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.

Matthew 25, pt. 3: Sheep Go to Heaven, Goats Go to Hell

Last week Jesus taught us the responsibility of using the talents that God gave us in verses 14-30 of Matthew 25. Tonight we will finish Matthew chapter 25 by reading verses 31-46.

In this passage, Jesus builds on the ideas of coming judgment that He has been talking about throughout this chapter. While the first mentions were via parable, this final explanation that Jesus provides is more plainly spoken.

Jesus talks about how He will come to judge the nations and how they will be divided according to their righteousness and wickedness. The righteous are represented as sheep, an animal that is gentle and yielding, while the wicked are represented as goats, an animal that is difficult and wild. The Lord says to the sheep that they can come in to inherit their kingdom because they cared for Him. When the sheep ask when they cared for the Lord, Christ says to them that whenever they cared for a soul in need, they cared for Him. 

In contrast to the sheep, who were invited in, the goats are cast away from Christ, into everlasting fire and the company of Satan. The reasoning for their punishment is in parallel to the reasoning for the sheep’s reward: they never considered or stopped to help a soul in need. While the sheep go into eternal life, the goats go into everlasting punishment. 

The message of Christ’s words here is simple and very general: be kind to those in need. Consider the lowly, the poor, the sick, the imprisoned. I am expected to use the resources I have to provide mercy to those in need. There are countless ways that this can be done. We can donate, volunteer, visit, give or listen. What God wants from us is to provide the same mercy and kindness that He provides to us: if God loved us enough to send His Son Jesus Christ to die a sinless death for our sins, might we also love God enough to show kindness and mercy to our fellow neighbor?

The main theme of the message is compassion and selflessness. If we can take time out of our day to consider and care for those less fortunate than us, God will show us favor. Is there anyone in my life at this moment that could use some kind attention and love?

Matthew 25, pt. 2: The Use of Your Talents Determines the Profit of Your Servitude

Last week Jesus taught us and the disciples the importance of being prepared for His return. Tonight we will read verses 14-30 of Matthew 25, where Jesus teaches the responsibility of using the talents that God gave us for the glory of His kingdom. 

Verses 14-19 set up the parable. Jesus tells the story of a man who traveled to a far place, then gave three of his servants unique numbers of “talents,” each according to the servants’ abilities. The word “talent” is a denomination of money in the parable, and the meaning of the parable itself has to do with the talents we are given, which makes it an apt use of the word. One of the servants received five talents, one received two, and the last servant received one talent. After the talents were given to the servants, the man left again. The servants that received five and three talents each doubled their talents via trade, but the servant that received a single talent simply buried it. After a period of time, the man returned and sought to get his “talents” back and anything else they may have earned in the interim. 

Verses 20-30 bear the meaning of the parable. The servants that doubled their talents are rewarded by being made rulers over much, while the servant that merely hid his talent gives excuses for why he did not increase it and ultimately had his talent taken away and given to the servant that had ten talents. 

Let’s talk about the one-talent servant’s reasons for not increasing his talent. He says in verse 24, “Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.” The servants’ master surely is powerful, and the servant has need to fear his master, but these reasons are not legitimate. The servant has an opinion that his master expects too much of him. The servant also seems to think little of his master’s character through the explanation he provides. In verse 26, the master calls this servant wicked and lazy, which is fitting when we consider the integrity of the reasoning for him not increasing his talent. It falls like a house of cards when inspected. Because of his lack of faith and service, this wicked and lazy servant is cast into outer darkness where there is sorrow and pain. Instead of trying to find a way around or out of using his talents for his master, the servant would have been much better off if he would have simply gained interest by putting his talents in the bank.

The talents in this parable represent the unique and individual abilities we are each blessed with as children of God. They can be the ability to teach, give, share, comfort, fight or provide. Our talents can manifest as actual talents and abilities or material blessings. God has given each of us unique talents that He wants us to use to His glory. Some of us are given more than others, but as long as we use them to the glory of God, we can have confidence in the fact that He will reward us, making us rulers in heaven. 

Our goal as followers of Christ needs to be like that of the five-talent man and the two-talent man: to increase. If I can teach others well, I ought to teach others. If I can listen well and be a supportive friend to many, I need to be there for those I can be. If I am blessed materially, I need to give to others. If I have the gift of encouraging others, I need to build up the people in my life. It is the same scenario with consolation, intellection, fellowship, leadership, mercy, forgiveness and any number of other positive methods we can use to help bring others closer to Christ. 

What are your talents? How are you using them?

“Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James‬ ‭4:17‬

Matthew 25, pt. 1: Foolishness

Tonight we will read the first 13 verses of Matthew chapter 25. We ended chapter 24 with Jesus describing the end times and His second coming. In the beginning of this chapter, Jesus continues to reveal more about the nature of the second coming through the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. 

In traditional Jewish wedding custom of the time, a bride would have attendants, or young women, typically virgins, that would help her prepare for the wedding. The groom would come to collect his bride at night once he was himself prepared to marry. One of the functions of the attendants, or virgins as they are referred to in this parable, would be to wait and watch for the groom’s arrival. The groom would be arriving to take the bride to the wedding ceremony and the virgins were to warn the bride of his coming. If the virgins were not there to warn the bride that the groom had arrived, he might have to wait for her. 

This tradition applies to our life spiritually through the parable. Jesus is the bridegroom and the virgins, collectively with the bride, are representative of the church, or saved Christians. When Jesus the bridegroom comes to collect His bride, the church, the expectation is that we will have remained prepared and that we will not have lost our faith, our sense of obedience, or our loyalty to serve God in the interim.

This parable actually has much in common with the example of the wise servant and the wicked servant in verses 45-51 of Matthew 24. In both that story and this one, there is the prepared faction and there is the unprepared. The unprepared suffer the consequences of not being ready for God at His return and the prepared enjoy the blessings of being ready. The wise virgins were wise because they made the choice of bringing enough oil for their lamps to last until the bridegroom came, even if he was late. 

But the difference in these two stories comes from the behavior of the foolish virgins that we get to witness. When they come to realize that their oil is too low to last until the bridegroom comes, they scramble for help from the wise virgins. But the wise virgins, in another wise choice, decline to help because they do not want to run out of oil themselves. They did counsel there foolish virgins to buy more oil, but that is when their choices caught up with them and the foolish virgins were not there to receive or announce the bridegroom. Because of their lack of preparation and their lateness, they were not allowed to attend the wedding.

Ultimately the wise virgins are approved of by God and welcomed by Him into that sacred union because they were prepared. They understood the import of their task and were responsible enough to think ahead and secure what was needed, even preparing for the contingency of a late groom. Contrast this with the foolishness of the other virgins. They brought their lamps without additional oil, assuming they would have enough to last. They did not think ahead and they did not put enough importance on their responsibility as attendants. This cost them. Surely, the similarities of being spiritually prepared for the Lord at all times are plain enough. 

The primary lesson tonight is that we need to understand that to prepare ourselves for God continually is not only important, it is paramount. Because if we are saved, and yet remain in the world until the time of our death or His return, we shall not be saved. Rather we will be cast into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. A fearful fate and an awful price to pay!

Matthew 24, pt. 2: Description of Christ’s Second Coming

Tonight we will finish chapter 24 by reading verses 29-51. When Christ comes back to gather and receive the faithful, there will be no mistaking it. Verses 29-31 tell of a glorious return for Jesus, coming with angels and the great sound of a trumpet. Neither the sun nor the moon will give off light and the stars will fall. There will be no doubt as to the import of the event. 

Jesus uses the parable of the fig tree to show how people will know when the time is coming. Just like we can tell the seasons by the activities of a fig tree, these signs will indicate the second coming of Jesus. Verse 34 is particularly interesting: “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” This verse could mean one of the two following things, or both: 

1. The generation that is living at the time of the events described in verses 29-31 will not die off until Christ has returned 

2. The generation of God’s chosen people, the Jews, will not cease to exist until Christ has returned 

The main point of verses 36-44 is to stress how important it is for all believers to be ready for Christ’s return. No one, not even Jesus, knows the time of His return. Just as there are today, there will be many people who will be living their lives normally and without care right up until the time of Christ’s return. Ignorance will not be an excuse because the people who believe in God will be taken away to meet Him and those that who are not believers will be left in the world. For if everyone knew when the Lord is returning, all would be pious at the time of His return and their righteousness would not be borne of a true desire to obey God, but would come from a desire to save only themselves, excluding the obedience God asks of us. God wants our righteousness to come from our hearts, out of a desire we have to please Him.

The final verses of the chapter are further commentary on the way that believers should live their lives before the Lord’s return. It is a dishonest obedience that only obeys when it is being watched. How could God take us seriously unless we are living faithfully for Him all the time? By remaining faithful always, no matter what happens, we will secure our place in heaven. If we remain strong before God, we will not only please Him but will also serve as examples to our friends, family and those that observe us. 

Living for God is simple, but it is not easy. Dedicating yourself to Him is difficult, but it will be worth it. We are none of us perfect, not even close. We will fail and we will disappoint ourselves and we may disappoint our loved ones. However, if we have a faith that is strong and that is convinced of God’s presence and his offer for salvation, we will persevere. We will continue to serve and seek the Lord until His return!

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Titus‬ ‭2:11-14‬

Matthew 24, pt. 1: False Christs & False Prophets

Tonight we will read the first 28 verses of Matthew 24. After Jesus’s confrontation with the Sadducees, He leaves the temple and the disciples begin to show Him all of the buildings that make up the temple. We can infer that the disciples were impressed by these structures, but Jesus was not. Like the Sadducees, the temples buildings were to Jesus not as great as they actually seemed. This is because Jesus knew of the upcoming destruction of Jerusalem. 

Verses 4-14 talk in a general way about the challenges that Christian faith will encounter. Men will suffer and imposters will threaten the faith, but Jesus instructs them to be strong.

Verses 15-28 are more specific in their language and deal with the upcoming war and destruction of Jerusalem. The picture that Jesus describes is an unsettling one. People running for the hills and not turning back, pregnant women and children having an especially difficult time, more false prophets and the threats that accompany them. 

Jesus encourages a strength of faith that can meet these challenges. Challenges such as these are really unknown to us as Americans in 2017, but we should be prepared for them nevertheless. And that is the lesson for tonight: how strong is my faith? Where is my breaking point? Is it up until my death? The death of my children? 

Tough questions! But questions alluded to by the Son of God Himself.

Matthew 23: An Indictment

In this chapter, Jesus delivers a scathing rebuke to the scribes and Pharisees. Looking back over the past chapters, we remember the encounters Jesus has had with these learned groups of Jews and how they have tried to expose Jesus as a false prophet numerous times. Jesus has used wisdom and a knowing patience to put to rest their empty and thinly veiled accusations. 

But here the cauldron bursts and Jesus’s speech is confrontational and condemning. I encourage you to take a few minutes to read all of the verses in this chapter. Jesus’s message is one of utter disgust at their hypocrisy and also reveals that He knows the true content of their hearts despite their outwardly false show of godliness.

The application for us today is to not be like the scribes and the Pharisees. For our study tonight, let’s review the following ideas as they progress through the chapter: 

– vs. 4: Do I expect standards of behavior from others that I do not follow myself? 

– vs. 5: Do I seek attention and praise for doing good things? Or do I do good things to please others and God?

– vs. 8-10: Do I know where true authority comes from? 

– vs. 13: Do I exclude others from good things? 

– vs. 15: Am I a bad influence? 

– vs. 16-22: Do I place importance on the right things?

– vs. 23-24: Does my nitpicking cause me to lose sight of what is truly important?

– vs. 25-28: Do I make myself appear good outside, but inwardly I am corrupted?

Remember that it requires effort to remain true to God. Daily prayer and honest intent in each action are required to remain steadfast in God’s work and in His kingdom. 

As we are renewed each morning, we make sure to dedicate ourselves to Him, ignoring temptations and influences that lead us away from God. Therefore let us put energy into being a positive force in others’ lives, helping others, and showing our faith in Jesus through the pattern of our humble and giving behavior.

Let us live for God, and not to please ourselves. We will not always be successful, but our efforts will be rewarded and we will increase in our successes as our faith and desire to serve God builds on the faith we nurture.

Matthew Chapter 22, pt 2: Divine Knowledge

Tonight we will conclude our study of Matthew Chapter 22 by reading verses 23-46. 

In verses 23-33, the Sadducees try to trap Jesus in another quandary. Jesus easily rebukes them as before but this time His rebuke takes on a somewhat different tone than the others. Jesus had easily reasoned with them in the past, revealing spiritual truths through His divine knowledge as God’s Son. In this instance, Jesus rebukes them by indicating to them that there is still so much that they do not understand. By saying that God is the God of the living, He indicates that when we die, we surely do not really sure as eternal beings, but we simply continue on in a new form. By revealing this truth to them, Jesus shows them that their query about who will be married to whom in the afterlife is not as important as understanding the full truth of what happens when we die. Our existence as it continues after death is shrouded in more mystery for us than we might at first think; God is too big, and His plans for His followers are too far beyond our understanding in this present life. 

In verses 34-46, Jesus answers a question from the Pharisees and then in turn asks them a question to silence them for good. Jesus’s answer about the greatest commandment is not one that they might have expected, and thus it did silence them because there was no way they could use His answer to trap Him. While Jesus has them off-balance, He uses the time to ask them a difficult question that He knows they cannot answer truthfully: 

“What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They said to Him, “ The Son of David.” He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool” ’? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?”

The Pharisees wanted to pigeonhole Jesus and having Jesus pronounce himself as part of David’s lineage was a good way to satisfy this desire of theirs. Jesus knew this and thus set this trap for them. But as we read in the dialogue between Jesus and the Pharisees, Jesus again lets them in on the fact that they understand so much less than they think they do. 

Jesus did come through the lineage of David, but He was not a descendant of David in the spiritual sense because Jesus was the Son of God while David was a mere man. David was a great and faithful man, but still just a man. So Jesus wanted to show them this truth as well, that He was not just another man or prophet, but that He was the Son of God, a divine figure sent to seek and save the lost souls of the earth. 

Tonight I urge you to expand your thinking about who or what God is. However we imagine Him, remember that when we do try and imagine God in heaven we are doing so using a brain that God made for us. He knows our limits; we do not know His. He knows our plans and our hearts; what we know of God’s plans has been revealed to us in the Bible. 

God is ever so much bigger than we think He is! 

Matthew Chapter 22, pt 1: A Wedding & Taxes

In tonight’s lesson, we will read a parable of Jesus’s and also an exchange between the Pharisees and Jesus on the subject of taxes. 

In verses 1-14, Jesus tells the parable of the wedding feast. In this story, a king invites guests to his son’s wedding and then sends servants to call the invited guests to come attend the wedding when it is time. However, the invited guests refuse to come to the wedding. In fact, the invited guests treat the wedding lightly, and some of the invited even killed the servants sent to fetch them to the wedding. 

As a result of this, the king sends more servants out to invite anyone to the wedding, so that the wedding hall would be filled with guests. And so it was.

When the king came to see the guests, he saw one man there that did not come prepared to the wedding; he was not wearing a wedding garment. This guest had no explanation as to why he came unprepared. The king had this unprepared guest cast out. 

In this parable, the wedding feast is the kingdom of God. Those guests originally invited are the Jewish people. The servants sent to call the invited guests to the wedding were the prophets of God. The king is God and the son is Jesus. The people that are brought to wedding at the last minute to fill the hall are those that hear His message today and follow Christ to salvation. The lesson with this parable is to not be like the man that came without a wedding garment. For this is the same as professing to be a follower of Christ yet not putting on the attributes and following the commandments and virtues laid out for the new kingdom. If we say we are faithful Christians, yet do not act accordingly, we will not be admitted to heaven, but will also be cast into outer darkness. 

In verses 15-22, Jesus navigates through a trap set by the Pharisees to catch Him in a quandary about taxes. The question they ask is whether or not it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. This question is devised as a trap because many Jews did not want to pay taxes to their Roman oppressors. If Jesus says that the taxes should be paid, then he loses the loyalty of those loyal to the Roman government. However, if he says to not pay the taxes, He could become the target of the Roman government as mounting an insurrection against the government. 

Jesus’s answer is not to pay the tax, but to render the tax back to the government from which it came. The distinction of “render” versus “pay” is important because to render implies to give back to where it came from, or to where it is rightfully owed. This is different from payment. The meaning therefore is that we should follow the rule of law of the land. In fact, to do so is the will of God, but not to follow the law where it contradicts with the Word of God. 

I encourage you tonight to listen and pay attention to God’s holy Word. For in it is all we need for a righteous life approved by God.