31 May 2020
To many people, the cross is an ornament people wear on the neck. What about you? What do you think of when you see the cross? In this new sermon series "48", we will look at the last 48 hours of the life of Jesus before He goes to the cross. And we will start this series with a simple but 3-dimensional look at the cross. We will learn how it is 1) The Will of His Father 2) The Wickedness of His Foes 3) The Worship of His Follower all at the same time. May this sermon help you in a cross-centered / gospel-centered theology and life.
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Now we are going to exit circuit breaker as a nation very soon, it's a new phase in our country's history. In a sense, we are also coming to a new sermon series this Sunday morning. We've been looking at the signs of the end where Jesus spoke about the distant future where He's coming back for His people.
But right now, in Matthew 26, we are going to look at not the distant future, but the immediate future that He was to face. And that is the fate of the Cross. So we're going to see how Jesus is going to move towards the Cross where He's going to die and lay down His life. So this is a new series called 48 because it tracks the last 48 hours of the life of Jesus before He will go to the Cross.
Today we're going to focus in verses 1 to 16 of Matthew chapter 26. And this is a great passage because whilst it might look quite scattered, I think God is writing this passage for us to give a perspective of the cross that Jesus is going to face. I've entitled this sermon, a 3D look at the Cross. What do you mean? Well, I think this is a three-dimensional look at the Cross. Not that the Cross is a three-dimensional object, but there are three angles with which we can appreciate and understand the Cross of Jesus Christ. I think you will be clear as we go along this sermon.
So without much ado, let's look at the first angle, the first dimension, the first perspective of the Cross. I suggest to you that in this passage, we see that the Cross that Jesus will face is the very will of the Father. The Cross that Jesus is going to die upon is the very will of God for His Son.
You see, Jesus tells us or He told the disciples, “you know that after two days, the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” [Matt 26:1-2] Now, this is not something that has just dawned on Jesus. This is not a new thing. This is not something that caught Him by surprise, because this is actually the fourth time in the book of Matthew, that Jesus has been telling His disciples about His impending death. Remember in Matthew 16, that is a long time back, isn't it?
Matthew chapter 16, the Bible says from that time, Jesus began to show His disciples that He will be killed. So this is something that He has always been telling His disciples in the recent days, and then again in Matthew chapter 17. As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, they will kill Him. And again, we see in Matthew chapter 20, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem.” Why? So that He will be condemned to death and that He will be flogged and crucified.
So we see for the past few chapters, there is already that preparation, that advance warning that He is going to the Cross, and He will die. And actually, Luke, a fellow Gospel author writes it in such a way, “For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined.” [Luke 22:22] So when Jesus now spoke about His death again to His disciples, we must understand that He is saying, this is not something that is a misfortune, this is not an accident, this is not a surprise. I'm not caught off guard. This has always been what God the Father has determined and I'm doing the will of My Father.
In fact, this is so precise that He mentions this is timed to the Passover. The Passover is a very significant festival or celebration for the Jewish people. It’s the time where they remember how their ancestors, the firstborn of their ancestors were spared death in Egypt, when they would slay a Passover lamb. They will apply the blood of the Passover lamb upon the doorposts of their house, so that when the Angel of Death comes and sees that blood of the lamb that was applied to the doorpost, he will pass over, he will skip over this house and spare the firstborn from death. So the Passover is a celebration of how a sacrifice would save their lives. And so it is intentional, I believe that God has timed the crucifixion, the death, the sacrifice of Jesus to be on the day of Passover itself.
And that's why we read also in 1st Corinthians 5 verse 7, a direct revelation, a direct declaration that Christ is our Passover Lamb. So the death of Jesus was not a waste, not a misfortune, not an accident, but it was the predetermined counsel, the will of the Father, that Jesus would die, to fulfill the type, the picture the Passover lamb is supposed to picture and that is, God will send His Son to save His people from their sins. And that's why Isaiah would say that Christ is like that suffering servant. He is like that Lamb that is silent before the slaughter because He is here to do the Father's will. He's here to lay down His life to save you and I from our sins.
And that's why, John, when he saw Jesus coming toward him, he would say, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” [John 1:29] He understood very clearly why Jesus will come. He's that suffering Lamb, would die for the sins of His people. You see, when you look at the Cross, people today think it is such a waste, such pity, so sayang, it's almost as if they think this is an unfortunate thing that has happened to the Son of God. But no, the Bible tells us God is not caught off guard, Jesus is not caught off guard. This has always been the will of God. Jesus is the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world.
And it is only because Christ died and shed His precious blood that you and I could be ransomed from our sins, how we praise God for Jesus, a Lamb “without blemish, without spot” [1 Pet 1:18-19]. He is not borned under Adam’s line, He did not have inherited sin. He lived a perfect life so that as the perfect Man God, the perfect sacrifice, He can save you from your sins.
My friends, this is the message you need to know. This is the central teaching of the Bible that God has provided a spotless, perfect Savior to save you from your sins. And so when you look at the Cross, look at the will of the Father, look at the will of God, look at His power to save. Look at His wisdom to save and look at His grace to save, His love to save, His willingness to do for you what you do not deserve and what you could never do for yourself. He sent His Son. Jesus is the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world. This is not an accident. This is the very precise, prepared will of God.
So that's what we rejoice in when we talk about the Cross, it is God's will, and it is God’s saving grace. So may we worship Him, may we see the Cross, may we see Jesus and may we echo the words of Ephesians 1, let this be to the praise of the glory of His grace.
Secondly, another dimension we should look at when we come to the Cross is that this is not just the will of His Father, at the very same time, this is also the wickedness of His foes. This is the wickedness of His enemies, the Cross displays, the absolute utter wickedness of those who hate Jesus Christ.
We see Matthew masterfully putting it right here. “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill Him.” [Matthew 26:3-4] Now, they were not about to convene a court of justice. Yes, they are going to bring Jesus and try Him. But right off the bet, you know that they are not trying Him for justice. Actually, this is just a plot, this is actually cold-blooded murder. They were in no, they had no interest to find out if Jesus was guilty or not. All they wanted to do was to find an excuse to kill and to murder Him.
Who are the people who hated Jesus? Well, they are the chief priests and the elders, the religious leaders, the upper echelon of spiritual leadership in Israel in those days. How tragic that the very people who are supposed to lead others to God are those who plotted against the Son of God. Now, why did they want to kill Jesus? Well, actually, we've covered this earlier.
There are three reasons I can find in Scripture. The Bible tells us number one, that they were envious of Jesus. Clearly, Jesus was commanding a huge crowd every time He did His miracles, and every time He spoke, people flocked to hear to see this amazing Man of God, and they were envious, that their own followers are following after Him.
Second reason is because Jesus had earlier just destroyed their business in the temple. They were conducting these religious leaders, they were in cahoots with wicked men, conducting deceitful business, extorting people who want to worship God, and just lining their own pockets in the name of God. So Jesus went to cleanse the temple, and as a result spoiled or destroyed their business. Now they were angry, because their own source of dirty money is now stopped by Jesus Christ and they can't wait to kill Him.
A third reason that the apostle John wrote about in John 11 is that they feared that as many people came to Jesus, the Roman government whom they are living under would suspect that maybe the Jewish people are staging an uprising, a revolt, and might just eliminate the Jewish people. So they thought to themselves, better for Jesus to die than for our whole nation to perish. So for all these reasons, they justified to themselves, we must get rid of this Jesus.
Now they plotted to kill Him but they actually plotted to kill Him after all this religious activity and fervor. Verse 5, “They said, not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.” Now this Passover time is where many, many Jews from all over the world would come back to Jerusalem to celebrate, it’s a significant feast day and everybody knew how popular and famous Jesus was. So they thought if we had killed Jesus, during the feast day, there will be too much of a dissension so let's wait till after the Passover.
Now, for those of you who know, you will realize that no, Jesus did not die after the Passover, He died on the Passover. It just happened that the sequence of events just went so fast it caught the leaders themselves even by surprise. So Jesus would die on the Passover. The religious leaders wanted to avoid that. But God has worked it in such a way that He would die before that. And this acceleration of events is in no small part I believe, contributed by the betrayal of Judas.
We see in verse 14, “Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, (we are going to read about him more next Sunday) went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver Him over to you?” And they paid him 30 pieces of silver. And from that moment, he sought an opportunity to betray Him.” So the religious leaders now have quick and certain access to find Jesus and to apprehend Him. Judas would play an integral part to Jesus' death on the Cross. Now Judas was willing to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. What's that amount like? Now we can't quite know exactly actually, some people think it's 100 days of wage or so on, and it depends on the evaluation of a silver coin. But what's interesting is that in Exodus 21, we are told that 30 silver coins is the price of a slave. So, apparently, to Judas, all Jesus is worth is 30 pieces of silver, the price of a slave.
But here we see this amazing reality, that when Jesus will die on the Cross, we must also remember He died because Man is wicked, His foes plotted for cold blooded murder against Him. And isn’t this what John chapter 3 tells us, that light has come into the world, Jesus has come into the world but because we live in darkness, we cannot accept Jesus and we reject Him and Man, because of his sin, and his sinfulness, would kill the very Son of God. So that is another dimension I hope you will see in the Cross. That on the cross, we see the will of the Father, that His Son will be the sacrifice, but on the Cross we also see the wickedness of the human heart.
Now, this two aspect or these two aspects are beautifully balanced in Acts chapter 2 and verse 23, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God”. You see that, it is no accident, it is the definite plan and foreknowledge of God that Jesus will be delivered to be crucified. But at the very same time, Luke, the author of Acts, continued to say, “you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” So these are the two dimensions.
We see, number 1, the Will of His Father is absolutely, hundred percent, the will of God that Jesus would die. Don't ever entertain in your mind that God was like, caught off guard and therefore had to change His plan around. No, this has always been the will of God that His Son would die for sinners. This declares and illustrates and shows the amazing power and wisdom and love and grace of God.
Without the Cross, we are not going to know His grace, without the Cross we are not going to understand mercy, without the Cross, we are not going to see the love of God. And it is God's will that His attributes be fully seen in the death of His Son. Amazing truth. But at the very same time, the Cross tells us about the wickedness of man, and how we, we all as people are, a people living in sin and rebellion and if the Son of God comes, if we all had the opportunity, we would have killed Him just like the religious leaders would.
But the third dimension I'd like us to see from the Cross is the Worship of His follower. The cross of Jesus Christ tells us about the Father's will. The cross of Jesus Christ tells us about the wickedness of the human heart. The cross of Jesus Christ shows us the reason why we, as His followers worship and it's because we understand what He has done for us on the Cross.
So we see a picture of worship in Matthew chapter 26. We read here that, “When Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to Him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at table.” So a woman came with very expensive ointment and poured it on His head. This pouring of very expensive ointment is a picture of extravagant worship.
So when we see the Cross, as Jesus was marching towards the Cross, let us also remember this picture of this lady, this devoted, devout lady who would pour out her love and worship lavishly on Jesus Christ. Now, I think it is the intent of Matthew to bring this idea of worship into the understanding of the Cross. Why? Because it does not make sense otherwise, because this event is not chronologically correct. You see, this anointing of Jesus at Bethany did not happen on Thursday or on Wednesday, as we all see in Matthew 26.
This event actually happened on Saturday, six days before the Passover, we learn this from John, a parallel passage. We see, “Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.” And the lady is here named to be Mary, she's the sister of Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead. “So Mary took this pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. And the whole house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” [John 12:3]
So the idea is that Mary took this alabaster box of flask of precious ointment, poured it on His head and it flowed and it dripped all the way down to His feet, and then she would use her hair. And by the way, in the Bible, hair for a lady is her glory and if you have long beautiful hair, yes, they are deemed to be very beautiful. And she takes her beauty, her best as it were, to wipe the feet of Jesus, a picture of humble, reverential, all giving worship to Jesus Christ. How expensive is this ointment? Well, Mark tells us that this ointment is about 300 denarii. What is a denarius? A denarius is the average salary of one day's work. So what she is giving to Jesus is almost one year's worth of ointment. She poured it all on Jesus and that's the picture of glorious worship.
Now, the disciples, when they saw this scene, were very upset. In verse 8, when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, they were angry, they were upset. They said, “Aiyo why so sayang, why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum of money and given to the poor.” They give this kind of a remark, why waste it anointing Jesus? Why don't you sell it and give to the poor? Now this kind of reaction, I think, might have been aroused by Judas. He's like that ringleader, I suppose, because in John 12, we read, “But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, (who was about to betray Him), said, “why was this ointment not sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?” So I think he's kind of like, stoking the fellow disciples and say, “what a waste, we should have given to the poor”. Actually he didn't want to give to the poor, he just wanted money for himself.
So the disciples sort of ganged up with him and, and remarked, but Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to Me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” There's a time and season, and what she did, this extravagant pouring out of precious ointment upon me is not to be despised. In fact, “In pouring this ointment on My body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly I say to you, wherever this Gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
Now, Mary, she understood what she's doing. She's not just spilling ointment on anybody. She's understanding that Jesus is going to die. And I suggest to you, she understands that Jesus is going to die for sinners, Jesus is going to die for someone like her. And so she wants to pour out her appreciation, her worship to Jesus. Now you remember that Mary was the one who was said to sit at the feet of Jesus in Luke 10. She must have learned, she must have understood and perceived who Jesus is and what He is going to do. And so in response to the sacrifice and to the love and to the worth of Jesus, she worshiped Him with extravagant worship. And now, we read of this story because this is the fulfillment of what Jesus said, “wherever this Gospel is proclaimed in the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” [Matt 26:12-13]
So I'd like you to picture this scene, but I'd like you to picture this with the help of a kind of description by Philip Keller. Philip Keller, he said, “The delicious fragrance ran down over His shining hair and thick beard. It enfolded His body with its delightful aroma. Even His tunic and flowing undergarments were drenched with its enduring pungency. Wherever He moved during the ensuing 48 hours, the perfume would go with Him into the Passover, into the Garden of Gethsemane, into the high priest’s home, into Herod’s hall, into Pilate’s praetorium, into the crude hands of those who cast lots for His clothing at the foot of the cross. This special right of perfuming the head and body was a rare ritual reserved only for royalty. Jesus recognized this and so did those around Him. It was a significant moment of momentous meaning.”
In those days, you don't anoint the body of a criminal, you let it rot. But Mary knew Jesus was no criminal. He is to be crucified by wicked hands but He is crucified by the will of the Father. He is no criminal, He is the Savior. And so what she did is with great understanding. And so what a beautiful picture this is of worship, isn't it?
And so in very quick mention, I like us to see that her worship is number one, rooted in the sacrifice of Jesus. I believe true worship to God and His Son cannot take place apart from knowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, you can worship God for creation. You can worship God because He is Creator. But there is a deep and maybe even a deeper level of worship that is called forth when we understand God, not just as Creator, but also as Savior. We worship God in creation when we see His power, His wisdom, His creativity, His eye to detail, His vastness. Oh, that's amazing.
But when you look at the Cross of Jesus Christ, that this great God would send His Son to die for you. That's where real worship springs forth from. And so, Mary's worship springs from understanding that this Man who is going to die is no criminal but the perfect sinless Son of God, who will be the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. Do you realize no one else anointed Jesus? She had the privilege and she had the privilege because she understood the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
This morning, we are surrounded by many bad news but I want to tell you the Good News, God so loved the world He gave His Only Son. I pray today you will live worthy of Jesus Christ. Recall to yourself the Gospel, preach to yourself the Gospel, read the Bible and see the Gospel and pray that God will help you understand the Gospel, not just here (referring to the mind) but right here (the heart). Drink in the Gospel because that's the wellspring of true worship.
Number two, I think our worship is reflected in the service to Jesus. I know she worships Jesus. Why? Because she gave Jesus something that is very costly. Real worship costs us. In fact, Romans chapter 12 tells us, worship springs from the mercies of God in the Gospel, and worship is expressed as being a living sacrifice. There is no real worship without dying to self. There is no real worship without sacrifice. There is no real worship without giving till it hurts. Real worship costs us something and Mary exemplified that.
Do you really know the love of God? Do you really worship Him? Oh it's not seen just in how loud you sing as we often say. It's not just seen in how you call yourself a Christian. Real worship is when you give your life up, to die to self, to obey God, in how you treat the people around you, how you love the brethren, how you honor your father, your mother, how you supply and provide for the needs of the family, how you live out lives of love in your workplace, how you share the Gospel with those who need it, that's worship. And doing those things are not easy. Giving money to the poor, giving for the cost of the Gospel in a way that hurts you, it's not easy. But that's what worship is, pouring that flask of precious ointment onto Jesus. And we do it by blessing the people around us. That's real worship, it's seen in service to Christ.
And number 3, how worship is remembered in the story of Jesus. You know what you give to God? It costs, it hurts, it demands a sacrifice but it will never be in vain. It will always be remembered by God. Remember the story we read just a week ago, how when you give a cup of cold water, you may not remember it, but God does, Jesus does. And what a joy it is that nothing we do in the Name of Jesus for His glory, in worship towards Him is ever in vain in the Lord.
I like what JC Ryle said. “The deeds and titles of many a kin and emperor and general, are as completely forgotten, as if written in a sand. But the grateful act of one humble Christian woman is recorded in one hundred and fifty different languages and is known all over the globe. The praise of man is but for a few days, the praise of Christ endures forever. The pathway to lasting honor, is to honor Christ.”
I wonder, what would you want to live for today? Would you want to sacrifice everything to live for yourself? Or would you see God's Son give His life for you? And you say, I want to live for Him and live and leave behind a lasting legacy of honor to His Name.
You know, when we look at the Cross, it calls for worship. We sing this song, the Old Rugged Cross and therein is this lyrics, “And I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain.” Why do you love the Cross? Because of the love of Jesus Christ. That's the will of the Father, suffering in the hands of wicked men, but it calls out the highest worship from His followers.
And then this song, When I survey, “When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride. Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all”.
My friends, that's a three-dimensional look at the Cross today. Simple message, but I want to tell you that God is always sovereign, nothing catches Him off guard. This cross of Jesus Christ is no misfortune, but it is His will. That through the Cross you and I might be saved, that through the Cross we might see His wisdom and power and righteousness and grace and love and full glory.
But let us also remember that the Cross reminds us of the absolute depravity and wickedness of the human heart. What amazing grace that God would save even His foes, His enemies who hate Him, and may this Cross this morning, inspire our heart to higher or greater heights of worship and praise to His Name.
Let's bow for a word of prayer together. This morning, I'd like you to just pause. It's a short sermon so I'd like you to take this time and think and apply this message to your heart. Today you might be struggling because there is a lot of hardship. You're going through trials, someone might have lost his or her life. You might be diagnosed with a disease, you might be called to give up your job, you, you may be going through an economic storm. And you're asking, where are You, God, are You making a mistake, have You forgotten about me?
My friends this morning, take a look at the Cross. That most horrible death that would befall His Son was no misfortune, but His gracious, sovereign, wise and righteous plan. Don't judge God based on what happened only on Friday on the Cross. Judge God for what will happen on Sunday when Jesus rose from the dead and on that day where Jesus would return and restore all things to God. So my friends, I encourage you today, the Cross is the will of the Father and even the hardships of our life today are the will of the Father. But one day, it will all make sense and we will praise Him and glorify Him for His wisdom and power and grace and love toward us.
This morning, let us not escape from that painful look at the human heart. Sin has so corrupted, sin has so infected us that we are a wicked, sinful, vicious people. Don't hide from God today, He sees your heart, He knows it. But my friends, I want to say, turn to Jesus Christ, there is salvation for you. There’s salvation in Jesus Christ alone. Repent and believe in Him.
I want to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ this morning. Take a look at Mary, learn what real worship is all about. Real worship demands that we understand the saving love of Jesus when He died on the Cross. Real worship means we are willing to serve Jesus, pour out our lives. Real worship means that we understand that whatever we do in His Name is the most lasting legacy we can leave behind. May we today, drink in the Gospel, live out the Gospel by dying to self and give out the Gospel. May God bless you.
Father bless Your Word to each and every heart. With a simple but important look at the Cross, I pray that we have the right framework to look at the next few chapters before us. May we be a people who will be growing deeper and deeper in Gospel theology. And may we be a people who will manifest more and more the power of the Gospel, save souls, touch hearts, change our lives for Your glory, we pray this in Jesus’ Name, Amen. God bless.
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