Archive for June 9th, 2017

Matthew 27

Matthew 27 has Jesus arrested and in custody.  “When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death”.  Judas Iscariot has betrayed Him into their hands, and now they want to continue their mission to kill Him and take away His threat to their power.  They drag him before Pilate accusing Him of all sorts of lies.  “Are you  the King of the Jews”?  This was the area they focused on – trying to get Jesus to declare Himself a political rival to the governor.  But “he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed”.

The religious leaders focused on building a frenzy in the people that were there to kill Jesus.  And rather than do what was right, or even what his wife told him to do, Pilate gives Him over to be killed. The chapter describes the details of the crucifixion.  Jesus is put on a cross between two common criminals.  He chooses to give His life freely – not because He has to – but because He chooses to as a fulfillment of God’s plan to save mankind.  When He dies, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 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”.

The impact of His death was immediate.  “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 people couldn’t see that Jesus was God’s Son before, but as His death and the power it has are experienced, they realize that He was in fact not a criminal, but the Son of God.  “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”.

The religious leaders were afraid that killing Him wouldn’t end the impact of Jesus’ life. They acknowledged that Jesus had said “After three days I will rise. Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people”,  They were concerned that somehow the disciples would steal the body and create a problem where Jesus’ body was gone and thus He had done as He said.  So they go to Pilate and ask for soldiers to guard the tomb.  “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”.  Jesus’ body is in the tomb, guarded by a group of soldiers.

Matthew 26

Matthew 26 tells the story of Jesus last few days before His crucifixion.  Jesus prepares the disciples for what is to come.  “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified”.  As much as He’s hinted about it up to this point, it now becomes very clear and very real.  For one of the twelve, it becomes an opportunity to line his own pockets.  “Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you”?  Judas was in it for his own good, and was going to capitalize on the coming events.

But before that, Jesus wants to spend an evening with His disciples.  Much as He had done with the donkey that carried him to town, He sends His disciples to prepare a place.  “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him”.  Not a lot of detail, but as before, it worked out.  As they sat together Jesus drops a bomb on the group.  “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me”.  Of course, everyone is taken aback.  They ask “Is it I, Lord” and Jesus subtly points out that it will be Judas.  But His main focus is preparing the twelve for the future and establishing the sacrament we know today as communion.  “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.” 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”.

They end their time around the table and Jesus takes them to the Mount of Olives to prepare for what comes next – His betrayal.  Jesus had told them earlier that they would fall away that very night.  But Peter, bold as ever, says “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you”!  We’ll find out soon enough that was an overstatement.  Jesus goes off to pray saying “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me”.  He asks Peter, James and John to go further with Him than the rest and to pray for Him.  “And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping”.

He challenges them and says “So, could you not watch with me one hour”?  He asks them to pray once again, “And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy”.  Jesus goes off a third time and when He returns they prepare to meet Judas who is bringing the religious leaders so he can betray the Christ.  The disciples want to fight to protect Jesus, but He tells them to stop.  “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels”?  This isn’t about power, but Jesus’ choice to give His life freely for the forgiveness of our sin.  This is where grace was born!

Jesus knew God’s plan for saving the world, or at least offering the means by which salvation can come.  He was aligned with what God was up to and says “all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled”.  This isn’t accidental or unplanned.  This is exactly as God had intended.  As Jesus is arrested and taken, Peter follows at a distance and then, as he watches from afar, three different people recognize him.  He denies each, more vehemently each time.  And as he denied Christ the third time, “immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly”.  All this happened to fulfill the prophecy that had been given throughout the Old Testament.  Jesus is the Christ, God’s plan for saving us from sin!

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