This weeks blog encompasses Matthew 23-27. The last week of Jesus life is filled with controversy and conflict. The previous 3 years while marked with high popularity and miracles, gives over to a riotous crowd of religious hypocrites. In Matthew 23 Jesus seems to let all of the “hypocritical behavior” to the forefront. No longer will Jesus be quiet about who/what the Jewish religious leaders are, and their intention to kill him to preserve their institution – wow that sounds familiar for anyone ever been in ministry! Pharisim is exposed, no less than 8 times Jesus issues a “Woe unto scribes, pharisees and chief priests, hypocrites.” The primary point of Jesus’ exposure is more about what they do behind the scenes or under the auspices of serving God. Another phrase that has a lot of weight in this chapter is “blind guides.” Obviously if someone cannot see, then how can they think they can lead others? Which is interesting, because their intention is not to honor God or the faith, but to secure their own positions and reproduce people like themselves. Jesus came to his own and his own knew him not, [John 1:11] The way they treated the son of the Master of the Vineyard, [ Matt 21:33-41] is their indictment to punishment and the wrath of God.
After Jesus pretty much seals the deal with the Jewish leaders desire to eliminate Him, he begins to focus on the future things of the Kingdom of God. Everyone is interested in the future and the disciples were no different. Jesus answers more than a “when is the 2nd coming” question. He uses the Olivet Discourse as it is called to outline [albeit cryptic] the Fall of Jerusalem, the treatment of the disciples and the signs of His return. Jesus uses parables about known cultural life to explain, the conditions of the world, the lack of preparedness and about judgments and rewards. Jesus does give great warning, many will come pretending to be Him. Times will get bad with persecution and natural/man-made disasters. We live in a day when most church people [notice I didn’t say Christians] are trying to promote a soon return of Jesus to poor His wrath out on all the ungodliness and immorality. If that were really believed, wouldn’t it make sense that all of us would be trying to share the Gospel with great intensity?
I am going to fast forward to Matthew 26-27. A lot happens in one week. From the Passover/Last Supper to the Gethsemane scene to the mock trials and illegal courts, Jesus is betrayed, forsaken, denied, condemned, scourged, mocked and finally crucified on the Cross at Golgotha. I was particularly moved by Matthew 27:31, I have overlooked this verse until recently. The phrase “they put His garments back on Him.” You may be confused at this point. Remember Matt 26:6-13?; a woman anoints Jesus’ body for burial. Another passage helps John 12:1-3, the anointing perfume was poured over His head, on to His clothes. The fragrance was so intoxicating it “filled” the room. My thought was this, how in such a horrid situation to find a breath of resolve. I think Jesus could still smell through the sweat and blood that fragrance of love!
Still moving forward, I want to talk of the veil that was torn in the Temple. The Temple was reconstructed according to the specifications of Solomon’s Temple. There is the courts, outer [Gentile], Women’s and Men’s courts. Then there is the inner room of the Sanctuary, then behind the veil is the Holy of Holies; where the High Priest goes only once a year. The Veil was to keep people out of the presence of God, except by appropriate sacrifice and atonement rituals. Thinking of the Veil – it was the width of a man’s hand or about 4 inches thick. Matthew 27:51, when Jesus dies, the veil is torn; torn from top to bottom. This means that God opened the access to Himself through the Flesh of Jesus. Jesus as the High Priest [after the Order of Melchizedek] enters on the basis of His own Flesh, through the Veil to offer His own blood as covenant obedience and forgiveness. [Heb. 6:19; 9:3 and 10:20] All this being said, Jesus’ death was God’s doing not man’s. Jesus’ flesh [Veil] was torn to give access to us to the presence of God. We have entrance through Jesus’ flesh and access to the throne based upon His blood sacrifice. Behind the death of Jesus [flesh] is the torn veil. His body was the veil, by which the blood was brought. Before, the High Priest had to make sacrifice for himself, then only once a year go beyond the veil to make atonement for the people. But the veil always remained in place year after year, after Jesus death, [the veil] all have access. With this in mind we “Have Confidence to come before the Throne [Hebrews 10:19-25]
The WOW for the week comes from all that happened when Jesus resurrects; Earthquakes, tombs opening up, spirits walking around, not your average Sunday – even though maybe it should be! The Roman soldier got it right when Jesus “gave up His spirit” he said “Truly this was the Son of God!”
Next Week we start reading the Magnum Opus of Paul, the Book of Romans!