Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ according to the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first sixteen verses of the twenty-sixth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the week of Jesus’ passion drawing to a close and the events leading up to His betrayal, trial, suffering, and ultimately His crucifixion taking place. As this chapter opens, it does so with the apostle Matthew writing and recorded how after Jesus had finished “all these sayings”—all His sayings and teaching concerning the end times and the Last Days—He declared unto His disciples that after two days the Feast of the Passover would take place, and the Son of man would be betrayed to be crucified. I can’t help but pause at the very first verse of this particular chapter, for it is at this moment when everything Jesus had been saying and proclaiming unto the disciples up to that point begins to become very real. If you read and study the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle Matthew you will find that there were two specific accounts where Jesus declared and proclaimed unto His disciples that He was not only going to be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests and elders of Israel, but He would also suffer many things and ultimately be crucified at the hands of sinners. If you begin reading with and from the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find that what begins with Jesus asking His disciples who men said and proclaimed Him to be would transition to a second more pointed question directed unto them and who they said He was. After hearing the declaration and profession of the apostle Peter concerning His being the Christ and the Son of the living God, Jesus commended and applauded Peter’s declaration, and made it known unto both He and the other disciples that flesh and blood did not reveal this unto him, but rather His Father who was in heaven. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to declare that upon this rock would He build His church, and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. Within the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find the apostle Peter’s declaration concerning the identity and person of Jesus, but immediately following this particular event within the lives of the disciples, you will also find Jesus beginning to speak unto His disciples concerning His betrayal into the hands of the chief priests and elders of Israel, and would as a result of this betrayal suffer many things. Consider if you will the entire account as it unfolds within the sixteenth chapter of this New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus:
“When Jesus came into the coasts of Ceasarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. HE smith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered a Nd said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. The charged He His disciples that they should tell no man that He was Jesus the Christ”
“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. Then Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But He turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own souls? Or what shall man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to His works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:13-28).
In the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we not only find Jesus asking the disciples who they said and believed Him to be, but we also find the apostle Peter emphatically and boldly declaring that Jesus was indeed the Christ and the Son of the living God. What is so incredibly interesting about this is that immediately after Jesus commended the profession and declaration of the apostle Peter He began from that moment on to show unto and tell them that He must needs journey unto Jerusalem where He would be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes, suffer many things at their hands, and ultimately be crucified. Of course Jesus didn’t merely speak of His suffering at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel, and His being crucified, for He also spoke of His resurrection on the third day. I have written about this before and find it absolutely incredible and amazing that Jesus never spoke of His suffering without death, and yet He never spoke of His death without also speaking of His resurrection. I am convinced that it is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to this, for there very few would like to speak to the reality of suffering—much less actually talking about—and even fewer who would speak of suffering in relation to death and being crucified. What’s so unique about this passage is that directly linked and connected to Jesus’ declaration that He must needs journey unto Jerusalem and be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, scribes and elders of Israel, and be crucified as a result of that suffering—directly connected to this declaration is Jesus’ declaration that if any man would choose to come after Him, that man and/or that woman must first deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him. Please don’t miss the significance of this particular reality, for it almost appears that as surely as Jesus couldn’t speak of betrayal without also speaking of suffering, and as surely as Jesus couldn’t speak of suffering without speaking of death, and while He couldn’t speak of death without speaking of resurrection, He also couldn’t speak about His suffering and death without also speaking of our own need to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow after Him. Jesus would then go on to ask the disciples point blank what it would profit a man or a woman if they gained the whole world and yet in the process of gaining the whole world lost and forfeited their souls. Taking this a step further, Jesus would go on to ask what a man would give in exchange for his soul. What an absolutely incredible interaction this was between Jesus and His disciples, for while it was true that He spoke unto them concerning His betrayal, his suffering, his death, and ultimately His resurrection, He also spoke unto His disciples concerning their own need to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow after Him.
If you continue reading the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will come to the twentieth chapter where we again find Jesus speaking unto his disciples concerning His betrayal into the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel, and would ultimately be killed, yet would also rise on the third day. Beginning to read with and from the seventeenth verse of the twentieth chapter we find the following words which were spoken by Jesus the Christ unto His twelve disciples, and recorded for us by the apostle Matthew:
“And Jesus 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).
In the twentieth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find Jesus once more speaking unto His disciples concerning their journey up to Jerusalem, and how Jerusalem was of tremendous significance and importance to Him, for it was in Jerusalem where He would be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests and unto the scribes. Once betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, scribes and elders of Israel, Jesus would be condemned to death, and He would be delivered unto and into the hands of the Gentiles to mock, to scourge and to crucify Him. Within this particular passage, we find Jesus providing further details concerning His journey unto and time within the city of Jerusalem, for not only would He be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel, but they would condemn Him to death. As a result of Jesus’ being condemned unto death, and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles, Jesus would be mocked, would be scourged, and would ultimately be put to death by the Gentiles. It wouldn’t be the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel who would kill and crucify Jesus, but rather the Gentiles who would be responsible for actually committing the act of putting Jesus to death and crucifying Him upon the cruel Roman tree known as the cross. When speaking unto His disciples on this particular occasion we find Jesus not only speaking of betrayal and death, but we also find His speaking of being mocked and scourged as the manifestation of the suffering He would experience and endure. BETRAYAL, TRIAL, SUFFERING, & DEATH! When speaking of that which Jesus faced and experienced at the end of His week of passion, it is absolutely necessary that we speak of His being betrayed by one who was closest to Him, and as a direct and immediate result of His being betrayed, He would be handed over into the hands of the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of Israel where He would face trial and would be falsely accused by those who were raised up against Him. WHEN BETRAYAL LEADS TO TRIAL! WHEN TRIAL LEADS TO SUFFERING! WHEN SUFFERING LEADS TO DEATH! As I am sitting here right now I can’t help but see a progression of events which Jesus Himself revealed unto His disciples, for what would ultimately begin with betrayal would eventually lead to a trial where Jesus would stand before the Sanhedrin and all those gathered together that night—many who were assembled to bring false accusation and condemnation towards and against Him. This trial by moonlight would eventually bring Jesus before Pilate who would finally be the one who would release Barabbas and would sentence Jesus to be crucified outside the city of Jerusalem upon a cruel Roman tree.
Jesus recognized and understood that the time was quickly approaching for Him to drink the cup which His Father had prepared and ordained for Him since before the foundation of the world. Jesus understood and perceived that the time had come for Him to be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, scribes, and elders of Israel, and at their hands suffer many things. Within the sixteenth and twentieth chapters of the New Testament gospel account of His life and ministry as recorded by the apostle Matthew, we find on two separate occasions Jesus revealing and speaking unto his disciples concerning His need to go unto Jerusalem, and there in Jerusalem be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, scribes, and elders of Israel. When we come to the twenty-sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel according to the apostle Matthew we find the time coming where it was no longer anticipation and expectation, but actual reality that begins to unfold within the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. What was on two separate occasions simply declarations made by Jesus the Christ concerning His being betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel would now actually begin to unfold, and it is in the twenty-sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel according to Matthew that we actually find this reality beginning to take place. In other words, it was now becoming more than simply words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples, and was now becoming something that was becoming tangible within his life and ministry. In the first verse of the twenty-sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find Jesus finishing all His sayings concerning the end times and Last Days, and saying unto His disciples that after two days were completed the feast of the Passover would take place, and at that time the Son of man would be betrayed to be crucified. This must be understood, for whereas in the previous two declarations Jesus made unto His disciples, there wasn’t a specific and definitive time frame given fro His being betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders, and while there wasn’t a definitive time frame given for His suffering and death—in this chapter and on this occasion we find Jesus revealing unto His disciples that in just two days time that which He foretold on two previous occasions would take place. No longer was it speculation, no longer was it anticipation, no longer was there a certain expectation and knowledge that Jesus would, and perhaps could be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, scribes and elders of Israel, for it was now becoming a very blatant reality before the disciples. WHEN BETRAYAL BECOMES REAL! WHEN SUFFERING BECOMES REAL!
As you read this particular chapter within the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will not only find Jesus’ words concerning His being betrayed to be crucified, but you also find certain events taking place which would help facilitate and put into motion His betrayal, His suffering, and ultimately His death. Within the first two verses of this chapter we find Jesus revealing unto His disciples that the time which He had previously foretold and warned them of was actually coming to pass and taking place. When you come to verses three through five you find the part the religious leaders of the nation fo Israel being presented, as the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people began to conspire against Jesus how they might put Him to death. Consider if you will the words which are found in verses three through five of this particular chapter:
“Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Chiapas, and consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill Him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people” (Matthew 26:3-5).
What’s so incredible interesting and intriguing about this chapter is that in verses three through five we find the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel conspiring together against Jesus as to how they might put Him to death, and in verses fourteen through sixteen we find Judas’ part in this conspiracy. If we are truly going to understand the suffering which Jesus faced and experienced at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that it did not take place without and apart from Judas’ place in the conspiracy. WHEN DISCIPLES ARE FOUND IN THE CENTER OF CONSPIRACY! WHEN DISCIPLES HELPS IGNITE A CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE SON OF MAN! WHEN BETRAYAL MEETS CONSPIRACY! WHEN BETRAYAL WORKS HAND IN HAND WITH CONSPIRACY! It’s actually interesting reading this particular passage of Scripture, for at the beginning of the chapter we find the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel conspiring together as to how they might put Jesus to death, and when you continue reading this chapter you will find one of Jesus’ own disciples rising up to play an integral and crucial part in the plot against Jesus—a plot which was ultimately designed to put Him to death and completely remove Him from the scene. What begins with the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of Israel conspiring together against Jesus to put Him to death would gain traction and gain momentum when one of Jesus’ own disciples decides He has had enough, and decides to side with the conspiracy toward and against Jesus. WHEN DISCIPLES HAVE HAD ENOUGH AND DECIDE TO SIDE WITH THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST JESUS! If you begin reading with and from the fourteenth verse of this particular chapter you will find the following words which were recorded and written by the apostle Matthew concerning the part and place Judas would play in the conspiracy against Jesus—a conspiracy that in all reality could not have taken place without and apart from Judas’ place in the conspiracy. That which would bring about the trial of Jesus, and ultimately His suffering and death at the hands of the Romans would be the joint effort of the conspiracy of religion and the betrayal of relationship. THE CONSPIRACY OF RELIGION & THE BETRAYAL OF RELATIONSHIP! Consider if you will that which the apostle Matthew wrote in verses fourteen through sixteen of this particular chapter concerning the beginning of the conspiracy against Jesus the Christ:
“Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver Him unto you? And they Covenanter with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him” (Matthew 26:14-16).
As you read this particular passage of Scripture within the New Testament gospel according to Matthew you will find the conspiracy of religion colliding with the betrayal of relationship—a powerful and deadly force that has always and will always have one single mission and purpose. When we speak of the conspiracy of religion and the betrayal of relationship we must recognize and understand that when these two forces collide and began to work together in tandem, they do so in order that they might completely and utterly destroy the person and presence of Jesus the Christ. It’s actually quite interesting that the conspiracy of religion could not accomplish that which it desired until the betrayal of relationship actually presented itself before them. Up until the moment Judas Iscariot approached them and asked what they would give him to betray Jesus into their hands, that which they desired to do was nothing more than conspiracy and a malevolent plot against Jesus the Christ. What’s so incredibly powerful about this particular passage is that it brings us face to face with the fact that religion had finally had enough with Jesus Christ and with contending and striving against Jesus, and finally sought for occasion to put Him to death. What’s more, is that within this passage of Scripture—not only are you confronted with the fact that religion had finally had enough with Jesus’ teaching and ministry, but you are also confronted with the fact that relationship had reached the point where it too had enough with the life and ministry of Jesus. On the one hand you will find religion reaching its breaking and reaching its tipping point with the Lord Jesus Christ, and on the other hand you will find relationship finally reaching its breaking point with Jesus Christ. There is not a doubt in my mind that that which prompted Judas to betray Jesus into the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel was not merely a desire to gain something for himself, but also the reality that he had reached the breaking point with Jesus where He simply had enough. After walking with and following Him for three and a half years, Judas reached the point where he realized that the Jesus he was following was not what He had anticipated and expected, and perhaps even that which Jesus asked, demanded and required of those who wished to follow Him was too much to ask for and give. There is one thing that is absolutely certain when reading this particular passage of Scripture, and that is that not only had religion had enough with Jesus the Christ, but so also had relationship had enough with Jesus.
WHEN RELIGION GROWS TIRED AND WEARY WITH JESUS THE CHRIST! WHEN RELATIONSHIP GROWS TIRED AND WEARY WITH JESUS THE CHRIST! What we find within this particular passage is not only religion growing tired with the life, the ministry, the teaching and the influence of Jesus, but we also find relationship reaching the point where it too had grown tired with Jesus, and with His life, with His ministry and with His teaching. There is not a doubt in my mind that when we read the words which are found and contained within this passage of Scripture we are directly confronted with the fact that both religion and relationship had grown tired and weary with the life and ministry of Jesus—religion because the life and ministry of Jesus was diametrically opposed and set against it, and relationship because the Jesus it had followed was not the Jesus it signed up to follow and walk with. It’s important that we recognize and understand that the conspiracy of religion and the betrayal of relationship each have their own quarrels and offenses with Jesus, and within the New Testament gospel of Matthew—not only do we find the disciples speaking unto Jesus concerning the Pharisees being offended at the words and sayings of Jesus, but we also find the religious system seeking to find occasion to put Jesus to death. This wasn’t the first time religion conspired together to put Jesus to death, but this was and this would be the first time the conspiracy of religion would meet and join forces with the betrayal of relationship. I can’t help but get the strong sense that when the conspiracy of religion meets the betrayal of relationship it has the tremendous power and ability to mount a full scale assault and attack against Jesus the Christ in order that both might drive His presence and influence from their midst. Religion had its own reasons for wanting Jesus to be put to death, and relationship had its own reasons for wanting to put Jesus to death, and yet both found a way to conspire together in order to bring about the same objective. I am completely and utterly convinced that what we read and what we find in this particular passage of Scripture is a powerful picture concerning a reality that is in fact present within countless churches within and throughout this nation today—perhaps even within the world. There is not a doubt in my mind that within our churches there is the conspiracy of religion—those who have grown tired, those who have grown weary, and those who have grown offended with the teaching and ministry of Jesus Christ. There are those among us who are perfectly content with their own traditions, content with their own rules and content with their own regulations, and have absolutely no room or place for relationship. IN all reality, I am convinced that the conspiracy of religion is completely and entirely based on the fact that it cannot experience, nor does it have any desire to experience relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Religion has always and will always conspire against Jesus as a direct result of its unwillingness to enter into and engage in relationship with Him. I can’t help but feel a strong sense within my heart and spirit that when religion conspires against Jesus it is because it has absolutely no desire to enter into and engage in relationship with Him, and when relationship betrays Jesus, it is because it has had enough of walking with and following Jesus—walking with and following a Jesus who has never lived up to their expectations.
With all of this being said, and all of this being written, I absolutely love that smack dab in the middle of the conspiracy of religion and the betrayal of relationship we find the affection of worship and the demonstration of love. As you read the first sixteen verses of this chapter you will find religion conspiring against Jesus to put Him to death, and in verses fourteen through sixteen of this chapter you will find relationship seeking to betray Jesus into the hands of religion—an act which would ultimately lead to Jesus being handed over into the hands of sinners and Gentiles. What I so love about this passage of Scripture is that directly in between the conspiracy of religion and the betrayal of religion we find the affection of worship and the display of love before and unto Jesus. While religion is conspiring together against Jesus to put Him to death, and while relationship is seeking to betray Jesus into the hands of religion, there is another presence and another force that is found at work. In fact, I am completely and utterly convinced that what we find within this particular passage of Scripture is a powerful picture of three distinct groups and types of people that are found within many of our churches today. I am convinced that within many of our churches there are those who are engaged in the conspiracy of religion because they have absolutely no desire to enter into relationship with Jesus the Christ, and take issue and offense with His words, His teaching and His ministry and works among them in the midst of the church. There are within many of our churches who who have grown tired, those who have grown weary with, and those who have grown offended with Jesus—not from a place of religion, but rather from a place of relationship. There are those present among us within our churches who have simply had enough of relationship with Jesus because that which Jesus asks and demands of them is more than they are truly willing to give unto Him. There are those among us who have grown tired and weary in relationship with Jesus Christ because they have found that Jesus doesn’t meet and fulfill their expectations, and that He is much more than that which they have bargained for. Oh, it is true that they might have walked with Him and followed Him for a period of time, but there came a point in time and a point within their lives when they became offended with a relationship that no longer satisfies them, and a relationship that no longer serves their needs and meets their expectations. There are those among us within our churches who are seeking to betray Jesus—those who are seeking to betray the One whom they walked with and followed—because they have grown tired, weary and offended with a Jesus who no longer satisfies them the way He once did, no longer meets their expectations, and no longer serves their needs and their desires. As a direct result of this offense and this growing tired and weary with Jesus, they have decided it is better to move on from that place of relationship, and to betray Jesus in order that He might be put to death and be completely removed from their midst.
While it is true that there is within this particular chapter two distinct groups of people who are represented in many of our churches—the conspiracy of religion and the betrayal of relationship—there is also a third group of people that is represented. This third group of people are those who find the joy in relationship with Jesus the Christ, and those who find no greater delight and no greater pleasure than in worshipping Jesus and in pouring out their worship before and unto Him. Within this passage of Scripture we find a woman coming unto Jesus while He was in the house of Simon the leper bringing her alabaster box of very precious ointment. It’s interesting and worth noting that not only was Jesus sitting at meat in the house of a leper, but while in this house, a woman came unto and before Him and poured over and poured upon Him a very precious ointment—an ointment which we will later discover filled the entire house with its fragrance. There is within this passage of Scripture another group of people represented within our churches—those who come before Jesus the Christ and who spare no expense in pouring out their worship, their adoration and their affection before Jesus. These are those who don’t care what they have to give up, nor do they care who is before and around them, for to them there is only one person in the room before them—Jesus the Christ. Tell me—when was the last time you entered into the house, and entered into the room, and there was only one person before you whom your soul delighted in? When was the last time you entered into the house and your only ambition, your only desire was to pour out your extravagant worship before and unto Him? When was the last time you let everyone else around you fade into the background as your soul worshipped before the One who has so radically transformed your entire life? When was the last time you pressed past and pressed beyond the conspiracy of religion and the betrayal of relationship in order that you might present your extravagant worship before and unto Jesus who is the Christ, the Son of the living God? When was the last time there was nothing that was too costly or off limits to you that you weren’t willing to break open and offer at the feet of Jesus? When was the last time you were willing to enter into the room and focus all your attention and all your affection on the only One who truly matters? This woman was willing to spare no expense in worshipping Jesus, and there was no cost too great in displaying her worship and affection unto and before Jesus the Christ. It is true that within this particular passage of Scripture we find the conspiracy of religion and the betrayal of relationship, but it is also true that we find the worship of affection being displayed and manifested within the house of a leper. Despite the fact that the disciples grew indignant at what was perceived as a great waste, this woman considered this ointment and the alabaster box it was contained within of no worth and value to herself, for there was One who was more valuable and more precious than this alabaster box and the contents within. Oh that we would read this passage of Scripture and confront our own hearts and determine where we are within its words and sentences. Are we those who have grown tired, weary and offended with Jesus and engage in conspiracy of religion because we have no desire in entering into relationship with Jesus? Are we those who have grown tired and offended with a Jesus who no longer satisfies our longings, a Jesus who no longer meets our expectations, and a Jesus who no longer meets our needs, and we seek to betray and conspire against Him? Or, are we those who find Jesus to be the most beautiful and the most precious reality within our lives, and find that there is no cost too great and nothing too valuable that we aren’t willing to offer before and unto Him, and break while at His feet?