“Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good;
his love is eternal!” 2 Repeat these words in praise to the Lord,
all you whom he has saved.
He has rescued you from your enemies 3 and has brought you back from foreign countries,
from east and west, from north and south.
God rescues wanderers.
4 Some wandered in the trackless desert
and could not find their way to a city to live in. 5 They were hungry and thirsty
and had given up all hope. 6 Then in their trouble they called to the Lord,
and he saved them from their distress. 7 He led them by a straight road
to a city where they could live. 8 They must thank the Lord for his constant love, for the wonderful things he did for them. 9 He satisfies those who are thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.
These verses make a lovely table grace:
“We thank the Lord for His constant love, and the wonderful things He does for us. He satisfies those who are thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”
God rescues prisoners.
10 Some were living in gloom and darkness,
prisoners suffering in chains, 11 because they had rebelled against the commands of Almighty God
and had rejected his instructions. 12 They were worn out from hard work;
they would fall down, and no one would help. 13 Then in their trouble they called to the Lord,
and he saved them from their distress.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
14 He brought them out of their gloom and darkness
and broke their chains in pieces. 15 They must thank the Lord for his constant love, for the wonderful things he did for them. 16 He breaks down doors of bronze
and smashes iron bars.
God rescues the sick.
17 Some were fools, suffering because of their sins
and because of their evil; 18 they couldn’t stand the sight of food
and were close to death. 19 Then in their trouble they called to the Lord,
and he saved them from their distress.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.
20 He healed them with his command
and saved them from the grave. 21 They must thank the Lord for his constant love, for the wonderful things he did for them. 22 They must thank him with sacrifices,
and with songs of joy must tell all that he has done.
God rescues the storm-tossed.
23 Some sailed over the ocean in ships,
earning their living on the seas. 24 They saw what the Lord can do,
his wonderful acts on the seas.
25 He commanded, and a mighty wind began to blow
and stirred up the waves. 26 The ships were lifted high in the air
and plunged down into the depths.
In such danger the sailors lost their courage; 27 they stumbled and staggered like drunks—
all their skill was useless. 28 Then in their trouble they called to the Lord,
and he saved them from their distress. 29 He calmed the raging storm,
and the waves became quiet. 30 They were glad because of the calm,
and he brought them safe to the port they wanted.
Click HERE to hear this passage combined with a story of Jesus from Matthew 8.
31 They must thank the Lord for his constant love, for the wonderful things he did for them. 32 They must proclaim his greatness in the assembly of the people
and praise him before the council of the leaders.
33 The Lord made rivers dry up completely
and stopped springs from flowing. 34 He made rich soil become a salty wasteland
because of the wickedness of those who lived there. 35 He changed deserts into pools of water
and dry land into flowing springs.
A Prayer for the World by Rabbi Harold Kushner
Let the rain come and wash away the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds held and nurtured over generations. Let the rain wash away the memory of the hurt, the neglect. Then let the sun come out and fill the sky with rainbows. Let the warmth of the sun heal us wherever we are broken. Let it burn away the fog so that we can see each other clearly. So that we can see beyond labels, beyond accents, gender or skin color. Let the warmth and brightness of the sun melt our selfishness. So that we can share the joys and feel the sorrows of our neighbors. And let the light of the sun be so strong that we will see all people as our neighbors. Let the earth, nourished by rain, bring forth flowers to surround us with beauty. And let the mountains teach our hearts to reach upward to heaven.
36 He let hungry people settle there,
and they built a city to live in. 37 They sowed the fields and planted grapevines
and reaped an abundant harvest. 38 He blessed his people, and they had many children;
he kept their herds of cattle from decreasing.
39 When God’s people were defeated and humiliated
by cruel oppression and suffering, 40 he showed contempt for their oppressors
and made them wander in trackless deserts. 41 But he rescued the needy from their misery
and made their families increase like flocks. 42 The righteous see this and are glad,
but all the wicked are put to silence.
43 May those who are wise think about these things;
may they consider the Lord’s constant love.
Back to the title, if you will, of this psalm — “In Praise of God’s Goodness.” This is a piece that sings the same idea. Delirious (a British Christian rock and modern worship band) and probably their most famous song, “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever,” from 1994. Sing along in your heart — it’s good practice for Heaven!
Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever! 2 Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord,
or declare all his praise? 3 Blessed are they who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times!
Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
4 Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people;
help me when you save them, 5 that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation,
that I may glory with your inheritance.
6 Both we and our fathers have sinned;
we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness. 7 Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
did not consider your wondrous works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. 8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
that he might make known his mighty power. 9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry,
and he led them through the deep as through a desert.
from Whispers of His Power, by Amy Carmichael
Psalm 106:9 — He led them through the depths, as through the wilderness.
“Led” means there “caused to go on.” We all want to go on, not through the shallows but through the depths of prayer. The wild donkey of the Mexican deserts digs and digs in the sand until it finds water. It invariably does. What our wonderful God can do for His donkeys in the natural world He can do for those of us who are just that in the spiritual.
Let us allow all sorts of things to act as reminders, as calls to prayer. For example, once when held up by traffic on the road, the friend with me talked of someone who was lonely; thereafter, to be held up on the roads reminded me to pray for the lonely of the earth.
Then there is the flash of memory. A name, place, person, or something seen or heard or read flashes for one second across the mind. It can be lost or turned to prayer; the choice is with us.
As we go on practicing prayer in this simple way we can trust that He who caused His people to go through the depths as through an open wilderness will cause us also to go through these deeper places of prayer. The patient Spirit will help us in our weakness, for though we do not know how to pray as we ought, He Himself prays for us (Romans 8:26).
As a child growing up on an Iowa farm, I was given the task of the family’s ironing (see picture above, ha ha!). My mother taught me to pray for the person whose clothing I was ironing. It is a habit I do not choose to break, even though I do precious little ironing these days!
Joyce Meyer suggests hanging plaques of Bible verses around the house, to remind us to pray, to give thanks, to praise, to confess. Others listen to Christian music as they work at home or as they travel to keep themselves in a prayerful frame of mind and heart. I encourage us all to be more intentional in taking every thought and every minute captive to Christ, that He may lead us deeper and deeper into fellowship with Him.
10 So he saved them from the hand of the foe
and redeemed them from the power of the enemy. 11 And the waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them was left. 12 Then they believed his words;
they sang his praise.
13 But they soon forgot his works;
they did not wait for his counsel. 14 But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
and put God to the test in the desert; 15 he gave them what they asked,
but sent a wasting disease among them.
I like how the King James Version puts verse 15:
And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.
Let us not seek the material gifts if they come without spiritual blessing! Better a thin body, and a thin pocketbook, than a thin soul!
16 When men in the camp were jealous of Moses
and Aaron, the holy one of the Lord, 17 the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,
and covered the company of Abiram. 18 Fire also broke out in their company;
the flame burned up the wicked.
19 They made a calf in Horeb
and worshiped a metal image. 20 They exchanged the glory of God
for the image of an ox that eats grass.
by contemporary artist Wilfried Joye of Belgium
21 They forgot God, their Savior,
who had done great things in Egypt, 22 wondrous works in the land of Ham,
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. 23 Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.
24 Then they despised the pleasant land,
having no faith in his promise. 25 They murmured in their tents,
and did not obey the voice of the Lord. 26 Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them
that he would make them fall in the wilderness, 27 and would make their offspring fall among the nations,
scattering them among the lands.
Which countries in the world have the largest Jewish population?
According to Wikipedia: Israel and the USA each have over 5 million Jews. Next is France, with less than 500,000. Then Canada, the UK, Russia, Argentina, Germany, and Brazil.
28 Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor,
and ate sacrifices offered to the dead; 29 they provoked the Lord to anger with their deeds,
and a plague broke out among them. 30 Then Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was stayed. 31 And that was counted to him as righteousness
from generation to generation forever.
32 They angered him at the waters of Meribah,
and it went ill with Moses on their account, 33 for they made his spirit bitter,
and he spoke rashly with his lips.
34 They did not destroy the peoples,
as the Lord commanded them, 35 but they mixed with the nations
and learned to do as they did. 36 They served their idols,
which became a snare to them.
from Luther’s Small Catechism:
The First Commandment.
Thou shalt have no other gods.
What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.
37 They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to the demons; 38 they poured out innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was polluted with blood. 39 Thus they became unclean by their acts,
and played the whore in their deeds.
Joining themselves to a false god, they became spiritual adulterers.
Lord, where am I playing loose with You? Where do I not fear, love, and trust You above all things?
40 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people,
and he abhorred his heritage; 41 he gave them into the hand of the nations,
so that those who hated them ruled over them. 42 Their enemies oppressed them,
and they were brought into subjection under their power. 43 Many times he delivered them,
but they were rebellious in their purposes
and were brought low through their iniquity.
44 Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress,
when he heard their cry. 45 For their sake he remembered his covenant,
and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. 46 He caused them to be pitied
by all those who held them captive.
47 Save us, O Lord our God,
and gather us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.
48 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!
And let all the people say, “Amen!”
Praise the Lord!
Jewish music with pictures of synagogues around the world. The first song is “Oseh Shalom” and the second is “Am Israel Chai.” They are both sung by Sam Glaser who also plays the piano. Click HERE to listen.
By nothing else except the death of our Lord Jesus Christ
has death been brought low:
The sin of our first parent destroyed,
the power given us to despise the things of this world,
even death itself,
the road back to the former blessedness made smooth,
the gates of paradise opened,
our perfected nature seated at the right hand of God,
and we made children and heirs of God.
. . .
Matthew 28 (NRSV)
The Resurrection of Jesus
“Christ, the Lord, Is Risen Today” sung by Steve Green.
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
2And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.
from Edges of His Ways, by Amy Carmichael
Mark 16: 3,4 — [The women] said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.
Matthew 28: 2 — And the angel of the Lord . . . came . . .and sat upon it.
Let us look out for angels when impossible things lie ahead. Think of impossibilities being turned into seats for angels! Have we not a wonderful God? So whatever the difficulty is–something we do not know how to do, or some inward matter–we shall see it rolled away, and more than that, turned to some unexpected good. I do enjoy that calm word, And the angel sat upon it.
5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.
There are several examples in the Bible of people being resuscitated before this, such as the widow’s son in the days of Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24) and Lazarus (John 11:38-44). Each of these was resuscitated from death, but none of them were resurrected. Each of them was raised in the same body they died in, and raised from the dead to eventually die again. Resurrection isn’t just living again; it is living again in a new body, based on our old body, perfectly suited for life in eternity. Jesus was not the first one brought back from the dead, but He was the first one resurrected.
Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”
The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem
8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Hymn: “Go to Dark Gethsemane” (verse 4)
Early hasten to the tomb Where they laid his breathless clay; All is solitude and gloom. Who has taken him away? Christ is ris’n! He meets our eyes. Savior, teach us so to rise.
–James Montgomery (1771-1854)
The Report of the Guard
11While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. 12After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13telling them, “You must say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day.
The power of God is now and has always been the power to raise us from the dead. Period. It is not about us. It is about God. Our only role is to stick our feet straight up in the air and admit that without God we might as well be put to bed with a shovel. Now that is a message that can empty a church out fast.
–from God in Pain, by Barbara Brown Taylor
The Commissioning of the Disciples
16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
“We believe in this power, and we rest in it.”
–Charles Haddon Spurgeon
19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
“When Christ saith, ‘I will be with you,’ you may add what you will; to protect you, to direct you, to comfort you, to carry on the work of grace in you, and in the end to crown you with immortality and glory. All this and more is included in this precious promise.”
I CAN TELL MY WORLD about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!
Please share with your online “DWELLING in the Word” Bible-reading community what the Gospel of Matthew has said to your heart, soul, and mind. Click on “Leave a Comment” below. Thank you!
When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death. 2They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.
Various scholars on Pontius Pilate:
“Pilate was in fact appointed prefect or procurator by Tiberius Caesar in a.d. 26. Prefects governed small, troubled areas; and in judicial matters they possessed powers like those of the far more powerful proconsuls and imperial legates; in short, they held the power of life and death.”
–D. A. Carson
“The ordinary residence of procurators was Caesarea, on the sea coast, but it was their custom to be in Jerusalem at Passover time, with a detachment of soldiers, to watch over the public peace.”
–F. F. Bruce
“Philo, the ancient Jewish scholar from Alexandria, described Pilate: ‘His corruption, his acts of insolence, his rapine, his habit of insulting people, his cruelty, his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never-ending gratuitous and most grievous inhumanity.'”
The Suicide of Judas
3When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”
But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.”
5Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.
“Judas Hangs Himself” by Jean Colombe, 1485 (Musee Conde, Chantilly)
6But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.” 7After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners. 8For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price, 10and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”
Pilate Questions Jesus
11Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus said, “You say so.”
12But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. 13Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” 14But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
Barabbas or Jesus?
15Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 17So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over.
19While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.”
“Le Rêve de la femme de Pilate” (“The dream of Pilate’s wife”). Engraving by Alphonse François (1814-1888) after Gustave Doré.
20Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed.
21The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?”
And they said, “Barabbas.”
22Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”
All of them said, “Let him be crucified!”
23Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?”
But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
Pilate Hands Jesus over to Be Crucified
“Jesus Before Pilate” charcoal print by Jan Richardson
24So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”
Spurgeon marvels that Pilate could commit murder, and then disclaim it. Oh, the lies we tell ourselves about our own sins!
25Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”
26So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
Hymn: “Go to Dark Gethsemane” (verse 2)
Follow to the judgment hall, View the Lord of life arraigned. Oh, the wormwood and the gall! Oh, the pangs his soul sustained! Shun not suffering, shame, or loss; Learn from him to bear the cross.
–James Montgomery (1771-1854)
The Soldiers Mock Jesus
“Le Christ aux injures” by contemporary French artist Macha Chmakoff
“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” — Fernando Ortega, with verses of Scripture and pictures from the movie The Passion of Christ.
27Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. 28They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
“Were You There when They Crucified My Lord?” by Johnny Cash and the Carter Family, 1960.
The Crucifixion of Jesus
“Jesus is nailed to the cross” stained glass window from St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, Layton, Utah.
32As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross.
There is reason to believe that Simon came to know what it really meant to take up one’s cross and follow Jesus, for there is some evidence to suggest that his sons became leaders among the early Christians (Mark 15:21 and Romans 16:13).
33And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.
Psalm 69:21 (New American Standard Bible)
They also gave me gall for my food And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
35And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; 36then they sat down there and kept watch over him.
Psalm 22:18 (New American Standard Bible)
They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.
37Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”
38Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads 40and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, 42“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 43He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’” 44The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.
Psalm 22:7 (New American Standard Bible)
All who see me sneer at me; They separate with the lip, they wag the head.
The Death of Jesus
45From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46And about three o”clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Psalm 22:1 (New American Standard Bible)
My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.
47When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.”
48At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”
50Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.
54Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
55Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. 56Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
Hymn: “Go to Dark Gethsemane” (verse 3)
Calvary’s mournful mountain climb; There, adoring at his feet Mark that miracle of time, God’s own sacrifice complete. “It is finished!” hear him cry; Learn from Jesus Christ to die.
–James Montgomery (1771-1854)
The Burial of Jesus
57When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. 61Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
The tomb of Jesus, in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem
The Guard at the Tomb
62The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.”
65Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” 66So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.
from Meditations on the Cross,
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 – 1945):
We stand between Good Friday and Easter, the days of God’s overpowering deeds in history, the deeds in which God judgment and grace were made visible to the world: –Judgment, in those hours when Jesus Christ, the Lord, hung on the cross; –Grace, in the hour when death was devoured by victory. No human beings acted here. No, God alone did this. He walked the path to the people in endless love. He judged what is human. And He gave grace beyond merit.
When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 2“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”
3Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, 4and they conspired to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.
Psalm 2:2 (New American Standard Bible)
The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed.
5But they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”
They didn’t want to put Jesus to death during the Passover feast, but that is exactly how it happened. This is another subtle indication that Jesus was in control of events, as they in fact killed Him on the very day that they didn’t want to.
The Anointing at Bethany
“A Woman Anoints Jesus” by Floridian artist Jan Richardson, 2006.
6Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table.
8But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste? 9For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.”
10But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. 11For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. 13Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Nothing we give to Jesus is ever wasted, but may indeed be greater than we think.
Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus
14Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
No high and noble motives here — Judas betrays Jesus for his own greed, and for a relatively small amount of money.
The Passover with the Disciples
Jews celebrate Passover today with a meal which includes a Seder plate. Often the food on the plate is roasted egg, bitter herbs, roasted lamb shankbone, an apple-walnut salad called charoset, horseradish, and parsley. Matzo bread, red wine, and salt water are also important to the meal.
17On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
18He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.
20When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; 21and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
22And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?”
23He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”
Psalm 41:9 (New American Standard Bible)
Even my close friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me.
25Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”
He replied, “You have said so.”
A final call to repentance for Judas.
The Institution of the Lord’s Supper
“Bread and Wine” by Norwegian painter Kjersti Timenes, 2003.
26While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”
27Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks
In the ancient Greek language, “thanks” is the word eucharist. This is why the commemoration of the Lord’s Table is sometimes called the Eucharist.
he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
30When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
“Come to the Table” sung by Michael Card. Yes, you are surely invited!
Peter’s Denial Foretold
31Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”
33Peter said to him, “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.”
34Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”
35Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples.
Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
The traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives.
36Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. 38Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.”
39And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”
Psalm 40:6-8 (New American Standard Bible)
Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired; My ears You have opened; Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.”
40Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? 41Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”
43Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.
45Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
Hymn: “Go to Dark Gethsemane” (verse 1)
Go to dark Gethsemane, All who feel the tempter’s power; Your Redeemer’s conflict see. Watch with him one bitter hour; Turn not from his griefs away: Learn from Jesus Christ to pray.
–James Montgomery (1771-1854)
The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
47While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
Judas kisses Jesus — fresco by Giotto di Bondone at the Arena Chapel (Cappella Scrovegni), Padua, Italy, painted between 1304-1306.
50Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.”
Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. 51Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
52Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?”
55At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
Jesus before the High Priest
“Christ Before the High Priest” by Garrit van Honthorst, 1617 (National Gallery, London)
57Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58But Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest; and going inside, he sat with the guards in order to see how this would end.
59Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, 60but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward.
Psalm 27:12 (New American Standard Bible)
Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries, For false witnesses have risen against me, And such as breathe out violence.
At last two came forward 61and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’”
62The high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” 63But Jesus was silent.
Then the high priest said to him, “I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
64Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
65Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66What is your verdict?”
They answered, “He deserves death.”
67Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him, 68saying, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?”
Peter’s Denial of Jesus
69Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.”
71When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.”
73After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!”
At that moment the cock crowed. 75Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
The St. Matthew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach, BMV 244, composed in 1727, sets Matthew chapters 26 and 27 to music. Here is an excerpt with the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and soloists.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.
All ten of the maidens slept, because the bridegroom was delayed. But the wise ones were prepared to act immediately when they were unexpectedly awakened. The foolish maidens were not prepared.
“The Wise Virgins” by James Tissot (Brooklyn Museum).
6″But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’
7“Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’
9“But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’
“The Foolish Virgins” by James Tissot (Brooklyn Museum).
10“And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut.
11″Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’
12“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’
13“Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
The point of this parable is simple – be ready. The price for failing to be ready is too high.
“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” a pop-rock gem by Chicago, a 1982 performance.
The Parable of the Talents
“The Parable of the Talents” by Rembrandt, 1652 (Louvre).
14“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.
A talent was a weight, not a coin. So the value of a talent depended upon what was being weighed. But suffice it to say that each of the three slaves received a large amount.
16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19“After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’
21“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
22“And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’
23“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
“It is better to be faithful in the infant-school than to be unfaithful in a noble class of young men. Better to be faithful in a hamlet over two or three score of people, than to be unfaithful in a great-city parish, with thousands perishing in consequence. Better to be faithful in a cottage meeting, speaking of Christ crucified to half-a hundred villagers, than to be unfaithful in a great building where thousands congregate.”
–Charles Haddon Spurgeon
24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’
He didn’t work. He didn’t even try. All he did was offer excuses.
26“But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest.
28″So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Some think that readiness for Jesus’ return is a very spiritual and abstract thing. It really isn’t — it is a matter of being about our business for the Lord. In light of this parable, we must ask ourselves: What have we done with our knowledge? Our time? Our money? Our abilities? The sins of omission [what we don’t do] may ultimately be more dangerous than the sins of commission [what we do].
Based on the parable of the talents, this video tells a story: A rich man hires three artists to paint for his wife. He leaves them with an incredible opportunity to paint with real gold. Twelve minutes long, but engaging! Click HERE to watch!
Giver of every perfect gift, You shape my life from womb to grave. Reveal Your good and gracious will that plants me in this time and space. Display the gifts assigned to me. Make me a witness to Your name.
You planned and know the gifts I have; Creator God, from You they come, unique and special, from Your heart, intended for a chosen role. Thrill me to find and recognize the talents only You can give.
Revealing Word, sent Son of God, proclaimer of the Kingdom’s dawn. It is for You, because of You, that every talent is bestowed. You have a part for me to fill, a purpose for this life of mine.
Enabling Spirit, Gift of gifts, empower me, stir up my faith, make me an instrument of grace, of mercy, blessing, peace, and joy. Let me not miss another day in seeing what Your gifts can do.
–K. Lee Scott
The Judgment of the Nations
“The Last Judgement” by Eric Gill, 1917 (Tate)
31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.
34″Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
37″Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’
40″And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
from Whispers of His Power, by Amy Carmichael:
Matthew 25:40 — “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.”
Think of it, every little thoughtful kindness we do for someone in need, our Lord notices. He takes it as service done to Him. Let us serve Him by serving others, however humbly, today.
41″Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
44″Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’
45″Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
46″And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
Matthew 24 (NRSV)
The Destruction of the Temple Foretold
As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple.
After the destruction of Solomon’s temple, this temple was originally built by Zerubbabel and Ezra (Ezra 6:15). Herod the Great (who ruled when Jesus was born) greatly expanded and improved it. This temple was the center of Jewish life for almost a thousand years – so much so, that it was customary to swear by the temple (Matthew 23:16), and speaking against the temple could be considered blasphemy (Acts 6:13).
After Herod’s work, the temple was huge: nearly 500 yards or meters long and 400 yards or meters wide. Herod’s plan for rebuilding started in 19 b.c. and was only completed in a.d. 63, taking more than 80 years. The temple was finished only seven years before it was destroyed.
But the Second Temple wasn’t just big; it was also beautiful. The Jewish historian Josephus said that the temple was covered with gold plates and when the sun shone on them it was blinding to look at. Where there was no gold, there were blocks of marble of such a pure white that from a distance strangers thought there was snow on the temple.
2Then he asked them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
Signs of the End of the Age
the Mount of Olives (Church of All Nations in foreground)
3When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
4Jesus answered them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 5For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’ and they will lead many astray. 6And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: 8all this is but the beginning of the birthpangs.
Romans 8:22-24 (ESV)
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.
9“Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. 10Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. 11And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. 13But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
from Whispers of His Power, by Amy Carmichael:
Matt. 24:13: He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (KJV)
He that shall endure unto the end — these words come three times in the Gospels. In Hebrews 3: 6 and 14 we have firm unto the end, steadfast unto the end, and twice the thought of hope is linked up with the word. If we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end, and The full assurance of hope unto the end (Heb. 6:11).
How much easier it would be if we knew when hearts that are holding out against the Lord would yield, or when some private trial of our own would pass. It was like that in Bible days; there was the same temptation to tire in hope and to fail in the joy of hope, to weaken and get slack. So we have those glorious, strong words in the Gospels and in Hebrews, and there is another that is sheer joy — 1 Corinthians 1:8: Our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also keep you steadfast to the very end.
So we can turn Jude 24-25 into praise and thanksgiving. “Now unto Him that is able to keep us from falling and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy . . . be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.”
Reflection question: What specific thing could you begin to do that would help you to “endure to the end”? Or what could you share with other people to help them continue to be faithful?
14And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.
The Desolating Sacrilege
15“So when you see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place, as was spoken of by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), 16then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; 17the one on the housetop must not go down to take what is in the house; 18the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat. 19Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! 20Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath. 21For at that time there will be great suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look! Here is the Messiah!’ or ‘There he is!’ —do not believe it. 24For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25Take note, I have told you beforehand.
. . . so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
26″So, if they say to you, ‘Look! He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look! He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
The Coming of the Son of Man
“Angel Playing Trumpet no. 2” by Andrzej Filipowicz .
29“Immediately after the suffering of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. 30Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see ‘the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory. 31And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
Now learn this lesson from the fig tree . . .
32“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 35Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
The Necessity for Watchfulness
36“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
“I Wish We’d All Been Ready” written by Larry Norman (1947 – 2008), who has often been called the “father of Christian rock music.”
The Faithful or the Unfaithful Slave
45“Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? 46Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives.
What work are you doing for the Master today?
47Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. 48But if that wicked slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. 51He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
“Christ Lamenting over Jerusalem” by Sir Charles Lock Eastlake, 1846 (The Tate Collection, London)
Matthew 23 (NRSV)
Jesus Denounces Scribes and Pharisees
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. 5They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi.
8″But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
13“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.
The plans of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful.
15″Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
A violent man entices his neighbor and leads him down a path that is not good.
16“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’ 17You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? 18And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.’ 19How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; 21and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; 22and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.
Stay away from a foolish man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips.
23“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. 24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.
25“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.
Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.
27“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. 28So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.
29“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, 30and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. 33You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?
Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free.
34“Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, 35so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.
“Getting it wrong” by David Baer, President and CEO, Overseas Council
In the gospels’ presentation, the scribes and Pharisees come across as villainous for two reasons. First, they fail to discern the scale of relative priorities the orders the manifold demands of Torah. Second, they strain after a public pose while neglecting the righteous internal life that organically produces a public reputation.
In the face of these two failures, Jesus is merciless.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean. (Matthew 23:23–26 NRSV)
Hypocrisy is endlessly subtle and supple. Its capacity for adapting to the self-protective requirements of the moment is almost inexhaustible.
Yet it pivots upon these two sins, making righteousness all the more difficult for those who by ignorance or principle fail to play by ‘pharisaical’ religion’s arbitrary and self-referential rules.
In Jesus’ dialect, those who act this way—no matter how nicely starched their robes—are sons of hell.
. . . as a hen gathers her chicks under her wing . . .
37“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38See, your house is left to you, desolate. 39For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
“Yerushalayim Shel Zaha” (“Jerusalem of Gold”) sung by Ofra Haza. (You may remember this song from the closing scene of the movie Schindler’s List.)
A king prepared a wedding banquet for his son . . .
Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.
The Hebrews, like other people of the ancient Near East, were enormously fond of social feasting. At the three great religious feasts, which all males were expected to attend, each family held its own feast. Sacrifices were also accompanied by an extensive meal, and there were feasts on birthdays, at marriages, at funerals, at the laying of foundations, for vintage, for sheep-shearing, and on other occasions. At a large banquet a second invitation was often sent on the day of the feast, or a servant escorted the invitees to the banquet.
–from The Archaeological Bible
4“Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’
5“But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
8“Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless.
Isaiah 61:10 (New Living Translation)
I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.
13″Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.”
The Question about Paying Taxes
15Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”
18But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?”
21They answered, “The emperor’s.”
Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Psalm 24:1 (New International Version)
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it.
22When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.
The Question about the Resurrection
Elizabeth Taylor — a woman with seven husbands! The lucky guys were Nicky Hilton, Michael Wilding, Michael Todd, Eddie Fischer, Richard Burton (twice), John Warner, and Larry Fortensky.
23The same day some Sadducees came to him, saying there is no resurrection; and they asked him a question, saying, 24“Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies childless, his brother shall marry the widow, and raise up children for his brother.’ 25Now there were seven brothers among us; the first married, and died childless, leaving the widow to his brother. 26The second did the same, so also the third, down to the seventh. 27Last of all, the woman herself died. 28In the resurrection, then, whose wife of the seven will she be? For all of them had married her.”
29Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. 30For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
Jesus delivers a double whammy. He refers both to life after death and to angels — two beliefs which the Sadducees did not accept.
31And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, 32‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living.”
33And when the crowd heard it, they were astounded at his teaching.
The Greatest Commandment
34When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
37He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
“Love the Lord” by musical artist and pastor Lincoln Brewster (born 1971).
The Question about David’s Son
41Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: 42“What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?”
They said to him, “The son of David.”
43He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, 44‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? 45If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” 46No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
John 12:13 says the people of Jerusalem welcomed Jesus by waving palm branches.
Matthew 21 (NRSV)
Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.”
4This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5“Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Psalm 24:8 (New American Standard Bible)
Who is the King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle.
“Hosanna” by Phil Driscoll, singer and trumpeter.
“God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord” by Annie Vallotton for the Good News Bible, 1976.
10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?”
11The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Christians holding palm branches during a Palm Sunday procession on the Mount of Olives. (The Dome of the Rock mosque is in the background.)
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
12Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.
Barclay notes, “A pair of doves could cost as little as 4p outside the Temple and as much as 75p inside the Temple.” This is almost 20 times more expensive.
13He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.”
“Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple” by New Zealand artist Michael Smither, 1972 (Victoria University of Wellington Art Collection, New Zealand)
14The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. 15But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry 16and said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?”
Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself’?”
17He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.
Jesus Curses the Fig Tree
“Fig Tree” by Swiss painter Paul Klee (1879-1940)
18In the morning, when he returned to the city, he was hungry. 19And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves. Then he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.
In a dramatic way, Jesus performed one of His few destructive miracles. His curse made the fig tree to wither away.
It is worth noting that the two destructive miracles of Jesus (this and the events that ended in the destruction of the herd of pigs, Matthew 8:30-32) – were not directed towards people.
20When the disciples saw it, they were amazed, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?”
21Jesus answered them, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done. 22Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.”
James 5:16 (New Living Translation)
The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
The Authority of Jesus Questioned
23When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
24Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?”
And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 2
7So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”
“The could not say, ‘Of men,’ for they were cowards. They would not say, ‘Of heaven,’ for they were hypocrites.”
–G. Campbell Morgan, 1863 – 1945, British evangelist, preacher, and Bible scholar
And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
The Parable of the Two Sons
a vineyard in Israel’s Hefer Valley
28“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’
29He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went.
30The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go.
31Which of the two did the will of his father?”
They said, “The first.”
What matters in our lives is the doing of God’s will, not just the saying of proper religious words.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.
The Parable of the Wicked Tenants
33“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce.
35But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
38But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” 39So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
40Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
41They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”
42Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? 43Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. 44The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”
45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them.
“Who told them so, but their own guilty consciences?”
46They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.