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Matthew 26:1-29

The Institution of the Lord's Supper

Sermon Notes + Quotes

It is definitely not pastoral hyper exaggeration to say that I do love this church. It’s a joy to remember with fondness when Jim and Kim were the traveling duo Say So. Some of you don’t know those years, you should see the artwork. It will shock you, but it’s beautiful. But seriously, to see how this commitment they’ve always had to make much of Jesus to know how this community began as a Bible study out of their frustration, even trying to find parking in downtown Franklin and to see the generosity and goodness of the living God. This is an outstanding church. It’s one of the healthiest church cultures that I get to sample when I’m invited, but love many of you through the course of the 43 years we’ve been in town.

So where are we? We are picking up where you are in your study of the gospel of Matthew. And so if you have a Bible, please turn to Matthew chapter 26 or follow along from memory. It is in that season of the life of Jesus that parallels where we are right now. Matthew 26, in the order of the Lenten season, Jesus has already come into Jerusalem and he is playing out now many of the dynamics, many of the aspects of what the Old Testament said the Messiah would experience when He came and as He moved to fulfill the great promises and prophecies of the Old Testament about how God would deliver his people. What would that look like?

So in Matthew 25, which you saw last week if you were here, there were a lot of couplets, there were sheep and goats. There were comparisons in terms of those who are primed to wait for the coming of the Lord and those who are indifferent or those who do not have any passion to see in Jesus anything remarkable. Well, the parables that Jesus taught in chapter 25 of Matthew and a few of those stories, they now are dialed down to the very individual level.

In chapter 26 of Matthew, we’re going to look at several individuals all with regard to their responding to Jesus. And if I were to title the sermon, which I have not, I would simply perhaps describe it, if not titled it, in this fashion, What Value Do You Put on Jesus? It’s not a bad thing at all to title a sermon or a time in God’s word with a question because it at least intrigues us enough to say, “What would I do with that? Where do I go with that?” And we are going to see through Matthew 26 a lot of responses, a lot of ways people value and devalue Jesus. But we will finish where we should always finish any study of the word of God with seeing the incredible value, not just that Jesus is to us, but that he places in us.

Four phrases that we’ll frame working through the text. We’re going to look at Caiaphas’ hateful conspiracy; then we will consider Mary’s beautiful anointing, thirdly, Judas’ treacherous betrayal, and lastly, Jesus’s glorious gospel. Let me pray once again for us as we come to scripture:

“Heavenly Father, truly it is an honor, it is a delight. It is a privilege to be in this community of faith. Lord, many who call this place home shared life with for over four decades, many new friends, Lord, many different seasons of life. And I thank you for the privilege of knowing that this is a congregation gladly ordered under the goodness of You, our God, and the authority of Your word. Lord, it’s why I pray now that anything I would preach or teach that does not find its anchor, its clarity, its surrender to scripture, Lord. Then protect these of you cherish from my error. I know, Lord, I will absolutely undersell all the wonder and glory that’s here. So help my own heart to see more of you, Jesus, even as we walk through this scripture today.

But Lord, where we will offer a fair and faithful exposition to these words, your word, oh Lord, change us by it. May we not settle merely for new insights or information or a handle or two. Oh Jesus, show us yourself. There’s always more to you Jesus. There’s always more. So come by God the Holy Spirit and reveal yourself through the perfect word of God and this very imperfect preacher. We pray in your name Jesus and for your glory. Amen.”

But truly, this is a chapter of incredible intensity and contrast. And again, think of that phrase, value, price tags, currency. What really does matter? In terms of what you value, how would you use the currency, the main currencies of life in relationship to Jesus? Well we start with verse 1 and meet this hateful conspiracy by one of Israel’s high priests of all people. The text begins, “When Jesus had finished saying all these things…” Obviously everything that Jim so faithfully preached last week, “When he’s finished saying all these things he said to his disciples, ‘As you know, the Passover is two days away and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified’.”

Pause here for a moment with me. Probably even more important than what I’ve already said, I want us to notice in this text, I want us especially to see Jesus’ non-anxious presence in all of the conflict and intensity of this chapter. I mean these very words, He’s speaking now to his disciples, to the 12 and perhaps some others who are in the circle of conversation. And not matter-of-factly, but matter of wonder, matter of calling, matter of being so aware that He is this Son of Man that we first meet in the book of Daniel when God placed His people to live to His glory in a pagan land. Book of Daniel telling the story of course of God loving His people so much, He’ll create a captivity to recapture their hearts. And in placing His people in that captivity, Babylon itself being God’s Babylon, the Lord does so many great things, among which is declaring that the Messiah who’s already been promised in earlier parts of God’s word, He will be one like a Son of Man, speaking of the wonder of what we later discover that Jesus has always existed and that as Son of Man, He literally takes to himself our form. He became man never ceasing to be God.

But this language as Jesus is telling now the disciples, they’ve heard it before, they don’t get it. Peter even tried to resist it. But this language, the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified. Not might, but will. And again, the peace with which Jesus speaks these words, the sobriety. But here’s where conspiracy emerges in our texts and hate, absolute disdain for the person of Jesus. Look at verse 3. “Then the chief priest and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest whose name was Caiaphas.”

Now Caiaphas, here’s what we know about him. Even in historical annals of the time, he was in many ways more a friend of Rome than he was a friend of God. In fact, when the Romans came in full bore power, they made it illegal for any of Israel’s high priests to serve more than one year, but Caiaphas served 18 years because he was compliant. This very unlikely conspiracy between the evil empire of Rome and what was to be God’s people of peace living in the city, any and every city to his glory revealing himself, Caiaphas sold out, always considering his own personal interest. And here he has this community of those who would’ve been challenged and charged and trusted with safeguarding the words of God and the worship in the temple.

Here’s a plan, look at verse 4. They schemed to arrest Jesus and secretly kill him. Jesus, in our story today in the text, He knows He’s going to be crucified and He will willingly, gladly lay down his life. But this has nothing to do with that. This is literally a conspiracy of hatred to be done with Jesus. And look at verse 5, this bit of narrative that just really further shows us just the darkness of the heart of humanity apart from Christ’s grace. “There will be a plan that emerges, but not during the festival they said, or there may be a riot among the people.”

Now why would there be a riot during Passover? See, this is now in preparation for one of the high feast of Israel, the celebration that we are the people of God; we are the out-of-slavery and Egypt- coming -people. Consider what God did on our behalf and Passover will be celebrated and the stories told and the history of redemption proclaimed and the songs sung. But here now that festival will be seen as an obstacle to secretly murdering Jesus. We should allow our hearts to sit in that, the contrast that are here. But also an invitation to grace that is indeed greater than all our sin as we sang today, but also greater than all of our wannabe righteousness because we desperately need who this Jesus is.

3 million people would typically come into Jerusalem. So just think of a giant Christ. “No, let’s take him out then. Or we may find ourselves in a far bigger mess.” Well, from Caiaphas’ hateful conspiracy, we’re now going to look at what could not be a further contrast. Again, what does it mean to value or disdain Jesus? Look at the value in this next part of our text. Mary’s beautiful anointing, verse 6, “While Jesus was in Bethany and the home of Simon the Leper, a woman,” who we know through the gospel of John is Mary. So let’s go ahead and call her Mary, Mary “came to him with an alabaster jar, a very expensive perfume.”

Now let’s stop there for a few moments because every one of these words are precious, okay? The phrase Simon the Leper, that was not on his birth certificate, folks. It really should in a sense trigger within us, Simon that used to be a leper. Because you see, if you had leprosy, you don’t live in your home, you live outside the city. In fact, if you were a Jew, you could not physically touch a leper and go into the temple. You would be declared ceremonially unclean; but what a phrase “Simon the Leper.” He met Jesus somewhere he’s been healed.

Can I just say this right now to every single one of you whatever story you’re inhabiting? You are going to be healed too. I don’t know when. I do know how, but I know this, Jesus cares about every single aspect of who you are, every bit of you. But here again is the story. Here’s a home and here’s Mary that is not named by Matthew, but the parallel in Mark’s gospel and in John’s gospel, we know this to be Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. And if you’re familiar with the story of Jesus, there are very few, really perhaps only one family system that Jesus is described of, “I can always go hang out there.”

And many of the incidents of Jesus just going and finding heart and home with these two sisters and brother. Well, allow your heart to further take this in. This would’ve been on this side of Mary’s brother Lazarus’ resurrection. Have you ever thought about that? What would’ve been to have lunch with a resurrected Lazarus? Now, really what questions would you have? “So what was it like being dead? Was it white? Did you see angels?” Again, I don’t know where you would go, but please, we don’t need to romanticize or sentimentalize. We need to be in the awe that we’re about to see in this text.

So a resurrected Lazarus is there, a used to be leper Simon, they’re in a home. Martha’s there probably fixing the falafel, right? We know she’d loved to serve and Jesus never condemned her serving whatsoever. But in the midst of this gathering, it’s described as a very expensive alabaster jar of perfume. Now, we know through Mark, I believe it is, that here’s how expensive that was, and this is an important part of the detail in the text. This particular offering of perfume would’ve been valued at a year’s wages, 300 denarii. That’s some expensive Chanel. I mean, that is high end. And probably as many biblical exegetes I’ve studied in preparation for our day, probably this would’ve been indicative of a family heirloom. In other words, something handed down, perhaps not just recently bought in the marketplace, but something given -some expression to this family. Again, two sisters and a brother, that now becomes an amazing vehicle of gratitude.

Oh, how did this family, how did Mary, how did Lazarus, how did Martha, how did Simon the leper value Jesus? Look at these words. So Mary takes this incredible expensive gift and she pours it on Jesus’ head while he’s reclining at table. Now, verse 8, not shocking because this is just true of Jesus’ disciples, including you and me; there’s some real weakness about to emerge from those who are in the 12. Look at verse 8, “When the disciples…” Not just one disciple, but when the disciples see a resurrected Lazarus sitting there, a healed leper, but they see unfortunately something about which they’re going to draw the wrong conclusion. Look at this.

“When the disciples saw this…” meaning the offering of this oil, this perfume onto Jesus’ head, they were indignant. Now hold on to that phrase as well; it’s important in the scripture. Disciples are indignant. Now where is that indignation going? “Mary, you should know better than this. Don’t you know that you, Mary, could have sold this?” But seriously, it’s Jesus receiving; it’s Jesus receiving this gift. How do we know that Jesus welcome to… well again, just listen to the Bible. They go on about this, why this waste. Perfume could have been sold at a very high price and the money given to the poor. Yes, granted, they just came out of us study with Jesus in Matthew 25 about how He, Jesus, cares about every form of poverty.

And as we serve the least in our community, as we love the lost and the least in every state of calamity, we do so as unto Him. Did the disciples not think Jesus cares about the poor? Well, I love Jesus’ response. Look at verse 10, “…aware of this,” in other words, we don’t know were they whispering? But they didn’t even have to whisper. Jesus would know what they’re thinking, but they’re kind of little self-righteous throwing their little self-righteous-pity-party. But how does he respond? “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”

It’s the only time that we have in any of the four gospels where Jesus described any act of any human being as beautiful. She has done a beautiful thing to me. Now, he unpacks that verse 11, “The poor you’ll always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever…” Not a, not the, “wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

So here are some indignant disciples and they’re there and they know Jesus has again said, “I’m going to die” and they know the hatred in the city, even by the religious leaders and collusion with the political leaders. They’re offering commentary about a gift that Jesus now says is beautiful. And you know what is so remarkable to me? He loves these men and he draws attention to what truly he has just told us. “I’m going to be crucified. She is preparing my body for my funeral. Man, I am going to die. I’m going to die for you.”

This memorial, I love how in verse 13, again, Jesus gives us this word that he is so fond of because he is the embodiment of it, this gospel. What does he mean by this gospel? Well, I think functionally we would say there are many wannabe gospels or things that pretend to be gospel but are not. No, this gospel that directly relates to what I am knowingly, gladly going to do. This gospel will indeed, spread throughout the world. Don’t even lose that detail here. The gospel will be preached throughout the world, Jesus says, even as the religious leaders are trying to exterminate his name from human history.

Now today, we fulfilled a part of what Jesus said here because we’ve read the story, right? We’ve heard her name is Mary. She was a woman with a sister, Martha, with a real brother, Lazarus, and they were needy and they were confused, and we have documented where they questioned Jesus’ reasons and timing. They’re just like us. What is remembered is this gospel.

Thirdly, are four parts of this text. Now, along with this beautiful anointing, we move into another tragic, tragic, tragic, ugly scene: Judas’ treacherous betrayal. Look at verse 14, “Then one of the 12…” That’s how Jesus would refer to this company even when they became the 11, “Then one of the 12, the one called Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?’.” Hear the bartering process here; it’s going to be an exchange of currency of value. Mary’s family has said, “We take an heirloom and we say, ‘Jesus, you are this worthy and we bless you for what you already done for us’.”

“So how much are you willing to give me if I give you Jesus?” You’ve heard of course the language here of this text, but oh friends, we’ve got to sit in this. So they counted out for him: 30 pieces of silver. Some of us maybe historically knowing even the prophecy in the Old Testament about 30 pieces of silver or have heard the story. If you kind of think, “Man, I bet a piece of silver in that day- it would’ve bought you a house in Brentwood.” You would be very wrong. And as part of the tragedy of devaluing Jesus by those who should absolutely be astonished at this value, 30 pieces of silver in Old Testament law is what you would have to pay your neighbor if your ox got out of your stall and killed one of his slaves – 30 pieces of silver, about 25 bucks.   

Caiaphas, how much does Jesus mean to you?  Nothing, but I know you love money. Here’s some chump change $25. Deal. Where do I sign? How do we understand Judas putting a value on Jesus? Well, his name in Latin, Iscariot. Some, again, people a lot smarter than me have assumed this might be an indication. The Latin translation of his name would say that quite possibly he was a part of the Zealot community. Zealots were those who hated Rome more than they loved God, even though they would identify with believing community. And maybe Judas is beginning to realize, “This isn’t the Messiah I wanted. No. Whatever – a few coffees, $25.”

Text continues. Verse 16, and again, this is…<sigh>… “From then on, Judas watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over.” Now Jesus knew that. We’ll see this as the text continues. So verse 17, “On the first day of the festival of unleavened bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Where do you want us to go to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ He replied, ‘Go into a city to a certain man and tell him the teacher says my appointed time is near’.” Once again, hold on and treasure that phrase. You’ll remember back in early the way John records the story of Jesus, the Wedding at the Cana of Galilee and there’s a wedding and the wine is running low. Jesus’s mother comes to Jesus knowing, “This is a unique son I have, he can probably handle some wine.” And do you remember what Jesus said to his own mom?  “My time is not yet.”

We see here Jesus now is saying “With regard to this Passover, tell my friend my time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover.” Again, I don’t know what images you grew up with Jesus. Was he just kind of white with an unwrinkled linen robe on with lambs close by and just polite and very quiet? He would celebrate the Passover. “I will celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your home. Tell my friend this.” Verse 19 “So the disciples did as Jesus directed them and prepared the Passover.” And again, that’s a pretty intensive process – the full meal, especially in the context of Israel. It is exciting, it is passionate. You’re careful to do it even if you don’t believe of a word of it.

Verse 20, “When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the 12.” Please notice how often in the gospels Jesus is not in a hurry with people. Jesus is reclining at the table with the 12. While they were eating, verse 21, “…He said, ‘Truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me’.” Alright, earlier we saw what? They were very indignant. Now the text says what? “They were very sad and began to say to him and to one another, ‘Surely you don’t mean me, Lord.’ Jesus replied, ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me’.” Do you see the proximity of that? If you’re dipping your hand into the bowl with Jesus, it means you’re right next to him. And that’s Judas. The Son of Man, again, understanding He, Jesus, is not just another rabbi. 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.

In verse 25, you just have to, again, connecting mentally, emotionally with the text. Look at this next phrase. “Then Judas,’ the one who would betray him says, ‘Surely you don’t mean me, rabbi.’ Jesus answered, ‘You have said so.’

And now we move into the final part of our text and oh my goodness, what a day to linger here and to consider the honor of adoring the one who does these things and did this very thing. “While they’re eating,” verse 26, “Jesus took bread,” which would’ve been a normal part of the process. This Passover meal, it’s got bread, it’s got herbs, it’s got all kind of things, cups of wine. All highlighting, again, the wonders of the God who redeems, but something different is about to take place. “While they were eating, Jesus took bread and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples saying…”

Now look at me just for a minute. We’ve seen their indignation, we’ve heard of their sadness, though Matthew does not record this, these disciples and anybody else that might have been in the room would’ve now been scandalized, offended, shocked, undone because consider what Jesus is now saying. Again, this is the Passover meal; Israel’s most sacred meal. “Take and eat. This is my body. Then he took a cup. And when he had given thanks, he gave it to them 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’.”

Friends, I don’t know what’s shocking to you. I don’t know when you think I was most incredulously undone, offended, overwhelmed. Let me tell you, yours pales in comparison to what’s going on here. Jesus is claiming to be the meaning, the essence, the fulfillment of Israel’s Passover. He is clearly saying he is the past who delivers. He is the one who alone gives forgiveness; His body, His blood given for us. The call is to not sample, but feast all of you. Our faith story is the most welcoming and inclusive. It is one that guarantees that our God by the work of Jesus will have a forever covenant family from every single people group that have ever existed -so many they are impossible to count as John writes in the book of Revelation chapter 7.

The pouring out, there’s been a pouring out of oil upon the head of Jesus because his burial is not simply the end of his life. It’s the beginning of our life, eternal life, free life for those who hate Jesus, for those who value him $25 worth. We’re throwing those stones at anybody in this story. Jesus continues, look at verse 29. See, he’s even used words here that remind us Jesus is thinking of all the promises of the new covenant that Jeremiah and Ezekiel recorded what God would do, what God would… “I will cut a new covenant.” Jesus is saying “It is me.” And you see, look at verse 29 because it gives us the hope that we need.

“Now, I tell you,” says Jesus, “I will not drink from the fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom”. Now again, those of you that know the story, what is Jesus talking about here? When will we literally partake of this meal with Jesus? Give me two words. First one starts with W, second one starts with D, your wedding day; the wedding feast of the Lamb. This one who is laid down his life, this one who is saying “Whatever value you put on me, here’s how I value you. I am coming back. I am coming back and I give you the perfection of my life lived in your place.” See, even before this body was broken on the cross, Jesus’ life, His body lived in our place fulfilling every demand of the law. The law no longer condemns us. It highlights how much we need Jesus and how gladly and freely he shed his blood.

Where did this, again, this incredulous, overwhelming group of handpicked men go next? Well, let me highlight this last verse then we’ll pray and then we’ll prepare to come to this table. Again, I don’t want to eisegete, to read something that’s not in the text, but please understand this would’ve been scandalous for any human being to say, “I fulfill this meal. I am bread from heaven.” He does so and then they go. And whoever’s preaching next week for you, I wish I could be back, but I’ll be in another state and another place, Peter is going to deny he even knew Jesus. Disciples are going to scatter – all of them – and Jesus knows that.

And Jesus, as he begins to move now with them, what does He do? What does He do? What does he do? Last verse 30, “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”  Do you know how much Jesus loves you? Would you pray with me?

Lord Jesus, thank you for in your sovereignty, giving me the privilege to camp out in a text that I have not inhabited for quite some time in this way. Thank you, Lord Jesus. There’s nothing more than the gospel, just more of it, this gospel. Not of our do or try harder, not of us feeling shame that we might woman up or man up for the next season of trying to put a smile on your face. Jesus, we are desperate sinners whom you love. And you sing with us and you sing over us and you’re coming for us. And together we cry out Hallelujah, what a savior. Hallelujah, what a salvation Jesus In your name. Amen.

Edited for reading.

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