February 6, 2016
Scripture and Commentary, February 7-13
Ex. 3, Mt. 24
Ex. 4:1-17, 2 Cor. 3
Having completed His denunciation of the self-righteous religion of the Pharisees, our Lord leaves the Temple heading for Bethany and the Mount of Olives. His disciples have just heard some of the most astonishing words they have ever heard Him speak. Jerusalem, desolate? It cannot be. So, passing through the Temple, they venture to call the Lord’s attention to the beauty of the building. Jesus is unimpressed. The Temple and its sacrifices are symbols of His one great sacrifice on the cross. But the Temple organisation has become a self perpetuating sheep selling business with very little regard for the real meaning of the sacrifices. Jesus says to the disciples, “There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (2).
The disciples are even more shocked at these words. Is Jesus actually saying the Temple will be destroyed? This is the House of God. If the Temple is destroyed, where will the sacrifices be made? If the Temple falls, they surmise, the current age of history will end with it. They keep silent until they reach the Mount of Olives. There they ask, “when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (3).
It is important to understand the disciples’ question. They are not asking about the Second Coming, nor are they asking about a “rapture” of the Church. They do not even know there is going to be a Second Coming of Christ, and they have no concept of a “rapture”. They still think Christ has come to drive the Romans out and give the world to Israel. Their question is about how they will know when He is going back to Jerusalem to begin the war with Rome. They seem to think the fall of the Temple has something to do with that war. Nor are they asking about the end of planet earth. The Greek word translated, “world” in verse 3 actually means “age.” They are asking when the current age of Roman/Gentile domination will end, and the new age, or the new “world” of Jewish domination will begin. These are the issues that trouble them, and they are the issues Christ addresses in the following verses.
He warns them against false Messiahs (5). Many will come claiming to be the Messiah and urging the people to take up arms against the Romans, and other enemies down through history. Don’t follow them. Wars and rumours of wars (6) means the disciples will hear of uprisings and revolts against Rome, led by men claiming to be the Messiah. They are not to be troubled by such reports, nor are they to join the revolts. These things will happen, but the end of the age is not yet. In other words, such wars are not signs of the end, they are just wars.
Nor are the wars limited to Israel. “For nation shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places” (8). These are not signs of anything except the fallenness of man and the natural course of history in a world that is infected with sin. They are the “beginning of sorrows,” not the end.
There will be persecution, and hate will be poured out on those who follow Christ (9-10). Family members who are not Christians will turn against relatives who are. False prophets will arise and deceive many (11). Some “Christians” will leave the faith, and only those who persevere in it will be saved (13). But even these things are not signs of the end of the age of Gentile domination. When the Gospel is preached in all the world and unto all nations, “then shall the end come” (14). “All the world” and “all nations” are popular terms used to describe the Roman Empire, and that is the Lord’s meaning here. The Gospel will be preached to the Jews first, but many of them will reject Christ and persecute the Christians with torture and death When the Jews have heard and rejected the Gospel, the Lord will allow Jerusalem to be attacked and conquered, and the Temple to be destroyed.
Our Lord uses the destruction of Jerusalem by Antiochus Epiphanes, written about in Daniel 9, as a warning to the Jews of His time. Antiochus conquered Jerusalem and offered a pig on the altar of the Holy of Holies. Christ is saying that when the disciples see the Romans preparing to attack and desolate Jerusalem, as the Greeks did under Antiochus, they are to leave the city (see Mt. 23:38, “your house is left unto you desolate). The danger is so great they should not even stop to gather belongings (17-18). The flight will be especially hard on women and children (19), and they are to pray that it will not happen in winter or on a Sabbath (20). The tribulation of verse 21 is not a period of intense trouble after the “rapture.” It is the trouble experienced in Jerusalem during the time of the siege and conquest of Jerusalem. This occurred in 70 A.D.
Our Lord again warns against false Christs and prophets claiming to be sent from God to fight the Romans. The disciples are not to believe their reports. When Christ returns, it will be in a way they do not understand yet. He will not come as a man to fight the Romans; He will come as God to judge the world. He will not return to a secret place in the desert. He will come as the lightning flashing across the sky (27). Everyone will see Him.
Verse 28 is another reference to the devastation of Jerusalem, One of the Roman symbols was an eagle. When our Lord says, “wheresoever the carrion is, there will the eagles be gathered together,” He is saying Jerusalem is spiritual carrion and the Roman eagles will devour it.
Before we attempt to discern the meaning of verses 29-41, let us look at two landmark verses within it. First is verse 29, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days.” Second is verse 34, “this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” From these verses we learn two things. First, whatever our Lord is speaking about in these verses will happen immediately after the tribulation He has just described in verses1-28. Since that tribulation describes the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the events of verses 29-41 follow immediately after. Jerusalem’s fall. Second, the generation of the Apostles will not pass (die) until all these things be fulfilled. This means the darkening of the sun and moon, stars falling from heaven, and the Lord’s coming in the clouds happens before the Apostles’ generation dies.
Obviously, then, these events are not about the Second Coming, and they are certainly not about the “rapture.” Remember, the Apostles didn’t even know there will be a Second Coming. What, then is described in these verses, especially in verses 29-30? Fortunately, the Bible explains its own symbolism here. Isaiah 19:1 describes the Lord coming to judge Egypt, riding “upon a swift cloud.” Revelation 1:7, “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him,” refers to Christ coming in judgment to Israel and Rome. Revelation 1:7 is particularly relevant to Matthew 24, because both passages report the same event. In Revelation 1:7, the coming of Christ is a spiritual coming to judge Israel and Rome, just as His coming in the clouds in Isaiah 19:1 was a spiritual coming to judge Egypt. Coming i the clouds, then, is not a reference to the Second Coming. It refers to Christ spiritually coming to judge Jerusalem by means of the Roman army.
Verse 31 refers specifically to the advance of the Gospel in the world. The spiritual coming of Christ in judgement does not end with Rome. It continues as long as the world exists in this present age. Christ continuously comes in the clouds to judge His, and His people’s enemies. The primary means of this judgement is the preaching of the Gospel. Through the Gospel, Christ judges people by distinguishing between those who belong to Christ through faith, and those who do not. Certainly the angels gathering God’s elect from the earth is accomplished through the preaching of the Gospel.
The time of the Roman advance on Jerusalem is not revealed by Christ (36), and it will catch most people unaware, as the Flood did in the days of Noe (Noah). Two in the field (40) refers to one taken in the battle and one escaping, as does the two women of verse 41. The ones who escape are the ones who heed the Lord’s warning to leave Jerusalem as the Roman army approaches.
We are still looking at Christ’s words to His disciples on the Mount of Olives. This “Olivet Discourse” is given on the Tuesday before Good Friday. So time is short for Christ, and He wants His disciples to be as prepared as possible for the coming events. We recall that this discourse began as the answer to the disciples’ question regarding the denunciation of the Pharisees in chapter 23, and His prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, found in 24:37-39. Even the Temple will be destroyed, according to the Lord’s words (2). The disciples want to know when this will happen and what will be the sign that it is about to begin (3).
Our Lord has patiently answered their question, but they still don’t understand. They will not understand until after Christ returns to the Father and sends the Holy Spirit to them. Only then will they understand who Christ really is, and what His crucifixion and resurrection really accomplished for His people.
The goodman of the house (43) is the one in charge of a house that belongs to another. Christ is telling the Apostles, and other clergy after them, they will have charge of the Saviour’s house, which is the Church. The Apostles will basically reside in Jerusalem until its destruction. They will be responsible for telling the Church when to leave that city to avoid the massive death and destruction the Romans will visit upon it. Since they don’t know when this will happen, they are to “Watch therefore” (42).
Many have noticed that this same counsel applies to the ministers of God’s Church through history. As the Lord’s judgment came upon Jerusalem, it will also come upon all the earth. As the disciples did not know the day or hour when the Lord would “return” to judge Jerusalem, the Church also does not know when He will return to judge the earth. It is the clergy’s task, therefore, to continually watch and warn His people to be constantly ready. Thus, our Lord’s words to the disciples are as relevant to us today as they were to them; “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man [Christ] cometh” (44).
Verses 45-51 address the disciples in their new role as Apostles in the New Testament Church. They are to be faithful servants, preaching the Gospel and establishing the Church in the doctrine and practice He gives unto them. His goods (47), therefore are the people, faith, worship, Scriptures, baptism, communion, and all the means by which our Lord call us to Himself and strengthens us in the life of faith. This faithful service and oversight of the Lord’s Church is also required of the bishops and clergy that come after the Apostles. They must keep the Church in the Apostolic/Biblical faith and practice. All Christians in all times and in all places share this responsibility. It is the task and duty of each of us to keep the Church faithful, keep ourselves faithful, and proclaim the faith given to us by Christ through the Apostles and preserved in the Bible. Evil servants, those who do not keep the Apostolic faith and practice, who lead others into sin, who no longer exhort people to believe the Gospel and watch for the coming of our Lord, shall be cut asunder (cut out of the Church) and have their portion with the hypocrites (Pharisees) where “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (51).
Ex. 4:18-31, Mt. 25:1-30
Ex. 5, 2 Cor. 4
Our Lord continues to warn the Apostles to watch, but there is a broadening in His focus here. The parable uses the destruction of Jerusalem to illustrate something about the Kingdom of Heaven. The disciples are to watch for it in the same way they are to watch for the attack on Jerusalem.
The parable is very straightforward. Some of the virgins are prepared for the groom’s arrival, some are not. Those who are not are shut out of the wedding, meaning, shut out of the Kingdom of Heaven. The conclusion is the same as the one previously, given, “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.”
Verses 14-30 have been called the parable of the talents, or, the parable of the unprofitable servant. The story is very easy to follow. A man intends to travel to “a far country,” leaving his goods in the care of his faithful servants during his absence. Quite obviously Christ is beginning to talk about things beyond the disciples’ question about the destruction of Jerusalem. Yes, the destruction of Jerusalem is in this parable. Christ, the owner of the house is going away, leaving the care of His “goods” in the hands of the Apostles. It will be their task to teach and guide the Church, and get it out of Jerusalem before the Romans attack. Yet the parable seems to look beyond this, as though Christ is using the judgment of Jerusalem to illustrate a far greater time and event.
Christ is not just going into the desert for a while to pray, as the disciples probably think. He is returning to the right hand of the Father in Heaven. While He is gone, He will leave His “goods” in the care of the Apostles, and the clergy who follow them, until the time of His return. His “goods” are the Church. His goods are the people who trust in Christ as Saviour and love Him as Lord and God. His goods are the Gospel, the Scriptures, and all the means of grace. It is the task of the Apostles to organize the Church into congregations and dioceses, and to teach and ordain clergy to carry on the work of the ministry. It is their task to faithfully teach the Scriptures to the Church, and to share and impart to it all the means of grace.
The talents are great measures of wealth, far beyond what even wealthy people could accumulate in a life-time. Here they represent the Gospel and all the blessings of God on His people. The Apostles are stewards of this wealth (see 1 Cor. 4:1). A major part of the Apostles’ task is to “invest” this wealth in such a way that it brings a return to the Owner. The return is the growth in faith and Godliness in the Church. It is also the addition of souls to the Church as the Apostles spread the Gospel and receive believers into the Church.
The faithful Apostles are those who bring a return to Christ. The faithful ministers are those who continue the faith they learn from the Apostles, and teach it to the succeeding generations. But this is not the domain of clergy alone. It is the task of the entire body, and every member of the Church. Just as a ship has many people doing different jobs, but all are united in the primary task of getting the ship to its port, so the Church has people in different callings and jobs, but all are united in the task of being the Church and proclaiming the Gospel.
The unfaithful servant probably refers first to Judas the betrayer of Christ. He will renounce his Apostolic calling, showing that he has no real faith in Christ. His fate is the same as that of the unbelieving Pharisees; to be cast into the outer darkness where “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mt. 25:20. See also Mt. 24:51, Mt. 21:45, Mt. 22:13). It refers also to the clergy who renounce Christ by preaching another gospel and another Christ, thus, leaving the faith given by Christ to the Apostles. No matter how noble their intentions, there is one faith once for all delivered unto the saints. No man is authorized to change that faith. Finally, it refers to every person who believes himself to be a member of Christ’s Church, yet has buried the Gospel by changing or ignoring the Faith. Such people show themselves to be unprofitable servants, and theirs is the fate of 25:30.
Ex. 6:1-13, Mt. 25:31-46
Ex. 6:14-30, 2 Cor. 5
“When the Son of man shall come in his glory” (31). While contemporary students often interpret this passage as referring to the Second Coming, they refer, first, to Christ’s “coming” to Jerusalem in judgment (see 24:27, 30). Separating the sheep from the goats refers to distinguishing between believers and unbelievers to save the Christians from the coming devastation of the city. Inheriting the kingdom (34) refers as much to being in Christ and having eternal life now as to being in Heaven or in the Kingdom in its full revelation in the new heaven and earth.
Yet our Lord continues to hint about something beyond Jerusalem, and even beyond this world. It is as though the destruction of Jerusalem is a precursor to, and symbol of, His Second Coming, and the language of these verses may apply to both. Certainly the Kingdom prepared for God’s people from the foundation of the world includes God’s people in this world and in Heaven. Israel was the earthly manifestation of that Kingdom in the Old Testament; the Church is its earthly manifestation in the era between the First and Second Advents of Christ. Yet neither Israel nor the Church is the Kingdom in its fullest sense. The fullest sense of the Kingdom will not appear on earth until Christ returns and brings in the new Heaven and new earth. Only then will all things be fully gathered together in Christ, and the purpose of God for His creation be accomplished (Eph. 1:9-10).
Meanwhile, we are to care for one another, and ministering to those in the Church/Body of Christ is spoken of as ministering to Christ Himself; “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (40). Those who refuse to care for God’s people show themselves to be goats and cursed rather than sheep; “Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these, ye did it not unto me” (45).
Caring for the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned also has a direct reference to the Church’s ministry in the world. There is a spiritual sense to the word, “hungry,” which refers to a deep hunger in the soul that can only be fed with the Bread of Life (Jn. 6:35). There is a thirst in the soul that can only be quenched by Living Water (Jn. 4:10). There is a nakedness that can only be covered by putting on Christ (Gal. 3:27). There is a prison that can only be opened by Christ Himself (Lk. 4:18). The Gospel of Christ is the means by which the Church gives this spiritual food, drink and clothing to the hungry, thirsty and naked. The Church must proclaim the Gospel of Christ. Those who do not proclaim it are goats, not sheep.
This chapter has great meaning to the Apostles, for they are waiting eagerly for Christ to come to Jerusalem in full Messianic glory to begin the war with Rome. But Jesus is telling them they have other things to do before He comes in glory. There is a Gospel to be proclaimed. There is a Church to be built. There is truth to be taught and followed. When the Lord comes in His final glory, it will not be to lead the people in war against Rome, but to judge the whole world, including the Church on its faithfulness.
Ex. 7, Mt. 26:1-35
Ex. 8:1-15, 2 Cor. 6
Our Lord turns to a new subject. The disciples’ confused view of the Kingdom of God and the role of the Messiah required Him to speak in very general terms about Jerusalem and the real return of the Messiah. Now He broaches a subject in which they are equally ignorant, and will not understand until His resurrection. That subject is His crucifixion. Our Lord apparently does not spend much time on this. He simply tells the disciples it will happen. After saying this, He takes His disciples to the home of Simon the leper.
Simon is one of those mysterious people of the Bible. Everything we know about him is found in verse 6. His name is Simon. He is called “the leper” apparently for having had leprosy, which, we presume to have been cured by Christ. His home is in Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, and Jesus and the disciples, along with Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, have come to his house in the afternoon or evening on the Tuesday or Wednesday before the crucifixion.
The ointment has two meanings. First, it recognizes the Lordship of Christ. It is an act of worship, and only God is to be worshiped. Second, it points to Christ’s crucifixion (12). The indignation of the disciples is misplaced. Frankly, they are not concerned about the poor, else they would be doing something to help them. Furthermore, they will have many opportunities to help the poor, but Christ will soon be taken from them. This woman has chosen the right way, to honour Christ.
The crucifixion was not a surprise to Jesus. He knew He was going to Jerusalem to go to the cross. He willingly laid down His life, and He laid it down to pay the price for our sins.
Surely Matthew 26 is one of the most heart wrenching chapters in all of Scripture. Beginning with the Lords prediction of His crucifixion, it moves to the conspiracy to capture Jesus ‘by subtilty, and kill him.” The kindest thing that happens to Christ in this chapter is His anointment with costly oil, and even this, He says, is for His burial. Next, Judas joins the conspiracy against Jesus, and begins to seek an opportunity to betray Him. The Passover meal and Lord’s Supper, in verses 17-30 are about His death and its meaning. In Gethsemane the disciples sleep while He faces His remaining hours alone, after which Judas leads the conspirators to Him and betrays Him with a kiss. He is taken to a mock trial in which many false witnesses testify against Him, and, finally, Peter denies Him three times.
Verses 17-30 recount the events in the Upper Room, the Passover, which our Lord turns into what is commonly called, “The Lord’s Supper.” It is Thursday evening when they gather for the meal, which follows a well known and much honoured liturgy. In the Passover ceremony, the head of the family brakes the unleavened bread and places it on a plate. But part of the bread is placed on another plate, which is laid aside to be eaten after the meal. The head of the household now raises the bread and says, “This is the bread of misery which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. All that are hungry, come and eat; all that are needy, come, keep the Passover.” After the bread is passed and eaten, the cup is raised and the liturgical prayers are said. The cup is raised a second time and Psalms 113-118 are sung. The cup is raised a third time, another liturgical prayer is said, and the cup is passed to each person for a drink. After this comes the meal itself, ending with the bread that had been set aside at the beginning of the ceremony. This is followed by the final cup of wine, the cup after the supper (Luke 22:20). A fuller explanation of the Passover meal can be found in Alfred Edersheim’s The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah.
Thus, our Lord uses the liturgy of the remembrance of the deliverance from Egypt to inaugurate the liturgy of the remembrance of our deliverance from the eternal slavery of sin. Taking the bread and the cup at the end of the Passover meal, He tells His people they represent His body and blood, and are to be taken in remembrance of Him.
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 in their time (Mt. 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 is much more fragile 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” (41).
Ex. 8:16-32, Mt. 26:36-75
Ex. 9:1-12, 2 Cor. 7
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 the cross, say, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death,” must be a sorrow we cannot 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 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 faces? 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 at 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 Christ’s 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 to be 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 accepts because He loves the Father and He loves us. “Thy will be done” He prays as His enemies approach (42).
The soldiers, who come to arrest Christ are the Temple guards, not Roman soldiers. But they are armed and ready to take Christ by force to His “trial.” Our Lord’s words are note worthy. He says “the hour is at hand,” meaning the time has come. And He says the 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” (46).
The betrayal by Judas is tragic (47-55). Many have speculated about his reason. Some theorise that he is a zealot who wants to force Jesus to reveal and use His power as the Messiah to begin a war with the Romans. But Judas is probably not that lofty or idealistic. He is called a thief in John 12:6, which gives a clue about why he betrays Christ; money. He simply wants the money, which was a considerable sum in those days. Though he has followed Jesus for three years, his loyalty and love belong to Judas, not Jesus.
Peter, who promised to die with Christ rather than deny Him (35), now prepares to fight for the Messiah. He may think this is the beginning of the 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 cuts 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 call 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 strike His enemies dead without the help of angels. But He gives Himself to the soldiers, essentially giving Himself to the cross.
Second, His suffering and crucifixion fulfill 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, and 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.
What is the main point of Matthew 26:57-75? It is that the trial of Jesus by the high priest and Sanhedrin is illegal and an immoral perversion. It is never intended to seek truth or do justice. It is a farce enacted with one purpose, to find a way to get the Romans to crucify Christ. It is held at night. It is held in secret. It is held in the high priest’s house. Only selected members of the council are present, for there is no mention of Nicodemus, who would certainly vocally oppose their actions. False witnesses tell lies about Christ’s words and actions. All of these things are against the legal and moral methods of dealing with religious and civil disputes in Israel. In the end they kill the Son of God for saying He is the Son of God.
There is a second point in this passage. Peter, who so bravely said he would die with Christ, denies knowing Him three times. When Peter said he would die with Christ he had visions of a glorious war that would drive away the Romans and establish Israel as a free and independent nation. When he drew his sword in the garden, and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant, he probably expected the Lord to begin the battle there, and he probably was ready to die in battle, if that would bring about a free Israel. But when Christ allowed Himself to be taken captive, Peter’s resolve fled with the rest of the disciples. Fear overcame him, and he ran away from the soldiers like the other disciples. Now, standing outside of the high priest’s house where the “trial” is taking place, he denies knowing Christ out of fear that he, too, might be crucified.
Ex. 9:13-35, Mt. 27
Ex. 10:1-11, 2 Cor. 8
Hypocrisy and false repentance are the outstanding features of verses 1-10. Hypocrisy is seen in the priests and elders. They have gone to great lengths to capture Jesus and get Him to the Romans for execution. This is not justice; it is pure, pre-meditated murder and they are murderers. Yet they will not take the money from Judas. This is the money they paid him to betray Christ. They even admit their guilt when they call the money “the price of blood” in verse 6. Truly they strain at a gnat (the money) and swallow a camel (murder).
In verse 3, Judas “repented himself.” The Greek word used in this verse means to have a change of mind or to have sorrow over something. Judas is sorry about betraying Christ, and his soul is tormented over the wickedness of turning Christ over to those who will kill Him. He wishes he could undo what he has done, and the reality of it has cast his soul into deep depression. But his is not the sorrow unto life. According to Scripture, there are two kinds of sorrow. 2 Corinthians 7:10 tells of a Godly sorrow, “that worketh repentance unto salvation.” This begins with the realization that we are sinners, and that our sins are heinous crimes against God and humanity. It goes on to beseech God’s mercy through Christ, and to turn from sin to Godliness as a way of thinking and living.
But there is also a sorrow of the world which ends in despair. It does not lead a person to God. It does not lead a person to turn from sin to God. It does not lead to Heaven. It simply leaves a person in that deep, deep soul sickness and depression. This is the kind of sorrow most people have. They regret that they have done, and do, certain things. They see the self-destruction they cause to themselves, and the hurt and grief they cause to others. But they do not come to God for forgiveness and help. They remain in their sin. The Bible says this kind of sorrow “worketh death” (2 Cor. 7:10). Judas is a sad example. Unwilling to truly repent, his is merely the sorrow of the world. Finding no relief from his sorrows, he finally hangs himself (5).
Jesus’ lack of defense before Pilate further emphasizes His clear intent to go to the cross (14). Jesus intentionally embraces the cross. That much is evident in this passage.
The choice of Barabbas is the choice of a worldly revolutionary over the Heavenly Saviour. Barabbas claims to be the Messiah, and has killed people in an attempt to gather a following to fight against the Romans. Rather than delivering Israel, Barabbas goes to jail and is scheduled for crucifixion. Pilate offers Israel a choice, Pilate or Jesus.
The choice is Barabbas. The logic in this choice is easily discerned. Men like Barabbas were common in Israel. Claiming to be the Messiah they gathered crowds of followers and killed a few Romans. The Romans responded by crucifying Jews. This continuing battle did not interrupt the position or prosperity of the religious leaders in Jerusalem. But Jesus was different. His target did not seem to be the Romans. The religious leaders were His target, and they hated Him for that. So they chose the revolutionary man over the Heavenly Saviour.
Lest we judge them too harshly let us ask ourselves if we do not make the same choice regularly. Do we not often follow those who promise (usually falsely) worldly peace and affluence over the One who promises spiritual blessings? Do we not choose the promise of indulgence over the demand for self control? Do we not choose those who offer a crown over the One who offers a cross? And in so doing, aren’t we, spiritually saying, with the enemies of Christ, “Let him be crucified”?
The death of Christ is accomplished by means of intense torture. The scourge is a whip of many thongs, and many victims died under its lash alone. Jesus is beaten with such severity He is unable to carry His cross (32). After the scourging, the soldiers continue to beat Him with their hands. But the soldiers do not beat Him to death. They save Him to suffer the additional torture of the cross.
According to Roman custom Jesus is paraded through the city. This is done to humiliate the victim and His people. Normally the victim carried his cross, but Jesus is too weak to carry His. Simon (32) is probably a Jew who came to Jerusalem for the Passover. He is forced by the Romans to carry the cross for Jesus.
At Golgotha, they give our Lord a mixture of vinegar (spoiled wine) and myrrh to drink. The purpose of the drink is a subject of much speculation. Myrrh reportedly has the effect of reducing pain, and some have thought offering it to Christ is an act of kindness. But reducing the pain for a while might have the effect of prolonging the suffering on the cross. Therefore, it could be an additional act of cruelty. Whatever the reason for offering it, Jesus refuses the drink. He will not go to the cross in a medicated state. He will be fully aware of His suffering.
The sign above His head (37) is the accusation, or, reason for His crucifixion. It is intended to insult the Jewish people, as though the Romans are saying, “This is what we do to your Messiah, and you are powerless to stop it.” But the religious leaders are not insulted. They are overjoyed at the plight of Jesus. They revel in His suffering. They even begin to mock Him, thinking to add to His pain (41). Even one of the thieves reviles Him. Truly it is as though all of humanity has turned against Him, and He is left to die alone.
Christ is on the cross. The spikes have been driven into His flesh and bones, and only by holding Himself up on the spikes is He able to breathe. The physical pain must be excruciating, yet He bears a pain far worse than any caused by lash or nails. He bears the wrath of God for our sins. We have nothing to compare this too, except a fire that burns forever. Jesus bears that wrath for us. He is made to be sin for us, that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). Thus, He cries in verse 46, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Bishop Ryle’s comments express the essence of these words.
They were meant to express the real pressure on his soul of the enormous burden of a world’s sin. They were meant to show how truly and literally He was our substitute, was made sin, and a curse for us, and endured God’s righteous anger against a world’s sin in His own person. At that awful moment, the iniquity of us all was laid upon Him to the uttermost. It pleased the Lord to bruise Him, and put Him to grief (Isaiah liii.10) He bore our sins. He carried our transgressions. Heavy must have been that burden, real and literal must have been our Lord’s substitution for us, when He, the eternal Son of God, could speak of Himself as for a time “forsaken.”
Let the expression sink down into our hearts, and not be forgotten. We can have no stronger proof of the sinfulness of sin, or of the vicarious nature of Christ’s suffering, than His cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” It is a cry that should stir us up to hate sin, and encourage us to trust in Christ.
Expository Thoughts on Matthew
The rending of the veil in verse 51 refers to the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple. Only the High Priest was allowed to enter this symbol of God’s presence, and he entered with a rope tied around his waist, which enabled his body to be pulled out if he died in the Holy Place. As Jesus died on the cross this curtain was miraculously torn from top to bottom. Let us again let Bishop Ryle explain the significance of this miracle.
The rending of the veil proclaimed the termination and passing away of the ceremonial law. It was a sign that the old dispensation of sacrifices and ordinances was no longer needed. Its work was done. Its occupation was gone from the moment that Christ died. There was no more need of an earthly high priest, and a mercy seat, and a sprinkling of blood, and an offering up of incense, and a day of atonement. The true High Priest had at length appeared. The true Lamb of God had been slain. The true mercy seat was at length revealed. The figures and shadows were no longer needed.
That rending of the veil proclaimed the opening of the way of salvation to all mankind. The way into the presence of God was unknown to the Gentile, and only seen dimly by the Jew, until Christ died. But Christ having now offered up a perfect sacrifice, and obtained eternal redemption, the darkness and mystery were to pass away. All were to be invited now to draw near to God with boldness, and approach Him with confidence, by faith in Jesus. A door was thrown open, and a way of life set before the whole world.
Let us turn from the story of the crucifixion, every time we read it, with hearts full of praise. Let us praise God for the confidence it gives us as to the ground of our hope of pardon. Our sins may be many and great, but the payment made by our Great Substitute far outweighs them all. – Let us praise God for the view it gives us of the love of our Father in heaven. He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, will surely give us all things. – Not least, let us praise God for the view it gives us of the sympathy of Jesus with all His believing people. He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He knows what suffering is. He is just the Saviour that an infirm body, with a weak heart, in an evil world, requires.
Expository Thoughts on Matthew
The resurrection of many of the saints which slept (52) is yet another miracle that occurs at the moment of Christ’s death. We do not know who they are. We know only that they had lived their lives under the Old Testament sacrifices and ceremonies that were shadowy signs of the death of Christ. Now they are permitted to see, with their own eyes, the fulfillment of those signs They are resurrected when Christ dies. They go into Jerusalem, the holy city, at the time of His resurrection. It is not said what happens to them after this.
Christ really and truly died. He really and truly became flesh, as John tells us in John 1:14. He really and truly suffered and died, and He was really and truly dead and buried. These points are important, because if any one of them is shown to be false, the entire Gospel of Christ is false, the Christian faith is false, and Christians are guilty of the sin of idolatry. But we need not fear. The entire Bible is written to announce Christ. The Old Testament proclaims Him in the feasts, sacrifices, the Temple, and the priests. All of these things are shadowy signs of the One who fulfills the meaning and intent of the Old Testament. Christ is the Scapegoat, the sacrificial Lamb, the High Priest, the Sabbath, the Passover, the Son of David, and the fulfillment of prophecy. He is Immanuel (Is. 7:14), Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6). He is the destination to which all Scripture takes us.
In the New Testament He said many times that He would die. Two days before Passover He told His disciples He was going to be betrayed and crucified (Mt. 26:2). Many other places in Scripture record predictions of His coming death.
In Matthew 27:57-66, we see the dead body of Christ removed from the cross and taken to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea. In the presence of Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary,” identified by Mark as the mother of James, Christ’s body is placed in the tomb and a heavy, carved stone is moved into place to seal the tomb. It is nearly sunset on Friday evening, and the Sabbath is rapidly approaching. Thus, the mourners have to leave the body as it is until after the Sabbath. Sunday morning will be the earliest they can give Him a proper burial.
The disciples and followers of Christ seem to have no confidence in our Lord’s promise to rise again after three days. Even on Sunday morning the women go to His grave to anoint His body, meaning to clean it and prepare it for permanent burial. But the Sadducees and Pharisees remember His prediction. While they do not believe He will actually rise again, they want Pilate to place guards around the tomb for fear that the disciples will steal the body and fake His resurrection. They want Pilate to post a guard of Roman soldiers around the tomb, to secure the grave and prevent theft of the body (63 and 64). Pilate agrees to this, and the soldiers are sent. The stone, which serves as the door of the tomb, is sealed with an official Roman seal, and the soldiers stand guard. No one will challenge these soldiers who take pleasure in crucifying a man. The grave is secure.
Ex. 10:12-29, Mt. 28
Ex. 11, 2 Cor. 9
Verses 1-11 record the announcement that Christ is risen. It is Sunday morning, and the Jewish Sabbath is over. It is probably still dark when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary leave for the cemetery to clean and prepare the body of Jesus for the customary burial. They are concerned about the stone that seals the tomb, yet they press on, arriving at the tomb a little before sunrise. They think Jesus is dead, but this Man of Miracles has more miracles to work. As they approach the tomb, the angel of the Lord descends from Heaven. His appearance has a three-fold effect. First he causes an earthquake which rolls the stone away from the sepulcher. Second, the battle-hardened soldiers are frightened to the point of fainting. They will not stop the women from entering the tomb now. Third, the women are frightened. But, not as weak as the soldiers, they neither faint nor flee. Now the angel addresses the women. His words make it clear that the women do not believe Jesus has risen from the dead. “I know ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for He is risen, as He said.” He now invites the women to see the tomb, where a second angel appears and both repeat this most singular and important announcement, “He is not here, but is risen” (see Luke 24:6).
These women are shocked and amazed. Three days ago they saw their loved one tortured to death. They had believed in Him as the Messiah. They didn’t understand very much of what He said, but they saw His works and they believed in Him. When He died, their faith died with Him, but not their love. They still grieve over Him, and they still perform their customary duties for Him. It is love that leads them to do this. Now an angel appears to them. He must be an apparition of great power, for the soldiers, who could fight and kill and conquer in hand to hand combat, faint dead away. This is yet another shock to these grieving women. No wonder his first words to them are, “Fear not” (5).
Note what the women see. They see the soldiers standing guard, and they see them fall to the ground in fear. They see the earth quake. They see the stone roll away from the tomb. They see the angel descend. They see another angel in the tomb. They see that the body of Christ is gone.
Note what they do not see. They do not see Jesus. They do not see Him in the tomb, nor do they see Him leave the tomb after the stone is rolled away. Why? Because Jesus is already risen when they arrive. He rose from the dead and left the tomb alive before the stone was rolled away. He did not need to stone moved to get out of the tomb. He passed through the stone walls as easily as He stilled the storm and walked on water before His crucifixion. He did not need man or angel to get Him out of the tomb. Why, then, is the stone rolled away while they look on in fear? To let the women, and later, the disciples, see into the tomb. To let them see that Christ is not there, not dead, not finished. He is alive.
Verse 12 begins the rapid ascent to the Great Commission. The Gospels were not written to give a chronological biography of the life and ministry of Christ. They were written to present the Saviour to us, to introduce Him in a way that invites us to believe in Him and be reconciled to God through Him. They are written in theological order not chronological order, using events and teachings in the life of Christ to illustrate His power, Divinity, and teachings. Thus, Matthew leaves out several events after the resurrection of Christ. He leaves out the appearance of Christ on the Emmaus Road. He skips over His appearance in the upper room, doubting Thomas, and His appearance to Peter by the Sea of Galilee. Rather than dwelling on these appearances, Matthew moves rapidly to what has been called “The Great Commission” in 28:19 and 20. Let us, however, consider the chronology for a moment.
Finding the tomb empty, the women hurry to tell the disciples what they have seen. As the women run to tell the disciples, Christ appears to them, telling them to send the disciples to meet Him in Galilee (10). Hearing the news, Peter and John run to the tomb. John, reaching it first and stopping at the entrance to look in, is passed by Peter, who unhesitatingly enters. They find only the linen cloth in which Joseph had wrapped the body. Jesus is not there. Bewildered, not understanding that Jesus has risen (Jn. 20:9), they return to the upper room. Mary Magdalene is now alone at the tomb weeping when Christ appears to her again. This is His second appearance, both to women, neither to the disciples. After this He appears to the disciples in the upper room and on the Emmaus Road.
Matthew 28:10 is an important verse, commanding the disciples to meet Him in Galilee. It is probably Galilee, where He conducted most of His earlier ministry, that He also conducted the majority of His post resurrection ministry, teaching the disciples how to understand the Old Testament and how to organize and establish the New Testament Church. The mountain appointed as the meeting place is very likely the place where Christ preached the Sermon on the Mount; the same mount on which He had ordained the twelve, “that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach” (Mk. 3:13 and 14). It is a place filled with sacred memories in the minds of the disciples.
Many believe the meeting in Galilee is the one Paul records in 1 Corinthians 15:6, when our Lord “was seen of above five hundred brethren.” Whether this is correct or not, there may be more people present than just the eleven disciples. We can easily think of several who would hear of this meeting and might make plans to go to Galilee and see again their Saviour, who was dead but now is alive. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Mary the wife of Joseph, Mary and Martha, Lazarus, Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathaea would probably not remain in Jerusalem knowing the risen Lord will appear in Galilee.
Wherever this mount may be, and whoever was or was not there, our Lord makes a shocking announcement. These eleven doubting and fearful men are no longer disciples, they are the Apostles. Our Lord Himself commissions them to build His Church. He calls them to teach all nations to observe “all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Our Lord refers not only to the maxims of the moral law, which are always in effect. He refers also to the entire faith He has taught, and will continue to teach them until His ascension into Heaven. He refers to the Gospel and the doctrinal content of Christianity. He refers to the Holy Trinity, the incarnation, the substitutionary atonement for sin, justification by grace through faith, the organisation and worship of the Church, and all the teachings recorded and preserved in the New Testament. This is the faith given to them by Christ. This is the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). This is the faith they are called to proclaim and establish in the Church.
New disciples are to be baptized into the Church. It is worth noting that people are not baptized into isolation. They are baptized into the people, the congregation, the Body and Kingdom of Christ on earth, which is the Church. They are also baptized into local churches, which the Apostles quickly organize. The Apostles educate and ordain clergy in the churches, and give them the liturgy and order Christ gave to them. The clergy, and the congregations committed to their charge, are not independent. They answer to the Apostles, who ensure that they teach and live according to all things Christ commanded.
Christ gives the Apostles two assurances, which are foundational to their calling. First, “All power is given unto me in heaven and earth.” He is telling the Apostles He has the power and authority to commission them, and to charge them with this ministry. He has the power and authority to give the Christian Faith to them, and to require them to pass it on to others. He has the power and authority to establish the Church, which is both the continuation and fulfillment of the Old Testament Israel. The Apostles go in His authority, and He has all authority.
Second, He will be with them. They do not yet understand that He will be physically returning to the Father. They must return to Jerusalem, go with Him to the Mount of Olives, and see Him physically ascend before they understand that. But after His ascension they will need to know He is still with them. His physical presence has been replaced by His spiritual presence through the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit He will dwell in them, and they will dwell in Him. They will not be alone when they face unbelievers. They will not be left to their own devices and persuasive abilities to win converts. He will be with them. He will guide them. He will empower them. He will reach people through them.
He will be with them when they encounter opposition. He, who knows when a sparrow falls, watches over them. He, who was a man of sorrows, will be with them in their sorrows. And when their earthly work is over, He, who died to open the gates of Heaven to them, will receive them unto Himself, and they shall be with Him forever. “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”