The Prophet Who Fulfills Prophecy
Scripture: Matthew 26:47–68
The Prophet Who Fulfills ProphecyMatthew 26:47-68, 27:1-10
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Pastor Randy Smith
Often when we think of Jesus we think of His teaching and miracles and then His crucifixion and resurrection. Today's passage bridges the gap. It takes us from the point Jesus is removed from His disciples up to the precipice where He is about to be executed. We have before us the betrayal and trial of the Passion Week. We enter the final day of Jesus' earthly life.
I suppose there are many ways we can handle this text. But in praying for a package in which to present these verses, the emphasis on fulfilled prophecy kept jumping to my attention. Some of the references are indirect and hidden, while others are unmistakable. Verse 54, "How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?" Verse 56, "But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets." In verse 61 the enemies challenged one of Jesus' prophecies and in verse 68 they mock His claims to be a prophet.
The Old Testament book of Isaiah was written about six hundred years before the time of Christ. In that wonderful biblical book Isaiah the prophet under God's inspiration spoke specifically about the coming Messiah. I find it amazing how much Isaiah 53 predicted many of the events with amazing precision in our passage from this morning.
Today I would like to study Matthew 26 under the lens of Isaiah 53 to gain a greater conviction for the authenticity of Jesus Christ and a greater appreciation for the One who loved us enough to redeem us in the face of death.
1. THE SORROWFUL AND GRIEVING ONE
Let's begin with the first point. Isaiah 53:3 predicted the Messiah would be "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."
It is hard to pick a point when Jesus was not acquainted with grief. Last week we learned, as He prayed in the Garden, that He was "grieved and depressed" (Mt. 26:37). He said Himself, "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death" (Mt. 26:38). Consuming His mind was the reality that our sins would be placed upon Him and that He as our substitute would pay the penalty we deserve as the Father's wrath would come down upon Him in all its fury. This is what Jesus dreaded the most, knowing He would be rejected by the Father.
Going back further we see countless examples of the grief He experienced. Imagine teaching your disciples about humility and all they want to do is argue as to who will be the greatest. Imagine feeding people and healing the sick, only to be discarded when the gifts stop coming. Imagine being sent from God, and your biggest critics are the religious people. Imagine being rejected by your own nation, moreover your hometown, even to the extent where your family begins thinking you've lost your mind!
I suppose the grief goes even back to the day when Jesus was born. At one moment worshipped by the angels in heaven then instantly subjected to a wooden feeding trough because there was no room for Him in the inn. God comes down to earth to redeem His people, and an insignificant couple, a few dirty shepherds and a band of smelly animals are the only ones who seem to care.
As Jesus entered the final few hours of His earthly life, the grief only intensified. Consider the treachery of Judas, verse 47, "one of the twelve," the one Jesus referred to in verse 50 as "friend."
Little time elapsed from the moment Jesus dismissed Judas from the Supper (Jn. 13:27) to the time when Judas arrived in the Garden, verse 47, "accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs." Jesus trusted him as an intimate friend, but that intimate friend was motivated to sell the Son of God for thirty pieces of silver (Mt. 26:15). The trusted one became a traitor. The lessons on giving resulted in greed. The appreciation and opportunity from Jesus was seen as a wasted three years of his life. When the armed and angry posse came to arrest Jesus there was Judas out in front advising the mob.
And if the betrayal weren't enough, the means would make anyone's heart drop. It was dark. Isaiah 53 even prophesied that Jesus would be not unlike the people of His day in appearance (Isa. 53:2) - there was no halo over His head! Judas needed to give the aggressors a sign to identify Him. In verse 48 Judas said, "Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him." A kiss on the cheek back then was a mark of intimate love. Even Jesus could not help but comment, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss? (Lk. 22:48; cf. Pr. 27:6). I think of that song by Michael Card, "That's not what a kiss is for!"
This was hell's moment. Jesus willingly allowed Himself to be captured. He willingly allowed Himself to experience intense grief, to be obedient to the Father and to finish the work for which He came. Isaiah 53:11 speaks of the "anguish of His soul."
In a sense the sorrow Jesus experienced on earth has now come to an end. He presently sits in heaven clothed in infinite glory. But we have to ask, does He still feel grief? Is He still in some ways the "Man of Sorrows?" His enemies can no longer get Him (that's why they go after us), but is the greatest pain He experiences now resulting from the people He redeemed? Heartless worship? Loveless attitudes? Lukewarm commitment? Selective obedience? Does the One who suffered to purchase the church grieve when we fail to love the church? Does the One who suffered to make a way to the Father grieve when we fail to go to the Father in prayer and trust? Does the One who suffered to take away our sin grieve when we find pleasure in it?
And as we are considering sorrow, we have to remember the sorrow of Judas, also mentioned in this section. All sin has its consequences. Judas because of his choices brought tremendous agony upon himself. A chapter later we learn that he felt great remorse (Mt. 27:3) and went away and hung himself (Mt. 27:5). His immediate death ushered him into an eternity of hell.
2. THE DESPISED AND REJECTED ONE
Jesus was a "Man of Sorrows." What generated those sorrows? If I can put it into two words it would be because Jesus was "despised" and "rejected." Let's go to the second point and again consider the prophecy from Isaiah 53, again written hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. "He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him" (Isa. 53:3).
Have you ever been despised? Have you ever been rejected? It is amazing how we can still feel the sting of some childhood experiences. Being picked last for a team in gym class (give example). Publicly ridiculed by a teacher. Laughed at by an entire school bus (give example). A humiliating prank. Unfortunately the sceneries do not change as we age. Passed over for a raise because of a partial boss. Left outside of a clique. Isolated because of your faith in Christ. Abandoned because of an unfaithful spouse. You know how painful it is to be despised and rejected.
So who despised and rejected Jesus?
We already covered Judas. I am sure in Judas' heart there was some brewing animosity toward Jesus who demanded intense dedication and delivered unbelievable promises. At first a few things seemed promising. Then Judas realized his expectations were not being met. He realized hanging with Jesus could be dangerous. He realized the One who spoke of a glorious kingdom was prepared to die as common criminal. In the mind of Judas he probably thought, "What a waste of time. How did I ever let the Man lead me astray? I never got what I wanted from Him, so I might as well take advantage of the situation to recoup whatever I can from this lost opportunity."
It was predicted that Jesus would be despised and rejected.
How about the religious establishment? You would think they certainly would recognize and embrace their Messiah. Yet throughout the life of Jesus we have seen that they were His chief enemies. They too had different expectations. They felt Jesus was a threat to their power. They detested His continual correction of their practices. They hated Him and they wanted Him dead.
We see this very clearly in our account when Matthew describes the "so-called" trial. The Jewish laws were established: There shall be no trail permitted during at night. There shall be no conviction permitted at night. There shall be no hearings involving capital punishment during the Passover. There shall be no arrest brought about by a bribe. There shall be no person asked to incriminate himself. There shall be no sentence pronounced on the day the accused is convicted. This group knew these stipulations and they violated them all. Why? Out of sheer hatred for Jesus.
This was no trial. Simply put this was a plot resulting from their own anger. They devised it. They carried it out. They arrested Jesus. We saw that already. They sought the witnesses. Verse 59, "Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death." They became the witnesses. Verse 60, "They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward." They misinterpreted what Jesus meant to find a bogus reason to accuse Him. Verse 61, "This man stated, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.'" They forced Him to incriminate Himself. Verse 63, "I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God." They knew Jesus would lose either way He answered that question. After Jesus responds they condemned Him. Verses 65-66, "Then the high priest tore his robes and said, 'He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?' They answered, 'He deserves death!'" They treated Him with cruelty. Verse 67, "Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, 'Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?'" They led Him away to the Romans. They stirred up the crowd to demand Barabbas. They intimidated Pilate. They mocked Jesus again on the cross. What seething hatred!
It was predicted that Jesus would be despised and rejected.
Judas, the religious leaders, how about Jesus' disciples? Do they reject Him too? In verse 33 Peter promises, "Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away." Then we learned in verse 40 that he could not stay awake and pray with Jesus for one hour. In verse 51 the man attempted to take on the whole arresting party with a little knife. Then in verse 56 it says that he and all the disciples "left [Jesus] and fled." Next week we will learn how Peter denied even knowing Jesus, not once but three times (verse 75). Why did Peter do this? The simple answer is fear which displays a greater love for self than for Jesus. Peter rejected Jesus.
Do Jesus' disciples still despise and reject Him? You bet they do, although they might not put it exactly in those terms. How many times have we acted like Peter? Someone taking God's name in vain and we stand silent as if neither we nor God is offended. A chance to share Jesus and we stand silent after calculating the potential rejection. We despise and reject Him every time we depend on our own resources instead of His, demand our own will instead of His, love anything or anybody above Him.
All alone Jesus must suffer and die back then. All humans have rejected Him. You say, "God the Father was with Him, right?" No, in His most desperate hour He was not. He also rejected the Son. Isaiah 53:4, "He was smitten of God." Isaiah 53:10, "The Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief."
When the Son took our sin upon Himself, the Father turned His back as well. Based upon His perfect holiness, He was given no other option. As the Father must reject and punish sin, the Father must reject and punish the Son who became sin (2 Cor. 5:21). The words of Christ from the cross make this perfectly clear: "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Mt. 27:46).
It was predicted that Jesus would be despised and rejected. The times have not changed. For those who truly understand the claims of Jesus Christ, they are only given two options. Either fall at His feet and worship Him as Lord, or despise and reject Him remaining the lord of your own life. Jesus told the religious leaders in verse 64, "Hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Psm. 110:1; Dan. 7:13). If that is true, we had better have our lives right with Him! To reject Him in that sense will mean rejection for us!
3. THE SILENT AND INNOCENT ONE
So Jesus was sorrowful and grieving and despised and rejected. Lastly let's examine how He was silent and innocent.
First, how was He silent? Going back to Isaiah 53. In verse 7 we read, "He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth."
Verse 62, after the initial charges were brought forth, "The high priest stood up and said to Him, 'Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?'" Verse 63, "But Jesus kept silent."
Why did Jesus stay silent? Because He knew this whole trial was a sham. It was nothing more than a lynching mob. Their minds were closed to the truth. They cared less about the evidence. They had no intentions on giving Him a fair trial. Therefore He would not dignify their questions with a response. One commentator said it was the silence of innocence, dignity and trust in God.
Earlier Jesus was led away in the Garden without struggle, anger or rage, and even now at the trial He is in perfect control riding out the plan of God with perfect confidence. And when He was beaten and mocked in verses 67 and 68, there is no indication that He resisted or protested the actions. "Like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth" (Isa. 53:7). Peter said it well in his epistle: "While being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously" (1 Pet. 2:23).
Second, how was he innocent? Isaiah 53:9, "He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth."
In order to be our substitute on the cross, He needed to be without sin. And if you ever want a good case for the sinlessness of Christ, look here in Matthew 26. Gathered together are all the enemies of Jesus. They spied on Him. They watched Him like a hawk. They entertained the gossip. They knew God's law. Jesus was a public figure. But when there came a time to accuse Him of wrongdoing, none of them as desperate as they tried could accuse Him of a single legitimate sin. Even in the face of gross injustice and brutal hostility, Jesus never was found guilty of any wrongdoing.
He was silent, and He was innocent.
God's plan to save the world was unfolding as the Scriptures were being fulfilled to the smallest detail. Soon Jesus would fulfill the heart of Isaiah 53: "But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed… The Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering… As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities… He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors" (Isa. 53:5, 10a, 11, 12b).
So did the Jews kill Jesus? Was it the Romans? It is easy to blame others for their treatment of Him, but if I can personalize it, it was my sin that put Him on that cross. It was my fault that He needed to die. According to Isaiah 53 the griefs He bore and the sorrows He carried were mine (Isa. 53:4a). Yet because of that He has taken away my eternal sorrow that I deserved in hell and promises to take away my daily sorrow even now.
Is this true for you? Have you given your life to Jesus Christ?