ever turned from his sin and turned to Christ for forgiveness or turned to Him as Lord.  Instead, he went to these religious leaders of Israel to somehow free himself from his guilt.

Here, the chief witness against Jesus declares His innocence.  "'I have sinned . . . for I have betrayed innocent blood.'" See also Matt. 27:24  "Now just stop and think what is involved in this testimony.  Here is the Sanhedrin's chief witness testifying to them, but he is testifying of what?  He is testifying for Christ's innocence.  I remind you again.  This is the highest court in Israel whose code of jurisprudence was the finest ever developed of any nation.  They have the responsibility of administering justice; and after a criminal trial, when a man was condemned to death, they were to remain in their seats in case any witness might appear in the criminal's defense.  Then they would call back the prisoner, and hear the evidence of the witness.  Is this what happened here?  Not at all.  The entire Sanhedrin is moving as a body to go to Pilate in order to secure from him the verdict of death.  Will they go back and retry the case, hearing the new witness that has come before them?  Not at all.  They reply to Judas, 'What is that to us?'" "Taken from the The Six Trials of Christ by John Lawrence. (p. 116) Copyright 1977." See Also Deut. 19:16-19, 27:25

They are totally cold toward him and provide no help for his guilt-burdened conscience.  "You deal with your own guilt, that is not our problem."

And so, in an attempt to throw off his guilt from him, he hurls the "thirty pieces of silver into the temple" sanctuary.  The Greek is naon, "meaning the entrance to the holy place." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."  So, "Judas" "threw the money into the" Holy Place. The religious leaders couldn't leave "the money" there.  It created a problem for them.

d. Judas hangs himself. (27:5b)
"Then he went away and hanged himself."  Throwing away the betrayal money did not remove his guilt and torment.  His guilt continues to plague him.  So, he took his sin and punishment on his own shoulders, rather than taking them to God.  He attempts to atone for his sin by going out and hanging himself. 

Acts1:18-19 adds the following:  "(With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)"

Lawrence gives this explanation for the apparent contradiction between Matthew 27 and Acts 1.  "Looking at what happened to Judas, we find him dying a double death.  Judas hung himself on a tree, but either the rope he used broke, or the branch of the tree, so that suspending himself over a cliff, he falls, not feet first, but he is thrown head first, perhaps caused by a slight incline in the slope.  In this manner he hits the bottom of the cliff, and a sharp rock pierces his intestines so that he dies an aggravated death . . .Those who have visited Palestine tell us that there is a precipice over the Valley of Hinnom where trees still grow quite near the edge.  A rocky pavement exists also at the bottom of the ledges." "Taken from the The Six Trials of Christ by John Lawrence. (pp. 124-125) Copyright 1977."

e. The chief priests use the money to buy a potter's field. (27:6-10)
"The chief priests picked up the coins and said, 'It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.' So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: 'They took the thirty silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.'"

Thought Question: What does the way the "chief priests" handled the money that Judas threw into the temple tell us about them?

 

 

"The chief priests picked up the coins and said, 'It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.' So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day." 

The "chief priests" could not ignore the money that Judas threw into the sanctuary—only the priests were allowed on this holy ground.  And, so, they were forced to retrieve it and decide what to do with it. 

"Notice their religious conscience.  In the midst of the greatest travesty of justice that the world has ever seen, themselves the inspirer and instigator of the foul deed, the darkest sin ever committed, they said—"It is not lawful to put them into the treasury.'  What shall we do with them?  We will endeavor to cleanse this money which has been cast into the Temple courts by putting it to charitable uses!  We will buy the potter's field and will make it the place to bury strangers in.  How often men attempt to cleanse money by putting it to charitable uses.  Mark the irony of the whole situation, how the people named the thing correctly, even when the priests tried to hide it.  The priests said, A field to bury strangers in.  The people said, The field of blood!  Thus, all unintentionally, they sent down through all the years the right naming of the thing that they had done, 'The field of blood.'" "Taken from The Gospel According to Matthew by G. Campbell Morgan.  Copyright 1929 by Fleming H. Revell Company." 

The "potter's field" was possibly a "small field where potter's clay was obtained." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

The "priests" were undoubtedly quite proud of their decision.  "Someone among them had an idea.  Why not use this unclean money for unclean people in an unclean place?  The old potter's field is no longer of any value for making pottery, as the land has been completely worked over.  It is of such a nature that nothing will grow on it either.  It is available today on the market and could be purchased for this very sum of money.  We could use it to bury the heathen that die in the city of Jerusalem and thus solve the problem of what to do with them.  Motion seconded and passed.  Meeting adjourned.  The purchase was made." "Taken from the The Six Trials of Christ by John Lawrence. (p. 119) Copyright 1977."'

So this "field" that was purchased by blood money and which was also the place where Judas hanged himself, was fittingly called the "Field of Blood."  "(With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 'For,' said Peter, 'it is written in the book of Psalms, “May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,” and, “May another take his place of leadership.”'" (Acts 1:18-20)

"Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: 'They took the thirty silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.'" 

This prophecy actually is an exact fulfillment of Zechariah 11:13:  "And the Lord said to me, 'Throw it to the potter'—the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord to the potter."

Why did Matthew not say that it was a prediction by Zechariah?  Walvoord gives us the following explanation:  "Probably the best explanation is that the third section of the Old Testament began with the book of Jeremiah and included all that followed . . . and the reference is related to this section of the Old Testament rather than to the book of Jeremiah." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."

Another explanation is given in the Zondervan Pictoral Encylopedia of the Bible  article on "Akeldama":  "Gundry suggests that Mathew saw fulfilled in this one event two separate prophesies, one typical (Jer. 19:1-13) and one explicit (Zech. 11:13) and he cites only one author in composite allusion—not an uncommon practice (The use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew's Gospel  [1967]. 124f.)"

Zondervan's Encyclopedia has this information about the location of this field.  "Tradition has located the 'Field of Blood' S of Jerusalem in the Valley of Hinnom W of its junction with the Valley of Kidron.  Today, there are some 1st-cent. tombs found in this area.  The soil contains the kind of clay which is suitable for use in the manufacture of pottery and the area could be designated as the 'Potter's Field.'"

10. Jesus before Pilate (27:11-26)
Luke 23:1-25 describes this period of Jesus' trial in greatest detail.  Although Matthew records one continuous trial before Pilate, there were actually three trials: (1) the first trial before Pilate (Lk. 23:1-5); (2) the trial before Herod (Lk. 23:6-12); and (3) the final trial before Pilate (Lk. 23:13-25).  Therefore, there were six trials in all.  Three Jewish and religious trials and three Roman and political trials.  In the first three trials, the charge that they were able to develop against Jesus was that He had committed blasphemy.   The Jews, though, could not charge Him with blasphemy before the Roman court, for Caesar had made the same claim—he had claimed to be a god.  The political charge made by the Jews before Pilate is found in Lk. 23:1-2:  "Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, 'We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.'"

In short, they charged Him with treason.  The last Jewish trial and all three Roman trials took place between the first light of day and a little after 6 A.M.  "It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. 'Here is your king,' Pilate said to the Jews." (John 19:14)  If John used Roman time, "the sixth hour" would have been 6 A.M.

Then, Mark tells us that He was on the cross by 9 A.M.  "It was the third hour when they crucified him." (Mark 15:25)  The "third hour" was 9 A.M. Jewish time. See also Lk. 23:44 (It was dark from noon to 3 P.M.)

Barclay gives us this information about Pilate.  "He must have been at least 27 years of age, for that was the minimum age for entering on the office of procurator.  He must have been a man of considerable experience, for there was a ladder of offices, including military command, up which a man must climb until he qualified to become a governor.  Pilate must have been a tried and tested soldier and administrator. . . . He began with trouble. . . . The Romans standards were not flags; they were poles with the Roman eagle, or the image of the reigning emperor, on top.  In deference to the Jewish hatred of graven images, every previous governor had removed the eagle and the images from the standards before he marched into Jerusalem on his state visits.  Pilate refused to do so.  The result was such bitter opposition and such intransigence that Pilate in the end was forced to yield, for it is not possible either to arrest or to slaughter a whole nation. . . . The Jews, Philo tells us had threatened to exercise their right to report Pilate to the Emperor for his misdeeds.  This threat 'exasperated Pilate to the greatest possible degree, as he feared lest they might go on an embassy to the emperor, and might impeach him with respect to other particulars of his government—his corruption, his acts of insolence, his rapine, his habit of insulting people, his cruelty, his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never-ending gratuitous and most grievous inhumanity.' . . In the end he was recalled to Rome on account of his savagery in an incident in Samaria." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  He quotes Philo.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

a. Pilate questions Jesus (27:11-14)
"Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, 'Are you the king of the Jews?' 'Yes, it is as you say,' Jesus replied. When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, 'Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?' But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor."

Thought Question: Why do you think that "Pilate"  was amazed when Jesus did not defend Himself?

 

 

"Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, 'Are you the king of the Jews?' 'Yes, it is as you say,' Jesus replied. When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, 'Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?' But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor."

A more complete record of this first Roman trial is found in Jn. 18:33-38.  From 18:33, we learn that the questioning of Jesus took place within the palace and out of the hearing of the members of the Sanhedrin.  In these verses in John, we also are given the more complete account of Pilate's question to Jesus about whether or not He was the "king of the Jews."  Jesus agreed that He was, but He stated that His kingdom was not of this world and it was not a threat to the empire of Rome.  "Pilate," then, returns outside and gives his verdict to them:  "I find no basis for a charge against him." (John 18:38b)  He found Jesus innocent of all charges.

At this point, we move from John 18 to Luke 23:5-12.  In Luke, we learn that the Jews were not content with Pilate's verdict of innocent.  So, because Jesus was a Galilean, Pilate turns Him over to King Herod who was the Roman ruler over the Galilean region.  Herod could have taken Jesus totally out of Pilate's hands, for he had legal jurisdiction of Jesus the Galilean.  But Herod sent Him back to "Pilate," after his soldiers mistreated Him. "Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate." (Luke 23:11)

Pilate's willingness to turn Jesus over to Herod did, however, win him Herod's friendship. See Lk 23:12  So, Jesus united two once bitter enemies, just as He had united the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

"When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, 'Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?' But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor."

Jesus once again is silent as He was before Caiaphas. See 26:62-63  There was nothing gained by saying anything.  It would not have changed the Jews' determination to kill Him, nor would it have changed what Pilate would do.  Most of all, His death was God's loving plan for mankind.  And so, He had accepted that the murder in the heart of the Jews would lead to His great act of love.  So, He was silent.  "Pilate" was amazed at the composure of Jesus in the presence of the hate of these Jewish leaders and how He was not at all intimidated as He stood before the power of Rome that was under his (Pilate's) control.

b. Pilate offers to free Jesus or Barabbas, hoping that they will free Jesus. (27:15-21)
"Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, 'Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?' For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him. While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: 'Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.' But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. 'Which of the two do you want me to release to you?' asked the governor. 'Barabbas,' they answered."

Thought Question: Please summarize what "Pilate" was struggling with at this time.

 

 

"Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, 'Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?' For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him."

This account is in all four Gospels: Matt. 27:15-26; Mk. 15:6-15; Lk. 23:13-25; and Jn. 18:39-19:16.  "Pilate" wanted to release Jesus, but he also wanted to be popular with the people of Israel.  The solution was for him to offer to release a prisoner; and hope that they would want Jesus released.  Then, Jesus could still be seen as guilty, and he would be seen as being merciful.

"For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him."  There may have been enough of human decency in "Pilate" that it troubled him to cave into political pressure and to be the pawn of these Jewish leaders in the murder of an innocent men.  Or, it might have been that it was out of hatred of the Jewish leaders that he tried to free a man that he knew was innocent of anything worthy of the death penalty.  Only God knows what Pilate's motives were on that day.  But he knew for certain that these Jewish leaders hated Jesus because they were jealous of Him.

"While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: 'Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.'"  Certainly, "Pilate" became more conflicted as to what he should do when his wife, through a message, pleads with him to free Jesus.  For while Jesus was being tormented that night by His false accusers, she had been tormented by a dream.  The dream of this Gentile wife of a Roman ruler reminds us of the dreams of the Pharaoh in Egypt in Joseph's time and of the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel's time.

The irony is that Barabbas was actually guilty of what Jesus was accused of.  He was an insurrectionist who was trying to overthrow the Roman rule.  "A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising." (Mark 15:7)  "Pilate" may have thought that the people would free the innocent man so that the guilty man would receive his just punishment.  He was wrong in his assessment of the amount of influence these religious leaders had on the people.

"But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. 'Which of the two do you want me to release to you?' asked the governor. 'Barabbas,' they answered."

The name "Barabbas" means "son of the father."  And, so, the people chose this "son of the father" over the true Son of the Father.  The one guilty of insurrection against the Romans goes free and the One innocent of the same crime remains bound.  The innocent One would die so that the guilty one would go free.

"Men imagine that if they saw a perfect person, they would love and admire him.  They flatter themselves that it is the inconsistency of professing Christians which they dislike, and not their religion.  They forget that when a really perfect person was on earth in the person of the Son of God, he was hated and put to death.  That single fact goes far to prove the truth of Edward's remark—'unconverted men would kill God, if they could get at Him!'" "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle." See I Jn. 3:11-15; Jn. 15:18-25

c. Pilate asks, "What shall I do with Jesus?" and they answer, "Crucify Him!" (27:22-23)
"'What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?' Pilate asked. They all answered, 'Crucify him!' 'Why? What crime has he committed?' asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, 'Crucify him!'"

Thought Question: What does the cry of the crowd to "crucify" Jesus tell us about mankind?

 

 

"'What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?' Pilate asked. They all answered, 'Crucify him!'"  "Pilate" continues to struggle with his conscience.  He had tried without success to get the people to release Jesus, but the people would not remove the burden from him.  They chose to release Barabbas and not Jesus.  Again, "Pilate" seeks to give the decision to them.  "What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?"  The responsibility addressed in that question is not just something that "Pilate" and that crowd need to deal with.  It is also our responsibility to answer that same question: What will we do with Jesus?  It is the very most important question of all, for it will determine our eternity.  And we are not just to answer that question with a word or words, but we need to answer it with what we choose to do with our lives. See Jn. 7:17

The people's response to that question was, "Crucify him!"  Though "Pilate" tried again and again to free Jesus and to be free of Jesus, it was to no avail.  It was not Jesus that was the prisoner that day, it was "Pilate."    

"'Why? What crime has he committed?' asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, 'Crucify him!'"  The crowd no longer had minds of their own, but they had become a bloodthirsty mob that had but one desire—to see Jesus killed publicly before them.  They now were united in their hatred of this pretender to the throne.  He had bitterly disappointed them.  Instead of conquering the Romans, He was Rome's prisoner.  What good was He to them now? "Crucify him!"

d. Pilate washes his hands of the responsibility for what happened to Jesus (27:24-26)
"When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. 'I am innocent of this man’s blood,' he said. 'It is your responsibility!' All the people answered, 'Let his blood be on us and on our children!' Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified."

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, who do you believe was responsible for Jesus' crucifixion?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Were there any in that crowd that did not agree with those who shouted, "Crucify him!"?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Why do you believe that "Pilate" had Jesus "flogged"?

 

 

"When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. 'I am innocent of this man’s blood,' he said. 'It is your responsibility!'"  Washing one's hands was used to symbolize the cleansing of one's self of guilt and responsibility for a crime or a sin. See Deut. 21:1-9

"Ah!  Pilate you need something stronger than water to wash the blood of that just person off your hands.  You cannot rid yourself of the responsibility by that farce.  He who has power to prevent a wrong is guilty of the act if he permits others to do it, even though he does not actually commit it himself."  "Taken from Charles Spurgeon's commentary on Matthew."

"'All the people answered, 'Let his blood be on us and on our children!'"  "All the people willingly took upon themselves the guilt of the murder of our dear Lord: 'His blood be on us and on our children.'  This fearful imprecation must have been remembered by many when the soldiers of Titus spared neither age nor sex, and the Jewish capital became the veritable Aceldama, the field of blood.  That self-imposed curse still rests upon unbelieving Israel; and till she accepts the Messiah whom she then rejected, the brand will remain upon the besotted nation's brow." "Taken from Charles Spurgeon's commentary on Matthew."

Did every person in that crowd agree with what the mob shouted?  Matthew does say in 27:22 that "they all answered, 'Crucify him!'"  There are times, though, when the majority is so loud and so forceful that the minority realizes that their voice will be drowned out.  They say nothing because they realize that speaking out against the majority is futile.  Jesus' mother and other true followers of Jesus were there, but their voices were either not heard or were silent.  Luke 23 tells us of those who mourned what was happening to Jesus.  "A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, 'Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, “Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!”'" (Luke 23:27-29)  Throughout history there have been those who watched helplessly as a mob's loud voice drowned out their objections—that were either uttered or not uttered. 

"Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified."  The Gospel of Mark gives us the reason that "Pilate" had Jesus "flogged."  "Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified." (Mark 15:15)

The following is a quote from Digging for Gold on John 19:1-3: "Nothing in the history of man shows the ugliness that is inside of us more clearly than these verses.  "Pilate" reveals what a sniveling coward he was.  He chose to have a man beaten that he knew was innocent, in an attempt to please a mob.  He could have put his whole life, job, and success on the line for an innocent man by releasing Jesus.  It is what he should have done!  Instead, he became one of history's most disrespected men and has an innocent man beaten."

"The scourge consists of a handle to which several leather thongs were affixed.  These were weighed on the ends with jagged pieces of bone or metal.  This would help tear the flesh and make the blow more effective. . . . The punishment by scourging was so severe that the victim usually fainted,. and not rarely died." "Taken from the The Six Trials of Christ by John Lawrence. p. 186.  Copyright 1977."

Matthew mentions the "flogging" only briefly, but this very painful time was excruciatingly painful.  "By his wounds we are healed." (Isa. 53:5)

11. Jesus in the hands of the Roman soldiers (27:27-31)
In Isaiah 52:14, Isaiah predicts that Jesus' "appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness"  It was the Roman soldiers that were primarily responsible for this disfigurement.   It is clear that "Pilate" hoped that the cruel beatings already described and this cruel beating by the Roman soldiers would be sufficient to satisfy the Jews' hatred of Him. See Jn. 19:4-6

"Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. 'Hail, king of the Jews!' they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him."

Thought Question: What part do you believe Satan had in what happened when these "soldiers" beat and mocked Jesus?

 

 

"Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. 'Hail, king of the Jews!' they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again."

Ryle helps us to see what Jesus suffered for us from Jesus' perspective.  "Our Lord, we must remember, had already passed a night without sleep, and endured excessive fatigue.  He had been taken from Gethsemane to the Jewish council, and from the council to Pilate's judgment hall.  He had been twice placed on his trial, and twice unjustly condemned.  He had been already scourged and beaten cruelly with rods.  And now, after all this suffering He was delivered up to the Roman soldiers, a body of men no doubt expert in cruelty, and of all people least likely to behave with delicacy or compassion.  Then harsh men at once proceeded to work their will." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

The Roman "soldiers" hatred was not necessarily toward Jesus, but probably toward the Jews.  But through these Roman "soldiers" hatred, Satan had the Son of God in his cruel hands for a short time, to do with as he would—to vent upon Him the full fury of his anger toward God.  To these cruel men, watching suffering was entertaining.  One writer wishes that we could be as wholehearted and inventive in honoring Christ as they were, on that day, in degrading Him.  Like a cat with a mouse they toyed with this supposedly helpless man who was in their clutches.  They put this anemic King (their viewpoint) in His place by turning Him into a clown King.  They placed a "crown of thorns" on His "head."  "They spit on him," beat Him "again and again" with the "staff" that represented His kingly scepter.

The Gospel of John puts it this way:  "Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, 'Hail, king of the Jews!' And they struck him in the face." (John 19:1-3)  When they were through, Jesus was a humiliated and bloody pulp who was "disfigured beyond that of any man."

"After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him."  John tells us that after the scourging, "Pilate" once again appealed to the crowd to release this obviously harmless and beaten Jesus.  We read of their last obvious refusal to show any mercy to Jesus and of Jesus' final time before "Pilate" in John 19:5: "When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, 'Here is the man!' As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, 'Crucify! Crucify!' But Pilate answered, 'You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.' The Jews insisted, 'We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.'" (John 19:5-7)

Then, we see in stark contrast, Pilate's fear and Jesus' fearlessness.  "When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. 'Where do you come from?' he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 'Do you refuse to speak to me?' Pilate said. 'Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?' Jesus answered, 'You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.' From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, 'If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.' When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. 'Here is your king,' Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, 'Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!' 'Shall I crucify your king?' Pilate asked. 'We have no king but Caesar,' the chief priests answered. Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus." (John 19:8-16)

THE CROSS (27:32-56)

1. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ (27:32-44)
Walvoord summarized the Gospel accounts of Christ's crucifixion as follows:
"1. The arrival at Golgotha (Mt 27:33; Mk 15:22; Lk 23:33; Jn 19:17)
2.  The offer of the wine mingled with gall (Mt 27:34; Mk 15:23)
3.  The act of crucifixion between the two thieves (Mt. 27:35-38; Mk 15:24-28; Lk 23:33-38, [Jn]19:18)
4.  The first cry from the cross, 'Father, forgive them' (Lk 23:34)
5.  The soldiers taking the garments of Jesus, leaving Him naked on the cross    (Mt 27:35; Mk 15:24; Lk 23:34; Jn 19:23)
6.  The Jews mocking Jesus (Mt 23:39-43; Mk 15:29-32; Lk 23:35-37)
7.  The conversation with the thieves (Mt 27:44; Mk 15:32; Lk 23:39-43)
8.  The second cry from the cross with the words, 'Today shalt thou be with me in paradise' (Lk 23:43)
9.  The third cry, 'Woman behold thy son!' (Jn 19:26-27)
10. The darkness which overtakes the scene on Calvary (Mt 27:45; Mk 15:33;       Lk 23:44)
11. The fourth cry, beginning, 'My God, my God' (Mt 27:46-47; Mk 15:34-36)
12. The fifth cry, 'I thirst' (Jn 19:28)
13. The sixth cry, 'It is finished' (Jn 19:30)
14. The seventh cry, 'Father, into thy hands I commend by spirit' (Lk 23:46)
15. The Lord dismissing His spirit by an act of His own will (Mt. 27:50; Mk 15:37; Lk 23:46; Jn 19:30)" "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."

a. Simon the Cyrene is forced to carry the cross to Golgotha (27:32-33)
"As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull)."

"Simon" may not have carried the whole cross.  "When a criminal had been condemned . . . It was the custom that he should carry the cross beam of his own cross, the upright was already waiting at the scene of execution." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  Other commentators are not as sure as Barclay was that the cross beam was all that was carried.

In Mark 15:21, we are told that he was the father of Alexander and Rufus who were apparently well-known Christians by the time that Mark wrote his Gospel. See also Rom. 16:13, where a Rufus, who may have been the son of "Simon," is mentioned.  It is not unlikely that Simon's unexpected and forced labor on this early morning led to his conversion and to the conversion of his family.

In Luke 23:27-31, we also learn about Jesus' comforting words to the broken-hearted and mourning women who were following Him on His trip to the cross.

" They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull)."  Vincent explains something to us about this place of crucifixion that is not often understood:  "The word Calvary comes through the Latin calvaria, meaning skull and used in the Vulgate [Latin translation of the Bible]." "Taken from Word Studies by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors."

b. Jesus refuses wine mixed with gall (27:34)
"There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it."

"Mark (15:23) has myrrh instead of gall.  The myrrh gave the sour wine a better flavour and like the bitter gall had a narcotic and stupefying effect.  Both elements may have been in the drink which Jesus tasted and refused to drink.  Women provided the drink to deaden the sense of pain and the soldiers may have added the gall to make it disagreeable." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

Jesus "refused" to look to chemicals to help Him to escape His lot.  The message to us is obvious.  Each of us should also be encouraged not to seek after that which will deaden us to reality—such things as alcohol and mood-altering drugs. See Ps. 69:21 and Jn. 18:11

c. After they hung Him on the cross, they gambled for his clothes. (27:35-36)
"When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there."

Thought Question: Name some other times when people can be numb, through self-interest, to the pain others are going through.

 

 

"When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots."  Jesus' possessions became the possession of His executioners.  And so, these calloused soldiers go about their selfish task, oblivious to the torment and suffering that the Eternal One was experiencing just above their heads.  "Every Jew wore five articles of clothing—his shoes, his turban, his girdle, his inner garment, and his outer cloak.  There were thus five articles of clothing and four soldiers.  The first four articles were of equal value; but the outer cloak was more valuable than all the others.  It was for Jesus' outer cloak that the soldiers drew lots, as John tells us." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  "When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 'Let’s not tear it,' they said to one another. 'Let’s decide by lot who will get it.' This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, 'They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.' So this is what the soldiers did." (John 19:23-24)  "undergarmenti. A type of shirt, reaching from the neck to the knees or ankles." "NIV Study Bible note." (Barclay's "outer cloak")

"And sitting down, they kept watch over him there."  Their job was to make sure that the crucifixion reached completion—resulting in Jesus' death; and, furthermore, they were there to prevent on-lookers from doing such things as throwing rocks or helping Jesus in some way.

d. Above His head was placed the charge against Him (27:37-44)

(1) "THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS." (27:37)
"Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS."

In John, we are told that this charge against Jesus was written in three languages—Aramaic, Latin, and Greek.  Also, in Jn. 19:19, we learn that this sign was put on the cross.  "Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS." (John 19:19)  The presence of this sign argues strongly that the cross was not shaped like a "T" or a "X," as some crosses were structured, but in the traditional shape of a "t," which would have provided a place to put the sign.

(2) Two thieves hung on crosses with Him (27:38)
"Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left."  Even these "two robbers" mocked Him, throwing their angry invectives at Him, rather than at the crowd; as was commonly the case when someone was crucified.  But, one of these two thieves apparently was moved by the majestic silence of the One beside them who showed no signs of bitterness: "when they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." (I Peter 2:23)  It appears that he was moved to the place where he realized that he was looking at no mere man.

His words on Jesus' behalf and his pleas for mercy, as well as Jesus' answer are found in Lk. 23:39-43:  "One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: 'Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!' But the other criminal rebuked him. 'Don’t you fear God,' he said, 'since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.' Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' Jesus answered him, 'I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.'"

(3) They mocked Him (27:39-44)
"Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, 'You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!' In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 'He saved others,' they said, 'but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, “I am the Son of God.”' In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him."

Thought Question: What must go on in people's hearts and minds to get them to the place where they can be this cruel and evil?

 

 

"Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, 'You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!'"

When we are in pain, we welcome empathy and understanding.  Jesus found none from the crowd that day.  Instead, He found the very opposite.  His helplessness brought out the ugliness of the people in the crowd rather than their concern.  As it was predicted in Psalm 22, those that surrounded Him were like a pack of cold-hearted and vicious dogs, blood thirsty lions, and heartless bulls.  None  were satisfied until He suffered more and more.  "But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: 'He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.' . . . .Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet." (Psalm 22:6-8, 12-16)

"'In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 'He saved others,' they said, 'but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, “I am the Son of God.”'"

The religious leaders lowered themselves by taking part in a mob's ranting.  Behind their words were certainly these thoughts:  "You thought that you pretty big stuff in our society, with all of your high claims.  How are you thinking about yourself now?"

"Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him."  These religious leaders, more than anyone throughout all time, did not get it.  They took Jesus continuing to hang on the cross as meaning that He was helpless.  Instead, it was His strength and love for us that kept Him on that cross. See Lamentations 2:15-16

Certainly, this taunt was a very strong temptation to Jesus.  Why should He continue to hang there for these thankless people?  Yet, He did!  "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)

"These passers-by . . . look on Jesus one now down and out.  They jeer at a fallen foe." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  Little did they know that He was not "fallen" and He was not their "foe."

"In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him."  At least one person's mocking would change, for as was mentioned earlier in the note on verse 28, one of the "robbers" became a believer in Jesus Christ.  It is also likely that others of those who mocked Jesus on this day, later became believers.  Listen to Peter's words at Pentecost.  "'Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.'" (Acts 2:22-24)  "'Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.' When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.' With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.' Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day." (Acts 2:36-41)   "So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith." (Acts 6:7)

e. Jesus' death (27:45-56)
The cross was a torture device that "was invented to make death as painful and lingering as the power of human endurance." "Taken from The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim. (Part II, p. 589)  Copyright 1971 by W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."

The cries from the cross were different from what the crowds were used to hearing.  Instead of the person being crucified yelling out his hate toward those who had forced this cruel death on him, they heard a much different attitude and tone coming from Jesus.  He cried out for God to forgive them (Lk. 23:34).  He promised the thief on the cross next to Him that He would see Him in paradise (Lk. 23:43).  He asked the apostle John to take care of His mother (Jn. 19:26-27).  He cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" (Matt. 27:46).  He cried out "I am thirsty" (Jn. 19:28).  He cried out, "It is finished" (Jn. 19:30).  And He cried out, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" (Lk. 23:46).  It not only was a death on a cross like no other that died on a cross, it was also a death like no other.

(1) Darkness falls over the land from the sixth to the ninth hours (27:45)
"From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land."  In Mark 15:25, we see that Jesus was put on the cross at the third hour—at 9 A.M.  "It was the third hour when they crucified him." (Mark 15:25)  Here, we learn that at the "sixth hour" or at noon, "darkness" came over "the land"; and it stayed dark until Christ's death at the "ninth hour" or at 3 P.M.  "And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'—which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'" (Mark 15:34)

Jesus, therefore, hung on that cross for six hours.  "For him, the agony was mercifully brief, for it often happened that criminals hung upon their crosses for days before death came to them." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  Although God the Father did not intervene to rescue His Son, He did dramatically reveal to these people of Israel what He thought about their darkest of deeds.

Those of us who have lived in Eastern Washington experienced on May 18, 1980, a day like what happened in Jerusalem from noon to 3 P.M. that day.  The ash from Mount St. Helens darkened the sky during the whole afternoon.  It was like night until the ash passed us by at about six in the evening.  Then, the light returned to our part of the state.  So, I know from personal experience what it was like when it is dark like night from noon until three in the afternoon.

The following verse refers to the Day of the Lord that is still in the future, but the darkness while Jesus was on the cross pointed to that day.  "'In that day,' declares the Sovereign Lord, 'I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.'" (Amos 8:9) See also Isa. 13:10; Ezek. 32:7; Joel 2:10, 31; Zeph. 1:15; Matt. 24:29; Rev. 6:12, 8:12

(2) At the ninth hour, Jesus cries out, 'My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?'" (27:46-49)
"About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'—which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' When some of those standing there heard this, they said, 'He’s calling Elijah.' Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, 'Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.'"

Thought Question: Why do you think that Jesus felt like His Father had "forsaken" Him?

 

 

"About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'—which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'"  Psalm 22 gives us the only description given in the Bible of what Jesus was experiencing while He hung on the cross.  This cry of Jesus from the cross is found in the first verse of that Psalm.  Here, the truest and deepest suffering of Jesus is revealed—the darkness of His separation from God the Father.  This is the second death of those who reject God—total separation from God!  Jesus experienced the second death for us, so that we will not have to experience it.  The infinite Son of God and Son of Man absorbed the full wrath of God for all of our sins.  And when He was experiencing the wrath and separation from God that we deserve to receive, He cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Surely, no one has experienced darkness like Jesus experienced it at that moment.  But, all who do not put their faith in Him for salvation will also experience this darkness, and they will experience it eternally.  "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power." (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9)  See also Matt. 8:12, 22:13, 25:30

The word "propitiation" describes what happens as a result of Jesus hanging on the cross and uttering these words.  The judgment and wrath for our sins was propitiated—satisfied or appeased.  Every sin we each have done or will do was completely judged; but the judgment for each of our sins was absorbed completely by Jesus and not by each of us.  Should we, then, ever be light about the seriousness of our sins or ever be light at all about what He did for us on that cross?

"When some of those standing there heard this, they said, 'He’s calling Elijah.'"  The Aramaic words that Jesus said sounded like "Elijah"—"'Eloi, Eloi'."  "It was commonly believed that Elijah would come in times of critical need to protect the innocent and rescue the righteous." "NIV Study Bible note on Mk. 15:35." 

"Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink."  "His motive was to offer our Lord the liquid in an effort to prolong His life, so that Elijah would have an opportunity to work an effectual deliverance by taking Him down from the cross." "Taken from Wuest's Word Studies (Mark 15:36) by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing."

We see more details on this in John.  "Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, 'I am thirsty.' A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished.' With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." (Jn.19:28-29) See also Ps. 69:29  The Roman soldiers allowed this to take place, but also earlier used His thirst as an opportunity to mock Him.  "The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar." (Luke 23:36)

"It looks as though he is trying to relieve his suffering by offering him some relief.  But if you look at Mark's account carefully, that is not his motive at all.  His motive is to see if something exciting will happen.  He is not moved by compassion, but by curiosity." "Taken from The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books."

"The rest said, 'Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.'"  They were not those who had compassion for the suffering Jesus, but they were those who were thrill seekers.  Stedman describes how they represent the ugliness in man's heart.  "Sometimes you read in the papers about a man who has crawled out on a ledge over a city street and is about to commit suicide.  A crowd gathers below to watch him.  Perhaps he will sit there in indecision for moments, even hours; but the crowd keeps waiting to see when he will jump.  As he delays, they become impatient and some of them yell up at him, 'Jump, what' the matter?'" "Taken from The Ruler who Serves by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books."  I believe that Stedman is correct in concluding that the crowd that was watching Jesus was like the crowd in his modern-day example.

(3) Jesus cries out again and gives up His spirit, the temple curtain splits, the earth splits, the tombs open, and a centurion believes. (27:50-54)

(a) Jesus gives up His spirit. (27:50)
"And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit."  Jesus did not die as men normally die—He voluntarily "gave up his spirit."  What happened is explained in John 10:17-18:  "The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."

Jesus' life was taken by murderers.  "This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." (Acts 2:23)  But His death was also completely the plan and decision of God.  Jesus died when everything in the Father's plan was accomplished.  Then, Jesus "gave up his spirit."  Then, He said what is recorded in Luke 23:46 and John 19:30:  "Jesus called out with a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.' When he had said this, he breathed his last." (Luke 23:46) "When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." (John 19:30)  Jesus' work was done, so He chose to return to the Father "with a shout of triumph on His lips." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

(b) The veil is torn, the earth is torn by an earthquake, and the tombs open up (27:51-53)
"At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom."  "As if shocked at the sacrilegious murder of her Lord, the temple rent her garments like one stricken with horror at some stupendous crime.  The body of Christ being rent, the veil of the temple was torn in twain from the top to the bottom.  Now was there an entrance made into the holiest of all, by the blood of Jesus; and a way of access to God was opened for every sinner who trusted in Christ's atoning sacrifice." "Taken from Charles Spurgeon's commentary on Matthew."

The veil, "according to the Rabbis was a handbreadth in thickness, and woven of seventy-two plaits, each plait consisting of twenty-four threads.  It was sixty feet long and thirty wide.  Two of them were made every year, and according to the exaggerated language of the time it needed three hundred priests to manipulate it.  This veil was the one which covered the holy of holies." "Taken from Word Studies by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors."

The veil that prevented unholy people from entering the earthly Holy of Holies was gone, but what it pointed to was much more significant.  In the heavenly Holy of Holies, there is no longer a "curtain" that prevents unholy men and women from approaching God in all of his holiness.  Through Jesus' death on the cross, the "curtain" has been torn, opening up access to God's holy throne.  "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:19-22)

"The rending of the veil proclaimed the termination and passing away of the ceremonial law.  It was a sign that the old dispensation of sacrifices and ordinances was no longer needed.  Its work was done.  Its occupation was gone, from the moment that Christ died.  There was no more need of an earthly high priest, and mercy seat, and a sprinkling of blood, and an offering up of incense, and a day of atonement.  The true High Priest had at length appeared.  The true lamb of God had been slain.  The true mercy seat was at length revealed.  The figures and shadows [pictures and models] were no longer needed." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

"The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people."

Edersheim tells us that Tacitus (Histories 5:13), Josephus (Jewish wars vi. 5. 3), the Talmud, and "earliest Christian tradition" speaks of this earthquake. "Taken from The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim. (Part II, p. 610)  Copyright 1971 by W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co." 

Robertson asserts the same.  "Jospehus (War vi. 299) tells of a quaking in the temple before the destruction and the Talmud tells of a quaking forty years before the destruction of the temple.  Allen suggests that 'a cleavage in the masonry of the porch, which rent the outer veil and left the Holy Place open to view, would account for the language of the Gospels, of Josephus and of the Talmud.'" "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people."

People can say that the earthquake caused the veil to be torn.  The fact that this happened concurrently with Jesus' death makes it more likely that the Father supernaturally and miraculously caused these three events to happen simultaneously with the death of His Son.  The resurrection of the dead saints was unquestionably a miracle of the Father.  These resurrections are the last of the miraculous resurrections previous to Jesus' bodily resurrection.  They prefigure what was about to occur—death is permanently conquered by Jesus' death for our sins and His resurrection from the dead.  "For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men." (Romans 5:17-18)  "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?'" (John 11:25-26)

All of these events plus the ministry of Jesus certainly prepared people for Peter's Pentecost sermon when three thousand became believers.  "'Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.' When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?'" (Acts 2:36-37)  The word about these resurrected believers must have caused quite a stir in Israel.

(c) The centurion and those with him, cowering because of the earthquake and all that happened, recognized that Jesus must be who He claimed to be. (27:54)
"When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, 'Surely he was the Son of God!'"

A "centurion" was a ruler over a hundred.  Only experienced soldiers were able to gain this rank.  So, even this weathered soldier was humbled by the events of that day.  Even this man who was probably unfamiliar with the Bible, recognized that Jesus "was the Son of God."  "Although he had witnessed many executions, there never before had been one like this." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."

"This centurion, perhaps used to appearing in the presence of royalty, suddenly becomes aware of the true character of Jesus." "Taken from The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books."  The "centurion and those with him" recognized that they were in the presence of heavenly royalty.

Will we see them in heaven?  They were not ashamed to identify Jesus publicly as "the Son of God."  I believe that we will see them in heaven.  But, we will not know for sure until we get there.  I would love it if when I get there, this "centurion" would put out his hand and greet me there and say, "You were right, my faith in Jesus did save me."

(4) Many women were watching. (27:55-56)
"Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons."

Thought Question: From these verses, what can you tell about the effect that Jesus had on these women?

 

 

"Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons." Compare this list to Jn. 19:25

"Mary the mother of James and Joses" is possibly the "Mary the wife of Clopas" of John 19:25. See also Mk. 15:47  The "mother of Zebedee's sons" is probably the "Salome" of Mark 15:40.  There were "many women" there, but Matthew only singled out three and John singled out four.  Matthew does not mention Jesus' mother Mary.  She may have already been taken away by the apostle John. See Jn. 19:27  Due to the different names used for these women, it takes a comparing of the Gospel accounts to come to a conclusion about the identity of these women.

"It is a beautiful picture.  Hopeless, disappointed, bereaved, heart broken; but the love He had created in those hearts for Himself could not be quenched, even by His dying; could not be overcome, even though they were disappointed; could not be extinguished, even though the light of hope had gone out, and over the sea of their sorrow there was no sighing wind that told of the dawn." "Taken from The Gospel According to Matthew by G. Campbell Morgan.  Copyright 1929 by Fleming H. Revell Company."

THE BURIAL (27:57-66)
John 19:31-37 fills in for us the time between the death of Christ and His burial.  This section of John's Gospel describes Jesus and the two others needing to be removed from their crosses before the Passover Sabbath.  It describes how Jesus' legs were not broken, whereas the legs of the other two that hung on crosses next to Jesus were broken.  It describes how a soldier pierced Jesus with a spear.  These later two events fulfilled predictions that were made in Exodus 12:46; Numbers 91:2; Psalm 34:20; and Zechariah 12:10 See also Deut. 21:22-23

1. Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, takes Jesus' body and buries it in his tomb. (27:57-61)
 "As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb."

Thought Question: Why do you believe that this "Joseph," who did not made a public stand for Jesus during His life, chose to publicly show His belief and love for Jesus after His death?

 

 

"As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him." 

"Ordinarily, there was little ceremony in connection with those crucified, and their bodies would be thrown into a shallow grave or even on a refuse heap.  The problem of what to do with the body of Christ was quickly solved, however, by the intervention of Joseph of Arimathea." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."

We learn from the four Gospel accounts that "Joseph" "of Arimathea" was a "prominent" (Mk. 15:43) member of the Sanhedrin who had "not consented" (Lk. 23:51) to seeking Christ's death; that he was a secret disciple of Jesus because of the fear of the Jews, (Jn. 19:38); and that he was accompanied by Nicodemus when he took Jesus' body to the tomb (Jn. 19:39) See Mk. 15:42-47; Lk. 23:50-54; and Jn. 19:38-42

And so, this member of the Sanhedrin who had kept his heart agreement with Jesus secret while He lived, now, after His death, boldly reveals to all of Jerusalem His love for the One they crucified.

"Arimathea" "A village in the hill country of Ephraim, about 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem." "NIV Study Bible note."

Barclay gives us the following description of a tradition about "Joseph" of "Arimathea."  "Legends have gathered around the name of Joseph and legends which are of particular interest to those who live in England.  The best known is that in A.D. 61 Philip sent Joseph from Gaul to preach the gospel in England.  He came bearing with him the chalice which was used at the Last Supper, and which now held the blood of Jesus shed upon the Cross.  That chalice was to become the Holy Grail which is so famous in the stories of the Knights of King Arthur." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

Jesus' burial in a rich man's tomb, though He should have been buried with the wicked, fulfills a prediction made 700 years before by Isaiah.  "He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth." (Isaiah 53:9)

"Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,"  "The Jews did not embalm as the Egyptians did, by removing the soft organs of the body, and by drying the muscular tissues with preservatives.  The corpse was washed (Acts 9:37) and swathed in bandage-like wrappings from arm-pits to feet, in the folds of which spices were placed (Matt. 27:59, Luke 23:53), and a cloth was wound around the head." "Takne from John the Gospel of Belief by Merrill Tenney (pp. 271-272)  Copyright 1948 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

"and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away."  Mark tells us in Mark 16:11 that the "stone" "was very large."  A "disc-shaped stone that rolled in a sloped channel." "NIV Study Bible note on Mark 15:46."

"Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb."
These two women's devotion to Jesus continued after His death, up until His burial, and beyond.  "After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb." (Matthew 28:1)  "The other Mary" is identified in Mark as "the mother of Joses." (Mark 15:47)  Mark 16:1 says that Salome the mother of James and John was also with the two Marys. Compare 27:56 and Mk. 15:40  This "Mary" may also be "Mary the wife of Clopas" of John 19:25.

2. The religious leaders ask Pilate to put a heavy guard on the tomb (27:62-66)
"The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 'Sir,' they said, 'we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, “After three days I will rise again.” So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.' 'Take a guard,' Pilate answered. 'Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.' So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard."

Thought Question: How has God used the fact that a "guard" was put on Jesus' tomb?

 

 

"The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 'Sir,' they said, 'we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, “After three days I will rise again.” So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day."

Apparently, on the Sabbath, those who had conspired together in the murder of Jesus Christ, suddenly remembered that He had promised to resurrect from the dead in three days.  The tense of the Greek verb translated "remember" is in the aorist and indicates that they had suddenly remembered.  Jesus, in Matthew 12, predicted before the religious leaders that He would rise from the dead in "three days."  "Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, 'Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.' He answered, 'A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:38-40)

So, out of fear that the disciples might take Him away and deceptively make it appear as if He did resurrect from the grave, they go "to Pilate" on their holy day and arrange to have a guard put on Jesus' "tomb."  In doing this, they verified even more strongly that apart from a miraculous resurrection, Jesus could not have left that tomb.  For, the entrance to the "tomb" was guarded by Rome's best soldiers; its entrance was blocked by a huge stone (see Mk. 16:4) and, as we will see, it was sealed to prevent anyone from secretly entering it.

"The next day, the one after Preparation Day,"  That would be the Sabbath.  Suddenly, these religious leaders realized, "What if the disciples stole the body?"  "It must mean that the chief priests and Pharisees actually approached Pilate on the Sabbath with their request.  If they did that, it is clear to see how radically they broke the Sabbath Law.  If this is accurate, no other incident in the gospel story more plainly shows how desperately eager the Jewish authorities were to totally eliminate Jesus." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  The "religious leaders" may even have feared that He would rise from the grave; and they probably wanted the guards to prevent Him from doing it.

"Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.'" 

"That deceiver" (27:63); "this last deception"  Here, we see the contempt that these "religious leaders" had toward Jesus.  To them, He was a contemptible traveling con artist who was spinning false tales to gain prominence over the people of Israel.  The irony is that it was they who were deceiving the people to gain prominence.

"'Take a guard,' Pilate answered. 'Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.' So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard." 

The entrance of Jesus' grave was sealed "probably by a cord stretched across the stone and sealed at each end as in Dan. 6:17.  The sealing was done in the presence of the Roman guard who were left in charge to protect his stamp of Roman authority and power." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  "A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed." (Daniel 6:17)

"'Take a guard,' Pilate answered. 'Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.'"  We do not know what was in Pilate's mind as he said these words.  He probably was just as eager as the "religious leaders" to bring an end to the issue of Jesus Christ in Israel.  "Pilate" and the "religious leaders" "might as well have tried to stop the tides of the sea, or to prevent the sun rising, as to prevent Jesus coming forth from the tomb." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

THE RESURRECTION (28:1-15)
Attempting to harmonize the resurrection accounts has always been a difficult task for Bible scholars.  It would appear that we do not have a complete enough description from the four Gospel accounts to enable us to determine fully all that happened on that very unique Sunday morning.  Here are some of the difficulties that we encounter:  (1) Matthew tells us that an angel rolled the stone away, and that angel was sitting on the stone when the guards saw him outside the tomb.  Mark tells us that the women entered the tomb and saw a young man in a white robe inside the tomb.  Luke tells us that the women saw two angels standing by them inside the tomb.  These apparent contradictions can be explained in a number of ways.  Possibly, the women had more than one experience or different women had different experiences that morning.  Many alternatives are possible without there being a contradiction.

(2) Mark tells us the women were so frightened that they told no one. See Mk. 16:15  Luke tells us that they went and told the disciples. See Lk. 24:9-12  John tells us that Mary Magdalene ran and told Peter and John. See 20:1-10  Although these accounts seem contradictory, they are only difficult to harmonize because we are limited in what we know about what happened that morning.  Nevertheless, we have been supplied with an exciting record from a number of different perspectives of the most glorious event in man's history—Jesus overpowering death and sin for us.

Walvoord summarized the resurrection and the post-resurrection events as follows:
"1. Appearance to Mary Magdalene when she returned after a preliminary visit of the women to the tomb. (Mk 16:9-11; Jn 20:11-18)
2. Appearance to the women who had been at the tomb and were bearers of the message of the angels (Mt 28:8-10)
3. Appearance to Peter on the afternoon of the resurrection (Lk 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5)
4. Appearance to the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Mk 16:12; Lk 24:13-22)
5. Appearance to the ten disciples on the evening of the resurrection day, Thomas being absent (Lk 24:36-43; Jn 20:19-25)
6. Appearance a week later to the eleven, Thomas being present (Jn 20:26-31;
1 Cor 15:5)
7. Appearance to seven of the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee (Jn 21:1-14)
8. Appearance to about five hundred brethren as well as the apostles                  (Mt 28:16-20; Mk 16:15-18; 1 Co 15:6)
9. Appearance to James, the half brother of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:7)
10. Appearance on the day of ascension from the Mount of Olives (Mk 16:19-20; Lk 24:44-53; Acts 1:3-12)" "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."

1. Mary Magdalen and the other Mary learn that Jesus had resurrected from the dead. (28:1-7)
"After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him. ” Now I have told you.'" 

Thought Question: Luke and John speak of two angels and Matthew and Mark speak of one "angel."  How could both be true? See Mk. 16:5; Lk. 24:3-7; Jn. 20:11-12

 

 

"After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb."  According to Mark, "the other Mary" was "Mary the mother of James." (Mk. 16:1) See also Lk. 24:9-10

"There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men."

We see here how easily God can dramatically affect and change the course of history.  Here, seasoned Roman guards are terrified at the appearance of one "angel." 

At once "the stone" was "rolled back" and guards saw this "angel" gleaming "like lightning"  and sitting on the "stone."  We are not surprised that they "were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men."  Whenever the supernatural realm makes a dramatic entrance in the natural realm there has always been fear. See Dan. 8:17-18, 10:4-12; Isa. 6:1-5; Rev. 1:17

Notice that this "angel" did not roll "back" this "stone" to free Jesus from the "tomb," but it was "rolled back" to reveal that the resurrected Jesus was no longer there.
"The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” Now I have told you.'" 

When the women arrive to find the "stone" "rolled" away (see Mk 16:4 and Lk. 24:2), they come face to face with an "angel" who tells them that Jesus has "risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee." 

Luke 24:9-12 and John 20:1-10 provide us with a description of the women, particularly Mary Magdalene, going to the disciples with the news that Jesus was no longer in the "tomb."  The unbelieving "disciples" are unable to see that His absence from the "tomb" is a fulfillment of the promise made by Him that He would rise from the dead after three days.

Luke tells us they saw "two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning."  So, there were two angels present, but Matthew and Mark mention only one of them.  John also says that Mary Magdalene on her second visit to the tomb saw "two angels." (Jn. 20:12)

2. As they were running to tell the disciples, Jesus met them.     (28:8-10)
"So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. 'Greetings,' he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.'"

Thought Question:
What is significant about the fact that these "women" "worshiped" Jesus?

 

 

"So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. 'Greetings,' he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.'"

Here, it says that Jesus appears to these "women" before they talked to the disciples, but in Mark 16:9, it says that Jesus "appeared first to Mary Magdalene" after she had already told Peter and John.  As was said earlier, it is not always easy to harmonize the resurrection accounts.  It is clear again that we do not have a complete enough description of all that took place on that resurrection morning to confidently determine the actual order of events.

A possible explanation is that "Mary Magdalene" left and returned and had already returned to the "tomb" before Jesus appeared to this group of "women."  Because we do not have a description of all that took place that day, we cannot be sure how to put all the events described in the four Gospels together in their actual order.  Each Gospel writer had distinct purposes and different goals in writing the Gospel that they wrote.  Each Gospel writer selected what events best accomplished his goals.  If we knew all that took place that morning, we would see that though there are apparent contradictions, there are no actual contradictions.

"Suddenly Jesus met them. 'Greetings,' he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him."  Notice that they "worshiped him."  The Old Testament is clear, we are only to worship God.  "You shall have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:3)  "Jesus said to him, 'Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”'" (Matthew 4:10)  Yet, these "women" "worshiped" the resurrected Jesus.  They appear to have believed that Jesus is God.  Also, Jesus does not reject their worship of Him, as an angel rejected the apostle John's worship of him.  "I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, 'Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!'" (Revelation 22:8-9) See also Jn. 20:28 and Rev. 19:10

" Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.'"  Though Jesus makes a number of appearances to His disciples, He will make His last appearance to them in "Galilee."  See Matt. 26:31-32 for another time Jesus predicted that He would appear to them in "Galilee" after His death.  The angel made the same prediction in Mk. 16:7

3. The chief priests learn of the absence of Jesus' body. (28:11-15)
"While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, 'You are to say, “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.” If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.' So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day."

Thought Question #1: Why was it unlikely that Jesus' followers "stole" Jesus' body?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Give an example of government officials doing this type of thing during our time.

 

 

"While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, 'You are to say, “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.” If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.'"

What is described here has been happening in high places in government throughout time.  It is an elaborate cover-up to prevent the truth from becoming public.  But, just like cover-ups in our time, not everything that is presented as the truth is believable.  It is not believable that a whole Roman guard fell asleep when they all knew that they would die if they did.  "Under Roman law, the soldiers could be put to death for failure to do their duty as was done to the soldiers who were watching Peter (Ac. 12:19)." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."  Is it even unbelievable that a whole county jail staff would all fall asleep at the same time?

Also, would not some or all of the soldiers be awakened by the "disciples" as they noisily rolled back the huge stone?  Then, if they had been asleep through all of this, how would they have known that it was the "disciples" of Jesus who did it?  "Whatever else may be said, we know that from the time of Justin Martyr, this has been the Jewish explanation." "Taken from The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim. (Part II, p. 637)  Copyright 1971 by W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."

"If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.'"  The "soldiers" were in a dilemma.  How could they explain how Jesus disappeared while they were guarding the tomb?  An angel did come and move the rock away, revealing an empty tomb.  That was the truth.  But who would believe that?  That is like a child saying that his dog ate his homework.

The truth about Jesus' disappearance would have resulted in their death.  But the "chief priests" and "elders" gave them a way to escape death.  It was a total lie, but it would save them from death.

"So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day."  People will believe what they want to believe, even if it goes against plain common sense.  People believe that all life came into existence from a "big bang" and by chance evolution.  They believe it because they want to believe it.  For, then, there is no God that we are accountable to.  So, the Jewish people wanted to believe that the disciples stole the body, so they believed the lie.

"And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day."  If, though, the "disciples" "stole" the body, why then were almost all of the original "disciples" willing to continue preaching about His resurrection even though it led to their death as martyrs?

"To this very day" was the day when Matthew wrote this Gospel of Matthew.

THE GREAT COMMISSION (28:16-20)
Some believe that this commission of Jesus' followers by Jesus took place at the time Jesus appeared to the 500. See I Cor. 15:6  Others believe that this commissioning took place at the same time as Jesus' ascension. See Acts 1:3-12 and Lk. 24:44-53  And still others believe that this was an appearance of Jesus not recorded elsewhere.  It is difficult to determine with certainty which of these views is the correct one.

1. The resurrected Jesus with His eleven disciples (28:16-17)
"Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted."

Thought Question: Why do you think that some still "doubted" when they saw the resurrected Jesus?

 

 

"Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted."  Jesus appears to His "eleven disciples" on a "mountain" in "Galilee," where He promised to meet with them.  When He appeared to them, some "worshiped him"; but some still "doubted" it was Him.  We, then, can be sure that there were more on that "mountain" than just the "eleven disciples."  For the "eleven disciples" had all come to believe, in Jerusalem, that He had resurrected. See Jn. 20:19-29  Possibly, they were the 500 that were just mentioned. See I Cor. 15:6

"but some doubted."  "It is natural that some should hesitate to believe so great a thing at the first appearance of Jesus to them.  Their very doubt makes it easier for us to believe." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

2. Jesus authorizes and commissions them to go and make disciples of all nations. (28:18-20)

a. Jesus as all authority to commission them. (28:18)
"Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."

Here is a statement by Jesus that leaves mankind with three alternatives:  It was either the words of a liar, the words of a lunatic, or it was the words of Son of God who received His authority from God the Father.  The most important question that can be asked is, "Who is Jesus Christ?"  It is clear that the Gospels present Him as God in the flesh.  Here, the God-man declares that He has "all authority" to commission them to spread His kingdom all over the world.  "He spoke as one already in heaven with a world-wide outlook and with the resources of heaven at his command." "Robertson."    His authority to spread His kingdom has extended to us today.  No human authority can take away what God's authority has given to us.

b. His commission: As you are going, make disciples of all nations. (28:19-20a)
"'Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.'"

Thought Question: How do you believe Jesus' words apply to you?

 

 

"'Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.'"  Bob Smith, who was an elder at the church where Ray Stedman pastored, wrote a book titled, When All Else Fails, Read the Directions.  His treatment of Jesus' words commissioning His apostles are so well said that I will quote from it.

"The structure of these verses is centered in the verb forms: go, make disciple, baptizing and teaching.  But only one of these is a finite verb (or main verb) while the other there are participles or participating verb forms, modifying and explaining the main verb action.  Literally, it says, 'Going, make disciples, baptizing, and teaching.'  The emphasis is clearly to make disciples.  The first word, 'Go', is not a command as our English translations would make it, but rather says 'going' (in effect—'I assume you're on your way').  The second participle, baptizing, needs some clarification of its meaning.  It can refer to the ritual action of water baptism, but here it has far deeper import than mere ritual observance.  All the other verb forms convey reality, not ritual, so it is logical to assume that this verb should do no less, in such an important context.  The functional use of this word in Greek, as distinct from its ritual significance, means to introduce into a new relationship—in this case, the new relationship of having the resources of the Godhead made available.  The word name also requires some added understanding:  ". . . in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit' means 'into the resources of the Father, Son and Spirit.'  This is based on the idea that a person's name represents all that he is and has.  'Open in the name of the law!' implies all the authority and resources of the government behind it.  Putting  the passage all together, we would read it this way: . . . All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me; going therefore make disciples of all nations, introducing them into all the resources of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.  "Taken from When All Else Fails Read the Directions by Bob Smith (pp. 86-87).  Copyright 1974 by Robert W. Smith.  Copyright 1974 by Robert W. Smith." 

Jesus describes here what His church is to do.  Above all, we are to "make disciples."  In our modern American world, church success can be most easily measured by number of attendees in our services and by the size of our church buildings.  Jesus, though, did not commission us to seek after this type of success.  Rather, the church is successful when it is making "disciples" in the way that Jesus describes in these marching orders to the church: "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."  Here, Jesus describes who a disciple of His is.  He is someone who obeys "everything" He commands us to do.  Just because someone attends church regularly, does not mean that he or she is a disciple of Jesus like what He describes here.  We are not commissioned to make church attendees, but we are commissioned to "make" full "disciples" of Jesus Christ.  We are not to lower Jesus' requirements to accommodate ourselves to what people are willing to do.  If we are not willing to obey everything that He commanded us to do, we are not His "disciples."

The issue is simple.  Who is sovereign in our life, us or Jesus?  A rock and roll singer of years ago sang a line that brings out the issue clearly: "It's my life and I'll do what I want."  The problem, though, is that it is not our life.  "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)  "And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." (II Corinthians 5:15)  We are to "make" these types of "disciples" today.  And we are not to be satisfied with anything else.

"make disciples of all nations,"  Missionary speakers are known to use Jesus' commissioning of His "disciples" as a text for their missionary message.  That is totally appropriate, for Jesus commissioned the church to "make disciples" inside and outside of Israel.  They were to "make disciples" inside of Israel.  But, they were also to "make disciples" beyond the borders of Israel.  "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

Shirley and I gained a profound appreciation for those who have responded to the missionary call on their lives when we spent ten weeks in Uganda.  We need to support financially, pray for, and encourage in any way that we can these faithful Christians who go to other countries to "make disciples."

"baptizing them,"  Ritual baptism symbolizes our spiritual union and identity with "the Father," "the Son,"and "the Holy Spirit." 

"in the name"  Notice that it is not "the names, but "the name" of the three members of the Trinity.  There are three Persons, but the three have one name, for there is one God.

Jesus, here, teaches that God is one—the one "name."  Yet, there are three Persons—"the Father," "the Son," and "Holy Spirit."  "This is one of those great plain texts which directly teaches the mighty doctrine of the Trinity.  It speaks of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three distinct persons, and speaks of all three as co-equal.  Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.  And yet these Three are One." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

3. Jesus' promise to His disciples: to always be with them. (28:20b)
"'surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'"

G. Campbell Morgan tells the following story:  "Many years ago I was sitting by the side of an aged saint of God, an old woman of eighty-five.  I had been reading this chapter to her, and when I finished I looked at her and said, That is a great promise.  She looked up and said sharply, with a light of sanctified humor in her eyes; That is not a promise at all, that is a fact.  Oh if the Church of God could remember that  fact!" "Taken from The Gospel According to Matthew by G. Campbell Morgan.  Copyright 1929 by Fleming H. Revell Company."

This "fact" continues to be true for us today, for it is still not "the very end of the age."  So, it is also true that everything else in the Jesus commissioning applies to us today.  Now, we are those who are to carry out the Great Commission, for Jesus' original disciples are long gone.  Jesus' declaration of having "all authority" applies now to us.  The fact is that He is "with us" today. And the task to "make disciples" is now ours!  The baton has been passed to us.  We are to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything" Jesus commanded."

And, so, we come to the end of the Gospel of Matthew.  We have completed his Gospel account.  And it finished by giving us the task of sharing it with our modern world, just as Jesus' original disciples shared with the world of their time!

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. ®   NIV ®   Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.  All Rights reserved.

Studies in Matthew