Jonah 2: The Penitent Prophet

It is a form of salvation for Jonah when he is swallowed by the whale. Despite his sins of running from God’s directive and from His presence, God still provides a way for Jonah to live when he is tossed overboard by the sailors.

The Bible describes the whale as a great fish. We call it a whale today because we know it is the largest animal in the ocean and possibly capable of swallowing a man. It is possible that a now extinct mammalian fish capable of sustaining a human inside its body for three days swallowed Jonah and is now extinct. Whether a whale or something else large and extinct, Jonah was inside its body for three days. 

While inside the belly of the great fish, Jonah recognized his extremely unlikely situation and gave thanksgiving to God for saving him. In this instance, Jonah is more like a prophet than we have heretofore seen him. He communes with Good in a prayer in this chapter that recognizes God’s providence, mercy and saving power.

Jonah’s expressions in his prayer are poetic and reveal that he is very much aware of the danger he is in, as well as God’s actions to save him:

“The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head. I went down to the moorings of the mountains; The earth with its bars closed behind me forever; Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God.”

Jonah completely gives God His due and his words to the Lord are spoken like a true man of God, not like a man that has been running from Him. We can find some easy comparisons between Jonah and ourselves here. Are we ever more grateful to Him than just after we have escaped disaster or when we are most in need? Jonah was in denial on the ship, sleeping down below, but once it was evident that his actions brought the storm and he was thrown overboard, the consequences of thwarting the Lord instantly became real for Jonah. 

I have acted this way in my life too. It can seem convenient to ignore what I know I need to do when there is no threat or danger to my comfort. I can even convince myself that things are still okay when the consequences of my inaction begin to pile up. But when my problems are suddenly too big to ignore, I seek help. I go to God in prayer, I lean on a friend, I ask for advice or just an open ear. We should not let situations in our lives get to this point, but we often do.

Better for us to be proactive about the creeping problems or the burgeoning responsibilities in our lives than to ignore them. Ignorance can be bliss until it explodes into a huge mess. This is what happened to Jonah. One moment peacefully asleep, and the next moment thrown into a thrashing sea to be swallowed by a whale. And all the while he knew in the back of his mind that he was doing wrong. Let this not be us!

But such was God’s grace and mercy to Jonah that when Jonah did cry out to God from the fish’s belly, God fixed it and Jonah ended up back on dry land. Thankfully, miraculously, such is God’s grace and mercy to us that when we reach out to Him with a penitent heart, he receives our prayers.

Let us pray to God tonight, as Jonah did, in thanks for our lives and for the deliverance from sin we receive through Jesus Christ.

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Jonah 1: The Swallowed Prophet 

Jonah is a man living as a Jew when God tells him to go to Nineveh. Nineveh had become evil and wicked and God was directing Jonah to go there to warn the people of Nineveh of the consequences of their sin. 

What we will quickly see as we study Jonah is that God is not only trying to reach the people of Nineveh through him, but He is using Jonah to reach others, including Jonah himself. 

But Jonah is not willing to go to Nineveh. The Word does not explicitly describe why Jonah flees from God, but flee he does, deep into a ship heading in the wrong direction. Jonah is trying to quickly escape the sight of God. 

The ship Jonah boarded is headed to a place called Tarshish. During the journey, God sends a great wind and a strong storm towards the ship. The sailors take action to save the ship: they throw the cargo overboard, they pray to their heathen gods, but to no effect. All are trying to help the situation, but where is Jonah? 

Jonah is hiding. Hiding deep within the bowels of the ship and trying to further hide from the situation by sleeping. This was where the captain of the ship found him to ask Jonah to pray to his God because the prayers to the other false gods were not working. 

Once Jonah joins everyone else, the crew decides to cast lots as a way to identify whose fault among them it was the ship was being destroyed by the storm. As providence would have it, Jonah is identified as the catalyst for the event. The crew wants to know who this Jonah is? He responds that he is a Hebrew and that he fears the true God, creator of heaven and earth. 

At this point in the story we learn that Jonah told the crew that he was fleeing from God and we are learning more about his character as the story progresses. He is fearful and unwilling to obey the God that He knows is the one true God. He is either arrogant, foolish or a coward. For now. 

In any case, Jonah shows the first bit of backbone by accepting that the storm is due to his actions and prompts the crew to throw him overboard, to save them and the ship. Initially the men do not throw him over, but try the more earnestly to row the ship to dry land and safety. However, the storm persists and we see the first people positively affected by God in the story of Jonah in the crew.

The crew, convicted of God’s power through Jonah’s story and the mighty storm, have faith that the true God believed on by Jonah can save them. So they turn away from their false gods and toward God in prayer, asking for His mercy. They neither want to be punished for Jonah’s actions not do they want to be punished for what was sure to be a death sentence for Jonah in their eyes: throwing him overboard. After this prayer, the crew throws Jonah overboard and the sea calms. 

The crew sees this action and they immediately fear God, taking vows and offering sacrifices to Him. This group of unbelievers in the true God have been convicted of God’s almighty power and sovereign status through the running coward Jonah. Even through our failures, God can work in the world. Such is his mysterious nature and absolute control over all we know.

When Jonah goes overboard, God is prepared. A great fish swallows Jonah and he is inside of it for three days and three nights. Jonah has gone from the belly of one great vessel to another. This time, however, it was not his choice.

We have free will, but God is in control. Jonah’s story illustrates this perfectly. 

Matthew 28: Salvation for All 

Matthew’s account of the gospel ends abruptly, but there are still details of what happened on the day that Jesus arose from the dead. 

Verses 1-10 tell the story of the two Marys that come to see Christ’s tomb and instead meet an angel that tells them that Jesus has risen from the dead. This happens on a Sunday, the day after the Sabbath, which was Saturday. The angel opened Jesus’s tomb and struck fear into the guards by his appearance. But the angel did not scare the women and instead told them that Jesus had already left for Galilee and they should go and meet Him. They are also to go and tell the disciples that Jesus has risen from the dead.

Jesus meets the two Marys on their way and tells them to rejoice and to not be afraid. He reiterates the directive to tell the disciples of His appearance as well.

Verses 11-15 tell us about the chief priests bribing the soldiers whose job it was to guard the tomb. The chief priests wanted people to believe that Jesus’s disciples stole His body as the guards slept. You may remember from Matthew 27:62-66 when the chief priests asked Pilate to set a guard to avoid that perception that Jesus rose from the dead. Well now that Jesus actually has been resurrected, the chief priests still want to spread the idea that it was not a divine act but a robbery. Their resistance to what they think God’s will should be has led them to deeper and deeper sins.

To end the book, Jesus meets with His disciples on a mountain in Galilee. Some of them doubt it is Him. In the end, our Lord gives them the great commission to go and spread the good news of salvation to all of the earth: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.”

To conclude this rich book as well as our study this evening, a few observations are in order: 

1. Despite challenges and great effort to the contrary, God’s will is done. 

The scribes, Pharisees, chief priests and many others tried to prevent Jesus from accomplishing His goal of spreading the good news of His coming. However, in the end, their efforts to stop Him actually contributed to the success of God’s plan when He was crucified. Even the mightiest efforts of mankind serve and flow in the direction of the will of Almighty God!

2. In Jesus’s commission, the necessity of baptism for salvation is commanded. 

Many followers of Christ would have us believe that we need only accept Christ in our heart to be saved. But the act of baptism in connection with salvation cannot be denied as part of the plan of salvation. See I Peter 3:21-22, Mark 16:16 and Romans 6:1-11: 

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

3. Salvation is available for every person. 

Jesus died for each of us, every human that has sinned and needs reconciliation to God. God’s grace through salvation is not limited to race, creed, nationality, degree of sin or degree of righteousness. There is nothing you could have done that would prevent God’s grace from saving you through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

Romans 3:23: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Galatians 3:26-29: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Tonight I ask you to look at your life and ask yourself whether you continue in sin or whether your are trying to live for Him. Jesus’s sacrifice was so great that it covers the sins of everyone who has ever lived. But we cannot enjoy the benefit of it unless we repent of our sins, are baptized and try to live for Him. 

So tonight I urge you to look into your heart and examine yourself. If you need my prayers, let me know and I will pray for you. If you feel you need further study, let me know and we will study the Bible together. If you feel the need to be baptized, let me know and I will meet you where there is water. 

God offers us everything through His Son. We need only to listen and obey.

Matthew 27, pt. 3: Jesus Dies on the Cross

Tonight we conclude Matthew 27 by reading verses 32-66. So much has led up to this point during our study in Matthew. We have studied Jesus as He was born, grew His ministry and ultimately was hunted down for His claims. It has all been leading to His willing sacrifice.

Many things happen in this passage in sequence. It is interesting to read them as a list, so that we can see how the events of Jesus’s sacrifice unfolded: 

1. A man named Simon is tasked to help Jesus bear His cross to Golgotha. Jesus was weakened by the scourging and could not carry it himself.

2. Jesus is nailed to the cross at Golgotha and His clothing is allocated to soldiers by casting lots, thus fulfilling prophecy. 

3. Jesus is chastised by the crowd and sardonically labeled “The King of the Jews.”

4. Darkness comes over the land for three hours.

5. Jesus calls out to God, asking why He has been left to suffer in such a state. 

6. Jesus dies.

7. The veil of the temple tears, rocks split and the earth quakes. Some people that were long dead rise from the grave and appear to others in the city (actually occurs after the Resurrection).

8. Roman guards admit that this Man surely was divine after seeing these miraculous occurrences.

9. Many women who were among His followers watched His crucifixion from afar. Among them were Mary Magdalene and Jesus’s mother Mary.

10. A wealthy disciple of Jesus’ named Joseph provides a burial tomb for Him. A large stone seals the tomb as Mary Magdalene and Jesus’s mother Mary watch over the tomb.

11. Pilate allows the chief priests and Pharisees to seal the tomb further and set a guard over it to prevent what they fear would be disciples stealing the body.

Of course, Jesus’s body would leave the tomb but it would not be from someone stealing it. For Jesus’s claim from verse 63: “After three days I will rise” would come true and Jesus would rise from the dead. 

Tonight’s passage is the culmination of many things: Old Testament prophecies, the fulfillment of God’s plan to redeem all mankind, the plan of the Jewish elite to kill Jesus, etc. But the focus that I would like us to concentrate on tonight is the culmination of Jesus’s prayers. 

Recall how He prayed so earnestly in the garden of Gethsemane. He prayed that He might not have to suffer so; He prayed that the task would pass from Him. But His desire to serve and to please Almighty God overruled his physical self-preservation and He said: “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.”

Perhaps Jesus’s strongest example for us is that of self-denial. God calls us to deny ourselves and follow Him. We often ignore God’s commands and rely on His grace through Christ to save us. The apostle Paul warns against doing this in Romans 6:1. 

When Christ died on the cross, He did so for us. And when we are baptized into Him, we enter into a holy relationship with God wherein the old sinning version of ourselves dies and our new self rises. We do not continue in sin, but rather we live for Jesus. 

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans‬ ‭6:1-4‬

How am I going to live for Jesus this week?

Matthew 27, pt. 2: A Scarlet Robe, A Crown of Thorns and a Reed

Tonight we continue Matthew 27 by reading verses 11-31. Jesus will be judged by Pilate and the Jews, He will take Barabbas’ place as a prisoner and He will also be mocked by soldiers.

Jesus is standing before Pilate and is accused by the Jews of blasphemy: falsely claiming that He was the Son of God. Pilate was impressed at Jesus’s silence as these accusations were leveled at Him. Jesus’s silence here shows us that He was not fighting His fate to die for the sins of mankind. 

Every year during the Passover feast, the Roman governor would release one prisoner back to the Jews. While judging Jesus, Pilate gives the Jews the choice of releasing Jesus or a murderer named Barabbas. The Jews unequivocally choose to release Barabbas, to the confusion of Pilate. It was obvious that Barabbas was the more dangerous criminal, and Pilate did not understand why the Jews wanted so badly to indict Jesus. When Pilate asks what punishment Jesus should have, there Jews say crucifixion. When Pilate asks why, the Jews do not provide a reason but just cry out all the more loudly for Jesus to be crucified. 

Pilate’s choice to give the Jews what they want is motivated both by an urging from his wife based on a dream she had and a desire to keep the peace among the Jews. Had Pilate not released Barabbas and condemned Jesus to suffer and die, he surely would have had a revolt on his hands. So Pilate capitulated to the Jews but felt forced into his decision by these other factors. Therefore Pilate washes his hands to symbolize that none of the blame is on him. 

Pilate’s position is interesting because it is easy to see his point of view and the position he was put in. As governor, keeping the peace in Jerusalem would have been priority number one. Pilate was a Roman and was not sensitive to the religious goings-on at the time with Jesus and the Jews. Pilate could have been placed there by God to carry out these exact decisions because it was all part of God’s plan for the salvation of all mankind. In any case, the judgment of Pilate and where he will spend eternity is up to God alone.

Before crucifixion, Jesus is scourged. This is a severe beating by leather whips embedded with bits of metal and rock. A beating of this kind would leave deep gashes in the victim’s back and would result in heavy blood loss and fainting from the pain. 

After the mock trial and the scourging, Jesus is mocked and spat upon. Soldiers give him a scarlet robe, a crown of thorns and a reed as a scepter. Then they struck Him with the reed as well. After all of this, Jesus is led away to be crucified. 

The main lesson for us tonight is Jesus’s stalwart strength and absolute devotion to do the will of God. The pain and the shame were not enough to convince Jesus to walk away from the crucifixion. He could have called 10,000 angels to come save Him, but He did not. Such was His great love for God. Such was His great love for us. 

Despite the sin in our lives, God prepared this perfect sacrifice for us. Knowing this should help dissuade us from continuing to engage in sin in our lives. Jesus’s example is also deeply encouraging. If He can willingly suffer so much despite being blameless, surely we can make up our minds to avoid the pitfalls of sin in our lives that we are all so familiar with. 

God bless you. My prayer for you tonight is that you make the best choices for your eternal soul!

Matthew 27, pt. 1: Judas’ Abject Failure

Tonight we will read verses 1-10 of Matthew 27. Jesus has been handed over from the chief priests to Pontius Pilate, the governor. 

At the same time we are shown Judas, who after he led the mob to Jesus the previous night, now realizes that Jesus knew that he would betray Him all along. This shame compels Judas to attempt to give the money back to the chief priests and elders, but they will not take it back. Judas is a picture of faith that can still act sinfully: “saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” Event though Judas had faith in Christ, he still betrayed Him. 

But this attempt to remove his sin or the blame is not enough to quench Judas’s guilt because the chief priests and elders do not accept it, after which Judas throws the money in the temple and runs away to commit suicide by hanging. Judas had tried to reverse the affects of his betrayal by telling the men that Jesus was innocent, but they did not care. They would not listen and instead iterated to Judas that whatever had happened as the result of his betrayal to Jesus was his own fault.

According to prophecy in Zechariah 11:12-13, the money was spent to buy a potter’s field. The field was used to bury strangers.

If Judas had gone to Jesus and seek repentance, there is little doubt that Jesus would have accepted him. Remember Jesus’s words in Matthew 18:21-22: “Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” But instead of seeking repentance, Judas was destined to seek peace in the wrong fashion. Choosing to end one’s own life is never the right choice and Judas gave in to the temptation by believing that it was his only way out. 

When we let shame and regret get the better of us, we can make poor decisions that worsen our condition. Tonight I challenge you to seek and freely receive the forgiveness of sins offered by God through Jesus Christ. Once we turn or loves over to Him in baptism, our old self dies and we become a new person. Jesus’s blood and sacrifice afford us the forgiveness of a lifetime of sins. To wallow in guilt and be hard on ourselves over the past is not the answer. 

Christ is the answer. God’s perfect grace is the answer. When you seek Him and repent, He will always receive you.

Matthew 26, pt. 4: Peter’s Faith

Tonight we will read the final verses of Matthew 26, verses 69-75. Tonight’s selection is brief to close out this lengthy and important chapter in Matthew. When we began this chapter, Jesus was still publicly and safely teaching His disciples. But here, in the end of chapter 26, Jesus is in the hands of the ruling Jewish authorities and is being mocked and beaten. 

Before we close out the chapter, we have a final few verses of Peter fulfilling the prophecy Jesus had made in verse 34 that Peter would deny Him three times before the next day. Peter’s statement of faith in verse 35 is impressive:

“Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And so said all the disciples.” ‭

Despite Peter’s belief that he could never deny Jesus, we see it come true in these verses tonight. Peter has been following Jesus from afar, watching the proceedings as Jesus is accused. Various folk in the area notice Peter and remember him as one of Jesus’s followers. Peter’s attentiveness to Jesus and his fear may have given him away in addition to his features. His accent also plays a part in people recognizing him as one of Jesus’s followers because he was from the same area (Galilee) as Jesus. 

But each time Peter is accused of being one of Jesus’s followers, he denies it. The third time, he denies it with cursing. After this last time, Peter hears the rooster crow, and it reminds him of Jesus’s prediction. So Peter weeps bitterly. Can you imagine the shame he must have felt?

Remember Peter’s convincing attitude from earlier in the chapter. Peter seems that he would never be able to deny Jesus. But such is the elusiveness of faith. We are often convinced that we are strong, yet when faced with fear or temptation, our strength and faith can falter. This is what happened to Peter. Has it ever happened to you? 

A saving grace of Peter’s denials comes to us from the gospel of John, in chapter 21 and verses 15-19. Here, to counteract Peter’s three denials, Jesus asks Peter to affirm his love for him three times: 

“So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”

Jesus had this conversation with Peter after he had already been crucified and resurrected, so there is a happy ending to Peter’s story. Even though Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus restored Peter by having him confess his love for Jesus three times. At the end of the passage above, Jesus tells Peter how he will glorify God with his death. 

Peter is an allegory for all of us. We can and do fail as we try to serve God. Despite our most honorable intentions and efforts, we fail just like Peter did. But Christ is always there to accept and restore us. We need only to return to Him, confess and repent. Do you have the need to confess a sin? Repent of your actions? 

“The Lord is … longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” ‭II Peter‬ ‭3:9‬

Matthew 26, pt. 3: Dignity in Suffering

Tonight we will read verses 47-67 of Matthew 26. When we left Jesus last week, He was in the garden praying for mercy from God, yet He was still committed to doing His will. Just as He is chastising the disciples for sleeping when He asked for them to watch and pray with Him, He sees Judas the betrayer coming for Him with an armed mob. 

Judas brings a mob to seize Jesus to fulfill the agreement he made to turn Him over for thirty pieces of silver. Jesus is not fooled by the seemingly harmless charade of Judas greeting Him with a kiss. Judas uses this kiss to identify Jesus to the mob of armed people, who represent the chief priests and elders of the people. 

The leadership sought to retain and punish Jesus for two main reasons: 

1. They thought His teachings were blasphemous because they did not believe His claim that He was God’s Son 

2. They were fearful of the following He had attracted among the people and the power it represented, power taken away from them

Another thing to take note of as we read through verse 56 is Jesus’s continued composure. Just a few minutes earlier, Jesus was praying that God allow the cup of suffering to pass, but now in the face of the mob, our Savior is in control. He recognizes that the arrival of Judas and the mob is an answer to His prayer: it is still very much God’s will that Jesus suffer for mankind on the cross. Jesus allows his arrest to occur even as He knows that twelve legions of angels could be summoned to rescue Him. But Jesus neither needs nor wants rescue; His commitment to doing the will of the Father is absolute and in action. 

It also seems that Jesus recognizes the people and decries the need for them to seek his arrest with weapons. Mindful of His divinity and the import of the current events, Jesus tells the crowd how that very moment is a fulfillment of prophecy. Here are two of these prophecies from the Old Testament:

“Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me.”‭‭ Psalms 41:9

“Our pursuers were swifter Than the eagles of the heavens. They pursued us on the mountains And lay in wait for us in the wilderness. The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the LORD, Was caught in their pits, Of whom we said, “Under his shadow We shall live among the nations.”” Lamentations‬ ‭4:19-20

Continuing on in verses 57-68, Jesus faces the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious governing body. As He is led to them, Peter follows at a distance and observes quietly. Many people are brought forward to publicly give evidence of Jesus’s blasphemy, and initially none of the accusations stick. That is, until two come forth to quote Jesus when He said that He would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. 

This statement Jesus made could have been seen as blasphemous by the leaders because Jesus is talking about destroying the temple, the Jews’ holy place of worship. Rebuilding it in three days would have been seen as an absolute impossibility considering the building capabilities at the time. But Jesus’s comment about the temple was not blasphemous at all and in fact referenced Jesus himself. Just as the temple was seen at the time as where God dwelt among the people, Jesus was at the time, also in fact God dwelling among the people. And tearing down the temple meant Jesus’s death, while the rebuilding in three days was a reference to how Jesus would rise from the dead on the third day. Much like a difficult parable, it is unlikely that anyone would understand the meaning without an explanation from Jesus at the time, yet the meaning is all too clear to us today.

After the “evidence” given by these last two accusers, the high priest presses Jesus to answer His accusers, but Jesus is silent at first. After further pressing, ultimately Jesus responds with:

“It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

To the high priest and the others observing, this is outright blasphemy. The high priest tears his clothes to display anguish and asks the mob what they think Jesus’s punishment should be. Death is their answer. 

The ironic thing about these events is that even though Jesus was telling the truth, these religious leaders did not recognize it. What Jesus stated as absolute truth was seen as false and contributed to His death. Jesus’s death, as it was, was God’s will and His plan for our salvation, so Jesus proclaiming His divinity is used against Him to fulfill God’s will and also prove Jesus’s status as the Son of God after He is resurrected from the dead on the third day. It is complicated, surely, and a full understanding of it is just out of our reach. As we read in Jeremiah 55:8: ““For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.‭‭”

If the high priest would have believed Him publicly, things might have been different. However, this is an impossibility because it was the will of God that Jesus die the way He did for our sins. Everything happened just exactly as God intended. 

Our study tonight concludes with Christ being struck and mocked. A picture of our Savior suffering for all mankind reveals His willingness to do God’s will and the great merciful love and grace that God affords us.

Matthew 26, pt. 2: The Lord’s Supper & Gethsemane: Jesus Prepares the Disciples & Us

Tonight we will be reading verses 26-46 of Matthew chapter 26. Last week we saw Jesus get anointed for His burial with expensive oil and He also identified Judas as His betrayer. Our passage tonight begins with Jesus establishing the Lord’s Supper. 

In verses 26-30, Jesus takes bread and fruit of the vine (grape juice) and blesses them, then shares them with the disciples. For the bread He says: “Take, eat; this is My body.” For the fruit of the vine He says: “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” This is how the Lord’s Supper is established. 

What is the Lord’s Supper? It is a spiritual exercise that believers engage in every Sunday to remember the sacrifice Christ gave so that we could have forgiveness of our sins. Christ needed to die to appease God’s wrath at mankind’s disobedience. We see the manifestation of God’s grace through the mixture of His wrath and His love for us. 

In other words, our sin greatly displeases God to the point where he is desirous to punish us: not unlike how He punished the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and the disobedient people in Noah’s time. However, God’s great love for mankind (we are His creation, His children) compelled Him to send His only Son Jesus to earth to die as a sacrifice for our sins: this is the fundamental truth upon which the totality of our faith rests. And the fact that Jesus is resurrected from the dead on the third day after His death finalizes the act because it is ultimate proof of His divinity. God tried to warn people in the past to resist temptation and to be righteous, but the words of the prophets through whom He spoke were insufficient. Thus did God send Jesus to die for our sins. 

Consider this passage from Hebrews 1:1-3: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…”

We eat the bread and drink the fruit of the vine every Sunday to remember Christ’s sacrifice. Eating symbols of Christ’s flesh and blood remind us that He was once on Earth, breathing the same air, walking under the same sky, experiencing the same temptations as mankind has since the garden of Eden. He was here and He sacrificed His body for us, only to come alive again.

All this serves to make the point that Christ established this activity of taking the Lord’s Supper during the Passover feast with His disciples. Jesus knew His death was coming. Through the establishment of the Lord’s Supper, He was not only preparing the disciples for His death, He was preparing us too.

Verses 31-35 show Peter and all the disciples pledging their faith to Jesus even as He tells them that they will flee when their faith is tested that very night. They will not support Him, but they will flee as scattered sheep when there is a threat present. Peter is particularly vehement that he will never stumble nor deny Him. But Jesus knows better. Peter’s faith and proclamations are admirable, but when he does deny Christ, it is a lesson for each of us to be humble in our faith; that we are not often as strong as we would consider ourselves to be.

Verses 36-46 show us the heartbreaking prayer at Gethsemane. Last week we talked about Jesus’s strength and composure in light of the knowledge of His upcoming death. This night we see Jesus at His lowest. When He and the disciples depart to Gethsemane, Jesus directs most of His disciples to sit in one place, but asks Peter and two others to join and watch with Him in a garden close by. He prays.

In between times of prayer, Jesus is disappointed that the three disciples He brought with Him cannot watch the night for dangers with Him due to their sleepiness. This happens twice before Judas betrays Him to a mob with weapons. 

But the bigger consideration to make here is the content of Jesus’s prayers. He prays earnestly to God for another way. He sees His upcoming death and asks God that this task not be fulfilled by Him unless it is God’s will. He prayed this three times and at the end of the third time, as He is once more chastising the three disciples for not being able to watch with Him, He hears Judas coming. He knows that He is about to be handed over to the authorities. 

Jesus’s example is absolutely ideal for us. Mankind is so very far from perfect, which includes the idea that knowing what the right thing is to do and actually doing it are separate. Jesus knew what He had to do, yet He prayed for a way out in that moment. Does this mean He was weak? Sacreligious? Blasphemous? Not at all. It means He was a human. Christ is divinity, God’s Son in the flesh, and it was His being a man in that moment that made Him pray to God that the task pass from Him. This fact itself allows us to identify with our Savior. 

Jesus was a man, yet more than a man while He was here. Jesus is God, yet less than God while He was here. His perfect submission to God in the midst of His conflicting emotions can supply for us no better example. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Matthew 26, pt. 1: The Beginning of Christ’s Sacrifice

Tonight we will be reading verses 1-25 from Matthew 26. We have just concluded the study of many of Jesus’s words, coming in the form of parables and teachings. Jesus has spoken to the disciples about the kingdom (the church, or the believers), the judgment, and also has made allusion to His upcoming death. Now the book of Matthew changes focus from the words of Christ to the actions leading up to His death.

Throughout the ordeal, Jesus becomes emotional, but He never loses control of Himself or of the situation. Jesus gives His life of His own free will, neglecting Himself, and these upcoming passages demonstrate His deliberate purpose. 

Verses 1-5 have Jesus concluding His teachings and also He tells the disciples that He will soon be taken to be crucified. It is to happen during the Jewish holiday of Passover, but the Chief Priests decide not to carry out Jesus’s death during the Passover feast, lest there be an uproar from the people. Remember that Jesus is very popular among the people, and the Jewish elite do not want to disrupt the feast by killing Jesus during the proceedings, so they wait. The Chief Priests feel completely justified in their efforts to kill Jesus, because they do not believe His claims that He is the Son of God. They think that He is a liar and a blasphemer. 

Verses 6-13 follow. Jesus is anointed by expensive oil by a lady at Simon the leper’s house. Jesus is still associating with the lowly, with those in need. But peculiarly enough, this woman has a very expensive flask of very expensive oil, so Jesus’s teachings are also still cutting through the social strata. The disciples there are taken aback at the lady’s putting this oil on Jesus, but Jesus rebukes them, saying that it is an anointing for his burial. Even though the oil is expensive, and is used all at once in a manner some deem wasteful, Jesus praises the act because it demonstrates that the woman is convinced of the identity of Jesus and believes all of His words. 

Have you ever wanted to save some valuable possession because of its value or because your are waiting for the “right time” to use it? Sometimes our material resources can come into unexpected uses that we did not originally intend. Particularly when they are used to aid others, we should be diligent to be smart with our possessions and use them for the best possible use!

In verses 14-25 there is a non-confrontational confrontation between Jesus and Judas. First we are shown Judas going to the Chief Priests of his own volition to betray Jesus to His death. Judas is offered thirty pieces of silver from them and he accepts it, looking for the chance to earn the money. We are not given His motive explicitly, but the context shows us all too clearly that Judas’s desire for money outweighs his faith in Jesus. Judas was thinking and planning for the short term. Judas was concerned with Judas.

Jesus ensures that He and the disciples will have a place to celebrate the Passover feast. He arranges a place for them and sits down to eat with them. As they are eating, Jesus informs them that one of them will betray Him. He indirectly identifies Judas as the betrayer and also says that it would have been better for Judas if he had never been born. 

Jesus exhibits control. There must be sadness in Him, there must be pain and foreboding and suffering in Him. Yet He gracefully proceeds through the hours leading up to His crucifixion. His quiet and patient strength is awe-inspiring, all the more impressive when we think about how He was going through with it for all mankind.