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Story of the wedding feast

Matthew Chapter 22

Story of wedding feast

And Jesus again spoke to them a story, “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who arranged a marriage for his son. He sent forth his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding, but they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants and said to them, ‘Tell those who are invited, “Look, I have prepared the meal. My oxen and my fat calves are killed. Everything is ready! Come to the wedding.”’ But they ignored the invitation and went their ways – one to his farm, another to his store. And others took his servants [who had been sent with the invitation] and abused them and even killed them. The king was furious and sent out his armies and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

“Then the king said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited are not worthy. Go to the crossroads and highways, and as many as you find, invite them to the wedding.’ 10 So the servants went out to the highways and gathered together all those they had found, both good and bad, and so the wedding was filled with guests.

11 “And the king came in to visit the guests, and he saw there a man who was not wearing a wedding costume. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in without having a wedding costume?’ And the man didn’t speak. 12 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and throw him outside into the darkness, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. 14 For many are called but few are among the chosen.’”

[God had been inviting his people to be married to him for centuries – Isaiah 54:5, Isaiah 62:4-5, Hosea 2:7, Joel 1:8, Ezekiel 16:8-14, Jeremiah 31:32. However, it was only since John the Baptist and Jesus came on the scene that it was clear that it was God’s son who was to marry his people – John 3:29. But most of the Jews did not take the invitation seriously, either involved in their own affairs and not interested in God, or wanting to corner the religious market and reject the bridegroom and his messengers. God would destroy those who were called but not interested – the destruction of Jerusalem and Judea in AD 70 was the fulfillment of that.

Meanwhile, God called all who would come. Those who had needs came and were healed, and many became God’s followers. God would also call the non-Jews, though the Jews had been invited first. And the wedding feast would be filled with those who had been both good and bad but now had said yes to following God. However, God has provided a wedding garment of love of God’s son that each must wear to the wedding. If any be found in the wedding who do not have that love, they too will be rejected and cast out. God wanted everyone to be part of the wedding – all are called – but so many turn him down or are not willing to give their heart to God’s son – which is what identifies them as chosen.]

Tests of Jesus

15 Then the Pharisees plotted together how they might trap Jesus through what he said [publicly]. 16 So the Pharisees sent their followers along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are honest, and that you teach the way of God according to the truth, and that you are not swayed by others’ opinions or position of influence. 17 Tell us therefore what you think. Is it permitted [under our Law] to pay taxes to Caesar?” [The Pharisees were against compromise with Rome. The Herodians were allies of Rome. But both saw Jesus as a problem because the people might follow him instead of them. So, they conspired to ask him a question that they disagreed about, expecting his answer to get him in trouble with one or the other or both parties.]

18 But Jesus perceived their evil intent. He said to them, “Why are you testing me, you actors? [You won’t catch me unless I want to be caught.] 19 Show me the money you use to pay tribute.” And they brought him a denarius coin. 20 And he said to them, “Whose picture and name is inscribed?” 21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what’s Caesar’s, and give to God what’s God’s. [Caesar is the legal authority so pay him in obedience to the Law. But God also has laws, and you must follow them completely. Don’t try to satisfy your greed and selfishness by finding ways to avoid either.] 22 When they heard [what he said], they were amazed [at his wisdom and ability to avoid their trap], and they left him and went their way.

23 That same day Sadducees came to him. They [were another religious party, who] say there is no resurrection [from the dead after we die]. 24 They asked him, “Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies childless, the man’s brother must marry his wife and raise up children for his brother [Deuteronomy 25:5-6]. 25 Now in this case there were seven brothers and the first one married, but died childless, and thus left his wife to his brother [to marry and raise children for him]. 26 The same thing happened with the second brother and the third, and to all of them including the seventh. 27 And last of all the woman also died. 28 In the Resurrection, whose wife will she be among the seven brothers, since she was married to each of them? [Don’t you agree therefore that the idea of the Resurrection must be ridiculous? That’s why we believe that there is no life after death.]

29 Jesus answered, “You have wandered from the truth, because you don’t know the scriptures or how God accomplishes his plan. 30 For after all are resurrected from the dead, they no longer marry or are given in marriage, but they live like the angels [dedicated for service and worship to God]. 31 And concerning whether there is a resurrection from the dead, haven’t you read what God spoke when he said, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ [Exodus 3:6]. He’s not God of the dead, but of the living. [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are alive and with God.]

Tests of Jesus
Matthew Chapter 22

[The Sadducees believed only the first five books of the scriptures were authoritative, and their rivals the Pharisees, who believed that there would be a resurrection from the dead, could point to no convincing verse in the scriptures to prove their belief in the resurrection. Jesus’ word was stunning because it was hidden in plain sight. He was not saying that the resurrection had already happened, only that souls after their death were alive in God’s sight and therefore ready to receive their resurrection body. In less than a week, Jesus would himself prove that resurrection was real when he himself rose from the dead and appeared to many in his own resurrection body.]

33 And when the crowd heard this, they were astonished at Jesus’ teaching. 34 But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had shut up the Sadducees, they came together [to see if they could hamper Jesus in any way]. 35 Then one of them, who was an expert in the Law, tested Jesus by asking him, 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind’ [Deuteronomy 6:5]. 38 This is the great and foremost of the commandments. 39 The second is just as important, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ [Leviticus 19:18]. 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “When you think about the Anointed One, whose son is he?” They said to him, “David’s.” 43 He said, “Then how is it that David, in the Spirit, called him ‘Lord’, when he said, 44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies into your footstool”’ [Psalms 110:1]? 45 If David called him, ‘Lord’, then how is he [the Anointed One] David’s son? [Isn’t he in fact greater than David?]46 No one could answer him a word, nor did anyone from that day dare to ask him anything [to test him].

Matthew Chapter 22 discussion questions

Discussion questions

1. It is clear enough that the story about the wedding feast applies well to the cast of characters living in Jesus’ day. How well do you think it could apply to the church of today? Is it once again true that the sinners are hungry and are coming to the feast but the supposedly saved ones have lost their hunger and their first love?

2. Jesus clearly taught there is in fact a resurrection from the dead.  Do you believe this? What do you think life will be like between your death and a bodily resurrection?

3. Why was it so hard for people to believe that God had sent his son to earth, and that he was far above all others in power and authority?

Matthew Chapter 23

Matthew Chapter 23

Jesus' condemnation of religious leaders

Then Jesus spoke to the crowd and to his disciples, saying, “The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So, [honor the authority of their position and] follow what they tell you [for God does appoint authorities for the interpretation and carrying out of his word], but don’t do what they do, for they preach but do not practice [what they preach]. They create heavy burdens and tie them to men’s shoulders [by proposing complex and difficult rules to follow], but don’t lift a finger to help. They do their good deeds to be seen by others. They make large phylacteries [scripture boxes that they wear on their foreheads and arms in obedience to Deuteronomy 6:8], and they lengthen the tassels on their prayer shawls [to make sure you know how holy and devoted they are]. They love the places of honor at the feasts and the front rows in the synagogues. And they love to be recognized and greeted in the marketplace and to be called rabbi [teacher] by men.

Jesus' condemnation of religious leaders

“But no one should call themselves teacher, for you all have one teacher [God himself], and you are all brothers [sharing the same rank]. And no one should call themselves father on the earth, for there is one who is your heavenly Father. 10 You should not even call yourselves guides, for you have one guide, the Anointed One. 11 The ones who have the highest rank among you [in God’s eyes] will be those who serve everyone. 12 Whoever tries to raise himself high in others’ eyes will be humbled [by God], but whoever makes himself as nothing will be raised up [by God].

13 “How terrible it will be for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! Hypocrites! For you shut the door to the kingdom of heaven for men. You neither enter in yourselves nor allow others to enter. [They neither followed Jesus who was making God’s ways fully available nor did they allow others to follow him.]

14 How terrible it will be for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! Hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses [by scheming to get their money]. And you pretend to make long prayers. Therefore, [because you claim to be righteous but then do not act righteous,] your judgment will be greater. [Some manuscripts do not have verse 14.]

15 “How terrible it will be for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! Hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to make one convert, and when he begins to follow you, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. [You teach him how to exploit others and gain things for himself rather than how to teach and lead others to follow God.]

16 “How terrible it will be for you, you blind guides! You say whoever makes a vow ‘by the Temple’, it means nothing, but whoever makes a vow ‘by the gold of the Temple’, has a true obligation. You are foolish and blind! 17 Which is greater, the gold, or the Temple which makes the gold holy?

18 “And you say whoever makes a vow ‘by the altar’, it means nothing, but whoever makes a vow ‘by the gift that’s on the altar’ now has an obligation. 19 Blind! Which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift holy? 20 Can’t you see that if you make a vow by the altar, you are making the vow by the altar and everything that is on it? 21 And can’t you see that when you make a vow by the Temple, you are making the vow by the Temple and by him [God] who dwells in it? 22 And if you make a vow ‘by heaven’, you are vowing as well by the throne of God and by God himself who sits on it. [You make up technical terms to control how people are to speak and to carry out their lives according to God’s Law, but you do it so that you can control the people!]

23 “How terrible it will be for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You tithe [give to the Temple treasury a tenth] of your mint and dill and cumin [your kitchen spices], but ignore the weightier matters of the Law – justice and mercy and faithfulness to God. These you should have observed [as essential parts of your daily life] while not neglecting the lesser matters. 24 You blind guides – straining out a gnat but swallowing a camel! [You come up with rules for things of little importance, just to maintain your control, but totally ignore the things that truly make a difference.]

25 “How terrible it will be for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! Hypocrites! For you clean the outside of your cup and plate but what is inside them is [drink and food you have obtained by] control and greed. 25 You blind Pharisees! First seek inner purity and the outside will be clean as well.

27 “How terrible it will be for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You are like painted tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and uncleanness. 28 You appear on the outside to be righteous, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

29 “How terrible it will be for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets, and you put wreaths on the monuments of the righteous. 30 And you say that if you had been alive in the days of our forefathers, you would never have taken part in the shedding of the blood of the prophets. 31 But you witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up then the measure of your ancestors! [Finish what they started! God has a measure of sin that when it is exceeded he will act to bring forth judgment.]

Judgment on a generation

33 “Snakes! Generation of vipers! How can you escape judgment to hell? 34 Because, notice, I will send you prophets and men of wisdom and writers of the truth, and you will kill and nail them to a cross, even whip some of them in the synagogues, and chase after them from city to city. 35 As a result, all the righteous blood will come upon you that has been shed, from the blood of Abel the Righteous to the blood of Zacharias son of Berechiah, whom you killed between the Holy Place and the altar of sacrifice. 36 I am telling you the truth, [the punishment for] all these things will come upon this generation.

Judgment on a generation

[Jesus is describing those whom he will yet send as carriers of the truth to the Jewish people following his departure from the earth. The generation of religious leaders and majority of the Jewish people who were alive and saw Jesus will have been given the greatest opportunities to hear and see the truth and yet rejected every opportunity to repent both for their own and their ancestors’ sins. Therefore, their generation will reap the judgment due to many generations who rejected God.]

[Abel was the first victim of murder mentioned in the Old Testament scriptures in Genesis 4:8, and he was frequently referred to as “Abel the Righteous” in Jewish commentaries. The identity of Zacharias is not as clear but is most likely the Zechariah described in 2 Chronicles 24:21 as being stoned to death in the court of the house of the Lord, and 2 Chronicles was generally the last book of the Jewish collection of scriptures. However, it appears this Zechariah whose father was Jehoiada was confused by Matthew with Zechariah the prophet who was the son of Berechiah and the author of the Old Testament book of Zechariah.]

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to you! How often I would have gathered your children together even as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing! [I often preached to you and hoped you would turn to me!] 38 This is your notice! Your house [city] shall be left to you abandoned [Jeremiah 22:5]. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’ [Psalms 118:26].” [This is another sign to be fulfilled before Jesus returns, that the leaders of Jerusalem will welcome him as representing the Lord.]

Discussion questions

1. This is the one place in all the Gospels that Jesus appears to be furious. What is the root of why Jesus is so angry at the Jewish religious leaders?

Matthew Chapter 23 discussion questions

2. Have you ever seen those in spiritual authority use it to control and maintain their position and take advantage of their flock? What damage did it cause? How did it make you feel?

3. Why does Jesus feel such affection for Jerusalem and such sorrow for what he knows will be its near future?

Matthew Chapter 24

Matthew Chapter 24

Foretelling destruction of Jerusalem

Jesus departed from the Temple, but his disciples came over to him and were pointing out to him the buildings of the Temple [complex]. But Jesus said to them, “You see all of this? I tell you the truth. There won’t be one stone left on top of another that won’t be thrown down!” [The disciples were excited about where they were and being an important part of history. But Jesus, even though he loved the Temple and Jerusalem, prophesied its destruction in the not distant future.]

Foretelling destruction of Jerusalem

As Jesus later sat on the Mount of Olives, his disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us when these things [including the destruction of the Temple,] will happen. And what will be the sign of your coming [as a king taking possession of your kingdom] and the end of the age [when all of mankind will come under your rule and reign]?” [The disciples believed there would be a direct connection between the judgment of Jerusalem and Jesus’ return as king.]

[Those who have studied both the scriptures and history have a wide variety of opinions about the fulfillment of all that Jesus says here and in other prophetic scriptures concerning the time of his return and the end of the age. It appears that many of these signs predicted by Jesus happened in the period of 66-70 AD, when there was tremendous suffering in Israel and Jerusalem, and Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed. But Matthew’s account of Jesus’ words indicates that his return, including the gathering of all believers, was to immediately follow those signs. Many say that the judgment prophesied was fulfilled by Jesus returning with judgment in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. However, in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ return, all the earth will be involved in the judgment, not only Israel. For that reason, others believe that there is a time still to come with a great tribulation and the return of the Lord. One way to see these passages is that many of them apply both to the judgment of 70 AD and to the return of the Lord still to come. It is not unprecedented for a prophecy to be fulfilled in part near term and then in a fuller manner later.]

Signs preceding the great suffering

Jesus answered them, “Watch out so you aren’t led astray!  For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Anointed One’, and they will lead many astray. [In the First Century AD, the historian Josephus reports there were many who did come claiming to be the Anointed One and many followed them. And there have been additional impersonators over the course of two millennia.]  

Signs preceding the great suffering

“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but don’t let these things bother you, for they must happen, but they are not the sign of the end. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these occurrences will be the beginning of birth pangs. [These things did occur in the first century AD and continue to occur to the present time.]

“Then they will turn you [and the others who follow me] over to be tortured and killed. And you will be hated by all peoples because you are true to my name. 10 And many will be offended and will betray and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will rise and deceive many. [Josephus, a historian who was an eye witness to this period, reported that there were many false Anointed Ones and prophets in the days just before Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem.] 12 And because such wickedness will be everywhere, the love of many [for me and one another] will grow cold. 13 But whoever perseveres to the end [of these difficulties] will be preserved.

[Jesus has already said that many would be killed for their faith, so he is not saying that no harm would come to them. He is saying that it is a time of great testing, and they must remain faithful no matter what happens. After all, they have already been preserved for eternal life.]

14 “And this good news about the kingdom [and about God’s love and reign] will be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to every people group and only then will come the end. [While the disciples of Jesus covered a large portion of the earth, the good news of the kingdom has been spread considerably wider in the following twenty centuries.]

15 “When you see the ‘abomination of desolation’ spoken of by Daniel the Prophet stand in the Holy Place (may you, the reader, understand [and act accordingly]), 16 then you who live in Judea, run into the hills. [Jesus is quoting Daniel 9:27, a prophecy initially fulfilled in 168 BC when the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes set up an idolatrous altar in the Temple, which was removed by the Jewish Maccabees in their successful revolt. But Jesus is likely foreseeing a event when the Romans would enter the Temple precinct prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, telling his followers this is the time to flee - that the destruction this time will be widespread and thorough.]   

17 “And whoever is on your housetops [when you hear about this] don’t go inside your house to get anything. 18 And whoever is in the fields, don’t return to get your clothes. 19 How difficult it will be for those who are pregnant or breast feeding when those days come! 20 Pray that your escape not be during the winter or on a Sabbath Day.

21 “For at that time there will be great suffering such as has not been since the beginning of this world nor will be in the future. 22 And unless the length of time of that distress be shortened, no one would survive, but for the sake of those who have been chosen [the believers], the time will be shortened. [The judgment of God against the nation of Israel demanded a time of punishment, but the presence of believers in the land reduced the length of that punishment.]

23 “During that time, if anyone says to you, ‘Look, we have found the Anointed One here’ or ‘Over there’, do not believe it. 24 For false Anointed Ones and false prophets will rise, and they will show great miracles and amazing things. So much so, that possibly they might deceive even those who have been chosen [believers].

25 “See, I have told you in advance. 26 So, if they tell you, ‘Look, there he is, out in the wilderness’, don’t go! [If they say, “He is in] the inner rooms [a hidden place]’, don’t believe it! 27 For as lightning comes from the east and appears as far as the west, that’s how the coming of the Son of Man will be. [It will be visible to everyone everywhere.] 28 ‘Wherever the dead body is, the vultures will be gathered.’ [Jesus, in quoting this proverb of his time, seems to be saying that his coming will be as obvious as locating a dead body by the vultures that circle it. Some see the dead body as representing Jerusalem and the vultures being the army of Rome.]

Prophecy of Jesus’ return

29 “Immediately after the suffering of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. [Josephus reports about many signs in the skies in 66 AD and the time following, including a star that appeared like a sword or cross, and a comet, and many other things. There were also solar and lunar eclipses in 70 AD. It appears that some of the signs Jesus described were fulfilled in that day. However, the greatest suffering of that period was after these signs had occurred, not before.]

Prophecy of Jesus' return

“Then all the tribes on earth will grieve. [The reference is to Zechariah 12:10-14. They will grieve because the sign of the Son of Man will remind them of him and what they did to him and that they did not choose to follow him. While this could have been fulfilled to a degree in 70 AD with the tribes of Israel, “all tribes on earth” seems more applicable to a time yet to come.] And they will gaze on the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with great power and glory. 31 And he will send his angels with the sound of a great blast of the trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones [those who follow him] from the four winds [every direction], from one end of the sky to the other. [Many believers were likely killed and gathered to the Lord during that time. However, though many of the signs may have been fulfilled in 70 AD, there is a much greater harvest and judgment still to come.]

32 “Take the fig tree as a story illustration. When its branches are yet tender, and it puts forth its leaves, you know that the summer is near. 33 In the same way, when all these things occur, you know that the time is near [for these things to be fulfilled.  In fact, they are] at the very gates.

34 “I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass away until all these things be fulfilled. [This may have two meanings. 1) The generation alive when Jesus spoke these words will see the fulfillment of his prophecies. Or 2) a future generation will see during their lifetime a fulfillment of many of these prophecies including the return of the Lord in glory.] 35 Heaven and earth may pass away, but my words will never not pass away [because they are eternal truth].

Watchfulness for Jesus’ return

36 “But the actual day [of my return] no one knows, not the angels nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 As in the days of Noah, so shall be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, the people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah [and his family] entered the Ark. 39 And they did not realize what was about to happen until the flood came and swept them all away.

Watchfulness for Jesus' return

[Jesus is addressing the community of believers who will go through the time of great suffering in 66-70 AD. However, some will die of persecution before that time, some will die during the Roman siege and sacking of Jerusalem, but many will carry the church forward into the future. No matter what period Jesus’ followers live, there is a time each will be gathered to him, and no one knows when that time will be, so these words of Jesus are still quite applicable to them.]

“That’s how it will be when the Son of Man comes. 40 There will be two men in the field. One of the them will be taken and one will be left. 41 There will be two women grinding at the mill. One of them will be taken and one will be left.

[It seems unlikely Jesus is talking about the Romans killing one and leaving the other during the overthrow of Jerusalem, since they were reported to be merciless and thorough in their punishment of the Jews. Rather, Jesus is referring to the gathering of the believers by the angels at his return. However, if all believers were gathered in 70 AD to the Lord, who was left to carry the church forward? This may be why Jesus made it clear that even he did not know when his return to gather the believers would occur. Jesus came in judgment in 70 AD for the Jewish nation, and many believers were gathered to him, but there is a time yet to come when Jesus will return, and the angels will gather all the living believers.]

42 “Keep watch therefore, for you do not know when your Lord is coming. 43 But know this – if the owner of the house had known in which watch of the night the thief would come, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore, also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at a time you do not expect.

45 [Believers are to wait for the Lord, as the servants of a household are on guard for a thief to come at night.] Who is the faithful and wise servant whom the master sets in charge of his household? He is the one [, for example,] who gives everyone their food at the proper time. 46 The servant will be blessed if the master returns and finds his servant doing what he should. 47 In truth, the master will put him in charge of all his possessions.

48 “If instead he were an evil servant, he might say to himself, “My master is going to be late.” 49 Then he may begin to beat his fellow servants and eat and drink with those who were intoxicated. 50 Then the master of that servant will come on a day he isn’t looking for him and at a time he isn’t expecting, 51 and punish him severely, considering him among the other pretenders [and sending him outside], where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.

[Jesus is speaking especially to his disciples and all believers, because he is counting them as servants in his household. Since no one knows when Jesus will return, then we are to serve him wholeheartedly always. If we slack off because we are not sure he will ever return, then we are proving we don’t belong to the Lord, and when he returns we will be on the outside looking in with great sadness.]

Discussion questions

1. How do you think the disciples felt as Jesus described what would happen to the Temple, Jerusalem, and Israel?

Matthew Chapter 24 disussion questions

2. Jesus seems to be very concerned to give every warning to believers to know when it was time to get out of Jerusalem. Do you think that it would have been clear enough to save you if you were a first century follower of Jesus?

3. Jesus warned about false Anointed Ones. Who was he warning – his close disciples, first century believers, or later believers?

4. Are there some of Jesus’ prophecies that don’t seem like they could have been fulfilled around the time of 70 AD? Are there things that seem like they could only be fulfilled at the time of Jesus’ return to rule on the earth and a final Judgment Day?

Matthew Chapter 25

Matthew Chapter 25

Wise and foolish virgins

[Here is another story about waiting for my return.] The kingdom of heaven is like ten virgins who took their lanterns and went to meet the bridegroom, five of them foolish and five wise. The five foolish virgins took their lamps but no oil. But the five wise virgins took oil in their containers with their lamps. While they were waiting for the bridegroom, they all grew drowsy and slept [but they left their lamps burning].

Wise and foolish virgins

“At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Let’s go to meet him.’ All the maidens got up and made their lamps ready. [This involved trimming the wick, adding oil, and decorating the lamp.] And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, ‘Then there won’t be enough for us, but you can go to the shops and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while the foolish ones went to buy oil, the bridegroom came. [The bridegroom came to lead the procession back to his house where the wedding and feast would be held.] And those that were ready went in with him to the wedding, and the door was shut. 

11 “Later, the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open up for us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘To tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ [Finishing the story, Jesus said,] 13 ‘Therefore keep watch, for you don’t know either the day or the time [I am returning].’

[The virgins are those who want to celebrate and attend the wedding of God with his people. A number of scriptures talk about this relationship – Isaiah 62:5, Hosea 2:19-20, for example. Jesus is making clear that, at his return, he is coming as the bridegroom. The lamps are required to recognize him when he comes. Faith is the oil required. Those who have plenty of oil are the ones who believe in the bridegroom, even if he is later in coming than they expect. Falling asleep may correspond to dying before the Lord returns. It’s too late to develop faith when our life is over. Those who have faith at the end of their life are ready for the wedding at the time of the Lord’s return. It’s too late, even if we believe God exists, to develop faith if we haven’t nurtured that faith while we are waiting for him. Those who do not have faith will not be accepted by him and enjoy eternal life with him. This story may also indicate that Jesus knew his return would be after all of them would die. The point of keeping watch, therefore, is to remain in faith.]

Investment of talents

[Here’s another story to illustrate the kingdom of heaven.] 14 It’s like a man who was [soon] traveling to a far country, who called his servants to him and turned over to them what he owned [for them to manage until he returned]. 15 To one servant he gave five talents [a talent is a large sum of money equal to around five thousand denarii or perhaps one hundred thousand dollars], to another servant two talents, and another servant one talent, each according to his ability. Then he left on his journey.

Investment of talents

16 “The man who had received the five talents, worked with what he had, and gained another five talents. 17 In the same way, the one who received two, gained another two. 18 But the one who had received one, dug a hole in the ground and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long period, the lord of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.

20 “The one came who had received the five talents, brought the additional five talents he had earned and said, ‘Lord, you trusted me with five talents. Look, I earned five more talents.’ 21 And the lord said to him, ‘Well done! As my servant, you have been good and trustworthy handling a small amount. I will put you in charge of many things. Come into my banquet and celebrate with me!’

22 “Also the one who received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you trusted me with two talents, and I have earned two more.’ 23 And the lord said to him, ‘Well done! As my servant, you have been good and trustworthy handling a small amount. I will put you in charge of many things. Come into my banquet and celebrate with me!’

24 “Then came the one who received the one talent and said, ‘Lord, I knew that you are a demanding man, claiming credit when you didn’t do the work, and taking the profit you didn’t collect. 25 I was afraid and went and hid my talent in the ground. Here is what belongs to you.’

26 “And the lord answered his servant, ‘Wicked and lazy servant! Since you knew I claim credit I didn’t invest and take the profit I didn’t collect, 27 shouldn’t you have taken my money to the bankers, and then when I came, I would at least receive what I started with plus some interest? 28 Therefore, take the one talent and give it to the one who has now the ten talents. For to those who [already] have [much], more will be given. 29 And to him who doesn’t have [much], even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”

[God gives every person an initial endowment of family, heritage, wealth, and gifting. He expects each person to wisely invest and use what we have been given. When our life is over, if we have trusted God and made good use of what he gave us, then after our life is done, we will be fully accepted by God, and share in his banquet and his inheritance, and also help him rule in his millennial kingdom. If we do not make use of the life and gifts he gave us, then that indicates we did not ever trust God, and we will not be part of his kingdom or inheritance.]

Caring for “the least of these”

[Jesus continued talking about the time of his return. This is not so much a story as a declaration.] 31 “When the Son of Man comes in all his glory and all his angels with him, he will sit on his throne of glory, 32 and gathered before him will be all peoples, and he will separate them from one another as a shepherd separates the sheep and goats. 33 And he will set the sheep at his right hand but the goats at his left. 34 The King will say to those at his right hand [the sheep], ‘Come, you are blessed by my Father, and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world.

Caring for "the least of these"

35 “‘For I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. 36 I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.’

37 “Then the righteous [the sheep] will answer him, ‘Lord when did we see you hungry and we fed you? Or thirsty and we gave you drink? 38 Or when did we see you a stranger and we took you in? Or naked and clothed you? 39 Or when did we see you sick or in prison and we visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer, ‘I will tell you the truth. Whenever you did it to the least of my brothers, you did it to me!’

41 “Then the King will say to those on his left hand [the goats], ‘Leave me, you who are doomed for the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in. I was naked, and you didn’t clothe me. I was sick or in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “And they shall answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and not serve you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘I will tell you the truth. Whenever you didn’t do these things for one of the least of these [my brothers], you didn’t do it for me.’ 46 And these shall depart to eternal torment but the righteous to eternal life.”

[Just as in the story about the talents, Jesus makes it clear that our lives on the earth are continually measured. In the previous story, he made clear that God cares about our effort. In his description of the sheep and goats, he makes it clear that God cares about our compassion.

Since at the beginning of this story it is people groups rather than simply individuals gathered before him and that he separates into sheep and goats, it seems that he holds us responsible corporately, as communities and even nations, for how we take care of one another. Therefore, an entire community can be judged for how it responds to those who are poor, hungry, sick, and in prison. It also shows the extent to which Jesus identifies with every individual on the earth. 

It may appear that Jesus is saying that our eternal destination is based on our behavior, contradicting the principle that it is only our trust in Jesus as Lord of our life that determines our salvation. A better way to understand is that, if Jesus is Lord of our life, then we will care about his people. If we don’t, then we didn’t really make him Lord of our life.]

Discussion questions

1. Do you find yourself annoyed with the wise virgins who would not share their oil? If oil is faith, then can one person give another their faith? What can you do to gain in faith so that even at the end of your life you are full of it?

Matthew 25 discussion questions

2. In the parable of the talents, what do you think the talents represent? How well do you feel you have done in using what you have been given for God’s kingdom? Do you see God more as one who is looking to reward you or to take from you?

3. How do you regard the people around you who are needy? Do you feel that people deserve what they get? Or does your heart go out to them? Can you say you love God if you don’t love the people he made?

Matthew Chapter 26

Matthew Chapter 26

Plotting capture of Jesus

1When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he now said to his disciples, “You realize that in two days it will be the Passover feast. [This is when] the Son of Man will be turned over to be crucified.”

Plotting capture of Jesus

Then the chief priests gathered together with the elders of the people into the palace of the high priest, who was named Caiaphas. And they determined together how they might seize Jesus by some deceptive scheme and kill him. But they agreed, “Not on the feast day or there will be an uprising among the people!"

Costly ointment
Jesus was now in Bethany at the home of Simon the Leper. A woman came to him carrying an alabaster box of very precious ointment and poured it on his head as he reclined at his meal. But when his disciples saw what she did, they were angry, saying, “Why such a waste! For this might have been sold for much money which could be given to the poor!”

Costly ointment

[Each of the gospel writers tells a story of Jesus being anointed by a woman – in Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, Luke 7:35-50, John 12:1-8. Only Matthew and Mark’s stories are almost exactly the same. All of the stories have elements in common as well as differences. Matthew, Mark, and John all take place in Bethany, and in all there is anger at the waste of the valuable ointment. Luke’s story is implied to be in Galilee and focuses on the “woman of sin”. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus’ head is anointed. In Luke and John, Jesus’ feet are anointed. John is clear that it is Mary the sister of Lazarus who does the anointing. It seems most likely that Luke is recounting one story concerning the love and forgiveness of a formerly sinful woman, and the others Gospel writers are telling a second story about anointing Jesus for his soon coming burial. Perhaps Simon the Leper hosted the party in Bethany for Lazarus and Jesus. Perhaps Mary anointed both Jesus’ head and feet, and each writer recorded a different memory of the occasion.]

10 But Jesus said to them, “Why are you giving this woman a hard time? She has done a good work for me. 11 For you will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 She has poured out this ointment on my body for my burial. 13 I tell you the truth, wherever the good news is proclaimed around the world, the story will be told about what this woman has done, to honor her.”

Betrayal arrangement

14 Then one of the twelve named Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests. [Possibly Judas was the one most offended by the use of the costly ointment. If it had been sold for the poor, he might have gotten some of the profits.] 15 He said to them, “What will you give me if I turn him [Jesus] over to you?” And they made an agreement to give him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that time, he looked for an opportunity to betray Jesus.

Betrayal arrangement

Lord’s Supper

17 At the beginning of [the Feast of] Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?” [The Passover, usually considered the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, would begin that night, and this was the preparation day.] 18 And Jesus said, “Go into the city, to a particular man [whom Jesus identified but he is unnamed, perhaps to protect him], and say to him, ‘The teacher says, “My time is here. I [Jesus] will observe the Passover at your house with my disciples.”’” 19 The disciples did what Jesus had assigned them and prepared the Passover meal.

Lord's Supper

20 When evening came, Jesus sat down with the twelve. 21 As he ate, he said, “I tell you the truth. One of you will betray me.” 22 They were very sad, and every one of them began to say to him, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 And he answered them, “One who dips his hand in the dish [to get gravy on the bread] is the one who will betray me. 24 The Son of Man leaves [this world] as it has been written of him [Psalms 41:9], but how terrible for the man who betrays him! It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” 25 Then Judas, who betrayed him, answered, “Master, is it I?” Jesus said back to him, “So you have said.” [In John 13:26, it is clear to John and Peter that Jesus was identifying Judas as the betrayer, but it was not necessarily clear at the time to the other disciples, including Matthew. John also tells us that at this point Judas left to carry out his betrayal.]

26 As they were eating [the Passover meal], Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take, eat. This is my body.” 27 And he took the cup [of wine] and gave thanks and gave it to them [, passing it around], saying, “All of you drink from it, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the pardon of sins. 29 But I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.” 30 And when they had sung a hymn [to complete the Passover], they went outside to the Mount of Olives.

[There are many symbols in this: 1) Jesus is giving a new meaning to the Passover, that through the sacrifice of his life, all who believe in him are now passed over from spiritual death. 2) The bread represents his body. Every believer is to be nourished by the life of Jesus and is a part of his body. 3) The wine represents his blood which contains his life. When he dies, it will pardon the sins of many – all those who follow him. 4) He is instituting this as a meal to be repeated in order to remind and strengthen believers in who Jesus is, who we are in him, and what he has done for us. 5) He will not share the wine again as part of this commemoration meal with his disciples and us until the great banquet after his return, where all who have been saved by his blood will be present.]

Prophecy of disciples’ falling away

31 Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will abandon me this night. For it is written [Zechariah 13:7], ‘I will strike the shepherd and the flock of sheep will scatter’. 32 But after I have risen again, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” [Why did Jesus tell them he would precede them to Galilee, when after his Resurrection, he appeared to them first in Jerusalem? Perhaps Jesus was indicating that Galilee is where the believers who had scattered would be gathered back together. In fact, he would later appear there to over five hundred at one time.] 33 Peter answered, “Everyone else may abandon you, but I will never abandon you!” 34 But Jesus said to him, “I am telling you the truth. Before the rooster crows, you will deny [you even know] me three times.” 35 But Peter replied to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.” The other disciples said similar words.

Prophecy of disciples' falling away

Jesus’ suffering in the garden

36 Then Jesus arrived at a place called Gethsemane. [This is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives with ancient olive trees. The name means olive press. Olive presses squeezed olives with great pressure to squeeze out the oil, and Jesus was about to have his very life squeezed out of him.] Jesus said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee [James and John], and he became very sad and despondent. 38 Then he said to them, “I am full of sorrow. I feel the life drained out of me to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me.”

Jesus suffering in the garden

39 And he went a little farther and lay on his face, praying, “My Father, if you can, let this cup [of suffering] be taken away from me! Even so, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came back to the disciples [probably only the three], and said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me for one hour? 41 Watch, pray that you not enter testing. The spirit is truly willing, but the spirit is weak. [I can see that you want to support me but you are not able.]

42 He went away a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cup can’t pass from me unless I drink it, then may your will be done. [I must complete your plan and go through the suffering.] [Jesus has known for a long time that he would suffer many things and die. But he could not have known the suffering he would experience by taking on himself the sin and darkness of all mankind. But this was his Father’s plan and the only way to deliver man from sin. How hard it must have been for the Father to put his Son through this!]

43 And he came back again and found his disciples asleep for their eyes were heavy. 44 And he left them again and prayed a third time the same words. 45 Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, “Go ahead and sleep and get a little rest, for the time has arrived where the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” [Shortly after, he said to them,] 46 “Get up. It’s time to go. Look, the one who betrays me is here.”

Jesus taken into custody

47 And while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve [disciples], came, and with him a large crowd with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 The one who had betrayed him [Judas] had given them a signal by saying to them, “The one I kiss is the one you want to take into custody.” 49 So immediately Judas came to Jesus, saying, “Greetings, Rabbi”, and kissed him. 50 And Jesus said to him, “Friend, what’s the reason you’ve come? [Get on with it.] Then the crowd came and grabbed Jesus and held him securely.

Jesus taken into custody

51 And then one of those who were with Jesus reached out, drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 52 Jesus said to him, “Put your sword away, for all who take the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I can’t ask my Father and he will not immediately send more than twelve legions of angels? [What force could stand up to even one angel, much less 72,000 of them?] [Yet, if my Father rescued me like that,] 54 how then would the scriptures be fulfilled [Psalms 130:7-8, Isaiah 53:1-12]? Therefore, it must be this way [that I will die to deliver you from your sins].”

55 Right after this, Jesus said to the crowd, “Have you come out [in such force] as though I were a thief, where you might need swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the Temple teaching and no one put a hand on me! 56 But all this has been done to fulfill the writings of the Prophets.[Isaiah 53:12 tells us that he would be counted with the sinners. Many other aspects of Jesus’ accusation, trial, and death were also foretold by the prophets.] Then all the disciples left him and ran away.

Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas and the Jewish council

57 Those who had hold of Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest [who was the ring leader of those who had decided to kill Jesus]. [It was at the high priest’s house] that all teachers of the Law and the elders were assembled. 58 But Peter followed Jesus at a distance into the courtyard of the high priest, and then entered and sat with the servants to see the outcome.

Jesus' trial before Caiaphas and the Jewish council

59 The chief priests and the council were searching for those who would give false testimony against Jesus so that they would have reason to put him to death. Though many false witnesses came forward, 60 the Jewish leaders didn’t find the testimony they were looking for. At last two came forward and said, 61 “This man said, ‘I can destroy God’s Temple, and in three days I can build it again.’”

62 The high priest rose and said to Jesus, “Don’t you have any response to what they have testified against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I command you under oath by the living God that you tell us whether you are the Anointed One, the Son of God!” 64 Jesus said to him, “What you have said is true. But I will tell you, after this point in time, you will gaze upon the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming in the clouds of heaven.” [Jesus is telling them that the next time they see him it will be very clear who he is, and he will be coming to deliver judgment. He is basically giving them one last warning.]

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken great evil concerning God. What further need do we have of witnesses? You yourselves have heard the evil he spoke! 66 "What’s your verdict?” They answered, “He is deserving of death. [According to Leviticus 24:16, speaking evil concerning God was punishable by death. The method would be stoning by the community. However, under Roman law, the Jews could not administer punishment of capital crimes, so he would need to be brought before the Roman governor.] 67 Then they spat in his face, and others punched and slapped him. 68 And they said, “Prophesy to us now, Anointed One. Who just hit you?”

Peter’s denial

69 At this point, Peter was still sitting in the courtyard, and a female servant came up to him and said, “You were also with Jesus the Galilean!” 70 But Peter denied this in front of them all, saying, “I don’t know what you are talking about!” 71 Peter moved toward the gate, where another servant recognized him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again, Peter denied it, with an oath, “I don’t even know the man!” 73 And after a while, those who stood near came up to Peter and said, “It’s true! You must be one of them. Your [Galilean] accent gives you away!” 74 And Peter began to curse and swear, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately, the rooster crowed, 75 and Peter remembered what Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And Peter left the courtyard and wept bitterly.

Peter's denial

Discussion questions

1. The story of Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion is full of ironies – situations where people bring about in some way the opposite of what they intend. For instance, the Jewish leaders intended for Jesus’ execution to happen “not on the Feast day” but it happened on the Feast day. What other ironies do you see? What can you conclude from all this?

Matthew Chapter 26 discussion questions

2. In the Garden of Gethsemane, what is causing the pain that Jesus cannot endure? Do you see here another irony that this happens at the place called “the olive press”, where olives are subjected to tremendous crushing to extract their oil?

3. In what ways do you identify with Peter in his insistence that he will be faithful and his subsequent denial?

Matthew Chapter 27

Matthew Chapter 27

Judas' sorrow and suicide

When the morning came, the chief priests and the elders of the people met together to determine their strategy for ensuring Jesus would [be convicted to] die. Then they bound him, led him away, and turned him over to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor.

Judas' sorrow and suicide

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus had been condemned, he regretted what he had done, and took the thirty pieces of silver back to the chief priests and elders, and said, “I have sinned. I have betrayed innocent blood. [Jesus did not deserve this.]” They responded, “What’s that to us? That’s your problem!” [This gives some believability to the popular idea that Judas, besides being motivated by greed, may have expected his actions might spark Jesus into overturning the rule of the religious leaders and the Romans. Perhaps he never expected Jesus to be meekly led away towards crucifixion.]

Judas threw down the thirty pieces of silver in the Temple, then left, went out and hung himself. And the chief priests took the silver, saying, “We shouldn’t put this back in the Temple treasury, because it is blood money [money paid for someone’s death].” They decided together to use the money to buy the potter’s field [that was nearby] and use it as a place to bury strangers. [The money would be used for charitable purposes.] The field is therefore called the “field of blood” to this day.

In this way, the words of Jeremiah the prophet were fulfilled, which say, “And I took the thirty pieces of silver, the price that the people of Israel agreed to pay for his life, 10 and used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.” [This is a composite reference to Jeremiah 32:6-15 and Zechariah 11:12-13.]

Jesus’ trial before Pilate

11 And now Jesus stood before the governor [Pilate], and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “As you say.” [The words are actually, “You say”, but that was a common way the Jews had of agreeing with what was asked.] 12 But when the chief priests and elders made accusations against him, he didn’t answer them. [Luke 23:2 tells us that they accused Jesus of leading Israel to not pay tribute to Caesar. But Jesus was not trying to get out of the charges or the resulting judgment.] 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Don’t you hear the many things they testify against you?” 14 But Jesus gave no answer at all, which greatly surprised the governor.

Jesus' trial before Pilate

Crowd takes responsibility for crucifixion

15 It was a custom that the governor, at the [time of the Passover] feast, would release a prisoner to the people, someone of their own choosing. 16 They had a prisoner then who was well known, called Jesus Barabbas. 17 Because there was a crowd gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Anointed One?”

Crowd takes responsibility for crucifixion

18 For Pilate recognized that they had turned Jesus over [to be tried] because they were jealous of him. 19 Besides, while Pilate was on the judgment seat, his wife had sent a message to him, saying, “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, because I had terrible dreams about him last night.” 20 But the chief priests and elders had persuaded the people to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be killed. 21 When the governor asked them which of the two he should release, the people said, “Barabbas.”

22 Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called the Anointed One?” They said, “Let him be crucified.” 23 The governor said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they replied louder, “Let him be crucified!” 24 When the governor saw there was no advantage to pressing the issue, but rather there was the potential for a riot, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, and said, “I am innocent of the blood of this man. It is your responsibility.” 25 Then all the people responded, “Let his blood be on us and on our children. [We take responsibility.][Jesus had prophesied (in Matthew 23:31-36) that the Jewish people would complete the sin of their fathers in killing the prophets and thus bear the responsibility.] 26 Then the governor released Barabbas to the people. He had Jesus whipped and then turned him over to be crucified.

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the judgment hall, and the whole troop gathered around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. 29 Then they made a crown for him by weaving thorns together, and placed it on his head, and put a reed in his hand. They bowed on their knees before him, and they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and hit him repeatedly on his head.

The crucifixion

31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe, put Jesus’ own clothes back on him, and led him away to crucify him. 32 As they came out [of the judgment hall], they found a man from Cyrene named Simon, and they forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. 33 They arrived at the place called Golgotha, which means in Greek “the place of the skull” [perhaps because of its shape]. 34 There they gave him a drink of vinegar mixed with gall [a bitter substance that presumably dulled the pain]. [This fulfilled Psalms 69:21.] But when he tasted it, he would not drink it. [He chose to not dull the pain since he was bearing the pain for all mankind.]

The crucifixion

35 And when they had hung him on the cross, they divided his clothes among them by casting lots. [This fulfilled a reference to dividing his clothes in Psalms 22:18.] 36 Then they sat down there and watched him.

37 Fastened over his head, the accusation had been written, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews”. 38 Two thieves were also crucified next to him, one on his right, and one on his left. 39 And those that walked by insulted him, shaking their heads 40 and saying [things like], “You who [said you would] destroy the Temple and in three days build it again, save yourself!” “If you are the son of God, then come down from the cross!”

41 Likewise, the chief priests mocked him, along with the teachers of the Law and the elders, 42 saying, “He saved others, but he can’t save himself! If he is the King of Israel, let him come down from the cross and we will believe in him. 43 He trusted in God. If God wants him, let God rescue him. But this man said, ‘I am the Son of God’ [, thus insulting God]”. 44 Even the thieves who were crucified with him threw at him the same insults. [According to Luke 23:39-43, one of the two thieves repented and came to faith in Jesus.]

Death of Jesus and miracles surrounding it

45 From the sixth hour [midday] to the ninth hour [midafternoon] there was darkness over the whole land. 46 And around the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eli. Eli. Lama sabachthani!”, which means [translated from Aramaic to Greek], “My God! My God! Why have you abandoned me?”. [These are the words of Psalms 22:1. The entire experience of Jesus’ crucifixion is summed up by this Psalm. From the night before, until this point, Jesus is taking the place of all men, receiving their punishment for sin, bearing the pain and weakness of their lives, including men’s experience of separation from God. So here he cries out the depth of the despair of that identification, the completeness of the cup his Father required him to drink.]

Death of Jesus and miracles surrounding it

47 Some of the bystanders, hearing what he had said, commented, “He is calling [the prophet] Elijah.” 48 Someone else ran and got a sponge, filled it with vinegar, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49 But someone said, “Wait, let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” 50 But Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit. [He died.]

51 [At that moment,] the curtain of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. [This could not have been seen from the place of crucifixion, so it must have been reported later by priests who were eye witnesses. The curtain was made of fabric woven four inches thick and was sixty feet long from top to bottom, and it separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies (Exodus 26:31-35). Only God or his angels could have torn it from top to bottom. Because Jesus, by dying for all of man’s sins, had removed the separation between God and mankind, men would now have free access before God (Hebrews 10:19-20).]

The earth shook, and rocks split. 52 Tombs opened, and many bodies of holy ones [followers of God] who had fallen asleep [had previously died] were raised [to life]. 53 They came out of their tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city [Jerusalem] and appeared to many. [This report may sound difficult to believe but, apparently, there were many witnesses.] 54 When the centurion [who supervised the crucifixion] and those who were with him [the other soldiers] saw the earthquake and the things that happened, they were very fearful, and said, “Truly this was the Son of God” [, because they saw the earthquake as God’s reaction to what was done].

55 And there were many women watching from far off. These were ones who had followed him from Galilee and served him. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. [Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, may also be the wife of Clopas mentioned in John 19:25. Salome may have been the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John, since Matthew mentions the mother of the sons of Zebedee but not Salome. And at some point, according to John’s Gospel, Jesus' mother Mary and some of the others moved close to the cross.]

Burial of Jesus

57 When it was evening [of Friday the day of the crucifixion but the Sabbath had already begun], a rich man came, named Joseph from Arimathea, who was also a follower of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus, and Pilate ordered it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. 60 He laid the body in his own unused tomb, which he had previously had cut out of the rock, and he rolled a large stone to the door of the tomb, and departed. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary [the mother of James and Joseph] were sitting over across from the tomb [so they saw where it was].

Burial of Jesus

62 The next day after the preparation [now the Sabbath and, this year, also the chief day of the Passover], the chief priests and Pharisees came together before Pilate, 63 saying, “Sir, we remember that the impostor [Jesus] said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again’. 64 Command therefore that the tomb be made secure, or else his disciples may come by night and steal away his body, and say to the people, ‘He is risen from the dead.’ This last deception [that he has risen from the dead] would be worse than the first [that he is the Anointed One].”

65 Pilate responded to them, “You have your own guard [contingent of Jewish soldiers]. Go ahead [, with my authorization,] and make the tomb as secure as you can.” 66 They went and made the tomb secure, sealing it [placing a mark in clay that would make it obvious if the rock were moved], and setting a watch.

Discussion questions

1. Do you think Pilate could have avoided crucifying Jesus?

Matthew Chapter 27 discussion questions

2. What were the things Jesus had to endure? Why do you think Jesus had to go through so much rejection and pain?

3. Why was the centurion so convinced Jesus must have been the son of God?

Matthew Chapter 28

Matthew Chapter 28

Jesus’ resurrection

When the Sabbath was over, just before dawn on the first day of the week [Sunday], Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the tomb [where they had seen Jesus laid by Joseph of Arimathea after his death]. [According to Luke 24:10, there were other women who came with Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, including Salome and Joanna.]

Jesus' resurrection

And there had been a great earthquake [now the second earthquake associated with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus], for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven. The angel rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was bright as lightning and what he was wearing was white as snow. The guards at the tomb were so frightened, they trembled and fainted like dead men. [There was a report by the guards that the disciples must have heard. It seems likely the guards must have departed by the time the women arrived.]

[According to John 20:2, when Mary Magdalene recognized Jesus was not still in the tomb, she ran off to tell Peter and John, leaving the other Mary and Salome and Joanna at the tomb.] But the angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid! For I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here. For he has risen, as he said [he would]. Come see the place where he lay. Quickly go and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead and that he will go before you into Galilee. There you will see him. Now I have told you!”

The women quickly left the tomb with fear and great joy and ran to bring word to the disciples. [On the way,] Jesus met them, saying, “Greetings!” They fell before him and held him by the feet and worshipped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Go and tell my brothers that I am going to Galilee, and they will see me there.”

[Both the angels and Jesus instructed the women to tell the disciples (brothers) to meet him in Galilee, but then he appeared to the disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24 and John 20). We don’t know why for sure. Perhaps he appeared in Jerusalem because the disciples were so fearful and unbelieving they needed to be encouraged before they could do anything else. Also, Jesus probably had more followers in Galilee than in Jerusalem, so he was preparing the twelve to get the word out and prepare to go back to Galilee.]

Cover-up by Jewish leaders

11 While the women were on their way to tell the disciples, some of the Jewish guards from the tomb came into the city [Jerusalem] and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12 And when the chief priests had gathered and discussed it with the elders, they gave a large amount of money to the soldiers [from the guard] 13 and told them, “[Here’s your story.] Tell people that Jesus’ disciples came at night and stole his body while we slept. 14 And if this comes to the governor [Pilate’s] ears, we will convince him about what happened and keep you out of trouble.” 15 The soldiers took the money and did what they were directed. The story spread by the soldiers is what is commonly told among the Jews to this day [about why the tomb was empty].

Cover-up by Jewish leaders

[Meanwhile, Jesus appeared to the disciples many times: 1) To Mary Magdalene when she returned to the tomb a second time (John 20:11-18), 2) To Peter (Luke 24:34), 3) To the two followers on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-33), 4) To ten of the disciples behind locked doors near Jerusalem (John 20:19-23), 5) To the eleven including Thomas at the same location (John 20:24-29), 6) To seven of the disciples at the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23), 7) To five hundred at one time at a mountain in Galilee  (1 Corinthians 15:6). .]

Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples traveled to Galilee, to a mountain that Jesus had appointed to meet them. 17 When they saw Jesus, they worshipped him. But some doubted. [This may have been the occasion as well where over five hundred witnessed the resurrected Lord (1 Corinthians 15:6). It is not clear who it was that doubted - some who saw him on the mountain, or others who heard about his appearance but had trouble believing this was truly Jesus.]

Great Commission

18 Jesus came to the disciples and said, “I have been given all authority [by my Father] over heaven and earth. [Because of what Jesus had accomplished through living his sinless life as a human being, then dying and paying the sin judgment for all men, Jesus was given legal authority over all the earth and the people in it. By God’s judgment, Satan had to give up the authority, though Satan is still permitted to try to persecute people, if they will fall for his tricks. Jesus already possessed authority over all angels and demons.]

19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all peoples. [Because Jesus has all the authority, believers can confidently go everywhere to bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus, and no other authority can stop them. Jesus had already given every believer authority to do all that he did and to act on his behalf (John 14:12-13).] Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. [Once people believe, this is how people are to be including into the body of believers as they are washed clean of their past. The Son and Holy Spirit are rightly included in the Godhead alongside of the Father. All three are needed in the life of a believer.] 20 Teach them to follow everything I have commanded you. [This is why it was so important for the stories and words of Jesus to be written down, and then studied and applied.] See, I am with you always [wherever you go], until the end of this age. [We have work to do together until it is time for my return].”

Discussion questions

1. Does it surprise you that the men were so afraid and the women so brave until they saw the angels? Would you be afraid if you saw angels at a tomb? If you saw Jesus die, and then you saw him alive, would you have any fear or doubt?

Matthew Chapter 28 discussion questions

2. Why does Jesus having all authority allow us to go everywhere and make disciples?

3. What are the things that you would teach those you are making disciples?

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