Learning from Matthew 26-28
26:1-13 - Jesus was on His way to the Cross (2). His death was the direct result of the hatred of men (3-4). It was also the supreme demonstration of the love of God (Romans 5:8). In verses 6-13, we read of a woman who loved Jesus very much. Jesus was deeply moved by her great love for Him. He wanted everyone to know about her deep devotion to Him: ‘Truly, I say to you, wherever this Gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her’ (13). We read in Acts of the advance of the Gospel (1: 8). Great crowds became believers (2:41; 4:4; 6:7). In all of this, Jesus says to us, ‘Don't forget the woman. Don't forget her love’. Love for Jesus - simple, sincere, childlike love - this is the most important thing of all: ‘O for grace to love Him more’ (Church Hymnary, 676).
26:14-35 - Peter and Judas Iscariot had something in common. They both failed their Lord (14-16,34). Things turned out very differently for them (27:3-5; Acts 2:38-42). When we fail the Lord , we find ourselves at a cross-roads. We can turn to Him. We can turn away from Him. In view of His great love for us - His ‘blood’ has been ‘poured out for the forgiveness of sins’ (28) - how can we turn our backs on Him? How can you and I say ‘No’ to such love? There is no reason why we should say ‘No’ to Him - yet we do! Do we doubt that He is there for us? Do we wonder if He really loves us? What about you? Do you think that He cannot or will not forgive your sins? He can and He will. That’s why He died - ‘for the forgiveness of sins’ (28).
26:36-56 - Jesus’ suffering is increasing. What pain His disciples caused Him. Three times, He ‘found them sleeping’ (40-45), ‘My betrayer is at hand’ (46), ‘all the disciples forsook Him and fled’ (56)! Was this the end of the road for His disciples? No! With one exception - Judas Iscariot, whom Jesus still called ‘friend’ (50), the others became men of prayer (Acts 1:13-14). They stood with Peter as he preached the Gospel, as he led many sinners to the Saviour (Acts 2:14,37-38). Jesus loved His disciples. He died for them. Then - after Jesus was ‘glorified’ - the Spirit was ‘given’ to them (John 7:39). The fleeing disciples became men ‘on fire’ (Acts 2:3). No more ‘fleeing’. Now it was ‘flowing’ - ‘rivers of living water’ (John 7:38). ‘Blaze, Spirit blaze. Set our hearts on fire. Flow, river, flow. Flood the nations with grace and mercy’ (Mission Praise, 445).
26:57-75 - ‘Peter followed Him at a distance’ (58). He didn't want to get too close! Keeping your distance from Jesus leads to trouble! Trouble was not the end of Peter's story. Three times Peter denied the Lord (69-75). Three times Jesus asked him, ‘Do you love Me?’, three times Peter answered Jesus, ‘I love You’ (John 21:15-17) - For each denial, an opportunity to re-affirm his love for Jesus. Three thousand souls won for Christ (Acts 2:41) - For each denial, one ‘thousand souls’ brought to Christ. The contrast between the ‘Peter’ of the Gospels and the ‘Peter’ of Acts is striking. When Jesus first met Peter, He said, ‘You are Simon... You shall be called Peter’ (John 1:42). ‘Peter’ means ‘rock’. Peter’s confession of faith - ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (16:16) - is the Rock on which our faith is built. With Peter, let us confess Christ.
27:1-26 - Jesus went to the Cross for us. Refusing to protest His own innocence, He took our guilt upon Himself. Observing this, ‘the governor wondered greatly’ (14). We also should wonder greatly at this - Christ took our place, receiving the punishment that should have been ours. Barabbas was released, Christ was crucified (26). This is the great exchange - the sinless Saviour takes the place of the guilty sinner (2 Corinthians 5:21). As well as its divine aspect - ‘God so loved...’ (John 3:16) - the Cross has a human dimension - the people, Jews and Gentiles (the whole sinful world), sent Jesus to the Cross. For Jews and Gentiles (‘the whole world’), Christ has provided salvation (Romans 1:16; 1 John 2:2). In the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Christ, we are invited to ask ourselves, ‘What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ (22).
27:27-54 - The ‘King of the Jews’ wore ‘a crown of thorns’ (29). In the Cross, we see the King. The way of crucifixion - this is the way of the Kingdom. The prayer, ‘Thy Kingdom come’ (6:10), could only be answered by way of the Cross. From the Cross, we hear the call for decision. It is the call of love. The love of Christ calls for our answer: ‘What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ (22). Here, we see different responses to Christ - derision, mocking, reviling (39-44); misunderstanding (47-49); believing worship (54). How are we brought out of unbelief and into faith, out of derision and into rejoicing? By the mighty working of God in our hearts, we are brought out of darkness and into light (2 Corinthians 4:6). Salvation comes from above, from God - ‘The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom’ (51).
27:55-66 - ‘Mary the mother of James and Joseph’ was also the mother of Jesus (56; 13:55). She began by receiving Jesus, not only as her son but also as her Saviour (Luke 1:38). She was still following Jesus - ‘kept by the power of God’ (1 Peter 1:5). None of us - not even the mother of Jesus - can walk with the Lord without His grace keeping us in the way of faith. The unbelieving world still denies Christ - ‘that imposter’ (63) - and His resurrection - ‘fraud’ (64). As believers, we must maintain our testimony: ‘He has risen from the dead’ (64). The unbelievers expected a ‘fraud’. They did not expect a resurrection! For them, a resurrection was out of the question. God had a surprise in store for them! Unbelief says, ‘Resurrection? - Impossible!’. Faith says, ‘it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him’ (Acts 2:24). He has risen (28:6) - Hallelujah!
28:1-10 - The resurrection declares Christ’s victory over evil, the triumph of His love. There is no need for fear: ‘He has risen’ - His ‘perfect love casts out fear’ (5-6; 1 John 4:18). There has to be a new beginning in faith. First, there was a new beginning ‘in fact - Christ has been raised from the dead’ (1 Corinthians 15:20). Christ has won the victory over the grave. Christ has taken the sting out of death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). Between the new beginning in faith - making disciples (19) - and the new beginning in fact - Christ’s resurrection - , there is worship (9). The fact is not dependent on our feelings. ‘He has risen’ (6-7) - the fact stands, even when many doubt and few worship (17). As we worship, we are strengthened in faith, strengthened for our task. We are to invite people to come to the place where ‘they will see’ Jesus (10). We are to ‘make disciples’ (19). Run and tell - with great joy (8)!
28:11-20 - Why is it so important that we ‘make disciples’ (19)? There is a devil, and he is doing his utmost to hinder the progress of God’s truth. He spreads lies about Christ - ‘to this day’ he is still sowing seeds of unbelief (11-15). We must combat the enemy of Christ - with words of truth, with the believing declaration, ‘He has risen’ (6-7). Satan failed to halt the progress of the Gospel. Christ’s disciples rose to the challenge, and so must we: ‘Rise up, you champions of God... We’ll reach this generation... Go forth! Jesus loves them. Go forth! Take the Gospel. Go forth! The time is now. The harvest is ripening; Go forth! Feel now the burden of the Lord. Feel how He longs to save them. Feel now for those who never heard... Now is the time’ (Songs of Fellowship, 486). ‘All authority... has been given to Me... I am with you always' (18-20).