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The Death of Death | Matthew 26-28

As preached by Zach Thompson.


1) Jesus knowingly and willingly walked to the cross (26:1-35).

-in order to fulfill the Scriptures

-for the forgiveness of sins

-for the joy that was set before him

2) Jesus endured the agony and shame of the cross (26:36-27:56).

3) Jesus was raised in victory, and he left us with a commission and a promise (27:57-28:20).


Unfortunately, we do not have video footage of the sermon this week due to technical difficulties.


Matthew 26 to 28 


Good morning Christ Fellowship. 


This morning, we are going to be finishing the book of Matthew. We’ll be covering chapters 26-28. 


If you are able, would you please stand in honor of the reading of God’s word? 


We’ll start in 26:1.


“When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, 2 'You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.' 3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4 and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. 5 But they said, 'Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.' ” 


I’m going to summarize a bit here. In verses 6 to 13, a woman anoints Jesus with very expensive oil, and the disciples are upset because it seems like a waste, but Jesus tells them that this is the most appropriate thing that she could have done. In verse 12, he says that she was preparing him for burial. Jesus knew that he would die the death of a criminal and that this was all of the burial preparation that his body would get. 


After this, in verses 14 to 16, Judas goes to the chief priests and accepts 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus. 


Then we come to Jesus celebrating the Passover with the disciples. The Last Supper. 


Look down in verse 20. 


"20 When it was evening, he reclined at the table with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said, 'Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.' 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, 'Is it I, Lord?' 23 He answered, 'He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.' 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, 'Is it I, Rabbi?' He said to him, 'You have said so.'


26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.' 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.'


30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31 Then Jesus said to them, 'You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, "I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered." 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.' 33 Peter answered him, 'Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.' 34 Jesus said to him, 'Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.' 35 Peter said to him, 'Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!' And all the disciples said the same."


Let’s pray.


In 1 Corinthians 15:3, Paul wrote this: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”


You have heard this story before. But this is the substance of our text today. In Matthew 26-28, Jesus knowingly and willingly walks toward the cross. He endures the cross. He is raised on the third day. And he leaves us with a task and a promise. 


If you have been to this church even once before, then you have heard all of this proclaimed. 


So my task today isn’t to present new information to you. It’s simply to remind us of what we already know and to savor it together. 


I grew up in a household that gloried in how fast we could eat food. We would race each other. We would brag about it. My dad actually had something he called the spaghetti method where he could swallow large quantities of noodles without chewing them so that he could eat them as fast as humanly possible. 


That’s not our goal today. Think of your favorite food. The kind of food that you could eat every week for the rest of your life, and every time, it would be something you anticipated: Grandma’s pot roast, Mom’s chicken casserole, Courtney’s enchiladas.


Whatever it is, when you eat that food, do you try to scarf it down and get to the next thing as fast as you can? 


No! If you do, then you shouldn’t. You chew on it. You turn it over in your mouth, and you enjoy it for as long as you can. 


On a normal Sunday, we talk about the Cross, but today, we get the chance to consider the faithfulness of our savior in a longer form. 


So may it be that as we dwell on a familiar story that we would be burdened anew with the faithfulness of Christ and the deep mercies of God. 


Let’s consider our first point. 


  1. Jesus knowingly and willingly walked to the cross (26:1-35). 


We have seen this in most of the book of Matthew. Jesus had been clear for a very long time that he was going to be handed over to the religious leaders and that he would be crucified and raised from the dead.


But we see this particularly clearly in the public reading that we just looked at in 26:1-35.


Look up in verse 2. Jesus knew that he would die by crucifixion.


“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”


Skip down to verse 12,  “In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.” Again, he knows that he is going to die very soon.


Verses 23-25, Jesus knew that Judas would betray him.


Verse 28, Jesus knew that his blood would be poured out for the forgiveness of sins.


In verse 31, he knew that all of his disciples would abandon him, and he even tells Peter exactly how he would deny him.


He knew that he was going to be utterly forsaken by every single person and ultimately even by his father. He knew that this was going to be at the pinnacle of agony. We see that in the garden in verse 38, he says that he was so sorrowful that he thought that just the pain of the sorrow might kill him. 


Jesus knew exactly what he was walking toward. And he kept walking. He walked to the cross willingly. How do we know that he did it willingly? 


Because in all of this, he had the power to walk away at any moment. In verse 53, he says that he could have summoned 12 legions of angels to him in a moment. At the end of our text today, there is a guard of soldiers who faint just from looking at one angel. Just one angel! What would 12 legions do? A legion would have been 5-6,000, so conservatively, we are talking about 60,000 beings who can make a group of hardened soldiers faint because they literally looked at them. 


Jesus knew exactly what he was walking into, and he walked forward willingly. 


So take a moment to appreciate our Lord. Jesus is not merely an example for us, but we should still take a moment to consider his example. 


This person who had perfect fellowship with God from all eternity past and who had the authority to call the powers of heaven down to defend him, this man walked into the highest of agonies because it was the will of God. 


Is there something in your life that you know without a doubt is the will of God? 


What are you willing to endure for the sake of faithfulness to God’s will? What about your holiness? It’s God’s will that you would be sanctified. What are you willing to give up? What are you willing to embrace to ensure that you grow in holiness? 


We are so quick to say that we follow Jesus when things are easy, and we are so quick to stumble when it rubs up against what we want. 


We want Jesus until we want something else. 


Are you running away from something that you know God has for you? 


I’m afraid that we are often like summer soldiers and sunshine patriots who are only willing to fight when it’s easy. Has God called you to forsake something? Is he calling you to embrace something?


In our text today, Jesus is the only one who doesn’t fall away. For everyone else in the text, when it comes time to pick up their cross, they flee. 


So let’s consider the question why. Why would Jesus continue to walk toward the Cross? He knew exactly what was going to happen, and he had the ability to call the whole thing off. But he didn’t.


Why?


I see three reasons in this text:


First, in order to fulfill the Scriptures


Jesus makes this explicit in 26:24. “The son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the son of man is Betrayed!”


Or think of 26:26-29. They are celebrating the Passover, and Jesus is totally changing the normal practice of the Passover.


Why? 


Because Jesus is the true fulfillment of the Passover. Do you remember what the Passover is about? It is remembering when the Lord delivered Israel out of Egypt. The angel of death was going to pass all throughout the land and kill the firstborn, but God instructed Israel to kill a lamb and paint its blood over the doorpost. When the angel of death passed by that door, it would see the blood and pass over that household.


By the blood of the lamb, they would be spared the wrath of God; and they would be counted as his people as they walked toward the promised land.


This is what we celebrate every week! That we have been delivered by the blood of the true lamb of God!


The only difference is that when Jesus instituted this, he was showing them that he was the fulfillment of the Passover, and they were looking ahead to his finished work. For us, we look back at his finished work as people who know that all has been accomplished. The Lamb has been slain, and we have been delivered.


This is why Jesus willingly walked toward the cross. To fulfill everything that was promised in the scriptures.


There are quotes all over our text. There are allusions all over our text that are not even explicitly pointed out. Think about our call to worship from Psalm 22. It clearly lays out what happens at the cross. Think about our middle reading today from Isaiah 53. It outlines what Jesus would have to go through and that he would be a man of sorrow who was marred beyond recognition.


Jesus knew exactly what awaited him, and he willingly walked forward into it because he knew that part of his task was to fulfill all of the scriptures.


If we wanted to outline all of the promises that Jesus fulfilled in our passage, we would simply run out of time. 


A quick question to ponder here. Do you care about the word of God like Jesus did? When you find something in God’s word, do you submit to it with everything that you have? What would that look like in your life right now?


The next reason that Jesus walked to the cross is:


Second, for the forgiveness of sins


Look in verse 27. “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.“


Jesus walked toward the agony of the cross because he knew that this was the only way for his people to be with him.


We have a sin problem. 


Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have made a separation 

between you and your God, 

  and your sins have hidden his face from you 

so that he does not hear.”


Our sin separates us from God.


And Jesus knew that his agony and death and resurrection were the only way that God could be both just and the justifier of our sins.


And this is connected to the third reason why he continued on.


Third, for the joy that was set before him


Jesus walked toward the cross because he knew that after the cross, there was joy.


I am taking this language from Hebrews 12, but we see the reality so clearly here. Verse 29. “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my father’s kingdom.“


Or look down in verse 32: “But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”


Jesus was looking past the agony and seeing the result. He was seeing the day when he would be raised, and beyond that, a day when he would sit in his father’s kingdom with his beloved and drink the fruit of the vine with them.


We often quote Romans 8:28, which says, “For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”


But think for a moment about this. As Jesus walked toward the cross, he was looking to the greatest substance of that exact promise.


When Paul writes that all things work together for Good, he isn’t talking about “the good” in some metaphysical and abstract sense. 


He is looking to that day when we will sit together with Jesus in everlasting joy. 


There are other senses that we can understand what Paul said, but in its ultimate sense, this is a very specific kind of good. 


Think of Jacob in the book of Genesis. He falls in love with Rachel, and Rachel’s father tells Jacob that he has to work for 7 years to marry her, and it says that it only seemed like a few days to him because he loved her so much. 


This is how Jesus loves his bride. He looked at the agony of the Cross and looked beyond it to a day when his church would dwell with him, and he said, “It’s worth it.” Every ounce of pain and every moment of forsakenness is worth it. 


There will be a day when we sit with Jesus in total peace. We will drink the fruit of the vine with him, and we will rejoice.


“Therefore . . . let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:1-2)


Jesus knowingly and willingly walked to the cross. 


But you know what happens when you walk towards something and you don’t stop. 


You arrive. 


And this is our next point.


  1. Jesus endured the agony and shame of the cross (26:36-27:56).


We see this in 26:36-27:56. 


In these verses, the disciples who were closest to Jesus, fell asleep, while Jesus was so sorrowful that he thought he would die. He is betrayed by Judas. He is openly mocked and hated by the religious leaders who should have welcomed him. His disciples abandoned him. 


He is turned over to death by a politician who values political gain instead of justice. he endures ruthless mockery and beatings from soldiers. He is nailed to a beam of wood and left to hang until he suffocates from exhaustion. He turned away the sour wine that would have dulled his pain. He endured mockery and public shame as he hung there for hours naked in front of whatever passerby had the stomach to look at what was happening. 


And worse than all of all these things–the Father turned his face away. In his human life and for all eternity past, Jesus had only ever known the full sweetness of fellowship with his Father, but in that moment, our sin came on him, and he was forsaken. Not separated in his divine nature, but forsaken in his human nature.


You have heard it a thousand times. Jesus died on the cross for your sins. 


But all of this comes together to paint this gruesome picture of utter forsakenness and horrible pain.


Just dwell on all of this for a few minutes with me. 


He was guiltless but condemned.


This account is objectively horrible. Betrayed by a friend. Abandoned by all others. The innocent condemned by injustice. Cruel mockery. Gruesome and severe physical suffering.


But let’s take a minute to think about some of what makes this the highest injustice in all history. This man was not just guiltless of the charges that they brought against him. He was perfect. 


There was no sin against God or man, only perceived sins from those who hated him. Just because someone offends you, does not mean that they have sinned. 


Our earthly fathers discipline imperfectly. Can you remember a time when you were disciplined and you felt like you didn’t deserve it? Those times are often seared in our minds. 


When my family looks back and ponders our years growing up together, those are often the stories that we remember. We can laugh at them because the discipline was brief, and we probably did something else to deserve it anyway.


But this condemnation of Jesus was nothing like that. This is the perfect king of all creation condemned to die by sinful men.


No one understood his purpose.


Part of his agony was simply that he was entirely misunderstood. Literally, no one understood his full purpose.


Don’t hear this and think about the emotional middle schooler with too much eyeliner on.


This is the God of all the universe who took on flesh to redeem a people for himself, and when he came, he was rejected.


This account is filled with irony. There are so many examples. But this is not the irony that makes you laugh. It is the type of irony that should make you tremble.


Walk through the text with me. We do not have time to read all of these but will look over them as we address them.


In 26:26-29, the disciples sat with Jesus at the last supper, and they had no idea what was really happening. We see that illustrated in the garden.


In 26:36-46, Jesus confesses his sorrow and pain to his three closest disciples, and they sleep because they don’t understand the gravity of the moment and the nearness of his death. 


In 26:51-54, Peter gets violent and tries to cut off someone’s ear because he thinks it would prove his zeal for Jesus. But all it did was reveal that he totally misunderstood what kind of kingdom this was.


In 26:57-68, Jesus finally claims his identity as the Messiah, and they call it blasphemy. 


In 27:11-23, Pilate condemns an innocent man for the sake of political gain. And he is foolish enough to think that water can wash him of his sin. Look in verse 24, “So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, 'I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.' ”


This man sought to gain the world, but he lost his soul. He thought that merely proclaiming himself innocent and washing himself with water would be enough. Perhaps in the eyes of men, but not in the eyes of God.


There is no water, pure enough to wash away our sin, and Pilate has no clue that he stands before the only means of true innocence. 


In 27:27-31, soldiers strip Jesus and mock him as a king because they don’t realize that he is truly the King of all the universe. And they spit on the face of the one before whose throne they will sit on judgment day. 


No one understood what Jesus was doing. Our text is filled with it. 


But there is a special case that I want to give more attention to. 


Look in verses 39-44 with me. “And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, 'You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself!' ”


Little did they know. Jesus was, at that moment, destroying the temple of his body, and he would rebuild it in three days, but not to save himself. 


They said, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 


He was indeed the son of God, but that was exactly why he didn’t come down from the cross. He was submitting to the will of the Father. 


In verse 42, the religious leaders mocked him and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.”


Their mockery had truth in it, but it revealed how deeply they misunderstood the purposes of God. 


Jesus didn’t save himself because he was in the act of saving others. His death is the means by which we find life. 


Jesus did trust God, but trusting God doesn’t mean immediate deliverance. The religious leaders were fools. 


Jesus trusted God, and God did deliver him three days later.


“the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).


We haven’t yet discussed the greatest cause of his agony.  


He bore the wrath that should have been ours. 


As Jesus hung on the cross, our sin was placed on him, and he bore the full wrath of God that should have been ours. 


 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”


Our sin was imputed to him, and the full wrath of God came down on His Son, and in that moment, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And he died. 


His work was finished. 


And at that moment, there was an earthquake that caused the veil in the temple to be torn. That veil represented the impassible separation between God and man. The temple was a constant reminder that man couldn’t be in the full presence of God because he was tainted by sin. 


And Jesus removed the separation. He took our sin on himself, and he made a way.


That’s why we have this promise that we will dwell with God as his people and that he will dwell with us. 


Because the gap was bridged by Jesus. 


God’s wrath was removed from all who would trust in this finished work of Jesus. 


And as a permanent seal on this reality, God gave testimony to it by raising his Son from the dead. 


And this is our last point. 


  1. Jesus was raised in victory, and he left us with a commission and a promise (27:57-28:20).


Look in 28:1, “Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.' 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, 'Greetings!' And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.' ”


There is so much to say here. We know that he was physically raised because they took hold of his feet. He wasn’t just a spirit. He hadn’t just woken up from a swoon because he was healthy and able to walk. You can’t do that after you suffocate and get stabbed by a spear. 


His resurrection accomplished the final nail in the coffin of sin and death.


When Jesus was raised, our sins were left in the tomb. 


Jesus burst forth alive and vindicated. In his resurrection, he was proved to be righteous and right. And for all of us who are in him, we are proclaimed righteous and right.


Let me draw your attention to a key moment here. 


Look at 28:10 again. These women meet Jesus on the road, and this is what he says to them: “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”


Do you remember what has just happened? When was the last time that the disciples were with Jesus? 


These are the very same men who abandoned him to his fate. Peter was among them. The one who openly denied him three times and who even called a curse down on himself! 


And what does Jesus call them? “Go and tell my brothers . . .”


There is forgiveness here, and there is eternal life here. And it doesn’t matter how horrible you have been. It doesn’t matter how much you have embraced the world and your flesh. 


Today is a new day. Turn to Jesus with humility, and you will find mercy in his eyes. 


And he will give you a promise. 


For all who believe, death is dead. Our physical bodies are still subject to death, but because we are in Christ, we can look into the eyes of death and say, 


“Send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.”


We are promised eternal life, and the unending life of Jesus is proof that it will be ours. 


And then our text ends with what we call the great commission. Look in verse 28:18: 


“And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.' ”


The call on us is simply this. Freely invite others into the same eternal life that has been freely given to us. 


Make disciples. Invite them to follow Christ. Baptize them into Christ. Teach them what it means to follow Christ. 


And the book of Matthew ends with a promise. 


Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. 


For every minute of every day, Jesus promises to be with us. 


He promises to be with his people. He was forsaken, but he will not forsake us. 


This is why we gather every week. This is what we celebrate as we come to the table every week. We have the promise of heaven, and we have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us. So may we endure together until that day when every promise of God is consummated and we drink the fruit of the vine with him in his kingdom. 


If you don’t have this hope, then I plead with you. Turn to Jesus today because he loved you enough to endure the worst agony imaginable so that you could be with him in bliss for eternity. 


Let’s pray. 

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