Let’s open our Bibles for the study of God’s Word this morning, to the twenty-sixth chapter of Matthew, Matthew chapter 26. We’re coming now to the last section of Matthew, the very last section, chapters 26, 27, and 28; and it is the most significant, wonderful section in all of this gospel because its focus is the cross of Jesus Christ. Everything to this point is only prologue. Everything to this point is only introduction. This is the main theme. This is the main event. This is the issue in the revelation of God--the cross of Jesus Christ.
And so, we come to the climax of Matthew’s gospel, the climax of redemptive history and the greatest event in the history of the world, the greatest source of hope in the heart of any man or woman who ever lived--the cross of Jesus Christ. No wonder the hymn writer said, “In the cross of Christ I glory, towering o’er the wrecks of time.” And then he said, “All the light of sacred story gathers round its head sublime.” Everything in the sacred story gathers around the cross. You cannot have Christianity without the cross of Jesus Christ. It’s the focal point. And thus the apostle Paul said, “I am determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”
The cross is the epitome of redemptive truth, foreshadowed in the acceptable sacrifice of Abel, foreshadowed in the ark of safety that saved Noah, foreshadowed in the sacrifice provided on Mount Moriah--a ram in the place of Isaac, prefigured in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, where Moses said, “The Lord is my strength, and my song, and He has become my salvation.” We see the cross foreshadowed in the smitten rock in the wilderness that brought forth water to quench the thirsty people. We see the cross foreshadowed in the Levitical ceremonies, sacrifices and offerings. We see it foreshadowed in the serpent lifted up in the desert for healing. We see it even in Boaz, the kinsman redeemer. We see the cross detailed in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. We see the pierced and wounded Savior in Zechariah, chapter 12--all the way through Scripture.
And then we hear John, the last of the Old Testament prophets, pointing to Jesus and saying, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” All of Old Testament Scripture, all of the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist points to the cross. And then comes the cross and all the gospel writers and the epistle writers write of the cross, for it is the focal point of everything. Christianity is, more than anything else, a belief in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the salient truth of the Christian faith. And so we come now to the greatest truth, the greatest portion of this gospel of Matthew. And Matthew deals with the cross in very concise, straight-forward, simple, clear terms. This is the narrative of the cross. This is the history of it. We have recently studied the theology of it in looking at Romans 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11. All the way through that we dealt in great detail with the theology of the death of Christ and essential that is.
But here we’re not dealing with the theology of the cross; we’re dealing with the reality of it historically. Oh, we’ll see the theology of it, we’ll see its meaning. But the format is a narrative, the story of the cross as it happened. And in these final three chapters, Matthew breaks up the picture of the cross into some very clear, distinct elements. In chapter 26 we’ll see the preparation for the cross. At the end of chapter 26, the arrest of Jesus Christ. And then, as we move in to chapter 27, the trials of Christ. Then in chapter 27, His execution. And then in chapter 27, His burial. And then finally in chapter 28 comes the resurrection and His final instructions to His disciples.
So we move through the preparation, the arrest, the trial, the execution, the burial, the resurrection and the final instructions. Very simple, very concise, to the point, as Matthew describes the greatest event ever happened in the history of the world.
Now as we begin to look at the preparation in the beginning of chapter 26, I want us this morning to look at the first 16 verses. And here we find the preparation for the death of Jesus Christ, seen in four elements, or four perspectives. And we’ll be looking at those in our lesson this morning. Before we do, let me just draw you to verse 1, and then we’ll establish the setting.
“It came to pass that when Jesus had finished all these sayings, He said unto His disciples.” Now Jesus has just finished the Olivet Discourse. That’s what it means by “all these sayings.” Chapter 24 and 25, His great masterful sermon on His own Second Coming. Now having said that, that reminds you, doesn’t it? That this is Wednesday; it has been a very long Wednesday. In fact, I think Wednesday has lasted about nine months in our study. So much has happened on this Wednesday. You go all the way back to chapter 21 and verse 23, and that’s where Wednesday’s activities began. Chapter 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, and here we are in 26, and we’re still on the very same day, a very eventful day.
Do you remember how the scene unfolded? Saturday, Jesus arrived in Bethany. Sunday while He was in the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, a great multitude came to Him there and He taught them and ministered to them. Monday He got on the colt and rode into the city of Jerusalem to the hosannas, and the “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord,” that the crowd offered to Him as they threw palm branches and garments at His feet. And He was hailed as the Messiah on Monday. He went to the Temple that Monday, then returned to Bethany. Tuesday He came into the city, cursed a fig tree on the way, and then went to the Temple and cleansed the Temple. Having cleansed it on Tuesday, He came back on Wednesday in the morning, and since it was now a cleansed Temple, it was fit for Him to teach there, and so He began to teach. And as He began to teach the multitudes, He ran into conflict with the religious leaders and the whole conflict began to unfold in chapter 21, 22, and finally reached its culmination in chapter 23 when He pronounced a series of curses on the religious leaders and their people.
So early Wednesday and throughout the day, He was teaching in the Temple and confronting the religious leaders. Toward the evening of Wednesday, do you remember that He ascended the Mount of Olives with His disciples, sat down on the Mount of Olives, and it was there in the twilight of Wednesday that He began to unfold to them the truths about His Second Coming? It’s still Wednesday, only it’s late Wednesday. And Jesus has finished all these sayings about His Second Coming, but He has something more to say. You see, the disciples were preoccupied with the kingdom. They were preoccupied with the Second Coming. Is it now? Is it now? Do we get our glory now? Do we get our rewards now? Do we get our prominence now? They really wanted it now. They were like children who couldn’t be patient.
And so having given them all this information about His Second Coming, He comes right back to reality in chapter 26 and when He had finished all of that, He said to them, “You know that after two days is the Passover and the Son of Man is betrayed to be crucified?” Well, let’s come back to here and now. All of that is future. For now, crucifixion is the next event. And so there it is at the end of an unbelievable day, midway through an unbelievable week in which on one day He is hailed as the Messiah, on the next day He cleans out the Temple, on the next day He devastatingly rebukes all the religious leaders of Israel. And here it is, He’s given them this tremendous message of His Second Coming, and now He says, “Even having denounced those leaders, even having announced My ultimate supremacy and rule, I’m telling you now for this time I must die at their hands.” That’s reality.
And so, the Lord says it’s time for the cross now. This, by the way, is the fourth and last time that He tells them of His cross in Matthew. The first one came in chapter 16, verse 21, “From that time forth began Jesus to show His disciples how He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and be raised again the third day.” That’s Matthew 16:21; that’s the first time He began to introduce His death.
Then in chapter 17 we find again in verse 22, He said to them, “The Son of Man shall be betrayed into the hands of men and they shall kill Him and the third day He shall be raised again, and they were exceedingly sorry.” Then in chapter 20, verse 17, He took them aside, and as they were going along the way, He said, “We go to Jerusalem and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the scribes and they shall condemn Him to death and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify Him and the third day He shall rise again.”
Each time He told them He would die. Each time He told them He would rise again. That...those three times reached their culmination here in verse 2. This is the fourth and final time. Two days, He says, for the Son of Man to be betrayed to be crucified.
So here Matthew introduces to us the final scene. And what Jesus has been saying and they have not wanted to believe, He now says for the last time, and they will in just a matter of two days see it come to pass. So in that way, Matthew introduces us now the final scene. And as we prepare to understand the death of Christ, He gives us four perspectives. The first one is the preparation of sovereign grace. You see, everything has to come together in the death of Christ: the plan of God, the hatred of the Jewish leaders, the loving adoration and worship of those who followed Christ, the terrible betrayal of Judas--all of this has to blend together. God master-plans all of these diverse things so that the death of Christ comes at precisely the right moment.
So first, if you’ll look at verse 2, we see the preparation of sovereign grace. And Jesus, because the Father has revealed it to Him--and you remember He was restricted--He said in His incarnation to that which the Father revealed to Him; He set Himself aside, as it were, in the voluntary use of His omniscience and submitted Himself to that which the Father revealed. He says in the gospel of John, “I know what the Father reveals to Me.” So He says here, “You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man is betrayed to be crucified.” It’s now, He says. This is the Father’s time. And I need to say this at this juncture, because it’s so often the case that this death of Jesus Christ is thought to be an accident, and people write books like The Passover Plot saying Jesus was a well-meaning revolutionary whose revolution went sour and He wound up getting Himself killed. That’s not the case. He was on a divine timetable; He knew exactly what was going to happen. He had already predicted three times He would go to Jerusalem, die and rise again. And here He says, “In two days it will happen.” It’s no accident; it’s sovereign direction by God. He is on a divine timetable.
There were many times when the people would have taken His life, when the leaders would have taken His life, but they were not able to do that. It wasn’t a well-meaning revolution that went bad at the end. They had been trying, that is the religious leaders and others, they had been trying to kill Him from the very beginning, but unsuccessfully because He was always in control of everything. Everything was always on divine schedule in a majestic, dignified, powerful, authoritative way. Jesus moved through the planned timetable for His life, never missing step with anything. And in John 10, do you remember what He said? “No man,” verse 18, “takes My life from Me, rather I lay it down of Myself. I have authority to lay it down. I have authority to take it again. No man takes My life from Me.” And Pilate, fool that he was, in chapter 19 said to Jesus, “Speakest Thou not unto Me, knowest Thou not that I have authority to crucify Thee, and authority to release Thee?” And Jesus answered, “Thou couldest have no authority at all against Me except it were given thee from above.”
You have no control over My death, even if you are the governor. No one has any control over My death except for sovereign God. So always on divine schedule was our Lord. In fact, there were so many attempts to take His life that it’s ludicrous to assume that Jesus just had a revolution go bad at the end. Listen, the first attempt on His life was right after He was born, when Herod massacred all of the babies under two years of age in that part of the world in order to try to get rid of this One who was born to be King of the Jews, who posed some kind of a threat to his own throne. Matthew chapter 2 tells us about that massacre which was an attempt to kill Christ who was saved by being taken away from that place in time by divine intervention.
Then there was a time in Nazareth when He was ministering in the synagogue among His own people who knew Him well, for there He had lived and grown up. And He opened to them the Scriptures, Luke 4 says, and He read out of Isaiah, and He closed the book and says, “This day is that Scripture fulfilled in your ears.” What He was saying is, “I am the One of whom Isaiah spoke, I am the Promised One, I am the Messiah who has come to preach the gospel to the poor, to give sight to the blind, to release the captives,” and so forth and so on. And when He said that, they took Him out to the brow of a hill and they would have thrown Him off a cliff to crush Him to death, but He disappeared out of their midst.
And then there was the time recorded for us in John 5 where He was at the pool of Bethsaida, and there was a man there who had been crippled for 38 years. And the Bible says that He healed that man and immediately they sought a way to kill Him because He did it on the Sabbath. They were always trying to kill Him, but always unsuccessful until God’s timetable set it right.
And then after that when they tried to kill Him for healing on the Sabbath, He intensified their desire to kill Him by claiming to be equal with God. In the next couple of verses, John 5:17 and 18, He claimed equality with God, and they went into a frenzy to endeavor to wipe His life out, which they were not able to do. The people at Jerusalem during the Feast of the Tabernacles when Jesus came there identified Jesus, John 7:25 says, as the one the leaders seek to kill. They sought to kill Him all along. Even the Temple police in John 7 were sent to capture Jesus that He might be executed. They came back without Jesus and all they could say was, “Never a man spoke like that man.” He so overwhelmed them they couldn’t even take Him captive.
In John chapter 8, Jesus said, “You seek to kill Me.” But that same eighth chapter and the twentieth verse says, “No man laid hands on Him for His hour was not yet come.” In John chapter 10 again, it was winter time and Jesus was in Jerusalem, and He was walking in the Porch of Solomon in the Temple, and the Jews picked up stones and wanted to stone Him on the spot. But the Bible says He escaped out of their hand and went beyond the Jordan miraculously, supernaturally delivered.
And then in John 11, when He came into the city of Bethany and there raised Lazarus from the dead, He created such a furor among the Jewish leaders that it says in verse 53, “They met together and took counsel how to put Him to death.” And they put out an edict that said, “If any man knows where He is, he should show it that they might seize Him,” John 11:57.
So it isn’t anything new, the death of Christ. This has been an effort from the time of His birth and from the very beginning of His ministry, even in Nazareth. But all of these so-called attempts to take His life were unsuccessful because it wasn’t God’s timing, it wasn’t God’s timetable. It is now. And if ever there was a time when the Jews wouldn’t want to do it, it’s now. But this is the time when God wants it done. In other words, this is not the time for them, not now, not with Jerusalem swollen with pilgrims, many of whom are from Galilee. And according to Josephus, at one Passover season in a census that was made, 256,500 lambs were slain. That’s a quarter of a million lambs were slain at one Passover season in Jerusalem.
And Josephus says, “The Law was that there could be no less than ten people for each lamb because no one was to eat the Passover alone, it was a celebration of their community. So if you have a minimum of ten people for a quarter million lambs, you’ve got a minimum of 200...or rather of two million five hundred thousand people swelling Jerusalem, many of them from Galilee, all of them enamored about Jesus Christ, all of them fascinated enough to cry, “Hosanna! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord,” hailing Him as Messiah, knowing He’s a miracle worker--gives sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, voices to the dumb, raises those that are infirm and ill and gives life to the dead. He was too volatile, too popular to touch. And this would have been the worst time from the standpoint of the Jewish leaders. So it had nothing to do with what their plans were. When they wanted to do it, God didn’t let them do it. When they didn’t want to do it, they wound up doing it against their own plan because it says in verse 5, “They said, ‘We don’t want to do it during the Feast or there will be a riot among the people.’”
So God just overturns all their plans. They want to kill Him; they can’t. They don’t; they will. So we see sovereignty, the sovereign grace of God that brings Christ to the cross to die for the sins of men. Two days from Wednesday is Friday when all the Jews would be celebrating their Passover, when lambs were being slain all over every place. He would be offered as the Lamb of God. What a fitting moment, right? What a perfect timing. The sovereign One has planned that the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world will be sacrificed on the Passover, when the lambs that couldn’t take away sin were being sacrificed. This was the unchangeable plan of God. And in Luke we find in chapter 22, it says in verse 22, “Truly the Son of Man goeth as it was determined.” He goes as it was determined. And in Acts 2 it says, “He was crucified by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” It was determined that a lamb should die on the Passover and that the Lamb of God should die on the Passover. And even though the Jews didn’t want it to happen on the Passover, because they were afraid of the mob, and they were afraid of the Romans, if they started a riot, the Romans would move in with their military power and it would mess up the political peace. There was nothing that would lead them to want Jesus to be crucified at this time, and yet that was the plan of God.
Why? Because He was the Lamb. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 5, verse 7 it says, “Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us,” the last part of the verse. He is our Passover. He is the Lamb of God, John the Baptist said, that takes away the sin of the world. He is a Lamb slain from before the foundation of the earth, says John in the book of Revelation. And that beautiful sermon of Philip as he’s going along in the desert, engaged and talking to the eunuch, he opens Isaiah 53 and he reads about a lamb, a lamb that was taken to slaughter, a lamb that was dumb before its shearers, a lamb that opened not its mouth, the sacrificial lamb, and it says he began at that Scripture and spoke unto him concerning Jesus. Yes, He is the Lamb. Peter says, “We were not redeemed with corruptible things such as silver and gold from our former manner of life, but with the precious blood of Christ as of a Lamb without spot and blemish” (1 Peter 1:19 and 20). So He’s ever and always the Lamb, the Lamb, and He must die on the Passover as the Passover Lamb, even though that is not the will of men, that is the will of God. And He will turn the will of men to accomplish His holy purpose.
Jesus is ready now because it is the sovereign plan. In John chapter 12, when they would have crowned Him king, He said, “No, it is not fitting.” The moment of triumphance, Jesus turns and says, “Except a corn of wheat fall unto the ground and die, it abides alone. But if it dies, it brings forth life,” and He spoke of His death. I have to die, He said.
So we see then in verse 2, the preparation of sovereign grace as God plans the event of the death of Christ. Secondly, we see the preparation of what we could call hateful rejection, the preparation of hateful rejection. And as Jesus was speaking these words to His disciples on Wednesday night, that same night the Sanhedrin had called a special meeting in the house or the palace of Caiaphas, and they were meeting there with the chief priests, the scribes no doubt were there, though the text probably doesn’t mention scribes, some of the manuscripts do. They were probably there and the elders of the people. The elders, by the way, were the lay nobility. They were noble, family representatives, the wealthy, the aristocratic people out of the society. The priests were those who were in the priestly order. The scribes were those who were the law experts.
And they were all together there, all the rulers of the people, along with Caiaphas, the high priest, and they had one thing in mind. Verse 4, “They consulted together how they might take Jesus by deceit and kill Him.” Again, they’re plotting His death, only this time it’s going to come to pass, not in the way they thought, because verse 5 says they didn’t want to do it during the feast and that’s eight days. So their plan was wait at least eight days, God’s plan was two days, two days. In spite of what their plan was, God would work His plan.
So the Sanhedrin, the ruling body, is together. And by now they’ve had more of Jesus than they can possibly stand. He has intimidated them beyond their ability to deal with it. The people now are following Him. They are threatened; Caiaphas is insecure. And by the way, you need to know a little background about Caiaphas. Josephus tells us his real name was Joseph Caiaphas. He was a wretched, vile, conniving, treacherous, wicked, deceitful man who is pictured in Scripture only in one role. He is a one-dimensional person. Every time you see him in the Bible, he’s trying to kill Jesus. He’s either planning it or executing it. That’s the only portraiture we have of this man. And he’s not unlike Herod who wanted to kill Jesus because he was such a threat to his own throne. He is driven by his own ego, his own satisfaction. He has no sense of justice, or righteousness, or what is fair, or what is good. He has no concern for the people or for anyone else except himself. Ordinarily the office of high priest was something you got because you were in the levitical line. But that had gone by the board. And since the Roman occupation, you wanted to be high priest, you had to buy your way in. But the people demanded some sort of heredity. I mean, you had to have some priestly ancestry. You had to have some connection.
So Caiaphas, treacherous conniving man that he was, married the daughter of Annas, who was his predecessor. Annas was high priest from about the year 6 to 15 A.D. Caiaphas took over in about 15 A.D. and went all the way to 37 A.D., which is very remarkable, by the way. He must have been an all-time good politician to coexist with Rome for that long because in a period of about a hundred years, around the time of Christ, there were 28 different high priests. So they came and went all the time. And for one to have lasted that long, he must have politicized himself very effectively with the Roman government. You might be interested to know that the successor to Caiaphas lasted fifty days, that’s all.
So Caiaphas had bought his way in. He married the daughter of Annas who was his predecessor, who was an extremely wealthy and crooked man also, who ran what were known as the Bazaars of Annas, all the businesses connected to the Temple, that Jesus threw out. And that’s why Annas got back into the plot. Though he was a former high priest, he still carried the title. But he hated Jesus, too, because Jesus put him out of business. So now you’ve got the father-in-law Annas, and here comes the son-in-law Caiaphas. By the way, the Jewish tradition said that in marrying you had to marry the virgin, and you had to marry her between the age of twelve and twelve and a half. So Caiaphas then had married a twelve-year-old daughter of Annas as a way to get into the aristocracy and to find his way into the wealth and the prestige and the power and the prominence of the high priestly office.
He was in charge. There was no king in Israel. He had more power than anybody else. And he wanted to use it to get rid of Jesus. That’s all we see Him doing. He was very wealthy. We know he had a house big enough for the Sanhedrin to meet in. Later on in chapter 26 it tells us he had a house that had a gatehouse. If it had a gatehouse, it must have been a palace with a gate outside, and a house there to protect from entry. He also had many servants; we know from the same chapters we’ll see later.
So he was the epitome of symbolism in the religious system of Israel, decadent as it was. And yet he carried out all the priestly function. He alone could go into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement. He had to carry out all the leadership, and ceremonies, and sacrifices, and rituals. He was in charge of everything. And along with him at this meeting were the chief priests. Those were the leading priests. That meant the guy who was second in command, called the captain of the Temple, who was also in charge of the Temple police. Under him there was the priest over the daily course and the priest over the weekly course. And then there was the Temple treasurer and the Temple overseer. That little group made the chief priests. The scribes were those who worked with the Law. And the elders were those who were the nobility out of the laity, having no priestly office but being the leaders of the people that were sent to sort of rule and govern on behalf of the people.
And so the envious hypocrite Caiaphas gets his group together and they’ve got to do something with Jesus. I mean, chapter 23 alone would have been enough to bring this about, where Jesus blisters them up one side and down the other side with the fire of His wrath and pronounces their condemnation and that was the last straw.
But the problem was, they were afraid of the people. I used to wonder why they didn’t just assassinate Jesus and get it over with. But there was never an opportunity to do that because everywhere He went He was in the midst of a crowd. And even when the crowd was gone, the disciples were there. And they just couldn’t get close to Him without having a situation that would have so many witnesses it would start a riot. And they couldn’t just arrest Him because they didn’t have any reason to arrest Him. And the fact that He was surrounded by people all the time made it impossible to do that without an awful clear explanation. And so they were looking for a place in a clandestine way where they could seize Him and capture Him, take Him prisoner and then trump up a charge against Him and do it all through the legal process, twisted and perverted as they had it--that was their desire. But they needed an angle. They needed an in. They needed a way to pull it off. And, of course, as you know, Judas became their ticket. He became the betrayer.
So we see then in verses 3 to 5 the hateful rejection is part of the preparation. You understand that in order for the Savior to be crucified, it had to be done by hating men. So God brings that to a fever pitch--the resurrection of Lazarus, the hosannas that threatened their positions of power. If this was the Messiah, they knew they were all going to be deposed. Jesus’ threat to destroy their whole system and smash it and crush it and leave it desolate. His pronouncement on them as whited sepulchers, all of these things came to a culmination and their hatred had reached such a fever pitch that they were moving right in line with the sovereign plan of God to pull it all together. They could stand more of this holy perfection from Jesus Christ, and so grace and sin and moving toward the same end. Grace in the person of God’s King planning for the cross; sin in the person of the ruler’s plotting for the cross.
Now that takes us to a third preparation, a very important one. I want you to notice it. We’re not going to spend a lot of time on it, but it’s a beautiful scene. It’s the preparation of loving worship. There aren’t just the enemies who want Jesus to go to the cross, do you know that? I believe that at least one of his own friends saw the importance of that and had a sense of preparation. “Now when Jesus,” verse 6 says, “was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper.” Stop right there. Now we have taken a flashback. We have moved from Wednesday back to Saturday. Now, Matthew says, “When Jesus was in Bethany.” You say, “Well, why does He jump back?” Because what He pulls in here is part of the preparation. And so He goes out of the chronological sequence and He pulls in a very special incident that also fits the preparation for the cross. And it happened on Saturday when Jesus arrived. Why? Because John records the same event in chapter 12 and in verse 1 he says it was six days before the Passover, that’s Saturday.
On Saturday, when Jesus came to Bethany, that first day as He came up from Jericho and came to the city to stay with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, to be a part of all these events, Simon the leper invited him as a guest for a great supper. Now Simon was no longer a leper, we know that because if he was still a leper, nobody would be going to his house. He was a healed leper. Leprosy in that day was incurable. The only cure for leprosy was Jesus Christ. So it’s pretty obvious that Simon was a recipient of the healing power of Christ. And one way he could show his loving gratitude to Christ was to offer Him a supper. Oh the excitement would be unspeakable. You wouldn’t even believe it. Simon a former leper, outcast of outcasts, now having the Healer, God in human flesh, in his own home and hosting Him and inviting Mary, Martha, and Lazarus to be a part and all twelve of the disciples. This is a good group for supper, approaching twenty people. And there may have been others, we don’t know. But Mark writes of it, and Matthew writes of it, and so does John, because it is a very important occasion.
There is another anointing like the anointing here that Luke records in chapter 7 but it’s a completely different incident. Even though the man Simon--the name is the same, it’s Simon the Pharisee, not Simon the leper--and Simon was a name as common as Joe or John, so we’re not surprised there are ten Simons in the New Testament. But it’s a different incident in chapter 7. And the woman who does the anointing is different. It isn’t Mary; it’s a wicked, sinful woman, in that case. But Matthew, Mark and John record this incident. We don’t have time to go into all the details of all the accounts, but I want you to see what happens. Verse 7, they’re in this house in Bethany, and it’s a lovely evening of gratitude and thanks and joy, and Lazarus is alive and he’s there, John says in his account. Mary and Martha, and Martha is busy...What?...what’s Martha doing? Serving. And Mary is busy...What?...sitting at the feet of Jesus, learning, learning; oh she had an aptitude. Sometimes women put men to shame in their aptitude for Scripture, for divine truth. In chapter 10 of Luke, and verse 42 it is, Jesus said about Mary that Mary has chosen the better part. You remember that. Worship is better than service. Learning better than doing. Sitting at the feet of the Savior, better than business.
And so, there she is, and all of a sudden, verse 7, bursts upon us: “There came to Him a woman,” and John tells us it was Mary. Matthew doesn’t tell us, and I don’t know why; we have no reason to know why he didn’t tell us except the Holy Spirit knew what John was going to say and it wasn’t repeated here for whatever reason. Some say it wasn’t mentioned by Matthew because he wrote so early in 50 that he was afraid there might be repercussions on Mary for what she had done. John, who wrote 40 years later, didn’t care because the scene had changed and she wouldn’t have been in such a difficult position. But that’s speculation.
Nonetheless, Mary came and she had...now follow closely...an alabaster. Now that’s a very thin alabaster, almost transparent, and the word “box” should be the word “vessel” or “cruse.” It’s really a bottle made out of alabaster, very thin, and it would be a very fat or round bottle with a very narrow neck, and it would be corked or plugged at the top. And inside of it was very precious perfume. How precious? A year’s wages, Mark tells us, 300 denarii, which would be a year’s wages…very, very costly.
You say, “Why did they even have it?” Well, they must have been a somewhat wealthy family to even have something like that, but it was customary when you had guests in for a meal to anoint them with perfume. I mean, in those days, let’s face it, they didn’t have deodorant. Right Guard was a long way off. And if you’d been out all day tramping around in the dirt and your robes were, you know, a little sweaty, and you came at the end of the day there--and they didn’t have the means for cleanliness, of course, that we have nowadays--and you came in there, you would hope that somebody would anoint you with something. It reminds me of the story of the guys who were all packed into the car driving, and somebody said, “Well one of you hasn’t used your deodorant,” to which one fellow replied, “Well, it isn’t me; I never use any.” But in this case, nobody ever used any. And so it was a common thing to do in a home, to anoint the guest with a strong perfume which made it a lot nicer, a lot more enjoyable during the time of the meal.
And so, this was no doubt what was going to be done. But Mary can’t...she can’t handle it. She’s been sitting at the feet of Jesus. The blockheaded disciples may not understand what’s going to happen, but she understands it. She understands that He’s moving to His death and she understands, bless her, something of what it means, and she understands something of the resurrection. She maybe remembers that He said He would rise again every time He said He would die. And somehow it’s in her mind that this is it, and she wants to prepare Him for that because she knows that in it is her redemption. And so you have the preparation of loving worship here. And when she starts with Jesus, she just can’t go any farther. And if you compare Mark’s account and John’s account, she shatters the whole bottle. And it says in Matthew here in verse 7, she poured it on His head. John says she poured it on His feet. The sum of which to say she poured it all over Him. She covered Him with the whole thing--twelve ounces, twelve ounces of costly perfume that takes a year’s wages to earn. That’s expensive.
You say, “Well, what in the world made her do that? That’s a little much. She got a little carried away.”
It’s an act of love. It was an act of honor. And she was so absolutely adoring and so absolutely controlled by worship that she couldn’t deal with restraint. You understand that? Have you ever worshiped the Lord in such way that you lost all sense of restraint and economy? Most of us worship...let’s see, what can I afford this week; I’ll give that, that won’t affect me. We know very little about this, this unrestrained adoration where you just crush the narrow neck of that alabaster bottle and pour its contents all over Jesus effusively, profusely. She was pouring out her love, her heart of compassion, her devotion. She was honoring the One that was going to die and rise again for her salvation, to bear her sin. She did it for you, for me; we all should have done it. We all, if we had been there, knowing what we now know, would have poured out everything on Him, too. She understood what the disciples didn’t want to understand. She wasn’t bound up in wanting to get right into the kingdom and have the glory. She apparently understood more of Jesus’ teaching then they did. She symbolizes the effusive, profuse, magnanimous outpouring of love that God desires.
Let me tell you something. This is something we know little about. Even in our giving, I was thinking about this, even in our giving we tend to respond to need. “Oh, there’s a need, I’ll give. There’s a need, I’ll give. There’s a need, I’ll give.” We don’t give for the sake of worship. We don’t know what it is to just say, “I don’t know if there’s a need or anything, but I just love You so much, Lord, and I’m so grateful for Your death, and I’m so thankful for what You’ve done for me, I just can’t restrain myself. I want to take everything I have and pour it out on You.” It isn’t a question of is there a place for all of it, and is it going to come back to me in a building or a book? Or is it going to come back to me in a program or a ministry? Or is it going to do this or that? It’s just the unrestrained, unmitigated, effusive love of adoring worship that knows no restraint.
We know so little of that. And we’re not alone. Those dull-witted disciples, verse 8, they saw it; they got mad. They got mad. “To what purpose is this waste?” That’s really a discouraging statement, isn’t it? Waste? “Well, this perfume might have been sold for much and given to the poor.” Oh, this is not a time for pragmatism; this is not a time for the poor. This is a time for worship. This is not a time for programs and meeting the needs and philanthropy, this is for worship. When do you just worship?
By the way, in John 12:6 it says, Judas is the one that made the suggestion. And John 12:6 says Judas made it not because he cared about the poor, but because he held the bag. In other words, the money never would have gotten to the poor. It would have been sold for three hundred denarii, put in the bag and stuck in Judas’ robe. He knew the whole thing was coming down, He knew the whole thing was coming to an end. He was so disillusioned now; he wanted out fast. He knew it was the end of everything. And he wanted to stuff that bag as fat as he could. If he wasn’t going to get in on the kingdom, he was going to get every dime he could get. He knew he’d already have what was there, and if he could just get another year wages in there, he’d be satisfied. And the other dull-witted disciples chimed in and so Matthew says, “His disciples said it.” Judas said it. They chimed in, led by a traitor, so dull in understanding.
The lovely, lovely character of worship. Jesus says to her in John; Jesus says to Judas in John 12:7, “Let her alone,” “let her alone.” And verse 10 here in Matthew, “When Jesus perceived this, He said to them, ‘Why are you troubling this woman? Why are you putting burdens on her?’”; literally, “Why are you furnishing her a burden? Why are you making her feel bad or guilty as if this is a wrong thing? She has done excellently,” Kallion, an outwardly beautiful, magnificent, lovely thing she’s done.
And then He says this in verse 11, “You have the poor always with you, but Me you have not always.” You’re always going to have poor folks, and the Bible is very careful to say we need to meet the needs of the poor. Jesus is not overturning that teaching. He is just saying it’s a question of priority; this is time for worship. And there’s a time for charity, and there’s a time for philanthropy, and there’s a time for programming, and there’s a time for ministry. But there’s a time for worship. And as much as we should pour out what we possess on those who have need, so we should pour it out in an act of worship to God. If nothing was ever done with it except it spilled to the ground, if it was given in love, it is indeed an acceptable act of worship that He says is done excellently. Adoring worship, beloved, is the supreme act that any Christian could ever do. And we get bound up in so much pragmatism, so much practicality--“Well, how much is it going to cost me to do it? Or do I have the time to do it? Well, I can give the Lord this much this week,” and you dole it out little by little because there’s a constraint on you, and we know nothing of this kind of gratitude, this kind of adoration.
In verse 12 He says, “She poured this perfume on My body, she did it for My burial.” This was an act of preparation, knowing what I’m about to go through. This was her way of showing love to Me, a devoted follower who sat at His feet, according to Luke 10:39. I mean, why shouldn’t she know He was going to die and rise, His enemies knew that. His enemies said, “Look out for this guy. He says He’s going to die, and He says if He dies in three days He’ll rise.” If they knew it, why shouldn’t she know it? She knew. She couldn’t prevent His death, she wouldn’t prevent His death. His death was for her and for all other sinners, so she poured out her love. And the word “half poured” is a very strong term—lavish, profuse.
And Jesus said in verse 13, “Verily I say to you, wherever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done be told for a memorial of her.” The Lord says, “I’m going to make sure this is in the Scripture so that wherever the gospel is preached, the gospel of Matthew, the gospel of Mark, and the gospel of John, wherever that’s preached, wherever anyone reads that, you’re going to remember what this woman did as a memorial of her loving worship.” The Lord makes a memorial out of this act because it’s such a beautiful, such a necessary, testimony.
Here we are two thousand years later, seeing the loveliness, the sacrificial, selfless worship of this very dear lady who loved Jesus Christ. That’s part of His preparation, too. Those who loved Him were ready for the death to come, a death for them. And so we see the preparation of sovereign grace, hateful rejection, and loving worship. And then finally, and just briefly in a mention, the preparation of betraying hypocrisy, betraying hypocrisy. Verse 14, “Then one of the twelve called Judas Iscariot,” it means “from the village of Kerioth,” or “the region of Kerioth”; really a little group of villages.
Judas went out that night in Bethany, here we are still in Bethany when Judas heard what Jesus said. He left and he went straight to the chief priest that Saturday night. And what did he do when he got there? He said to them, “What will you give me and I will deliver Him unto you?” Money; that was the whole thing with Judas. He wasn’t going to get the three hundred denarii for the perfume, but he was going to get as much as he could. What will you give me if I turn Him over to you? He set up the betrayal that Saturday night. And Luke 22:6 says, “From that time on he began looking for an opportunity to betray the Lord in the absence of the multitude.”
He set it up on Saturday, and so all the time Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday as Jesus is in the city teaching, he is looking for the moment when he can betray. And so while Jesus is receiving love from Mary, the plot is beginning in Judas’ mind. His motive--money, money, money. And by the way, he bargained for 30 pieces of silver. That, according to Exodus 21:32, is the price of a slave, the price of a slave. He lifted up his heel against his own familiar friend, the way the Old Testament puts it. And verse 16 says, “From that time, he sought opportunity to betray Him.”
So, for one whole week, this plot burned in his mind. The greatest example of lost opportunity the world has ever known, Judas Iscariot. Let me close with this. There are only three ways to approach Jesus Christ’s death. One, hateful rejection. You can deny it, ignore it, reject it. Two, loving worship. You can stand with Mary or you can stand with Caiaphas and the priests, the scribes, and elders. Or you can stand with Judas who claims to love but really hates, who claims to belong, but doesn’t belong, who is the hypocrite. Some hate, some love, some pretend. Where are you? Where are you in your life? That’s the question. Let’s bow in prayer.
Ask yourself that. Do you reject the Lord Jesus Christ’s death? You say, “Well, I’ve never received Him.” Well, if you haven’t, then you reject Him. You’re either with Me or against Me, He said. You either stand with Mary or with Caiaphas, or maybe with Judas. You pretend to love Him but you don’t. It isn’t genuine. Oh, bless God, let the Spirit work in your heart and come to the Savior today. Stand with Mary; pour out your adoring worship on Him. And may God teach us all the lesson of profuse worship and adoration that pours out everything with no thought of gain. Happy to sacrifice with no thought of sacrifice because of the love.
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