Sermon title:  BLINDED BY MONEY AND POWER

 

Matthew 26:1-16

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, January 19, 2020

 

 

 

We’re still looking at

Christ’s final week on earth

before his death on the cross.

 

A significant portion of the Gospel record

is devoted to that final week.

 

And that’s because our Lord said and did some powerful things

during those last few days.

 

Jesus and his disciples had come from Galilee,

where much of his ministry had taken place,

to Jerusalem,

to celebrate the Jewish Passover there.

 

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all record

the events of that final week,

and each of them tells us details the others omit.

 

Luke 21:37 tells us that...

 

37 Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple,

and each evening he went out

to spend the night

on the hill called the Mount of Olives,

38 and all the people came early in the morning

to hear him at the temple.

 

Located on that “hill called the Mount of Olives

was the small town of Bethany

where Lazarus lived with his sisters Mary and Martha.

 

Christ and his disciples stayed each night,

either with them or in homes near them,

and then went into the city each morning,

where Jesus would speak to crowds

in the Temple courtyards.

 

It was also during this time

that he spoke privately to his disciples

about Jerusalem’s coming destruction

and the sign to watch for

that would signal he was about to return 

and put an end to this sinful world.

During this final week, Jesus told the disciples the parables of 

‘The Faithful and Unfaithful Servants,’

The Wise and Foolish Virgins,

and The Parable of the Talents (or bags of gold).

 

And he told the disciples how, when he returns,

he will sit on his glorious throne to judge

and will separate people one from another,

as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

 

So, we take up the account today at Matthew 26:1,

that begins with the words,

When Jesus had finished saying

all these things.

 

all these things” were the messages and the parables

I just mentioned.

 

Christ knew he had only a couple more days

to spend with his disciples,

before leaving them and going to heaven.

 

So, he told them “all these things

to encourage them and future disciples like us

to be ready when Christ returns.

Beginning at Matthew 26:1, we read,

 

1 When Jesus had finished saying all these things,

he said to his disciples,

 

2 “As you know, the Passover is two days away—

and the Son of Man will be handed over

to be crucified.”

 

The disciples knew, of course,

that the Jewish Passover celebration was just two days away.

 

They heard what Jesus said,

but they still didn’t really believe

that their beloved teacher

was going to be taken from them

and publicly executed as a criminal.

 

If Christ returns next week, or before the end of January,

takes us all to heaven,

and destroys this corrupt and sinful modern world,

we’ll probably look back, and think,

we knew what Jesus said,

but we didn’t really expect it to happen.

 

We’re very much like those disciples back then.

And the things Jesus taught them during those final days

were meant to prepare them

for their future role in the Church.

 

And Christ’s teachings

were meant to prepare us

to be the Church awaiting his return in glory and power.

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The scene switches now

to what was going on in Jerusalem.

 

Verse 3 says,

 

3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people

assembled in the palace of the high priest,

whose name was Caiaphas,

4 and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly

and kill him.

 

5 “But not during the festival,” they said,

“or there may be a riot among the people.”

 

The people viewed Jesus as a prophet,

and they certainly didn’t harbor hatred for him,

as the religious leaders did.

 

The leaders were jealous of Jesus’ popularity.

 

They also hated him

for exposing their hypocrisy and corruption.

 

They knew that the crowds in the city would diminish

after the Passover celebration,

when people who had come to Jerusalem for the festival

would return home

to their own cities and towns.

 

The religious leaders figured

it would be safer to arrest Jesus then,

when the crowds from Galilee

and from other areas

where Jesus had performed miracles

would no longer be in the city.

 

But then something happened

that would speed up the process.

 

In Verse 6 the scene switches back again

to Bethany, the small town on the slope

of the Mount of Olives,

just outside Jerusalem proper,

where Christ and his disciples

were spending each night

as guests in friendly homes.

 

They had all gathered together that evening for dinner

at the home of a man Matthew and Mark name as

Simon the Leper”—

evidently someone Jesus had cured of

the dreaded disease of leprosy.

 

Simon must have been wealthy,

to own a house large enough to host such a banquet

for so many people.

 

Verse 6 says,

 

6 While Jesus was in Bethany

in the home of Simon the Leper,

7 a woman came to him

with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume,

which she poured on his head

as he was reclining at the table.

 

Who was the woman?

 

Matthew and Mark’s Gospels don’t name her,

but John’s does,

and also tells us some of the others who were present.

 

John 12:2 says,

 

2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor.

 

Martha served,

while Lazarus was among those

reclining at the table with him.

 

This was the Lazarus who Jesus earlier raised from the dead

and called to come out of the tomb.

 

Mary and Martha were his sisters,

and they all lived in Bethany,

so they were neighbors of Simon the leper,

who hosted this dinner,

and Martha was helping out

by serving at the dinner.

 

And John’s Gospel tells us that it was Mary,

the sister of Martha and Lazarus,

who poured the expensive perfume on Jesus—

not only on his head, but also on his feet.

 

John 12:4 says,

 

3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard,

an expensive perfume;

she poured it on Jesus’ feet

and wiped his feet with her hair.

 

And the house was filled

with the fragrance of the perfume.

 

Martha serving the dinner,

while Mary attended to Jesus like that,

reminds us of an earlier occasion

described at Luke 10:38

when Jesus stopped at their home.

 

It says,

 

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way,

he came to a village

where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.

 

39 She had a sister called Mary,

who sat at the Lord’s feet

listening to what he said.

 

40 But Martha was distracted

by all the preparations that had to be made.

 

She came to him and asked,

 

“Lord, don’t you care

that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?

Tell her to help me!”

 

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered,

“you are worried and upset about many things,

42 but few things are needed—

or indeed only one.

 

Mary has chosen what is better,

and it will not be taken away from her.”

 

So, here the two sisters are again,

during the final days of Jesus’ ministry.

 

And their personalities haven’t changed:

 

Martha is doing the work, serving the dinner.

 

And Mary is pouring expensive perfume

on Christ’s head and feet.

 

Jesus loves both of them,

and he appreciates what both of them do.

But some others don’t appreciate at allwhat Mary is doing.

 

Matthew 26:8 continues that account saying,

 

8 When the disciples saw this,

they were indignant.

 

“Why this waste?” they asked.

 

9 “This perfume could have been sold

at a high price

and the money given to the poor.”

 

Matthew says it was “the disciples

who “were indignant” and complained about the “waste.

 

And Mark’s Gospel says it was “Some of those present.

 

But, again, John’s Gospel is more specific and names names.

 

John 12:4 says,

 

4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot,

who was later to betray him,

objected,

5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold

and the money given to the poor?

It was worth a year’s wages.”

6 He did not say this

because he cared about the poor

but because he was a thief;

as keeper of the money bag,

he used to help himself to what was put into it.

 

So, it was that traitor, Judas Iscariot,

who stirred up the resentment

among the other disciples.

 

And the real reason why he objected

to Mary pouring the perfume on Jesus

had nothing to do with concern for the poor

or such a valuable commodity going to waste.

 

The real reason was that Judas wanted the money for himself.

 

He was the treasurer—the “keeper of the money bag”—

for that little ministry group

of Jesus and his disciples,

and Judas was embezzling money

from the account.

 

We don’t know how long Judas had been doing that,

but it sounds like he had been doing it for a while.

 

And here was the golden opportunity

to get his hands on what John calls “a pint of pure nard

worth a year’s wages.

 

This was apparently the essential oil of spikenard,

derived from the roots of a flowering plant

that grew only in the heights of the Himalayan Mountains

at an altitude of 10,000 to 16,000 feet.

 

No wonder it was so valuable!

 

Selling it for a year’s wages

would have added as much as $50,000.00

to the disciples’ treasury—

and Judas would have been able

to skim off a lot of that for himself.

 

There are perfumes that expensive, even today.

 

Allure magazine lists among them a fragrance

called “Clive Christian Absolute Osmanthus”

that currently goes for $10,000.00 an ounce

and “Chanel N°5 Limited Edition Grand Extrait

that sells for $30,000.00 a bottle.

Judas Iscariot knew the value

of this pint of genuine nard that Mary had.

 

So, he complained—not openly, but quietly—

and instigated the other disciples

to complain among themselves

about Mary’s ‘wasteful’ use

of such a valuable perfume.

 

No one dared to protest openly,

but, as always, Jesus knows people’s hearts

and their inward thoughts.

 

So, he certainly knew about all the negative buzz

that was going around among the disciples

at that dinner,

and the scolding they gave Mary

away from Jesus’ earshot.

 

So, at Matthew 26:10, we read,

 

10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them,

“Why are you bothering this woman?

 

She has done a beautiful thing to me.

 

11 The poor you will always have with you,

but you will not always have me.

 

12 When she poured this perfume on my body,

she did it to prepare me for burial.

 

13 Truly I tell you,

wherever this gospel is preached

throughout the world,

what she has done will also be told,

in memory of her.”

 

That certainly put Judas Iscariot in his place.

 

The other disciples

who had taken his side

and joined him in complaining

among themselves and to Mary—

they must all have been ashamed of themselves.

 

But not Judas Iscariot.

 

He was furious!

 

His love of money had been rebuked,

and he was deprived of the fortune

he had hoped to getfrom selling that perfume.

Judas was furious,

and he was determined to get even.

 

Matthew 26:14 continues,

 

14 Then one of the Twelve—

the one called Judas Iscariot—

went to the chief priests

15 and asked,

 

“What are you willing to give me

if I deliver him over to you?”

 

So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver.

 

16 From then on

Judas watched for an opportunity

to hand him over.

 

The chief priests were blinded

by their love of power—

power they feared they would lose

if Jesus were allowed to continue his ministry.

 

And Judas was blinded by his love of money.

 

1 Timothy 6:9 says,

9 Those who want to get rich

fall into temptation and a trap

and into many foolish and harmful desires

that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

 

10 For the love of money

is a root of all kinds of evil.

 

Some people, eager for money,

have wandered from the faith

and pierced themselves with many griefs.

 

And that’s what happened to Judas Iscariot.

 

But none of these things took God by surprise.

 

He knew that those religious leaders

would hate his Son and put him to death,

just as they had killed the prophets

he sent to them down through the centuries.

 

In fact, our Lord knew ahead of time

all the details of what would happen

that would send Jesus to the cross for us—

even the amount of money

they would pay Judas Iscariot

for the betrayal.

 

And those 30 pieces of silver

would not bring Judas the happiness he expected.

 

(Satan’s tempting offers never do.)

 

Rather, Judas would be emotionally tormented

and would throw the money into the Temple

at the religious leaders who refused to take it back.

 

And God knew that

they would pick up the silver

and use it to buy the potter’s field.

 

He inspired the prophet Zechariah to speak of it

at Zechariah 11:13, where he wrote,

 

13 And the Lord said to me,

 

“Throw it to the potter”—

the handsome price at which they valued me!

 

So I took the thirty pieces of silver

and threw them to the potter

at the house of the Lord.

 

Our God knows the end from the beginning.

Sinful humans who rebel against God,

and even Satan and his angels

who turned against their Creator,

are no match for God Almighty.

 

He turned all of their evil scheming on its head

and brought out of their rebellion

the means of salvation

for all who turn to Christ

as their Lord and Savior.

 

Christ went to the cross willingly,

knowing all of this ahead of time,

giving his life for us,

so that we might enjoy eternal life with him.

 

The true God is so incomparably great,

how could anyone even think of

worshiping one of the false ‘gods’

or one of the idols the pagans have set up to worship?

 

And, yet, that is what many Christians

have been tricked into doing

at classes for relaxing meditation or exercise.

I’ll be speaking about this

in the sermon and Q & A period

at our next Sunday evening service, on February 2nd.

 

I’ll be talking about the Hindu and Buddhist religions

because they are infiltrating the churches

under other names.

 

God began his 10 Commandments

by saying, at Exodus 20, Verse 3,

 

3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

 

And then he added,

 

5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them;

for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God,

 

He’s “jealous,” not because of any insecurity on his part,

but because he cares about us

and doesn’t want us to fall into the devil’s traps.

 

Today there are millions of Christians

who attend meditation or exercise classes

where “mantra” sounds are assigned by instructors.

Many of these mantras are prayers to Hindu gods

in the Sanskrit language.

 

Prayers to whom?

 

This four-armed Hindu ‘goddess,’ for example.

 

Some of the mantras are prayers addressed to her,

calling this goddess ‘beautiful’ and ‘glorious’

and saying “I bow down” to you.

 

Another example is this Hindu elephant ‘god.’

 

In many Yoga classes all over America,

instructors teach students to repeat mantras

that are foreign-language prayers to this ‘god.’

 

One such mantra, translated into English, starts out,

“O Ganesha, god with a curved trunk, of great stature...”

 

So, our Evening service on February 2nd

will include a sermon

on this and other ways that many Christians

are being drawn unknowingly into

devotion to foreign gods.

This knowledge will also equip us

to be more effectivein sharing the Gospel

with people who have been blinded to it

by the false offer of salvation

through Eastern meditation,

Yoga, or other Eastern religious practices.

 

2 Corinthians 4:4 tells us that Satan,

 

“The god of this world

has blinded the minds of the unbelievers,

to keep them from seeing the light

of the gospel of the glory of Christ,

who is the image of God.

 

If we understand how Satan uses

Hindu and Buddhist practices to blind people to the Gospel,

we’ll be better equipped

to set them free from Satan’s traps

and lead them to Christ.

 

Please plan to join us and invite others.