Preaching Palm Sun
THE TRAITOR’S BARGAIN Matthew 26:14–16
We have seen that the Jewish authorities wished to find a way in which to arrest Jesus without provoking riotous disturbances,this was presented to them by the approach of Judas
(i) It may have been because of greed. According to Matthew and Mark it was immediately after the anointing at Bethany that Judas struck his dreadful bargain; and when John tells his story of that event, he says that Judas made his protest against the anointing because he was a thief and pilfered from the money that was in the box (John 12:6). If that is so, Judas struck one of the most dreadful bargains in history. If we work out the amount in Naira less than N1,250 . If greed was the reason why Judas betrayed Jesus, it is shows how the love of money can be the root of many evils. The love of money is the root cause of many of the evils in Nigeria.
(ii) It may be that Judas was a sicarri, a dagger-bearer, who hoped that Jesus would drive out the Romans.When Jesus chose the way that led to a cross perhaps the hatred of the Romans changed to hatred of Jesus because he was not the Christ he wished him to be.
(iii) Maybe he thought that Jesus was proceeding far too slowly; and he wished to force Jesus to act with more power .He may have betrayed Jesus with the intention of compelling him to act. That is in fact the view which best suits all the facts. And that would explain why Judas was shattered into suicide when his plan went wrong.
Judas refused to accept Jesus and tried to make him what he wanted him to be.We do not change Jesus we who must be changed by Jesus. Judas thought that he knew better than God.
(Judas) LOVE’S LAST APPEAL Matthew 26:20–25
Although Judas hid what he was doing from the disciples he could not hide what he was doing from Jesus. (We can hide our sins from each other we can never hide them from Jesus who sees the secrets of the heart. Jesus confronted Judas with his sin, to make him stop and think of what he was about to do.(The greatest security against sin lies in our being shocked by it. Jesus tries to make us look at himself to see clearly the terrible thing we are about to do)
Judas went on even when he was confronted with his sin and confronted with the face of Christ, he would not turn back.There is the sin of the passionate moment, when we are swept into wrong doing. But far worse is the sin of deliberation, when we see clearly what we are doing and go ahead and do it.
THE TRAITOR’S KISS Matthew 26:47–50
If in Judas’s heart there was nothing but black hatred and a kind of mad desire for the money , this is the most terrible kiss in history and a sign of betrayal. If that is so, there is nothing too terrible to be said about Judas.
It is much more likely that Judas kissed Jesus as a disciple kissed a master and meant it; He then stood back waiting on Jesus to use his power and to act. We see no more of Judas until he kills himself. Suddenly he saw clearly the terrible mistake he had made as he saw Jesus led away to be condemned.(The worst kind of hell is the full realization of the terrible consequences of our sins.) The suicide of Judas surely shows us his plan had gone wrong. He had meant to make Jesus fire out with power as a conqueror; instead he had driven him to the Cross and life for Judas was shattered.
The terrible thing about sin is that we cannot put the clock back. We cannot undo what we have done. Once a thing is done nothing can alter it or bring it back. No one needs to be very old to wish that some hour could be lived over again.
THE COLLAPSE OF PETER Matthew 26:31–35
Jesus was confident for his confidence lay in God. After I have been raised,” he says, “I will go before you into Galilee.” Jesus saw beyond the Cross to the glory of the resurrection.
Jesus knew that they were going to run for their lives and abandon him in the most difficult moment of his life. He is not angry, he does not condemn them, or call them useless. He tells them that when that terrible time is past, he will meet them again. Jesus knew them at their worst and still loved them. The knowledge of our human weaknesss does not turn his love to bitterness or contempt.
The fault of peter is over-confidence in himself. He loved Jesus and he thought that all by himself he could face anything . We shall be safe only when we replace over confidence in ourselves with the humility which knows its weakness and which depends not on itself but the help of Christ.
THE FAILURE OF COURAGE Matthew 26:57, 58, 69–75
The New Testament is very honest. It tells of peter’s betrayal in all its teribble shamefulness. The amazing fact is that we possess the story of Peter’s denial because Peter himself told it to others. So far from hiding what happened, Peter made it an essential part of his gospel; and did so because he could say, “That is the way that this Jesus can forgive. He forgave me when I failed him in his bitterest hour of need. He can forgive you.
The fact is that Peter was a brave man .All the other disciples ran away: Peter alone did not. For Peter to enter that courtyard in the centre of the High Priest’s house was to walk terrible danger. However this story ends, it begins with Peter the one brave man.
The first denial happened in the courtyard;. After that recognition anyone would have thought that Peter would have run for his life. But not Peter. In his heart there was a fear that made him want to run away; but in his heart, too, there was a love which kept him there. Again, in the porch he was recognized; and this time he swore he did not know Jesus. But still he did not go.Peter’s second denial gave him away. From his speech it was clear that he was a Galilaean. Peter actually cursed his Master’s name. But still he had no intention of leaving. And then the cock crew and Peter remembered and he went and wept his heart out.The lasting impression of this whole story is not of Peter’s cowardice, but of Peter’s love.
THE SOUL’S BATTLE IN THE GARDEN Matthew 26:36–46
(i) We see the agony of Jesus. He was now quite sure that death lay ahead. Its very breath was on him. No one wants to die at thirty-three; and least of all does any man want to die in the agony of a cross. Here Jesus had his supreme struggle to submit his will to the will of God. No one who has not been tempted can enter the Kingdom of Heaven” We will all come to our own Gethsemane, God wants all of us to learn to say, “Thy will be done.”
(ii) We see the aloneness of Jesus. The disciples were so exhausted with the drama of these last days and hours that they could not stay awake. And Jesus had to fight his battle all alone. (That also is true for everyone. There are certain things we must face alone.
(iii) Here we see the trust of Jesus. Jesus’s use of the word Abba in addressing God can be found nowhwere else in jewish writings. It was the word used by a young child to its father; it was an everyday family word, which no one had ventured to use in addressing God. Jesus did. He spoke to his heavenly Father in as childlike, trustful, and intimate a way as a little child to its father.”
(iv) We see the courage of Jesus. “Rise,” said Jesus, “let us be going. He who betrays me is near.” Jesus rose from his knees to go out to the battle of life. That is what prayer is for. In prayer we kneel before God that we may stand erect before enemy . In prayer we enter heaven that we may face the battles of earth.
(ii) He chose to die because he knew that his death was the purpose of God. He took this way because it was the very thing that had been foretold by the prophets. He took it because love is the only way. “He who takes the sword will perish by the sword.” Violence can beget nothing but violence; one drawn sword can produce only another drawn sword to meet it. Jesus knew that war and might settle nothing, but produce only more and more evil. He knew that God’s purpose can be worked out only by sacrificial love.
When Pilate came to Judaea, he found trouble in plenty, and much of it was of his own making. He began with trouble. The Roman headquarters were in Caesarea. The Roman standards were not flags; they were poles with the Roman eagle, or the image of the reigning emperor, on top. In deference to the Jewish hatred of graven images, every previous governor had removed the eagles and the images from the standards before he marched into Jerusalem on his state visits. Pilate refused to do so. The result was such bitter opposition and such intransigence that Pilate in the end was forced to yield, for it is not possible either to arrest or to slaughter a whole nation.
Later, Pilate decided that Jerusalem needed a better water supply—a wise decision. To that end he constructed a new aqueduct—but he took money from the Temple treasury to pay for it. The Jews, Philo tells us, had threatened to exercise their right to report Pilate to the Emperor for his misdeeds. This threat “exasperated Pilate to the greatest possible degree, as he feared lest they might go on an embassy to the emperor, and might impeach him with respect to other particulars of his government—his corruption, his acts of insolence, his rapine, his habit of insulting people, his cruelty, his continual murders of people entried and uncondemned, and his never-ending gratuitous and most grievous inhumanity.” Pilate’s reputation with the Jews stank; and the fact that they could report him made his position entirely insecure.
This whole passage gives the impression of a man fighting a losing battle. It is clear that Pilate did not wish to condemn Jesus. Certain things emerge.
(i) Pilate was clearly impressed with Jesus. Plainly he did not take the King of the Jews claim seriously. He knew a revolutionary when he saw one, and Jesus was no revolutionary. His dignified silence made Pilate feel that it was not Jesus but he himself who was on trial. Pilate was a man who felt the power of Jesus—and was afraid to submit to it. There are still those who are afraid to be as Christian as they know they ought to be.(ii) Pilate sought some way of escape. It appears to have been the custom at the time of the Feast for a prisoner to be released. In gaol there was a certain Barabbas. He was no sneak-thief; he was most probably either a brigand or a political revolutionary.
Pilate sought an escape, but the crowd chose the violent criminal and rejected the gentle Christ. They preferred the man of violence to the man of love.(iii) Pilate sought to unshoulder the responsibility for condemning Jesus. There is that strange and tragic picture of him washing his hands. That was a Jewish custom. There is a strange regulation in Deuteronomy 21:1–9. If a dead body was found, and it was not known who the killer was, measurements were to be taken to find what was the nearest town or village. The elders of that town or village had to sacrifice a heifer and to wash their hands to rid them of the guilt. Pilate was warned by his sense of justice, he was warned by his conscience, he was warned by the dream of his troubled wife; but Pilate could not stand against the mob; and Pilate made the futile gesture of washing his hands. There is one thing of which a man can never rid himself—and that is responsibility. It is never possible for Pilate or anyone else to say, “I wash my hands of all responsibility,” for that is something that no one and nothing can take away. This picture of Pilate provokes in our minds pity rather than loathing; for here was a man so enmeshed in his past, and so rendered helpless by it, that he was unable to take the stand he ought to take. Pilate is a figure of tragedy rather than of villainy.
THE SOLDIERS’ MOCKERY Matthew 27:27–31
The dreadful routine of crucifixion had now begun. The last section ended by telling us that Pilate had Jesus scourged. Roman scourging was a terrible torture. The victim was stripped; his hands were tied behind him, and he was tied to a post with his back bent double and conveniently exposed to the lash. The lash itself was a long leather thong, studded at intervals with sharpened pieces of bone and pellets of lead. Such scourging always preceded crucifixion and “it reduced the naked body to strips of raw flesh, and inflamed and bleeding weals.” Men died under it, and men lost their reason under it, and few remained conscious to the end of it.
The Jewish writer, says, “Crucifixion is the most terrible and cruel death which man has ever devised for taking vengeance on his fellow-men.” Cicero called it “the most cruel and the most horrible torture.” Tacitus called it “a torture only fit for slaves.”Klausner goes on to describe crucifixion. The criminal was fastened to his cross, already a bleeding mass from the scourging. There he hung to die of hunger and thirst and exposure, unable even to defend himself from the torture of the gnats and flies which settled on his naked body and on his bleeding wounds. It is not a pretty picture but that is what Jesus Christ suffered—willingly—for us.
It is Accomplished. The Victory
In verse 46 we have what must be the most staggering sentence in the gospel record, the cry of Jesus: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
It has been suggested Jesus was, in fact, repeating that Psalm to himself; and, though it begins in complete dejection, it ends in soaring triumph—“From thee comes my praise in the great congregation. … For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:25–31).
(i) It seems more likley that in that moment the weight of the world’s sin fell upon the heart and the being of Jesus; that it was the moment when he who knew no sin was made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21); In that moment he truly experienced the terribleness of sin that separation from God brings.
(ii) In human experience, as life goes on and as bitter tragedy enters into it, there come times when we feel that God has forgotten us; when we are immersed in a situation beyond our understanding and feel bereft even of God. It seems to me that that is what happened to Jesus here. We have seen in the garden that Jesus knew only that he had to go on, because to go on was God’s will, and he must accept what even he could not fully understand. Here we see Jesus plumbing the uttermost depths of the human situation, so that there might be no place that we might go where he has not been before.
The Jews thought he was calling on Elijah. Perhaps the soldiers thought that Jesus was crying to the greatest of their pagan gods, Helios. In any event, his cry was to the watchers a mystery.
It would have been a terrible thing if Jesus had died with a cry like that upon his lips—but he did not. The narrative goes on to tell us that, when he shouted with a great shout, he gave up his spirit. That great shout left its mark upon men’s minds. It is in every one of the gospels (Matthew 27:50; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46). But there is one gospel which goes further. John tells us that Jesus died with a shout: “It is finished” or it is accomplished. (John 19:30). It is finished is in English three words; but in Greek it is one—Tetelestai—as it would also be in Aramaic. And tetelestai is the victor’s shout; it is the cry of the man who has completed his task;it is the cry of the man who has come out of the dark into the glory of the ligh.
If we too cling to God, even when there seems to be no God, desperately and invincibly clutching the remnants of our faith, quite certainly the dawn will break and we will win through. The victor is the man who refuses to believe that God has forgotten him, even when every fibre of his being feels that he is forsaken. The victor is the man who will never let go his faith, even when he feels that its last grounds are gone. The victor is the man who has been beaten to the depths and still holds on to God, for that is what Jesus did.