Standing Firm, part 1 Matthew 26:47-68

Matthew 26:47-68

Introduction:  like all the passages in scripture, this one has a main point and has several subsidiary  points too.  All of them can be understood and applied to our lives as Christians. 

  • With that in mind, why do you think Matthew records these events of Jesus’ life?  And why does he do it the way he does?
    • Each gospel story is a little different, so it’s a worthy question when you’re reading any of the gospels to ask why is this story recorded this way? 
    • What is this author trying to say in this passage?  What is the Spirit saying here?

There are two big points—meta-points if you will here:

  • Historical—this really happened to Jesus
    • He truly lived, died, resurrected, and ascended to heaven
    • Particular to this story—there are records of this man called Jesus being convicted in this way
  • Theological—Jesus believes he is God
    • The Son of Man as Jesus uses the term throughout the gospels and especially here is from Daniel 7:13-14
    • “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
    • You remember your children’s catechism:  what is God?  God is a spirit and does not have a body like man.
      • The Son of Man, from Daniel 7, is God who has taken on human form, but remains God.

Jesus never lost sight of who he was or that he was sent to obey the Father’s will, he was sent to save his people from their sins.  And to do that he had to be killed at the hands of lawless men.

This week is the first part of “Standing Firm” based on this passage.  We’re going to look at the people who didn’t stand firmly on the promises of God here:  Judas, the crowd that came to arrest Jesus, the High Priest, and the council. 

You might ask yourself:  Why should we look at the people who are most immediately responsible for Jesus’ death?  My thought is that It helps our self-examination to see the sins of others—there is nothing new under the sun. And there isn’t any sin unique only to any one person.  Two points:  I.  The Sinners and their sins;  II.  The Sins we harbor

  1. The Sinners and their sins—each individual or group in this passage denies Jesus in some way, their reason for denying him is a sin that is common to each of us.  So, if we look at their denial, at each particular sin, then we can accurately judge ourselves and seek to root out that sin with the Spirit’s help.
    1. Judas—he denied Jesus because of greed, the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10)
      1. Sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver—less than a month’s wages
      1. John 12:6 tells us he would help himself to what was in their moneybag.
    1. The Crowd that came to arrest Jesus, they were representatives of the Chief priests and elders—they denied Jesus for the sake of earthly power.
      1. They were just followers, but they were willing to arrest God’s perfect son as a way to preserve the power of their leaders. The Power they followed and relied on in stead of the power Jesus would ascend to in heaven.
      1. They relied on the Sanhedrin’s earthly power for their stability, for their purpose, and righteousness.  Jesus’ righteousness frightened them.
      1. V. 55 ‘At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me.
      1. The word for robber there can also mean insurrectionist, meaning not a cat burglar but a person who steals with violence.  A rioter, a looter, even a murderer. It was what they called Barabbas, the man who would be released instead of Jesus.
      1. They came with clubs and swords, but Jesus has been nothing but peaceful.  And they come at night even though he’s been in the temple all week.  They could have come any time that week, but they came in the secret of night, because if they arrest Jesus in the daylight, Jerusalem will see it, and the people will cry out against it.  If they arrest Jesus in the light of day, their power would be arrested with the Messiah who they carried off to his death.
    1. Caiaphas the high priest—he’s different from the chief priests, who were just a little higher in rank than average priests.  They were bishops, basically, but Caiaphas was the high priest.  In ceremonial terms Caiaphas was the final representative of the people to God and God to the people.
      1. As the high priest Caiaphas should have been the guardian of truth for Israel.
      1. But he was more interested in protecting his status than finding the truth.  His sins were the love of power and the sin of self-righteousness.
      1. The irony of Caiaphas’ self-righteousness exposed his sinful heart in his search for false witnesses.
      1. V. 59, “now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony…”
        1. Who is the whole council?  Whole council—Sanhedrin. 
        1. Who is the Sanhedrin?
          1. The highest form of self-governance in Judea.  After the Sanhedrin your only option for law and order is to appeal to the Roman governor—for Jesus that would mean Pontius Pilate.
          1. 71 members—elders (laymen), priests, and scribes (both Pharisees and Sadducees), the High Priest was president of the council
          1. Caiaphas directed the council—the Sanhedrin to find witnesses who would condemn Jesus, no matter if their testimony was true or not.
      1. But the pinnacle of Caiaphas’ self-righteousness is when he tore his robe and called Jesus a blasphemer.
        1. On a minor point, the high priest was forbidden to tear his robes according to Levitical law, making this a terrible sin, even a blasphemous sin while calling Jesus blasphemous.
        1. Matthew Poole commented, “rending of clothes was a thing very ordinary amongst the Jews, used by them in testimony of sorrow and of indignation. They used it in causes of great sorrow and mourning, even before the Israelites were formed into a nation; …[but] he that was high priest was forbidden to do it, Lev. 21:10[1]
        1. “The priest who is chief among his brothers, on whose head the anointing oil is poured and who has been consecrated to wear the garments, shall not let the hair of his head hang loose nor tear his clothes.
      1. The Council—after Caiphas tore his robes he said, “this man has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”
        1. Mark mentions that Jesus was blindfolded, which is why they ask him to “prophesy” (use airquotes).  Surprise, surprise, they don’t really want a prophecy—they’re mocking his claim of being God’s Son.  They’re asking him to supernaturally tell them who was hitting him. 
        1. Mocking him, spitting on him, hitting him who had never done anything wrong. 
        1. Wm Hendriksen, “The face … now covered with … spittle was the one that had smiled upon large throngs of people whom he instructed to love even their enemies. It was the face which used to break into a smile at the approach of a child. [The face which] had been in the habit of beaming graciously upon publicans who became penitents. It could glow with righteous indignation when the Father’s house was being desecrated, or when the widow’s rights were violated, her needs ignored. In days gone by, [this face] had become overspread with gladness when something good could be said about a friend. Above all, it was the face that mirrored the heart of the heavenly Father in all his holiness, displeasure with sin, and—last but not least—love and tenderness. It was into this face that these men were spitting! Surely, unless by the miracle of God’s grace they should still repent, they would, on this day of the ultimate fulfilment of the prophecy (26:64) of him who was now a prisoner, be saying to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.”[2]
          1. The gross cruelty of these men against our sinless Savior comes from what Jeremiah may described as the depth of wickedness in us.  “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
            1. This means we are more wicked in our sinfulness, more wicked in our understanding, and more willing to commit terrible atrocities than we can even understand. 
          1. Jesus is being spit on and beaten and mocked and called a blasphemer—we are given a window into what the ultimate goal of sin is. 
          1. It’s Greater sin, more sin, more evil, and greater evil, than any person could imagine themselves doing.  It’s the sin that results from turning away from God’s truth and removing his restraints.
  2. The Sins we harbor
    1. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil
      1. Examine your spending habits and determine for yourself how much of a problem this is for you.
      1. Paul Washer, “We as Americans are the wealthiest Christians who ever walked on the face of the earth.  We are the most protected Christians ever walked on the face of the earth.  And yet we are the emptiest Christians who ever walked on the face of the earth.”
      1. Leisure produces fat, cold, unfeeling, unbelieving hearts too often.  Samuel Rutherford said “grace grows best in winter”.
      1. Maybe you’ve been trying to keep it summer all year long with how you spend your money?
      1. Or maybe its not the spending, but the hoarding—the constant saving for a rainy day, or padding your retirement. Are you trusting in your Roth IRA more than God for your future?
      1. Of course, we all have duty and responsibility to spend wisely, save wisely, and take care of our families, so you’ll have to look more to your heart than your balance sheet to evaluate yourself in this sin.
    1. Power—I don’t see this group as particularly power hungry like we see in politics, so I don’t mean that kind of power.
      1. But we all crave a certain amount of power in terms of influence on the people around us.
      1. We want to be respected, and we should be respectable, even to the outside world.   1 Tim. 3:7, “the overseer/elder…must be well thought of by outsiders.”
      1. But that desire to be respected can be turned into something sinful and prideful.
      1. Does your desire for respect lead you to serve or to be served? 
      1. There’s virtue in being an example of godliness, but its only godliness as it points beyond yourself to God and that only happens through your humility and willingness to sacrifice your power.
    1. Self-righteousness.  Here’s a shocker:  this is all of us.  The most holy person alive, at the most holiest point in his or her life, will also be the person most aware of how self-righteous he is.
      1. How are you satisfied with your own righteousness instead of Christ’s?
      1. Hawker, “And Caiaphas … this wretch determined the death of Christ. And the renting of his clothes in a seemingly holy indignation, was only covering over the malignity of his heart, by the horror he wished to express of blasphemy.”[3]
      1. Like Caiaphas do you get angry over a threat to your status instead of being angry over how your status has threatened your trust in Christ? 
      1. If we get easily angered or offended it usually points to a heart that isn’t centered on and satisfied with Jesus’ righteousness.
    1. Finally, we see the end of sinfulness is further, unrestrained sinfulness. 
      1. We see this in the culture all around us.  Ever since sin entered the world, the world has been depraved and when we allow depravity to proceed unchecked, it sinks to terrible depths very quickly.
      1. 18 months ago the pro-life movement rejoiced over a supreme court decision revoking Roe v. Wade.  This week in the midterm elections we see that America is willing to go further, state by state, than what Roe would’ve allowed.  Indeed, had Kermit Gosnell been indicted in Ohio today, there’s a good chance he would have been found innocent.
      1. I don’t want you to walk away thinking that we look at the sins of the world and say, “I’m glad that’s out there and I’m in here”.  That’s not the point.
      1. The point:
        1. There but for the grace of God, go I.—restrain the sin in your life.  You, believer, are alive in Christ, you are regenerate and able to fight your sinful nature—because it’s not you fighting, but Christ who fights in you.
        1. Don’t leave the culture to fend for itself.  The world isn’t regenerate, it doesn’t have the tools to fend for itself.  Engage in the with the hope of the gospel.  Don’t allow the lies of Satan to become the truth people around you accept—at least not without you trying to help them see and hear who Jesus is, what the truth is.
          1. The beauty of the gospel is this:  even while the council beat, spit upon, and mocked our Lord Jesus, he was in the throes of earning salvation for sinners just like them, and maybe even some of them.
  3. He lived, suffered, and died for his people.  Not so they could become self-righteous and stay to themselves, but so that His righteousness would drive them into serving the world for truth’s sake like He did in all of his work.  Amen.

Apostles’ Creed

277 Christ the Lord is Risen Today

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.


[1] Matthew Poole, Annotations upon the Holy Bible, vol. 3 (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1853), 133.

[2] William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew, vol. 9, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 934.

[3] Robert Hawker, Poor Man’s New Testament Commentary: Matthew–John, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2013), 186–187.