Matthew Bible Study (The Gospel of the King and the Kingdom of Heaven)

Matthew 26:1-16, Give or Get?


Matthew 26 begins the final act of this gospel’s recording of Jesus’ life. You see this in the first verse of Matthew 26 with the words, “When Jesus had finished all these sayings.” This is the fifth and final time that Matthew marks off his gospel in this way. Our setting is the final week of Jesus’ life. Up to this point Jesus has been telling his disciples that his death is coming. You might remember that Peter argues with Jesus when Jesus plainly reveals this truth. In Matthew 26:2 Jesus tells his disciples this truth again. But Jesus makes the timing very clear. Jesus is going to be delivered up and crucified during the Passover.

However, Matthew records that the chief priests and the religious leaders have different plans. In verse 3 we read that they have gathered at the palace of the high priest, Caiaphas. Caiaphas was appointed the high priest by the Romans and served from 18-36 AD. You will notice in verse 4 that the purpose of their gathering was to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. Now please think about what this text just said. The people who are the religious leaders and teachers are plotting to secretly arrest Jesus and kill him. But they say in verse 5 that they will not arrest and kill Jesus during the Passover feast so that there is not an uproar among the people. So Matthew is putting forward a collision of wills. Jesus says that he will be crucified during the Passover. But the religious leaders who are plotting to kill Jesus say they will not kill him during the Passover for fear of a riot. One of the important things that Matthew is showing us in his record of Jesus’ final days is to show who is in control of these events. Is Jesus in control of these events and knows when he will be crucified? Or are the religious leaders in control of these events and they will crucify Jesus when they want to? Matthew is going to show who is sovereign over these events.

What Can I Give? (Matthew 26:6-13)

Now the question that Matthew is going to put forward to us in this section of the scriptures is this: what is Jesus worth to you? Jesus wants to know how valuable he is to you. What does Jesus mean to you? This question is going to be answered through two disciples in this paragraph. The first disciple is not named in Matthew’s account. Verse 6 tells us that Jesus is in Bethany and he is at Simon’s house. But we are told an important detail about Simon. Simon is a leper. Simon has a skin disease which would make him unclean according to the Law of Moses. We have seen Jesus interact and heal those with leprosy, like in Matthew 8. So we need to be amazed that Jesus is in Simon’s home because the religious leaders who have avoided this man and his house. But not Jesus. Jesus came to heal and save. Jesus and his disciples are in Simon’s home and they are reclining at the table for a meal. A woman comes in with a very expensive flask of fragrant oil. These kinds of containers have been found in first century tombs in Jerusalem, apparently used on their loved one (cf. Cultural Background Study Bible). This kind of fragrant oil would cost about one year’s wages (cf. John 12:5). So I want you to have your annual wages in your mind and put this amount in this fragrant oil that this woman brings to Jesus. She takes her very expensive fragrant oil and pours it on Jesus’ head.

Now we have a surprising response from the disciples. Notice in verses 8-9 that the disciples are critical of this woman. The scripture says that they were indignant. They claim that what she did was a waste. They further state that so much better good could have been done with the fragrant oil. She could have sold that flask for a large sum of money and given it to the poor. So let’s talk about human nature for a moment. Why do you think they were so critical of this action? I am sure that they are thinking about the good that could have been done. But we can be quick to be critical because we do not understand what that person is thinking or doing. We can be critical because it makes us look bad. This woman has made an immense financial sacrifice. Now Jesus has a response to the disciples’ criticism.

Jesus begins by telling the disciples that she has done a beautiful thing. They are indignant about what she did. Jesus says that actually she has done a beautiful thing. She understands something that the disciples are failing to grasp at this moment. She understands that she will not always have Jesus. The poor you will always have with you. But you will not always have this opportunity with Jesus. She is seizing the moment. Jesus has said that he is going to be crucified during the Passover, which is just a couple days away. Notice what he says she did. Look at verse 12. She did this to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. What amazing faith and comprehension she had! She listened to Jesus about this being his final days and she has made an amazing sacrifice in preparation for his crucifixion and burial.

Notice what Jesus says in verse 13. Jesus says that what she did will be told wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the world. Have you thought about why what she did would be told with the proclamation of the gospel? Why is what she did so important that it would be included in the gospel story? In fact, this act is told in the gospel accounts, like we are reading here today. She did something 2000 years ago and it is still being told. Why is this so important and included in the gospel story? I want to wait to answer this question because what Matthew records next will make clear for us why this woman’s story is told with the gospel. Come back to Matthew 26 and let us consider what Matthew tells us next.

What Can I Get? (Matthew 26:14-16)

One of the twelve apostles went to the chief priests. Now we were told at the start of this chapter that the chief priests and religious leaders were gathered to plot for a way to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. But they were planning on not doing this during the Passover. However, Judas goes to the chief priests with a question. “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” The problem that the religious leaders have is that they do not want to arrest Jesus in broad daylight and in public because they know there will be a riot. Arresting Jesus is not going to go well for them if people know that they did this. So they need a way to arrest him secretly. They need a way to get their hands on him during a time and at a place where no one else will know or see what is happening. So they need someone on the inside and Judas is willing to be that person. He asks them how much to hand Jesus over to them. They pay Judas thirty pieces of silver. Exodus 21:32 tells us that the 30 pieces of silver is the cost of a wounded slave. Thirty pieces of silver was like about 3 months of wages. So I want you to take your annual income and divide it by four to have the approximate amount that Judas would have received. What we can quickly see is that he was not paid an insignificant sum. Thirty pieces of silver just does not sound like a lot to us. But if you make $50,000 a year then you would have received about $13,000 for Jesus. If you make $100,000 then you would be talking about $25,000. So do not be dismissive about this amount. It is not an insignificant sum. Judas takes the money and looks for the opportunity to betray Jesus.

Now I want us to focus on Judas’ words because this will help us see the point of this text. Judas asks, “What will you give me?” To say this another way, Judas wants to know what Jesus is worth to them. Judas taking this money shows what Jesus is worth to him. The question that this whole scene revolves around is: what is Jesus worth?

The Message

Judas’ approach to Jesus is what will you give me. Judas wants to know what he gets out of this. What Jesus is worth to Judas is only what he can get from him. Please think about how often Jesus is presented as what I get from him. The typical religious world and mainstream Christian teaching is all about what you get from Jesus. We want Jesus to take care of our physical desires. We want Jesus to give us what we want in this life. We want Jesus to take care of our problems. We want Jesus only for what I can get from him. “Jesus, what will you give me if I follow you?” This is the mentality that we are reading about here. There are many problems with approaching Jesus in this way. One of the problems that comes to light is that we will no longer follow Jesus because he is not giving me what I want or expect. So many people will walk away from the Lord because he did not do for me what I thought he would do. Such thinking shows that we think God should be working for us. This is a very consumer driven way of thinking. In fact, when you think about what Jesus did when people came to him in that way, he would poke holes in their idolatrous way of thinking. Do you remember the reason why Jesus told a parable about a rich fool who was only concerned about building bigger barns? That parable was told because a person in the crowd came to Jesus asking him to tell his brother to divide the inheritance with him (cf. Luke 12:13). What was the problem? The problem was that this man came to Jesus to use him for what he wanted. It was all about what he could get from Jesus. We wonder how Judas could betray Jesus. But here is an important insight into that question. Judas followed for what he could get from Jesus. So he gave him up when the price was right.

Now let’s come back to the woman in this moment who poured out her expensive fragrant oil on Jesus’ head. Why was this act going to be told in the whole world when the gospel was proclaimed? What about this action is so gospel saturated? She did not ask what she would get from Jesus. She asked what she could give to Jesus. Nothing was too costly for this woman. Nothing was too extravagant for this woman. She did not look at this flask of fragrant oil and think that this is too much to give. She looked at what she had that she could give. But Jesus has to be worth everything to you to make this decision. Jesus has to be priceless to us to be a disciple. Nothing is too costly to give to Jesus. Jesus does not ask you to give what you do not have. Jesus asks you to give what he has given to you. Then we think about how everything we have has been given to us from our good Lord. We know this because Jesus did tell people that if you wanted to be his disciple that you have to give your whole life to him.

So what is Jesus worth to you? Is Jesus worth your time? Is Jesus worth your effort? Is Jesus worth your money? Is Jesus worth your career? Is Jesus worth your gifts and possessions? Is there anything too costly to give him? Is there anything that is too extravagant for the Savior who came to rescue you from eternal punishment? Jesus says that what she did was a beautiful thing. She asked what she could give, not what could she get from Jesus.

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