We’ve read through books and books of the Old Testament telling of a Messiah, a great King, a great Prophet, a Redeemer, the root of Jesse, the son of David, the Branch, a vicarious Sacrifice, and God’s Servant. He came in the fulness of time, lived perfectly, taught brilliantly, and now in today’s reading fulfill God’s great scheme of redemption for all mankind — die for our sins and prove the effectiveness of His death for us through His resurrection. It is the keystone, the climax of all history.
A kind deed to always remember — Matthew 26:6ff
Kind deeds are always appreciated, but perhaps you can remember a kind deed done or kind word spoken to you in your life that came at just the right time and will never be forgotten. Such was the extravagant gift of a woman to Jesus probably less than 36 hours before his betrayal and arrest. This was “Apples of gold in settings of silver” in a deed (Prov. 25:11) to Jesus, a spontaneous act of love in a stressful time, when everybody else was concerned about the less important things. Certainly, it was very costly perfume, almost a whole year’s income! But I think it was more than just the perfume; I think it may have been because she had actually listened to Him as He talked about His death. Jesus had spoken to His disciples about His impending death, but His disciples (like Peter) wouldn’t even allow themselves to think about it: “That will never happen to You, Lord.” But Jesus defends her actions to the others by telling them that she had done this to prepare Him for burial. Had she really listened when the others, occupied with their own agendas, had not? And was she simply responding in the only way she could think of?
Do we listen carefully enough to Jesus? What does He really care about? The bells and whistles? The budget? The long range plans? Or obedience? Your heart? Rescue of the lost? Service to a little one?
A communion supper to always remember — Matthew 26:26ff
The Lord’s Supper is a weekly observance of what the Lord Himself set up on the night in which He was betrayed — in memory of His sacrificial death for us. It was observed every first day of the week in the early church (Acts 20:7 and 1 Cor. 16:1,2), and church history confirms this practice. The bread and wine signify a rightful sharing in the sacrificed body and the shed blood of Jesus (1 Cor. 10:16-17). It is different from an ordinary meal or snack and should not be viewed this way; although it uses common foods, it is meal separated from the ordinary for remembrance and reflection — remembrance and reflection on who we once were, how we’ve been redeemed, Whose we are now, and where we belong now (God’s family, the church).
Some fear making the Lord’s Supper too common by partaking of it every first day of the week — some groups take it quarterly or whenever their leader decides — but as someone who has been a Christian and partaking of the Lord’s Supper weekly for almost 50 years, it never grows old, never loses its significance, never becomes ho-hum. To the contrary, it only becomes more meaningful. The Lord’s Supper is a part of the pattern of the Lord’s church and part of that pattern is to share it each first day of the week. This Sunday the Lord will be “at the table” waiting for you, will you stand Him up?
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak — Matthew 26:39-41
Jesus knew the strength it would take for Him to endure the sufferings of the trial and the cross He was facing. He also knew what kind of strength the apostles would need to endure the events of the next 3 or 4 days. He knew their intentions, what they wanted to do, what they thought for sure they would do, but He also know that they’d face greater temptations than they had imagined to abandon Him, deny Him, and fall away permanently in guilt. Their spirit was willing, but their flesh was weak. Prayer was needed more than they knew. Here’s a lesson for us, too. Do we not need to pray everyday like we’re about to face terrible temptation or persecution? Although we’re not sorely tempted every day, there are some days… when our spirits are willing, but our flesh is weak. And we never know when those days are coming — just like sleepy Peter, who probably couldn’t figure out why Jesus was so insistent on prayer that night. Pray without ceasing.
Unexpected confessions on Golgotha — Matthew 27:33-54
We’re all familiar with the “Great Confession” that Peter made, the statement of faith upon which Jesus built His church. But on Calvary two unexpected confessions of Jesus’ identity as the Messiah were made. One was by Pilate who directed that a sign be placed above the head of Jesus. Putting the crime above the head of condemned men was not unusual, since part of the public nature of crucifixion was to warn would-be wrong-doers, “Don’t let this happen to you.” On this particular placard, however, was put an unusual crime: “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” John tells us that the religious leaders objected and said that it should be tweaked to read: “He said He was the King of the Jews”. But Pilate answered them, “What I have written, I have written.”
But likewise at the end, when Jesus was giving up His spirit, the centurion who had watched everything — the trial, the flogging, the beating, the spitting, Jesus’ silence toward their accusations, the mocking, the carrying of the cross to Golgotha, the nails in the hands and feet, the continued mocking, the darkness at noon, the earthquake, and the courageous and noble way Jesus lived down to His last breath — concluded, “Truly this was the Son of God.”
After the awful news comes the good — Matthew 28:1ff
The account of the crucifixion is brutal to read. The mere fact that the Savior of the world could be treated this way is such a shame upon all of mankind. And to think, it was all for what I’ve done! It’s awful! It turns the stomach. But thanks be to God, it did not end there! There is an empty tomb! Death is not the final victor!
And you know, this is a type of story that could be told again and again. Life, even for a Christian, can sometimes be really brutal and ugly. An unbeliever will just shrug and repeat the cynical mantra, “Life stinks and then you die,” as if there is nothing more. But Christian reality is different: if you’re a Christian, after the awful comes the good. Hang in there; fight the good fight; finish the course; keep the faith — there’s good news coming!
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.