Title: 3 Days Away – 4 Soils on Display
Text: Matthew 26:1-16
FCF: We often struggle understanding what it takes to have saving faith.
Prop: Unbelief is displayed when we count the cost of being Jesus’ disciple and do not pay it, so we must have a faith that produces obedience
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew 26. Since we are starting a new narrative portion here today – and since we had a brief break from Matthew last week, Let’s spend a little time reviewing what we have learned in the book of Matthew thus far.
Matthew structured his gospel account alternating between narrative and discourse.
[Slide 2] In the prologue: Chapters 1-2: we saw how Old Testament prophesy was fulfilled in Christ’s birth and early life and how Jesus was the King of the Jews and the Son of David. Matthew while writing to Jews also throws the embarrassing details of Gentile and female participants in the line of Christ.
[Slide 3] In the first cycle: chapters 3-7: We see Jesus as the King of the Jews, the 2nd Adam, sinless and fulfilling all righteousness. Then He describes His Kingdom’s citizens – being holy, law-keeping, seekers of God and His righteousness. The Sermon on the Mount becomes the thematic key to unlock the entire gospel.
[Slide 4] The second cycle: chapters 8-10: We see Jesus possesses power and authority over everything, but ultimately the religious elite reject that authority. As opposition rises, Jesus sends out His disciples for a short term mission in Galilee and delegates His authority and power to them.
[Slide 5] The third cycle: chapters 11-13: Opposition increases, and the religious elite suppose they do not need a Messiah for their sin, being children of Abraham. Jesus, through parables, disagrees. Not all who look like kingdom citizens are in fact, kingdom citizens. They will be sorted by their fruit.
[Slide 6] The fourth cycle : chapters 14-18: Various groups of people misunderstand who Jesus is and why He came. Jesus is transfigured revealing exactly WHO He is and then He tells His disciples WHY he came. His humbling incarnation and sacrifice is the example he teaches to His disciples.
[Slide 7] The fifth cycle: chapters 19-23: Israel misunderstands, misapplies, and disobeys God’s Word despite having it available to them for centuries. Jesus concludes by pronouncing woe on the religious elite and commands them to carry out their plans to kill Him and bring about their own judgment and the judgment of all Israel.
[Slide 8] The sixth cycle: chapters 24-25: The disciples seek clarification on when these things will happen. Jesus answers their questions generally, but leaves a lot of the details unanswered. You can see that the more important topic on His heart, was to tell His disciples not to be deceived and not to be afraid. He wants them to endure and be found ready. Only those who endure and are prepared will be saved.
[Slide 9] So now we enter the 7th and final cycle of narrative and discourse. This is of course what Matthew has been building to – establishing the Kingship, authority, wisdom, power, understanding and perfection of Jesus – now Matthew reveals His cross. And in that, Matthew reveals the way people respond to His cross. I found it absolutely intriguing that Matthew takes pains to show how people respond to the crucified Son of David, and I look forward to showing it all to you.
But for now, let’s only just begin the narrative, starting in verse 1 of chapter 26. Today I will be reading from the NET and you can follow in that version if you turn to page 1125 in the pew bible, or in another version of your choosing. If you don’t have a bible, the pew bible can be yours if you’d like.
The interesting thing that I think we will find in this passage, a narrative that focuses on the many varied responses to the cross of Christ, I think we will find the four soils that Christ preached about all the way back in Matthew 13 coming to life. Let me show you what I mean.
I.) Unbelief is displayed in rejection of the truth, so we must have a faith that produces obedience. (1-5)
a. [Slide 10] 1 – When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he told his disciples,
i. This is Matthew’s trademark way of ending a discourse and beginning another narrative portion.
ii. We are on the 7th and final narrative and discourse cycle of the book of Matthew. Although there are only 3 chapters remaining, these last three chapters make up just over 15% of the book of Matthew. There are a lot of verses in them.
iii. Now on to the statement of Jesus which sets the whole narrative in motion.
b. [Slide 11] 2 – “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son fo Man will be handed over to be crucified.”
i. After hammering home the point that they must be prepared for His return, he guarantees them of his departure.
ii. Very specifically he says – after 2 days – it is still Tuesday by the way – after two days Passover will come and that is when I will be handed over and crucified. This seems to say that it would be on the third day, at the earliest, that this would happen.
iii. Some key points that help set the stage for us.
1. He does not say who will hand him over.
2. He does not say when on the Passover this will happen. Passover is an 8 day event – so that really just narrows it down to sometime within the next 10 days He will be crucified.
3. He does not indicate who He will be handed over to, but in order to be crucified He would have to be handed over to the government. Specifically – the Roman government.
iv. And that brings us transitionally to the first soil.
c. [Slide 12] 3- 5 – Then the chief priests and the elders of the people met together in the palace of the high priest, who was named Caiaphas. They planned to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, “Not during the feast, so that there won’t be a riot among the people.”
i. Immediately following Jesus’ prediction, Matthew displays the four soils of Christ’s parable.
ii. The first of which is the chief priests, the elders of the people, the high priest… what do you get when you add up all these positions? This is essentially the religious and civil leaders of Jerusalem, and if they are over Jerusalem, to a very real degree they are over all of Israel.
iii. They have all come to the conclusion that Jesus must die. He is a threat to national security, in that He has served to unify many. In that unity, their national sovereignty is in jeopardy – because the Romans want you to be Roman conquered people first and whatever nation you are second. So they need to kill this Jesus guy, but there is a problem.
iv. Unless they arrest Him privately, there is no possible way they can avoid starting a riot.
v. Jesus had become far too popular with the people. Not necessarily because people believed that He was the Son of God, Savior of the world, et all
vi. But because people were genuinely intrigued – and perhaps thought that He would be the Messiah, but THEIR understanding of the Messiah. In other words, one who would come and establish the “forever kingdom” of David – overthrowing Rome, and giving prosperity and success to Israel forever.
vii. They were expecting Jesus to bring a utopian society, with their nation at the center.
viii. So if the people are expecting that – and their own leadership, which Jesus has been undermining for a while, arrests Him- it would not go well for them.
ix. Added to all this is the fact that it is so close to Passover. There are SO many people in Judea right now. And, perhaps, there are more than ever, because Jesus is there. They could have a full scale uprising on their hands if they try to arrest Him. And that also would bring the Roman hammer down on them.
x. But if they were able to arrest him quietly, before the feast begins, and then charge him with a capital crime, then the public opinion may be swayed in their favor. After all, how could the Messiah of God commit a capital crime like… oh I don’t know… Blasphemy!
xi. And thus the first soil is on display. Jesus was presented to them, they knew who He was and they rejected Him. Thus they became the pawns of the Evil One… who was a pawn of God. But more on that another time.
d. [Slide 13] Passage Truth: What is Matthew teaching the Jews here? First I think he is showing them that Jesus was not taken to slaughter against His will or even without Him knowing what would happen. He knew. Secondly I think Matthew uses that knowledge of Jesus to set up the remainder of the narrative, which will focus on the various responses to the death of King Jesus from people of many different backgrounds . The first of these is the religious and civil leaders of Israel, and their outright rejection of their own Messiah and King.
e. Passage Application: Matthew desires greatly for the Jews to see that they are not inheritors of the faith of Abraham simply because they are Jews – in fact it was Jews that killed Jesus. Instead, a deeper faith from God was necessary to be children of promise.
f. [Slide 14] Broader Biblical Truth: For us then, we can see quite easily that not everyone will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. The bible nowhere advocates for Universalism. In fact, quite the opposite. The way is broad that leads to destruction. In other words there are many paths that lead to death and hell. And on display is the first and most obvious of those paths. Rejecting Christ is rejecting God. And for such rejection there will be no forgiveness of sin.
g. Broader Biblical Application: The application then, is that it is absolutely necessary for us to have a faith that produces obedience. This kind of faith that is given by God, is a faith that works in us to conform us to the image of God’s Son. And it is only this kind of faith that is saving.
[Slide 15 (blank)] But what other soils are present in this text? What other responses to Jesus’ death can we find?
II.) Unbelief is displayed in receiving truth but ignoring or doubting its cost, so we must have a faith that produces obedience
a. [Slide 16] 6-7 - Now while Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of expensive perfumed oil, and she poured it on his head as he was at the table.
i. I must again remind us that Matthew is no stickler for chronology. He is not giving an ordered account of what has happened but is instead driving home a point, and using whatever episode he wants to accomplish this.
ii. The event of this woman – Mary of Bethany by the way as revealed in John’s gospel – this event takes place the Saturday before Jesus rides in for the Triumphal entry.
iii. So any time Matthew inserts a non-chronological episode in a narrative, we know that the content of this episode is vital to understanding where he is going.
iv. We need to be careful though. Although it is good for us to see the details of this episode in John and even Mark, we cannot import those details into Matthew’s account. Instead it may be best for us to look for differences from John and Mark, and that will help us find what Matthew is showing us.
v. So analyzing the differences here – most of the differences between Mark and Matthew could probably be chalked up to Matthew abbreviating the episode – as he normally does.
vi. However, the differences to John are more substantial.
vii. John names her as Mary of Bethany who is the sister of Lazarus, the one whom Christ raised from the dead. It is interesting to note that Matthew feels no need to name her. The only detail he includes is that she is a woman. A detail that would have sufficiently juxtaposed the rejection of the leaders of all of Israel against a lowly woman.
viii. Although we may be tempted to comment on her faith at this point, we need to hold off on that until we get more information.
ix. Besides, it is not the soil of HER heart that Matthew has his eyes on just yet. It is the soils of the hearts of the disciples…
b. [Slide 17] 8-9 – When the disciples saw this, they became indignant and said, “Why this waste? It could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor!”
i. Another difference between John’s account and Matthew’s is that John names only one disciple who was angry about the waste of the perfumed oil.
ii. John names Judas Iscariot as the one angry over the waste. He complains that it could have been sold and the money (about a year’s salary – or around $40,000) could have been given to the poor.
iii. However, John also reveals that Judas was a thief and would regularly rob the offering box.
iv. But Matthew places the blame on the shoulders of ALL the disciples. Why? Is Matthew trying to spare Judas shame?
v. No because today and in a couple weeks we will see Judas’ shame very clearly in Matthew’s gospel.
vi. So why would Matthew spread the blame to the disciples as a whole?
vii. Certainly this detail is explainable in that, most likely, Judas suggested this would be a waste, and everyone else agreed. But why does Matthew, having hindsight, not also place the blame solely on Judas?
viii. This is the second soil. The soil that is planted on rocky ground. The one that receives the truth with joy in their hearts but takes no root and when persecution and trials come, they are scorched.
ix. How many times has Jesus told His disciples that he will be crucified… soon… and then raised from the dead? In Matthew alone it has been at least 3 times. And that does not factor in other times from other gospels.
x. They received this information, not always with joy, but they at least accepted it. But it had done nothing for them. Here they are, assuming that life will go on as it always had, and that it would have been nice to spend the money on the poor.
xi. What they fail to realize, what Jesus has been trying to tell them, is guys – it isn’t going to continue like it has for the last 3 years. Things are about to radically change. We aren’t going to be walking around Galilee teaching and helping the poor anymore. You aren’t going to be able to cower behind my back any longer.
xii. Persecution, pain, and death are coming for all of you.
xiii. And yet, they still live in this state of ignorance and, even, dare I say, unbelief.
xiv. They are, at this moment, the stony soil. What a waste! They say. And soon they will all be running and hiding.
c. [Slide 18] Passage Truth: Matthew here, humbly admits to being an unbeliever while walking with Jesus, even up to the point of His death. That unbelief was manifested in, even his desertion of his King. He too perceived the life they had for the last 3 years to have been what they would have for the foreseeable future. But had he only listened to the cost Christ preached, he would have known that His faith was lacking.
d. Passage Application: Matthew wants the Jews to understand that to follow Christ is to lose your life. One way or another, whether ownership of it or reality of it, all who follow after Christ must sacrifice everything to do so. Such is the nature of saving faith.
e. [Slide 19] Broader Biblical Truth: For us then it is quite powerful to see examples of these 11 disciples who genuinely loved Jesus – but their faith was proven time and time again to be deficient. This is a major theme in Matthew’s gospel – the deficient faith of the disciples. Jesus said it often to them – and it was proved to be true up to Christ’s Resurrection.
f. Broader Biblical Application: This truth is particularly powerful for us who tend to idolize the disciples. We see their faith as worth emulating, but as we have often seen, there are no heroes in scripture aside from our God. Our God is the one who saves, sanctifies and glorifies those whom He has foreknown and predestined. Therefore, saving faith, the faith of the predestined , is a faith that produces obedience.
[Slide 20] We have seen two of the four soils. Going out of order, we will see the fourth before the third, and from an unlikely source.
III.) True belief in Christ understands and sacrifices all in obedience to Him, so we must have a faith that produces obedience
a. [Slide 21] 10-11 – When Jesus learned of this, he said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a good service for me. For you will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me!
i. Apparently this anger and angst among the disciples over the waste, was done in private from our Lord and He had to “learn” of it. The means of that learning whether divinely or humanly we are not told.
ii. However, He is quick to correct their erring thoughts.
iii. Stop bothering her! – why? Because she has served me in this. She is putting priority on serving me right now. This is GOOD! Jesus has said previously that there are none good but God. And here, he calls this woman’s service… good.
iv. And why is she putting priority on serving Him right now?
v. She understands that He won’t be around much longer. The poor – there are always poor to give money to. But the Son of God? He will soon be killed.
vi. She believes! And she serves her King by…
b. [Slide 22] 12 – When she poured the oil on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.
i. Jesus says to them “Can you not understand – you who have walked with me for 3 years, whom I have told time in and time out – that I am going to be crucified, killed, handed over and murdered.
ii. This woman understands this, and rather than trying to prevent it or ignoring it, she is here to prepare me for it. “
iii. And here we see the two previous soils compared to the fourth soil from the parable. A soil that Jesus said hears the word, believes, and bears fruit some 100, some 60 and some 30 times.
iv. Jesus calls her work – good. It is from God. WOW!
v. Matthew’s reason for pulling this event out of its chronological context now makes absolute sense.
vi. Jesus tells them exactly what will happen to Him – He presents the word of God. Some reject it, others receive but don’t believe enough to go through pain, and this woman sacrifices what was probably her most valuable possession, why? Because She believes.
vii. That is why Jesus says…
c. [Slide 23] 13 – I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
i. Thus is the nature of the gospel.
ii. Those who had been told so bluntly and so plainly that He would be killed and raised again – either missed it completely or rejected it.
iii. And here is an unknown woman who had not only got it – but believed – and gave a very valuable possession to honor the Lord in whom she trusted.
iv. Thus the Lord prophesies, and today we see that prophesy fulfilled, as we speak of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the shining example of a true believer. Losing all she had, to bring honor and glory to her King! Wow!
d. [Slide 24] Passage Truth: Mathew, in a not so tactful way, shoves the genuine faith of a woman into the faces of the proud Jews. Such faith and understanding in her produced a woman who wanted to do good things for her King. Something like this cannot be conjured but flows from a heart changed by God.
e. Passage Application: Matthew desires his readers to see their own need for such faith
f. [Slide 25] Broader Biblical Truth: And our hearts too must be stirred by this woman. To have sacrificed so much simply to honor her King… it makes me wonder if I would sacrifice my most valuable things for His name? Would you?
g. Broader Biblical Application: Such is the test of our faith. Does it understand who it is we serve? Does it realize that nothing we have on this earth is worth clinging to? That all belongs to Him. Do we have a faith that is supernaturally empowered to do mighty acts of sacrifice and obedience?
[Slide 26] The final soil is the third and perhaps the saddest. And it is personified in the tragic and disappointing life of Judas Iscariot.
IV.) Unbelief is displayed in receiving and obeying truth but not to the disregard of all else, so we must have a faith that produces obedience
a. [Slide 27] 14 – Then one of the twelve, the one named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests
i. So one of the major problems the leaders of Israel had was that they needed to arrest Jesus privately to avoid a riot.
ii. This is where Judas comes in.
iii. Judas, acting as the opposing agent from within, comes to them seeking payment for betraying Jesus.
iv. Basically what this means is, that he will let them know when Jesus is going to be somewhere secluded and they can come and arrest Him.
v. So from that time on, that is exactly what he was doing.
b. [Slide 28] 15 – and said, “What will you give me to betray him into your hands?” So they set out thirty silver coins for him.
i. As revealed in John, Judas has a real problem with greed.
ii. He is always seeing the world through the lens of how he can profit from it.
iii. Greed has long been a major lie spread by the forces of darkness – starting first with the serpent in the garden.
iv. And here we see him looking for a way to profit off the need of the religious and national leaders using his particular position within “one of the 12”. If silver piece is a denarii, then we are talking about a little over $4000 to betray Jesus. That’s it.
v. But Judas was like the rest of the disciples. He cast out demons. He preached the gospel. He did everything they did. But he allowed one sinful foothold. He was overcome by one sinful desire.
vi. Judas, having been exposed to so much teaching, sprang up like the seed in the third soil. But the cares of this world drew attention away from the Lord. That opening was all Satan needed. The bible tells us on 3 separate occasions, two in John and one in Luke that the devil had already placed betrayal in his heart, and even entered him to do it.
vii. This is a disturbing warning for us. That we may look exactly like the eleven and still not have a faith like the woman who anointed Jesus for burial. Being a good Christian doesn’t necessarily mean you are a follower of Christ. But are you known of God? Has God predestined you? Ultimately it doesn’t matter our performance, our beliefs, or visible signs – all that matters is if God knows us. Have we been forknown, foreloved, foregrace?
viii. If so – we will display good service to our God – and service that is good can only come from God.
c. [Slide 29] 16 – From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray him.
i. So Judas’s choice was made
ii. Now He was a pawn in the hand of the religious and civil leaders and they were all pawns in the hands of Satan.
iii. But in a very real way – all of them – Satan, the forces of darkness, Judas and the religious leaders – all of them were pawns in God’s hand. This cosmic chess match.
iv. Judas’ betrayal is Satan’s grand declaration – “CHECK!”
v. Little does he know at this point, that he has fallen for Yahweh’s expert gambit, And now Yahweh is now only 1 move away from calling – Check mate.
d. [Slide 30] Passage Truth: Judas being a Judean, of the Sadduceean persuasion, would have been a particularly stinging case study for Matthew to present to the Jews. Especially right after a woman expresses true faith. On display we see a faith that looks good – but is ultimately, and permanently choked out by the cares of this world.
e. Passage Application: Such a faith cannot be saving because a faith that produces no fruit is not what God predestined His own to be. He predestined them to do good works.
f. [Slide 31] Broader Biblical Truth: Such a teaching is particularly impacting to us because we live in the most prosperous time in the most prosperous nation that the world has ever seen. Throwing away well over 40% of the food we produce, averaging 2 cars to each home – in this nation, let me tell you, it is very easy to be swept away with the cares of this world. Songs that speak of this world passing away ring hollow as we focus on enjoying life- at the expense of losing it for His sake.
g. Broader Biblical Application: So what Matthew shows us, what God reveals here is particularly powerful for us. Don’t be deceived. No man can serve two masters. Either you will love one and hate the other, or you will serve one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and feed your earthly desires. John writes it this way “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” Truly the love of the Father was not in Judas. And although we might be quick to condemn Judas, how staggering it is to know that of all these soil examples, Judas may be the most common, even in this room.
[Slide 32 (blank)(end)] So what can we take away from this? How then shall we live?
If you have saving faith, it will be serving faith. If you have saving faith, it will lead to a surrendered life. The woman who broke and spilled out her perfume to anoint her King for burial, is the parable we need to understand.
We must be broken and spilled out. We are the reward of Christ’s suffering. We are the appointed heirs, a kingdom and priests of God who will reign with Christ! And we were purchased for this purpose, and the price was His blood.
Just has HE would be broken and spilled out, so shall we be broken and spilled out.
Friends I don’t have to tell you that this country is very different now than it ever has been. Freedoms are being taken and given, powers and principalities are maneuvering pieces the way they see fit – for they know their time draws nigh.
It will very soon cost much to serve Christ. Will we be like Peter and take up the sword? Will we be like Judas and sell out? Will we be like the disciples and bury our heads in the sand and think – eh it will never come?
Or will we be like this woman and consider our lives worth losing for the sake of His name? That is true and genuine faith.