Why did the Lord Jesus Christ come to this earth as the Son of Man? Was it to feed the hungry, heal sick people, or teach His disciples? Listen to this lesson to hear His overriding purpose was to be crucified as our Redeemer. Find out the many contrasts in this passage including contrasts between the anonymous woman, Judas, the religious leaders, and the disciples. Hear the chronology of the events in these last few days before Jesus died on the cross.
Today's message includes a presentation by Jeff Phipps regarding his recent trip to teach the Word of God in the Natal, Brazil area.
The Evil of Religion
Matthew Lesson #166
June 18, 2017
“Father, we are grateful for what we just heard in Jeff’s report. We’re grateful for the impact of Your Word in Brazil and we’re grateful for the impact on pastors who have been challenged to teach through Your Word verse by verse.
“Only in that way do we believe that you can fully and correctly understand Your Word, as well as to be able to think through all of the areas of life, as they are addressed through a verse-by-verse study.
“Father, we thank You for Jeff’s willingness to go. We pray for others that will be willing to go and help out as well in that particular mission.
“Father, we thank You for Your Word and our opportunity to study it this morning. We pray that God the Holy Spirit would open up the eyes of our souls to Your truth that we might understand it and apply it in our own lives.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles this morning to Matthew 26. We have, after several months, concluded our study of the Olivet Discourse, and chapter 26 begins the next section of the Gospel of Matthew. It begins with the conclusion of what Jesus has said in Matthew 24 and 25.
This next section concludes our study of this Gospel, but it is not going to happen quickly because there are 75 verses in chapter 26. Then there are an additional 66 verses in Matthew 27 and then 20 in the last chapter. So this will take a little while; there is so much here.
What I’m thinking right now is doing this more as not a complete merger of the other Gospels, talking about this period because that would include the entire Upper Room Discourse as well, but especially within the structure of these three chapters, bringing in what is covered in the other Gospels, a little bit more than I have it in the past.
As we come to this section, the focus is the gospel. Some people think, well, Jesus gets rejected, and so the failure, almost, is expressed in some commentaries. Or this is an afterthought, realization of the defeat of Jesus in terms of His message, but actually in each of the Gospels this is the target.
Because this is why Jesus came: to go to the Cross and to be a sacrifice for our sins, to fulfill the promises and the prophecies—the pictures from the Old Testament related to the sacrificial system, that He, as the Lamb of God, will fulfill.
That He is the promised and future Messianic King, even though His offer of the Kingdom was rejected. The Kingdom is postponed; it is not a failure. But God is using that to bring about something new that was not foreseen in the Old Testament, and that relates to the church.
This is not an end. The death of Christ is not an end. It is actually a beginning, and we see this foreshadowed in this opening episode. The opening episode goes from Matthew 26:1–16. Even though that covers about 4 or 5 paragraphs, it’s actually tied together at the end, and we see this foreshadowing of the future when we look at Matthew 26:13.
Matthew 26:13, at the conclusion of the episode of the anointing by the unnamed woman anointing Him on the head, Jesus says, “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world.” That’s anticipating something that is going beyond the Cross, beyond the resurrection: that wherever the gospel will be preached in the whole world, that what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.
There is a future focus that comes through in this section: it’s not a defeat. It is actually the beginning of a glorious plan that God has. So there’s a lot that goes on in these three chapters, but this introduction that covers Matthew 26:1–16 is really a critical section, and there’s a lot here.
At first blush, you may think that, well, it just covers a couple of things in a summary manner. But that summary is important, and it shapes our thinking about what is coming in the next couple of chapters. A couple of observations that I have as we begin—I’ve got five.
1. First of all, this section, Matthew 26:1–16, serves as an introduction to focus our thinking on what is coming in the rest of this chapter: the Passover meal with His disciples, Jesus’ arrest, His trials, His crucifixion, then the resurrection, and His parting instructions to His disciples.
This is an introduction to focusing us on two questions, which when you hear, you’ll say, “Well, that sounds familiar.” Who Jesus is and what Jesus did: that’s the focal point in these next three chapters. This introduction sets the scene and introduces the cast of characters for this next part; and that is Jesus, His disciples, and the religious leaders of the Jews.
A couple of things to bring to your attention. The opening two verses focuses our attention on who Jesus is. Jesus says there that “you know”—talking to His disciples—“that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” We talk about who He is. He is the Son of Man, and what He will do. He will be crucified for our sins.
As we study this—and I encourage you to read through these chapters so that it makes more sense to you—is as you look at this, we see a study in contrast. Many times in the Scripture the Holy Spirit uses contrast, the good in contrast to the bad. It’s not just positive.
We live in an era today where in a lot of churches what people want—because it’s a characteristic of the younger generation, “We don’t want to hear any criticism.” Well, if you don’t want to hear any criticism, you better not read the Bible because the Bible at its very core is polemical.
It is an attack on all human viewpoint thinking and to teach Christians how to identify human viewpoint thinking in their soul so that the Holy Spirit can use the Word of God on a search-and-destroy mission to take out the human viewpoint in your thinking. If you think all you are going to hear is positive good things and get stroked in your self-image, then you don’t want to be a biblical Christian, you just want to be a cultural Christian.
We see here a study in contrast between the religious leaders of Israel and their legalism, which is evil, in contrast to the woman who will anoint Jesus. She honors Him. As He points out what this anointing is about, recognizing His death—it focuses our attention on His death, which is His primary work, and who He is by anointing His head—which is what would happen for a new king in Israel. They would be anointed on their head, so she recognizes who He is as the promised Messianic King and what He is going to d. So the Person and work come together in that episode.
In contrast, the religious leaders don’t have a clue who He is. They don’t understand who He is or what He is doing because they are so immersed in the arrogance of legalism and religion that they totally missed the boat. Whenever you are mired in religion and legalism, you’re going to be hostile and antagonistic to the truth.
We see the contrast between the religious leaders and the woman, but we also see a contrast between the woman and Judas Iscariot. She is a woman who selflessly worships Jesus, and Judas is the man who selfishly betrays Jesus. This leads and moves the action along as we will see.
There’s a contrast—seen in the contrast between the leaders’ plan and the Lord’s plan—in Matthew 26:3–5. We see that the leaders’ plan is to not have Jesus crucified during the Passover feast. That’s really ultimately Satan’s plan: we want to keep God from fulfilling His plan according to His timetable—some sort of tactical victory. The leaders plot together and they say, “Whatever we want to do, let’s not do it during the feast.”
Through Judas’ machinations and his betrayal, his willingness to betray Jesus at that time, it moves the action forward in terms of their timetable. There’s a contrast between the leaders’ plan and God’s plan, as He is exercising His sovereign control to bring about Jesus’ crucifixion.
Jesus has His own plan. He’s not going to be surprised by what the religious leaders are attempting to accomplish, and all of it works together under God’s sovereignty.
We also see a contrast between the evil hostility of religion, as they seek to do everything through deception, through guile, through trickery, through lies, to destroy Jesus.
That is contrasted to the generosity and the beauty of grace as exhibited by this unnamed woman who is making a very expensive sacrifice in anointing His head with this extremely expensive perfume.
We see in this contrast the emphasis on how religion hates Jesus. Whether it’s an idolatrous religion like the idolatry of Hinduism or the idolatry of the ancient Baal religions or whether it’s the more sophisticated idolatry of modern self-worship or whether it’s the religion of liberalism or religions of other ideologies, they all hate Jesus and are antagonistic to Jesus.
Those who understand Jesus want to adore Him. They want to worship Him. They want to put Him at the center of their life. There’s always this antagonism that comes from religion of all kinds.
We also see a contrast with the stinginess of the disciples. They are like many Christians, they see somebody spend money on something beautiful for the church, done from the right motive to worship the Lord, and they react and say, “Well, you’re just spending too much money!” I’ve heard that in in churches, and yet if it’s done right, that’s what this is teaching.
There are a lot of things that we’re going to see here related to our attitudes towards money and finance in relation to worship. There’s this contrast between the stinginess of the disciples and the superficiality of their understanding of whom Jesus is and the deep, profound devotion of the woman and her sophisticated understanding of who Jesus is.
We see a contrast between the memories that we have of Judas Iscariot. Judas is the poster child of treachery and betrayal down through the centuries. We see in Jesus’ interpretation of what this woman does is that, though she is not named and she is unknown, what she did as an act of worship becomes—He says, this will be—a memorial through the ages, that is always connected to what He does on the Cross. Because her anointing speaks of His preparation for the grave.
There is a reference to Passover here that we get in the second verse, “you know that after two days is the Passover …” The mention of Passover begins to focus our attention on Jesus as the Passover Lamb. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Passover is the feast that was established by God when He redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt, and it is the picture of His ultimate redemption of the human race from slavery to sin.
Passover is the feast that speaks of redemption of God’s people; and in a Jewish context, His covenants with them. The crucifixion of Christ fulfills the type of the Passover, and it also fulfills the covenant foundations that are stated in the Jewish covenants: the Abrahamic covenant, the Mosaic covenant, the land covenant, the Davidic covenant, and the New Covenant. The foundation is laid at the Cross by His payment for our sin.
We also see in this chapter that the second main event—after the anointing of Jesus by the unnamed woman—is the institution of the Lord’s Table, which grows out of the Passover meal—the Seder meal—that He celebrates with His disciples. Jesus transforms the Lord’s Table into something that is designed to focus our attention on the Person and the work of Jesus Christ: who He is and what He did.
We see throughout this whole section a constant reminder of this theme of, who is Jesus, what did He do? Jesus is the Messiah. He’s the God man. He was sent by God the Father into human history to fulfill the mission of paying the penalty for our sins. The two are inseparable. Now all that’s just the first observation.
2. Second observation—observations 2, 3, 4, and 5 are much shorter—is that though this section has four paragraphs, each is relatively short, deals with a different topic, a different scenario; but they’re tied together.
If you look at Matthew 26:2, it says, “You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”
That’s the Greek word PARADIDOMI. That same word is used again in Matthew 26:15–16. When Judas is speaking to the religious leaders, he says, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you”—PARADIDOMI? Then in Matthew 26:16, “So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him—PARADIDOMI.”
This brackets the whole section, this vocabulary. In literature that’s called an inclusio, where when you have a statement at the beginning and a statement at the end: it shows that in terms of literature, it wraps it up together.
Matthew has done this intentionally, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to show us that that this all fits together. We should understand these separate events as a unit. I think that’s very important and we will come back to why that’s important as we go into this.
3. The third thing is the anonymity of the woman is important.
Ironically, it is contrasted with this announcement that her deed will be a memorial down through the centuries in the teaching of the Gospel. That even though she does this without it being known who she is, without being named, that event and that woman will be remembered through the centuries.
4. Fourth, the issue of money and finances is at the core of the disciples’ disagreement, their dissatisfaction with this woman.
How in the world can she spend all that money? That’s a year’s salary for a laborer and she just pours it over His head. We could spend that money a thousand different ways.
They don’t understand grace. They don’t understand who Jesus is. They don’t understand what He’s going to do. Because that anointing symbolizes her understanding of what He is going to do—that He is going to die. It shows how superficial the disciples are, and by application, how superficial many Christians are when it comes to how money is spent. We will talk a lot about that as we go through that section.
5. Fifth, above all, the thread that runs through this entire introduction and the entire section is, the theme of Christ’s death.
The focus for Christianity is on Jesus. What makes Christianity Christianity is the message that Jesus died for our sins, that He was crucified in our place. He is a substitutionary sacrifice, and because of that, He bore in His own body on the tree the penalty for our sins. This is emphasized again and again in Scripture.
Yes, the resurrection is important, but the resurrection throughout Scripture is symbolic of the new life that we have in Christ, not the payment for sin. The payment for sin happens on the Cross but the foundation for our new life in Him, according to Romans 6:3–6 is His resurrection, and often that is misunderstood today.
We have the emphasis on the death of Christ in passages like Romans 5:6–8, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
1 Corinthians 15:3, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received:”—this was the priority in my messages is what Paul is saying—“that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”
There was much else that he taught: He taught the resurrection—all those things mentioned— because his focus in that chapter is on the reality of the resurrection and why it makes a difference in the life of the believer after he’s saved—not in getting the life. I’ve gone through that many times.
1 Corinthians 1:23 says, “but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness.”
1 Corinthians 2:2, he says, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
It is the work—the redemptive work of Christ—that happens on the Cross when He pays the penalty for sin. That’s when the transaction takes place. That’s when the justice of God is satisfied or propitiated. That is when our sins are paid for, the debt is canceled: Colossians 2:12–14. This takes place on the Cross.
Peter puts it this way in 1 Peter 2:24, “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes we were healed.”
Notice the healing there isn’t a physical healing from disease. It is the spiritual solution to sin. Often the word “healing” is used as a synonym for the payment for sin and the solution to sin. It is that death on the Cross—that is where that transaction takes place.
1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust”—that’s substitutionary atonement: the just put in place of the unjust—“that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.”
In Matthew 26:1, we see a transition taking place that begins at the first verse, “Now it came to pass—common idiom in the Greek moving us to the next scene of action—Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings that He said to His disciples, ‘You know—and it should be stated “You know this”—“that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”
Now a couple of things we ought to note about this, when we see this phrase “when Jesus had finished all the sayings,” this is the final of five times that Jesus says this in Matthew. Matthew uses this as a way to organize his material. In the Gospel of Matthew there are more words of Jesus’ recorded than in any of the other Gospels, and we have several discourses.
Usually in commentaries they talk about the Sermon on the Mount and the Olivet Discourse, but actually, as I pointed out at the beginning, there are five different times when Jesus speaks at length through the Gospel, and we see these as they’re concluded in Matthew 7:28, Matthew 11:1, Matthew 13:53, Matthew 19:1, and Matthew 26:1.
Each one of these verses says, “Now it came to pass when Jesus had finished these sayings,” so these five discourses—or lengthy instruction sessions—by Jesus to His disciples:
- Matthew 7:28 follows the Sermon on the Mount.
- Matthew 11:1 follows His instructions and teaching to His disciples.
- Matthew 13:53 follows the long chapter where He speaks in the parables related to the previously unrevealed information about the Kingdom of God and its postponement.
- Matthew 19:1 follows a section in Matthew 17–18, where He has given further instructions to the disciples.
- Then this verse, Matthew 26:2, follows the Olivet Discourse.
In Matthew we have some tremendous teaching. We’ve gone through all of it now and the remainder of Matthew is primarily narrative. It’s primarily telling us what happens in the events leading up to Jesus’ arrest, the crucifixion, His death and burial, and then His resurrection, and His final instructions for the disciples.
This is a reminder that takes us back to what we have seen and studied in this Gospel. I want to take you through this just as a reminder. Remember all this is just introduction to getting into chapter 26. But I want to remind us of the timeframe: what’s been happening with Jesus and His disciples over the last four or five days? I think that’s important.
We’re going to get into a lot of chronology here, and I’m going to state some things, some of you may go, “Well, I’ve never heard that before.” That’s OK. We’ll hear some new things. I don’t want to get into the intricacies of the chronology here. There’s so much discussion, tremendous amount of debate that goes on about the chronology.
I’m going to wait and put it together into a special, probably on a Tuesday or Thursday night, rather than on a Sunday morning because it gets a little intricate, but I think it’s important for people to understand some of these things.
In Matthew 19:1, we see that Jesus is leaving Galilee in the north, and He’s coming south. He’s headed to Jerusalem for His final trip to Jerusalem. When He heads down from the north, He is going to cross east across the Jordan somewhere just south of the Sea of Galilee.
He is going to come down through Perea, He’s going around Samaria. Then He is going to come down just north of the Dead Sea, cross over where Jericho—the old and the new cities of Jericho—are located. Then He is going to ascend to Jerusalem, then there will be the entry into Jerusalem, and then the instruction that we’ve seen.
Matthew 19:1 talks about Him departing from Galilee and heading south. Matthew 20:17–19 tells us that Jesus began His travels up to Jerusalem. He crosses the Jordan goes to Jericho and then He will ascend to Jerusalem. As He does that, He predicts His death, He tells His disciples He’s going to go to Jerusalem to die. And this is the third time.
Here are the three references: Matthew 16:21, Matthew 17:22, Matthew 20:18–19. The fourth prediction of His going to be killed is in our passage in Matthew 26:2.
In Matthew 16:2, “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem.” He MUST go to Jerusalem, that was the Father’s plan—“and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes”— it’s basically the Sanhedrin—“and be killed and be raised up the third day.”
Now He just says He is going to be killed; He doesn’t say how. Then He says He’s going to be raised from the dead. I don’t think they had a clue what that meant. They heard it, but that didn’t mean they comprehended it.
Matthew 17:22, “Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.’ ”
There’s that keyword, we will talk about several times, PARADIDOMI, which is sometimes translated being handed over. It has a range of meanings, and depending on the context, sometimes it has the idea of being betrayed. It’s a keyword we will have to look at.
Matthew 20:18–19, which is just before His entry into Jerusalem, He says “Behold, we’re going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man”—now this is the second in these three predictions that He uses that term “Son of Man”—“will be betrayed”—PARADIDOMI again—“betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.”
He emphasizes now, crucifixion and, precisely, resurrection the third day.
Matthew 21:1–11, we saw that He entered into Jerusalem. Now pay attention to this: He enters into Jerusalem—we’re going to call that “Day 1,” Matthew 21:1–11. Then on Day 2, Matthew mentions in Matthew 21:18–19, He curses the fig tree.
Now if you read the parallel in Mark 11, Mark has another day in there: there’s a third day. In Matthew he just sort of skips over that and says, “… and when the disciples saw the withered fig tree.” You don’t realize, unless you look at Mark, that it’s actually the third day.
So Day 1 He enters. Day 2 He curses the fig tree. Day 3 is the big day. In terms of Jesus’ life, this is the longest day. It is everything from Matthew 21:20–25:46: all those confrontations with the religious leaders, and then His announcement of the seven-plus-one woes that we studied in chapter 23, then the Olivet Discourse. All of that is on one day. It is a long day.
We now have the evening and this is the end of that third day. What’s interesting here in the beginning, He says, “… after two days I’ll be crucified.” In other words, day after tomorrow, I am going to get crucified. I didn’t realize this until the last two or three days: that is one of the most crucial statements on figuring out this whole chronology.
Because the bottom line is, no matter how you work it out, you’ve got three days, then two days, and then He is crucified. If you chart it out—go home; however you work it out—it can’t end up with a Wednesday crucifixion.
Now all of us have been taught a Wednesday crucifixion. It is impossible. According to that scenario, you’re going to have Him doing a bunch of stuff on the Sabbath, which would violate the Sabbath law and Jesus never violates the literal Sabbath law. He violates the Pharisees’ interpretation of it, but not the law itself. So it pretty much excludes Wednesday as an option.
I think there’s about an 80% probability it’s going to exclude a Thursday option as well. That’s why we’re going to have to take some time and do a special lesson just dealing with all of this because it’s extremely complex, and there is a lot of data there that has to be considered. So we will do that in another lesson.
We see here is that Jesus is going to control the time of His death. He says that it will take place after two days, but in the second part of this opening the chief priests are going to say, “No, we’re not going to let it happen on the feast because it’s going to create a riot among the people.” So we see that Jesus controls the time; Jesus Christ controls history.
At the same time we learned that individual human volition is functional but within parameters established by the sovereignty of God. It is the religious leaders who exercise their volition to kill Jesus, but it is according to the plan of God.
We see this in passages like Acts 2:23, “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God” —that’s talking about God’s side of the equation. Unknown to man; God is not coercing man. On the other side Peter says, “you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.” Human responsibility for their actions even though this is what is part of the plan of God. Jesus is in control.
John 10:18, “No one”—He is talking about His life, that He lays down his life. He said—“No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
Matthew 26:2, Jesus says, “You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered to be crucified.”
When He says “you know,” it’s in the perfect tense which indicates past completed action. It means they already know this. He’s told them three times already. You know this, you may not really grasp it yet, but you know it. And they know, of course, that it’s Passover. So He is emphasizing this is something they know, and He adds to this that in two days it’s going to be the Passover, and that is when He will be crucified.
When you try to deal with all these issues related to chronology, when He says after two days is the Passover, is He talking about:
a) The Passover meal, the Seder meal He will be celebrating with His disciples the night before goes to the Cross?
The rest of the uses of this word in this chapter all relate to that Seder meal that He’s going to have with His disciples the night before He goes to the Cross.
b) Or does this refer to the day of the Passover, which is when the lambs are slaughtered?
c) Or does it refer to that evening, which would be the 15th of Nisan, when everyone is sitting down and eating the Passover meal?
Those second two are the same day. But if He is referring to the meal He’s going to eat with His disciples, if that’s Thursday night, then this would be Tuesday night when He is saying this. If He’s talking about Friday then this is going to be Wednesday night. It’s ambiguous. You can’t nail it down with absolute precision.
He says after two days is the Passover and the Son of Man will be delivered up. Again, all through the Olivet Discourse He referred to Himself as the Son of Man—this is a messianic title. He will be delivered up. Again, here it doesn’t have the idea so much as betrayal as He uses it in ‘someplace He will be given over to the Gentiles’. It will be used when Judas does it in terms of betrayal.
Then we see the opposition from the religious leaders: the chief priests and scribes, the elders, that’s part of the Sanhedrin. The scribes aren’t mentioned. This is an ad hoc meeting of the religious leaders, just to try to figure out what they’re going to do. They’re going to plot, they’re going to conspire, how are we going to accomplish this?
Notice it says the chief priest. How many chief priests, how many high priests did Israel have? We can count them on one hand, one finger. One. Why does it say chief priests? Because Annas, Caiaphas’s father-in-law, was the legitimate high priest, but the Romans thought he exercised too much political power, so they took him out and replaced him with his son-in-law, Caiaphas.
Caiaphas must’ve been very pleasing to the Romans, because he was the longest [serving] high priest through this period. He’s high priest from AD 18 to AD 36. For 18 years he’s the high priest. He must’ve been a very pleasing lackey to the Romans, is what that indicates. We know of his existence because he is mentioned by Josephus. His full name was Joseph Caiaphas because we’ve discovered his ossuary, the bone box in which his bones were buried.
They gathered at the palace of the high priest. This is the picture of a map with the Temple Mount. Here’s the area where we call the Temple Mount, where the temple was located. Here just outside this yellow line here or kind of an orange line actually. That’s the wall that Josephus mentions. This is where Jesus was crucified and just south of it is what they call the Jaffa Gate today. It’s where the so-called Citadel of David is located.
They’ve discovered that this is where the Praetorium was located, and this is probably where Pontius Pilate’s headquarters was located, as well, as Herod’s palace. Tradition had Pontius Pilate’s palace over here or just north of the Antonia Fortress. That’s a much longer distance. This is about 200 feet. That’s going to be important later on. We’ll see this map again. But this just shows you where they’re meeting—it’s generally in this area where the high priest would’ve met.
This is Caiaphas’ bone box with his name etched on the side.
Matthew 26:4–5, “… and plotted to take Jesus by trickery”—that is deceit—“and kill him. But they said, ‘Not during the feast lest there be an uproar among the people.’ ”
Now there are two groups of people. There are those who were with Him on His entry into Jerusalem; they were His disciples, those who believed in Him. And there was a large multitude of those. But then there were the others. Don’t mix them up. Those who are in the courtyard screaming for His death, those are the unbelievers. They’re not the same people that were there singing the Psalms as He entered into Jerusalem. They are two different groups of people.
We see of them in Matthew 21:11 when He’s entering, “So the multitudes said, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet of Nazareth.’ ” They recognize who He is as a prophet and we’re also told in Matthew 21:26 that when the Pharisees began to plot against Him, “… when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes because they took Him for a prophet.” So they are fearful of them.
What we see here exhibited by the religious leaders is the evil of religion. A couple of things as we close:
- Religion is not Christianity.
- Religion is a human system to try to please God based on what man does, whereas Christianity is based on God doing that which pleases Him, and we simply believe it or accept it.
- Religion attempts to please God on man’s terms: man defines who God is, what God wants, what God is like, and what God will accept, and then man provides it; whereas Christianity lets the Bible determine who God is and what God requires, and man simply believes it.
- Religion is always based on arrogance, and arrogance always leads to division, it leads to chaos, and it leads to destruction.
- Religion is the source of much evil in the world: religion in the forms of non-Christian religions, but also religion in the forms of legalistic Christianity.
It was legalistic Christianity—not biblical Christianity—that provided the motivation for the Crusades into the Middle East—the Crusades of the Middle Ages. You will often hear people say, “Well, the Moslems have jihad and the Christians had their crusade.” The only difference is that jihad is consistent with what is commanded in the Quran, whereas the Crusades were a contradiction and a disobedience of what is said in the New Testament. They are not the same thing. The Crusades were the product of evil religion, legalistic religion.
Missions, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries, are a product of grace-oriented Christianity taking the gospel to the world and transforming the nations. Biblical Christianity is about a relationship, a relationship with God through belief in Jesus Christ as our Savior. Biblical Christianity is grounded on the person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to reflect on this: to be reminded of what we’ve learned in Matthew, to look over where we’re going. And to come to a focus on the person of our Lord Jesus Christ: who He is and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ and what He did on the Cross.
“Father, anyone who is listening to this message today who is not a believer in Christ, who is unsure of their eternal destiny, uncertain of what will happen if they were to die tomorrow: we pray that they would come to an understanding, a clear perception of the good news of Jesus Christ, the good news of Christianity. That you don’t have to work for your salvation, you don’t have to earn your salvation. You don’t have to try to please God, because we can’t do any of those things.
“As Scripture says, there is none who does good, no not one. The only One who has done good is the Lord Jesus Christ who lived a perfect life and died for us. So all we can do is trust in Him, believe in Him, and to recognize that He is our Savior, the One who provides us with eternal life.
“Father, we pray that it will be clear that all we have to do, all anyone has to do, is believe in Jesus, believe He died as your substitute, as that sacrificial lamb in your place, and at that instant you have eternal life.
“Father, we pray that You will challenge us with what we have learned: that our lives need to be focused, centered on who Jesus is and what He did.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”