The Crux of the Preaching Programme of Jesus
Text: Matthew 26 : 1 - 30
Jesus had faithfully and effectively served for about 3 years now. He had a preaching and teaching programme given to Him by His Father. The crux of His teaching ministry may be said to be “The Kingdom of Heaven”.
He invited people to enter into God’s Kingdom. He explained “the mysteries of the Kingdom” to interested disciples. He expounded on many aspects of the Kingdom of Heaven , including subjects like “The End of the Age”.
The Kingdom of Heaven was in direct opposition of the kingdom of Satan. He too had his own ideas and plans. He sowed tares. He sent demons to oppose Jesus. He energized human enemies who worked towards the destruction of His life and ministry. Many were the battles waged in public. Time and again, his demonic forces were defeated. Their powers may have been impressive to human beings. They were feared. But against the Word of Jesus, the demons were totally powerless.
THE END OF THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS
Jesus had come to the end of His earthly ministry. It was time to prepare for the Passover. On this Passover, He would be the sacrificial Lamb. John the Baptiser was right when he proclaimed Him as “The Lamb of God”. His death would be the complete atonement for the sins of mankind!
Jesus now focused His attention on getting ready for the most crucial part of His life and ministry! He must succeed. He must triumph, otherwise all His work, all His teachings could come to nothing!
The last few days of His life were most carefully and tenderly recorded. To Matthew and all the Gospel writers, the last couple of days of Jesus’ life absorbed their full attention. They were not merely recording an important historical fact or just an important theological truth. They were recording the last moments of a Teacher. Jesus was more than just Messiah and Saviour to them. He was also their Beloved Friend. In tones of hushed awe and love, Matthew carefully recorded the last couple of days spent in Jesus’ company. Though years had passed before this attempt to write his Gospel, the freshness, the poignancy, the angst – they were all carefully preserved. No careful reader reading about the suffering and death of Jesus would fail to notice the tinge of sadness that underlay the writing of the last few chapters of the Gospel of Matthew. Yet, sadness was not the only tone to be noticed. There was also a tremendous sense of triumph of faith when the resurrection of Jesus was described!
PREPARATION FOR THE PASSOVER FEAST
Jesus and all His disciples had always observed the Passover Feast. The Passover had deep historical roots and was rich in theological meaning. Perhaps, due to the frequent celebration of it, its significance had become frayed for many. But not for Jesus. At this particular Passover He would inject it with even greater theological meaning. But first, careful preparation must be observed, so as to fulfill all righteousness.
“Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings,
that He said to His disciples, ‘You know that after two days
is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up
to be crucified.'”
This was certainly not the first time that Jesus had spoken of His suffering and of His death! At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus began to prepare His disciples for that fateful day when He would be betrayed and then slain (Cf. Matthew 16:21). From time to time, Jesus would remind His disciples that He would indeed be delivered up to the hands of His enemies (Cf. Matthew 20:18).
At first, the disciples resisted what Jesus spoke about His suffering! How could they bear the thought of their beloved Teacher suffering? Patiently, Jesus helped His disciples to accept that His suffering was all within the Will of God. Slowly and reluctantly, the disciples accepted this teaching that tore at their hearts.
It was now “two days” before the Passover. Jesus once again reminded that soon, very soon, He would be delivered up and be crucified! The reality of this event happening in just two day’s time must have been very hard to bear! Just two more days and their beloved Teacher would die? How could their hearts bear this thought? Could Jesus be wrong somehow? But He had never erred! He had to be right! That thought did not bring any comfort to the heart. This then would be the last Passover together! Three years together. In three short years, they had developed a relationship, a friendship that touched every area of their lives! With pain and anguish, the disciples set to make preparation to celebrate the Passover with Jesus. How could they possibly eat the Passover knowing that this would be the last meal with Him? Perhaps it was good that they busied themselves with the preparation, for their hearts would surely break if they were to just sit down and dwell on His death.
THE WICKED PLOTTING OF THE ENEMIES
The enemies of Jesus had been plotting His downfall for a long time now. His latest teachings in Jerusalem represented the last straw! He had publicly defeated and embarrassed them for the last time! He must die!
“Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people
assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called
Caiaphas, and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him.
But they said, ‘Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar
among the people.'”
What a contrast Matthew offers us here in this particular text. The plans of the enemies, led by none other than the high priest, Caiaphas, was to kill Jesus AFTER the Passover! They feared that there would an angry uproar from the multitudes. However, Jesus was to be the Passover Lamb. His death could not take place after the Passover. Who was right? Callously, wickedly and with great deliberation Jesus death was planned!