November 5, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Wednesday and Thursday after the Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity

Wednesday

Morning – Psalm 50, Jer. 36:1-8, Col. 2:6-19
Evening – Psalm 47, 48, Dt. 7:6-13, Mt. 26:31-46

Commentary, Matthew 26:31-46

The confidence of Peter in verse 33 is typical of people.  The Pharisees thought they would not have killed the prophets if they had lived when the prophets were killed (23:31) yet they had already formed a conspiracy against Christ that would end in His death (Mt. 21:46, 22:15, 26:4). Today many boldly affirm that they would never have consented to Jesus’ crucifixion if they had been Pharisees or Jews at that time.  Peter’s confidence is shattered when he denies Christ three times.  He denies Christ because he is afraid he will be arrested and killed with Christ.  He loves his life more than he loves Christ.  “Though I should die with thee, yet I will not deny thee,” he says in verse 35.  But in verse 74, identified as one of Christ’s disciples, Peter begins “to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man.”  Our faith much more frail than we know or think; and our sinfulness is much stronger than we know or think.  Therefore, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation” (vs. 41).

We may never know or understand the tremendous battle taking place in Christ in Gethsemane.  The sorrow that makes this One who has resolutely set His face toward Jerusalem and the cross say, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death,” must be a sorrow we can only imagine. Is this the sorrow of God over all the destruction and death caused by human sin?  That is probably part of it.  Is it grief for the vast numbers of humanity, who will continue in sin and blindly follow blind guides even into the pit of hell?  That, too, is probably part of it.  Is it the human side of the GODMAN’ recoiling in fear and horror at the cross and death He is about to face?  That is probably part of it.  Christ, like the rest of us, lived by faith, and His faith is being tested in the garden, even as it was in the wilderness temptations. We can be sure the devil is work here, tempting Him to forgo the cross, appealing to the human side of the GODMAN in an attempt to prevent the atonement for sin and destroy the Son of God.  What a victory it would be for evil to turn the Second Person of the Trinity to sin.  Much of His sorrow is probably founded on the knowledge that He will face the wrath of God for the sins of humanity.  He, the sinless One will take our sins on Himself, as if they are His own.  What degradation and humiliation that is for Him.  He will suffer the wrath of God for those sins.  He who is God, who lives in the closest fellowship with the Father and the Spirit, is now being treated as a common sinner, a criminal against God.  His fellowship with God is being severed.  Truly, as He said from the cross, God is forsaking Him (Mt. 27:46). Surely this is the greatest reason for His sorrow; a cup He would have pass from Him, but accepted because He loves the Father and He loves us.  “Thy will be done” He prays as His enemies approach (26:42).

Our reading ends with the arrival of the Temple guards (not Roman soldiers) armed and ready to take Christ by force to His “trial.”  Our Lord’s words are note worthy.  “[T]he hour is at hand” means the time has come.  [T]he Son of man (Christ, the Messiah) is betrayed into the hand of sinners.  He is given over to evil people to suffer at their hands.  But note that He does not flee.  He goes to His enemies.  “Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me” (26:46).

Thursday

Morning – Psalm 52, 53, Jer. 36:11-19, Col. 2:20-3:11
Evening – Psalm 49, Dt. 8:1-10, Mt. 26:47-56

Commentary, Matthew 26:47-56

The betrayal by Judas is tragic.  Many have speculated about his reason.  Some theorise that he was a zealot who wanted to force Jesus to reveal and use His power as the Messiah to begin a war with the Romans.  But Judas was probably not that lofty or idealistic.  He is called a thief in John 12:6, which gives a clue about why he betrayed Christ; money.  He simply wanted the money, which was a considerable sum in those days.  Though he has followed Jesus for three years, his loyalty and love belonged to Judas, not Jesus.

Peter, who promised to die with Christ rather than deny Him (26:35) now prepares to fight for the Messiah.  He may think this is the beginning of a war to drive the Romans out of Israel.  Whatever he believes about the Messiah, he draws a sword and attempts to kill one of the enemy men.  His stroke does not kill, but the glancing blow cut the man’s ear off.  Now Jesus does an amazing thing.  He heals the man’s ear and allows Himself to be taken captive by the soldiers.  This is too much for the disciples.  They desert Christ and flee for their lives, including Peter.

Two points stand out in these verses.  First, Jesus allows the soldiers to take Him.  He could have called twelve legions of angels to destroy His enemies.  According to some historians, that would be 72,000 angels.  Certainly this One who stilled the storm and raised the dead could have struck His enemies dead without the help of angels.  But He gave Himself to them, essentially giving Himself to the cross.


Second, His suffering and crucifixion fulfills the Scripture.  The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah is clearly fulfilled in the crucifixion, but Christ fulfills the entire Old Testament.  He is the Lamb of God, sacrificed on the cross.  He is the great High Priest who offers the sacrifice and intercedes for His people.  He is the atonement, the scapegoat, the Son of David.  Even the law of God is a tutor to lead us to Christ.  All of the Old Testament points to Him, and He is its fulfillment.