Flashback Episode — Blinded By Hostility: Matthew 27:1-10

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On the morning Jesus was crucified, after the religious leaders had condemned Jesus and took Him off to Pilate, Matthew describes in his gospel that Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, regretted what had happened. Perhaps in an attempt to make things right or to undo what he had done, he returns to the chief priests and leaders with the money he had been paid.

Let’s read about what happened in our passage for this episode. This event is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 27, and we will be reading from the God’s Word translation. Starting in verse 1, Matthew tells us that:

Early in the morning all the chief priests and the leaders of the people decided to execute Jesus. They tied him up, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.

Then Judas, who had betrayed Jesus, regretted what had happened when he saw that Jesus was condemned. He brought the 30 silver coins back to the chief priests and leaders. He said, “I’ve sinned by betraying an innocent man.”

They replied, “What do we care? That’s your problem.”

So he threw the money into the temple, went away, and hanged himself.

The chief priests took the money and said, “It’s not right to put it into the temple treasury, because it’s blood money.” So they decided to use it to buy a potter’s field for the burial of strangers. That’s why that field has been called the Field of Blood ever since. Then what the prophet Jeremiah had said came true, “They took the 30 silver coins, the price the people of Israel had placed on him, 10 and used the coins to buy a potter’s field, as the Lord had directed me.”

In this passage, we discover that not only were all the details of this event predicted centuries prior to it happening, but that the religious leaders probably didn’t realize they were fulfilling prophecy with their actions. Jeremiah had predicted that the 30 silver coins that were used to pay for the Messiah’s betrayal would be returned, and that these coins would be used to buy a potter’s field.

However, as I read this event, the fulfilled prophecy is not the thing that stands out to me the most. Even the amazing idea that the religious leaders, specifically those people who would have known the scriptures the best, would have let themselves so willingly fulfill prophecies concerning the Messiah, is not the biggest thing to stand out in my mind. Judas Iscariot returning the money, while fascinating in itself, is also not the biggest thing I am amazed by in this passage.

The biggest thing I see in this passage is the response the religious leaders give to Judas when he returned the money. Judas tells these leaders in verse 4, “I’ve sinned by betraying an innocent man.

Judas Iscariot realized that he had done wrong and when he realized this, he at least attempted to make it right.

However, in contrast, the religious leaders respond by saying, “What do we care? That’s your problem.

If Judas Iscariot betrayed someone he knew was innocent, then the religious leaders reveal their hostility and prejudice against Jesus through their response that is completely blind to the idea that Jesus is truly innocent. Judas Iscariot knew Jesus’ innocence, and Jesus’ innocence had not changed in any way from the time He was arrested to the point when Judas returned the money. The fact that these leaders don’t care about Jesus’ innocence speaks to the fact that they had already judged Jesus as guilty before actually having a case against Him.

With their response, the religious leaders incriminate themselves even more than Judas Iscariot had, because at least Judas Iscariot had realized what he had done before his life had ended. The religious leaders charged forward into greater guilt because they were 100% responsible for Jesus’ death. Judas Iscariot was merely responsible for the timing of His death, and the Roman government was responsible for the method of death Jesus received.

If one were to take the religious leaders out of the picture, no death would have occurred. Without the religious leaders to pay Judas Iscariot for a betrayal, there would have been no betrayal, and as we will soon discover, Pilate doesn’t discover anything worthy of death in his conversation with Jesus. In this passage, we see just how opposed to God the religious leaders are that they blind themselves to how they break one of the clearest commandments of the Old Testament, which simply says, “Don’t murder”.

On seeing that the religious leaders weren’t going to undo what he had started, Judas throws the money at them before committing suicide. Judas Iscariot was the only disciple to lose his life on the weekend Jesus died, and this was his choice.

However, just like the religious leaders were blinded by prejudice against Jesus, Judas Iscariot was also blind. Judas was blind, or perhaps we should say deaf, to all the warnings Jesus had told the disciples leading up to the cross. Jesus knew He would die that weekend before Judas even had any idea he would be the betrayer. If Judas Iscariot had realized or remembered Jesus’ words and simply delayed the emotional decision to end his life, it’s possible that Judas would have been visited by a resurrected Jesus and received a second invitation to follow, similar to Peter’s experience.

In this entire event, we see the religious leaders recognizing that they are acting outside of God’s will by paying for a betrayal and pressing for a death where it was not deserved. They recognize that the money they used to buy the betrayal is tainted and shouldn’t be given directly to God. They knowingly, or unknowingly fulfill one of the most amazing Old Testament prophecies that described exactly what would happen with the blood money.

In our own lives, when we fail God, it is easy to think that we have no hope for a future. However, Jesus came to replace our hopelessness with the promise of a new life with God in heaven. Jesus took the punishment for our sins even though He was innocent, so that we could receive the reward that He deserved for living a sinless life.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As always, be sure to seek God first and place Him first in your life. If you ever mess up and feel like you have failed God, the best response you can make is to humbly go to Him in prayer and ask for forgiveness. God is always willing to forgive a humble and repentant person who asks.

Also, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow your personal connection with God and to grow your relationship with Him. A personal relationship with God leads to life now, and not just eternal life in the future. A personal relationship with God leads to a better life in our current lives in spite of the sin that’s present in today’s world. The best relationship with God we can have will have a foundation of prayer and personal Bible study.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, or fall away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year of the Cross – Episode 38: When Judas Iscariot tries to return the money he was paid to betray Jesus, the religious leaders have an interesting response. Discover what happened and what we can learn from one of the darkest passages in the entire Bible.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

Breaking the Mold: Mark 8:31-9:1

Focus Passage: Mark 8:31-9:1 (GNT)

31 Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. He will be put to death, but three days later he will rise to life.” 32 He made this very clear to them. So Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But Jesus turned around, looked at his disciples, and rebuked Peter. “Get away from me, Satan,” he said. “Your thoughts don’t come from God but from human nature!”

34 Then Jesus called the crowd and his disciples to him. “If any of you want to come with me,” he told them, “you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me. 35 For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for me and for the gospel, you will save it. 36 Do you gain anything if you win the whole world but lose your life? Of course not! 37 There is nothing you can give to regain your life. 38 If you are ashamed of me and of my teaching in this godless and wicked day, then the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

9:1 And he went on to say, “I tell you, there are some here who will not die until they have seen the Kingdom of God come with power.”

Read Mark 8:31-9:1 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Throughout all the gospels, we see Jesus trying to warn His disciples of His upcoming death on the cross. Not only that, He also tried to get them to understand that within three days after His death, He would be back alive with them.

However, it always strikes me as a little odd that the disciples never really ask any follow-up questions to when Jesus tells them this. Perhaps they were confused about it, or maybe they were not ready to believe it to be true. But another reason for their silence could be because of what happened during one of the first times Jesus shared this information plainly with His followers.

Mark tells us that “Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: ‘The Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. He will be put to death, but three days later he will rise to life.’ He made this very clear to them. So Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But Jesus turned around, looked at his disciples, and rebuked Peter. ‘Get away from me, Satan,’ he said. ‘Your thoughts don’t come from God but from human nature!’” (v. 31-33)

Matthew’s gospel includes what Peter said to Jesus. Matthew tells us that Peter rebuked Jesus by saying, “God forbid it, Lord! That must never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22)

All the disciples believed the Messiah would last forever, and they believed Jesus to be the Messiah. Because of these two beliefs, the logical conclusion was that the Messiah could not die. Jesus teaching of His rejection and death didn’t fit with their picture of the Messiah, but instead of reframing their view of the Messiah’s role and ministry, or rejecting Jesus as the Messiah, they simply try to discount Jesus’ clear words to them. Mark includes the statement, “[Jesus] made this [His upcoming death] very clear to them.” (v. 32a)

What Jesus was saying didn’t fit into the mold that culture had created for the Messiah to fit into, and that mold was something that the devil created as a trap for Jesus. While Jesus’ response sounds over the top when He rebukes Peter, Jesus wanted to break free from the mold that first-century society had created for Him. The first place He needed to break it was from His followers.

Two thousand years later, our picture of Jesus looks different. We have 20 centuries of history to look back on and back through when developing our picture of Jesus. However we are just as capable of building a mold of who He is today as His disciples were back then. And just like Jesus broke the mold of the first century, He will break the mold we have for Him in the 21st century.

Jesus doesn’t like being restricted to a box or a role that humanity has created. Instead, He submitted to the role that God the Father had set before Him and He walked with the Holy Spirit through His ministry on earth. While we may not understand everything that God is doing, or everything that He has done, our job is not to understand it. Instead, we are called to follow Jesus’ example and submit to the role that God has set before us, and walk with the Holy Spirit leading us throughout our lives here on earth.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Coming as a King: Matthew 21:1-11

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In our journey through Matthew’s gospel, we have come all the way through Jesus’ life and up to the event that marks the start of Jesus’ crucifixion week. At the beginning of this week, Jesus arrives near Jerusalem, and we discover He has a special plan for entering Jerusalem.

Let’s read what happened and discover what we can learn from this event. Our passage is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 21, and we will read it from the New Century Version. Starting in verse 1, Matthew tells us that:

As Jesus and his followers were coming closer to Jerusalem, they stopped at Bethphage at the hill called the Mount of Olives. From there Jesus sent two of his followers and said to them, “Go to the town you can see there. When you enter it, you will quickly find a donkey tied there with its colt. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone asks you why you are taking the donkeys, say that the Master needs them, and he will send them at once.”

This was to bring about what the prophet had said:

“Tell the people of Jerusalem,
    ‘Your king is coming to you.
He is gentle and riding on a donkey,
    on the colt of a donkey.’”

The followers went and did what Jesus told them to do. They brought the donkey and the colt to Jesus and laid their coats on them, and Jesus sat on them.

Many people spread their coats on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The people were walking ahead of Jesus and behind him, shouting,

“Praise to the Son of David!
God bless the One who comes in the name of the Lord! 
Praise to God in heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, all the city was filled with excitement. The people asked, “Who is this man?”

11 The crowd said, “This man is Jesus, the prophet from the town of Nazareth in Galilee.”

We’ll stop reading here, because I want to draw our attention onto an interesting parallel that not many people might have noticed. In this passage, we see a potential fulfillment of one of Jesus’ earlier prophecies. While I don’t know if this is the exactly intended understanding for this earlier verse, one understanding of this verse does fit with what we just finished reading.

Earlier this year, a few months ago, we focused on a passage that ended with Matthew 16:28. For that episode, we read the passage from the Good News Translation, and this verse said: “I assure you that there are some here who will not die until they have seen the Son of Man come as King.

In the passage we finished reading, Matthew draws out the point that Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey was prophesied in Isaiah as the way He would enter the city as a king. While most translations frame Matthew 16:28 as Jesus saying, “Son of Man coming in his kingdom”, I wonder if this entrance into Jerusalem partially fulfills this.

There are two big challenges I see to this understanding. The first is whether Jerusalem would be considered as Jesus’ kingdom. For the majority of the Old Testament, Jerusalem is used as a metaphor for God’s city and for God’s people. While I don’t know if this event signifies a symbolic blend of these two ways of understanding the city, it is significant to note that Jesus is rejected by the people in Jerusalem most significantly after He enters it as a king. On the Sunday before the Passover, Jesus enters the city as a king, and the following Friday, He is hoisted up on a cross to die.

Jerusalem as Jesus’ symbolic kingdom is a fascinating idea, but Jesus was to become king of more than just one city or one people.

The other big challenge I see in this understanding is when Jesus says that some of the disciples wouldn’t face death before seeing this. I see no reason to doubt that all 12 disciples were present for this event. Even if Judas Iscariot was plotting a way to go see the religious leaders to plan for a betrayal during this entrance into the city, Judas would still need to enter the city. This would mean that all 12 disciples were present for this grand entrance into Jerusalem, and the way Jesus’ earlier prediction is framed, only some of the disciples would witness it.

When we look at the context of Jesus’ prediction, we find that just one verse earlier, Jesus describes returning from heaven with God’s glory and a host of angels with the purpose of repaying everyone for what they have done. The simplest understanding of Jesus’ prediction in the next verse is that Jesus is still referring to His second coming.

However, if it refers to the second coming, all the disciples have died, and they have been dead for close to 2,000 years. This makes the simple understanding of Jesus’ prediction challenging as well.

As we talk about this, I wonder if Jesus coming as a King, or coming into His kingdom is a multiple step process. As I connect the dots in my mind, I see the fulfillment of Jesus’ words beginning the moment He rode into Jerusalem as a king. The next dot that is connected is Jesus hanging on the cross. Jesus came as a king and was rejected by the people. Jesus died a death He didn’t deserve. The next dot is Jesus’ resurrection, where He returns to life which marks another step Jesus takes in the progression into His kingdom. After the resurrection, Jesus ascends to heaven with the remaining disciples watching, and this was a visible sign for all present that Jesus was leaving to return to God. The final dot is marked by Jesus’ return that is promised throughout the gospels and the rest of the New Testament.

Jesus’ entrance into His kingdom is bigger than one event can hold. All 12 disciples were there witnessing the beginning step of this process, only some of them were there to witness the next few steps, but all God’s people will be present or resurrected for the last great finale when Jesus returns as King!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, seek God first in your life. Be sure to place your faith, hope, trust, and belief in Jesus so that when Jesus returns, you will be excited and happy to meet Him rather than fearful and afraid. God wants you in heaven, and Jesus came to make the way possible for you to be forgiven!

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself. If you disagree with anything that I shared in this or any other episode, that doesn’t bother me. Instead, my challenge for you is to use the Bible to put together and develop your own beliefs. I would rather see you pick your own beliefs based on what you read and study personally from the Bible than to take anyone’s interpretation at face value!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or walk away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Matthew – Episode 37: When Jesus entered Jerusalem, this event fulfilled at least two Old Testament prophecies. But did this also begin the fulfillment of one of Jesus’ earlier prophecies about His coming as a King? Discover how this event might be more significant than we first realize, and how this event foreshadows Jesus’ return!

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Where Is Your Treasure: Luke 12:13-34

Focus Passage: Luke 12:13-34 (NASB)

One phrase stood out to me as I read this passage: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (v. 34)

I know for me, a decent amount of time is spent thinking about money, or a task that involves money to complete. There is an emergency fund that needs to be completed, several home improvement/repair projects that are not getting any better by themselves, and the goal of expanding our family in the near future just to name a few.

In this passage, as the glorious climax to a parable on greed, and a teaching on contentment and trust, we have this key phrase, which tells us something about our fallen human state, compared to our ideal “sons and daughters of God” state.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (v. 34)

This phrase speaks to goals and to our focus in life. It is a surprisingly accurate test we can use to determine the focus of our heart and our lives. For my wife and I, the big percentage categories of our budget include tithe and offering (giving), utilities and mortgage expenses (shelter), health expenses, and leisure activities. Probably the biggest percentage in this mix is the shelter category. I imagine that many other people can relate to us.

Don’t misunderstand me though. I am not saying that shelter, health, or leisure are bad places to use money, or that they all should not exceed what we give — though if God is pushing you in that direction, I don’t want to stand in His way. Instead, too often I find that most of our money ends up being spent on ourselves, which says that our hearts are focused on ourselves — even though we like to think that we are very other-focused. We could call “other-focused” “kingdom-focused” because what matters in the long run is helping others to know Jesus so they can be included in God’s Kingdom. In many cases, the best way to help others with this is by helping them with a tangible, physical need that they have. We can see Jesus doing this because He first would heal the sick before beginning His sermon — or He would stop His teaching if an ill person showed up.

Jesus was interested in helping people physically, so He could teach them spiritually.

The big idea that I have learned regarding our treasure and our giving is that we must make giving intentional for it to be effective. We have challenged ourselves with giving goals in the past, and as the new year has begun, we want to challenge you with a “giving” goal for this next month.

A challenge you could make for yourself in the coming month is to increase your giving by at least 1%. This means that if you were giving 0% or only sporadically, that you intentionally set aside at least 1% on the front end of your paycheck (before tax or after tax is up to you) to give. If you were already giving 5% or 10%, then let’s increase it to at least 6% or 11% respectively. Chances are you already were giving that 1% sporadically, so really this extra percent won’t be noticeable in your budget when the end of the month comes.

Where should this extra money go? I’ll leave it up to you, though the best place to give this extra money will be a place where you can see the money being used to change lives. A few examples you could choose are a local church or ministry, sponsoring a child in a third world country, or getting involved in micro-finance opportunities around the globe. The possibilities are endless, but the more you can see a life changed, the better the place to give your money.

I love talking about giving and ways to use money wisely, and I could easily share a lot more, but in the interest of time and space, I’ll save it for another journal entry. The big idea I’m emphasizing in this post is that our hearts follow our money. Where we spend or give is an indication of what we value and what we are prioritizing in our lives.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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