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Sunday, January 26, 2020

“It Must Happen In This Way” [Matt's Messages]

“It Must Happen In This Way”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
January 26, 2020 :: Matthew 26:47-56

Do you remember where we left Jesus last week?

A lot of you couldn’t be here last week because of the weather.

We left Jesus just getting up from being facedown in the garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus has eaten the Passover meal with His disciples (and He made it all about Himself!).

And He has predicted that one of the Twelve will betray Him.

And He has predicted that Peter will deny Him.

And He has predicted that all of them will abandon Him.

And then He has gotten down on His face in the garden to pray and pray and pray.

And He was so overwhelmed in prayer that He almost died.

Jesus asked His Father to take away this cup, this excruciating experience of suffering the wrath of God.

But He submitted to the Father’s will.

“Yet not as I will but as you will.”

“Your will be done.”

And then Jesus rose up from facedown and faced the onslaught of what was to come.

He said, “Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer.”

That’s where we left Jesus in verse 46.

Today, I just want to try to get to verse 56.

I know that’s little more than a paragraph, but time has slowed down and so have we.

These tragic events are so important for our lives today.

They make all of the difference, shaping our reality, so they are worthy of intense examination and concentration.

But I warn you. It just gets worse and worse.

In fact, here is where it really starts to get bad.

Because here is where the actual injustice begins to kick in and build.

Up till now, it was all coming, swirling around and on the way, but now it’s right here in the garden, in all of its ugliness, and depravity, and turpitude.

And we’re going to feel it.

We need to feel how terrible all of this is.

But we also need to see and feel how Jesus is choosing it.

We’ve seen it already. Jesus is mysteriously in charge.

He knows this is coming, and yet He doesn’t run away.

In fact, He walks right to it. Jesus walks right up to it!

And He seems, in some strange way to be orchestrating it all.

Nothing happens here without Jesus’ permission! He’s choosing it.

Today, in verse 54, Jesus says that all of this, all of this terrible stuff, has to happen.

He says, “It Must Happen In This Way.”

That’s our title for today: “It Must Happen In This Way.”

The King James Version simply says, “Thus it must be.”

Everything about this story is wrong! This story is full of darkness and evil.

And yet Jesus says it must happen.

God has willed it.

And Jesus is committed to carrying out God’s will. Carrying out God’s plan.

Jesus has gotten His answer to “Is there another way?”

And the answer is, “No. This is it. This is the plan.”

And so Jesus has bowed His head and said, “Your will be done.” And now He’s carrying it out.

Matthew 26:47.

“While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people.”

Can you imagine?

Jesus has just gotten up from prayer in the middle of the night. This is probably after midnight, so we would call it “Friday.” For them, it’s the same day because their days began at sundown. But it’s the beginning of what we call “Good Friday.”

And it’s dark.

But Judas has found Jesus in dark.

We don’t know exactly how. Perhaps they went to the upper room first and found that Jesus and His disciples had left.

Maybe the owner told Judas where they had gone.

Or maybe Judas already knew exactly where to find Jesus...because he did.

And he brought a mob with him.

A large crowd armed with swords and clubs.

They are scared. They will not take no for an answer.

They come with authority. They are sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Those men that Jesus had been sparring with all week in the temple courts.

They sent their lackeys to come collect Jesus.

There are Romans soldiers sprinkled in here, too. The Gospel of John tells us.

They are probably there to make sure that Jesus comes along quietly.

They are afraid of Him!

But the most tragic thing in this sentence is how Matthew calls Judas, “one of the Twelve.” He keeps saying that!

“One of the Twelve.”

Just like Jesus had predicted in verses 23 and 24, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Do you see the tension there?

Judas is choosing this.

But mysteriously God is also choosing this.

It must happen in this way.

“One of the twelve!”

Jesus chose to be:

#1. HYPOCRITICALLY BETRAYED WITH A KISS. V.48

“Now the betrayer [what a word!] had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.’”

They didn’t have facial recognition software.

They didn’t have photographs.

If you didn’t personally know which one was Jesus, He might get away!

This is how Judas was earning his money. Guiding them right to our Lord.

But how He did it?!

With a kiss. V.49

“Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him.”

That is the height of hypocrisy, is it not?

We have said that Jesus hates fakeness.

Saying you’re one thing on the outside but inside you’re actually something completely different.

Well, how about kissing Jesus, while stabbing Him in the back?

How about calling Jesus, “Rabbi,” while doing the absolute opposite of following Him?

This is the height of hypocrisy.

And we should all stop and examine our hearts to see where we have fallen into hypocrisy ourselves.

Never just look at Judas and say, “I would never do that.”

At the least say, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

But also say, “Lord, keep me from hypocrisy.”

The worst thing in the world to be is a fake disciple.

And there was never a more fake disciple than Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve.

Is there anything in your life where you are acting all lovey towards Jesus on the outside, but you are actually masking something evil against Him on the inside?

Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.

Judas was so close to the kingdom!

He walked around with the kingdom for 3 years!

He is kissing the king!

But He was outside of the kingdom.

Don’t miss the kingdom!

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.

But what I want you to really see is that Jesus doesn’t resist Him.

Don’t focus very long on Judas.

Keep your eyes on Jesus.

What does Jesus do? V.50

“Jesus replied, ‘Friend, do what you came for.’”

Jesus is choosing this.

The Greek is very short. It basically just says, “what you came for.”

Some translations think it’s question, “Why did you come?”

But it’s probably more of just a statement. “I know why you are here. Go ahead and get it over with.”

Jesus could have stepped back and not taken that monstrous kiss!

Jesus could have walked away from the whole thing.

But instead, He leans into it. He receives the kiss.

And He says, “Okay. Let’s get on with it.”

He’s still in charge.

Because He knows that it must happen in this way.

He has predicted it. And the Bible has predicted it.

Remember Psalm 41 from last Palm Sunday? The Song of the Sick King.

David sang, “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

It must happen in this way.

So Jesus chooses it.

And He chooses to be:

#2. UNJUSTLY ARRESTED WITHOUT RESISTANCE.

Listen to these terrible words in verse 50.

“Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.”

They put. their. hands. on Jesus!

They had no right.

He has done nothing wrong.

He deserves all of their allegiance.

And He is getting all of their injustice.

They have laid their hands on Him and arrested Him.

Jesus knows what it’s like to be arrested.

And in fact, He is choosing it.

Jesus is allowing this injustice to occur.

He allowed the kiss; now He allows the arrest.

One his disciples does not allow it. Verse 51.

“With that, one of Jesus' companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.”

Guess which one it was?

John tells us that it was Peter which is not a big surprise.

Apparently, he was packing heat.

And he told Jesus he wasn’t going deny Him.

So he probably goes to chop off the guys’ head, and the guy moved out of the way an just lost an ear.

(By the way, John tells us that his name was Malchus and Luke tells us that Jesus put the ear back on him and healed it! That’d be a story to tell your wife when you got home from arresting Jesus!)

Matthew doesn’t tell us any of that. Matthew focuses us on Jesus. V.52

“‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”

I don’t need your little sword!

That is completely unnecessary.

You don’t have to defend Jesus with violence.

Violence like that just begets more violence.

Now, I’m not saying that Jesus was teaching pacificism here.

He says to put the sword back in its place, not throw it away. There is a proper place for swords.

But Jesus doesn’t need our swords!

And once you start pulling a sword, get ready to see a lot more swords. And you know how that will probably end. Badly.

But Jesus doesn’t need our swords. Listen to Him again in verse 53.

“Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”

Do you know how many angels that is?

I used to think it was 10,000 angels.

10,000 flaming sword wielding powerful supernatural soldiers from another world.

But it’s not.

It’s more like 72,000 angels.

A legion was about 6,000 Roman soldiers.

And Jesus says that at the snap of a finger, He could have one legion for all 11 of His remaining disciples and one for Himself.

But He’s not going to ask for it.

Because He has chosen the cup, not the sword.

He isn’t bringing this kingdom our way.

He is doing it God’s way.

And God’s way at this moment was through non-resistance.

God’s way at this moment was through submission.

God’s way at this moment was through suffering.

“Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? [I could! He would! Verse 54.] But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?’”

There is one of Matthew’s favorite words right there. “Fulfill.”

Matthew loved it because Jesus loved it.

Remember the Sermon on the Mount? Matthew 5:17

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament Scriptures.

God has made some promises, and Jesus is here to see that they are kept!

God has made some predictions, and Jesus is here to see that they are fulfilled.

Psalm 41, Psalm 55, Psalm 69, Psalm 22. We’re going to hear echoes of these passages over the next several weeks as this story just gets worse and worse. Terrible and more terrible. Awful and more awful.

Nothing clearer than Isaiah 53.

“He was oppressed and afflicted [and arrested!], yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

“It must happen in this way” so the Scriptures may be fulfilled.

Jesus is saying, “Your will be done.”

And Isaiah said, “...it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer...”

“Your will be done.”

Everything about this story is wrong, and yet it must happen in this way.

God is planning to use this injustice to make everything right in the universe.

So, Jesus does not resist.

He does point out how unjust it is. V.55

“At that time Jesus said to the crowd, ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me.”

Unarmed. In plain sight. No threats. No swords.

No crimes committed.

Just sitting there teaching away.

But you slink in here at night. This is foolish and evil and wrong. V.55

“But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.”

It must happen in this way.

“Fulfilled.”

Second to last time that Matthew will use that word in his gospel.

You and I should be so glad that Jesus chose this.

We should be horrified that He had to.

There is nothing good here. This is an evil injustice, and it’s just going to get worse.

But Jesus chose it to do the Father’s will, to carry out the Father’s plan, and to keep the Father’s promises.

And that gives us great confidence that God will always keep His promises.

Because if He will go to these lengths to make sure that His promises are fulfilled, sparing not His own son? Then how much more will He do everything else He promised.

Let me say a word about boldness for 2020.

In Acts chapter 4, the early church had a prayer meeting because they were being persecuted for their faith.

And they had prayed about what to do.

But they didn’t just pray that God would stop the persecution.

They prayed that God would do that and that God would enable them to share the gospel with boldness.

And listen to the reason why they prayed that way.

Acts 4:24. “‘Sovereign Lord,’ they said, ‘you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ‘'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? [Psalm 2] The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.' Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. [Listen.] They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. [It must happen in this way. Now listen to them pray...] Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”

They were able to be bold because they believed that God was sovereign.

And that all of these things that happened to Jesus didn’t just happen.

They were a part of God’s plan that Jesus was choosing to enact.

So we, too, can be bold because we know these things must have happened in this way.

But the disciples sure weren’t bold that day.

Instead, they fled. V.56

“Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.”

#3. PAINFULLY DESERTED TO FULFILL GOD’S WORD.

Jesus chose that, too.

He could have kept them there if He tried.

But He just said that all of this had “taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.”

Just like Zechariah 13:7, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.”

I’m sure it hurt.

Jesus wanted them to be close to Him when He prayed.

I’m sure He would have loved some company during His trial.

But instead He is abandoned and alone.

Just like He said He would be.

But at least He knew that there was a reason for it.

In fact, He was choosing the reason.

He was choosing to fulfill the word of the Lord.

He was seeing to it that Scriptures were fulfilled that say that it must happen in this way.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:

01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David
55. Expecting Fruit
56. Come to the Wedding Banquet
57. Whose Image?
58. Acing the Test
59. What Do You Think About the Christ?
60. How Not To be A Leader
61. Malignant Religion
62. Fakes and Snakes
63. Birth Pains
64. The Coming of the Son of Man
65. No One Knows
66. Keep Watch
67. Well Done!
68. When Did We See You?
69. A Beautiful Thing
70. "The Passover With My Disciples"

Friday, January 24, 2020

My 2020 Annual Report for Lanse Free Church

Lanse Evangelical Free Church exists to glorify God
by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ
through worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service.

The Annual Pastoral Report
Pastor Matt Mitchell
Year in Review: 2019

Dear Church Family,

It is a high privilege and a great joy to be your pastor. As I look back over the ministry we have shared these last twelve months, I am filled with gratitude to be called to shepherd this flock, walking alongside and working with you to glorify God by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. We are engaged in a good work, and we can be confident that the Lord “will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

If I had to pick one word to summarize our ministry together in 2019, I would choose the word “faithful.” Last year at this time, when I outlined my vision in my report, I encouraged us all to simply keep up the good work. I wrote, “Our church is healthy, and it's my goal to keep it that way. We are headed in the right direction, and I want to continue to shepherd us to stay on that faithful path.” I believe that’s exactly what happened in 2019, and I am grateful to the Lord for keeping us focused and on track.

Staying faithful does not mean becoming stagnant or stuck in our ways. Faithfulness actually requires change to meet new challenges as we accomplish our unchanging mission. Read what our leaders have written in the rest of this annual report to get a sense of how we’ve stayed faithful while making necessary modifications.

New in 2019

We saw many new people start attending in 2019. Several fresh families began participating in the life and worship of our church family. Attendance on Sundays increased by 4.5% with an average of 138 people per Sunday which is the highest average in the last 3 years and the first time the average has grown in the last 6 years. The highest attended Sunday (218 people) was December 22, when our Celebration Choir sang their cantata and the children offered a Christmas presentation. The lowest attended Sunday was December 1st (90 people) when there was a bad ice-storm (unless you count January 20th, when we decided to not meet at all because the roads were so bad!).

In 2019, our congregation adopted a new wedding policy that we hope will help us to bless couples who desire to honor the Lord with their marriages. We also designed and ordered some new banners to adorn the auditorium featuring Scripture passages which call our hearts to worship by reminding us who God is and what our purpose should be for gathering in His name.

I believe the most significant change in our worship in 2019 was actually a small, easy-to-make tweak that wasn’t even on my radar at this time last year. In February, we began regularly interviewing people during our worship celebrations about their work. We know that God cares about what we do the rest of the week, and now we have a practical way of highlighting that when we gather to worship Him. We have already heard from, among others, a farmer, an insurance agent, a retired teacher, a stay-at-home mom, a corrections officer, an administrative assistant, building contractors, business data professionals, hospital and home-health nurses, a cosmetologist, a highschool student, and a dental hygienist. We ask each of them the same 3 questions:

(1) What do you do and what will you be doing at work this week?
(2) What are joys and challenges in your work right now?
(3) How can we pray for you as you do your work as unto the Lord this coming week?

And then we pray for them and for all of us to envision our daily work as daily worship. I believe this new practice has pulled us together in fellowship as a worshiping community and also helped us to stay faithful as a church family, not just when we are gathered on a Sunday morning, but when we are scattered throughout the community the other six days of the week.

2019 Leaders & Prayer

I’m thankful for our 2019 Elder Team–Bob Gisewhite, Cody Crumrine, Keith Folmar, John Forcey, Joel Michaels, and Jeff Schiefer. Their faithfulness is a big reason why we have been able to stay faithful as a church this year. I appreciate all of the time, energy, and wisdom they invest in decision-making, direction-setting, people-shepherding, and especially for me, accountability-providing.

The same is true for our other church leaders and our faithful church staff, Marilynn Kristofits and Cindy Green. I am so grateful for their ministries that bring order out of chaos!

I believe that another big reason we have been able to stay faithful as a church are the faithful prayers of our people. Ministries of prayer such as Prayer Meeting, Harvest Prayer Time, Email Prayer Chain, Pastoral Prayer Team, and (the brand new!) Prayer Box help to keep us all coming before the throne of grace. In 2019, we started a Prayer Corners ministry that moved after-worship prayer support to the front of the auditorium instead of back in the Prayer Room, and more people have taken advantage of it. I am so thankful we have people who live out Romans 12:12, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Pastoral Ministry

I believe that faithful pastoral ministry involves being steadfast in preaching, equipping, and shepherding.

Preach the Word

We continued to follow Jesus through the Gospel of Matthew for another year, progressing from chapter 13 to chapter 25. Studying for and preaching through Jesus’ eschatological teaching in the Olivet Discourse was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I’ve had in pastoral ministry. I hope it was as helpful to the church family as it was to me. At the end of the year, there was a wonderful correspondence between what we were learning about how believers have always patiently waited for the coming of the Messiah in His first advent and how we are to expectantly watch for His return at His second advent. Come, Lord Jesus, come!

I also took us on a number of detours from the Gospel of Matthew into the Psalms as they were a special focus of study in my own devotions in 2019. The songbook at the center of our Bibles gives us words to express the deepest feelings of our hearts including unfathomable lament, unshakable faith, and unspeakable joy.

This year I made a commitment to be in the pulpit at LEFC as often as I could be. I felt that it was important this particular year to provide more consistency than ever in the preaching ministry. So, aside from speaking at the Father & Son Canoe Trip at Miracle Mountain Ranch which I attended with a group of dads and lads from our church, I didn’t speak anywhere else on a Sunday morning in 2019. The few times I was out of the pulpit, current or former missionaries that we have supported fed the congregation well from the Word of God: Jeff Powell, Donnie Rosie, Jim Panaggio, Abe Skacel, Henoc Lucien, Alex Ielase, and Kim Cone.

Equip the Saints

A big part of my ministry is working alongside our church leaders to prepare them  “for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:12). If I’m doing my job well, I do not do everyone else’s job. Sometimes that’s hard for me to do because I like getting involved in everything! But our church is at its best when everyone is utilizing their own gifts and serving the whole Body. I have tried to be faithful in 2019 in meeting with leaders, attending ministry meetings, helping to solve problems, and empowering our volunteers to make the decisions they need to keep their ministry faithful and on track.

A huge encouragement to me in the last several years has been to see a new generation of leaders rise up and take more responsibility for the church and its work of making disciples. I’m looking forward to watching them take the lead. I’m looking forward to working with younger leaders and even submitting to and following them as the Lord establishes them in this work.

Thank you for allowing me to remain engaged in an equipping ministry beyond the bounds of our local church. In 2019, I continued to stay very active in our association of churches, the EFCA. I coordinated the book reviews for the EFCA Blog, chaired the Allegheny District Constitutions and Credentials Board, coordinated the district Stay Sharp theology conference, and served on EFCA Spiritual Heritage Committee.

This was a big year for the EFCA both nationally and in our district. In June, at EFCA One, the conference completed a long process and decided together to amend our statement of faith, changing one word in Article 9 describing the return of Christ from “premillennial” to “glorious.” Fifteen years ago, when I first heard about the idea of broadening our eschatological options in the EFCA in this way, I was initially opposed to the idea, but over time I had changed my mind. In May, I published a paper that chronicled the shift in my thinking. I’m thankful to belong to a family of churches that takes orthodox theology so seriously and is able at the same time to differentiate between levels of doctrinal importance and “major on the majors.” I’m grateful for the gospel-centered faithfulness of the EFCA.

In February at the Stay Sharp conference for the Allegheny District, Superintendent Jeff Powell announced his impending retirement and EFCA President Kevin Kompelien outlined a plan for finding his successor. President Kompelien asked me to lead a search team to help him discover the Lord’s will for our next superintendent, and we’ve engaged in a comprehensive process all year long: organizing prayer, surveying the needs of the district, and interviewing qualified candidates. We hope to be able to announce the name of our new superintendent at Stay Sharp in February of this year. Please continue to pray for wisdom as the final decisions are made and thank you for allowing me to take the time out of my regular responsibilities to serve the district in this way.

Because I was so heavily involved in ministry in the EFCA, I didn’t have much time for other outside equipping opportunities, but I did get to teach once at the Miracle Mountain Ranch School of Discipleship and continued to maintain my blog with sermon manuscripts, book reviews, and updates on the progress of Resisting Gossip which also became published as an audiobook in 2019.

Shepherd the Flock

The most precious privilege of my role as pastor is to walk alongside you during some of the most important events of your lives. Thank you for inviting me into your living rooms, dining rooms, and hospital rooms. It is a high honor to sit with you in the stands at a sporting event or stand with you next to a casket. I love being your pastor.

In 2019, I got to pray for blessing on three babies and commission their parents. I had the joyful privileges of baptizing John Walter on Resurrection Sunday, officiating at the weddings of Isaac and Meili Finney as well as Josh and Katie Kerlin, and praying for Hunter and Allana Galley at theirs.

I also had the solemn privilege in 2019 of leading the funerals for Chuck O'Connor, Dorcey Nearhood, Eleanor Evans, Mary Shimmel, Emilee Burtop, Nancy Moskol, Roger English, Gary Johnson, and Norean Nearhood. “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15).

I also want to thank you for walking alongside me and my family. We feel blessed to be a part of this church family and so appreciate your love and support. This year was a big year for us as our daughter, Robin, “left the nest” and moved to the Pacific Northwest. We excited for her as she explores new opportunities but miss her dearly. We still have the boys at home, but it’s just a short matter of time before our life changes even more dramatically. Thank you for your prayers for us!

2020 Vision 

As we step together into a new decade of shared ministry, I’m tempted to just say again that my vision for 2020 is to “keep it up.” Simply staying faithful is a good goal for us because I do believe we are on the right track. But I also think there is an area of ministry that needs more attention for us to stay faithful and balanced, and that is bold evangelism–daring to share the gospel of Jesus with others.

Evangelism is one of those things that doesn’t do itself. Christians and churches can often find themselves worshiping, instructing, fellowshipping, and serving almost on autopilot. But rare are the Christians and churches where boldly telling unbelievers about their need for Jesus happens automatically. We need reminded. We need trained. We need motivated. Frankly, most of us need prodded.

So I hope we can heat up our evangelism quotient in 2020. We need to find ways of keeping our gospel mission in front of us. We will continue to do large scale evangelistic events like the Wild Game Dinner, Family Bible Week, and the Good News Cruise. And we will continue to share the gospel with unbelievers who come on a Sunday morning. But we all (me included!) need to also step up our game in boldly witnessing one-on-one with friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family.

When was the last time you personally talked with someone about their need for Jesus? Are you ready to have that conversation when the opportunity presents itself? What can we do to get ready and even to step out there and say something?

What can we do to stay focused on bold evangelism? This is an election year in our nation, and the competition for our attention and focus will be fierce. Years ago, I heard George Sweeting, the Chancellor of Moody Bible Institute, say, “The main thing is the keep the main thing the main thing.” The main thing is the gospel of Jesus Christ. To faithfully fulfill the great commission and make disciples of all nations, we must boldly tell people the good news about Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20)! May we keep that emphasis central to our 2020 vision! And may the Lord bless that boldness with resulting fruit.

In His Grip,
Pastor Matt

Sunday, January 19, 2020

"This Very Night" [Matt's Messages]

“This Very Night”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
January 19, 2020 :: Matthew 26:31-46

Time has slowed down.

We have reached not just that crucial last week that we often call “Holy Week” or “Passion Week,” but we’ve also reached that last crucial day. That last 24 hours before the crucifixion of our Lord.

Last week, we were up in the upper room with Jesus as He ate the Passover with His disciples.

And we saw that it was a Passover like there had never been a Passover before.

Because Jesus made this Passover all about Himself.

He took bread and broke it and passed it around and said it was His body.

He took the cup and offered it to His disciples and said it was His blood.

And He said that He wouldn’t drink from it again until He drank from it anew with His disciples in His Father’s kingdom.

And before all of that, He shocked them all by saying that one of them, one of the Twelve, was going to betray Him.

And He even knew which one.

Time has slowed down, and so will we.

We are only going to study verses 31 through 46 this morning.

Just the last part that happens before the betrayal and arrest.

Just the last few hours that Jesus is alone with His disciples.

And specifically those last few hours when Jesus prays.

And prays and prays.

Because Jesus knows what’s about to happen.

Jesus knows what’s coming.

We’ve seen that again and again.

Jesus knows what is right around the corner.

So what would you do if you knew that the authorities were coming to arrest you?

Jesus prays.

I’m going to call this message “This Very Night” because Jesus emphasizes the immediacy of these events in verse 31 and verse 34 with those words.

“This Very Night”

It’s right here, right now.

This is what Jesus’ life has been leading up to for all of these years.

From the angelic visits to His parents.
From the angels and the shepherds at Bethlehem.
From the baptism of His cousin John.
From the Sermon on the Mount to the Olivet Discourse.
From everything we’ve read so far in the Gospel of Matthew.

It’s all coming to a head right here, right now.

This very night.

Now, I often have several points of application that I try to dole out to you as a message unfolds.

Today, I have just two points of application, and I’m going to tell you up front what they both are, because they are both woven throughout this short passage.

I want you to see and feel them at every step of this very night.

Number One. We need to:

#1. RECOGNIZE OUR WEAKNESS.

As we see the weakness of the disciples, especially Peter, I am sure that we are supposed to see ourselves in them.

They don’t do so well. In fact, they fail.

And we need to see how they did that and own it as a true picture of ourselves.

And what we need saving from.

And what we need the Lord to work on in us.

But the other thing, and it’s more important really is that we need to:

#2. MARVEL AT JESUS’ STRENGTH.

Both of those things are on display in this passage.

Our weakness and His strength.

It’s amazing what Jesus goes through for us.

And how He does it.

And it should cause us to marvel and worship and give thanks that our Savior did this to save us and to glorify His Father.

This is how I’m hoping we will respond as follow Jesus through the events of this very night.

In verse 30, Matthew tells us that Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn and then left the house where they were eating the Passover and went back over the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives, the place where He had been teaching them about His glorious return.

And somewhere along the way, Jesus drops another shocker of a prediction on them.

Not only will one of them betray Him, but all of them will desert Him. Verse 31.

“Then Jesus told them, ‘This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.’”

We are used to this story, but it’s really quite striking, isn’t it?

They just had this intimate time together with their heads so close. Eating the Passover meal like a family. Dipping their bread or lamb in the same sauce.

Singing a hymn, wandering together up the valley.

But Jesus says, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me...”

And He says that it’s written in the Bible that this will happen!

That’s quote from Zechariah 13:7.

“I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.”

God is going to strike the Shepherd. What a scary thought!

And when the shepherd is struck, the sheep will be scattered.

The disciples will fall away.

Again, I wrote in the margin of my copy, “He knows.”

He knows what’s going to happen to Him.

And what He emphasizes is that His followers are going to stop following Him.

They are going to fall way. They are going to leave Him.

By the way, this story just keeps getting worse and worse until chapter 28.

It’s all true. And it’s all good for us.

But it was awful for Jesus.

And we need to feel that.

And marvel and wonder at what He went through for us.

Now in verse 32, there is a note of hope. There is, in fact, a prediction of resurrection!

“But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

He knows that His going to get up again on Sunday morning!

But all of this is going right over all of their heads.

What they have heard is that Jesus thinks they are going to fail Him.

And that is unthinkable for them at this moment. And who do you think is going to vocalize it?

Three guesses and the first two don’t count. It’s Peter, right? V.33

“Peter replied, ‘Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.’”

Let me translate that for you, “Jesus, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m much better than that.”

Which is a pretty dangerous thing to say to Jesus.

Peter thinks that he’s better than Jesus does.

He has good intentions!

But we know where that road leads.

And so does Jesus. V.34

“‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the other disciples said the same.”

I think that’s us, don’t you?

I think we’re supposed to see ourselves there in Jesus’ protestations and over-confidence.

He’s not the only one. “All the other disciples said the same.”

And how many times have we?

Promised the Lord something that we weren’t really going to do.

Declared our strength and pledged our undying faithfulness.

Only to disappoint and be disappointing.

I love how the gospel present the disciples as being not very impressive.

I mean, Matthew was one of these disciples. If I were writing the book, I wouldn’t just make Jesus a great compelling character. I’d put in some good things about myself, too!

Or at least I’d be tempted to.

But the gospels show us not just Who Jesus really is, but who we really are, as well.

We need to recognize our weakness.

Which can actually be the start of our strength.

Remember this interaction they had with Jesus. It will become important in the next few weeks. V.36

“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’”

The other gospels tell us that this was a place Jesus went to frequently. I think that’s how Judas knew where to find Him.

The word “Gethsemane” basically means “Olive Press,” and there was a garden there, so this was the original Olive Garden.

But there were no addictive breadsticks.

Instead, there was a praying Savior.

And what a prayer time He had! V.37

“He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’”

Jesus has invited along His inner circle.

Peter, James, and John. The same three that saw Him on the mount of transfiguration.

Shining like the sun.

But now His face is dark.

He is sorrowful and troubled.

In fact, He is–This is astonishing, friends! He is overwhelmed.

Just think about that.

Just sit with that for a second.

The Lord Jesus Christ Whom we have followed now for 71 Sundays through the Gospel of Matthew.

When have we ever seen Jesus overwhelmed?

We’ve never seen Jesus overwhelmed.

But He is just about losing it this very night.

He doesn’t lose it! He never fails.

But He is in agony.

He is in anguish.

Jesus does not exaggerate about Himself, and He says in verse 38, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’”

Jesus is so sad that He might almost die of it.

Why?

Because He knows.

He knows what’s coming.

He knows the horror of what is right around the corner for Him this very night.

And He wants His friends to sit up with Him and pray.

How very human of Him!

We need each other as humans.

If the Son of Man wanted His friends to pray with Him, how much more do we need it?!

Let’s be there for each other.

Let’s pray for each other.

On Sunday mornings, do you gather prayer requests from the people that sit near you?

You should do that.

Everybody here is the prayer team. You should ask the people around you how you can be praying for them. And maybe just do it right there in 10 seconds!

We need each other.

Jesus desired the company of Peter and the sons of Zebedee.

He wanted them to pray with Him.

But they failed miserably.

And He was left to pray alone. V.39

“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’”

And that is one of the most amazing prayers that has ever been offered to God.

First off, look at His posture.

See Him face down on the ground.

That is total submission.

Have you ever prayed like that?

Face down.

But this facedown Savior calls God His Father.

“My Father.” The Gospel of Mark says that He used the Aramaic word, “Abba.”

We might say, “Papa” or “Dad.”

And what does He ask?

“If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.”

“If it is possible!” Maybe in His human nature, He wasn’t yet certain.

Just like He didn’t know when the Son of Man would come, maybe He didn’t know if there was possibly another way.

He sure wanted there to be!

He does not want this cup!

What is “this cup?”

A cup is an experience.

If you drink a cup, then you are choosing an experience.

And this cup, it’s not a physical cup, that’s a metaphor.

This cup is everything that’s going to happen to Him this very night and the next day.

This cup is the betrayal.
This cup is the arrest.
This cup is the farce of a trial.
This cup is the scourging.
This cup is the mocking.
This cup is the crucifying.

This cup is the Cross.

This cup is the wrath of God.

This cup was meant for us.

This is our cup.

Psalm 75, verses 7 and 8, “It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another. In the hand of the LORD is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs.”

But here it is the pure and spotless Savior who drinks the cup reserved for the wicked.

That song we sing, “Jesus, Thank You.”

“You drank the bitter cup reserved for me.”

This is our cup.

And Jesus, looking at it, shudders.

And He asks His Father to take it from Him, “may this cup be taken from me.”

He does not want it.

But He chooses it.

“Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Marvel at Jesus’ strength.

His strength is a strength that starts with submission.

We often think that strength comes from not submitting.

But Jesus’ strength comes at the point of submission.

“Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

And He bends His will to the Father’s.

There is glorious strength in being able to bend your will to the Father’s will!

That’s what Jesus’ does.

He bends His human will to His Father’s divine will.

And chooses the cup of God’s wrath for us.

That’s amazing!

Which only highlights the disciples’ weakness. V.40

“Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. [Who had just said that he would die with Jesus if necessary. But he can’t pray with Jesus when necessary.] ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.’”

That’s us, right?

I know that I’ve fallen asleep during prayer meeting before!

These are just normal guys in a very unusual time and place.

They have good intentions, but their bodies don’t want to comply.

We need to recognize our weakness here and pray for help.

We are finite and limited and weak creatures who need all of the help we can get.

We need to admit that and humble ourselves.

And pray and keep watch so that we don’t fall into temptation.

But you know what?

Jesus was fully human, too. I’m sure that He was tired.

All of this anguish will wear you out. I’m sure that He was exhausted.

And He hasn’t even really started.

But He keeps on. V.42

“He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’”

I think He’s getting His answer. He changes from “if it’s possible” to “I understand it may not be possible.”

And either way He’s committed.

“May your will be done.”

Just like He taught us to pray.

“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

We need to learn to pray like that, too.

We bring God our requests, our desires.

It’s okay to bring anything to Him that you want.

Bring it!

Jesus wants this very badly, and it’s no sin to ask for it!

But He always says, “May your will be done.”

“May your will be done.”

And it’s not just words. It needs to be our heart’s pray.

“May your will be done.”
“May your will be done.”
“May your will be done.”

Do you pray like that?

With an open hand?

“May your will be done.”

The point of this passage is not so much that we need to pray like that, but that our Lord prayed like that!

He was so strong!

He didn’t want this at all, but He stayed strong.

The devil threw everything at Him that He could.

I’m sure that He was tempting Jesus right here and right now.

This very night Satan had returned and brought the same temptation to skip the Cross that he had presented to Jesus back in chapter 3.

But Jesus never faltered and never failed.

He said again and again to the Father, “May your will be done.”

And it meant our salvation!

Just imagine what would have happened if He had failed.

That’s unthinkable!

But the disciples failed again and again. They are a picture of us and our need for Savior. And thankfully, we have one. V.43

“When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. [“May your will be done.”] Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? [Nap time is over!] Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’”

And that’s where we’ll leave things this week.

The last moment they had alone together.

They failed.

But Jesus was victorious.

From now on Jesus does not weep.

He is not overwhelmed.

I’m sure that He is sad. He is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

But He is no longer prostrate on the ground, face down.

Instead, He stands regally and faces all that comes before Him.

As the torch-lit mob climbs up to take Him away, Jesus all prayed-up, breathes out, “May your will be done this very night.”


***

Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David
55. Expecting Fruit
56. Come to the Wedding Banquet
57. Whose Image?
58. Acing the Test
59. What Do You Think About the Christ?
60. How Not To be A Leader
61. Malignant Religion
62. Fakes and Snakes
63. Birth Pains
64. The Coming of the Son of Man
65. No One Knows
66. Keep Watch
67. Well Done!
68. When Did We See You?
69. A Beautiful Thing
70. "The Passover With My Disciples"

Sunday, January 12, 2020

“The Passover With My Disciples” [Matt's Messages]

“The Passover With My Disciples”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
January 12, 2020 :: Matthew 26:17-30

For over two years now, we’ve been following Jesus through the Gospel of Matthew, and we’ve now followed Him right up into that crucial, holy, last week.

Last week, we read about happened on the Wednesday of Passion Week.

Today, we enter into that critical final 24 hours leading up to the crucifixion. Starting sometime on Thursday. The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

On the previous day, Wednesday, Judas, one of the Twelve, turned traitor and sold his services and his Master to the chief priests for thirty pieces of silver.

Today on Thursday, Jesus and His disciples will prepare for the Passover and keep the Passover feast. They are going to eat the Passover together.

But it will be a Passover such as there has never been before!

I’ve entitled this message from Jesus’ words in verse 18, where He says, “My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples...”

“The Passover With My Disciples”

Jesus leads His disciples into a Passover feast like no previous Passover.

There has never been anything like it.

We are almost contemptuously familiar with it because we’ve read over it and perhaps mindlessly repeated the words so many times, but this was one special Passover.

And the reason was because Jesus made it all about Him.

By now, we should not be surprised.

If we are surprised that Jesus makes something all about Himself, we have not been paying attention as we’ve read the Gospel of Matthew.

The Gospel of Matthew is a theological biography of the Lord Jesus Christ, the most compelling, the most interesting, the most important Person Who has ever lived.

Matthew is showing us and telling us Who Jesus really is.

And as we come to understand Who Jesus really is, He calls us to follow Him.

So, keep your eye on the ball.

“On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ He replied, ‘Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'’ So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.” Stop there for a second.

Did you hear the word, “Passover?”

Matthew wants to make sure we don’t miss it.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread was about a week-long festival to remind the people of Israel of their rescue from Egypt.

God had dramatically saved His people from slavery. Remember the story from the book of Exodus?

God sent Moses to Pharaoh to say what? “Let my people go!”

And Pharaoh said, “No!”

God, “Oh yes, you will.”

And He hammered Egypt with 10 plagues. Creational warfare.

Water to blood.
Frogs everywhere.
Gnats everywhere.
Flies ruining the land.
Pestilence on the livestock.
Boils on everyone.
Hail bombing that decimated Egypt.
A locust swarm that took everything left.
And darkness that you could feel.

And then the devastating tenth plague: the LORD promised to kill every firstborn son in the land.

And after that, the people of Israel were set free.

They had to take off in a hurry. No time to let the bread rise.

So it was unleavened bread for them.

This day is actually the day of preparation for all of that.

This is the day that they went through the house cleaning out any of the leaven. Cleaning out, sweeping out, all of the yeast in the house.

And preparing the Passover meal.

Including the lamb.

The blameless pascal lambs were bought and then taken to the temple to be sacrificed.

And they poured the blood of the lambs into basins that the priests passed hand to hand to then pour out on the altar.

And they burned the fat. And then they took the lamb home and roasted it over a fire to eat as a family with some unleavened bread, some bitter herbs, a fruit sauce puree, and 4 cups of wine.

That dinner happened after sundown which in the Jewish reckoning begins a new day.

It would still be Thursday to us, but it was the beginning of their Friday when they would eat that evening.

The Jews had been doing this feast for almost 1500 years. The Exodus was about 1445BC, and this is probably 33AD? That’s 6 times longer than our nation has existed!

So the Passover is an ancient custom to them.

And do you remember why it’s called the “Passover?”

Because on the first Passover back in Exodus 12, the Jews were to paint their doorframes with the blood of these lambs. And if they did that, painted their doorframes with lamb blood, then the LORD would pass over their homes and not take the lives of their firstborn sons.

And that’s exactly what happened.

The LORD killed every single one of the firstborn sons of Egypt, but He passed over the firstborn sons of Israel when He saw the blood.

How many here are firstborn sons?

I am. ... How many have a firstborn son?

The Bible says there was loud wailing in Egypt that night.

I can only imagine. When my firstborn daughter died back in 1999, I wailed in that hospital room. I can’t imagine what it sounded like throughout Egypt when it happened in every single house!

But not in the houses of Israel where there was the blood of the lamb on the frame of the door.

The Jews have been reenacting this now for 1500 years when Jesus comes to Jerusalem to eat it the Passover with His disciples.

But there has never been a Passover like this one.

The disciples ask where Jesus wants to eat the Passover.

And Jesus has a plan. He tells them to go into the city to a certain man (the other gospels tell us that it’s a man carrying a jar of water which was unusual for a man to do) and tell this certain man that Jesus is coming over for dinner.

Look at verse 18 again. "...tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'’

Here’s the first thing I want to emphasize this morning. We saw it last week, too.

#1. HE KNOWS.

I kept writing it in the margin of my Scriptures in verses 17 through 25.

“He knows.”

Obviously He knew that this man was going to be there and give them an upper room to eat the Passover. I don’t know if that is supernatural foreknowledge or something Jesus has secretly arranged so that He can do this quietly without the fuss and the crowds.

Either way, He knows.

But He knows a lot more than that. He knows it’s His time.

Don’t miss that phrase in verse 19, “My appointed time is near.”

He’s knows what’s going to happen.

And He’s knows that it’s close.

He’s told them that. We saw it last week in verse 2.

Matthew wants us to get the drift. Jesus knows what’s up this week. Tomorrow!

It’s His time.

His disciples probably thought He meant it was time for Him to kick out the Roman occupiers. Maybe send some more plagues their way!

No. It’s time for Jesus to...you know.

And He knows.

And He is choosing it.

He’s clearly in charge here. He’s the one calling the shots. He’s the one ordering the steps. V.19

“So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.”

And what a Passover it was!

Verse 20.

“When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. [Remember what we said last week about how they laid on their sides or tummies towards a low central table. I read this week that it wasn’t so much a wheel with spokes like I said last week as a U-shaped sort of thing, more box-like than a circle but with an open side for the food to get served on. But heads towards one another. Still very intimate. V.21] And while they were eating, he said, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.’”

He knows!

He knows that He’s going to be betrayed.

He knows that there is a traitor in their midst.

And He tells them so.

And they are shocked. V.22

“They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’  Jesus replied, ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.”

That could be any of them!

They’ve all been putting their breadsticks in the marinara sauce!

Or their unleavened breadsticks in the bitter herbs.

He knows it’s one of them.

And He also knows just how bad it is. Verse 24

“The Son of Man [there’s that title again] will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.’”

What a devastating sentence!

What great theology! You see the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man in the exact same verse. I don’t know exactly how those two things work together, but I am sure they do!

God’s plan will be enacted, but that doesn’t mean that we are not responsible when we sin.

“Woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Jesus knows.

It’s amazing that Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man here.

The Son of Man who is going to come in glory at a time known only the Father?! He just got done teaching about that a few days ago.

But this same Son of Man is going to (v.24) “go just as it was written about him.”

I think that’s talking about Scriptures like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter [Passover!], and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away.”

The Son of Man is going to “go just as it was written about him.”

And He knows it.

And He chooses it.

And He knows who is going to betray Him. V.25

“Then Judas, the one who would betray him [thirty pieces of silver], said, ‘Surely not I, Rabbi?’ [Doesn’t call Him ‘Lord.’] Jesus answered, ‘Yes, it is you.’ [Literally He says, “You have said it.” I don’t think everybody got it at the time, but I’m sure Judas did. “He knows!”]

He knows!

And still He goes forward.

This should make us so grateful.

It should cause us to wonder and marvel and worship.

That God would have such a plan and that Jesus would know that plan and enact that plan. It’s just too much to take in!

It should also give us great confidence as we walk through this life.

Because we know that He knows.

There is so much we don’t know! But not Jesus. He knows.

He knows and still He gives.

#2. HE GIVES.

Now, pretend you don’t know what’s coming next.

I know that you’ve come prepared to eat the Lord’s Supper.

I know that you know that this is what we call the Last Super.

Or from the Greek for “give thanks,” the Eucharist. “The He Gave Thanks Meal.”

Or we often call this, “Communion” because of the fellowship aspect of it. Fellowship with God and fellowship with the Church.

But humor me and pretend for a second that you don’t know what’s coming next.

Because the disciples didn’t.

They thought they were just eating the Passover with Jesus.

Like Jews had for 1500 years.

But all of a sudden, Jesus is going to do something NEW with it.

He’s going to make this meal all about Him.

Keep your eye on the ball. V.26

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’”

That has never happened before at a Passover meal.

For 1500 years, there has been food (roasted lamb, bitter herbs, unleavened bread) and drink (customarily 4 glasses of wine per participant, four rounds to go with the four promises that God made to Israel in Exodus 6 when He said that He would rescue them from Egypt.)

And there have been speeches made for the last 1500 years.

A youngster is supposed to ask, “What does all of this mean?”

And the head of the household is supposed to explain what the symbolism all stands for.

But this has never happened in 1500 years.

This man takes the bread and breaks it, and He calls it, “My body.” He makes it all about Himself. And what do you call a broken body, broken into pieces?

A dead man.

He is saying “This is my death.”

And then He passes it around! He gives it to His disciples at the Passover meal in little pieces.

And He says, “Take a little piece of my death.”

I can just imagine the disciples’ look of puzzlement on their faces.

“What did He say?”

“Take and eat; this is my body.”

I think that’s obviously symbolic. He couldn’t have meant it literally at that point. He’s standing there in His body.

It’s obviously symbolic, but it’s a powerful symbol!

“This is what’s going to happen to me. I’m going to be broken.

I am giving my life.

Now, here, take some.

Take some of my death to get my life.”

He gives!

Don’t miss the symbolism of His distribution of this bread.

He gives it out to them because He’s giving His life for them. [GRAB THE CUP]

V.27  “Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them [see that?], saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Can you believe how many people have focused on the cup? Making it a holy grail?

The point is not the cup!

The point is not what’s in the cup!

The point is what what’s in the cup stands for.

“This is MY BLOOD, and I’m giving it up for you.”

That has never happened before at any Passover meal. I guarantee.

Do you see how Jesus is tying everything back to Him?

He’s actually the Lamb, too, isn’t He? Paul knew that. He says in 1 Corinthians 5:7 that Christ is our Passover Lamb. He fulfills Exodus 12 and Isaiah 53.

But Jesus takes it even further by transforming the Passover bread and the Passover drink to stand for His sacrificial death on the Cross.

He knows what’s coming in just a few hours.

And He chooses it.

He chooses to give Himself.

“Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant.”

This is the required sacrifice to enact the New Covenant.

What Jesus is about to do will unleash the power of the New Covenant on the New Covenant People.

It will make all of the difference for all of our lives and for all of eternity!

And it will mean the forgiveness of our sins.

That is unbelievably good news!

Because the Lord knows we are sinners in need of forgiveness.

I’m sure that the disciples didn’t know what to make of what they just heard. But it’s clear that they thought a lot about it in the years to come.

And the church has rehearsed this new kind of Passover meal for the last 2000 years.

We do it here monthly.

Lots of churches do it every week.

It’s a deeply symbolic way of reminding ourselves just what Jesus gave for us.

He gave His body and He gave us blood.

For the forgiveness of our sins.

Do you know that?

Have you received that?

Have you received that gift of forgiveness through His blood?

This is the meaning of His death.

Jesus was saying in advance what the Cross was going to mean and do.

This is why Jesus is allowing Judas to betray Him.

This is why Jesus is going to go through every other awful thing in chapters 26 and 27.

And He knows that this all is coming.

And He chooses it because He’s choosing to give.

Have you received that gift?

If not, why not?

I know that some people say, “I don’t deserve.”

You’re absolutely right. You don’t!

This is scandalous grace.

Jesus does this for people who do not deserve it.

This is for the forgiveness of SINS!

Take in His death and gain His life.

And don’t you dare say that Jesus’ body and blood aren’t powerful enough for your sins!

Don’t devalue what He did on that Cross. Don’t you dare.

This is the New Exodus. The New Rescue.

Not from slavery to Egypt, but slavery to sin.

What’s in this cup stands for freedom.

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Are you in that "many?"

You can be if you repent and come in.

He knows and He foreknows.
He gives, and He forgives.
He tells and He foretells.

#3. HE PROMISES.

He promises His return and His kingdom. V.29

“I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom.’ When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

Some people think that Jesus held up the third of four cups of wine to institute the Lord’s Supper, and He left the last cup on the table as they walked out singing to the Mount of Olives.

And that’s possible. I don’t know. That would be pretty dramatic. All of those cups left behind.

What I do know is that He said that He wouldn’t be drinking from the fruit of the vine again (again He knows) until “that day.”

A day in the future.

A great eschatological day.

A day when the Son of Man comes in all of His glory and sets up Messianic Banquet!

Jesus promises to return and to drink again one day “anew with you in...” [Don’t miss it!] “...MY Father’s kingdom.”

Jesus’ favorite thing to talk about. He’s talking about it again just hours before the Cross.

His Father has a kingdom, and it’s coming for sure.

We don’t know when! Right? We don’t know when.

But we know that the kingdom is coming for sure.

Because the King is coming back, and when He does, there will be a great celebration forever.

The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:26 “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.”

We don’t know when that will be, but we know that He promised it, and that He always keeps His promises.

And what a day that will be!

Isaiah says, “The ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

And we’ll drink from the fruit of the vine anew with Jesus in His Father’s Kingdom.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:

01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David
55. Expecting Fruit
56. Come to the Wedding Banquet
57. Whose Image?
58. Acing the Test
59. What Do You Think About the Christ?
60. How Not To be A Leader
61. Malignant Religion
62. Fakes and Snakes
63. Birth Pains
64. The Coming of the Son of Man
65. No One Knows
66. Keep Watch
67. Well Done!
68. When Did We See You?
69. A Beautiful Thing