13th July 2023
Read (Matthew 26v47-68)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
The difference between Jesus and His opponents was laid bare at the scene of the Lord's betrayal. Jesus who always spoke truth was betrayed by His former disciple Judas who sleekitly kissed Jesus to positively identify the Lord for His would-be captors (v48-49). Jesus who laid hands on people in order to heal them was seized abruptly by the crowd (v50). Jesus who brought salvation to humanity was confronted by those who brought swords and clubs (v47). Indeed when Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of a man called Malchus, Jesus didn't call His disciples to war but instead commanded them to put their swords away before healing the injured man.
The discrepancy between the captors and the Lord was highlighted further when Jesus asked “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” (v55-56). The unruly mob sent out against Jesus were puppets of cowards (v47) who lacked the courage to seize Jesus publicly. Instead they put their plan into motion under the cover of darkness.
Nevertheless, these men were not in control. Christ was clear that everything happening to Him was so that the prophets would be fulfilled (v56). At that very moment, just as the Lord had predicted, all the disciples turned tail and fled (v56b).
Perhaps the Lord's accusers would restore their integrity by giving Jesus a free and fair trial? No. The process that began in shadow continued in treachery. The chief priests sought out "false testimony" against Christ (v59) in order that they could impose upon Jesus their predetermined punishment of death (v59b). Many false witnesses came forward and finally two stood who said “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” (v61). Jesus had indeed spoken in this way saying “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2v19) but Christ was not promising to take a hammer to the physical temple. Jesus is the true temple and therefore He was speaking about the temple of his body (John 2v21).
The council made no effort to find the true meaning of Christ's words and soon the high priest pressed the silent Jesus by asking “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” (v63). You might say that the high priest "cut to the chase", he "adjured" Christ to answer "by the living God" and as such Jesus was placed under oath and was honour bound to answer. Christ did not shrink or attempt to dodge the question, He said “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (v64)
Jesus claimed to be "the Son of Man" of Daniel 7v13 to whom "the ancient of days" gave an everlasting kingdom. Additionally Jesus claimed to be the one exalted above David and seated at the right hand of God (Psalm 110v1). The Lord's claims were not trivial, in response to the high priest's question Jesus declared that "from now on" His accusers would not see Him as a criminal to be questioned but as the King of kings who would one day return in power.
The Lord's response was too much for the high priest who tore his robes and declared “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” (v65-66). The council answered “He deserves death.” (v66b). With that pronouncement, the floodgates of abuse opened further and Jesus was spat upon, struck, slapped (v67) and mocked (v68).
I am always struck by the dignity of our Lord at His arrest and trial. He was lied about, mocked, beaten and scorned and yet He carried Himself in a humble manner. He could have called twelve legions of angels at any moment (v53) to destroy His enemies but instead He was obedient even unto death. May we be humbled by Matthew's account of the Lord's final hours. "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth." (Isaiah 53v7)
Q97 What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord’s Supper? It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’s Supper, that they examine themselves, of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.