If you have your Bibles with you, I’d invite you to turn with me to Matthew, chapter 26. We’ve already said that Matthew 26 is a prelude to the death of Christ. There are many themes which repeat themselves in this section of Matthew’s gospel. Already in our study of verses 1 through 5 we saw the irony of Jesus’ prediction, speaking on Tuesday of the Passover week, that in two days, He would be betrayed into the hands of men. And even as He was saying that to His disciples, somewhere across town the Chief Priests were saying that they didn’t see any way that they could pull off a secret capture of Jesus during the Passover, and they thought they’d just have put it off. And we see an ironic juxtaposition of God’s sovereignty, and man’s friends, in that passage. And God’s sovereignty wins out as it were.
Then in verses 6 through 13, we see this incredible display of devotion of loyalty from Mary, and we see this incredibly insensitive reaction from the disciples themselves. In fact, there was a spiritually insensitive reaction, which was not only insensitive to Mary, but it was insensitive to the disciple’s own estimation of this woman who clearly values Christ above all else. She gives the most precious possession that her family owns, and she breaks it open and pours it over Christ as an expression of her love and loyalty for the Lord Jesus Christ. And the disciples are clueless. They couldn’t have been further away from Mary as she does this. And so you have these opening contrasts in verses 1 through 5. Christ determined to suffer on behalf of His people, knowing what’s coming, and across town the Chief Priests and the elders plotting to put him to death. And then you have this woman showing this devotion to Christ, her loyalty, you have these disciples who were concerned that she became wasteful with this perfume that could have bought so much to help feed the poor.
And that leads us to Matthew 26, verses 14 through 19, and again we’re going to see an irony in this passage. We’re going to see Judas betray His Lord. Let us hear God’s inerrant word.
“Then one of the twelve named Judas Iscariot, went to the Chief Priest, and said, What are you willing to give me to deliver Him up to you?” And they wait out for Him thirty pieces of silver, and from then on He began looking for a good opportunities to betray Him. Now on the first day of unleavened bread, the disciples came to Jesus saying where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover? And he said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to Him, the teacher says My time is at hand. I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.” And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them. And they prepared the Passover.
Thus ends this reading of God’s Holy and Inspired Word. May He add His blessing to it. Let’s pray.
Our Lord and our God, we thank you for the truth of Your Word. We come to today, not to stand of judgment of it, but to sit under it. Search us out by Your Holy Spirit. If we come today, O Lord, as a seeker, confused as to ultimate realities we ask that you would clarify our hearts and draw us to the Savior. If we come skeptical today of the gospel of salvation; we pray that You would break us before the display of our sins, and you would show just punishment, and that You would show us the sweetness and the glory of our Savior. And so draw us to Him forever. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.
The events recorded here in Matthew 24, verses 14 through 19, provide the backdrop for the Passover and the Lord’s Supper which was occurring in the hours after them. Although Judas; wickedness is highlighted here, Matthew is very clear to show us that Jesus is in control. Jesus has prepared for, and planned for this whole occasion, and though Judas is plotting to betray Him to deliver Him up, and though the enemies of the Lord Jesus, the Chief priests and the Scribes and the Pharisees are in cohort with Judas preparing to betray Jesus, Jesus is in control. He’s planned for it, He’s prepared for it, and He moves toward it. There are a couple of sections in the passage before us this morning in verses 14 through 16. First, you see Judas making his preparation to betray the Messiah, and then in verses 17 through 19 you see Jesus preparing to share the Lord’s Supper with His disciples. I’d like to look at these two parts of the passage with you today.
I. Judas prepares to betray Jesus.
First, verses 14 through 16 where Judas makes his preparations to betray Jesus, the Messiah. There is a tremendous contrast here between Mary’s loyalty, which we just saw in verses 6 through 13 and Judas’ total lack of loyalty. This passage hits like a bolt out of the blue. Now I know that it doesn’t hit most of you like a bolt out of the blue, because you grew up in Sunday School and in Vacation Bible School knowing Judas was the bad guy. But Matthew has only told you one time about this man. It was all the way back in Matthew, chapter 10, verse 4 that Matthew, when He was just listing the names of the disciples in passing, he says, “Oh, and Judas was the one who betrayed Jesus.” Matthew has told you nothing else about this man. Matthew has told you nothing to lead you to believe that this man would be capable of this kind of wickedness, nor has he told you anything that would lead you to believe that Judas was planning this particular act of wickedness. And by the way, it is the same if you look at Mark and Luke. Mark and Luke don’t prepare you ahead of time with long discussions about what an evil person Judas was, or what a greedy person Judas was, or all the horrible motives that Judas had for doing what he was going to do in this passage.
Furthermore, even when we get to this passage here in Matthew, chapter 26, verses 14 through 17, Matthew does not directly supply you with a motive for why Judas did what he did. I think there are lots of reasons for that. One simply may be this: Remember that none of the disciples, none of the apostles, had an opportunity to debrief with Judas after he felt remorseful for what he did. We know that Judas was so overwhelmed with remorse, not repentance, but with remorse for what he had done; for what he had been involved in, that he went back and tried to give the money back and ended up throwing it at the Chief Priests, and then he went out and killed himself. So none of the disciples had an opportunity to sit down with Judas, and say, “Judas, just what was in your mind? Why did you do this?” They didn’t have that opportunity.
Apparently, God did not choose to reveal to them much more of why Judas did what he did, but I do want you to notice this. In Matthew 26:15, Matthew may be hinting at the fact that greed was a motivating factor in Judas’ actions. Notice He has Judas asking the Chief Priest, “What will you give me to betray Him?” And of course this comes in the context of a very costly gift by Mary to Jesus about which Judas and all the disciples complained. And in that context Matthew may be tipping us off to the fact that greed was very much at the heart of Judas’ motivation. If that is the case, that is the most acute, the most pungent warning against the love of money ever given. If the love of money was close to the heart of what Judas did, I can’t think of a greater warning to us to beware of the love of money. However Matthew offers us no more than that.
Now Luke and John both tell us, Luke chapter 22 tells us in verse 3 and John, chapter 13 and verse 2, that Satan entered into Judas. That is to say, that the evil one was behind these actions which Judas willfully embraced and willfully effected. Satan was at work here in Judas.
We don’t know the motive beyond what I’ve suggested to you here. There have been all sorts of speculations. There have even been books that have been written that have attempted to surmise Judas motivations. But we do know this. What Judas did is a permanent reminder to us that it is a dire thing to seek the opportunity to sin. To plan to sin, to prepare to sin is a dire thing. To carefully plan to rebel against the living God is a soul-killing thing. That’s why the psalmist prays for the Lord to deliver Him from presumptuous sins. When we know the will of God, and we plan to sin against it, there is nothing more soul killing. Witness Judas. Judas never recovered from this sin. He never found repentance. We must never, ever take the attitude, “Oh, I can go ahead and plan to do this sin; I can always repent later.” Because repentances is a grace. Who are we to say that we will have the grace of repentance when the time comes? Judas is a standing warning against that kind of thinking. Judas goes to Jesus’ enemies, and he offers help to them to entrap Jesus, and he agrees to do this for thirty pieces of silver, the significance of which is that with the average Old Testament price for a slave. In Exodus, chapter 21, verse 32 we read: “If the ox gores a male or a female slave, the owner shall give his or her master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.” For the price of the slave gored by an ox, the Savior was sold to His enemies. Judas sold his Master cheaply. And one cannot help but think that Psalm 41:9 where the Psalmist says, “Even my close friend whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” It seems to me that this whole passage is a reminder to us of the importance of allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ, of loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ.
As we see the contrast of Mary’s loyalty against the blackness of Judas’ disloyalty, we see that our allegiance to Christ as an aspect of saving faith is essential to Christian discipleship. You know, you could enjoy a great many privileges. You can sit under great teaching, you can go to great conferences, you can read great books, you can make a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and you can still betray Him. You can still be a person unchanged by the grace of the gospel. And Judas is perhaps the greatest example of that ever. This man heard the Sermon on the Mount with his own ears. This man saw the miracles of Jesus. He saw the resurrection. He saw the healings, he saw how the Lord Jesus responded with mastery of the word of God to the greatest teachers in the land. He lived with the man, day by day; he saw the perfection of His holiness, and he still betrayed Jesus. If that does not scare you, or as our parents used to say to us, if that doesn’t put the fear of God in you, I don’t what will. No man ever had greater advantages than Judas. And yet he betrayed Him. Is that not a warning to us?
But I want to say our struggle with loyalty to Christ is usually in a little different form than Judas’. We don’t have the opportunities to betray Him again in the flesh into the hand of His enemies. But we do often have the opportunity to practically betray Him. We say that we trust in Him alone for salvation. We say that He is our Lord, the Lord and Master of our lives. And yet all of us are tempted at times to deliberately do that which we know displeases Him. And we know it ahead of time, and we plan to do it anyway. Let me give you some examples.
There may be students today here who have professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They have owned Him as Lord and Master. They have made a public profession. They have perhaps gone through a Communicant’s Class, and they are members of this Church. And yet, they themselves have planned to commit sexual immorality. They have planned to illegally engage in under-age drinking. Or they have planned to cease seeking the approval of their own plans to the detriment of their Christian testimony. And we could go on. What does that say about our loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ?
There are businessmen here today, professionals who have professed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and some of those who have professed have actually planned to cheat in their business; whether it be cheating the IRS or a client. They plan to shortchange customers or perhaps they even plan to be unfaithful to a spouse. We could go on and on with the examples. You are already tracking with me. You know what it is to plan to do that which you know is wrong. Judas is the permanent warning to us never to do that.
Now let me just talk to those who were in the planning stages right now. I’m not going to talk to those of you who are trying to recover from this. I’ll talk to you later. There’s a passage for you right here in Matthew 26. We won’t get to it today, but I will get to it. For those of you who are in the planning stages, don’t do it. Don’t take the attitude, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission.” Don’t do it? Why? Because you never know whether you’ll be granted the grace of repentance. You don’t know whether that sin will be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back; and send you down a road from which you’ll never return, which will be a road away from Christ and away from God.
Now, I say at the same time that I hope all of us in here have experienced God’s grace of repentance, even in the face of crimes that still bother our hearts. And yet that is no ground to be presumptuous about doing sin. For Judas is always out there, and the fact of the matter is, you and I could name friends right now who we saw do one thing that they thought that they could come back from. And they never come back from it. They took a step, they went across a line from which they never have returned. And that’s exactly what Judas reminds us of. He’s man who took a step from which he could never extract himself; from which he did not ever extract himself from. In sharp contrast with Mary’s manifestation of loyalty stands forever Judas’ deed of disloyalty. And so we see this tremendous contrast, and we see this warning and encouragement to allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ.
II. Jesus prepares to share the Passover.
But also if you look at verses 17 through 19, you see Jesus making His preparations to share the Passover with His disciples and you see this. As great as Mary’s display of loyalty was, it pales in comparison to the display of loyalty of the Lord Jesus Christ towards us. It’s now Thursday morning when this is taking place. Thursday morning, it’s the 14th of Nisan. In the evening, at sundown, it will be Passover. We are not told anything, by the way, in the gospels about Wednesday. You know, we had that very full Tuesday where Jesus taught in public and taught in private and said many important things; and even predicted this day. We’re not told anything about Wednesday. It’s Thursday morning now, and Jesus is speaking to His disciples. I wonder, just in passing, about the reason why Jesus had not told His disciples where they were going to celebrate Passover, why He had not already initiated instructions about the taking of Passover. And when they asked Him, in this passage, why, He answers them in such a secretive and amorphous and inscrutable sort of way. You read this and you say, “How are they going to know how to find a certain man in Jerusalem. There are a million people there.” Why did He answer them that way. I wonder if the reason why Jesus says this is because He knows His betrayer is in the midst? And His betrayer is looking for an opportunity away from the crowd to betray Him. And Jesus knows that He must, and He’s going to tell us that in verse 18, that He must eat supper with His disciples, so He keeps all the details a secret from all of the disciples, so the betrayer won’t know where they are taking the Passover supper until they get there. That way the betrayer will only be able to betray Him after the Passover meal.
Whatever the case is, plans must be made for the Passover. It’s the eleventh hour. Jerusalem was swarming with Pilgrims. And the disciples surely must have been thinking, Jesus, we’re not going to be able to find anywhere in Jerusalem for the Passover supper. I can relate to this from my own experience in the past. My in-laws asked me, especially my father-in-law, if I would take them on a golfing tour around Scotland back in ’92 or ’93. So I made hotel arrangements for all of us in different places throughout Scotland. I thought one of the nice things would be to stay in a farmhouse bed and breakfast. You know, just get that kind of country feel. So we were going to stay in a farmhouse bed and breakfast And so from Inverness, I call just to confirm the reservations. “No, sir, you have no reservations here.” It was August; it was the time of the Edinburgh festival and there was not a hotel or a bed and breakfast open anywhere within thirty miles of Edinburgh. We had to get to the Edinburgh airport the next morning. Apparently some German grouse hunters had come along and offered more money than I had, and we lost our reservations. So we started calling around. I must called thirty places and couldn’t find anywhere to stay, and we ended up sleeping on Duncan and Shirley Rankin’s apartment floor. We were thankful for that. The disciples must have been asking something like that to Jesus: “Lord, there’s not going to be any place for us to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. Things have been booked up for weeks.” He said, “You go find a certain man and you tell him the teacher says, ‘My time is here. We’re going to celebrate the Passover with you.’” Jesus had prepared for this ahead of time. He was already ready for it.
Now you say, “How are they going to know to find a certain man?” The other gospels tell us this man was carrying a pitcher of water. Now you say, “How is that going to help you amongst a million people in Jerusalem, a man carrying a pitcher of water?” Because carrying pitchers of water was a woman’s job. To see a man in the middle of the street carrying a pitcher of water would have been a very unique sign that he was the man. So the disciples go and they find this man, and they tell him just as the Master said. Matthew emphasizes the obedience of the disciples here. But he also emphasizes that Jesus was under an obligation to keep the Passover meal with His disciples. Listen to what Tasker says: “As the sacrifice He was about to offer was to be an act of redemption, such as was foreshadowed by the redemption of Israel from Egypt commemorated at every Passover; it was necessary that He eat the Passover meal with His disciples on the night that He was to die, and in that Passover atmosphere, conveyed to them by word and symbol the significance of His death for themselves and for all mankind.” So Jesus was under an obligation to keep the Passover. And He does so willingly.
But I want you to stop, and I want you to pause, and I want you to reflect on the love of Christ for you. This man is aware of His coming betrayal. It will happen within the next eighteen hours from when He spoke these words. He is aware of His coming trial. He is aware of His suffering. He is aware of the divine trauma which He is going to experience within thirty-six hours. He is aware of His upcoming death, and He is focused on one thing: Doing God’s will, and God’s will in this particular instance is that He worship with His disciples.
Now I think that has many implications, but these two immediately come to mind. Do you show that same kind of determination to worship God as Jesus did? Is it that high of a priority for you? If ever there was a man who had an excuse for thinking of something other than corporate worship of God with the disciples, it was the Lord Jesus Christ. If ever there was a man who had a reason to say, “Well under these circumstances I’m going to just have to skip church,” it was Jesus. Never has a man borne a greater weight, and yet He is singularly focused on doing one thing: Worshiping God with His disciples. I think there is a lesson in that for us, about the priority of worship.
But behind that and under that, and perhaps even deeper than that, I think here we have a picture of intensity and the focus of Christ’s love. Do you realize the kind of love that the Lord Jesus is showing you here? He is determined to sit down to this memorial worship supper with His betrayer, and with a group of disciples who are all within two hours of the supper going to dessert him. He is determined to sit down with that motley crew and worship God, and pledge to them His undying love.
Now maybe you’re sitting out there today, and you’re thinking that you’re beyond the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. And the Lord Jesus has sat down with those failures called disciples. He’s standing there and waiting for you, and He’s saying, “I have earnestly desired to eat this meal with you.” Do you have any idea of the intensity and focus of the love of the Lord Jesus Christ for you? He did it, and in doing so, He would not only give these disciples a content of that which they would proclaim to the world, the meaning of His death, but He did it because we all have to understand the meaning of His death, if we are to embrace Him for eternal salvation. May God enable you in response to His love to embrace Him and so fellowship with Him now and forever more. Let’s pray.
Our Lord and our God, this whole story baffles us. It boggles our minds. And we thank You for that. We just come to points where we have to close our mouths and remain silent before Your grace and Your love, and wonder at the mastery and the wisdom and the incomprehensibility of Your plan. I pray, O Lord, that that would be precisely our posture, and the posture of all us. Lord, if we come to this place discouraged, I pray that You would encourage us by this picture of the love of Christ. And if we have come to this place secure in our sin and preparing to do more, I pray that You would win us back, not only by the warning of Judas, but by this glorious display of the Savior’s love. Who would take the way of shame, when we can go the way of fellowship with Him forever? We ask, O God, that by Your grace we would embrace the way of life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.