In this message, Rev Peter Phillips reminds us that in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14, Jesus gives us a very clear picture of how salvation is never earned or merited, but is always given freely by God to those who are undeserving. It is the not the self-righteous ‘good’ who make it in God’s eyes, but those who come to Him in complete humility and repentance. All this, is of course, a gift of God’s free grace.
When the women first went to the tomb where Jesus has been buried on that first Easter Sunday morning, they never expected to find Him alive. But when Matthew records in Matthew 28:1-20 that Jesus was alive, this changed everything. While they worshipped Him by falling down at His feet, the soldiers who had been guarding the tomb (and saw what happened) and the Jewish authorities were meeting together to spread misinformation about the truth. But no lie can stop the truth, and the whole universe is now under the Lordship on Jesus!
Matthew’ gospel continues to record the ‘things that happened to Jesus’ in Matthew 27:11-44. His sufferings did not end with His denial and betrayal or His arrest and trial, but also extended right up to and including His death on the cross. Matthew records all these things to make it doubly clear that Jesus was innocent of all crime and all sin. That He was the One who was ‘the righteous’ who died for the unrighteous’, to ‘bring us to God’ (1 Peter 3:18)
• Where we are in Matthew 26 • Vivid, remembered details • Three scenes in the text • See how Matthew tells us of…
After Jesus allowed Himself to be arrested and separated from His disciples, the Bible tells us that they all forsook Him and fled. All but one. Peter followed, but at a distance. And through the providence of God, Peter found a way to be nearer to Jesus than the rest of the disciples were… nearer, but sadly, further away from Him. Being close up to Jesus didn’t help Peter at all. It just magnified his weakness. It showed up what he wasn’t made of. He had professed that he would die with jesus, but he couldn’t even testify that he was one of His disciples! Poor Peter… but poor us when we think and act as if we have more strength that we do!
Was there ever a scene so poignant as the time that Jesus spent in the garden of Gethsemane right before the cross? The gospel writers make much of this, as we find in Matthew 26:36-56. The text tells us that Jesus struggled with the enormity of the ‘cup’ placed before Him by the Father, which He must take and drink. It wasn’t out of fear of pain or death that he recoiled from drinking it. Not at all. But He knew that on drinking it, He would face separation from His Father. And yet (thanks be to God), He obeyed! What a wonderful Saviour!
The scene at the Last Supper as recorded in Matthew 26:17-35 is so full of significance. Much could be (and has been!) written about the event which connected the Passover to this institution of the new covenant by Jesus. But what happened after the Last Supper is also important for setting the scene that would take place in the garden of Gethsemane, and this specifically concerns Peter, who, on hearing what was about to take place, boldly claimed to ‘even die with Jesus’. Poor Peter… but yes, how many times have you and I been like him?
In the chapters leading up to the events of the death and resurrection of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel, Matthew 26:1-16 follows on directly after the Olivet Discourse. In these chapters, Matthew sets out clearly the events that led up to the the death of Jesus, beginning with the plot the Jewish religious leaders hatched to put Him to death and ending (in these verses) with the desire of Judas to betray Him. But in the midst of those two events is the wonderful act of love completed by Mary. While the men in this text are clearly walking in darkness, she, on the other hand, is walking in the light.
It’s fitting that the parable Jesus told in Matthew 25:31-46 is the last thing that Matthew records in this long discourse from the mouth of Jesus. The parable has always been and remains one of the scariest parables that jesus ever told – not because it is unclear – but just the opposite! It is all too clear. In the parable, jesus tells His disciples that when He comes back he will take up His royal throne and immediately proceed to judge the nations, and therefore, all peoples. An in that process of judgement he will make an eternal distinction between those who are His (sheep) and those who are not (goats). The dividing line will be eternal and the judgement will be on the basis of works. Salvation is not by works. Salvation is by grace. That’s how anyone of us become one of His sheep! But judgement is based on works and these will either identify us as one of His sheep or not! It’s a most vital truth and one that you cannot ignore!
When Jesus told the ‘parable of the talents’ in Matthew 25:14-30, He did so in the context of urging His disciples to be ready for His return, and not to be found unprepared, like the five bridesmaids in the previous parable. So, in this ‘parable of the talents’, Jesus took this one whole step further by not only encouraging preparedness for His return but also fruitfulness in His absence. The themes of reward for fruitfulness and judgement for unfruifulness are evident in the story. All of us have been given something by the Lord Jesus. What He expects to find when He comes again and what we will bring to Him need to match up!
Although we move on in the text and now come to Matthew 25:1-13, the first of three parables Jesus told in this chapter, the topoic is still the same. Jesus has been emphasising the need to be be prapared for his coming and he does this again in this parable concerning the wise and foolish bridesmaids. All were give the same opportunity and no doubt inctrustions, but only 5 of the 10 were prepared for the bridegrrom’s delay. The others were not and so suffered the consequences. As God’s people we have to give attention to those things that make us ‘sleepy’ as we wait for our Bridegroom to come and ensure that we don’t fall into the category of ‘foolish’.