A Current Bible Study

Matthew Chapter 26

with a Christmas Season Theme

"GIFTS - Givers, Receivers, Withholders"

       A gift is a fragile thing. Sometimes it's chosen on a whim, sometimes carefully planned and considered. It's a very personal decision to give or withhold a gift.
       In this limited study we will consider some examples of gifts and givers presented in this Gospel chapter. These people and events are not placed in the Scriptures by accident. They are all presented by God as examples, both positive and negative, for our examination to lead us to self-examination. Yes, gifts are a very personal matter.

Verse 2-"Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified."
Christ's life on earth is coming to a close. He is very aware that He will not die a natural death.

Verse 3-4- "Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people...and consulted that they might take Jesus by subtlety, and kill  him."

These religious leaders would not even give Christ the right to live. They did not know that their dreadful and cowardly schemes would be transformed into God's greatest gift: eternal salvation for mankind.

Verses 6-7- "Now when Jesus was in Bethany...there came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head."

       Well, this part of the chapter is very clear. Mary Magdalene brings a very precious gift to the Lord. Man, she is giving her absolute best to God. There's real love here. God knows how dumb I can be, so He just says in verse 13 "Don't miss this, John. Don't anyone forget this kind of giving."
       But the disciples did miss it at the time. They cry for religion and legalism. It sounds so good. But they are very wrong. You can't really help the poor unless you love God with ALL your heart. They had forgotten that Christ had given them TWO great commandments: Love God, and love your neighbor. Mary's got it right. You can't follow either one of these commandments alone. Love God, in spirit and truth, as Mary did, and He'll use you to take care of the poor.

Verse 15- "What will you give me, and I will deliver him unto you?"

       Remember, these folks are all examples for our benefit. Now here comes Judas. He is in the receiving mood. For a gift of thirty pieces of silver, he trades in His Lord. I really don't think that this is here so that you and I can meditate on what a selfish rat Judas is. For me the lesson is clear: What would I trade Jesus in for? If you're going to answer this for yourself, be careful. Remember God can see your heart and all your thoughts. Just be honest, friend.

Verse 26- "Take, eat; this is my body."

       What would you do if you knew you were going to die? Our Lord chose to host a wonderful Passover celebration for the disciples. This is giving. I don't pretend to understand what He was going through, and I do not want to appear irreverent, but it says so much about Christ that He chose to spend His last hours of earthly freedom leading this worship service for the disciples.
       And so, He gives. He gives them the last supper. He gives us all the first communion. As a musician, I weep when I think of them ending this precious time together with a hymn. They sing, and then He heads out for the Mount of Olives. (Many hours later one of the hardened Roman soldiers on duty at the foot of His cross will spontaneously testify- "No man ever died like this man!" - Amen, and His strength and holiness and courage were in strong evidence at this supper and in this singing. If you need an example to follow today, look at Jesus.)

       Frankly, I'm in over my head in this chapter. Please study the entire chapter and re-read it. This study is limited. In closing I want to draw your attention to two final gifts. The first is actually more wonderful than I could ever describe. The second is, I believe, even uglier than the business with Judas mentioned earlier. The one is given by the only person in this or any world who could ever give it. The other is withheld because the person trying to give it is found to be incapable of actually delivering it.

Verse 38- "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me."

       Now we're in the garden of Gethsemane. The celebrating is over. Our Lord is a person in trouble. If you're in trouble today, I'm sorry, I care, but I may not be able to really understand your trouble. But our Lord understands. You see, He's been through it all. He didn't observe it from a heavenly throne. He experienced it as a person, just like you.
       He asked only that the disciples stay alert and pray, but they all fell asleep. Not giving your attention to a person in need is in some ways the worst of all. Yet, this is what Jesus is going through. I wonder if this humble website and all the other Christian sites and church services of worship and praise help to compensate Our Lord for the abandonment He experienced here in His last hours in the garden?
       Now we come to the gift.

Verse 42- "My Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done."

       That's it. Who received this gift? Why, me, I did. The only reason I'm not out right now wasting my life away in some bar is because right here in the garden He chose to GIVE HIS LIFE AS A RANSOM FOR YOURS AND MINE! This garden is holy ground. It's because of my sin that He's in this situation. I believe He could have easily refused to die for me and been blameless. Isn't it my fault that I willfully sinned (and mistakenly sin yet)? He had no sin or fault or blame of His own. He was the last person who should be punished. This is the gift of gifts that only He can give. The gift of eternal life means everything to the sinner. Can you see why Christians can sing Hallelujah? You can't pay for your own sins. You have to receive the gift of His suffering and death on your behalf if you ever want to really live.

       Now the final gift of this chapter. Peter.
       What a contrast to Jesus. What a let down.
       Like Mary Magdalene, Peter also wanted to give his best to God. But He doesn't make it. Back in verses 31 to 35 Peter had promised a gift to Christ. He said that no matter what happened, no matter what anyone else did, he would fully support his Lord even to the point of giving his own life. In the end this gift was withheld by Peter. As Christ had predicted it was actually withheld three times.

Verses 74-75- "...he began to swear, saying, I know not the man...And Peter remembered the word of Jesus...And he went out and wept bitterly."

       Peter knew Jesus. He knew all about Jesus. But now Peter was learning about Peter. The truth is we are all too weak to give anything to God unless God is living within us. How about you? Are you bored with all this? Did you already know about Jesus in the garden? Did you already know He was delivered into the very hands of His enemies to suffer and die? I lived on this planet for 24 years knowing all these things, but I didn't come to Christ until I learned about myself and my own need for a Savior. Unless you see that need within, no amount of religion or study can save you.
       Well, Peter lived. He lived to see Jesus tortured and crucified. He lived to see Him rise from the dead. He saw Jesus ascend into Heaven from that same Mount of Olives they were standing on in the garden. Peter continued to try and love God. But he was now ever mindful of his weakness.

     I believe the Lord was describing Peter's problem, and yours and mine, beloved, back in verse 41- "...the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Part of God's wonderful gift of salvation is power. After the resurrection Christ told the disciples to wait for power from on high. This was the gift of the Holy Spirit, sent under the new covenant not just to influence men as in the past, but to actually dwell within believers, giving them full access to God.
       Was Peter ready for new covenant salvation? Yes. Was He changed by the gift of God's Spirit? Well, sometime check out the opening chapters of the Book of Acts. Is that Peter the coward in Acts, Chapter 5? The same religious leaders who had made his knees knock together are now threatening him personally because his powerful preaching is about to turn their world upside down. They're quite ready to kill him. Look at what he does. This power and love are God's gift to all who are ready to believe. Merry Christmas.

Acts, Chapter 5, verse 29- "Then Peter and the other disciples answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men."


May Jesus Christ richly bless you - JKD 12/25/99