For an introduction to this series, click here.
Jan. 9, 2007
This chapter begins the story of the Crucifixion. All four Gospels approach the Crucifixion a little bit differently. John spends about five chapters on the night before Jesus was crucified, for example. Matthew just gives us the basics.
Matthew starts with a banquet at the house of Simon the leper. No doubt Jesus healed him of his leprosy. Remember that leprosy mentioned in the Bible is not the same as Hanssen's disease, which is the modern disease described as leprosy. Leviticus goes into a lot of detail describing the symptoms of leprosy, and they are not the same. I actually think I may have had some symptoms of what the Bible calls leprosy when I took some prescription medication I was allergic to. I had awful blisters all over my body and had constant fever. I switched meds and I was fine.
That has nothing to do with this. Anyway, at the banquet, an unnamed woman comes in and anoints Jesus with a flask of ointment. This is possibly the same incident described in John 12 in which the woman is identified as Mary, the sister of Lazarus. Both incidents occurred at Bethany, and both occurred during the week of Jesus’ crucifixion. This is not the same incident when a woman does something similar and everyone is shocked because the woman was a prostitute.
Next we have the scene in the upper room. Matthew just tells us that they had a traditional Passover meal and mentions the fact that Judas went out to betray Jesus. He also mentions the institution of the Lord's Supper.
I am breezing through this because this is such a long chapter, and I am sure you are very familiar with the crucifixion of Christ.
One thing I will mention at this point: Jesus Christ's death on the cross is a substitutionary payment for everyone who believes, past, present and future. Now you may say that is so simple that everyone knows that. Don't bet too much that all Christians understand that. Obviously we don't have to understand every detail of doctrine in order to be saved. If that were true, none of us would make it.
But listen to the statements people make: "It took just as much of the blood of Jesus to save that murderer as it did this little child," as if God has a magic eyedropper with the blood of Jesus and dabs an equal amount on all who believe. Of course Christ's sacrifice is sufficient, but it's not as if God parcels it out.
Or how about this one: "Jesus took our hell so we don't have to." The substitutionary atonement means that God treats us believers as if we have the righteousness of Christ, and He treated Christ on the cross as if Jesus had lived my life and your life. Christ died my death and your death. I know the Apostles' Creed says that Christ went to hell, but that is used in the Old Testament sense of the word as being the abode of the dead, both believers and unbelievers. (I happen to believe that all believers of all time have gone to the presence of God when they died, but that is not the traditional Jewish assumption, and it is reflected in some of the Old Testament. We will discuss this at length when we get to Luke 16.) Modern people do not think of "hell" as the neutral abode of all the dead. We think of it as the place of God's judgment against unbelief. I'm not attacking the Apostles' Creed, but I am suggesting that we read it in the sense that it meant to those who wrote it centuries ago.
Don't get the idea that He was tortured for three days. That's definitely not what the Apostles' Creed is teaching. Jesus was no sinner. God treated Him as if He was while He was dying, but once His earthly body died He was once again the great King of Kings. Hell is not a place where you pay for your sin. If Christ paid for our sins in hell, then He is still there because three days is not long enough to pay for anybody's sin if eternity is the price for one person's sin. I don't pretend to know all the answers to all the possible questions, but I just find it sad that so many Christians don't understand the basics of what Jesus did for them.