Friend or Enemy: Matthew 26:47-56

Focus Passage: Matthew 26:47-56 (NLT)

47 And even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests and elders of the people. 48 The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss.” 49 So Judas came straight to Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave him the kiss.

50 Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.”

Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. 51 But one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, slashing off his ear.

52 “Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword. 53 Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly? 54 But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now?”

55 Then Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there teaching every day. 56 But this is all happening to fulfill the words of the prophets as recorded in the Scriptures.” At that point, all the disciples deserted him and fled.

Read Matthew 26:47-56 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Of the few events that all four gospel writers include, the one that is the most notable in my mind is Jesus’ arrest in the garden. While there are other events that all four gospels include, in this event, every gospel writer includes something that the other three writers don’t include – and in these unique details, we find some amazing truths about Jesus and God.

One of the unique details that Matthew includes is immediately following Judas’ greeting and kiss, Jesus replies to him, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.” (v. 50)

This statement is amazing to me.

All this time, Jesus was not caught off guard, or surprised at what was coming. From even before the supper a few hours earlier, Jesus knew who would betray Him, and how it would happen. And Jesus still calls Judas His friend.

Jesus also knows that this mob would lead Him towards the cross. This was not the first mob that tried to get Jesus, but this was the first mob that Jesus humbled Himself to – and this began by humbling Himself to Judas. When Jesus says, “Go ahead and do what you have come for”, we see the Messiah of the world lowering Himself to be betrayed willingly at the hand of one of His twelve closest followers.

This greeting tells us so much about God and His character.

Even when we are actively sinning against God, He is still willing to call us His friend. Even when we mean to do Him harm, He is willing to take the punishment just to be close to us. Even when our hearts don’t understand what our actions will lead to, Jesus is willing to stand by us. Jesus is the clearest picture of the only God worth serving.

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The Contents of Your Heart: Matthew 12:22-37

Focus Passage: Matthew 12:22-37 (CEV)

22 Some people brought to Jesus a man who was blind and could not talk because he had a demon in him. Jesus healed the man, and then he was able to talk and see. 23 The crowds were so amazed that they asked, “Could Jesus be the Son of David?”

24 When the Pharisees heard this, they said, “He forces out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons!”

25 Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said to them:

Any kingdom where people fight each other will end up ruined. And a town or family that fights will soon destroy itself. 26 So if Satan fights against himself, how can his kingdom last? 27 If I use the power of Beelzebul to force out demons, whose power do your own followers use to force them out? Your followers are the ones who will judge you. 28 But when I force out demons by the power of God’s Spirit, it proves that God’s kingdom has already come to you. 29 How can anyone break into a strong man’s house and steal his things, unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can take everything.

30 If you are not on my side, you are against me. If you don’t gather in the harvest with me, you scatter it. 31-32 I tell you that any sinful thing you do or say can be forgiven. Even if you speak against the Son of Man, you can be forgiven. But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven, either in this life or in the life to come.

33 A good tree produces only good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. You can tell what a tree is like by the fruit it produces. 34 You are a bunch of evil snakes, so how can you say anything good? Your words show what is in your hearts. 35 Good people bring good things out of their hearts, but evil people bring evil things out of their hearts. 36 I promise you that on the day of judgment, everyone will have to account for every careless word they have spoken. 37 On that day they will be told that they are either innocent or guilty because of the things they have said.

Read Matthew 12:22-37 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

I am not sure what it is, but often when I read passages from the gospels, and specifically passages that share what Jesus taught, any sections of the passage that relate to faith, trust, belief, and obedience will stand out in my mind. Perhaps this is because I am looking for examples of each, or maybe these areas stand out because there are plenty of examples.

However, after reading this passage, I get to add another topic to this list: speech, specifically focusing on the words we say. As Jesus is wrapping up this discussion, He shares some profound ideas. One of these ideas is this: “Your words show what is in your hearts.” (v. 34b)

Oftentimes, we will compare talk with action and say things like, “Talk is cheap.” When comparing what we do verses what we say, what we do will often carry more weight than our words alone.

But in this passage, Jesus draws our attention to the importance and significance of our words. He continues by saying, “Good people bring good things out of their hearts, but evil people bring evil things out of their hearts. I promise you that on the day of judgment, everyone will have to account for every careless word they have spoken. On that day they will be told that they are either innocent or guilty because of the things they have said.” (v. 35-37)

It seems as though Jesus is elevating what we say into being a salvation issue. If on the day we are all judged, we will be called to answer for every careless word we have said, there are some of us who will have a lot to answer for (myself included). Jesus even tells us that our words will determine our innocence or our guilt. That is a pretty heavy statement.

But perhaps, this statement is one more reason we should accept Jesus into our lives. If we bring Jesus/God into our hearts, then Jesus’ statement tells us that others will be able to see it through our words: “Your words show what is in your hearts.” (v. 34b)

This is a statement that is as positive as it is negative. Our words can show us as being selfless or selfish; our words can point people to our value as children of God, or they can point people to a past ruled by survival of the fittest; our words can help lift each other up, or they can tear others down.

Jesus came to help lift us up by showing us God’s opinion of us. If God loves you so much to send Jesus to redeem you, why put anything but thankfulness and gratitude in your heart for Him!

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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Starting Where We Are: Matthew 4:12-17

Focus Passage: Matthew 4:12-17 (NIrV)

12 John had been put in prison. When Jesus heard about this, he returned to Galilee. 13 Jesus left Nazareth and went to live in the city of Capernaum. It was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 In that way, what the prophet Isaiah had said came true. He had said,

15 “Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali!
    Galilee, where Gentiles live!
    Land along the Mediterranean Sea! Territory east of the Jordan River!
16 The people who are now living in darkness
    have seen a great light.
They are now living in a very dark land.
    But a light has shined on them.”

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach. “Turn away from your sins!” he said. “The kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Read Matthew 4:12-17 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

When reading this passage, I am amazed at what Jesus does when He starts His ministry. Not only does He move to what seems like it would be the most secular part of Israel, but He also has a very specific message that He chooses to share.

As our passage closes, we read how Jesus began His ministry, “From that time on Jesus began to preach. ‘Turn away from your sins!’ he said. ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’” (v. 17)

Not only does this message echo the preaching of John the Baptist, it actually picks up exactly where John left off. Our passage opens by saying, “John had been put in prison. When Jesus heard about this, he returned to Galilee.” (v. 12)

In many ways, we could immediately jump from verse 12 and skip down to verse 17. Verses 13-16 contain additional information that is interesting, but doesn’t really advance the narrative significantly.

But in the opening and closing verses of our passage, we see an interesting side of Jesus: Jesus picks up exactly where John’s ministry and message left off. In this way, I believe Jesus is subtly saying that John’s ministry was leading up into His ministry, and that His ministry is a continuation of what John was preaching.

Why is this information important for us today?

This helps emphasize the idea that Jesus is willing to start from where we are currently in our lives, and from wherever that point is, lead us from it to God. Jesus starts at the place where John the Baptist’s ministry ended so that those who were following John could transition their interest and focus onto Him.

Jesus wants to meet us where we are right now, because it is the perfect place for Him to begin His work in our lives.

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Remembering the Big Picture: Matthew 6:25-34

Focus Passage: Matthew 6:25-34 (NCV)

25 “So I tell you, don’t worry about the food or drink you need to live, or about the clothes you need for your body. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothes. 26 Look at the birds in the air. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, but your heavenly Father feeds them. And you know that you are worth much more than the birds. 27 You cannot add any time to your life by worrying about it.

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? Look at how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t work or make clothes for themselves. 29 But I tell you that even Solomon with his riches was not dressed as beautifully as one of these flowers. 30 God clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today but tomorrow is thrown into the fire. So you can be even more sure that God will clothe you. Don’t have so little faith! 31 Don’t worry and say, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 The people who don’t know God keep trying to get these things, and your Father in heaven knows you need them. 33 Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well. 34 So don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will have its own worries. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Read Matthew 6:25-34 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Right in the middle of Jesus talking to His followers about money, He shifts His focus onto talking about worry. Right at the beginning of this transition, we find something fascinating in Jesus’ words.

Jesus opens this discussion on worry by saying, “So I tell you, don’t worry about the food or drink you need to live, or about the clothes you need for your body. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothes.” (v. 25)

What I find amazing in this verse is Jesus’ key point: “Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothes.” Intuitively, we know this, but if we were to look at culture today, too much of our lives are consumed by what we will eat and what we should wear. Intriguingly enough, these are probably the two biggest areas of life that cost money that we spend time thinking about. Things like our mortgage, car payments, other debt, and utility bills will easily cost more, but as a general rule, we spend much less time thinking about these big cost items then the smaller cost items of food and clothes.

Well, I guess I should put quotes around “smaller cost items”. With the way trends are going, food and clothing can get really expensive if you wanted it to. If one eats out (doesn’t matter where) for the majority of their meals each week, they will end up spending a lot more money than if they were to prepare all their meals at home. The same is true for clothing. There are some “designer” items that are outrageously priced, but I guess there are people who buy them because they carry a specific brand or a label.

But here at the heart of Jesus’ words is a big truth we should remember when facing the craziness of life: “Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothes.What we eat and what we wear are minor issues when looking at our lives from the big picture. Who we will be, and how we will be remembered are pretty big issues we should answer during our respective lifetimes. Where we spend eternity – now that may be the biggest issue we each must decide over the course of our life.

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