Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses twenty through thirty-four of the twentieth chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find a transition occurring from when Jesus once more declared unto His disciples that age must needs go into Jerusalem and be betrayed into the hands of the scribes and Pharisees and be handed over to the gentiles to be put to death. One of the greatest realities I can’t help but find when considering the words Jesus spoke unto His disciples concerning His being betrayed, and even His being killed and crucified is that it was always linked to His resurrection in fact, it might very well be said that you could not talk about the betrayal of Jesus unto the hands of the scribes and Pharisees without ultimately talking about and bringing it full circle with His resurrection. If you talk about Jesus’ suffering at the hands of the scribes and the Pharisees, and even the Gentiles you must needs bring it back to the place of resurrection. What’s more, is that you can’t even talk about the death and crucifixion of Jesus without talking about and bringing it back to the place of resurrection. BETRAYAL IS NOT THE END OF THE STORY! SUFFERING IS NOT THE WND OF RHE STORY! DEATH IS NOT THE END OF THE STORY! YOUR STORY DOESN’T END HERE! I absolutely love reading the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples, for although He did make them aware of the fact that He would be betrayed unto the hands of the scribes and Pharisees, and would ultimately be put to death, that death would not be the end of His life, nor would it be the end of His story! Jesus knew that He must needs offer His life as a ransom for many, and He knew that He needed to go to the cross and to die at the hands of sinful men, but as surely as He knew that He also knew that He would be raised from death to life in the third day.
When we speak of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that the story of the life of Christ doesn’t end with His death. There were those who were present during those days immediately following the death and crucifixion of Jesus Christ who thought, felt and believed that death was the end of the story. This is tragically and unfortunately true of the disciples who were not only told that Jesus would die and be crucified, but also that He would rise again on the third day. It’s absolutely and utterly amazing that the disciples seemed to have forgotten the words which Jesus spoke unto them concerning His death and His resurrection, for when His body lie in the borrowed tomb those three days they hid away locked in an upper room for fear of retaliation against them for being followers of Jesus Christ. Even the two men who traveled along the road to Emmaus thought and believed that the death and crucifixion was the end of the story concerning Jesus Christ. In fact, even when they spoke with the risen Christ and did not know that it was Him, they asked Him if He was the only one in Jerusalem who did not know what had happened. What’s more, is that in their dialogue and conversation with Jesus the Christ they declared how they supposed that she would be the Messiah and would be the promised One who was to come. It is absolutely incredible and amazing to consider how men and women seemed to forget that Jesus—although He did emphatically declare that He would be killed and crucified at the hands of sinners, He would ultimately be raised from death to life on the third day. Although death was inevitable for Jesus and the cross was unavoidable, the tomb and resurrection from the tomb was just as certain and inevitable as death, crucifixion and burial in a borrowed tomb. Perhaps one of the greatest realities we can take from the words which Jesus proclaimed unto the disciples is that just as certain and just as inevitable as the cross and His death was, so also was His resurrection from death to life. What’s more, is that Jesus even out an expiration date on His death, as well as on His time in the grave.
THERES AN EXPIRATION DATE ON DEATH! THERES AN EXPIRATION DATE ON THE GRAVE! It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that when we speak of the death of Jesus we understand that there was most certainly and expiration date on His death, for He would not remain in the place of death forever. What’s more, is that when Jesus spoke of His being buried in the tomb, He emphatically placed an expiration date on His time in the grave. In other words—not only was resurrection inevitable, but there was also a clearly defined end to the tomb and the grave. When we speak of the death and burial of Jesus it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that His death was not the end, nor was His burial in the grave the end of the story, nor the end of His life. What’s more, is that this same reality was witnessed and proven in the life of His beloved friend Lazarus. If there is one thing I absolutely love about the New Testament gospels which were written by the apostles Matthew and John, as well as those which were written by Luke and Mark, it’s that each of the four gospels bring us face to face with the tremendous reality that death wasn’t the end of the line, nor was it the end of the story for the Lord Jesus Christ. Even more than this, we find in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John that death and the grave wasn’t even the end for the beloved friend of Jesus known as Lazarus. In fact, if you turn and direct your attention to the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of John you will find and discover that the apostle John writes and records concerning the account of the resurrection of Lazarus after he had been buried in the tomb for four days. What’s more than this, is that if you turn and direct your attention to the fifteenth chapter of the first New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints, you will find—not only an account of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, but also the implications of His resurrection for us who believe on His name and are called saints of the most High God. Consider if you will the written account of the life and death, then resurrected life of Lazarus whom Jesus loved along with his sisters Mary and Martha. Beginning with the first verse of the eleventh chapter you will find the following words written and recorded concerning Lazarus’s life and death, and ultimately his resurrection from the grave on the fourth day:
“Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which an ointment the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, He said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When He had heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days still in the same place where He was. Then after that saith He to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. His disciples say unto Him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, He stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. These things said He: and after that He saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said His disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that He had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. Then when Jesus came, He found that he had lain in the grave four days already. Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: and many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha said unto him, I know he shall rise again in the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him. Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met Him. The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforters her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, and said, Where have ye l aid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up His eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when He thus had spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go…Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead” (John 11:1-44-12:1).
With this particular passage we learn and discover that even though Lazarus had in fact died, and even though Lazarus had been buried in the tomb for four days, his death was not the end of his story, and there was an expiration date on his time in the grave. When we think about and consider the account of Lazarus, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that as surely as he died and was buried in the tomb, and as surely as he remained in that tomb for four days, the tomb and the grave was not the end of his story. There was indeed and there was in fact an expiration date on Lazarus’ time in the grave, and although he died, death would not be the end of his story. With that being said, I feel it absolutely necessary to now turn and direct our attention to the fifteenth chapter of the first New Testament epistle which was written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints. Beginning with the first verse of this particular chapter we not only find the account of the resurrection of Jesus from the grave, but we also find that as surely and as certainly as death wasn’t the end of His story, and although there was an expiration date for His time in the grave, so also death is not the end of the story for us, and there is in fact an expiration date on our time in the grave. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote beginning with the first verse of this wonderful epistle:
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; but which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures: and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of all the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.
Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection fo the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming. Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For He hath put all things under His feet. But when He saith, all things are put under him, it is manifest that He is excepted, which did put all things under Him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead? And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? Let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die. Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.
But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quiekened, except it die: and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him,a nd to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and northern glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star different from another star in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and aftewardad that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unloveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:1-57).
What we find in the account of Lazarus, as well as the account of Jesus who is both Christ and Lord, is that even though both men died—one simply as a result of sickness, and the other as a result of betrayal, hatred and malice of men—death was not the end of their story. As I am sitting here this morning, and as I consider the words which Jesus spoke unto the disciples just before the mother of James and John the sons of Zebedee came unto Him, I can’t help but be struck with the tremendous fact that even though Jesus spoke of death, and even though He spoke of betrayal, and even though He spoke of suffering, none of that was the end of the line, nor was any of that the end of the story for Him. Consider if you will the words which Jesus spoke unto the disciples as is recorded by the apostle Matthew beginning with the seventeenth verse of the twentieth chapter of his gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus: “And Jesu going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him: and the third day He shall rise again” (Matthew 20:17-19). That which Jesus spoke unto His disciples is very much similar to and reminiscent of that which we read and that which we find in the sixteenth chapter of the same New Testament gospel of Matthew. Consider if you will the words which are found and recorded in the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew beginning with the twenty-first verse of the chapter: “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Matthew 16:21). Immediately after Jesus commended the apostle Peter for boldly and emphatically declaring that He was Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus began speaking to them very plainly that He must needs go up unto Jerusalem, and there in Jerusalem He must suffer at the hands of the chief priests, elders, scribes and Pharisees, and ultimately be killed. One thing I love about what we find in the twentieth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew is that Jesus seemed to go into more detail with His disciples concerning His journey unto and His journey into Jerusalem. After taking the disciples aside in the way toward Jerusalem—not only did He declare unto them that the Son of man would be betrayed, but He would also declare unto them that He would be condemned to death, and would be delivered unto the Gentiles to be mocked, to be scourged, and to be crucified. BETRAYED! CONDEMNED! MOCKED! SCOURGED! CRUCIFIED! Oh, please don’t miss the tremendous implications of that which Jesus the Christ spoke unto His disciples, for He took them beyond simply His being betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, scribes, elders and Pharisees, and even beyond being crucified at the hands of the Gentiles.
When you read the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples on this particular occasion you will not only be confronted with the reality of betrayal, but you will also be confronted with the reality of condemnation and being falsely and wrongly accused. Within this passage—not only do we find the account of Jesus being betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, scribes and elders, but we also find Jesus speaking unto the disciples concerning His being mocked, His being scourged, and His suffering. It was more than Jesus being betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of the people of Israel, and it was more than being delivered unto death in order that He might be crucified, for there would be a tremendous amount of suffering that would be experienced in between the betrayal and the crucifixion. BETWEEN THE BETRAYAL AND THE CRUCIFIXION! Oh, I can’t help but be struck and completely consumed with and by the fact that there is a path between betrayal and crucifixion, and although it was the betrayal that ultimately set in motion the events that would bring about the death and crucifixion, there would be a path that would need to be walked between the betrayal in the garden and the crucifixion on the hill outside the city. Jesus was betrayed by one of His own in the garden, and as a result of that betrayal, He would ultimately be crucified upon a cruel wooden tree outside the city of Jerusalem, however, betrayal was only the beginning. It wasn’t enough that Jesus be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel, nor even that He be crucified on a cruel wooden tree outside the city of Jerusalem. It wasn’t enough that Jesus be betrayed by one of His closest companions, and that He be crucified by the Gentiles outside the city of Jerusalem, for there was a certain degree and measure of suffering that accompanied the betrayal and the crucifixion. Most of us pay absolutely no attention to the fact that there was indeed a path that was found between the betrayal and the crucifixion, and that path was in fact a path of suffering—a path of mockery, a path of false accusation, a path of condemnation, a path of false witness, a path of being scourged, a path of being spit upon, a path of being beaten. I am convinced that it is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to this reality, for more often than not—even though and despite the fact that we might have been betrayed by another, that betrayal isn’t the end of the story. There are in fact times when betrayal is only the beginning, and there is in fact a path that needs to be walked immediately after the betrayal. There are some among us who have an incredibly difficult time dealing with and handling betrayal, and yet we don’t realize or recognize that betrayal is more often than not the door which leads to the path of additional suffering. There are those among us who would think that betrayal is the end of the line and that betrayal is enough, and that there should be nothing else beyond or after that. If there is one thing the life and ministry of Jesus Christ reveals, it’s that betrayal sometimes is merely the door that opens up and leads us to the path of additional suffering, hurt, pain, wounds, scars and heartache.
BETRAYAL IS THE DOOR, BUT RESURRECTION IS THE EXIT! Pause for a moment and consider that statement and what it not only meant for Jesus the Christ, but what it also means for you within your own life. Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous and awesome reality that while it is true that betrayal was the door to additional suffering for Jesus, and while betrayal was in fact the door which ultimately led to the death and crucifixion of Jesus the Christ, resurrection was in fact the exit and that which was on the other side of the door. Betrayal was on one side of the door, and the suffering that ensued in the life of Christ, as well as the death which He experienced upon the cross outside the city of Jerusalem was merely that which existed in the space that exists between entrance and the exit. SUFFERING IS MERELY THE THRESHOLD! DEATH IS MERELY THE THRESHOLD! I am absolutely and wonderfully consumed and gripped by the fact that betrayal was merely the access point whereby Christ would be positioned for the main event and the ultimate show—that moment when He would be raised and resurrected from the grave. It was true that Christ was betrayed by Judas there in the garden of Gethsemane, and it is true that Judas’ betrayal positioned Christ to experience a tremendous amount of suffering at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of the people of Israel. Betrayal was the door and the access point whereby Jesus the Christ would be exposed to much suffering as He would not only be spit upon, as He would not only be beaten, as He would not only be slapped in the face, as He would be scourged with a whip made of chips of bone and glass, and as a crown of thorns would be placed upon His brow, and as He would ultimately be nailed to a cruel Roman tree. What’s more is that betrayal would ultimately lead Him to and set Him on the path to the Via Dolorosa, which is in all reality the road and path which Jesus walked while at the same time carrying His cross. I do not believe it is any coincidence that Jesus had to face a literal path whereby He needed to carry His cross unto the place of His death. Not only did His betrayal open the door to additional suffering, as he would be spit upon, slapped, scourged with a whip of bones and glass, and His beard ripped out, but His betrayal would ultimately lead to His death and crucifixion upon the cruel Roman tree outside the city of Jerusalem. It is necessary that we recognize that betrayal was the door whereby additional suffering would be experienced, and betrayal was the door that would ultimately lead to Christ’s death at the hands of the Romans outside the city of Jerusalem, but it is also true that betrayal was merely the door that led to the other side of the threshold, which was indeed and was in fact resurrection. I have mentioned it already, and it warrants mentioning and repeating again—betrayal is not the end of the story! Suffering is not the end of the story! Wounds are not the end of the story! Accusation is not the end of the story! Mistreatment is not the end of the story! Not even death is the end of the story! When Jesus spoke of His being crucified at the hands of sinners and Gentiles, He always directly linked and connected it to His resurrection, for one could not talk and speak about His death without also at the same time speaking of His resurrection.
RESURRECTION IS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CROSS! RESURRECTION IS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GRAVE! This reality was absolutely and most certainly true of Lazarus, for although Lazarus died and was buried in the tomb for four days, his death had an expiration date. Consider the awesome and tremendous fact that after being raised from death to life and after emerging from the grave where his lifeless body lay for four days, he would walk in a newness of life such as wasn’t previously experienced. I wouldn’t say that Lazarus walked upon the earth in the type of resurrected life that was written about by the apostle Paul, but Lazarus bore the testimony that he was once dead, but is now alive. It’s interesting and worth noting that while death is certain, it is not the end of the line, and death and the grave have an expiration date. We would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand that there is an expiration date to our suffering, and there is an expiration date to our betrayal. There is an expiration date to our death, and there is an expiration date to our being buried in the tomb and lying in the grave. Jesus would and could not talk and speak of His death without at the same time speaking of His resurrection from the grave, for the two were intrinsically linked and connected. It was true that Jesus came to the earth to suffer at the hands of sinful men, and ultimately be crucified upon a cruel Roman tree, but it is also true that just as necessary as His death was, so also was His resurrection. Just as necessary as your betrayal was, and just as necessary as your suffering is, and just as necessary as that which you are going through might be, so also is your resurrection. You weren’t intended to remain in the grave, and your body wasn’t meant to remain lying buried in the grave forever. There is an expiration date that has been set and established for your time in the grave, and you were meant to rise again. YOU WERE MEANT TO RISE AGAIN! THERE’S AN EXPIRATION DATE ON YOUR GRAVE & YOU WERE MEANT TO RISE AGAIN! Pause for a moment and consider that reality—the reality that you were meant to rise again. Do you know that you were meant, created and intended to rise again? Even if you have fallen, you were meant to rise again. Even if you have been crucified and been buried in the tomb, you were meant to rise again. Resurrection has always been destined to be one of, if not your greatest triumphs in this life, as well as the next. Oh that we would live in the reality that we were meant to rise again, and that betrayal is merely the door that opens up and leads us into the place where we can truly rise again in fulness of life. Betrayal is not, nor has it ever been the end of your story. Suffering is not, nor has it ever been the end of your story. Not even death is, nor was it ever meant to be the end of your story. YOU WERE MEANT TO RISE AGAIN! YOU WERE MEANT TO RISE!