Matthew Series | Matthew 26:1-30 | Pastor Duane Smets
This week is an exegetical sermon on Matthew 26:1-30 where the last acts and conversations of Jesus’ ministry before the cross take place. In it the high priest Caiaphas plots to kill Jesus, Mary pour a year’s wages worth of oil on Jesus head, Judas makes a deal to betray Jesus, and Jesus eats the Passover meal with his disciples. This sermon was originally preached on November 7th, 2010 at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA.
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The Resolved Church
Pastor Duane Smets
November 7th, 2010
Jesus Prepares To Die
I. Caiaphas Plots: Scheming Against The Lord (v.3-5)
II. Mary Worships: Giving Everything To The Lord (v.6-13)
III. Judas Betrays: Selling Out The Lord (v.14-16, 25)
IV. Disciples Eat: Receiving Life From The Lord (v.17-30)
Good morning everyone. Well, our study of the book of Matthew is coming to a close and with the close of the book it’s great climax. The climax doesn’t occur like a traditional. In most stories and books the climax is somewhere in the middle…here it comes at the end. What we’re looking at today is Jesus last day of ministry before the cross, last moment with friends and disciples. Everything is directed towards the cross and Jesus death, so I titled my sermon “Jesus Prepares To Die.”
What we have been seeing leading up to this point is the steady move of Jesus towards the cross. He has said it was going to happen several times. Then he came into Jerusalem causing a citywide uproar. Now in these last scenes we see Jesus very intentionally setting things up for his death…a last act of worship from a woman, a release of Judas to betray him, and a last meal with his disciples where he explains why he’s going to die. Make no mistake, Jesus death was not a tragic accident but the calculated and willful act of the Lord.
I was thinking about this Sunday and the nature of Christianity and that this week text and sermon are filled with a focus on death..and then I was thinking about how we receive the Lord’s Supper each week in tokens of Jesus’ body and blood in bread and wine…and I was thinking about how Jesus’ cross has become the primary symbol of Christianity, an emblem representing torture and capital punishment…and what I realized, besides that we are a very weird bunch of people, us Christians…is that there is a very intently paradoxical quality to this whole thing.
Because from just a total outside perspective…this whole thing is pretty morbid and dark. Jesus talking about death, him dying, and then us talking about it all the time and all the details involved is what led up to it and what actually happened. It’s all pretty disturbing and should simply be just depressing and sad. But it isn’t for us!
And that’s the paradox in it. That the thing which should make any normal human being recoil and retract instead reverberates a deep seated joy and thanks for those of us who call Jesus our Lord. It’s sort of upside-down. The heart of the gospel, the “good” news of the gospel is actually a really bad and terrible thing that happened…Jesus died. And we love it that he died for us, so we can’t stop talking about and singing about what he did. We love it!
Now some of you are not yet Christians and this story doesn’t really do that for you and maybe you think we’re all just crazy and maybe we are. Or you might be a place like this today. Maybe you’ve considered yourself a Christian but the good news of it all has become old news. It isn’t the first time you’ve heard about Jesus’ death and it no longer moves you.
No matter where you find yourself this morning, which group you are in…a Christian who loves this story, not yet a Christian and unsure what you think about it, or a “Christian” who is no longer excited by this story…my prayer for all of us today is as we read and see these last moments of Jesus today, his last interactions and acts of ministry before he goes to the cross…that for all of us, the paradox would happen. That the dark and dreadful nature of it all would stir the bowels of our souls and cause joyful tears of worship, thanks and adoration to spring out from the depth of our beings towards our God.
So that’s why I’m preaching today. I’m not up here this morning just because it’s my job. I’m up here because I love my Lord and I’m longing that love for him might be awakened in you as well today.
So let’s read the text and pray over it. Matthew 26:1-30.
Alright, so we’ve basically got four different characters or four different scenes we’re going to look at today. Jesus will have a couple more interactions with people before he ceases to speak and goes to the cross, but those conversations are all wrapped up as part of his arrest and death which we’ll look at next week. The characters and events of this week mark the close of Jesus’ earthly ministry prior to the cross.
I. Caiaphas Plots: Scheming Against The Lord
First, Caiaphas. Jesus has come into Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, which is no longer a free city or nation but has been overtaken and ruled over by the Romans for quite some time. The people of Israel want a guy like David in the Bible, to come and lead a military revolt against Rome to take them out like David to Goliath in the story they all grew up hearing.
They thought Jesus might be the man to do it and called him and treated him as the Christ, the messiah or deliverer to do this thing. But instead, he has continued in his passivistic approach, simply teaching, preaching, healing people, doing miracles and dishing out strong words of rebuke and correction to the pastors of the day. And Caiaphas is their leader.
Caiaphas is called the “high priest.” Let me tell you a few things about the role of the high priest and how Caiaphas was executing it. The high priest’s main job, other than overseeing leading the other pastors, was to once a year do two things.
One, to kill up a spotless lamb (a sheep that had a coat of pure white fur and no physical ailments) on this special altar or table in part of a worship service to God. God had instructed Moses to do this in Leviticus 16. And the reason for it was spiritual. People are sinful, bad, do wicked things and have unright hearts…because of that people deserve to have their blood spilled and die. But instead of having everyone killed because of their sin, God said look…once a year take a spotless lamb (Ram), because that is what you are supposed to be, spotless. We’ll have the spotless lamb represent all the people and then let’s kill the lamb as a substitute instead of having me judge all the people and have to wipe them all out.
That was one of the high priests main jobs, to be the one who offered up this lamb to God on behalf of the people. His other main job was to go into the “holy of holies” once a year and meet with God, again on behalf of the people.
You see, what God did to try and teach people that he is holy and good is he had them build this temple and in the temple their were increasingly secret areas, like concentric circles that only certain people had access to. The most secret place, the “holy of holies” could only be entered by the high priest once a year. He would go in there and have a special time of prayer with God representing the people.
So this is what Caiaphas’ job is supposed to be. Instead what he has become is a politician who is a vassal or puppet of the Romans. We actually know a lot about Caiaphas. In 1990 while constructing Jerusalem’s Peace Park, they were digging and found his bones in a bone box with his name on it. Josephus and the Dead Sea Scrolls tell us quite a bit about him.
Caiphas was hired by the Roman Prefect Valerius Gratus (which wasn’t how you were supposed to become high priest) and they let him keep his job for 18 years because he worked so well with them. After him the Romans changed who the high priest was almost every year until they finally just destroyed Jerusalem and the whole office of the high priest all together.
Let’s check out our text. The chief priests and elders of the people get together in Caiaphas’ palace and verse 4 says they, “plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.” So Caiaphas is leading the charge in this plot, he has everyone over to his palace in order to devise a plan. This is tricky.
His Roman bosses main concern is the “pax Romana”, the Roman peace. You see, the Romans are unique in that when they took over a people and a city, afterward they would pretty much let you still function as long as you paid them taxes and you didn’t fight against them, keeping peace…that meant no large group rallies.
Caiaphas knows this. He doesn’t want to lose his job but he also wants Jesus dead. So the plan? Get Jesus alone. This not only ensures a limited amount of fight but it keeps the “pax Romana” or Roman peace, which he cares a lot about. You can hear it in verse 5, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar.”
Now here’s my question. How do you get to a place where you are supposed to be serving God and his people but instead you reach a point where you are plotting against God? I mean it seems like there is this continual stream of pastors who disqualify themselves and fail at their job. It seems like it’s almost every few months when it comes out that another priest or pastor molested a child, or cheated on his wife, or embezzled money. Have you ever wondered, how does that happen?
I think there’s a clue from Caiaphas. I think it happens this way. When we start to care more about people’s opinion of us and are fearful of losing our position or status…that then you slowly move to a place where you will do anything to keep it…even plotting against God’s man. What happens is the person you are serving shifts from being God to yourself.
And this isn’t just for pastors is it? It’s the same thing that happens for whatever job you’re in if you don’t see yourself as working for the Lord you will end up working for yourself and doing whatever it takes to get and keep your job, even if it means having to scheme against God’s expectations. It’s when you do something you know isn’t right but you work up a way in your mind to justify it and say it’s okay. I’m amazed at how often whenever there is a conflict between work and church how easily and quickly people let church go…and it is so swiftly justified…”oh well I really need the money, I have to have a job.” Not that bad.
Here’s the thing. In every single one of your jobs, whether your a stay at home mom or you’re a dude in the workforce…for everyone, a day or time will come where you have an opportunity to do your job in such a way that makes Jesus look good and demonstrates that he is your primary allegiance…whether it’s something you say or don’t say or do or don’t do, if it hasn’t happened yet, that day will come and the question is whether or not you act for the Lord or pull a Caiaphas and move against him.
May Jesus help us keep him central and the most important thing.
II. Mary Worships: Giving Everything To The Lord (v.6-13)
Okay, let’s move on and talk about Mary. Our text doesn’t say it’s Mary, but it’s parallel account in John 12 does. Now there’s a lot of Marys in the Bible. There’s Mary, Jesus’ mom. Mary Magdalene, the porn star prostitute turned Christian. There’s Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters. There’s a lot of Marys and it’s not quite clear exactly which Mary this is…though from John’s account it sounds like Martha’s sister. I like the idea of it being Mary Magdalene but it probably wasn’t.
Here’s the story. Jesus and the disciples are at a dude named Simon’s house eating dinner. We’ll talk a little more about cultural dining practices but suffice to say here, they ate in pretty close quarters. There are not paved roads and everyone wore sandals. So everyone’s feet are pretty dirty. They didn’t have showers back then, so it was rare that you were able to wash your hair.
So…it was a common cultural practice to give a small amount of oil to dinner guests for their hair and clothes after you’d had a chance to at least have your feet washed. Sort of like all the hippies in OB who never shower and just keep pour Patchouli oil all over themselves. Only this was a little more common and they used Myrrh, a pure nard extract imported from India, smells a lot better than Patchouli.
Most likely, Mary is going around the table and giving everyone a little bit of oil and I’m not sure if she planned it or not but something happens when she comes to Jesus she becomes overwhelmed and pours the whole bottle on him.
Right away one of the disciples react and scold her saying, “what a waste!” And then they try to sound all spiritual and say…we could have sold the oil for money and given it to the poor. But you got to understand where the disciples are coming from.
A bottle of this oil was worth the equivalent of a year’s worth of wages. So think about it. The average income for all of San Diego about $47,000 dollars a year. So imagine this. You having dinner with Jesus at this dude’s house. First off, you’re impressed with his house, you don’t even have one and it’s nice and he’s got oil, a $50K dollar bottle of oil. You sit down to eat and this young woman comes around giving you a little bit of it. And when she gets to Jesus she just dumps the whole thing on him. Aah!!!!! $50,000 thousand dollars down the drain. I’m not sure who, in their right mind in this room wouldn’t react in the same way.
Then Jesus redirects and interprets what just happened. You see, I’m speculating a bit but I don’t think Mary planned to do that. I think something about the act of anointing Jesus with oil just overwhelmed her and she couldn’t help herself and just poured out the whole thing. I think Jesus explanation is not only for the disciples and the rest of us but also for her.
Look at his words, Verse 10, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me.” Verse 12 “In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
Two things he says. First, Jesus redirects what the oil was for. You see the other thing they used this oil for was recently dead bodies, because when they are decomposing they smell. So Jesus says, you thought this oil was for dinner, just to help us clean up and wash up for a meal. She poured it all over my whole body because I’m about to die and my body is soon going to start stinking. Oh, it’s vivid.
You see, Jesus can say…I’m going to go be delivered and crucified…but this paints a picture. His body is going to be dead and start to smell and he will need oil. That’s the one thing Jesus says, he redirects the purpose of the oil.
The second thing is he says it’s “beautiful” and is a picture of the gospel to be proclaimed! And she’s going to be remembered for it! So here’s my question…what made it beautiful and why did Jesus say it was such a big deal that what she did should be included in the Bible and told throughout the whole world? What’s going on here?
I think it’s this. She loved Jesus. She worshipped him. Mary poured out everything that she had. Even more than her money she poured out her heart. And that is what the good news of the gospel is all about. Jesus came to die for our sin and because he did we love him and worship him with everything we have. Jesus commends her heart and her act because she made him central.
It really is beautiful. I don’t know if there’s a better word for it. It’s a beautiful picture of worship in giving everything to the Lord. You know, it’s so tempting to focus on the money aspect here…to talk about putting our money where our mouth is and worshipping God with our money, especially when we were like $500 short in our budget last month. It’s tempting to make this all about money, just like the disciples did.
But it’s really not about money is it? It’s about worship. That’s why I think Mary didn’t plan this but was overwhelmed at Jesus. It was a genuine act of adoration and love for Jesus. So here’s my question…Do you love Jesus like that? Not just, would you give him a year of your wages if you had it in the bank…but are you overwhelmed by him? Does Jesus’ person and presence move you to worship?
Maybe Mary really understood and believed Jesus was going to die for her…if so, does knowing that Jesus died for your sin compel you to worship like that? If not, maybe you’re not really seeing Jesus for who he really is?
III. Judas Betrays: Selling Out The Lord (v.14-16, 25)
Well, Judas Iscariot was one who didn’t really see Jesus for who he really was. He was with him for three years and he still didn’t get it and ends up selling him out for thirty pieces of silver. There’s a couple interesting things here.
Remember Caiaphas and his cronies are trying to figure out how to get Jesus without causing an uproar. It’s almost like their prayers get answered because in verse 14 it says Judas went out to them and asks them…hey, how much cash will you give me if I turn Jesus over to you? They tell him 30 pieces of silver. That’s about four months worth of wages. So if the average income is $50,000 we’re talking about $16,000 dollars. And Judas says, “deal.”
Not long afterwards they are eating they’re last meal together with Jesus and Jesus tells the twelve disciples that one of them is going to betray him. They’re shocked and start going around, each one asking Jesus, “Is it me?” And when it gets to Judas and Judas asks, Jesus basically says, “yup, it’s you” and it would have been better if you were never born.
Crazy conversation. Judas literally already had the money in his pocket when that happened. It’s an amazing display of Jesus’ divine omniscience, that he is God who knows all things. That’s probably the most striking, Jesus knows Judas is going to do this, in John’s gospel he tells us Jesus knew from the day he chose him to be one of the twelve (Jn 6:70-71). Yet Jesus knows Judas is going to do this and he still goes through with it all…normally when you find out about an assassination plot you try to avoid it…not Jesus.
Here’s the million dollar question. Why did Judas do it? How could he? After seeing everything Jesus did and hearing everything Jesus said, how could he betray him like that? I think the whole deal tells us two things.
One, simply seeing and hearing Jesus does not guarantee belief in and love for him. You know sometimes we can think, oh if I just saw a miracle or saw Jesus myself, if I just knew the answers to all my questions then I would believe.
Not necessarily. Judas saw it all and he didn’t. It’s a reminder that belief or faith is not automatic, it’s a heart issue…ultimately no one can be reasoned into becoming a Christian, God has to open up their heart and enable them to believe.
The second thing it tells us is to beware. I’m sure both Judas and the rest of the disciples thought he was fine and was legitimately a Christian but he never really was. In it there’s a warning…because I think we all, at times have an inner Judas where we are tempted to sell out the Lord and sometimes even do. The warning is that little things become big things.
You see, I don’t think Judas’ betrayal of Jesus just came out of a vacuum. Like he woke up one day and decided to betray him. It probably started long before that. Hints of skepticism and doubt that went undealt with. Disappointment and failed expectations which planted a seed of bitterness and resentment toward Jesus.
I’m just guessing but it was probably Jesus finally coming into Jerusalem and not taking up arms as a political military messiah that was the last straw for Judas. He had been waiting all along for Jesus to really act like the messiah he expected and wanted and when the time finally came to go to Jerusalem as the messiah, Jesus wasn’t even going to put up a fight and Judas was angry. He probably felt like he just wasted three years of his life and now he wanted to get back at Jesus.
The lesson for us is to beware. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says to “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.” We need to test our own hearts and our own beliefs. You see doubts are not always bad if they get dealt with. Otherwise they have the potential of leading us to a place where we give up on Jesus and sell him for cash or for a better life.
It’s tempting. Sometimes I’ve thought, man things would be so much easier if I were not a Christian. I could be making far more money. I could just do what I want, instead of worrying about what God and my family thinks all the time. Selling out Jesus is tempting. But never satisfying.
It never works out, because none of those other offers can provide. They all destroy. My heart and my conscience would eat me alive to where I wouldn’t be surprised if I like Judas just went and hanged myself. Life, really is an unbearable and frustrating mess without Jesus.
Which is really the thing Jesus drives home in his last meal with the disciples…the need to feed on and have new life in him. So let’s look at this last meal, where the disciples eat and Jesus teaches.
IV. Disciples Eat: Receiving Life From The Lord (v.17-30)
So they go to eat this special meal called the “Passover.” It’s called the Passover because as my three year old daughter informed me the other night, “God passed over them because of the blood so they could be safe.”
Apparently they learned this story from Exodus in church school the other week. I had a date with Adina and in the evening after dinner we sat down to read the Bible and I decided to read from Romans 3:21-26 just for kicks. I knew she wasn’t going understand things like verse 25 which says Jesus was “a propitiation by his blood” but I thought I’d read it anyway just so she’s hearing it.
Funny thing is when I read “Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith…to show God’s righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins…” She interrupted me and said, “Daddy, daddy…you mean like the blood on the door?”
I stopped and asked her, “What did you just say?” And she replied, “Like the blood on the door, he passed over them.” I literally had to stop and think for a second and then I said, “Yeah Adina, that’s exactly right.”
You see for those of you who were not in the kids Sunday school the other week they learned about how God’s people, when they were in Egypt as slaves and Pharaoh would not let the people go, God said he was going to kill every first born son, including the Pharaoh’s if he didn’t let the people go. In order to protect his people God told them to kill a lamb and put its blood on the door of their houses so that in the night their house would be passed over and their first born son not killed.
Every since that event, the Jews have celebrated it with a special meal to remember the miracle of grace God performed in it…and they call it the “Passover” because he passed over their sins since they had the blood on the door.
Basically what Jesus does at this Passover meal is say, “I’m the passover lamb whose blood you need.” Check it out. Verse 26, he takes the bread and says, “Take, eat, this is my body.” Then verse 27-28 he takes a cup of wine and says, “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 says, you need bood, so I’ll give you mine. I’ll give you my body and when I do you’ll have my blood so you can be passed over. So take my blood and put it over the door of your heart by drinking it and I covenant or promise to you, you’ll be forgiven and saved from your sins once and for all…never having to make a sacrifice ever again. This is my new covenant.
Two main things I want to point out here. One this was a special special deal. It seems I keep hearing increasing talk and criticism about how churches have elevated communion as this ceremony and the person will say something to the effect of…it was just a meal and not supposed to be part of a worhsip service.
No, it was so much more than that. The preparations for a Passover meal were intense. You had to make the food the night before and set it all up. Then after you ate, there was a transition and a formal teaching and ritual time of the night, not unlike a small worship service. In 1 Corinthians 11 the Corinthian church actually gets in trouble for treating the Lord’s Supper too casually just like a meal. So all that to say, I like the way we do it here and I think those who want to downplay the significance and formality of it are missing something big.
The second thing I want to point out is far more important and that is the theology of Communion or the Lord’s Supper, whatever you want to call it. In Luke 22 and 1 Corinthians 11 Jesus is recorded as saying to do this ceremony he initiates every time we get together. Which is why we do it every week here at The Resolved. So the theology of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus says here is “covenant.”
Look at verse 28. Do you see that word? “Covenant” means a legally binding promise or pact. The way they did covenants in ancient mesopotamia is they would set the terms of the covenant, the legal agreement, then they would cut an animal in half and throw the two pieces on the ground. Then the two parts would walk in between the pieces in a figure eight fashion in order to physically say, if you break the terms of this covenant, may you be cut in half as this animal.
What Jesus says here is breathtaking. He sets the terms on himself AND offers up himself as the animal to be cut in half. What are the terms? Jesus blood is given for the forgiveness of sins, so that the wrath of God might pass over us.
What’s the promise? Verse 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.” He’s talking about his resurrection from the dead. It’s Thursday night. The next day he will be crucified. On the third day, Sunday, he will rise forevermore and drink wine with his disciples. The promise is that the provision of his blood for forgiveness will always stand and never be broken. Jesus allows himself to both be cut in half and Jesus passes through the pieces of death and rises again sealing the promise forevermore.
This is it! This is the whole reason Jesus came into the world. This is the climax and purpose of his entire three year ministry. This is why he calculated every detail ensuring his crucifixion to take place. This is it! Jesus came to die so that we might be forgiven by his blood.
This is the gospel. It’s a covenantal gospel. The promise of forgiveness through Jesus’ blood. And that is such good news for those of us who believe we are sinners who deserve not to be passed over but to receive the full justice of God’s holy wrath. That Jesus would offer up himself, to have God’s wrath be poured out on him instead of us?!!!
Oh that I had more than just a year’s worth of wages to pour out in oil at his feet to tell him how grateful I am. What love! What wonder! What grace! What forgiveness! What a savior!
The gospel of Jesus Christ ravishes my soul.
After Jesus says these words they sing a hymn. What else can you do? It’s the only appropriate response. So we’re going to do that right now.
Let’s worship and thank Jesus for who he is and what he has done. We’ve talked about four different characters or groups of people. Caiaphas who plotted and schemed against the Lord. Mary who worships and gives everything to the Lord. Judas who betrays and sells out the Lord and the disciples who eat and receive life from the Lord.
Here’s my appeal.
Don’t scheme against the Lord like Caiahphas. Lay down all of your excuses and justifications and other allegiances and concerns and come. Just as you are, lay down your arms, give up the fight and come and receive grace and worship Jesus.
Come and worship like Mary. Pour out your heart to the Lord. Give him all that you have. If you’ve never done this before but in the service and sermon God has been showing you that your a sinner and showing you how good Jesus is to come and die for you sin…you come and partake with us. We come to the table, we tear off a piece of bread dip in the wine and say thank you Jesus, I love you Jesus, Jesus you are Lord and God, I worship you Jesus. We simply pour out our hearts to the Lord.
Beware of the things which would keep you from responding. The inner Judas in all of us, who would doubt and questions God’s goodness and his love for us. As Judas discovered, turning away from Jesus does not satisfy…it only makes things worse, don’t make that mistake.
Instead, feed on Jesus. He is our life. Come and drink deeply from the well of his blood which is sufficient to cover all of our sins. Like the old hymn says, “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins; and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.”
I beg with you all…it’s not morbid, it’s the greatest joy and hope God has ever provided for human beings. Let’s receive his grace and love in the gospel.