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 seventeen through thirty-five of the twenty-sixth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find the events of Jesus’ betrayal and trial drawing all the more closer. As you approach this section within the gospel written according to Matthew you will find the final set of events which took place just prior to Judas’ betrayal in the garden as he led a mall insurgent of soldiers armed with swords in order that they might take Jesus by stealth in the night. If you begin reading the twenty-sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel written according to the apostle Matthew you will that immediately after Jesus began speaking to His disciples concerning the signs of the times, the dangers of the Last Days, as well as how men are to conduct themselves in the midst of the Last Days, Jesus once more speaks unto the disciples and declares unto them that the time has come for Him to be betrayed unto the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel. Earlier on within the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and as the apostle Matthew wrote concerning the events which would take place within the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, we find WSU’s beginning to proclaim unto His disciples that He must needs go unto Jerusalem where He would be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders, and suffer many things before ultimately being killed. Of course we know and understand that even when Jesus began speaking to His disciples, and even as He began showing unto them that He must die, Hw also emphatically declares unto them they He would rise from death to life on the third day. Within the sixteenth and twentieth chapters of this New Testament gospel we find records and accounts of Jesus beginning to prepare His disciples for His death as a direct result of His being betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. There came a point within the life and ministry of Jesus Christ when He needed to prepare His disciples for events which would take place within His life which would ultimately lead to His death at the hands of sinners and Gentiles.
As you read the twenty-sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find it written and recorded how the chief priests, the scribes and the elders began to conspire together against Jesus how they might not only seize Him by force, but also put Him to death. It is at this point in time when the offense of religion with Jesus Christ had reached an all time high, and the conspiracy against Jesus began taking on and gaining steam. In this particular chapter we not only find the conspiracy of the chief priests, the elders of Israel and the scribes, but we also find the betrayal of Judas being mentioned as well. It’s actually quite interesting that within this chapter—not only do we find religion conspiring together against Jesus, but we also find the conspiracy of religion working together with the betrayal of relationship. The more I read and study this passage of scripture the more I can’t help but come face to face with the tremendous reality that within it we find three different types of people mentioned and alluded to which are present within many of our churches in this generation. As you read this passage of scripture you will find those who are offended with Christ and refuse to enter into and engage in relationship with Him. Within this passage of scripture you will find those who were offended with the teaching and ministry of Jesus and those who refused to enter into the kingdom of heaven themselves. The conspiracy of religion was one that was born out of an intense offense with Jesus—one that fueled an intense hatred and animosity with and towards Him. Also within this passage of scripture you will find the betrayal of relationship, as Judas conspired together with the chief priests, scribes and elders to betray Jesus into their hands. It’s important to note that this betrayal of relationship was fostered and fueled by an offense taken up with a Jesus who no longer meets the expectations you had for Him. This betrayal of relationship originated with and from a place where Jesus no longer satisfies the longings of your heart, and where He no longer meets your needs. There is not a doubt in my mind that Judas hadn’t grown offended with Jesus because He wasn’t the Messiah he expected, and even because that which Jesus asked and demanded of him was too much for him to handle and bear. This betrayal of relationship is absolutely and incredibly serious for it is bred from a place of dissatisfaction and indifference with and towards Jesus Christ and unmet expectations.
There is within this passage of scripture another group of people which are alluded to, as between the conspiracy of religion and the betrayal of relationship we find the affection of worship. Within the midst of the conspiracy and the betrayal we find one who was neither offended with relationship with Jesus, nor one who was offended with unmet expectations placed upon the Lord Jesus. The more I read and the more I consider this particular passage of Scripture, the more I am completely and totally gripped with the fact that within it we find at least two groups of people who were offended with Jesus the Christ. On the one hand we find the first group who was offended with Jesus being those of the religious sect and system, as their offense centered upon the teaching and ministry of Jesus the Christ. If you read this New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will find countless accounts and countless examples of the Pharisees, the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel taking offense to the teaching and ministry of Jesus Christ—particularly and especially when it went against and seemed to contradict their traditions and the traditions of the elders of Israel. Throughout the gospel which was written by the apostle Matthew we find example after example of the Pharisees and the religious system growing offended with Jesus because His teaching and ministry went directly against everything they taught themselves. I can’t help but read this New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and witness and behold a powerful sense of offense within the religious system, as religion refused to enter into and engage relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, the entire twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew is a powerful outline of just how much religion and the religious system was offended with Jesus the Christ, for everything Jesus taught and wrought among men within Jerusalem, within Judaea, and within the surrounding region, cities, towns and villages went against everything they taught among the people. In fact, I am convinced that in order to truly understand the offense the religious system and leaders took with Jesus the Christ, it is necessary and imperative that we take one more look at the twenty-third chapter of this New Testament gospel as was written by the apostle Matthew. The twenty-third chapter of this New Testament gospel brings us face to face with the tremendous indictment Jesus wrought and brought against the Pharisees and the scribes, and there is not a doubt in my mind that this indictment—this rebuke and denunciation of the Pharisees and scribes—only further fueled their already raging animosity, hatred, resentment and offense. Consider if you will the words which are written and recorded by the apostle Matthew which were spoken by Jesus Christ unto the multitude which gathered before Him, as well as the disciples:
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye rate brethren. And call no man you father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one presence, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the Temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctified the gold? And, Whosoever shall sear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? Whosoever therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things therein. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and boy Him that sitteth therein. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. YE blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisees, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchral, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulcher of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the Emma sure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:1-36).
There is absolutely not a doubt in my mind that when the twenty-sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew opens up, we are directly confronted with the tremendous reality of the offense which religion took up with Jesus, and the conspiracy of religion against Jesus in order that it might put Him to death. There had come a point when the religious system—when the scribes, when the elders of Israel, when the chief priests, when the Pharisees, and the like—had had enough of Jesus Christ in their midst, and desperately sought to completely remove Him from among them. There came a point when religion finally conspired within itself against Jesus because of the tremendous offense it took with His teaching and ministry. In fact, it’s actually quite interesting to read this New Testament gospel of Matthew, for within it we find account after account of religion becoming and growing increasingly offended with Jesus Christ and with His teaching and ministry. Time and time again we find religion being unable to handle the actions of Jesus—and even His disciples—as well as the words which He taught and spoke, for everything Jesus said and taught went directly against the grain of that which they themselves taught and believed. Oh, we dare not miss and lose sight of the tremendous significance of this reality, for when we come to the twenty-sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find the offense of religion reaching its zenith and pinnacle as it now sought to conspire within itself against Jesus to finally put Him to death. After three and a half years of listening to Him speak and teach, and after three and a half years of watching the miracles and the healings He performed among men upon the earth, religion had finally had enough with Jesus, and felt that He needed to be removed from the picture. Within this passage of Scripture we find the conspiracy of religion with and against Jesus Christ as it was completely and totally offended with Jesus the Christ and everything He taught and performed among men upon the earth. There is not a doubt in my mind that what we find at the opening and outset of this particular chapter is a powerful example and type of the conspiracy of religion within many of our churches today within this generation, as men and women who have grown offended with Jesus’ teaching and ministry seek to utterly and completely put Him to death, and remove Him from their midst. There are those present among us within the house of God in this generation who are offended with the concept and idea of relationship with Jesus, and are more comfortable in and with our traditions and our religion than we are relationship. There are those among us who would much rather remain in the place of religion rather than enter into and engage ourselves in the place of relationship with Jesus the Christ. The conspiracy of religion against Jesus was of such a nature that it could not handle that which Jesus taught and that which Jesus preached any longer, and as a result of this hatred and animosity, sought to utterly and completely destroy Jesus the Christ.
What I so love about this particular chapter is not only do we find a third group of people portrayed and typified in between the conspiracy of religion and the betrayal of relationship, but we also find immediately after the account of Judas agreeing with the chief priests and scribes to betray Jesus into their hands, Jesus seeking to partake of one final meal with His disciples before He would be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of Israel. If you read this particular chapter you will find that in verses six through thirteen there is an account of a woman from Bethany who came unto Jesus while He was partaking of supper in the house of Simon the leper. Upon coming unto Jesus this woman brought with her an alabaster box that was full of costly and precious ointment—perhaps that which was of great worth and value to her. Scripture is unclear how she came upon such an alabaster box and the contents inside, but one thing we do know for sure, and that is that this woman from Bethany counted and considered this alabaster box filled with precious ointment as paling in comparison to the unmatched beauty of Jesus Christ. This woman was willing to enter into the house of a leper, and was willing to insert herself into an event she was not invited to in order that she might pour out her extravagant worship upon and at the feet of Jesus. Within this passage of Scripture we find that this woman took this precious alabaster box of ointment and poured it on His head as He sat at meat as a wonderful and powerful act and display of worship before and unto the Lord Jesus Christ. Pause for a moment and consider this event for a moment, for it takes places directly between the conspiracy of religion and those who sought to put Jesus to death, and the betrayal of relationship as one of Jesus’ own disciples sought to betray Him into the hands of those who hated Him. In between the place of betrayal and conspiracy we find the place of worship, affection and adoration, and I believe with all my heart that this woman from Bethany serves as a powerful example of those present among us who are neither offended with Jesus the Christ because of His teaching and ministry, nor are they offended with Jesus because He somehow doesn’t and hasn’t met their expectations. It’s interesting and worth noting that for Judas Jesus no longer—perhaps if ever—met the expectations he had for the Messiah, and yet for this lowly woman from the town of Bethany, Jesus meant absolutely everything to her. While Judas was offended with Jesus because He no longer satisfied his needs, because He no longer met His expectations, and because that which He asked and demanded was too much, there was this lowly woman from Bethany who believed and demonstrated that Jesus was the most precious reality within her entire life. For this lowly woman from the town of Bethany, we find the heart of one that is completely and utterly captivated with and by the beauty of Jesus the Christ—a heart that sees the wonder, the beauty, and the splendor of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Oh, as I sit here and read the twenty-sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew, I can’t help but be absolutely and completely struck by the fact that between the conspiracy of religion and the betrayal of relationship we find the affection of worship, as a lowly woman determined that Jesus was of more worth and was more valuable than the alabaster box with the precious and costly contents which were inside. What’s more, is that there is within this passage of Scripture a fourth group of people which are typified and represented by the disciples. As you read the account of this woman who brought her alabaster box full of precious and costly ointment and poured it upon the head of Jesus while He sat at meat, you will find the disciples growing indignant with the woman because of what they perceived as a great waste. Within this passage of Scripture you find the disciples looking upon this act of worship which was displayed by the woman from Bethany, and viewed her act as a terrible and tragic waste, for the alabaster box with the precious ointment and contents inside could have been sold and the profits given to the poor. While there is present within this passage of Scripture a powerful example of those who conspire against Jesus that they might put Him to death, as well as those who seek to betray Jesus because they are offended with the fact that He no longer meets their expectations and satisfies their deepest longings and desires, but there is also within this passage of Scripture a powerful example of those present among us within churches all across the world, and especially within this great nation of ours who are offended with extravagant worship. If religion is offended with relationship, and if relationship is offended with unmet expectations, than the account of the disciples is a powerful example of those who are offended with and by extravagant worship. The account and example of the disciples within this passage of Scripture bring us face to face with those among us in our churches and houses of worship who cannot handle extravagant displays and acts of worship, and view such acts of worship as meaningless and completely and totally worthless. We dare not miss and lose sight of the fact that there are those among us who can’t handle any act of extravagant worship before the throne of the living God, and perceive it as being a complete and total waste of time, effort and energy. For the disciples, they could not understand why this woman would choose to take this alabaster box full of precious ointment and pour it over and upon the head of Jesus rather than taking both the alabaster box and its contents, sell it, and give the proceeds to the poor. The disciples in this passage of Scripture represent those among us who feel as though they have a handle on worship and what true worship is and should look like. The disciples could not handle the fact that this woman chose to take this alabaster box and the contents which were present within it, and pour it upon the head of Jesus. Such an extravagant act of worship was offensive to them because they felt they knew better than this woman what should have been done with this alabaster box and the contents which were inside.
The twenty-sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew is a wonderful and powerful picture of what many of our churches are like, and the various groups of men and women who are present among us within the pews and seats of our churches. There are those among us who are offended with and by the concept of relationship with Jesus and seek to put Him to death and completely and utterly remove Him from our midst. There are those among us who are offended with Jesus, yet they are offended from a place of relationship with Jesus, for although they have spent time walking with and following Him, they have found that He no longer meets their expectations, and they are no longer satisfied with Him within their lives. Oh, it is a dangerous place to have walked with Jesus the Christ, and yet to find ourselves growing offended with Him because He no longer meets our expectations, because he no longer satisfies our needs, longings and desires, and because that which He asks and demands of us is just too much for us to handle and bear. This is what was so dangerous about when John the Baptist was in prison, for while sitting there in the prison cell after Herod had put him in prison, John was in danger of becoming offended with Jesus—perhaps because Jesus didn’t meet his expectations. Scripture is unclear as to what expectations John the baptist would have had for Jesus within His life, but we are aware of the fact that as John sat there in that prison cell, he was in danger of growing and becoming offended with the Lord Jesus Christ because Jesus hadn’t met and fulfilled the expectations he had Him. Oh, we play a dangerous and deadly game when we have unrealistic expectations of and for Jesus, and when we place our own demands on Jesus the Christ, and we would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand that Jesus has never, and Jesus will never meet our demands, and it is possible that He might not meet and fulfill our expectations. It is a tragic reality and thought to think and perceive that there are men and women among us who are offended with Jesus because He no longer meets and satisfies our expectations, and the expectations we had for Him. Perhaps Judas thought that the more he walked with, and the more he followed Jesus, the more his expectations might be met, and the more he could get behind and follow His example. I can’t help but wonder if the talk of being betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders, the talk of suffering many things, and the talk of dying and being put to death was too much for Judas to handle, for that was not the Messiah he had agreed to and signed up to walk with and follow. For Judas, this was not the type of Jesus he signed up to walk with and follow—a Jesus who entered into the city of Jerusalem meek and lowly riding on a donkey rather than on a horse and entering as a conquering king and warrior. Oh, how absolutely incredible this chapter is, for it presents us with those among us who are offended by relationship and would rather engage in religion than relationship, as well as with those who are offended from a place of relationship because expectations are no longer met, and Jesus asks and demands too much of and from us.
I absolutely love that when you begin reading with and from the seventeenth verse of this same chapter—this same chapter which has offense with relationship, this same chapter which has offense with extravagant worship, and this same chapter which has offense from a place of relationship—you will find Jesus choosing to partake of the Passover meal with His disciples. On the same night in which He was betrayed, Jesus chose to spend His last hour or more eating and fellowship with the disciples. What I so love about the second portion of this particular chapter is that it brings us face to face with the fact that even though Jesus knew He was going to be betrayed, and even though Jesus knew He was going to suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests, scribes and elders of Israel, he chose to engage himself in fellowship with the disciples in the upper room. Jesus—knowing full well that His hour had come and that He was going to be betrayed into the hands of religion—chose to enter into the upper room with His disciples where He would spend time fellowshipping with them, and partaking of a meal with them. Just before He was to be betrayed by Judas in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus wanted to experience fellowship with His disciples as He partook of one final meal before His death. Of course, Jesus knew that as surely and as much as He was going to suffer and die, He was also going to be resurrected from the grave. Jesus knew that His hour had come, and yet He wanted to dine and sup with His disciples, and spend some time enjoying their company, fellowshipping with them, and allowing them to enjoy fellowship with Him. Perhaps the question that must be asked when reading this particular passage of Scripture is whether or not the disciples did in fact enjoy fellowship with Jesus on this particular night—on the same night in which He was betrayed. We can be sure that there was at least one disciples who sat at the same table with Jesus the Christ, and yet was offended with and by Him. We know without a doubt that on this night—the night in which Jesus chose to partake of a meal with His disciples, and engage in fellowship with them—Judas Iscariot was offended with Jesus, and continued to look for opportunity to betray Him into the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that even though Judas sat at the same table with the rest of the disciples and experienced fellowship with Jesus at the table, he still sought for occasion to betray Jesus into the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders. Judas did in fact sit at the table with Jesus and the other disciples, and yet there is not a doubt in my mind that the only thing he was thinking about was finding occasion to betray Jesus into the hands of the religious leaders and lay hold of the thirty pieces of silver promised him as a result of his betrayal. In fact, in verse sixteen of this chapter the apostle Matthew writes and records how from the moment Judas left the presence and company of the chief priests, scribes and elders, he sought for opportunity and occasion to betray Jesus into the hands of the chief priests, scribes and elders of Israel.
The twenty-sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew is a chapter that is absolutely incredible and intriguing, for within this chapter we find a whole lot of offense with Jesus, as religion was offended with Jesus, relationship was offended with Jesus, and even the disciples themselves were offended with extravagant worship. What’s more, is that if you continue reading this particular chapter you will find that when Jesus speaks of His being betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, scribes and elders, and when the shepherd Himself would be smitten—not only would the sheep be scattered, but they would also all be offended in, with by and because of Him. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this tremendous reality, for I am convinced that even though we find extravagant worship and fellowship around the table present within this chapter, we also find a great offense being taken with Jesus, and offense taking place for various reasons. As I bring this particular writing to a close, I can’t help but ask you who are reading these words what you are offended with Jesus over. Are there areas within your heart and within your life where you are offended with Jesus, and there is a great need to pay close attention to those areas and deal with them before it is too late? I am completely and utterly convinced that when I read this passage of Scripture, there is a great need to examine our hearts and see if there are any ways in which we are offended with and by Jesus the Christ. We would be incredibly naïve to think and consider that it is not possible for men and women among us within our churches to not be offended with Jesus, and for men and women among us within the house of the Lord to become offended with Jesus the Christ. This particular chapter contains within it a powerful example of extravagant worship, as well as fellowship with Jesus the Christ, and yet in light of and in spite of such a reality, we must directly confront the reality of what areas within our hearts and lives we are offended with Jesus, and what areas within our heart and lives we might become offended with Jesus. Jesus declared that when the shepherd Himself was smitten—not only would the sheep be scattered, but they would also be offended because of Him. Oh that we would read the words which are contained within this passage of Scripture, and that we would directly confront the reality of our own hearts, and the dangers which are found lurking within our hearts before a Jesus who knows all and sees all. There is nothing hidden and concealed before Jesus, and we must needs pay close attention to our hearts, as well as this chapter, and see if there are any ways we are and might be offended with Jesus. If even John the Baptist wrestled with the temptation of becoming offended with Jesus the Christ, who are we to think that we can’t possibly experience the same reality within our hearts and lives. Oh that we would be a people who would choose to live our lives in, with and from a place of extravagant worship, and enjoy fellowship and communion with Jesus the Christ, and truly enjoy spending time in His presence.