Matthew, Chapter 28, Part 2

Matthew 28:11 – While they were going, behold, some of the guards went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place.

Last time we examined the resurrection event from the perspective of those who were faithful to Jesus.  Now we will see the same events from the perspective of ‘unbelievers’.

In verses 2-4 of chapter 28, Matthew informs us that the guards were at the tomb when the earthquake occurred and the angel appeared.  Instinctively, they realized that the angel had far greater power and authority than anything they possessed, even as a group.  They cowered in fear before the angel.

Eventually, they were able to rise and leave the tomb; they were gone by the time the women arrived there.  The most likely scenario is that the senior officers went to see the priests, while the ordinary soldiers returned to their barracks.  After all, there was no need to stand guard at an empty grave. 

This raises an interesting question – did the soldiers see Jesus rise from the dead? 

It is doubtful that they did.  If Jesus was not going to let his faithful followers see him rise from the dead, he certainly wasn’t going to manifest himself to a bunch of heathen soldiers (possibly the same band that crucified him).  In fact, there is no record of Jesus appearing to any unbelievers after the crucifixion (Acts 10:40-41).  

As we discussed in our last post, some scholars believe that the angel opened the door of the tomb, and Jesus came out.  But others dispute that.  They believe that Jesus never walked out the door of the tomb at all.  They believe that since Jesus had a resurrected body, he could pass through the stone of the tomb, as he passed through the walls/doors of buildings (John 20:19, 26). 

If this is the case, then we are left with the same question we had before – why does the angel open the tomb?  If Jesus had already left it, what was the point? 

The answer is that the tomb was not opened to let Jesus out, it was opened to let the disciples in! 

God wanted reliable witnesses to the resurrection.  So the women and (later) the disciples were able to go into the tomb, see the grave clothes and testify that the tomb was empty.       

Matthew 28:12-13 – And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep’”.

As the soldiers were under the command of the priests, they brought their report to the Jews, rather than Pilate.  In response to their report, the chief priests called an emergency meeting of the Sanhedrin.

Now, you would think that these events would give the Jewish leaders a reason to pause and carefully consider their beliefs and future actions.  There can be no doubt that there was an earthquake.  There can be no doubt that these heathen men had seen an angel, and they were scared.  There can be no doubt that the tomb was empty, because the soldiers would certainly have looked inside to see.  Therefore, the only logical conclusion is that Jesus rose from the dead.  And if that was true, he MUST be the Messiah!

The religious leaders were blinded by hate.

But again, the Jews are blinded by hate and fury.  They refuse to recognize any scenario that indicates Jesus as the Messiah of their people.  So instead of accepting the truth, the council conspires together and makes up a lie. The soldiers are to tell everyone that they fell asleep, and the disciples took the body of Jesus during that time.   You would think the Scribes and Pharisees could have come up with something a bit more realistic than a weak fairy tale like that!  Just look at all the inconsistencies in their version of events:

  • The story of the Pharisees required ALL of the soldiers in the entire detachment to fall asleep, ALL at the same time.  Falling asleep on duty was a death sentence for any Roman soldier; even ONE man falling asleep was unlikely.  
  • If they were all asleep at the same time, how do they know that it was the disciples who came and took the body? 
  • On the other hand, if they saw the disciples stealing the body, why didn’t they put a stop to it?  That was their job. 
  • How did the disciples manage to roll the stone away from the tomb without waking up the soldiers? 
  • The disciples had no real motive for stealing the body; a ‘faked’ resurrection would soon be found out.  Besides, by all accounts, they have been temporarily stunned into cowardly inaction.  They couldn’t even bring themselves to stay until the crucifixion was over; there is no way they had the courage to break into a heavily guarded tomb and steal the body. 
  • If, for some strange reason, they did want to steal the corpse, they would do it as quickly as possible – they would not take time to remove the grave clothes before they left. 

Nevertheless, that was the story the religious leaders came up with, and that was the story they were going to stick to.  But now they face another dilemma. 

The tomb is empty and the body is gone.  There is no way around that.  It won’t be long before the disciples find out the tomb is empty, and they are going to spread the word that Jesus has risen.  That story would spread among the people like wildfire.  So the religious leaders have an immediate need to circulate their version of events, or else everyone is going to believe in Jesus.    

Step one of that plan was to bribe the guards into supporting their story.  Where do you suppose they got the money for the bribes?  You guessed it – the temple treasury.  Previously they had used sacred money to betray Jesus, now they use it to hush up his resurrection. 

Matthew 28:14 – “And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”

In addition to the bribe money, the Scribes and Pharisees also guarantee the guards that there will not be any repercussions from Pilate.  How could they be so sure?  What do they mean “if” the governor hears of it?

Pilate stayed in Jerusalem during the Passover so he could deal with any trouble/rebellion that might pop up during the feast.  But after the city emptied, he would immediately return to Caesarea. 

He wasn’t going to hang around Jerusalem to make further inquiries about the death of Jesus.  He was probably glad to have that whole matter behind him.  The only reason he ever got involved in the situation in the first place was at the request of the Jewish leaders.  So, unless the Sanhedrin demanded him to take further action (which they obviously wouldn’t), he would have considered the matter closed, and immediately left town.  He had no interest in what had happened to the body.   

Matthew 28:15 – So they took the money and did as they were directed.  And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

‘This story’ refers to the lie that the disciples stole the body of Jesus from the tomb.

According to Justin Martyr, who wrote in AD 170, the Jewish rulers sent messengers to their fellow Jews all throughout the known world, proclaiming that the resurrection was a myth, and that the body of Jesus had been stolen by his disciples. 

Matthew informs us that their campaign of disinformation was at least somewhat successful because 15-20 years later (when he penned his gospel), the Jews were still spreading this rumor around. 

Although denying the resurrection amounted to an attack on Christianity, this did not prevent the truth of the gospel from spreading far and wide. It traveled much further than the false rumors – it crossed the boundaries between Jew and Gentile and it went from Jerusalem to Judea to the uttermost parts of the world!

Try as he might, Satan will never stop the gospel message!   

Matthew 28:16 – Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.

As we have mentioned prior to this, Matthew’s gospel is streamlined in many ways.  Here is another example.  Jesus made a number of appearances to his disciples which have been recorded by both Luke and John, which Matthew has omitted from his text.

These appearances were private meetings that included the women and the disciples. 

However, as Matthew indicates, there was an appointed meeting that was to take place in Galilee.  Jesus no doubt revealed the time and location to his followers in one of their private meetings.  Although we don’t know exactly where that meeting took place, many people conjecture that it was the same location where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. 

Why do you suppose that Matthew records only this one meeting?  Maybe by mentioning only one meeting, he is calling it to our attention.  He is letting us know that this meeting was extremely important.

This was the meeting that Jesus spoke about during the last supper, before he died:

Matthew 26:31-32 – Then said Jesus unto them, all you shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.  But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.  

It was the meeting the angel mentioned on the day of the resurrection (Matthew 28:7).  It was the meeting that Jesus himself spoke about while he met with the women, who were on the way to inform the disciples about the resurrection (Matthew 28:10).  It is probably the meeting that Paul spoke about where over 500 followers of Jesus were present:

1 Corinthians 15:6 – After that, he [Jesus] was seen of over five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep.    

How did so many people get invited to the meeting? 

Well, ask yourself this question – If you were one of the disciples and you had seen and spoken to Jesus after he was risen, would you keep that information to yourself?  Or would you joyfully tell others, especially people you knew were believers?  Of course, you would share your good news!

And If you heard this good news what would you do?  Of course, you would do whatever it took to be in Galilee that day, to see your risen Lord!  So it isn’t all that improbable for there to be over 500 people waiting in Galilee to see the Lord!    

Matthew 28:17 – And when they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted.

This too, would be natural.  The disciples certainly recalled the words of Jesus when he told them he would die and rise again.  There was no doubt in their minds that Jesus was the risen Messiah, the Son of God and they immediately worshiped him. 

However, while Jesus had appeared multiple times to the 11 and to the women, some people at this meeting were seeing Jesus for the first time.  In a group this large, it would take some time for Jesus to get around to greeting each person.  So some may have doubted until they actually came face-to-face with Jesus and had a chance to speak with him.

Once they got close enough and spoke with him, faith triumphed over doubt.  They recognized his walk, his speech and his face.  Perhaps he showed them the nail marks in his hands as he did for Thomas. In any case, his followers knew it was him.   

Doubt may also have occurred because the event they were witnessing was truly mind blowing!  The one who had been cruelly tortured and put to death as they watched was now standing before them in a heavenly body, which revealed his glory and splendor.

Matthew 28:18 – And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 

Was authority given to Jesus right then?  Didn’t he already have authority? 

Jesus, the Son of God, had an original right to all things because he was the creator of all things:

Colossians 1:16-17 – For by him [Jesus] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

As creator, he has the right to control and dispose everything.  In other words, the Creator has a right to arrange, set in order, regulate, settle or otherwise make determinations regarding his creation.  He has the right to assign a use or bestow a purpose on anything he chooses.  This is true for all the hosts of heaven, as well as all life and material on earth.

As you know, he gave mankind authority over the earth, which man then turned over to Satan. 

 Now, after his voluntary death and resurrection, all authority and power in the universe are put into the hands of Jesus as Mediator of the new covenant.  

Because of what he has done, Jesus now has all power and authority to redeem his people, to create and gather the church, to defend his chosen ones, to subdue all of our enemies, to make us conquers and then make us more than conquers!  In other words, he is taking back planet earth!

Ephesians 1:20-23 – …that he [God] worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come.  And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.  

Jesus is the head of the church; he has all authority and power to redeem, defend, lead/guide, provide for and save the church which he purchased with his own blood.  His authority and mediatorial government extends over the material world, over angels, over devils and over mankind, whether wicked or righteous.   

As the One with all authority and power, he now gives his followers a commission: 

Matthew 28:19-20 – Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

The commission was given primarily to the apostles, because they were about to lay the foundations of the church.  But this commission also extended to the other believers of that day as well, and it has been passed down through the ages to you and me. 

The New Covenant of salvation is not restricted to the Jewish nation, as the Old Covenant had been.  Now, Jews and Gentiles alike are eligible to join the family of God. 

Those of us who believe are to share the gospel with others and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, lead them to faith in Christ as well. 

We are to show them the love of God and assist them in understanding his laws and statutes.   We are to help them become equipped to be soldiers in the army of God, able to bring still others into the kingdom of heaven. 

We are not only to disciple them, but we are to baptize them.  That is, we are to devote them to God by submerging (or sprinkling) them in water. 

When we are baptized, we are identifying with the atoning work of Christ in our own personal life.  As we are submerged in the water, it represents our death to sin and our burial.  As we are raised up out of the water again, it signifies our new birth in the kingdom of heaven; the salvation of our soul.  We went into the water as a sinful person, but came up a new creature in Christ; old things were passed away and all things became new.

Of course, we are speaking symbolically here.  It is the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from sin and makes us a new creation in Christ.  Baptism is an outward sign of salvation, which Jesus has already accomplished within our hearts.  

The rite of baptism is to be proclaimed in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.  

Baptism signifies a full and eternal consecration of the person being baptized to the service of the Being in whose name it is administered:

  • By being baptized in the name of the Father, you agree to obey his laws, to be devoted to him, to receive his system of religion and to trust his promises. 
  • By being baptized in the name of the Son, you agree to receive him as Messiah; he is your Prophet, Priest and King.  He is your Savior and you submit yourself to his laws.
  • By being baptized in the name of the Holy Spirit, you agree to publicly receive him as  the Sanctifier, Comforter and Guide of your soul. 

All together, you are making a solemn commitment to the service of the Trinity. 

Baptism, therefore, is irrefutable evidence of the doctrine of the Trinity; the Son and the Holy Spirit are equal with the Father.

Who are we to disciple and baptize?  Individuals in all nations; or all human beings.  There are no restrictions to who can become a disciple of Christ and be baptized.

Matthew 28:20 – teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  

Here we see that the apostles did not have the right to ‘take over’ the church.  Jesus, even though he would now be with them in Spirit, was/is still the head of the church.  He is still the Rabbi or teacher. 

The teachings that he gave the apostles were to be passed down through the ages to each new generation of believers.  The Holy Spirit made this easier for us by prompting different men to pen the books of the bible.  So God has provided every generation with spiritual shepherds and the manual for Christian living. 

As we have stressed many times in the past, it is imperative that each believer examine what is being preached from the pulpit and taught in classes to ensure that the teachings line up with the Bible.

Living your own Christian life is one thing, but winning the world is quite another.  Let’s talk about our commission for a moment.  Preaching the gospel to the whole world, baptizing and discipling all those converts… it sounds like an impossible task.

And in some ways, it is.  It is an ongoing duty that will never be finished, until Jesus calls us home to heaven.  It is a duty that we can never hope to achieve by relying on our own human strength/power.  It can only be fulfilled by working with Jesus and depending upon his invincible Spirit for strength, wisdom and power.  It is His Spirit that convicts men of their sins and leads them to repentance.  Thus, victory only comes with the help of Jesus and his Spirit. 

But here is the good news – we have the assurance of Christ that he will be with us until the end of the age.  Thus, we are guaranteed to have his help at all times.  Because Jesus is head of all things (including the church), he is able to provide strength, power, wisdom, finances, open doors, closed doors, miracles, new ideas/opportunities and anything else that his church needs in its mission to spread the gospel all over the world.  Hallelujah!  

Notice that Jesus is going to be with us until the end of the age.  This means that Jesus is and will continue to be in charge of all that happens during the gospel dispensation or what we call the age of grace, which began with his resurrection and will end with his second coming.  All we have to do is listen to his voice and follow his commands; he will provide everything else that the church needs for victory.

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Jesus is with you all the time.  That means every moment of every day.  This is the same Jesus who has angels at his beck and call, who causes demons to tremble, who causes storms to cease, the blind to see, the lame to walk and the dead to raise.  He is living inside of you!  What more encouragement do you need to go out and share the gospel, while living a full exciting life?  What will you and Jesus accomplish today? 

Let me offer you some relief:

Jesus is the head of the church, not man.  Man loses direction or becomes corrupt or does stupid stuff, but not Jesus.  He is perfect.  So you don’t need to worry about the final outcome of the church.  I assure you, it will be successful, because Jesus will not let the church be defeated by the powers of darkness.  In fact, the church is going to wind up being holy and without blemish:

Ephesians 5:27 – That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

So don’t waste your time on worry.  Spend your time in God’s presence, listening to his voice and obeying his call.  These are the keys to a successful Christian life and a successful church.

Let me offer you some strength:

We live life not knowing what tomorrow holds.  That is not true for Jesus, the head of the church.  The scriptures tell us that he already knew how everything would wind up, before it even started, and that it would wind up exactly as he planned!

Isaiah 46:9-10 – …I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My council shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose…”

So when things don’t seem to turn out like you planned or hoped, take courage and strength in the knowledge that Jesus is the head of your life.  He knows what tomorrow holds he will make all things work out for your good. 

Happy 100th post!

Can you believe it? This is the 100th bible lesson post for the Kipton Community Church blog, SHOWERS. Remember, that stands for a Second Helping Of the Word for Encouragement, Relief and Strength.

If you have been a reader from the very beginning, we thank you and hope this has been a blessing to your walk with God. Please share it with someone you know.  

If you joined us at a later point, we are very glad to have you along.  All of the posts that occurred before you joined us are still accessible, so feel free to back up and read what you missed. 

There will be no new post next week (1/20/21), as we gear up for our next lesson series. Join us for a new study on 1/27/21, and God bless you!



Matthew, Chapter 28, Part 1

Matthew 28:1 – Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

The four gospels each give us different details of the events surrounding the resurrection.  For our study, we will limit ourselves to what has been recorded in the book of Matthew.  However, for a fuller picture, you would need to read the other gospels as well.

Let’s take a few moments to remember how the ancient Jews mark time, because it is very different from the way we do it.

In our minds, a new day begins at 12:00 am, or midnight, and it lasts for 24 hours.  According to our reckoning, three days means 72 hours. 

In the Jewish calculation of time, days are marked by sunset.  Specifically, a new day begins each time the sun goes down and it becomes dark.  Further, it was the Jewish custom to count partial days as ‘a day’ or a full day when they were referring to blocks of time. 

So by Jewish standards, Jesus did not necessarily have to be dead for 72 full hours to be considered dead for three days.  He only needed to be dead for a portion of the first day, all of the second day (obviously) and a portion of the third day. 

Is that what happened?  Let’s take a look.  Jesus died at 3 pm on the afternoon of Friday, and was buried shortly thereafter.  According to Jewish reckoning, Friday counted as ‘one day’ of the three day time period, because he was dead from 3 pm until the sun set. 

A new day began when the sun went down on Friday, and it lasted until the sun went down on Saturday.  That was the second day. It was the Jewish Sabbath day.    

Sundown on Saturday began the third day that Jesus was in the grave.  So daybreak/sunrise on Sunday morning was actually midway through the third day that Jesus was dead.  The fourth day would have begun at sundown on that Sunday. 

Therefore we would expect Jesus to rise from the dead sometime before sundown on Sunday.  Otherwise, he would be dead more than the three days that were prophesied to his followers.

Now, some of the devout women (Matthew names two, but Mark and Luke indicate there were also others) who were followers of Jesus left their houses before dawn on Sunday (the first day of the week), to see/visit the tomb. 

What was their purpose in going to the tomb?  According to the gospel of Luke, they went there to further embalm the body of Jesus with more spices (Luke 24:1).  According to the gospel of John, they also went to mourn (John 11:31).

As you recall, Joseph of Arimathea arranged for an enormous stone to be rolled in front of the tomb to shut the door.  The door had also been sealed by the Pharisees and chief priests, and it was guarded by Roman soldiers.

How did the woman expect to open the door?  The gospel of Mark tells us that they really did not have a specific plan when they left to go to the tomb: 

Mark 16:3 – And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher?

But God had a plan – he sent the women to the tomb before sunrise on the third day so they could find the tomb empty.  This way, they are witnesses that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, just as prophesied. 

According to some scholars, Jesus was likely in the tomb about 36-38 hours total.

Matthew Henry offers this interesting idea in his Whole Bible Commentary:  “Christ, on the sixth day, finished his work; he said ‘It is finished’; on the seventh day he rested, and then on the first day of the next week did as it were, begin a new world and entered upon new work.”  

What an amazing thought!

Matthew 28:2-3 – And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.

Before we go any further, let me ask you this:  If you were planning the resurrection of Jesus, how would you do it?

Perhaps you would have placed a bright star over the tomb, similar to the one that was above the manger at his birth.  Then hundreds of people could have made their way to the tomb.  And after a big flash of lightening, the stone could have shattered into millions of pieces and Jesus could have walked out to the thunderous applause of everyone!  But our ways are certainly not God’s ways, are they?

God has something much simpler and more profound planned.  He first reveals his resurrection to the women, who faithfully stayed by Jesus during his death.  They were the first ones to seek out his tomb.  And God rewarded them fully.  They saw Jesus before any of the disciples.  In fact, they were given the privilege of sharing news of the resurrection with the eleven.

When the women first arrive at the tomb, they find an angel sitting upon the great stone, which has been rolled away from the entrance of the tomb.  This should not surprise us.  Angels frequently attended Jesus while he was on earth.  They appeared at his birth, they ministered to him after his wilderness temptation, and again during his time in the garden.  Now they are bearing witness of his resurrection.

The scripture specifically tells us that it was the angel who rolled back the stone from the door of the tomb.  Why is that?  Why didn’t Jesus do it himself?

Court of Heaven

Maybe Jesus was making a spiritual statement.  In the court of heaven, he had been arrested, condemned and sentenced to death, because of our sin.  To roll the stone away himself would imply that he illegally ‘broke out’ of confinement before his sentence was completed and his debt satisfied.    

However, when a messenger of God rolls the stone away, it is symbolic of being released because his sentence had been completed.  Jesus had paid the FULL price for our sin.  Divine justice had been completely satisfied.  Since heaven had ordered his release, a heavenly representative opened the door. 

And because Jesus paid our debt, we too have been set free.

Isaiah 49:24-25 – Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?  But thus says the LORD, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contends with you, and I will save your children. 

Are you jumping for joy yet?  You should be!  We were lawful captives of sin and death.  We had no hope of EVER being delivered from that bondage.  But Jesus came and contended with Satan so that we could be set free!

Matthew 28:4 – And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.

What?!  These were experienced, hardened soldiers.  Their assignment was a ‘piece of cake’… all they had to do was keep a dead man in his grave.  How hard could it be?  No doubt, they were completely full of self confidence as they stood guard that night.  The only resistance they expected was a small group feeble and fearful disciples.    

But instead they are confronted with power, authority and might that is far beyond anything they knew existed – and this was only an angel, a mere servant to the Son of God!  One glimpse of an angel of the Lord struck them with terror, and they fell to the ground, helpless and powerless.      

The soldiers are not the only ones to see the angel.  The women are about to see him too, but their experience will be far different than that of the soldiers.    

Matthew 28:5 – But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.

Let’s look at it from the women’s perspective for a moment.  They were in a state of grief and sorrow.  When they left home, it was still dark outside.  They were probably outside when the earthquake hit, and that would put them on edge.  As they reach the tomb (finally!), what do they find?  The stone rolled away and a supernatural, radiant being sitting on it! 

There is no way they would not have had a sudden stab of fear.  But the angel’s very first action is to tell the women ‘fear not’.

Why shouldn’t they fear?  Because they were seeking Jesus.  The scriptures assure us that when we seek after or pursue interaction with our Lord, we will find him.   

Hebrews 11:6 – … God …is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

In fact, God is so interested in having a relationship with you, that he comes knocking on your heart’s door, waiting for an invitation to come in and fellowship with you.  

Revelation 3:20 – Behold, I stand at the door and knock:  if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he with me.

We note that the resurrection of Christ brings joy and peace to the believer (the women), but terror and confusion to his enemies (the soldiers). 

We also note that the women had lots of excuses to turn back from pursing Jesus at the tomb: 

  • It was dark. 
  • They were grief stricken and tired. 
  • There was no one to open the door for them. 
  • The earthquake was dangerous. 
  • There were guards. 
  • Tomorrow was another day.  

But despite all these obstacles, the women continued on.  They didn’t let anything distract them from their search for Jesus.  How much more remarkable are their actions when we consider that all they expected to find was the corpse of their Lord!  

What distracts us from seeking the living presence of our Savior?  Do our excuses seem feeble in light of what these women did?  

Matthew 28:6 – He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.  Come, see the place where he lay.

The women receive the news that Jesus is not the dead body they were expecting.  He is alive, because he had risen!  God was faithful to his promise. 

They are invited to come and examine the empty tomb.  John tells us that the grave clothing was still there (John 20:5-6), but Jesus was gone.  The women remembered what they had heard (that Jesus would rise again on the third day), and they matched it up with what they saw (the empty grave/the burial cloth), and so they believed.

They are the first ones to hear about the miracle of the resurrection.

Matthew 28:7-8 – Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.  See, I have told you.”  So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

It might have been tempting to stay at the tomb for a while, communing with the angel and rejoicing in their new found knowledge that Jesus was risen.  But it’s time to move on.  God has appointed a special task to them.  They must go and spread the word of his glorious resurrection to the disciples. 

This news would be a tremendous and much needed comfort to the eleven.  Right at that moment, they were in the midst of horrible grief, profound uncertainty and heavy guilt.  To hear the news that their Lord was again alive, would have astonished them, and given them a lifeline of hope!

Here is something to carefully consider:  The eleven did not immediately believe the news based on the word of the women.  However, their testimony caused the disciples snap out of their despair and move into action.  They felt a need to search out this matter and see whether or not it was true. 

Consider carefully…

The disciples will come to faith in the resurrection by a gradual means.  They had heard about it, long before it happened.  That was like a seed planted in their heart.  They had seen his death, the beginning of the mystery.  That was like the seed sprouting up in their soul.  Now, they hear testimony of the resurrection.  This was like a life giving ray of sun beating down upon their understanding.  This will result in them going to the tomb themselves.  It will result in them traveling to Galilee expecting to meet their risen Lord and Savior.  Eventually, after Pentecost, this ‘gradual work’ would bear much fruit for the kingdom of heaven by heading up the formation of the church.      

So…what ‘gradual discoveries’ is Jesus trying to work out in your life? 

Has God given you dreams during the night or visions during the day?  You should not consider that an unusual or impossible thing.  That concept has been explained to you in scripture.  Hopefully, your dreams have spurred you to action – to seek out the interpretation of what you have seen.  The interpretation of the dream should move you into further action, to bring about the plans and purposes of God in your life.  As you take the first step, he will reveal the next. What are you waiting for? 

Has God captured your attention and intrigued you with the thought that there is additional power and anointing available to you through the Holy Spirit?  That too, has already been taught in the scriptures.  Is God calling you to search the scriptures?  To speak to others who have obvious signs of power in their lives?  What is he trying to tell you about supernatural gifts that the Holy Spirit wants to operate through you?  Will you search out the matter and see if there is something there for you?

Has God given you a tiny seed of an idea for a business or some new discovery that will benefit mankind?  Are you ignoring that idea as something that could never work?  Do you think that if it were true, someone else would have already done it?  Don’t be so sure.  God is a revealer of mysteries.  He may have one just waiting there, with your name on it.  Why not take the time to follow up on it and see where it leads?  

Search it out!

Don’t miss your chance!  Take the time to search out the matter.  If nothing comes of it, what have you lost?  But if it truly is of God, then he will further reveal himself to you.

You will find a greater and deeper revelation of who God is, and what he has in store for your life, if you take that first step of faith.

So without any delay or preparation or excuses, the women set out to do as they were commanded. They are exercising their faith.  Therefore, we would expect them to experience a greater revelation regarding the resurrection of Christ.  Let’s see if that happens.

Psalms 119:60 – I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments.

They left to bring joy and comfort to those who were hurting. When you know someone who is suffering, and you have some comfort to offer (a prayer, a hug, a testimony, food, etc) don’t delay!  Let us do good as swiftly as possible!    

Matthew 28:9 – And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!”  And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.

These ladies not only heard the first good tidings of his resurrection, they got the first meeting with the risen Christ!

Did you notice that as they walk in obedience to what they had been told (go tell the disciples), they find greater wisdom and knowledge – Jesus is revealed to them in a new way.  Why is that? 

When we are in obedience to Christ, our thoughts and actions are in harmony with him.  Because we are focused on him, his desires become our desires.  We will automatically consult him for assistance and guidance, and we will listen close enough to hear his voice.  As we work together with him, he reveals himself in experiential ways.  So when we are operating in obedience to Jesus, we are much more likely to see him, hear him, and find greater revelations of him.

The scripture says that Jesus verbally greeted them and in response they ‘came up’ to him.  Can you imagine the emotion that must have manifested during that reunion?  Can’t you just picture their overwhelming joy and astonishment as they realize it is Jesus?  I imagine that all the weariness that had enveloped them over the last few days was instantly gone.  I imagine that it was replaced by a surge of hopeful energy; all those who wait upon the Lord renew their strength. 

Although they spoke no words to him (what words would have been adequate?), their actions revealed the contents of their hearts.  They came (ran?), fell at his feet and worshiped him. 

Our translation says they ‘took hold’ of his feet, but the original word means to ‘fall prostate before’.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that they grabbed his feet, only that they humbled themselves by bowing before him.

 Matthew 28:10 – Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

I have never had an angel reveal his presence to me.  However, in the scriptures, it is clear that when people come across divine beings, they are commonly struck with fear and a great sense of unworthiness.  Thus, we saw the women experienced fear when they first saw the angel. 

How much greater is Jesus than that angel!  How magnified is their sense of fear/alarm and unworthiness!  Accordingly, Jesus tells them not to be afraid. 

He the reiterates his invitation – the disciples are to meet him in Galilee.

Galilee is about 80 miles from Jerusalem.  Why do you suppose Jesus wanted to meet with them there?  If they were all in Jerusalem already, why take that kind of a trip?

It was a peaceful place compared to Jerusalem where the vindictive religious leaders and heathen rulers were on high alert.  The city was probably still in tumult from the Passover.  The Romans were short on patience, waiting for the visitors to leave.  So Galilee represented a place of rest where the disciples did not have to be in fear.

In addition, Jesus had many followers in that region.  Perhaps he wanted to visit them too.

Jesus calls the disciples ‘brothers’ for the first time here.  This assures them of the love and goodwill that Jesus has for them, despite the way they abandoned him a few days earlier.

In fact, now that Jesus has instituted the New Covenant, we can all be a part of the family of God. 

Hebrews 2:11-12 – For both he that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare your name unto my brethren, in the midst of the congregation will I sing praise unto you.

As in the case of the disciples, our entrance into the family of God is not hindered by our past mistakes or failures.  If we turn to Christ, he will freely forgive all our sin and wash us white as snow!    

Let me offer you some encouragement, some relief and some strength:

The women heard Jesus speaking to them.  Does that make you jealous?  Do you want to hear Jesus too?  If so, I have some good news for you.  God speaks to each and every one of us, and the bible is very clear that we can hear him speaking:

John 10:27 – My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

God wants to speak with you about every aspect of your life – physical and spiritual. He speaks to you because he loves you and he wants a relationship with you.  Think about it – don’t all true relationships contain a strong element of communication?  Since that is the case, it only makes sense that God wants to communicate with us. 

Now, wouldn’t it be silly if God were talking to us, but we had no way to hear him?  That would mean that God was speaking in vain, or without purpose.  It would mean that his words had no power.  And we know that cannot be true! 

So the problem can’t be that God isn’t speaking.  Neither can the problem be the ability to hear him, for the scriptures declare that we CAN hear him (John 10). 

The problem is that we lack training and discipline.

I encourage you to practice hearing/listening the voice of God.  Here are some simple steps to get you started.  Begin by spending some time in worship.  This gets your mind focused on the Lord. It shuts out other thoughts that will distract you.

Then, read a portion of his word.  The bible is the living word of God; he speaks to all of us through his word and ask yourself this: What is God saying to me about my life/situation through this portion of scripture?  Write down what you feel God is saying to you.

If you follow these steps regularly/daily, you will soon begin to hear and recognize his voice.  This, however, is just the beginning; so you will want to search out other materials that assist you in hearing the voice of God.  So don’t delay – get started now!





Matthew, Chapter 27, Part 4

Matthew 27:51a – And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 

As we mentioned in our last post, God gave three incredible signs at the time of the death of Jesus.  These signs proved that Jesus was not a common criminal or a mere man who was unjustly sentenced to death.  The signs were a witness that Jesus was exactly what he claimed to be – the Messiah, King of the Jews.

The first sign was the unexplainable darkness that overshadowed the land from noon until the death of our Savior at 3 pm.  This sign was a testimony to all that were at the crucifixion that day – Jews and Gentiles alike.  The Light of the World was leaving, so the world was left with only darkness.

The second sign, the tearing of the temple curtain, was a very powerful sign sent specifically to the Jewish people. 

The temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom.

What curtain is Matthew referring to? 

When we read about the construction of the very first tabernacle (the original movable temple), we are told that God required a curtain or veil to separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place:

Exodus 26:31-33 –  And you shall make a veil of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of skillful work: with cherubim shall it be made:  And you shall hang it upon four pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold… and the veil shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy.

The Holy place contained the candlestick, the altar of incense and the table of showbread.  Priests entered this room multiple times every day to perform their duties.  These included trimming the candle wicks, filling the oil, burning incense, cleaning up/removing ashes, etc.  The bread on the table was removed and replaced with fresh bread once a week.  So this room was visited frequently.  

The inner room, or the most holy place, contained the Ark of the Covenant.

The lid on the Ark of the Covenant had two angels (one on each end) which faced each other, with their wings stretched out over the ark.  The Mercy Seat, or the place where God’s presence dwelt, was underneath the wings of the two angels (Exodus 25:17-22): 

Exodus 25:22 – And there I will meet with you, and I will commune with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark of the testimony…

Unlike the Holy Place, the Most Holy Place (the very presence of God), could only be accessed once a year, and only by the high priest, who was there to make atonement for the sins of the people.  At that time, it was a fearful thing to go into the presence of God.  If the high priest did something wrong as he atoned for his own sin, he would be struck dead when he entered God’s presence, because sin cannot exist in the presence of God. 

So the purpose of the temple curtain/veil becomes apparent.  It separated or kept men from accessing the presence of God, where their sin would destroy them.

Access to God was denied.

From the time Israel became a nation, until the death of Jesus, 99.99999% of the men (and 100% of the women and children) had absolutely NO access to the presence of God.  The few that did went into that room with fear and trembling.

But all that changed with the rending of the curtain.  What exactly occurred as the curtain was torn?

Jesus himself, our great High Priest was entering into the Most Holy Place!  

Hebrews 9:12 – He [Jesus] entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

He did not enter into the holy places with the blood of animals like other high priests, but he entered through his own atoning death on the cross:

Hebrews 10:20 – …by the new and living way that he [Jesus] opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh…

Jesus entered into the Holy of Holies and made atonement for us with his own blood, once and for all – no other blood sacrifice has ever been needed!  Because of what Jesus did, we may freely and confidently enter the presence of God ourselves!

Hebrews 4:16 – Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

As Jesus tore that curtain, the door into the kingdom of heaven was fully opened.  It will remain open throughout the dispensation of grace.  Anyone who chooses to do so may enter in, through the sacrifice of Jesus:

John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me”.  

Do you fully comprehend how astonishing this is?  You – a sinful, fallen member of humanity – may enter into the very presence of your creator, God Almighty!  You may enter his presence and actually live!  You may approach his throne to fellowship and commune with Him!  You may bring your petitions and problems, your questions and desires straight to God!  This is a privilege that millions of human beings never had – so don’t take it lightly!  Take advantage of it.  Love it, rejoice in it, wallow in it – visit God every moment of every day!   

But wait – there’s more!  Prior to this, you had to be a Jew to be one of God’s children; the door to the family of God was closed to everyone else.  So by tearing or destroying that curtain, Jesus was opening the way for Gentiles to also become the children of God.  He was ripping apart/removing the wall of distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles.  Now there is ONE, united holy family of God!

But wait – there’s still more! By tearing or destroying that curtain, Jesus was destroying the ceremonial law.  As Jesus indicated during the last supper, the Jewish temple service was now obsolete.  Men were no longer needed as a ‘go between’ for people to reach God.  Each man, woman, boy and girl can speak directly to God.  

Now, under the new covenant, WE have become the priesthood of God!   

I Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen race; a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

We now have the privilege of declaring to others the mercies of God, and the ability to lead them to the kingdom of heaven through the open door of Christ Jesus.

Matthew 27:51b-53 – And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.  The tombs also were opened.  And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

The third sign is also very extraordinary.  When Jesus gave up his spirit, there was a violent earthquake, which was so powerful, it split the rock around Jerusalem.  

Scholars see a number of lessons in this event.

First, it proves the horrible wickedness of those who unjustly crucified Christ.  They point out that the earth was cursed when it was forced to accept the blood of Abel, who was murdered by his brother Cain (Genesis 4:9-12).  In their opinion, the earthquake was a sign of rebellion; the earth was saying that it did not want to accept the innocent blood of Christ, which was much more precious than that of Abel. 

Second, many see the earthquake as evidence of the final, official defeat of the devil’s kingdom.  The Messiah had come, and despite all the powers of hell, he was victorious.  Jesus had remained true to the Father, overcome temptation, taken the sin of all mankind upon himself, and brokered the new covenant between God and man.  Satan was now a defeated foe and the earth was a herald of the final deathblow!

Third, Jesus once said that if the children would stop crying out ‘Hosannas’ of praise, that the rocks would cry out.  Was this what was happening during the earthquake?  Was the earth proclaiming the praise of Jesus, while mankind was either mocking him or silently mourning him?

However, the most common interpretation is that the earthquake was a small taste of the resurrection of the dead; a sign that Jesus had conquered death.  Remember, the Jews buried people in caves or tombs dug out of rock.  As we might expect, the quake opened up a number of these graves, and the bodies lay out in the open.     

Note: The coming to life of these saints most certainly did not happen until 3 days later, even though Matthew records the events together.  This assumption is based on the scriptures which declare that Jesus was the first fruits of those who were raised from death to life:

I Corinthians 15:20 – But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Colossians 1:1 – And he is the head of the body, the church.  He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

Since Jesus did not rise until 3 days later, these saints could not have risen before he did.  Once they did rise, Matthew says they showed up in Jerusalem and appeared to a lot of people.

Can you imagine that?  Can you imagine going to the funeral of a friend or relative, then seeing them in your city a week later?  It would certainly be a memorable meeting wouldn’t it?  Providing, of course, that you did not die from shock or fear!

Unfortunately, these few verses don’t give us as much information as we would like to have.  But scholars have made some basic assumptions:

  • The people had probably not been dead very long.  If one of the ancient patriarchs rose from the dead, no one would recognize them.  Thus, it may have been someone like Simeon, who spent most of his life in the temple and was well known to many people by sight. 
  • They probably did not live to die again.  In other words, the Bible says it is appointed unto man once to die; so these saints probably die not live another 50 years on earth and die a second natural death.  They may have gone with Jesus when he left the disciples and went to heaven in the clouds. 
  • Their purpose was to show that Jesus had conquered/defeated death; the promises that he had made regarding eternal life were to be believed.

We cannot say for sure who they appeared to (enemies? friends?), in what manner they appeared, how often they appeared or what they said and did.  Speculation would be futile; we shall have to wait until we get to heaven to get these answers!

Matthew 27:54 – When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

The words of this soldier have long inspired intense debate. 

Some believe that the words should have been rendered ‘Truly this was the Son of a God’.  In other words the soldier had taken note of all the events that transpired that day, and based on what he saw, he believed Jesus was an innocent/righteous man.  He was proclaiming that Jesus was who he professed to be, but at the same time, the soldier had no real knowledge of what that meant. 

Others believe that the soldier, being a resident of Jerusalem, would have had at least a basic understanding of the Jewish religion.  They feel that when the soldier correctly judged Jesus as being the Son of God, he was acknowledging it in the proper context; he understood what he was saying and was a witness to the identity of Jesus just as Peter was when he said ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God’. 

In either case, notice who is convinced by the signs – not the Jews, but common Gentile dogs!  And not only Gentiles, but Roman soldiers – some of the most hard-hearted, vicious and cruel men on the earth.  These soldiers had put hundreds of men to death by crucifixion.  Pity and fear were emotions they did not possess.  Why, only hours earlier, they had been mocking Jesus.  They spit on him, struck him, pulled out his beard and jammed a crown of thorns on his head! 

Even these ‘unlearned’ men are able read the signs and acknowledge that Jesus was an innocent, righteous man while the Jews were so filled with hate and envy, they could not even admit his innocence.

Matthew 27:55-56 – There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

This group of women had been with Jesus for some time.  They accompanied him on his journeys and provided money to fund his ministry:

Luke 8:2-3 – And certain women, who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven demons,  And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, who ministered unto him of their substance.

The disciples had promised to die with Jesus, yet all of them had fled the scene, except John.  How remarkable, that these courageous women faithfully followed Jesus to Calvary, and then stayed to watch the proceedings until the very end.  In fact, they will be the last to leave Jesus at the cross, and the first to search for him at the tomb.   As such, they became witnesses of things that the disciples did not see or hear.

Matthew 27:57-58 – When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus.  He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.

First of all, it should be noted that the bodies of all executed criminals (Jesus is included in this category), were the ‘property’ of Rome.  The government was responsible for disposal of the body.  Pilate could have done anything he wanted with it.  He could have ordered it to remain on the cross until it rotted away or the birds ate it.  He could have ordered it to be tossed into a mass grave with lots of other bodies.  He could have had it burnt, or dismembered or secretly buried, or any number of other things.

But in accordance with his great master plan, God had already chosen and equipped the right man to organize and carry out the funeral of his Son.  That man was Joseph of Arimathea. 

Joseph was actually a member of the council that sentenced Jesus to death, though he himself opposed his condemnation (Luke 23:51-51).  Council membership indicates that he was a well respected man who had influence within the community.  He was also very rich.  More importantly, he follower of Jesus, albeit secretly. 

The gospel of John tells us that Joseph had a partner in the funeral – Nicodemus (John 19:39).  This was the same Nicodemus that visited Jesus at night.  He too was on the council that condemned Jesus.  He too was a leader in Israel.  Together, these two men planned and carried out a private funeral for Jesus.

The character and reputation of Joseph most likely had a direct influence on the decision of Pilate in regard to releasing the body of Jesus.  Because the death of Jesus caused such a public uproar, his body couldn’t be released to just anyone; misuse of his body could be used to incite rioting in the city.    

Pilate’s decision may also, at least partially, have been based on lingering feelings of guilt for condemning an innocent man.  Perhaps he thought a decent burial would in some way help atone for his crime.  In any case, the request was granted and Joseph received the body. 

Matthew 27:59-60 – And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock.  And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away.

Let’s face it – it is very unlikely that the disciples (even if they were present) could afford to bury their teacher.  They had been ‘out of work’ so to speak, for the last three years; a group of wealthy women had been paying for their day-to-day needs.  This task had to fall to someone that God had equipped for it; someone with enough wealth and influence to get the job done.  

It was going to take money to prepare the body of Jesus for burial.  Money was needed to transport the body, to clean it, to buy the cloth as well as the spices that were wound into the cloth. 

It was also going to take money to actually bury him.  Just like today, gravesites are not free.  You have to pay for them.  Joseph is rich enough and generous enough to donate this tomb to Jesus.  This is actually another fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy:

Isaiah 53:9 – And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death…

The tomb itself was also uniquely suited for the body of Jesus.  It was not a cave; it was hewn out of rock, which meant that there were no secret doors or hidden passages that could be used by the disciples to steal the body.  It had one door, which was shut by an enormous stone.  In fact, blocking the entryway with the stone was the last act of the funeral. 

Once that was door was shut, the living departed without any further ceremony.  They went home, leaving the dead person behind. 

However, it should be noted that in the case of a Christian, the opposite is true.  The dead saint has actually gone home to the land of eternal living, and left us behind!  May this thought give you comfort when you consider some of your deceased loved ones. 

Matthew 27:61 – Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

These women came to the grave to see the end, and overwhelmed with sorrow and anguish sat down to mourn.  How often have we done the same thing at the grave of our loved ones?  And yet, as we will see in chapter 28, their mourning would soon be turned to joy at the resurrection.  There will be a glorious resurrection for all those who trust in Christ! 

Matthew 27:62-63 – The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that imposter said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’”

The phrase ‘the next day’ seems a bit confusing to us.  It sounds like the tomb was left unguarded the first night that Jesus was dead, which would make no sense.  If the disciples were going to steal the body of Jesus, they could just as easily do it on the first night, as the second.

The answer can be found when we remember that the Jews do not count days like we do.  For them, each new day begins at sunset.   Jesus was crucified during the day; he died around 3 pm in the afternoon.  However, by the time he was buried, it was after dark.  So in the reckoning of the Jews, this was technically ‘the next day’ after the crucifixion. 

In our time line, it would be understood this way:  Jesus died and was buried the same day.  That evening, after or during the time of internment, the Jewish religious leaders met with Pilate to make arrangements to secure the tomb.

Matthew 27:64 – “Therefore, order the tomb to be made secure until the third day lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.”

Remember when the leaders asked him for a sign that he was the Messiah?  Jesus told them to look at the sign of Jonah, who was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights (Matthew 12:39-40) before reappearing on land.

Furthermore, this once again proves that they clearly understood what Jesus meant when he said ‘destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it again’.    

It is also possible that Jesus spoke of his resurrection more frequently, even though these declarations are not recorded for us in scripture. 

After all, the resurrection is the lynchpin of the gospel.  Everything depends on it.  If Jesus does not resurrect himself, then all of Christianity is false, the kingdom of heaven is a lie, and no atonement had been made for mankind. 

So the bottom line is that it was common knowledge throughout the ranks of the Jews (from the lowest shepherd to the chief priests and Pharisees) that Jesus predicted his own resurrection on the third day. 

Given these universally known predictions, the Jewish leaders want to make it impossible for the disciples to steal the body and fake the resurrection of Jesus.  They took stringent precautions against any kind of fraud.  They were not going to allow any room for controversy regarding the death of Jesus.    

How ironic that God causes them to be trapped by their own craftiness!

Because they took such overwhelmingly great care in making sure the tomb was sealed and guarded, they essentially provided an alibi for the disciples – there was no way the followers of Jesus could have perpetrated any kind of fraud in the resurrection.  So the Pharisees wind up being the strongest witnesses of the very news they were hoping to suppress!

Furthermore, if they thought about it, they would have realized just how ridiculous their preparations were.  If Jesus had not truly risen, and his followers stole his body to fool everyone, then they were fooling themselves too.  What possible benefit could they gain by faking the resurrection?  They would still know in their hearts that they were wrong; they would know that the kingdom of heaven had not really come and their faith was in vain.  Why would the disciples want to spend the rest of their lives in a pointless endeavor to get people to believe a lie?  Why continue a farce that would certainly end up with their own painful deaths?  Had they been wrong, it would have made far more sense for them to admit the mistake and move on.   

Matthew 27:65-66 – Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers.  Go, make it as secure as you can.”  So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

The purpose of the guards was to protect the tomb from any kind of invasion, such as the followers of Jesus stealing the body.

The purpose of the seal was to protect the tomb from the guards themselves, who otherwise might be tempted to take a bribe and allow the tomb to be raided. 

How was the tomb sealed?  We know that a large rock had already been rolled in front of the opening, so as to close it off.  It is probable that ropes were then placed across the stone and each end fastened to the stone wall of the tomb with wax or cement of some kind.  This wax/cement may have also been stamped with the seal of Pilate.

We find Pilate trying to please all sides in this matter.

He allows the friends of Jesus to have his body for a decent burial, but he also allows the religious leaders to do what they feel is in their own best interest – to guard the tomb. 

What are we to make of Pilate’s words, ‘make it as secure as you can’? 

Perhaps he is trying to pit one side against the other.  No matter which side ‘wins’, he can claim to be on their side.  He would use this as leverage to keep peace in the city. 

Perhaps he has spoken with his centurion and is now convinced that Jesus was the Son of God.  If he believes that, then his words may be mocking the religious leaders, because they could never secure that tomb against God himself!

Perhaps Pilate wants to remain neutral in all of this.  Perhaps he wishes the whole controversy will just ‘go away’ without requiring him to take a side in the matter. 

If so, that was a vain hope indeed. The death and resurrection of Jesus will always demand a decision from every person who walks the earth. It will demand a decision from you and from me.

What decision will you make?  Is Jesus the Messiah of the world, sent by God to redeem mankind?  If so, have you surrendered your life to him?

Let me offer you some encouragement:

We have all lost loved ones to the sting of death.  But as we pointed out in this study, that is not the end.  There will be a resurrection from the dead.  Because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross, death will eventually be swallowed up in victory:

1 Corinthians 15:54 – So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

We know that we will one day be reunited in heaven with all those who have trusted in Christ throughout the ages, where we will never be separated again.

Let me offer you some relief:

But in order to have that hope, you need to trust in Christ.  You need to repent from your sin, accept Jesus into your heart, and live for him.  When you do so, you will find relief from sin, fear and condemnation; there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

Let me offer you some strength:

Sometimes it is hard to share the gospel with those who know us best.  We fear that they will reject or ridicule us.  We sometimes hesitate because we know we have failed in the past, and they have seen it.

But stop for a minute and consider today’s lesson.  If we want to spend eternity in the company of our loved ones, then they MUST trust in Jesus for their salvation.  Can we use this understanding as a catalyst to strengthen our resolve to witness to our loved ones? 

I suggest this:  Pray for the salvation of that loved one.  Then ask for the Holy Spirit to lead you in sharing the gospel with them.  Don’t do it on your own power or in your own timing.  If you do, the effort will likely fail.  But if we let Holy Spirit take the lead, He will give you the words to say that will penetrate their heart and make Christ a reality in their lives.

This post is being made public just a day or so before the first day of 2021. What does the new year have in store for you?

Many people see the New Year as a chance for a new beginning. They make an effort to change something about themselves that they don’t like. Sometimes they are successful, but often they are not.

However, the death and resurrection of Jesus can provide a new beginning to every person who desires to be free from sin. Jesus will make you a new creation in Christ. Old things will pass away, and all things will become new. This change is always successful, because it depends on the blood of Jesus, not your will or your strength.

So why not invite God to walk with you through 2021? He will cleanse you from sin, and work all things out together for your good, if only you will seek Him!


Matthew, Chapter 27, Part 3

Matthew 27:39-40 – And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself!  If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

What utter disrespect the Jews show to Jesus as he suffers on the cross!  Where are the crowds who recently paved the road with palm branches and cried out ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’?  Where are the multitudes who were healed and set free by the power of God?  Where are the thousands who ate of the loaves and fishes?  They are nowhere to be found.

What we do find is a crowd of Jews who rejoice at the downfall of Jesus.  They jeer and taunt him in his darkest hour.  But there is something more sinister than just torment happening here. 

These people are being used to shake the faith of Jesus.  Our savior has been physically tortured beyond belief at this point.  Every single breath he takes ravages his body with pain.  His spirit is weighted down with the sin of the world.  Now, at the height of his suffering, the enemy comes to viciously attack him, no doubt using every single weapon at his disposal.     

Notice that the Jews taunt Jesus with the exact same words that Satan used in the wilderness temptation (Matthew 4:3, 4:6): “If you are the Son of God…”.   Satan was tempting Jesus to bypass (or in this case end) the suffering of the cross.  Can you imagine how incredibly strong that temptation must have been?  And yet our Savior does not fall to the evil one.  He remains strong and true; crossing the finish line of redemption on our behalf.

Matthew 27:41-42 – So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.  He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.”

The religious leaders are just as ignorant as the common people.  Because Jesus does not immediately deliver himself from death, they incorrectly assume he does not possess the power and ability to do so.  They think that it’s ‘now or never’ for Jesus to prove that he was the Son of God; but they forgot that he had already proved it – by the miracles he had performed over the last 3 years. 

They again mock him for the statement that he could destroy the temple (his body) and rebuild it (raise it again) in three days.  They had no idea that the very thing they detested and derided him for was, even then, being fulfilled in front of their eyes! 

What ignorant, blind leaders! Jesus never intended to ‘save himself’ as they understood it.  He chose to be on that cross, laying down his life and later taking it back up again.  He chose to suffer so he could save and deliver US from death!   

Matthew 27:43 – “He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him.  For he said, “I am the Son of God.”

As you recall, the real reason the Jewish leaders wanted to have Jesus put to death was because he claimed to be the Son of God.  They considered his claim false, and thus they deemed him guilty of blasphemy. 

Now, as he hangs there on the cross in the midst of intense pain and suffering they throw his words back in his face once again.  If he really was the Son of God, as he claimed, then surely God would immediately step in and deliver him from his suffering.  The fact that God did not deliver him demonstrated that he was not the Son of God (or so they thought).     

Matthew 27:44 – And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

It is remarkable that even the robbers who were crucified alongside Jesus reviled him.  You would think they had more important things to worry about; why waste your final breath reviling someone who is suffering with you?

But their actions prove that Jesus was forsaken and despised by all levels of society, even down to the worst of the worst. 

We do note, however, that the gospel of Luke tells us one of these men repents and places his faith in Christ.  Jesus assures the man that he would enter Paradise that very day (Luke 23:39-43)!

Matthew 27:45 – Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.

During the last three hours that Jesus hung on the cross (noon to 3 pm), darkness covered the land.  Was there a natural explanation for this? 

There is speculation that it could have been an eclipse, but many scoff at this idea.  They claim that history records a full moon at the time of the crucifixion, which was opposite to the sun, so an eclipse was impossible.  Additionally, they say a total eclipse would not account for a three hour period of darkness.

Others believe the sun was darkened by clouds and smoke which erupted before the great earthquake that took place.  This theory also has its detractors.  If enough particulate matter was in the air to cause darkness, it would not fall to the earth and disappear within a mere three hours.

We may not know the exact cause of the darkness, but we do know the reason for it.  God was calling attention to the death of Jesus.  What a fitting witness:  The birth of Christ was attended by a very great and unusual light (Matthew 2:2), while the death of Christ was attended by a very great and unusual darkness.  As the Light of the World was leaving, the world was left with darkness!  This was the first of several signs that were noted by those present on that day.  All of these signs testify that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah of the world.

This darkness was predicted back in the book of Amos:

Amos 8:9 – And it shall come to pass in that day, says the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth on a clear day:   And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon every waist, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it like the mourning of an only son, and its end as a bitter day.

So, it would seem that God was once again reaching out to his people.  The Jews had become so blinded by their hatred of Jesus that they rejected the truth.  But God was going to give them several incredible signs on that day, which they would surely remember.  And if they meditated on these signs (the signs were so astonishing, you could scarcely do anything else) it would again point them to Jesus as the Messiah.    

Matthew 27:46 – And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The intense suffering of Jesus cannot be understood or explained by us; it is beyond our human comprehension.  This was not just physical suffering, but spiritual suffering as well.   

As we mentioned earlier, there can no doubt that Satan was present at the crucifixion.  Luke 4:13 tells us that Satan departed from Jesus ‘for a season’, which indicates that he would return to tempt Jesus again.  There can be no doubt that Satan launched upon Jesus the most severe and heinous attack possible at this time, in order to take full advantage of the weakened physical state of our Lord.  Scholars suggest that the ferocity of Satan’s attack was at its worst during this very moment.

Just as we do not know or understand the depth of temptation that Jesus was experiencing, neither can we know or understand the intense spiritual agony that was upon him.

If Jesus were to be a true sacrifice for us, it was necessary for him to be judged guilty at the judgment seat of God, and to suffer all the wrath of God for our sake.  As he experienced that wrath, the inward sadness/brokenness of his soul was so intense and violent, that is caused him to cry out (Psalms 22:1).        

We should always view the indescribable torment of Christ with utter reverence; for it was a holy sacrifice, made on our behalf. 

Isaiah 53:10 – Yes it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt… 

In my opinion, Isaiah has the best reflections on the suffering and agony of Christ in chapter 53 of his book (please, please take the time to read this entire chapter right now – it will be very meaningful to you, as you read the events of the crucifixion).

Matthew 27:47 – And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.”

When Jesus spoke, he was not speaking Greek, but Syro-Chaldaic, which is a compilation or mixture of Hebrew and Syriac.  It was not a language that everyone would have clearly understood.  So, two possibilities present themselves in this situation.

One is that the Jews were mocking the cry/prayer of Jesus.  If this is true, then these people clearly understood that Jesus was calling out to God, but twisted his words to make them refer to Elijah. 

How is calling out to Elijah mocking Jesus?  The Jews were well aware of the scripture that said Elijah must come before the Messiah would be revealed.  They thought that by calling out to Elijah, Jesus was asking him to come and thereby admitting that he was not the Messiah.

Of course, if this was their thinking, we know they were wrong.  John the Baptist fulfilled that role when he came in the spirit and power of Elijah, to call people to repentance (Matt 17:10-12), and bear witness that Jesus was the Messiah.

At any rate, the second possibility seems more likely.  In this explanation, the people simply misunderstand what Jesus said.  The language may have been unfamiliar to them.  Also, keep in mind that there is now a supernatural deep darkness over the land which has a calming yet terrifying effect on the bystanders.  The time of coarse joking is past; the spirit of mockery has gone. Something beyond their understanding is happening. 

Matthew 27:48-49 – And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink.  But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”

The Roman soldiers commonly drank a mixture of sour wine and water.  It is entirely possible that there was a supply on hand for the soldiers to drink as they carried out the executions of the day. 

So in response to the cry of Jesus, someone puts a sponge on the end of a stick, dips it in the wine/water mixture and offers it to Jesus.   But while he was getting the sponge, others urged him to wait.  Clearly, they all understood that supernatural things were occurring; perhaps Elijah might actually come.

Matthew 27:50 – And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

John tells us the words that Jesus uttered that day:

John 19:30 – When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

How do you view the statement of Jesus?  Do you see it as a cry of pain as his life expired?  Or do you view it as a shout of exultation and victory?

Considering that his last words were spoken with a loud clear voice, we can surmise that he was still in full strength.  His life had not been squeezed out of him by vile men, but rather he had dismissed his spirit from his body, of his own accord.  When the time was right – when the temptation of Satan had been firmly rebuffed, when the sin of all the world had been fully placed into his account and he paid the price of the wrath of God, then and only then did Jesus dismiss his spirit with the loud, triumphant exclamation, ‘IT IS FINISHED!’

Considering his last words were spoken with a loud, clear voice, we can surmise that Jesus attacked our spiritual enemies with vigor, strength and power.  Even as he hung on the cross, he was spoiling/defeating evil principalities and powers.  He was putting death in its place.  Jesus did not barely win this battle; he conquered; he won by a landslide.  He destroyed evil, triumphing over Satan without question.  Jesus is the one who is ‘mighty to save’ (Isaiah 63:1).  Satan’s hold on us was destroyed; our redemption was sealed with the victorious cry, ‘IT IS FINISHED’!

Let me offer you some encouragement:

It seems odd that our study brought us to the death of Christ in the month of December.  In fact, his death on the cross is being ‘posted’ two days before Christmas.  We might be tempted to say that our timing is off.  But I don’t think so.

The announcement of the birth of Jesus should never really be separated from the fulfillment of his purpose on the cross.  The events are inseparable; it takes both to give us a complete picture of God’s grace. 

The world loves to celebrate the birth of Jesus in extravagant fashion.  But they have missed the point.  As wonderful as the birth of Christ was, it was really only a prelude to the main event – the crucifixion.  The true cause for celebration came as Jesus proclaimed ‘IT IS FINISHED’ and gave up his life on the cross.    

So over the course of the next few days, I encourage you to dwell not just on the promises that were made to mankind at the birth of Jesus, but to also consider the fulfillment of those promises which occurred on the cross.  

By all means, rejoice and celebrate His birth!  But don’t shrink for examining the pain and suffering of his death, because the real victory was won through the cross, not the manger.   

Let me offer you some relief:

When Jesus was born, there was rejoicing because the promised savior had come. But that promise was not actually fulfilled until Jesus died.  Now that he has died and risen again, all sin – ALL SIN – can be washed white as snow.  So let me give you some relief – no matter what you have done, no matter how badly you have sinned or ‘blown it’, forgiveness can be yours.  The price has already been paid by Jesus through his suffering.  So reach out to him today, and find relief from your sin.       

Let me offer you some strength:

Right now, you and I still live in the realm of sin.  Every day is a constant battle to overcome evil of some kind.  And sometimes we can get weary in the midst of that conflict.  But let me give your strength a boost – evil has been officially defeated.  The day that Jesus hung on the cross and triumphantly exclaimed ‘IT IS FINISHED’, Satan’s hold on you was broken.  So take heart.  Don’t give up.  Run your race with courage and might.  Jesus has won the victory for all those who trust in him!   

Merry Christmas!

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.     


Matthew, Chapter 27, Part 2

Matthew 27:24 – So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”

As we noted last time, Pilate had a chance at the very beginning to do the right thing as governor – to throw out the clearly false charges against Jesus the Christ.  But he did not do so.  He shirked the responsibility associated with his authority. 

Instead, he vainly attempted to get some kind of justice for Jesus through the popular opinion of the Jewish crowd.  But crowds are fickle.  The scribes and Pharisees had incited the emotions of these people to a fever pitch; their lust and rage would accept nothing less than the death of Jesus. 

Pilate lost control of the trial.

The harder Pilate lobbied to free Jesus, the more agitated the crowd became. Pilate lost control of this trial; he was now in danger of losing control of the city.  As we said last time, Rome expected the preservation of public order throughout their domain.  If Pilate couldn’t ensure it, they would remove him from power and/or execute him.

So in order to keep peace (and pacify his own conscience), he is going to give the crowd what it wants – the death of Jesus.  But before doing so, he publicly washes his hands. What is that all about?

The washing of hands in public was a symbolic act intended to show that the ‘washer’ was innocent of any wrong doing or crime.  In this case, Pilate was publicly testifying that he found Jesus to be innocent and he regarded the crucifixion of Jesus as a murder.

Here is my question to you – was this public announcement of the innocence of Jesus and the washing of his hands enough to cleanse Pilate, or was he still guilty of the murder of Jesus? Why or why not?

Answer:  Pilate was still guilty.  In the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 21:6-7) if the Jewish elders found a dead body, they could publicly wash their hands which was a symbol that they were innocent and had not caused the death of the person in any way.  But the most important part of that ritual was that the elder was testifying to man and to God (who knows all hearts) that they were innocent.

In the case of Pilate, he could not stand before God and claim that he was innocent of the blood of Christ, since it was well within his power to halt the crucifixion.  Therefore, the washing of his hands could not make him innocent of the blood of Jesus.

Matthew 27:25 – And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”

In other words, the Jewish people placed a curse (sometimes called an imprecation) on themselves, their children, their grandchildren, etc.  In essence they said, ‘If this man is really innocent, and we put him to death as a guilty person, then let the guilt and punishment of this man’s blood rest upon us and our posterity’. 

Indeed, less than 40 years from the time they spoke this curse upon themselves, it came to pass.  When the Jerusalem was taken and the temple destroyed in 71 AD, more than a million Jews died.  Thousands died by famine, thousands by disease and thousands by the sword.  Josephus tells us that their blood literally ran down the streets of Jerusalem like water.  He also tells us that the number of Jews crucified (the same punishment they inflicted upon Jesus), was so great, the Romans had to stop the practice because they ran out of wood to make the beams and space to put the crosses. 

It was entirely possible that some of the men standing in front of Pilate that day, calling for the death of Jesus were also some of the very men who died on those crosses and if not them, certainly their children. 

However, there is good news for us.  The blood of Jesus is very powerful.  It has the ability to forgive, to protect and to save.  As believers in Jesus, we can pray the blood of Jesus over our children and grandchildren; God will hear and honor that prayer just as surely as he heard and honored the curse the Jews asked him for!

Matthew 27:26 – Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

Have you ever heard of the word ‘scapegoat’?  It refers to a person or thing that is made to bear the blame for others. 

For instance, if a sports team is constantly losing games, the management may fire the coach, even though the players are the ones who are not performing well.  In this case, we might say the coach was a scapegoat.

Another example would be in the corporate world.  If a design team comes up with a new product that under performs, the manager may be fired even though the company keeps the other employees.  In this case, the manager was the scapegoat; he or she bore the blame for the failure of the project.   

Did you remember that there was an Old Testament ceremony on the Day of Atonement which used scapegoats to remove the sin of the Israelites?

Leviticus 16:7-10 – And he [Aaron] shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.  And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat.  And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD’S lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.   But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.

Basically, the high priest would stand before the people with two goats.  He would then reach into an urn where there were two ‘lots’ and he would place one lot on the head of each goat.  The lot identified one goat to die as a sacrifice, and one to be released into the wild.  So, two identical goats were presented before the people that day, but each was committed to a very different destiny.

Isn’t this a picture of what happened during the trial before Pilate?  There were two prisoners that day – Jesus Barabbas, and Jesus called the Christ.  Both were presented before the people, who, in a sense cast the lot.  One man was let go; the other was sacrificed for the sin of the people.     

What do we know about scourging?  It was standard procedure for the Romans to scourge criminals who were condemned to be crucified.  It appears that the priests and the Jewish crowd wanted to witness the scourging.  Either their hatred had been so ramped up that they wanted to see blood, or they didn’t trust Pilate to do as he said. 

For his part, Pilate may have hoped that the bloody, savage beating would pacify the crowd and perhaps prevent the crucifixion.

So Jesus is subjected to a violent brutal whipping.  Picture him tied to a low post, which caused his back to bend, stretching out his skin.  In the hand of the Roman soldier was a handle with three leather thongs.  At the tip of each thong was a jagged piece of bone or metal.  Each strike of the whip counted as three stripes; so 13 strikes equaled 39 lashes. 

While that sight did not move the Jews to pity, it should have a profound effect upon us.  Jesus accepted those stripes on our behalf – so that we could be healed and delivered: 

Isaiah 53:5 – But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.   

When you hear the word “healed”, is your thinking limited to the physical realm?  It shouldn’t be.  As fallen humans, we also need mental and emotional healing too.

Are you suffering the pain of a broken relationship?  How about the pain of mental abuse or anxiety due to our current circumstances?  The stripes of Jesus can provide peace, healing and reconciliation for any and all situations that you are experiencing right now.  

Matthew 27:27 – Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him.

The public trial ended in a death sentence.  The prisoner, bloody and weak from the scourging, is removed from the public eye and taken inside the courthouse.  There a battalion of soldiers (approximately 600 men) took the opportunity to torture, insult and mock Jesus our Savior.

Matthew 27:28-30 – And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand.  And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”  And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head.

The soldiers heard of Jesus’ claim to be a king, so they determined to deride him with ‘royal honors’.  They tore his garments from his raw back, painfully aggravating his cuts.   They placed a scarlet robe on him.  Most likely, this was a short military cloak worn by Roman officers.  However, some people believe this was a cast-off garment from King Herod himself, which the soldiers found and used for this purpose.  If so, it added yet another layer of cruelty to their torture.  

Their mockery would not be complete without a crown.  The soldiers found thorn bush branches and wove them into a crown, pushing the painfully sharp needles into his tender flesh.   

Crown of Thorns

Then they placed a reed (a thick, solid cane) into his hand as a scepter.  Their blasphemy was complete when they bowed, giving mock obeisance to him as king.

But these cruel and vicious men soon tired of their game.  They resorted to spitting on Jesus, then taking the rod and striking him on the head.    

As Christians, we love Jesus with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength.  So to read and imagine the horrible suffering that he went through just before the cross makes you sick to your stomach.  It is painful and difficult to even think about it.

But think about it we must, for it is the foundation of the gospel message.  Jesus suffered for one reason and one reason only – to atone for our sin.

The bible makes this clear over and over again:

  • He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities; the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:5-6). 
  • He was offered to bear the sins of many (Hebrews 9:28).  
  • Christ was made a curse for us (Galatians 3:13). 
  • He, who knew no sin was made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). 
  • He bore our sins in his own body (I Peter 2:22).

Think of it this way:

  • Jesus was scourged that we might be healed through his stripes. 
  • Though he was innocent, Jesus was condemned so that we who are truly guilty might be acquitted. 
  • Jesus wore a crown of thorns so that we could wear a crown of glory. 
  • Jesus was stripped of his clothing so that we could be clothed in everlasting righteousness. 
  • Jesus was mocked and reviled so that you and I could be honored and blessed. 
  • He was numbered among the transgressors that you and I might be numbered among the sons of God. 
  • He died a most painful and disgraceful death, that you and I might have everlasting life.

The suffering (passion) of Christ should never fail to produce feelings of deep praise and thankfulness within our hearts. 

Matthew 27:31-32 – And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.  As they went out they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name.  They compelled this man to carry his cross.

It was standard practice for condemned men to carry their own crosses.  However, Jesus had to be physically exhausted at this point.  He had been up more than 24 hours, with nothing to eat or drink.  He had been tried in front of the Sanhedrin and then been abused by the Jews.  He stood trial in front of the Gentiles, and was tortured by the Roman soldiers.  He had been publicly whipped and probably lost a significant amount of blood.    

In order to get him to the place of execution, the Romans forced a passerby, Simon, to help carry the burden.  Simon was from Cyrene, a city in Libya (in Africa, just west of Egypt).  There was a large Jewish population there and, like all other Jews, they were in the habit of traveling to Jerusalem.

Make no mistake – Simon’s assistance was not an act of compassion by the Romans.  The soldiers simply did not want Jesus to die from fatigue and blood loss before his public punishment on the cross.

Matthew 27:33-34 – And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.

The exact location of the place of public execution named Golgotha or Calvary, is hotly disputed among scholars.  However, some facts are certain.  The bible tells us that the place was outside the walls of Jerusalem, not far from one of the city gates, and near one of the principal roads leading from the city into the country. 

Because it was a public place near a major road, the death of Christ could be witnessed by many people.  This was certainly important; his death could not have been faked.

Because it was outside the city, it conforms to the pattern of sacrifice set forth in the Old Testament.  Under the law, when an animal had been sacrificed and its blood used for a sin offering, the body of the animal was removed from the camp:

Leviticus 16:27 – And the bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place, shall be carried outside the camp. 

Likewise, as Jesus was making atonement for our sin by shedding his blood on the cross, he was taken outside the city.  In the same place were criminals were sacrificed to satisfy the justice of the government, Jesus was sacrificed to satisfy the justice of God.

Although this it is not a proven fact, some scholars believe that Golgotha got its name because it was not only the place of execution, but the place where the bones and skulls of dead men were heaped together out of the way of daily life, so that people did not come into contact with them and become defiled. 


If that is true, it presents a devastating picture of the power of death. Picture the bones disrespectfully piled on the barren earth. Imagine the metallic smell of blood that hung in the air.  Hear the screams of hopeless men begging death to come and release them.  Picture the rotting carcasses being eaten by birds.  No one escaped this place alive.  

But this picture also provides an even more powerful picture of the triumph and glory of Jesus!  Despite all the rage of hell, he has carried out his mission completely and perfectly.  Once he gives up his spirit, he has totally defeated all the powers of darkness!  Death thought it had claimed yet another life, but it was wrong – Death could not hold Him!  Jesus defeated Death on its own home court!  Hallelujah!  

Matthew 27:35-36 – And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.  Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 

In his commentary, Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Mr. Barnes gives us this description of crucifixion: 

The manner of the crucifixion was as follows: After the criminal had carried the cross, attended with every possible jibe and insult, to the place of execution, a hole was dug in the earth to receive the foot of it. The cross was laid on the ground; the person condemned to suffer was stripped, and was extended on it, and the soldiers fastened the hands and feet either by nails or thongs. After they had fixed the nails deeply in the wood, they elevated the cross with the agonizing sufferer on it; and, in order to fix it more firmly in the earth, they let it fall violently into the hole which they had dug to receive it; This sudden fall must have given to the person that was nailed to it a most violent and convulsive shock, and greatly increased his sufferings. The crucified person was then suffered to hang, commonly, till pain, exhaustion, thirst, and hunger ended his life. Sometimes the sufferings continued for days; and when friendly death terminated the life, the body was often suffered to remain–a loathsome object, putrefying in the sun, or devoured by the birds.

Further, scholars tell us that there was great physical pain associated with being crucified.  The arms were extended as far back as possible and rendered almost immovable.  The least motion gave intense pain to the hands, feet and the back which had been lacerated with whips.

The nails were driven through the hands and feet in areas with multiple nerve endings.

Crucifixion prevented the free circulation of blood through the body.  More blood was carried out in the arteries than could be returned by the veins.  The result was intense pressure and violent pain, particularly in the head. 

The pain gradually increased, with absolutely no respite.  Death came, but only gradually; it was normal for death to take between three and seven days to claim the victim.

While this suffering was happening, the soldiers were busy dividing the spoil.  It was customary to crucify a person naked; the clothes belonged to the executioners.  The soldiers divided up his clothes into four parts, but they were unwilling to tear apart his outer garment because it was a seamless, high quality item.  For that reason, they cast lots for it (John 19:23-24).  This was a fulfillment of scripture:

Psalm 22:18 – They part my garments among them, and cast lots for my clothing.

Jesus died naked and humiliated so that we could wear garments of salvation and robes of righteousness: 

Isaiah 61:10 – I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness…

Matthew 27:37 – And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”

Again, this was nothing out of the ordinary.  It was standard Roman practice to publish the cause of a criminal’s death in capital letters, on a sign placed above his head.  In this case, it was written in three languages – Greek, Latin and Hebrew (Luke 23:38).

Pilate intended the inscription as a parting shot to the Jews, who forced him to crucify an innocent man. He also considered it an insurance policy; he had public testimony that he dealt strongly with any insurrection.  Pilate thought the sign was born out of his own wisdom.     

But in reality, it was God’s divine hand at work:  The message of Christ’s true identity was published in languages known to both Jews and Gentiles.  This was Jesus Christ, the King of the Jews, the long expected Messiah who had come.  So instead of accusing Jesus as a criminal, Pilate introduces Jesus as who he really is – King of all.  And very soon, that kingdom would begin to grow and manifest itself…

Matthew 27:38 – Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.

Once again, prophesy is fulfilled.  Jesus is crucified between two robbers (confederates of Barabbas?), which implies guilt by association.  Thus, Jesus is ‘numbered’ or counted/considered as a transgressor (Isaiah 53:12).  Who truly deserved the place of shame between those two sinners?  You and I, of course!  But because of his great love for us, Jesus died in our place.

In the midst of carrying the burden of our sin, and the unimaginable physical pain he was experiencing, he also had to endure the screams, groans and blasphemies of the two criminals beside him.  There was no limit to the cruelty of mankind against our Creator and Savior.

Let me offer you some encouragement, relief and strength:

There are many lessons and insights that we can take away from the events of the passion of Christ.  But perhaps one of the most significant is this:   His passion should cause us to hate sin.  Literally and completely and emphatically HATE IT.

It was our sin that caused his suffering.  Our lust, evil tongues and avarice platted the crown of thorns.  Our bitterness, envy and rebellion drove the nails into his hands.  Our pride, faithlessness, and violence secured his feet to the cross.  Our murderous spirit plucked out his beard.  Our idolatry and selfishness caused his mocking, beating and shame.    

If we have any love at all for our Savior and King, we must hate the sin, our sin, which placed him in the position of suffering; it was for these sins that he shed his perfect blood.  Jesus did this out of love for us:

Romans 5:8 – But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Contemplation of the cross should lead us to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. 



Matthew, Chapter 27, Part 1

Matthew 27:1-2 – When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took council against Jesus to put him to death.  And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor.

In the last part of chapter 26, we saw that Jesus was taken before an illegal assembly of the Sanhedrin, where he was pronounced guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to death.

Although the chief priest and his cronies seemed to have gotten what they desired, there were a couple of problems to overcome.

First, it was illegal to meet at night to decide the sentence against a defendant.  The council normally met during daylight hours, in a room at the temple, but that night they held their illegal trial at the house of the high priest, Caiaphas.  To get around their unlawful actions, they quickly gathered the next morning to have an ‘official’ trial and sentencing. Scholars feel that they met as soon as the day broke, around 5 am.

Second, the Romans were not going to put someone to death on a charge of blasphemy against God.  They would consider it a matter of religion, and refer the case back to the Sanhedrin. 

This was a problem for the Jews.  The Law states that anyone guilty of blasphemy was to be stoned (Leviticus 24:16, John 10:33), but at that time the only stonings that took place were born out of a mob mentality – if a number of Jews heard the blasphemy they would spontaneously stone the person (Acts 7:56-60).  These cases were pretty rare at the time. 

Under normal circumstances, if the Jews wanted to execute anyone, they had to get the Romans to do it.  This required them to prove the charges before the governor. 

What charges would get the attention of the Romans?

So part of the early morning meeting of the Sanhedrin would also have included a discussion of the new charges they were going to bring against Jesus.  What accusation could they submit to the governor that would cause him to take action?  We will examine the charges shortly. 

For now, let us take note that Jesus was judged first by the Jews, then by the Gentiles.  Both played a part in his death; both would be redeemed by the same innocent blood they shed.

Matthew 27:3-4a – Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”

These verses indicate that things did not turn out as Judas expected.  Perhaps he thought that Jesus would work a miracle to deliver himself.  Perhaps he thought that Jesus would reason or bargain with the religious leaders for his freedom.  He may even have expected the charges to be dropped, as Jesus was certainly innocent.  In any case, Judas definitely seems surprised that Jesus has actually been condemned.

At that point, Judas experiences the horror of a guilty conscience.  He realizes that he has caused an innocent man to be sentenced to death. 

Think about the implications of that for a minute – Judas has spent the last three years living and ministering with Jesus.  Judas had observed Jesus in both his public life and his private life.  He heard what Jesus taught publicly, and he saw how he lived by those principles privately.  He was a witness to the hours Jesus spent in prayer.  He saw the compassion and the love that Jesus had for sinners.  There is no question that Judas had a front row seat to everything that Jesus said and did.  

Don’t you think that if Jesus had done anything, I mean anything evil no matter how small or insignificant, that Judas would have stated it?  Because he felt guilty, Judas would have wanted to vindicate himself.  He would have put forth any reason he knew of as to why Jesus was evil or guilty.  If there had been even the slightest bit of evil in the life of Jesus, Judas would probably have blown it all out of proportion and made it look worse than it was, just so he could save face and assuage his conscience. 

So, if there had been something evil in the life of Christ, Judas would have been the one to see it.  He would have been the one to reveal it.  With that knowledge, he could have been the star witness at the midnight trial.  He could have escaped the horror of a guilty conscience and probably received yet another reward from the Jewish leaders.  But that didn’t happen.  Instead, Judas fully and frankly confessed that Jesus was innocent.  The testimony of Judas was far more reliable than any of the witnesses at the trial!

Matthew 27:4b – They said, “What is that to us?  See to it yourself.”

What is the reaction of the elders when they hear the true testimony of Judas?  They throw his guilt back in his face! 

The leaders of religion, the physicians of the spirit man, should have come along side this sick soul, poured out healing ointment, and bandaged his wounds.  They should have schooled him in repentance, then accepted and offered up whatever offering he made for his sin.  They should have led him in the paths of righteousness and assisted him in making peace with God.  That was their duty as religious leaders.

But instead, they poured salt on his wounds and destroyed any inkling of repentance.  Having achieved their goal (the condemnation of Christ), they have no concern for the one they used as a tool of their own wickedness.     

Matthew 27:5 – And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.

Casting the pieces of silver back into the temple was evidence of Judas’ remorse for his crime.  His ill gotten gain now did him no good.  It could not relive his agonized mind or his stinging conscience.  He vainly hoped that returning the money would ease his guilt, but the guilt was attached to his soul, not the money.

We said that Judas displayed remorse for his sin.  This is true.  But remorse is different than repentance. 

Remorse is anguish, torment or gnawing pain which is the result of guilt.  It does not contain any element of seeking forgiveness or of changing one’s mind and actions.  It is simply a state of suffering.

Repentance includes change.

Like remorse, repentance includes an element of anguish for one’s actions/guilt.  However, it also indicates change – a change of mind, purpose or conduct; it means to seek forgiveness; to cease the love and practice of sin.

Paul talks about the difference between remorse and repentance in his letter to the Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 7:9-10 – As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting.  For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.  For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Even though Judas experienced remorse and confessed his sin to the priests, he did not truly repent.  He did not seek mercy or forgiveness from God; he was not willing to change his ways.  He came to the temple steeped in sin and he left the same way.  As a result, his regret produced only death.  While this was his own fault, it should be noted that the priests did not help him at all.  

How are we running our own ‘temples’?  The bible says that our bodies are the temple of God:    

1 Corinthians 6:19 What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have of God, and you are not your own?

It also says that all Christians are priests of God:

Revelation 1:5-6 – …to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father…

Therefore, all Christians have both the ability and the responsibility to lead repentant souls to Christ, where they can find life.  When a sinner comes to us, we need to be able to share the love and mercy of Christ with them.  We need to be able to lead them in a prayer of repentance which leads to eternal life. 

Are you prepared to do that?  Do you know a few key scriptures that you could use to lead someone to Christ?  If not, now is a good time to get a few notes and scriptures together, so you can be prepared when the time comes.   

Matthew 27:6-7  – But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.”  So they took council and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers.

There were several small chests scattered throughout the outer courts of the temple.  If people wanted to give a voluntary offering to God, or to pay the half-shekel tax owed by Jewish men, they placed their money into these chests.  All money collected here was dedicated to sacred purposes.  These chests were collectively referred to as the temple treasury. 

Deuteronomy 23:18 infers that money unlawfully gained or money derived from an impure source could never be used in purchasing things for God’s service.  Because these 30 pieces of silver were actually the price of the murder of Jesus, the priests felt they could not put it back into the treasury.

So, in their eyes, it was okay to take money out of the temple treasury to pay for the murder of Jesus, but it was unlawful to return those same coins back to the treasury! 

The priests have no problem with accepting testimony from false witnesses and perverting justice in order to condemn an innocent man, but they worry about the legalities of putting a few coins into the treasury!  These hypocrites have no concerns about breaking the eternal laws of justice and mercy, but they are willing to split the thinnest hair when dealing with decisions of ceremonial law!       

How is it possible that any Jewish religious leader could be this delusional?  There is no rational explanation, other than they were blind guides; children of their father, the devil!      

The Jews had specific regulations for ‘impure’ money.  According to their customs, any such money must be restored to the donor if possible.  If it was not possible to return it, or the donor insisted on giving it, then the money was to be used for some public good. 

Since the money could not be returned to Judas, the priests took the 30 pieces of silver to buy a public burial plot for strangers and for the poor.  The land was originally a plot of ground where clay was harvested for use in making pottery.  Because the top soil and all the clay were gone, the land was unsuitable for any other purpose; thus it was probably extremely cheap. 

Matthew 27:8 – Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.

Matthew probably penned his gospel around 30 years after this field was purchased.  So from the day of purchase until the time this gospel was written, the field had been commonly referred to as the field of blood. 

So we see that the priests had hoped to bury their crime (condemning Christ) by purchasing a burial place for strangers.  But God does not allow their guilt to be buried!  What was done in secret, is revealed openly – this field became a perpetual memorial of the treachery perpetrated by the Jewish elders and priests.  

Matthew 27:9-10 – Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field as the Lord directed me.’

This is not a direct quote from the Old Testament; it is a paraphrase.  The funny thing is, the paraphrase is not found in the book of Jeremiah, but in the book of Zechariah:

Zechariah 11:12-13 And I said unto them, If you think it good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.  And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a princely price that I was valued at by them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.

A number of explanations are given for this difficulty.

One is that Jeremiah was considered by the Jewish writers as the first of the prophets.  As such, his name is sometimes substituted when referring to any prophetic book in the Old Testament. 

Others feel there was a mistake made by the ancient transcribers, as Jeremiah and Zechariah are very similar. 

There are other explanations as well, but regardless of whether it was spoken by Jeremiah or Zechariah, we see it fulfilled here in the events recorded by Matthew.

And now, having finished the narrative on Judas, Matthew returns to the trial of Jesus before Pilate. 

Matthew 27:11 – Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Jesus said, “You have said so.”

Matthew gives us a streamlined account of the trial of Jesus.  If you would like a fuller, more detailed description, see the gospel of John, chapter 18.

As we noted earlier, the Jews knew that the Romans would not execute Jesus based on charges of blasphemy.  They would have to come up with a charge that would affect the Romans in some way.  They did this when they met for the second time, in their morning session. 

While Matthew does not give us the specific charge, Luke does:

Luke 23:2 – And they [the members of the Sanhedrin] began to accuse him [Jesus] saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.”

The charges brought against Jesus by the Jews basically amount to sedition – exciting discontent against the government, resistance to lawful authority; conduct tending to treason.  Basically, the Jews are portraying Jesus as one who would rise up against Roman authority to establish his own kingdom. 

This definitely got Pilate’s attention.

If he ignored the accusation that Jesus claimed to be king of the Jews, he himself could be accused of disloyalty to Caesar. 

Caesar had appointed Pilate to keep peace within Judea and particularly in Jerusalem, which was no easy task.  The Romans utterly despised the Jews.  Pilate himself hated them and had no problem shedding their blood when it suited him. 

For their part, the Jews hated all Roman authority.  They were cordial to Pilate, but then turned around and accused him of every crime imaginable – misadministration, abuse of power, cruelty and robbery.  There were constant uprisings against Roman authority.  Clearly, there was no love lost between Pilate and the Jews.  

Jerusalem was like a powder keg.

To make matters more intense, it was Passover and Jerusalem was bursting at the seams with Jewish visitors from all over the known world.  The city was like a giant powder keg.  Any kind of civil disobedience could result in chaos and anarchy.  If that happened, Pilate himself would be in danger of being banished or put to death by Rome.     

Pilate has no choice but to address the question of Jesus’ kingship.  When asked point blank if he is king of the Jews, Jesus answers ‘you have said so’ which was their way of saying ‘yes’.  

Now Pilate must decide if Jesus is truly a threat to Rome or not.

 Matthew 27:12 – But when he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer.

Jesus readily and directly answers the question of Pilate, but refuses to address the charges of the chief priests and elders.  Why do you think that is?

One reason was that the accusations brought by the Jews were so utterly and ridiculously false that they needed no defense.  Anyone who knew Jesus, knew the charges were false.

Another reason is that Jesus was intent on offering himself up as a sacrifice, pleasing to his Father.  His hour had come; he was fully submitted to his Father (not my will but yours be done); his reputation simply did not matter.  Since he was not trying to save his life or his reputation, there was no need to argue the point.    

Here is something interesting to note:  When Jesus was asked to defend himself against the Jewish leaders, he refuses to speak.  Again, that is because his own personal reputation is of no consequence in this case.  He does not wish to be acquitted or found innocent.  His mission is to die for the sins of the world. 

But when asked point blank if he is the Messiah, promised by God, Jesus answers.  So when the question is about the honor, glory and faithfulness of God, an answer is given.  This is a good pattern to keep in mind for our own lives!  

Matthew 27:13-14 – Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?”  But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

It was (and still is) shocking and horrific to think that the Son of God allowed himself to be dragged before the judgment seat of a profane, sinful man while bound in chains like a common criminal.  He stood before this mere mortal wrongly accused of crimes he did not commit, waiting to be sentenced to death.

It was wrong, on every level.  But Jesus willingly did it for us. 

Jesus, who knew no sin, was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God through him.  Hallelujah!

If Christ had not been made sin for us, we could not stand before God, nor even lift up our face in his presence.  So Jesus chose to stand bound before an earthly judge and receive a sentence of death in order that we might be delivered from sin/condemnation and may approach the throne of God freely.    Hallelujah!

Jesus chose to stand silently in the presence of evil men, so that you and I might have the privilege of boldly crying out ‘Abba Father’, as we seek help in our time of need. Hallelujah!   

Thank you, Jesus, for the cross!

Matthew 27:15 – Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted.

The origin of this custom is unknown to us.  Some feel that the practice was a commemoration of the Jews being set free from Egypt.  If this was true, it was a memorial that God had never set up or sanctioned.

It was more likely begun by the Romans as a way to secure popularity among the Jews, and make their own oppressive government seem less offensive.  A little indulgence granted to the Jews might buy them some favor, and help keep them from revolting.  

Otherwise, the practice makes no sense.  Why would the ruling authorities release dangerous and evil people (murderers, robbers and rapists) into the midst of their community?  (Oh, wait… never mind.  Our government does that too, at a much higher rate than one per year…).

Matthew 27:16 – And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.

Some ancient manuscripts list Barabbas as this man’s surname, and Jesus as his first name.  So his name was actually Jesus Barabbas (Jesus was actually a fairly common name at that time).

This man was a violent criminal.  He was a robber (John 18:40).  He had a band of followers and they would hide in caves by the side of the highway.  When they spotted innocent travelers passing by, they would jump out and accost the people, causing them injury and taking their money. 

But he was not only a robber.  He was also the ringleader of a sect who tried to raise a revolt against Rome.  During this insurrection, murder had been committed (Luke 23:19, 25). 

So this man is a robber, a murderer and an anarchist. How would you like to have him as your next door neighbor?

Matthew 27:17-18 – So when they had gathered Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”  For he know that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up.

Pilate may have been a wicked Gentile, but he was not an idiot.  He was well acquainted with the pride and ambition of the Jewish rulers.  He could see right through their pretended zeal for their own religion and their alleged concern for the authority of the Roman emperor.    

He knew that their hatred and opposition of Jesus was based purely on envy; the religious leaders feared a loss of influence and power if Jesus were to continue among the people.  

In fact, the scriptures tell us that Pilate was convinced of the innocence of Jesus (Luke 23:13-16). 

Here we see the failure of Pilate.  Knowing that Jesus was innocent, he should have exercised his authority as governor, thrown out the charges brought by the Jews and released Jesus.  But he does not.  Consequently, Jesus was condemned to die by a man who was satisfied of his innocence.  Later in this chapter, we will see Pilate bearing witness to that innocence in front of the entire Jewish crowd. 

Pilate did not want to stand up and do the right thing.  Why is that?  He may have been afraid of having a revolt on his hands.  The city was overflowing with Jews and if something set them off, he could lose control of the city very quickly.   He may also have been afraid of looking weak in front of Herod and other Roman rulers. 

So instead of boldly doing what was right, Pilate attempts to save Jesus in an indirect manner.  Figuring that the crowed favored Christ, he offers to release him in the yearly Passover prisoner release.    

Matthew 27:19 – Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.”

Who was the cause of this woman’s dream – God or Satan? 

Many people believe the dream was satanically inspired; if Pilate does not condemn Christ, then he will not be crucified for our sin.

On the other hand, other people believe the dream came from God, who provided another impartial witness to the innocence of Jesus. 

Notice: When Peter denied Jesus, Judas declared his innocence.  When the priests and elders slandered Jesus, Pilate declared his innocence.  When the general population of Jews demanded death for Jesus, Pilate’s wife declared his innocence.   

Jewish law demanded two witnesses to establish truth, but God has provided three impartial witnesses to the innocence of Christ.

(If the source of her dream is God, then it also serves as a merciful warning to Pilate, to judge justly.  Too bad he did not heed the warning, for one day the roles will be reversed – Jesus will be the judge and Pilate will stand before him as the criminal, awaiting sentencing.)  

Matthew 27:20 – Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.

Picture the scene in front of Pilate’s judgment hall:  The hot sun beating down on the fickle crowd.  The noise and smell of the city.  The excitement of the public trial.  The bitter accusations of the priests and elders.  The hesitancy of Pilate.  The warning from his wife. 

As Pilate offers a choice to the people – Jesus Barabbas or Jesus called the Christ – the Jewish leaders circulate among the crowd, seeking to influence the decision of the people.  They passionately suggest that Jesus is in league with Satan, that he was an enemy to the Law and the temple, that if he continued the Romans would come and take away their nation.   

At the same time, they downplay the wickedness of Barabbas – yes, he was a bad man, but did not have the power and influence to do the mischief that Jesus could do.  It was far safer to release Barabbas than Jesus the Christ!

The priests and elders swayed the crowd; they demanded the release of Jesus Barabbas and the death of Jesus the Christ.

So the death of Jesus was eagerly demanded by the general population not because they universally hated Jesus, but because they blindly followed their religious leaders – men who had discarded righteousness and justice long ago.

Woe to those who follow blind guides (Matthew 23:24)!  The common Jews will suffer the consequences of their decision to denounce Christ.

We too have a responsibility not to blindly follow religious leaders. 

1 John 4:1 – Beloved, believe not every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

We are to weigh the teaching and preaching we receive against the word of God, and make sure we are not being fooled, as these Jews were.  The apostle Paul warns us that false teachers and evil men will try to deceive us, if possible (2 Timothy 3:13-1).

Matthew 27:21 – The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?”  And they said, “Barabbas.”

Can these be the same people who, just a week ago, cast palm branches and clothing down on the road as Jesus came into Jerusalem, heralding him as the Messiah?  How is it possible that they are now choosing a criminal over their Savior?

As strange and unbelievable as it seems, we are guilty of the same thing!  Think about it this way:  The choice between Jesus and Barabbas is basically a choice between God and Satan. 

Each and every day, we have a choice.  We can choose Jesus and live according to his laws, or we can choose Satan and live according to his laws.  One way leads to life, the other death. One way includes love and the other fear.  One way includes peace, the other torment.

Perhaps Joshua, son of Nun said it best:  “Choose you this day whom you will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).    

Matthew 27:22-23 – Pilate said to him, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”  They all said, “Let him be crucified?”  And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?”  But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

Though the governor urged the Jews again and again to let Jesus go, they would not hear of it.  They were wholly given over to the passion/madness of the moment; they were deaf to any rational thinking.  They insisted on Jesus being sentenced by a Roman official; they insisted on death by crucifixion. 

Under any other circumstances, the Jews would never have allowed the Romans to inflect such a punishment upon a free and innocent Jew.  It would have thrown the whole nation into a tailspin of outrage.  But in the heat of that moment, they allowed a very dangerous a precedent to be set.  Later, during the time of their war with Rome, vast numbers of Jews would meet the same fate – death by crucifixion.    

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Jesus died so that you and I could stand before the throne of God.  I encourage you to take advantage of that opportunity.  Spend time at the throne of God, today.  Spend time in praise, time in worship, time in prayer.  Spend time meditating on what the death of Jesus means to you.  Your soul will be greatly encouraged by meditating on these things.

Let me offer you some relief:

Are you experiencing remorse over a sin you have committed?  It may be something very recent, or it may be something from your past.  In either case, don’t stop at remorse – that only leads to greater condemnation and death.

Move over into repentance.  Come before Jesus and confess your sin.  Ask him to remove that stain from your soul.  Ask him to change your heart and your ways.  Jesus has already paid the price for your forgiveness.  So go to the cross now, and find relief!

Let me offer you some strength:

As this passage shows, Jesus stood before Pilate as our substitute.  He, who was totally and completely innocent, willingly bore our sin to the cross.  He has done what we could never do – he made atonement for our sin.  Can there be any greater example of God’s love toward us?  Never, ever doubt God’s love for you!  



Matthew, Chapter 26, Part 5

Matthew 26:57 – Then those who had seized Jesus let him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered.

We have discussed the fact that the high priesthood still held on to some of their former judicial authority.  They could force any Jew to be brought before them for trial but they no longer had the authority to carry out capital punishment.  They were forced to pass judgment, and request that the ruling authorities administer the sentence.

We have also discussed the fact that at this time the office of the high priest was no longer passed from father to son.  It was now a position that was appointed by the Roman rulers.  Once a man held the office, he retained the title until he died.

Matthew tells us that Jesus was taken before Caiaphas, the current high priest.  However, John’s gospel reveals that before seeing Caiaphas, Jesus was taken before Annas, the former high priest (John 18:13).  So Jesus stood before both of the living high priests of his day.

Why did the gospel writers bother to include this bit of information in their narratives?

Leviticus 17:5 – To the end that the children of Israel may bring their sacrifices, which they offer in the open field, even that they may bring them unto the LORD, unto the door of the tabernacle of meeting, unto the priest, and offer them for peace offerings unto the LORD.

 According to the Old Testament Law, all sacrifices had to be presented to the priest before being killed.  This is exactly what was done to Jesus just before he was sacrificed for our sin.  He was presented to both men who had claim to the title of high priest.  Can there be any doubt that this was divinely mandated?  Can there be any doubt that Jesus is perfectly fulfilling his role as the Lamb of God?

Psalm 22:16 – For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

Jesus’ appearance before the council is a fulfillment of Psalms 22:16.  As we already noted in our study, ‘dogs’ was a term frequently used by the Jews to refer to Gentiles.  As Jesus was arrested by the Romans, he was surrounded by Gentiles. 

Further, the assembly of the Jewish leadership can certainly be described as an assembly of the wicked.   They had already met at this very same location for the purpose of plotting the death of Jesus (Matthew 26:3).  Now they eagerly meet again in the dead of night in order to carry out their evil plans.  Truth and justice are nowhere to be found; these leaders had already determined to kill and destroy the one who threatened their positions in Jewish society and religion.

Matthew 26:58 – And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end.

In this verse we see Peter’s desire to be near Jesus and to be a witness of what would happen to him.  He still had a degree of love and concern for Jesus but it was a mere spark, not a blazing light in the darkness.   

The scripture tells us that Peter followed Jesus at a distance.  Why?  What caused that?  Actually, it was a combination of factors.

First, he allowed himself to have a high degree of self confidence and even pride. He was in the ‘inner circle’ of the apostles.  He was frequently the leader of the group.  Peter probably thought that when Jesus came into his kingdom, he would receive a place of honor, perhaps even the highest office in the kingdom. 

This self confidence and pride led him to trust in his flesh.  For example, Peter made an extremely bold commitment to be faithful to Jesus.  But since he was trusting in his flesh, he was unable to keep the promises that he made. 

To make matters worse, Peter was guilty of spiritual indolence or laziness.  Jesus told him to ‘watch and pray’, or to stay in constant communication and fellowship with God.  But Peter spent his time sleeping.  Thus, he was unprepared when the time of testing came.

Because he was spiritually unprepared, Peter’s resolve/commitment to stay faithful to Jesus began to crumble with the threat of persecution. This resulted in fear.  Peter feared shame, contempt, persecution and bodily harm. 

Because of his fear, Peter no longer wanted to publicly identify with Christ.  That is why we find Peter ‘following at a distance’.  It is also why we find him sitting in the courtyard with the servants and soldiers, instead of going into the court and standing with his Master during the trial.  In fact, fear will shortly cause Peter to deny even knowing Jesus.

He did not yet understand that spiritual warfare can only be fought in the spiritual realm, not in the fleshly realm.  He did not yet have access to baptism in the Holy Spirit which is the true source of spiritual power. 

So, the decision to ‘follow at a distance’ is actually a combination of choices that Peter made.     

What about you?  Are you following Jesus at a distance? 

Do you have a high degree of religious self confidence or pride?  When someone asks you if you are ‘religious’, how do you respond?  Do you offer church attendance and good works as evidence of salvation?  Do you feel that Christianity mainly entails following a list of rules and regulations about what you can and cannot do?

If so, you will tend to trust in your fleshly ability to keep those rules when the day of trouble comes.  But your fleshly resolve and commitment will crumble when faced with persecution.  Because you are spiritually unprepared, your resolve will be replaced by fear.

Then, like Peter, you will find yourself no longer wanting to publicly identify with Christ.  You will follow at a distance, hanging out with worldly people, instead of facing trials with Jesus.  You may even find yourself denying his name!  

It is spiritually dangerous to follow Jesus at a distance.  True safety lies in being as close to Christ as possible.  Don’t be a lazy Christian!  Maintain an intimate relationship with him every day through prayer, praise and studying the word.  Put on the sword of the Spirit.  Practice using your shield of faith.  Never go into battle alone – always trust in the Holy Spirit to go with you and direct the battle.  He will give you the victory and the courage to stand in every situation.  

Then your love and commitment to Jesus will cease to be just a spark and turn into a torch that blazes in a world of spiritual darkness, pointing others to Christ.   

Matthew 26:59-60 – Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward.  At last two came forward…

The court calls forth witnesses as if they were honestly seeking the truth, but it is merely a charade.  They have already condemned Jesus and they will do anything within their power to convict him.  If the testimony/evidence has to be fabricated, then so be it. 

The main charges they wished to pin on Jesus were false doctrine and blasphemy. 

They wanted to prove his doctrine as false because it was directly opposed to their own.  If people believed the teachings of Jesus, they would soon abandon the authority of the Scribes and Pharisees.  Thus, these wicked men would lose the power and earthly glory which they had tirelessly labored to obtain. 

They also wanted to prove evidence of blasphemy, because this charge carried the death penalty with it.  (Also, if blasphemy could be proved, they would automatically use that as grounds to discard his doctrine).  If they could make a case for blasphemy, then they could petition the Romans to kill Christ.  And in their tiny minds, if Christ were to be crucified then eventually everyone would forget about him, and life would return to ‘normal’.   

Many liars were willing to come forth in an effort to give false evidence.  The bible does not say whether the Jewish rulers offered them money or privileges to do so, but I suspect that this was the case.  If there was no benefit for them, why would they lie? 

At any rate, their stories did not hold up.  They could not piece together any kind of a case that was believable or consistent.  The stories of the witnesses did not fit together or agree.  This was a problem because the Law required two witnesses to establish a case (Deuteronomy 19:15). 

Of course, we know that there was no proof of guilt because Jesus was innocent!   

Matthew 26:61 – …and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’”

Finally, two false witnesses come forward using the tactic that Satan has used since the original temptation of mankind – the half truth.  How often does the enemy twist and pervert the words of God for his own foul purposes!  Woe to us if we don’t know the difference! 

Back in the Garden of Eden, the serpent twisted the words of God to entice Eve into sin, and he was successful.  He now uses the same tactic here.  Mark records it this way:

Mark 14:56-58 – For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree.  And some stood up and bore false witness against him saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’”

The witnesses twisted or misrepresented the words that Jesus had spoken.  When phrased this way, you can see how the Jews could charge Jesus with using Satanic powers to create a physical temple in just three days – a project that had taken man 46 years to restore/rebuild.  But this is what Jesus actually said that day:

John 2:19-21 – Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”  But he was speaking about the temple of his body.

Of course, Jesus was speaking about his body.  After his resurrection, God would no longer live in a temple made with hands, but in the heart of mankind.

2 Corinthians 6:16 – …For you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

When was the last time you took a minute to really consider this verse?  God Almighty, the creator of the universe and ruler of all things, wants to live with you, in your very heart!  He wants to be your constant companion and guide.  He desires your fellowship.  Hallelujah!

Matthew 26:62-63 – And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make?  What is it that these men testify against you?”  But Jesus remained silent.  And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

It seems as if the high priest was expecting Jesus to offer some long, elaborate, drawn out defense.  But Jesus disappoints that expectation with his silence.  Indeed, this was the most effective and appropriate reply that he could have offered. The accusations against him were false and frivolous.  His works and his teachings, which were all done publicly, were a sufficient defense.  No verbal reply could have been so effective.

Besides that, nothing Jesus said would have changed the intentions of the religious leaders.  They had already made up their minds to condemn him; a war of words would serve no purpose.    

His silence, however, did have a purpose.  It was a fulfillment of prophesy:

Isaiah 53:7 – He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not is mouth.

Caiaphas is puzzled and angry at the silence of Jesus.  In his fury, he adjures or puts Jesus under an oath, to give a response to his question: 

Are you or are you not the Messiah, the Son of God?

The answer to this question will put an end to the trial and give Caiaphas grounds for decisive action.  Caiaphas had no doubt heard Jesus refer to God as his Father.  So based on his answer to this question, Caiaphas will either declare him an imposter or a blasphemer. 

Even though he was wicked and did not understand what he was doing, Caiaphas clearly and concisely asks the most important question ever placed before mankind throughout history.

Is Jesus Christ the Messiah, the Son of God, or not? 

This is a question that each and every human being must ask themselves.  The answer to this question will give us grounds for decisive action. 

If Jesus IS NOT the Messiah and Son of God, then he can (and should) be ignored, ridiculed, hated and despised.  His word should be cast aside and banned for it provides a false hope to those in desperate need.   

However, if Jesus IS the Messiah/Christ, then he is able to save.  He is the way, the truth and the life.  He is our high priest, forever.  He is the mediator of the New Covenant.  He has a right to call us to himself and expect us to loyally follow and honor him. 

If Jesus IS the Son of God, then he is divine and possesses divine power, wisdom and authority.  Therefore, he can be completely and utterly trusted in all circumstances.  He cannot fail.  He is always faithful.  He is always victorious.  He is worthy to be loved with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. 

How will you answer this very important question?  Is Jesus Christ the Messiah and Son of God?  How does your answer influence the way you live your life?

Matthew 26:64 – Jesus said to him, “You have said so.  But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Jesus did not bother to respond to the ridiculous accusations brought against him earlier.  However, when asked point blank to acknowledge that he is the Messiah, the Son of God, he speaks boldly and clearly – Yes, I am! 

Not only does he acknowledge that he is the Messiah, he draws a contrast between his first and second comings.  When Jesus uttered these words, he was standing before the high priest, in bonds.  He was soaked with sweat and tears from the events in the garden of Gethsemane.  His feet were dusty and dirty from walking.  He carried the weight of our sin with him.  Humbly he appeared in court as a criminal, already judged to be guilty.  The religious leaders scorned and despised him based on his appearance and on their own misguided rage.  They refused to acknowledge him as the Author of Salvation.

But hereafter, they would have the all the proof of his divinity that they needed.  Almost immediately they would know that he had risen from the dead.  They would hear and know that he had ascended into heaven in the clouds.  He would baptize his followers in the Holy Spirit and birth his church.  They would witness the spread of the gospel to all nations.  But that was not all!

They will also see him return to earth in the clouds, adorned with his royal power.  They will witness his magnificent splendor.  They will behold him sitting at the right hand of Almighty God (Power). 

They will discover that Jesus is more than just the Son of God, he is also the Son of Man – the righteous judge will execute judgment on the wicked (Daniel 7:13-14) and establish his everlasting kingdom.            

The religious leaders missed their chance to accept Jesus as Messiah and Lord, but if you are reading this right now, it is not too late for you!  Make things right between you and Jesus immediately.  Make sure that when Jesus returns clothed in his divine majesty and authority, you are one of his loyal subjects.  Do not wait!

Matthew 26:65 – Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy.  What further witnesses do we need?  You have now heard his blasphemy.”

The statement of Jesus was exactly what Caiaphas was looking for.   He now has reason to act.  According to the high priest, Jesus had incriminated himself by claiming under oath to be the true Messiah, the Son of God. 

Of course, it would not be a problem for the REAL Messiah to make such a claim, but the religious leaders would never, ever admit that Jesus was the Christ.    

So, based on Jesus’ claim, Caiaphas declares Jesus to be guilty of the sin of blasphemy, and he tears his clothing as a sign against it. 

Because the alleged statement of blasphemy was made in front of the whole gathering, no further witnesses were needed to pronounce sentence, as long as everyone agreed on the charge.   

Sadly, we see how justice and fairness were perverted by the highest court in the Jewish culture.  As high priest, Caiaphas should have consulted the Old Testament scriptures to see what they had to say about the Messiah.  Then, he should have compared the words and actions of Jesus to the law/prophesies.  Once this was done, each member of the council should have had a chance to express an opinion, beginning with the most junior member and ending with Caiaphas, who would render the final decision.

Instead, in the midst of bitter hatred and jealousy, Caiaphas takes on the role of accuser, judge and now jury.  He denounces Jesus a blasphemer in front of all the other members of the council, then pretends to ask their opinion, as if he had not yet made up his mind.  

In reality, he knew full well that his power and authority would sway the other members to side with him.  So he pronounces his judgment first, presuming that the outer council members will agree with him – and they did.

By the way, what was the significance of Caiaphas tearing his clothes?

It was customary among the Jews to tear their clothing as a sign of violent grief (Genesis 37:34).  It was also a sign used to express horror at anything deemed blasphemous or impious (2 Kings 18:37).

As high priest, Caiaphas had two different sets of clothing.  He had very unique and beautiful ceremonial clothing that was to be worn in the temple as he fulfilled his role as the high priest.  These clothes could never be intentionally torn (Leviticus 21:10).

He also had ordinary garments which were worn when he was not serving in the temple; this would have been the garment torn during this mock trial. 

Matthew 26:66 – “What is your judgment?  They answered, “He deserves death.”

The other members concur with the judgment – Jesus is guilty; according to the Law he deserves to die. 

Certainly, not all of the official ruling body agreed with this decision.  Joseph of Arimathea certainly would not have, neither would Nicodemus.  However, it is unclear whether these men were present at this meeting, for it was held illegally.  Specifically, it was held at the house of the high priest (instead of the temple), during the night (it was illegal to meet at night), without the full council being present (we assume).

The charge of blasphemy and the sentence of death made Jesus an automatic outlaw among the people.  The council may have hoped that the people would engage in a mob mentality and stone Jesus (as they did to Stephen).  If not, they would take him before the Roman governor and request death.

Matthew 26:67-68 – Then they spit in his face and struck him.  And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”

Because they did not have the power to put Jesus to death, and because they could not be sure that the Romans would agree to be their executioner, they would abuse Jesus as much as possible while they had him in their power. 

Between the time that this meeting ended and the one at daybreak began, Jesus was subject to cruel torture by the Jews, the Roman guards and the servants of the court.   

Condemned prisoners are normally taken under special protection of the law and treated with compassion; their impending death is sufficient punishment.  But in this case, the Jews not only acted as though Jesus deserved death, they also denied him the compassion shown to the worst criminals in society.

They made a demonic sport of torturing Jesus, just as the Philistines had done to Sampson.

Isaiah 50:6 – I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked out the beard: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.  

Spitting in someone’s face is an expression of the greatest contempt and insult possible.  The face of our dear Savior was abused in the most filthy way by the cruelest and most vile of men. 

As if that were not despicable enough, according to the gospel of Mark (14:65), they blindfolded Jesus, and then began to slap and punch him in the mouth.  As they did so, they mocked him by asking him to divinely reveal who had hit him!  This depraved and degenerate mob freely abused Jesus; no one came to his aid.

Thus, our Lord and Savior was placed into the hands of his own wicked creatures, falsely accused by the witnesses, unjustly condemned by his judges and barbarously insulted by all!  Yet, he patiently submitted to this treatment without saying a single word.   

Matthew 26:69-70 – Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard.  And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.”  But he denied it before them all saying, “I do not know what you mean.”

Remember Peter?  Remember how confidently he declared that he would never forsake Jesus, no matter what happened?  Here is the record of how that turned out. 

Here was a chance for Peter to prove that he could do as he claimed.  Here was a chance to stand up for his Master.  Here was a chance for him to point out the injustice of what was being done to Jesus.  But as we would expect, his flesh fails him.  He does not have the courage to stand up for the truth.

Notice that Peter is sitting in the courtyard, outside the hall.  He is not facing the high priest or the Sanhedrin.  He is not facing a band of armed soldiers.  He is not facing death or even arrest.  In fact, he is terrified into denying Jesus by the voice of an insignificant servant girl, who carries no power or authority. 

This shows us how little confidence we should have in our flesh.  If our confidence and strength are not in God, if we do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit to provide strength and boldness to us, we too will fall in the slightest trial of our faith.

Matthew 26:71-72 – And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”  And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 

Scholars point to this passage of scripture (Matthew 26:69-75) as an indirect proof that the Bible is true.  If the gospel were the invention of man, we would not see one of Jesus’ disciples portrayed in such a weak and vile manner. 

This passage also shows that Peter reaped exactly what he had sown.

  • He sowed self confidence – He depended on himself rather than God.
  • He sowed indolence (he was apathetic/lazy) – Jesus told him to watch and pray, but he slept.
  • He planted seeds of compromise – He followed Jesus ‘far off’ rather than closely.
  • He planted himself in wicked company – Instead of being with Jesus, he was with the unbelieving crowd outside the court.

Based on what he planted, how can he be surprised when he reaps a fall from grace? 

What are you planting in your spiritual life right now?  Self confidence, apathy, compromise?  Or are you planting prayer, the word and hearing the call of the Spirit of God?

Today is the day to prepare for the storms of tomorrow.  Sow into the kingdom.  Invest in your relationship to God.  Then, when the day of trouble comes, you will be able to stand.

Matthew 26:73-74 – After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.”   Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.”  And immediately the rooster crowed.    

Although Peter has denied it, those around him are convinced that he is one of the followers of Jesus.  He has been spotted by eye witnesses.  Peter has a Galilean accent, and it was well known that some of the apostles were Galilean. 

But even in the face of this evidence, Peter does not want to confess it.  He further slides into sin by cursing himself and possibly even Jesus.

Here is a lesson for us:  A bold and open confession of Christ edifies all the godly, and puts unbelievers to shame.  On the other hand, if we deny Christ before the weak, they are shaken by our example and fall away.  Isn’t it true that we bear at least part if not most of the responsibility for the damage done to the faith of others by our actions?

Secondly, the church and the world are sometimes shocked by the sudden fall or misconduct of a renowned Christian.  As we noted, their fall will certainly cause other Christians to fall.  Their fall will cause the wicked to rejoice. 

If we could go back and find the root cause of their fall, it would surely be a private departure from God.  Men drift away from God and fall in private long before they fall in public. 

Matthew 26:75 – And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”  And he went out and wept bitterly.

I willingly admit that I love happy endings.  I hate reading a good book, only to find that the main character dies or winds up unsatisfied at the end of the story.

This narrative seems to have a very sad ending for Peter, but in reality, the opposite is true.  It is a happy ending because God does not abandon Peter to his sin.  Instead, God calls him back to himself.

God can and will use anything to get our attention.  In this case, the crowing of the rooster meant nothing to anyone else who heard it, but to Peter it was a call to repentance. The crowing of that rooster brought to mind something that Peter had forgotten or ignored – the words of Jesus.  Even though Peter had been overpowered by temptation and fallen into sin, God did not forsake him.  In fact, he wanted him back. 

Peter saw only his failure at that moment, but God saw the miracle that Peter would become – a strong, vibrant, Spirit filled apostle of Christ, who would help to establish the church.

Let me offer you some relief and encouragement:

God saw Peter’s failure at that moment in the courtyard of the high priest.  But he also saw what Peter would become in the future, after he had repented and allowed the Holy Spirit to empower him for service.  God saw that Peter would write books of the bible, help establish the church and its doctrine, and that he would be the first Jew to take the gospel to the Gentiles!

Maybe your recent walk with Christ has not been all that great.  Maybe you have not yet fulfilled the task that God as set before you.  The good news is that today is not the end!  You too can be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  So talk to Jesus TODAY.  See what God will do through you tomorrow!

Let me offer you some strength:

Sometimes, evil looks overwhelming.  It looks like good never triumphs.  But that is just an illusion.  You may not see everything that God is doing behind the scenes of your life (and the world), but I assure you he is working!  He is making all things work together for your good.  So be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might (Ephesians 6:10)!  Arm yourself for spiritual battle and watch as the Lord fights darkness through you!   




Matthew, Chapter 26, Part 4

Matthew 26:36 – Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.”

The account of Jesus in the Garden is also recorded in Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:39-46 and John 18:1. 

The Garden of Gethsemane was on the western side of the Mount of Olives.  The word ‘garden’ does not refer to a place in someone’s backyard where they grow tomatoes.  It would be more like a park with trees, water (the Kidron creek/brook) and possibly places to walk.  It was a place of refreshment, away from the noise and heat of the city.

Jesus in Gethsemane

The gospel of Luke indicates that Jesus frequently met with the apostles at this location (John 18:2).  This is evidence that Jesus did not go there in order to hide from his enemies.  The opposite was true.  He purposely went to a place that Judas was familiar with, spent time in prayer and waited for his enemies to come and arrest him. No man took his life from him; he laid it down himself.

John 10:17-18 – For this reason the Father loves me; because I lay down my life that I may 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 I have authority to take it up again.  This charge I have received from my Father.

He instructed most of the apostles to wait near the entrance, while he went further on to spend time in prayer.

Here is a lesson for us.  As the hour of greatest darkness loomed, Jesus spent time in prayer.  Communion with God sustained him during this tribulation.  We too can approach the throne room of God to find comfort in days of trial.

Did you know that the word ‘Gethsemane’ means ‘olive press’?  It was place where the olives were crushed and bruised in order for the oil to flow.  Many scholars see a parallel here – Jesus was crushed, bruised and pressed that atonement might flow from him.  They see this as Jesus treading the winepress of the wrath of God.

Here is another interesting thought:  Sin first entered our lives in a garden setting, and brought death with it.  Likewise, in a garden setting Jesus submits to death so that sin must now ‘exit’ our lives.   Kind of ironic, don’t you think?

Matthew 26:37 – And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.

While eight of the apostles are left near the entrance, Peter, James and John went further into the garden with Jesus.  These are the same men who were present on the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17) and also the three who witnessed Jesus bringing Jarius’ daughter back to life (Luke 8:51).  They had been witnesses of the glory and power of Jesus, now they would witness his humiliation which he suffered for our sake.

As Jesus was praying, he became sorrowful.  That word (sorrowful) is a very weak and inappropriate translation.  The original word means ‘to be pressed down or overwhelmed with extreme or severe anguish and horror; excruciating anxiety and torture of spirit’.  The word ‘sorrow’ does not even begin to express the true meaning of what happened to Jesus.   

This term has nothing to do with physical pain.  It refers to great emotional and spiritual distress. 

What was the cause of this suffering? 

In his Whole Bible Commentary, Matthew Henry asserts that in the garden Jesus began to take upon himself the iniquities of us all.  Most scholars are in agreement with him.  Jesus willingly accepted all the torment that the Father laid upon him, so that God’s wrath might be satisfied and the debt for sin paid.  Let us always remember that sin is never written off like a bad debt – it is paid in full by the suffering of Jesus.

So it was our sin that resulted in the excruciating sorrow and distress of Jesus.

Matthew 26:38 – Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here and watch with me.”

The unspeakable severity of the burden of sin was so great, that it nearly caused physical death in Jesus.  This burden would stay upon him until his death on the cross.   According to scholars, this did not happen little by little.  Sorrow surrounded him or was poured upon him on every side, breaking upon him with sudden violent force.  There was no escape from it.  

Thus, turning to his disciples, he explains that his torture is so intense, that it almost kills him; without support from God he would sink under this burden.  Therefore, he asks his disciples to watch with him, while he sought God.

The truth is that none of us can understand the agony of Jesus as he prayed in the garden that night.  None of us can fathom the crushing burden of sin that was placed on his sinless soul.  None of us know the extent to which Satan was allowed to tempt Jesus in this hour.  God alone knows and understands the extent of the suffering endured by Jesus for our sake. 

  • What we can do, is reverently and humbly bow before Jesus and thank him for being our scapegoat, our sacrificial lamb, and our Savior.
  • What we can do is honor and love him by obeying his commands.
  • What we can do is to share the gospel message with those who are still lost and dying; the price for their salvation has already been paid.

Matthew 26:39 – And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus wished for his chosen disciples to be near him in his woe, and yet, as it advanced, he felt the need to be alone with his Father, and so he left them to be alone.

In times of grief and sorrow, the body of Christ should comfort and sustain its fellow members.  It is our pleasure and our duty to do so.  We can comfort one another using calls, texts, hugs, food, cards, prayer, kind words, tears, and many other methods. 

But sometimes our burdens are so intense or our trials so difficult, that we instinctively turn to God alone. There are times when human comfort cannot console us. It is good to know that during these times, we can find comfort and strength in the presence of our Almighty heavenly Father.

Here Jesus speaks of drinking the cup that his Father had prepared for him.  The cup represents the pain and suffering of sin (the burden he was now bearing) and his imminent death on the cross. 

He begs God that if possible, this cup would pass, or in other words Jesus is asking if he might avoid the sufferings now at hand, or if the sufferings might be shortened in some manner.  This shows us that Jesus was really and truly human, because people are always adverse to pain and suffering.  This is a natural law of self preservation that is inherent in us when we are born.     

But despite the bitter pain and agony of his suffering, Jesus freely chooses to submit his will to the Father.  If drinking the cup is the only way to glorify God, defeat Satan and provide salvation for mankind, then Jesus will drink it.

Galatians 1:4 – Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God our Father:    

Jesus immediately puts his own will in line with the will of his heavenly Father.  This had been his practice since he came to earth.

John 5:30 – I can do nothing on my own.  As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Hebrews 10:9 – Then said he [Jesus], Lo, I come to do you will, O God.   

By submitting himself and his will to the will of God, Jesus obtained the strength and power to endure Calvary. 

This is a lesson for every Christian.  We need to submit or line up our wills with the will of God.  He alone can see the future and only he knows what is best for us.  To go against his will can only result in heartache and lost blessings for us.  

Matthew 26:40-41 – And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping.  And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

While this rebuke was given in the hearing of Peter, James and John, we cannot help but notice that Jesus addresses the comment specifically to Peter.

If Peter could not stay away and watch with his Savior for even an hour, how would he be able to remain faithful in all the trials that were coming upon him?  The rash zeal and self confidence he displayed earlier were going to be put to the test very shortly – and they were going to fail him.  

Jesus admonishes all of them to watch and pray.  This had nothing to do with security reasons.  Jesus was going to be arrested and put to death and he knew it.  Rather, he is calling the disciples to spiritual watching.  He is telling them to seek aid from God because they had need of power to overcome temptations.

Jesus tells them that their spirits/minds are ready and willing to bear the trials of life, but the flesh is not.  Our flesh is weak and fearful of danger, pain or discomfort.  It will lead you astray when trials come.  Therefore, we should pray that God will strengthen us to stand firm against temptation. 

Jesus is contrasting the fleshly self confidence of Peter with the true way to overcome temptation – to abide in God.  Thankfully, in the age of grace, we have access to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  He will aid us and strengthen us in resisting temptation.      

Matthew 26:42-44 – Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cup cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”  And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.  So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.

Here again, we find the scriptures bearing witness to two great truths:  

First, Jesus endured horrible, unspeakable suffering in his flesh and soul, as a man.  Had he not done so, the claim could be made that he never truly suffered and consequently made no atonement for sin. 

Secondly, we find that Jesus freely surrenders his life to the will of God.  Had God constrained him to give it, it would have ceased to be a free will offering and would therefore have been of no use in purchasing the salvation of mankind.

What are we to make of the disciples sleepiness?  Some feel that their lethargy was simply because they had been up nearly 24 hours at that point.  Others feel that they had great sorrow over the sufferings of their Master, and this sorrow brought about great drowsiness.  Still others feel they were influenced by the powers of darkness.  While we don’t know the exact cause, we do see that they were no real help or comfort to Jesus.  He was utterly alone in his trial.   

Matthew 26:45  – Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on.  See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”

Most interpreters suppose that this statement should have been translated as a question, rather than a command.  They suggest such things as this: ‘Do you still sleep?  Will no warnings avail?  Will no danger excite you to watchfulness and prayer?’  This is consistent with the account in the gospel of Luke, where he records the words of Jesus as a question, not a statement (Luke 22:46).

The phrase ‘hands of sinners’ refers to Gentiles.  Specifically, it applies to the soldiers that Judas brought with him in order to apprehend Jesus.

Matthew 26:46 – “Rise, let us be going; see my betrayer is at hand.”

There are two ways of answering a prayer for the removal of a burden.  In one, the burden is taken away and we remain unchanged.  In the other, we are strengthened so that the burden is bearable.

In this case, God did not take away the burden of sin from Jesus.  Instead, through his many prayers and supplications, Jesus received the strength from heaven that his flesh needed to finish the task he had willingly undertaken. 

This is proved by the words of Jesus in verse 46.  He is no longer prostrate on the ground.  He is done crying out to God.  He has full control of himself.  He calmly tells the disciples to wake up and get ready; he is going out to meet his betrayer and submit himself to death. 

Now, let’s give some consideration to our own spiritual lives.  Can you remember a time when you were carrying around a heavy burden?  Did you ask God to remove it?  I am sure you did, because this is the natural thing for a Christian to do. 

Did God remove it?  If not, were you angry at God for not doing as you asked?  Did you feel like he was punishing you unjustly?  Did you whine and cry about the unfairness of it?  Did you demand to know what you did to deserve it?  Did you allow this to become a wall or a stumbling block in your relationship with God?

I have known people to react in just such a manner.  This type of response shows spiritual immaturity. 

The mature child of God knows and understands that every trial is an opportunity to sharpen our spiritual strength.  Trials give us opportunities to trust in God, which allows us to stretch and grow our faith. This prepares us for bigger challenges. 

Prolonged trials teach us to dig into the word and stand on the promises of God.  They give us opportunities to practice fasting and waiting on the Lord.  They deepen the relationship between us and our Heavenly Father.   As we wait on God, we will receive strength and eventually, the burden becomes lighter and lighter, and we are able to manage it well, because we become stronger.

The eternal benefits of accepting and working through a burden are immense.  So, can we stop acting like spiritual 3-year-olds?  Can we believe that God is allowing a burden or a trial for our own good and the good of His kingdom?   Can we work with God, instead of against Him as he matures us?  The choice is yours.

Psalms 138:3 – In the day when I cried you answered me, and strengthened me with strength in my soul.

2 Corinthians 12:9 – And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness…

It’s okay to ask God to remove a burden or deliver you from a trial.  But remember, God sees your big picture.  He knows what tomorrow holds.  He knows your limits.  So if you don’t find deliverance, then accept that God knows what he is doing, and that He is working all things out for your good.    

Matthew 26:47 – While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people.

John gives us a more specific description of this crowd:

John 18:3 – Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.

So, obviously we have the traitor Judas, who is the leader.  He has ‘a band’ of men with him.  The literal translation is actually ‘the band’ and it refers to a specific cohort of soldiers. 

Because of the great multitude of people who flocked into Jerusalem for the Passover, Pilate automatically assigned a group of Roman soldiers to keep watch/stand guard by the temple.  They were under the authority of the high priest.  If any disorder or riot broke out, they were there to restore peace. This accounts for the men with swords. 

There were also ‘officers from the chief priests and Pharisees’.  These were Levites who were the normal temple guards and they were most likely armed with clubs.

This group came with torches and lanterns, probably because it was still before dawn and it would have been dark as they left the city. 

Now, put yourself in the shoes of the disciples for a moment.  There are 11 of you, plus Jesus.  You have no military experience.  You are unarmed, except for two small swords used for protection against robbers (Luke 22:38).  You are physically and mentally exhausted.  Jesus has just told you to get up, because he is now going to turn himself over to be crucified.  And the next thing you see is this imposing group of armed, trained soldiers.  What would be your first reaction?  I think mine would be fear!

Matthew 26:48-49 – Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.  And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him.

It was dark and the Roman soldiers were not familiar with Jesus.  So Judas worked out a signal with them – he would identify Jesus with a kiss, and a greeting of Rabbi. 

It was customary among the Jews, that when friend meets friend, they salute one another with a kiss.  It would seem that when Judas kissed Jesus, he did that which all the apostles were accustomed to do, when they met their Master after an absence. 

Matthew 26:50 – Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.”  Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him.

It seems strange that Jesus would call his betrayer a friend.  If you go back to the original Greek, the word is more properly translated ‘companion’ or ‘comrade’, which makes more sense.  

Obviously, Jesus is not fooled by this pretence of affection by Judas.  He admonishes the traitor to get to the point; to do what he came to do.

Matthew 26:51 – And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.

Who was the swordsman who cut off this man’s ear? What was the injured man’s name?

According to the gospel of John, Peter was the swordsman. The injured man’s name was Malchus (John 18:10).

According to the gospel of Luke, Jesus took the time to stop and heal the man’s ear (Luke 22:50-51).  In order to do so, he either had to pick up the ear and put it back on the guy’s head, or he had to create a new ear.  Either way, it was a miracle that could only be produced by the unlimited power of God.

So the final earthly miracle that Jesus performs was unexpected and unsolicited by the recipient.  In fact, it was performed upon an enemy actually engaged in hostility against Jesus.  What a striking demonstration of mercy and forgiveness!  

Matthew 26:52 – Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place.  For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

Jesus rebukes Peter for his rash action.  Starting a fight with 11 men and 2 swords against a crowd of armed and trained soldiers is a really bad idea.  In fact, had it not been for the providence and care of Jesus, the entire group of apostles may well have been immediately cut in pieces.

If Jesus had instructed Peter to do so, that would have been a completely different scenario.  God can and will do the miraculous, but we need to follow his lead in that regard. In this case, Peter was acting against the will of God.

Matthew 26:53 – “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?”

What good was Peter’s sword anyway?  If Jesus chose to, he could have requested and received a limitless supply of help from heaven.  Jesus did not need Peter or his sword to rescue him.  In fact, Peter’s actions showed distrust in the providence and power of God, and ignorance of the scriptures. 

The battle that was being fought that day was not a physical one.  It was a spiritual battle that manifested itself in the natural realm. So Peter’s misguided efforts were of no avail.  

Matthew 26:54 – “But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”

It is obvious to us that the scriptures foretold the death/sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the world.  Having finished the work that the Father gave him to do, it was now time for Jesus to give up his life.  So any attempt on the part of the disciples to stop the process was futile.

However, the disciples did not have the benefit of hindsight like we do.  I am sure they were still adjusting to the situation.  The words of Jesus are just one more reminder that everything was progressing exactly as God had planned it from the very beginning of time. 

You know, God also knows about your life.  Psalms 139 tells us that God knew every one of the days of your life, before you were ever born.  It tells us that God knows when you sit down, when you get up and every word that is on your lips before it is spoken.

It also says that he has hedged you in, going before and after you to protect you.

Psalm 139:5 – You have hedged me behind and before, and laid your hand upon me.

So no matter what trials you are experiencing right now, God is right there.  No matter what uncertainties we face (changes in government leadership, the virus, raging fires, intense storms, unemployment, etc), God is right here.  None of this is a surprise to him.  Therefore, He can guide you through what seems to be difficult times.  Seek him in prayer as Jesus did.  He will give you strength and wisdom to bear your burdens and be victorious!

Matthew 26:55 – At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me?  Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me.”

At this time there were robbers who frequently hid in caves along the highways and preyed upon travelers.  They were notoriously violent and wicked.  The government sent armed soldiers out to hunt down and capture these criminals.

And now, they are treating Jesus in much the same manner even though he is neither wicked nor violent.  He sat peaceably in the temple on many occasions.  At other times, he was out in public ministering.  Jesus was never armed, nor did he hide from the Romans or the Jews.  They could have taken him at any time.  The large armed force sent to ‘capture’ him was an unnecessary insult.

Matthew 26:56 – “But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.”  Then all the disciples left him and fled.

Jesus makes sure to give witness that the events which were taking place at that moment were not controlled by mankind.  They were the result of the will and plans of God himself. They had been predicted hundreds of years before, and could easily be verified by looking at the Old Testament scriptures.

As we have already discussed, one of these scriptures foretold that when the shepherd was struck, the sheep would be scattered.  Thus, the disciples left Jesus and fled.

Let me offer you some encouragement:

We looked at the suffering of Jesus in the garden.  We saw that God did not remove his burden, but strengthened him that he could bear it. 

If you are facing a heavy burden today, let me encourage you to do the same thing that Jesus did – spend time in prayer.  Pour your heart out before God.  Ask him to strengthen you so that you too can bear whatever burden you have.  By seeking him, you will find strength, rest and a deepening of the relationship between you and the Lord. 

Burdens and trials are not pleasant, but they do much for our eternal growth and our relationship with God.

Let me offer you some relief:

What can we say about the actions of the disciples during this time?  They appear to be scared and weak.  But the good news is that they did not end up that way!  Once they were baptized in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, they became bold witnesses for Christ.  They were no longer afraid of what man could do to them.

Are you weak or fearful of what could happen to you for your faith?  Jesus is still baptizing people with the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is still providing the strength and boldness you need to live an amazing, powerful life for Christ.  Why not pray and ask Jesus about your relationship with the Holy Spirit?

Let me offer you some strength:

Despite what things look like around you, God is in control of the world.  He continues to hold it in place as it spins around the sun.  He is bigger and more powerful than the affairs of men.  Nothing happens without his consent.  Things that do happen, happen on God’s time schedule. 

In the midst of all of that, God is still acutely aware of each individual person.  He is still seeking the lost.  He is still breathing new life into babies.  He is still calling saints home to be with him.  And He, the Almighty God and Everlasting Father, still desires to have a close, intimate relationship with YOU.  He desires to find you in his throne room, asking for his help.  He desires to impart his strength into your body, soul and spirit.  Won’t you spend some time with him today?  





Matthew, Chapter 26, Part 3

Matthew 26:31 – Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of m this night.  For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”

Wow!  Jesus’ last night on earth is proving to be emotionally draining to the apostles. 

First, Jesus washes their feet (John 13).  This was an utterly unexpected act, which the disciples were hesitant to accept at first.  I am sure it made them uncomfortable.  But they followed the leading of Jesus, despite its unconventional nature. 

Just as things seem to get back to normal during the Passover celebration, Jesus makes the shocking revelation that one of them would betray him.  All of them are alarmed and horrified.  There would have been a great tide of raw emotion as each one questions if he might be the one.  But then a wave of sweet relief washed over the eleven, as each one realized he was not the one.   

I am sure they were expecting a typical ending to the Passover celebration; an ending like dozens of endings they had experienced in the past.  But not that night!  At the close of Passover, Jesus institutes a new sacrament – communion. 

Again, a feeling of normalcy must have taken over as they sung the closing hymns and gave thanks to God.  But as they depart for the Mount of Olives, Jesus blows their minds again:  that very night, in a matter of hours, they will ALL abandon the Teacher/Messiah that they love so dearly!

Can you imagine the second wave of shock and disbelief that overcomes them?  Furthermore, Jesus tells them that their abandonment of him was prophesied hundreds of years before:  

Zechariah 13:7 – “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,” declares the Lord of hosts.  “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones.”

In Zechariah, God speaks of awakening or permitting the sword of his wrath to fall upon the shepherd (Jesus) and smite him.  This speaks of the suffering that Jesus would endure on earth before and during his crucifixion. 

Once that sword of suffering began to fall, the sheep (disciples) would be scattered (run away, abandon Jesus).  This was perfectly fulfilled on the night Jesus was betrayed.

Scattered is an interesting term.  It means to strew about or to separate in different directions.  In other words, once Jesus was arrested, each disciple immediately turned to the care of himself without regard for Jesus or their fellow apostles.  When death drew close, it was instantly ‘every man for himself’. 

Matthew 26:32 – “But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”

But again, words of hope and comfort are given to the followers of Jesus.  They hardly had time to process the fact that they would abandon the savior before he assures them that their actions will not be the end of the relationship.   

They will forsake Jesus, but He will be faithful to them.  They are going to stumble, but He will pick them up.  Once He is risen, He will tenderly and lovingly gather them together again.  He will go before them, as a true shepherd goes before his sheep. 

Matthew 26:33 – Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.”

Peter adamantly rejects notion that he would ever abandon Christ.  With the utmost confidence he binds himself to a promise – ‘I will not be offended and run away’.  But he doesn’t stop there; he presumptuously claims that he would NEVER be offended in Christ. 

Hmm… had his declaration been made in an attitude of humble dependency upon the grace of God, it might have been acceptable. But clearly, it was being made out of confidence in his own fleshly power and courage.

Evidently, down in his heart, he feels that he is better than his fellow disciples; they may fall, but he will not.  His pride and self confidence are readily apparent in his conversation.  He assumes that he is safe from any and all temptations and weaknesses that are common to mankind. 

In reality, he has no idea just how weak he truly is! 

Matthew 26:34 – Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”

Peter is sure that he will escape the temptation better than any of his fellow apostles, but in fact, he will do worse.  He would not only run away out of fear, but he would disown Jesus – not once, but three separate times.

Matthew 26:35 – Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!”  And all the disciples said the same.

Clearly Peter knew what he SHOULD do – die with Christ rather than denying him (Luke 14:26).

He knew what he WANTED to do – be faithful to his Lord, no matter what the cost (Luke 9:62).

Though his intentions were noble, he was POWERLESS to stand when the trial/temptation came. 

Peter would soon find out that although death does not look so formidable at a distance, it can be scary close up!  When it draws near, your natural (fleshly) reactions are fear and flight.  Sure enough, when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, fear took over, and Peter fled the scene. 

What about us?  Are we in a position to stand firm when trials and temptations come to us?  How can we avoid the same mistake that Peter made on that long ago night?

One thing we can do is make sure we are wearing the full armor of God:

Ephesians 6:11-12 – Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places.

The apostles failed to stand that night because they were operating in their own fleshly power.  It takes spiritual weapons to fight spiritual battles.  Spiritual attacks can only be thwarted with spiritual defenses: 

Ephesians 6:13 – Therefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Let’s take a quick review of the spiritual armor available to us:

Ephesians 6:14 – Stand therefore, having your loins girded about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

Integrity, holiness and purity in life are automatic defenses against many of the assaults of Satan.  There is an old saying ‘those who play with fire get burned’.  Don’t play with sin – if you do, temptation will overcome you every time.

One of the greatest defenses you have is truth.  This doesn’t mean just telling the truth in everyday life.  The Bible tells us that God’s word is truth (John 17:17).  It is vital that you know and recognize truth as defined in the Bible, because the world is constantly whispering lies into your ears. 

  • The world says that sexual perversions are legitimate alternate lifestyles.  God says that marriage is exclusively between one man and one woman.
  • The world says that all religions can coexist; all roads lead to heaven.  The bible says Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Him.
  • The world says you are descended from a monkey.  The bible says that man was created in the image of God.
  • The world says that God is either dead or powerless.  The bible says that Jesus reigns and that he will one day put all enemies under his feet.   

I am sure that each of us could give many other examples.  The point is, if you want to stand in times of trial and temptation, you need to know what the truth really is! 

Ephesians 6:15-16 –  And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  

Do you have your shoes on?  Are you ready to give a simple account of the gospel message to those around you?  If not, take the time to put together some scriptures so that you are ready to harvest a life for Christ when the opportunity arises.

What about your shield?  Is it a big, thick, formidable one, or a small, thin weak one? 

Good news: you can strengthen your shield of faith.    

Is your armor in good shape?
  • Every time you pray, you are exercising faith.  If you didn’t believe that God hears and answers prayer, you would not bother to pray!
  • When you claim and/or speak one of God’s promises over your life or the life of someone you know, you are exercising faith in the promises of God.  When he answers, your faith grows and is strengthened.
  • When you obey the commandments of God, you are practicing faith in his word.  
  • When you testify about something that you believe God is going to do for you, even though you have not seen it happen yet, you are exercising faith.

The shield protects every part of the body by deflecting or blocking attacks.  Likewise, your faith will protect every aspect of your life, if it is strong enough.

Ephesians 6:17 – And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Are you wearing your helmet?  Are you convinced of having salvation and the blessings of God in the next life?  The assurance of an eternity spent with God can strengthen hope and resolve which can aid you in the fight against evil.

The sword makes another reference to the word of God.  When Jesus fought with Satan during the wilderness temptation, what did he use to defeat him?  That’s right – the word of God.  The same word that is available to you right now.  You should have some of that word hidden in your heart so you can use it on command when temptations and afflictions arise, just as Jesus did.

Are there other things that will help us stand in the day of temptation? Most assuredly!

1 Corinthians 10:13 – There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Here is an exceedingly great promise from God that we can use for our benefit.  God has provided an escape route for us, in each and every temptation that the enemy throws our way.  We must train ourselves to look for that escape hatch.   

For instance, let’s suppose that you have a problem with envy.  Anytime you see someone with something wonderful, you want it for yourself.   Your desire is so great, that you are angry at the other person’s happiness.

What ways of escape might be open to you, as you fight this temptation/sin?

First off, you could use the sword of the Spirit to knock down the bullet of envy by quoting Luke 12:15 to yourself:

Luke 12:15 – And he [Jesus] said to them, Take heed and beware of covetousness; for a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses. 

That would stop your envy quickly, wouldn’t it?  During that moment when envy is pushed back, you could begin to list the things in your life that you are thankful for.  As you begin to dwell on how good God has been to you now, and the wonderful things that will be yours in eternity, envy will have to leave.  So in this case, thankfulness would be an escape hatch against envy.

Another idea would be to begin to worship God, the giver of all good and perfect gifts.  As we enter into his presence through worship, no evil can follow; envy will depart from us when we are in God’s throne room.  Remember David and King Saul?  When the evil spirit came to torment the king, David would play songs of praise on his harp, and the demon would leave.  Why was that?  Because God inhabits our praise, and the demon could not stay in God’s presence.

Perhaps a third idea would be to call a spiritual friend.  Let them know you are having an attack, and you need some support.  The two of you could talk until your temptation passes.

Phone a friend

So stop and think for a moment – what temptations/sins are the most difficult for you to battle against?  What scriptures could you use to deflect an attack?  How could you use your faith to block an attack?  What possible escape hatches can you find?  I encourage you to prepare now, before the next attack comes!

Of course, the ultimate source of power that God has given to every Christian is his Holy Spirit.  It was the Holy Spirit that transformed the cowering, fearful disciples into mighty, fearless witnesses for God.

In Matthew 26, we found Peter running away in fear and denying Jesus.  Yet, at the end of his life he was willingly crucified for his faith in Christ.  Foxes’ Book of Martyrs tells us that Peter did not think himself worthy to die in the same manner as Jesus, so he requested to be crucified upside down. Can you imagine that?   

The Holy Spirit empowers us for service.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit Peter lived a holy life, won people to Christ, performed miracles, refuted false teaching, wrote two books of the New Testament, brought the Gentiles into the church, and many other things. 

It was the Holy Spirit who equipped him to carry out the divine mission that God had appointed for him.  The Holy Spirit is still available to believer today:

Acts 2:38-39 – Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.   

His mission has not changed. He is here on earth, willing to baptize and equip any follower of Jesus with the power needed to stand in the time of temptation,  and to fulfill the unique destiny that God has appointed for each one of us. 

Why not spend some time in prayer this week, asking Jesus if you need more of the Holy Spirit in your life?  If you do, be open to a move of God in your life.

Let me offer you some encouragement:

You are not helpless and alone in the fight against temptation and evil.  Far from it!  God has given you spiritual armor to aid in your battle.  He has given you his word; the same word Jesus used to defeat Satan during His temptation.  And He has given you (or is willing even now to give you) a new infilling of his Holy Spirit. 

So don’t live your life discouraged.  Live in victory by using the power and skills that God has given to you.

Let me offer you some relief: 

Have you ever wondered whether or not you would be strong enough to be a martyr for Christ?  I can answer that for you. 

If you were to depend on your own power and determination, you would fail just as Peter did on that Passover night so long ago.  Your flesh does not have the power to be a martyr.

But here is the relief – you don’t have to depend on your own power!  If you are full of the Holy Spirit he would empower you to be victorious in all your spiritual struggles.  Through Him, you would certainly be able to withstand evil, even to the point of death.   

Let me offer you some strength:

God has created you to be victorious in the face of evil.  He does not want you to be cowering and fearful.  He will provide you with the strength necessary to be faithful to him until he returns or calls you home.

Isaiah 41:10 – Fear not; for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you; yea, I will help you; yea, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.

Matthew, Chapter 26, Part 2

Immediately after the Passover, Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper, or what we commonly call communion.  You may also hear it referred to as the Eucharist or the Holy Eucharist.  These terms all refer to the same thing – the sacrament or ceremony of commemorating the death of Christ by using bread and wine as the appointed emblems of the communion.   

Communion is considered a sacrament by all Christians.  (A sacrament is a solemn religious ordinance given by Christ, the head of the church, to be observed by his followers.) 

Protestants believe there are two sacraments – communion and baptism. 

Catholics believe there are seven – communion, baptism, confirmation, penance, anointing of the sick, matrimony and holy orders.

Although all Christians believe in the sacrament of communion, different groups view it in vastly different ways.  As a result, communion has become a source of division in the world wide body of Christ.  This lesson is written from the Protestant point of view, however, we will mention some opposing beliefs at the end of this lesson.

But for now, let’s turn to scripture.  The sacrament of communion is recorded here in Matthew, as well as in Mark 14:22-26 and Luke 22:15-20.  It is also referenced by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25.  We will be referencing all of these scriptures in this lesson, so you might want to take a few minutes to read them.

Let’s consult the scriptures.

Before we dig in to each aspect of the sacrament, let’s examine the overall view of what is happening here.  Jesus was creating a remembrance of our redemption/salvation. 

Picture this event as a moment frozen in time.   Up until this very moment, God’s people have lived under the Old Covenant or the Law.  They have observed the feast of Passover, a sacrament of the law which was a shadow or picture of the redemption that was to come by the Messiah. 

In less than 24 hours, Jesus would end (fulfill) the Old Covenant by sacrificing himself for the sins of the world. 

In doing so, he ushers in the New Covenant, the kingdom of heaven, the age of grace.  The New Covenant requires a new sacrament – and so Jesus conducts the very first communion service with his disciples, only minutes after observing the final Passover.  

Consider how astounding this truly is – scripture has given us a snapshot of the exact moment of the transition between the old and the new sacraments. 

Within hours of the time the ‘snapshot’ of this event took place, another event occurred.  It is also recorded in Holy Scripture.  It too, is a snapshot forever frozen in time – the most stunning, mind blowing, epic event that has ever taken place in the history of the world – the sacrifice of Jesus Christ!

It is this extraordinary event that we commemorate as we observe the sacrament of communion.   Communion should never be approached with a casual air or indifferent attitude.  It is not just an empty ritual in remembrance of an event long past.  It is the impartation of life to every believer in Jesus Christ, in every generation.  So let’s take a closer look at the scriptures.  It is my hope that you will be never look at communion the same way after this study.     

Matthew 26:26 – Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”

First, we see that Jesus ‘took bread’.  In other words, he picked up some of the bread that was already at hand.  Remember, this event is happening at the close of the Passover meal.  As we mentioned last time, Passover was immediately followed by the seven day feast of unleavened bread.  During that time, the Jews completely removed all traces of leaven from their homes and even businesses.  Therefore, there can be no doubt that the bread used in the first communion was unleavened bread.  It would have been a thin cake, easily broken and distributed.

The bread itself was ordinary, readily available, unleavened bread.  There was nothing particularly special about it.  However, because Jesus ‘took it’ or set it apart for holy purposes, it became holy.

This is how we should view the bread in our present day sacrament of communion.  Although it may come from a common, every day source, it has been taken or set apart for a holy purpose.  We should always make sure that we respect the communion elements.

In the scriptures, leaven often represents sin.  The first communion bread did not contain any leaven; therefore it symbolically contained no sin or was sinless.  This makes it a good comparison to Jesus since he truly was sinless.  This is not the first time Jesus has used this comparison: 

John 6:35 – And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life…

Jesus is the bread of life.  Just as physical bread is needed for life and nourishment of the flesh, the sacrifice of Christ’s body is needed for life and nourishment of the soul. 

So we find that Jesus makes a comparison between himself and the bread.  The bread is not really his body; Jesus is speaking symbolically.  He has done this many times in the past.  For instance, he calls himself the ‘vine’ in John 15:1, and the ‘door’ in John 10:7. But he was never really a literal, physical vine or door.  Jesus was comparing himself to these items, just as he compared himself to the communion bread.

Jesus blesses the bread.  The word translated ‘blessing’ has also been translated as ‘give thanks’ in other scriptures (see John 6:11).  During the blessing of the elements, Jesus acknowledges God as the author of every good and perfect gift.  While the Jews were accustomed to give thanks to God for all earthly food, this was different.  This thanksgiving was to center on the spiritual aspect of the elements – the atonement of Christ which resulted in the eternal salvation of the human race.  

Since the bread represented his body, the breaking of the bread represented the sufferings of Jesus that were about to take place – his body was wounded, pierced, bruised and finally broken by death.  Why?  What was the purpose? 

It was to make atonement for our sins; to purchase our redemption with his priceless, sinless blood: 

1 Corinthians 11:24 – And when he [Jesus] had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 

The suffering and sacrifice of Jesus are the exact things that Jesus is instructing us to vividly remember during the communion service:

Luke 22:19 – …This is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.

As we come into God’s presence during communion and stop to consider what Jesus went through during the crucifixion, our hearts should be stirred.  As we look at the bread and juice, we are reminded that he was whipped, mocked, abandoned, pierced with nails, crowned with thorns and hung up to die a painful humiliating death. Worst of all, He experienced spiritual separation from God.  As he assumed all of our sin upon himself, He was cut off from the Father. 

Not only do we stop to consider the suffering of Christ, we need to stop and consider the cause of that suffering – us.  It was your sin and my sin that put Jesus up on that cross.  Communion is a time to reflect how much our sin actually cost the Son of God.

So, by participating in communion, we publicly acknowledge our sense of guilt and need of a savior.   We also publicly declare our trust in Jesus and our love for him, as well as or desire to be with him always.  Consideration of these vital truths will increase our faith, lift our hope, enlarge our love, and strengthen us against sin.   The rite of communion is not just an empty ritual.  It brings spiritual life to you and me.  

Have you noticed that Satan loves to constantly remind us of our sin?  He desires to render us ineffective for Christ by getting us to dwell on the shame and guilt of our failures. 

But this spell is broken when we enter into communion.  Yes, we know we have sinned; but the bread is a clear reminder that our sin has been atoned for.  Our part is to ‘take and eat’ the bread or to appropriate the sacrifice of Jesus with our faith. 

Matthew 26:27-28 – And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Jesus instituted the use of two elements in the communion rite.  The second is the cup.  Our physical bodies require both food and drink to be sustained.  Likewise, our spiritual man needs both elements, and both are provided exclusively by the sacrifice of Jesus. 

The wine or juice represent the blood of Jesus and are referred to as the cup.

What do the scriptures teach us about blood?

For one thing, they tell us that the life of every living thing is in its blood:

Deuteronomy 12:23 – Only be sure that you eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and you may not eat the life with the flesh.  

It also tells us that blood is required for the remission of sin:

Leviticus 17:11 – For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul.

Hebrews 9:22 – Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

This was clearly evident under the Law/Old Covenant, which was ratified when Moses literally sprinkled the blood of an animal on the Israelites:

Exodus 24:8 – And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you concerning all these words.

Under the Law, only those of Israel could obtain forgiveness through sacrifice.  All Gentiles were excluded. 

Nearly every sacrifice required blood to be shed and sprinkled on the altar and once a year, the high priest had to sprinkle blood on the Mercy Seat within the Holy of Holies to cover the sins of Israel for another year.  This was done year, after year, after year, because the blood of animals could not provide permanent restitution for sin.

The Old Covenant was a shadow of what would take place in the New Covenant, when Jesus would shed his perfect blood for the permanent atonement of sin:

Hebrews 9:12-14 –  Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.  For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh:  How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Keeping in mind that there is no remission of sin without blood, notice the emphasis placed upon the cup by Jesus.  While he simply told them to eat the bread, he expressly states that ALL are to drink of the cup. Thus, all believers in all ages whether Jew or Gentile, are commanded to drink.  This is because the cup represents the very essence of our redemption – the blood of Christ poured out for the remission of our sin.  The blood/cup is what actually ratifies the New Covenant.  Without it we have nothing. 

So, we see that communion is a wonderful and glorious expression of grace – the undeserved favor of God – upon our lives and immortal souls!  We bring nothing to the new covenant except our needs – the need for forgiveness, the need for healing, the need for rescue, the need for love, the need for righteousness, etc.  For his part, God brings to the New Covenant everything that you and I have need of, PLUS benefits we never imagined in our wildest dreams!  And the factor that ratified this covenant between God and Man was the blood of Jesus. 

It should be noted that partaking of communion does not save your soul.  Each one of us must expressly apply the blood of Jesus to our own spiritual lives/hearts, because that is the way appointed by God for the pardon of our sin.  Communion symbolizes the atonement that has already been applied to our lives.   

Matthew 26:29 – “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Two important things are indicated here.  One, Jesus is going to die.  Therefore, he will not be on earth to lead the communion celebration again.  Obviously, that is not a shock to any of us.  However, for the apostles, these words of Jesus were an immense consolation.  While they were pained by the thought of him dying, Jesus confirms that his death is not a final separation.

This brings up the second point.  One day, you and I and all the other followers of Christ will be reunited together in the kingdom of Heaven.  At that time, we will partake of new wine as we enjoy everlasting communion with our Savior and we celebrate the blessings and triumphs of redemption.  Clearly, communion is not just looking back to what happened thousands of years ago.  It also looks forward to a future where we are in Heaven with Jesus, in the presence of God.  It is a future where we will enjoy a healthy, fulfilling, productive existence – forever! 

1 Corinthians 11:26 – For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he comes.

How often are we to take communion?  The scriptures are not specific on this point; you can observe the rite of communion as often as you need it.  There may be times when once every month or so is enough.  But there may be times of chaos in your life where you feel like you need to partake of the Lord’s table daily. 

The only thing we can say for sure is that communion is a perpetual ordinance; we are to continuously observe this sacrament until we die, or Jesus returns. 

Matthew 26:30 – And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

It was customary for the Jews to sing or chant the 113th, 114th, 115th, 116th, 117th and 118th Psalms during the Passover celebration.  The 114th and 118th were typically sung during the observance of the Passover meal, and the rest at the close of the celebration.  There is no reason to believe that Jesus sung anything else on the evening he instituted the rite of communion.

This in itself is very instructive.  You would do well to take a look at these six short Psalms. 

  • The 113th Psalm has 9 verses and focuses on praise to God.  For instance, this is verse 2:

Psalms 113:2 – Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore!

  • The 115th contains 18 verses and speaks of the glory of God and how he blesses his children.
  • The 116th Psalm has 19 verses and speaks of God’s righteousness and mercy; it reflects on our deliverance from death and affliction.
  • The 117th Psalm has 2 verses; it instructs us to praise our God!

Do you see a pattern here? 

Praise and worship are a part of communion.  Not only do we remember our sins and reflect on the price that our Savior paid, but in the end there is great rejoicing and cause for celebration. 

Who rescues us, and showers us with mercy?  Who delivers us from death and affliction?  Who exhibits steadfast love and faithfulness to us?  Is it not Jesus, our Redeemer, our Savior, our King?   How can communion end in anything but great joy, as we realize the new life and freedom we have in Christ?  At the close of communion, we should be bursting with praise and worship to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!  Hallelujah!

Additional Viewpoints:

Previously, we noted that Protestants and Catholics both believe in the sacrament of communion, but practice it in vastly different ways.  One of the major differences is how the two groups view the actual elements. 

Protestants view the bread and juice as exactly that – bread and juice.  They are symbols that represent the body and blood of Christ, nothing more.

Catholics, however, believe in transubstantiation, which is defined as ‘a change into another substance’.  Roman Catholics believe that the bread becomes the actual flesh of Jesus and the juice becomes the actual blood of Jesus as the elements are consecrated by the priest, however, the elements still appear as bread and wine.

The Lutherans and Anglicans have yet another point of view.  They believe in consubstantiation.  In this doctrine, the bread is both bread and the body of Christ at the same time.  The juice is both juice and the blood of Christ at the same time.

An in depth study of other viewpoints is outside of the scope of this lesson.  However, there are many other resources that you can access if you wish to do a self study on the different practices of communion.  

Let me offer you some encouragement:  Communion connects us to the past.  As we take a quiet moment of reflection to recall Christ’s sacrifice for us, we should be encouraged.  Even though thousands of years have passed, His blood never loses its power or runs dry.  We may stumble and fall in our Christian walk; we may sometimes make poor choices or give into sin.  But forgiveness is still available through the precious blood of Christ. 

Let me offer you some relief:   Communion is relevant for the present day.  It reminds us to rejoice in the New Covenant that Jesus has brokered between God and mankind.  Because of that covenant, you and I can walk in victory every day.  So if the chaos of the world is getting you down, look for relief at the communion table.  Spend time praising and worshipping our Redeemer.  Dwell on the mighty promises of the Word.  Soon you will find relief from the uncertainties of daily life. 

Let me offer you some strength:  Communion connects us with the future.  It strengthens us with the promises of tomorrow.  It reminds us that one day, Jesus will return for his church.  We will spend eternity with Him in the kingdom of heaven, where he will once again drink of the fruit of the vine with us.   Hallelujah!