A Man of Cyrene, Simon by name – Matthew 27:31-32

Briefly, I want to share with you some of my cogitations on another of the Biblical men named “Simon.” And right off the bat we are confronted with a lot of nothing. There is very little that we know about him. He is mentioned in only three scriptures – all in the same context. Mark 15:21 – “And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.” Luke 23:26 – “And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.” Simon is one of several people who have been immortalized by a brief contact with the Saviour. And since he is named in all three of synoptic gospels we not only have the right to examine him, but we have the obligation as well – whether or not there is enough material for a real sermon. My first step in studying Simon was to blend our three references into one all-inclusive statement. This is the Gospel according to David, chapter 20, verse 32. If you like, you can turn to any of the real gospels and pay attention to make sure I’ve included every thing. “And as they led our Lord out, they laid hold and compelled Simon, a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, who was passing by on his way into Jerusalem from the country, to bear Jesus’ cross after him.” As I meditated on these verses I...

The World’s Treatment of Christ – Matthew 27:26-31

We are coming to some of the most intense, heart-breaking verses in the Bible. I warn you that I will not be able to fully expound these verses, because I don’t think I fully understand them myself. Of course, there are the obvious details of the case, which to some degree we might all be able to grasp. And then we are sufficiently wicked ourselves to be able to slip into the mind-set of the perpetrators. But the mind and purpose of God will undoubtedly be beyond our ken. These verses describe about ten different actions or events. By their very nature, I should be able to keep your attention on them for a few minutes. But I was seeking a different angle with which to approach them. I have decided to break one of my personal rules – I am going to allegorize them to a small degree. Be sure that the thorns, for example, beaten down onto the head of Saviour were in no way mere symbols. They were never meant to mean something esoteric, Heavenly or spiritual. They were real thorns, and the blood and pain they produced were genuine. They were a part of the total purchase price of our salvation, like each of these other horrible deeds. But along with describing the thorns and the other things, I want to try to use them to comment on the condition of modern Christendom. I want us to consider the world’s treatment of Christ our Saviour. As we have already seen, much of the world simply turned their backs upon the Lord Jesus. The secular world,...

For Envy they delivered Him – Matthew 27:18

You young people might disagree, but I am not yet an old man – older every day – but not “old” as yet. One aspect of that point is the fact that I still learn things. I can’t say that I learn something new every day, but I do learn things from time to time. Sadly, as I said, I am “older” – what that means is that I don’t always retain the new things that I learn. Friday I learned something new – it is not a matter of life or death, but it is interesting. It is something which I hope to retain for a while, but I’ll probably have to work at it to make that happen. We are told here in our text that Pilate was aware that the Jews had brought Christ to him “out of ENVY.” The Greek word is “phthonos” (fthon’-os), and it is always translated either “envy” or “envying.” There is another more common word – “zelos” (dzay’-los) which is also translated “envy,” but it is rendered “zeal,” “indignation,” “a fervent mind,” and “jealousy” as well. Is there a difference between “envy” and “jealousy,” and if so what is it? There is the thing which I learned last Friday. I looked up “envy” in my “Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.” Mr. Vine listed the scriptures where the word is used, adding a few obvious notes. But then he wrote, “‘Zelos’ is to be distinguished from ‘phthonos.’ The distinction lies in this, that ENVY desires to DEPRIVE another of what he has. JEALOUSY desires to HAVE the same or the...

He Washed His Hands before the Multitude – Matthew 27:20-25

Pilate was the Roman Procurator of the Province of Judea. He had the responsibility of governing Jerusalem and most of the Jews – on behalf of Caesar. The secular and spiritual leadership of those Jews recognized Jesus Christ to be a threat – not to Rome – but to their own exalted positions under Rome. Using false witnesses and twisted logic, they had determined that Jesus had been guilty of blasphemy. In their sight, this ignorant Galilean claimed to be the Messiah. He claimed both power and authority over the temple – their temple. He called Himself the Son of God, making Himself equal to Jehovah. So they brought the self-proclaimed Messiah to Pilate in order to have Him put to death. But Pilate found nothing in Jesus worthy of death. We have no idea how Pilate pictured our Lord. He may have thought of Christ as nothing more than a pathetic, impotent lunatic. Or he might have considered him a rival to the High Priest. But he was certainly not a rival to either himself or to Rome. Not even King Herod considered Jesus to be a threat. So Pilate was “wont” to release Christ and to send him back to Galilee. For some time, Pilate had maintained a tradition to release one of his prisoners back into Jewish society. “They had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.” “Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing,...

Decision Time – Matthew 27:11-26

  In the years preceding 1994, the Quaker Oats Company had posted strong financial earnings. At the same time, the company which produced Snapple teas was doing equally as well. So that year the chairman of Quaker Oats pushed his company into buying Snapple for $1.7 billion. As it turned out, it was a huge financial disaster for Quaker Oats. And a few years later its Snapple division was sold for a mere $300 million. That was one sixth of its original purchase price. Needless to say – that executive resigned in shame. Quaker Oats made a bad choice in buying Snapple that year, even though Snapple may have been doing better than Quaker over the last ten or fifteen years. Of course, it is very unlikely that you or I will ever be faced with a decision of that magnitude – $1.7 billion. On the other hand, there are decisions that we make daily which may be even more important. Just after the Quaker Oats/Snapple disaster there was a 38 year old man walking to his job at a warehouse in Rosemont, Illinois. He decided take a short-cut by cutting across the eight-lane Tri-State Tollway. After successfully negotiating the four northbound lanes, his hat blew off – probably a Chicago Bear’s cap. Without a moment’s hesitation – without thinking – he turned and chased it. That was when the semi-trailer truck him. He no longer needed his hat. The man made several bad choices that day, and at least one of them killed him. Maybe it would be more correct to say it was the combination of choices...

Barabbas, the God-blessed Man – Matthew 27:11-22

  I’d like you to consider Barabbas this morning, because, ironically, he has wonderful lessons to teach us. He was an evil, wicked man, who was “saved” by the grace of God – in a certain sense of the word. But first, let me try to set the stage just a little bit. Matthew introduces us to Pontius Pilate as governor – procurator – of Judea. Luke goes beyond this, getting very specific – “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests.” The name “Pontius” indicates that Pilate was from a very famous, or infamous, military family. An earlier relative of his, Lucius Pontius Aquila, was one of the assassins of Julius Caesar. Depending on who was in currently in power, that could have been good or troublesome for Pilate. He was, at the time of Matthew 27, the fifth procurator of Judea, and he stayed in office for about ten years. As Luke reminds us there were other rulers over the other three parts of Israel. And in a very confused Roman world, they all had different political ranks. In this chapter we see that Herod, the tetrarch of Galilee, was visiting in Jerusalem for the Passover. As a “procurator,” Pilate was a personal servant of Caesar and higher in rank than his three neighbors, but a more distant neighbor, the ruler of Syria, was in some...

Christ’s Trial before Pilate – Matthew 27:11-26

I’ve titled this message “Christ’s Trial before Pilate.” I have probably used the word “trial” many times over the last couple of weeks, and I will do so again. Jesus stood before the Jewish council, then before Pilate, then before Herod and again before Pilate. And in some cases the word “trial” may be somewhat appropriate, but in others there was no trial at all. Despite using that word myself, we find that it is foreign to the Word of God. In neither Testament do we use “trial” to speak of a formal investigation of someone before a judge. We may find the event, but not that word. Oh, the word “trial” is found in the Bible six times but it speaks of “testings, “afflictions” and “tribulations.” And surprisingly it comes from six different original words – two Hebrew and four Greek. One of those references brings US – US personally – into what our Saviour was enduring here. I Peter 4:12-13 – “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” As I hope to point out, what our Saviour endured, even in appearing before Pilate, was for our salvation. And, if or when we endure our fiery trials, remember that we are in a special way being joined to Christ. This afternoon I’d like summarize Jesus’ trial before Pilate, making a couple of applications along the way. Later, we’ll...

Judas went and Hanged Himself – Matthew 27:1-5

I have been trying for weeks to put myself into Judas’ shoes, but it has been without much success. I have tried to reach a reasonable explanation for his betrayal of Christ, but I can only make guesses. And now we come to the aftermath of that betrayal and his return to this wicked employers. “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.” What was the state of Judas’ mind at that point? Wasn’t he filled with remorse and apparently with regret for what he had done to Jesus? The Lord had never done anything unkind or sinful to him – or to anyone else as far as he knew. And the life which Judas knew for the past 3 years had come to an abrupt end – at his own hands. Perhaps this Jesus really was the expected Messiah, but in his warped theology it appears that Judas had put an end to one of the greatest hopes of Israel. He had nothing to which to look forward. Oh, and being slightly wealthy certainly didn’t fill the void he had created. He “departed and went and hanged himself.” As most of you know, Peter gives a different account of Judas’ death in Acts 1. “Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.” The differences between the gospels and Acts might be explained in the breaking of the gallows he used. Judas may have hanged himself...

Jeremy’s Prophecy – Matthew 27:6-10

  Years ago, I awoke one Saturday morning with a terrible pain in my gut, low on the right side. Knowing my body fairly well, I told Judy, my wife, that I had appendicitis. When she replied me that I needed to go to the hospital – our doctor’s office was closed. I told her that I couldn’t do that because I had my usual Sunday responsibilities the next day. There was no one who could cover for me. I promised that if the ladies of the church insisted I go to the hospital, I would go – on Monday morning. Well, there was female conspiracy that Lord’s Day, so on Monday I presented myself at the local hospital. It wasn’t long until I was being wheeled into the surgery. As I went into that operating room, other than the fact that I had been gassed, it wasn’t with any happy anticipation. I had no fear, but I could think of a great many things I would rather to be doing. It was just something which had to be done. I had limited options. In a similar fashion I enter another room this evening. It’s not with joy or a lot of confidence. In fact you might say that I’m being carried in on the gurney of these verses. It’s not that I really want to enter this room. I have no choice. If we are going to be thorough, I have to address this prophecy of Jeremy. What is the cause of my trepidation? “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they...

The Innocent Blood – Matthew 27:3-7

I feel led of the Lord to postpone my promised message on suicide until next week. In the context and chronology of this scripture, I think that it is important to deal with another subject first. We touched on it last week, but sometimes a touch is not enough. Just smelling the roast in the oven, or the chicken on the grill, is not as satisfying as eating it. Judas’ confession, in emotions of which I can only guess, included, “I have betrayed the innocent blood.” Those words open pages in the great theological books of the library of Heaven. I hope that I didn’t mislead anyone last week in my brief comments on verse 4. I didn’t want to imply that the definite article “the” is in the Greek text. It isn’t. What I said, and what I hope you heard was that our translators, men who were the most expert of their day and no doubt as good or better than translators today – those men determined that the Greek demanded that definite article. Rather than saying, “I have betrayed innocent blood,” they felt that Judas referred to “THE innocent blood.” And, in my limited education, I fully agree with what we read in our Authorized Version of the scriptures. This morning lets begin by asking – what was it that Judas probably meant? For a moment, I hope that you theologians can lay aside what you know to be the true meaning of the words. We will come back to that in a few minutes. And while we do that, let’s assume that Judas had no...

The Sins of Priests and Betrayers – Matthew 27:1-10

Sometimes I feel like a reporter, or perhaps the publisher, for one of those grocery store tabloids. I rake up the muck in some people’s lives and spread them all over the front page. But I hope that no one ever thinks that it is for the headlines or for some sort of wicked entertainment. I bring up the sins of OTHERS in order that they might not become the sins of US – you and me. What is the theme of these ten verses? Well, there is the obvious statement of fact and the biographical history which applied to Christ Jesus. And the last two verses take us to the fulfilment of prophecy. But other than these, there is one underlying theme – the sins of the men described here. II Peter closes with words which might be applied to us tonight – “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things … beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” When we can clearly see the sins of Judas and Caiaphas, then we are better prepared to fight in the day of our temptation – with the blessing of the Lord. Oh, our sins may not be the same – we pray that they will not be the same – but all sin is related, and all sin is dangerous. So what are the sins described in this scripture? We will start with...

What does Judas Teach us about Repentance? – Matthew 27:1-10

I want to return to a subject which I directly address, on average, about every four or five years. I want to speak to you about repentance – specifically Judas’ repentance, and what it should teach us. I am probably getting the cart before the horse today. But I think that most of us have enough background knowledge, to know whether to push or to pull. Before any one can repent before God, he must come to grips with the fact that he is a sinner. I will return to the sins of Judas and these priest this evening. But I feel led of the Lord to address repentance this morning. We know nothing about the route that Judas took in coming into the circle of Jesus’ disciples. He was the only disciple to come from Judah. Perhaps he had heard the preaching of John the Baptist just down the road on the banks of the Jordan. If we assume that to be true, then Judas had probably heard John’s primary message – “Repent.” “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Whether or not that was the case, he undoubtedly had heard, over the last three years, the same exhortation coming from the lips of the Lord Jesus. For example, he was present when Christ declared – “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” If Judas knew much of his Hebrew Bible, then...

The Conduct, Conscience and Collapse of Peter – Matthew 26:69-75

If I am not mistaken, the general characteristics of fiction writing have changed over time. Correct me if I am wrong, but one, two and three centuries ago, most novels depicted the good-guy, the protagonist, in the best light. Of course there have always been exceptions, but speaking generally, the bad-guy wore a black hat, so to speak, and the good-guy wore white – rarely did he have any major flaws. But today, the protagonist may have as many weaknesses and flaws as the antagonist. Sometimes it is hard to know who is the good-guy and who is the bad-guy until the end of the book. One of the many proofs of the authenticity of the Word of God is that its heros are all depicted as flawed. Perhaps I should say that they are displayed in their true light – in their fallen, sinful condition. That is contrary to the oldest practices of writing. If the historians of Israel were left to their own devices, when it came to the biographies of David, Abraham, Solomon and Jacob, they would not have recorded those men in their sins. I recently read an account of the official Syrian history of Sennecharib’s siege of Jerusalem. It fails to mention the hand of God and the details with which the Bible describes Syria’s retreat. It eliminates the miraculous and magnifies the incidentals. It edits the true history, painting Sennecharib in the best possible light. It cannot be trusted, because it is the official record of a national hero. But what about the official histories of the hero of Israel? That’s entirely different....

Witnesses: True and False – Matthew 26:57-61

How can we prove to our unsaved friends that Bible Christianity true – that it is the only true faith? How can we prove to an unbeliever that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and God the Son? How can we convince someone that he is in desperate need of a Saviour? How can we teach people that “there is (only) one God, and (only) one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (the Saviour)”? Perhaps the best way to answer is to investigate how it was that we became convinced of such things. In the mean time, those questions make up some of the pertinent points of the subject of “Christian Apologetics.” I have two or three large books dealing with this area of theology. “Apologetics.” has nothing to do with making an apology, but rather it is about offering an explanation, or more exactly, a defense of what someone believes. And as I say, the books that I have on the subject are relatively large. That is not because the authors have such a difficult time proving their point, but rather because there is so much evidence that it takes many chapters to cover everything. Since I am reading yet another book on “Apologetics,” I am in that frame of mind, and at least two things came to me as I looked at verses 60 and 61. First, fulfilled Biblical prophecy is one of the major intellectual proofs of Christianity. I recently read that of the Bible’s 31,124 verses, 8,352 contain predictive material – 27% of the Bible. And about half of those...

Jesus’ Blasphemy – Matthew 26:57-68

  Without apology, I return to a subject which I have preached many times. We should pray that I never stop returning to the subject of the deity of Christ. The crucifixion of Christ Jesus must never be separated from the fact that He is God. As well as being the Son of Man – Christ is the Son of God. In November of 1964, I turned from my sin and put my love and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. I was 15-years-old – just an average kid from an average home with average friends. Soon after the Lord saved me, I began, very timidly, to tell others about what the Christ had done for me. But most my friends were simply not interested. They were too occupied with teenage things to consider eternal things. They were too occupied with common SIN to consider extraordinary righteousness. But there was one partial exception: Larry. At first, like most of the others, he shrugged off my witness. But then he found an atheistic book which he read and passed on to me. I can’t tell you if he was looking for something to bolster his own shaky unbelief, or if this book was an accidental discovery, or if he went looking for it in order to be saved FROM Christ. But he was sure that it would convince me that I was following a foolish path. Basically, it repeated the charge of this High Priest – to believe that Jesus is God is blasphemy. Even though I had been a child of God only a few months, I could see...