Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Faith, Suffering, & the Will of God
I hate politics. Politics at its worst is the manipulation of people and processes to get your way. I'm sure there's a good side to politics - but I haven't seen it lately. Certainly it was politics at its worst that was operating in Palestine around 33AD when the ruling religious political group conspired to arrest, try, and murder Jesus Christ.
Praise God that despite the worst intentions of the Jewish religious leaders, the Father's plan won out - what looked like utter failure was total victory, but it was not apparent - to anyone, including the disciples - just as God's victories in our lives are not always apparent - that's why we need to pray and rely on Him. The enemy thought they were winning, but they were walking into a check-mate.
This chapter marks a departure from all the previous chapters of Matthew. Matthew's gospel shows us Jesus the King - but here we see how human the King of Kings really is. We also see the voluntary way in which Jesus gave the sacrifice of His life - and God's ultimate control over the events of Jesus' death, as "out of control" as they seem.
We're going to move rapidly through this chapter - 75 verses in all - because much of it is narrative instead of teaching - but there are still some very critical things for us to learn about faith, suffering and God's will, prayer, and worship.
26:1 When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 2 "As you know, the Passover is two days away-and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified."
Jesus was crucified on Passover - which was very very significant. The Passover was the celebration of when the angel of death "passed over" the houses that had the blood of a spotless lamb on the doorposts. Jesus was to be a spotless lamb slain not for the sins of a household, but the sins of the whole earth.
Jesus knew what was going to happen - as the chief priests and elders met in secret to plot His arrest.
3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4 and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. 5 "But not during the Feast," they said, "or there may be a riot among the people."
This group was ruled by public opinion - not that they cared what people thought, but their hold on power could be threatened if they did something the people clearly didn't like. They had seen the triumphal entry and the crowd's reaction to Jesus so they worried about arresting Him in a public place. A note here: whenever your actions are led by the reactions of others, you need to check your motives.
6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. "Why this waste?" they asked. 9 "This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor."
10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, "Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."
This act probably took place just before the triumphal entry, but Matthew records it here. The woman was Mary, Martha's sister - the same one that sat at Jesus' feet while her sister slaved in the kitchen. The perfume was pure nard - used to cover the smell of a body after death and was worth a year's wages. Other gospels also record that it was Judas, who regularly stole from the pot, who complained.
14 Then one of the Twelve-the one called Judas Iscariot-went to the chief priests 15 and asked, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
The 30 pieces of silver was actually prophesied by Zechariah and Jeremiah - not only the amount but also what the money would buy - the Potter's Field.
17 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"
18 He replied, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'" 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.
20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me."
22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord?"
23 Jesus replied, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."
25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?"
Jesus answered, "Yes, it is you."
Judas, of course, already knew it was himself.
26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."
27 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom."
30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
This is, of course, the institution of communion - the celebration and commemoration of Jesus body being broken for our sins, and His blood being shed for forgiveness. This is a new agreement - under the old system man had to approach God through a priest, now through Jesus we approach God directly.
31 Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
"'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'
32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee."
33 Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will."
34 "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times."
35 But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same.
This too is from prophecy - again from Zechariah. Peter is still sticking his foot in his mouth - only this time it's going to come back to haunt him just a few hours later. I wonder what Jesus must have been thinking when Peter spoke these words. Don't ever rely on the strength of your flesh - it'll let you down every time.
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."
This would have been James and John along with Peter - they went to the mount of transfiguration with Jesus, and now they go to the garden of tormented prayer. First they saw the glorified Christ, now they see the humbled Christ.
He said "my soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." Don't ever feel like Jesus doesn't know what it feels like to go through your struggles.
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. 41 "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."
42 He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"
Jesus is facing the toughest task any human has ever faced - it shows that Jesus was a real man, a real human. And it shows how weak we humans are. Peter, full of brave words, now sleeps when the trouble hasn't even really started yet - but its about to.
47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: "The one I kiss is the man; arrest him." 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" and kissed him.
50 Jesus replied, "Friend, do what you came for."
The chief priests needed a quiet place in order to avoid a riot that the Romans would disapprove of. The Romans hated rioting. This would have all happened so subtly that you might not have even known what was happening unless you were right there.
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus' companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
52 "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?"
Jesus healed the man, John tells us. Again, its like Matthew is showing us hints of what Peter before Jesus died is like - full of false faith, slothfulness, and violence. How different he will be, and how different we are when Jesus rules in our hearts.
Notice - Jesus was in complete control. With a word it would have been over. He is in complete control of when you go through things too - it doesn't mean He always rescues - but He is always in control.
55 At that time Jesus said to the crowd, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.
Caiaphas was actually not qualified to be the high priest - I won't go into the details, but you have an illegal high priest calling an illegal trial (at night - along with five other reasons) using illegal evidence.
59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.
Even though they've got the whole thing set up, they still couldn't find anyone who would provide any shred of evidence that they could twist around - amazing.
Finally two came forward 61 and declared, "This fellow said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.'"
This refers to when Jesus said "destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up," referring to His body, not the temple building. The group finally got two witnesses to agree.
62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, "Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?" 63 But Jesus remained silent.
The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God."
64 "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."
Jesus knew this admission would lead to His conviction - not the false testimony about the temple. But He did it, declaring in no uncertain terms that He was the Messiah, the authority, and the coming judge.
65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?"
"He is worthy of death," they answered.
67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68 and said, "Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?"
69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. "You also were with Jesus of Galilee," she said.
70 But he denied it before them all. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said.
71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, "This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth."
72 He denied it again, with an oath: "I don't know the man!"
73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away."
74 Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!"
Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly.
A couple of things in defense of Peter:
o All the disciples told Jesus they would not deny Him - but it was Peter who actually stuck around to see what would happen. Fear made him incapable of sticking his neck out, but love drove Him to Jesus.
o When Peter was called on the carpet, he repented - so deeply in fact, that he wanted to leave the ministry. Jesus went personally to reconcile him and bring him back.
Acts of the flesh seen in this chapter:
o Conspiracy (Chief priests vs 3-5)
o Betrayal (Judas vs 14-16)
o Lying (Judas vs 20-25)
o False faith (?) (Peter/disciples vs 32-35)
o Slothfulness (?) (disciples vs 40-45)
o False arrest (vs 46-50)
o Assault (Peter and the sword vs 51-54)
o Illegal trial (vs 57-68)
o Perjury (the two men vs 60-61)
o Denial (Peter vs 70-75)
Acts of the spirit:
o Worship (The woman vs 6-13 the hymn vs 30)
o Communion (vs 26-29)
o Prayer (Garden vs 40-45)
o Healing (Malkus the servant, vs 51)
o Declaration of God's Truth (vs 64)
I want to conclude by looking back at the four areas I mentioned at the beginning - Faith, Suffering, Prayer, and Worship - because despite the bleakness of the narrative, there is much we can apply to our own lives.
What do we learn about faith?
Peter had lots of bravado but very little faith. Faith should not be based on the strength in our belief, but on the belief in His strength.
Instead of working ourselves up in a frenzy to show how much faith we have to conquer any foe - its better to show our weakness, then rely on His strength to get us through.
What do we learn about suffering and God's will?
God can rescue - but doesn't always. Does that mean He doesn't love you? No. Sometimes suffering IS God's answer. We are like Peter - grab any means available to get out of a tough spot. Jesus declared God's truth and even did ministry in the midst of humiliation and suffering. What an example to us.
What do we learn about prayer?
o Prayer involves honesty
Jesus told the Father that if there was another way, He would rather avoid the cross. How honest are we with God - or do we just fake it with piety so as not to appear weak?
o Beseeching God starts and ends with "Thy will be done."
We must allow for God's will, not ours in the end. We can ask all we want, but we must be willing to give up our wants and needs until they match His.
o Prayer isn't always easy
Look how hard Jesus prayed and look how easy it was for the disciples to sleep. Setting aside the time to pray won't come naturally - you have to make it happen, and while praying don't be afraid to really press in to make your point - and more importantly, to let God make His point in you.
What do we learn about worship?
o Worship takes insight
The woman had to have been listening to Jesus very carefully to have known that He was about to die - and then put two and two together to offer her gift.
o Worship is expensive
The pure nard was worth a year's wages. How much effort do you put into your worship of the Lord?
o Worship is humbling
The disciples mocked Mary. Others won't understand why you worship the Lord with fervency. They may make fun of you. The question is, does it stop you from giving an all out sacrifice of worship to Jesus?
o Worship is beautiful to the Lord
Jesus said "she has done a beautiful thing." When we stand before Jesus - the one thing that will be important to us is what He thinks of us, and our lives in relation to Him. To have the opportunity to do something that Jesus thinks is "beautiful" should thrill us to no end.
And how is worship a beautiful thing to our Lord?
Hebrews 13:15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a
sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess his name.
Our praise is a sacrifice - and what does God think of this sacrifice?
1 Peter 2:5-6 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
The word "acceptable" means well-favored, approved. Do you want to be approved by God - then let worship drive you to His feet - to anoint Him with your songs and your prayers and your heart of love poured out in thanksgiving for His sacrifice for you.