Matthew 26:23-26a

Jesus Walked A Bible Path

Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Matt. 26:23 (Holman) He replied, “The one who dipped his hand with

Me in the bowl—he will betray Me.”

The betrayer is a close acquaintance, a supposed friend. This fact heightened the enormity of the betrayal. This kind of treachery rankles us.

In the palace at Venice hang the portraits of the Doges, its 120 chief magistrates who ruled a total of over 1000 years. The portrait of its fifty-fifth Doge has been removed, its space painted over with a black shroud bearing the words, “This is the space reserved for Mario Faliero, beheaded for his crimes.” It recalls Faliero’s betrayal of Venice. He tried to set up a dictatorship, but was foiled and beheaded for his treason in 1355. The portrait is riveting, the one tourists look at the longest.

Shakespeare drove home the awfulness of betrayal by having Antony say of Julius Caesars’s assassination, “Brutus, as you know, was Caesar’s angel. Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar loved him! This was the unkindest cut of all. For when the noble Caesar saw him stab, Ingratitude, more strong than traitors’ arms, Quite vanquished him. Then burst his mighty heart, And in his mantle muffling up his face, Even at the base of Pompey’s statue, Which all the while ran blood, great Caesar fell.”

Matt. 26:24a “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him,”

Jesus was walking according to a Bible-directed plan. Knowing the outcome, He remained calm and in charge. He was so poor that He had to borrow a room, but knew the next day He would pay the sin debt for all.

He was calm this night, though He knew on the next day He would bear the worst anguish ever. He was friendly with the Twelve tonight, though He knew they would forsake Him tomorrow. Jesus was marching with confidence toward a God-ordained rendezvous with history.

Matt. 26:24b “But woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is

betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had

not been born.”

Jesus was more concerned about His betrayer than Himself. His words topple Universalism, the notion that all will ultimately be saved. Jesus’ statement here would not be true if Judas had ever been let into Heaven. If at last an everlasting Heaven could be had, all else would be worth it.

Judas committed what the Old Testament calls the sin of the high hand, of a clenched fist raised toward Heaven in defiance. “The person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the Lord” (Numbers 15:30a ESV).

Beware the brazen sin of the high hand, where one walks over warnings, tramples on love, and bullies its way through. It is bad enough to stumble into sins due to weakness, but “far worse is the cold, calculated, callous sin of deliberation, which in cold blood knows what it is doing” (Barclay). It is evil of extra dark dye when we can see a sin totally laid out, and exposed for what it is, yet not feel ashamed to commit it.

Are you pondering a sin right now? If yes, and you choose to yield to it, it won’t be a failure you stumbled into, but something you planned, considered, and weighed in the balance. If people deliberately say, “Evil, be thou my good” they are acting as John Milton portrayed Satan in Paradise Lost, showing perversion of God’s values by replacing them entirely by one’s own distorted set of values. No wonder David prayed, “Keep back Your servant from presumptuous sin; Let them not rule over me” (Psalm 19:13a).

Matt. 26:25 Then Judas, His betrayer, replied, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”

“You have said it,” He told him.

Judas knew the answer already, but imitated the Eleven’s surprised concern. He felt compelled to ask, realizing silence would expose him.

Asking will also let him know if Jesus knows. He tested the waters, hoping his deed was disguised. The travesty was magnified by his having the blood-money with him. Let me say again, beware the sin of the high hand.

As we contemplate Judas’ sin, I pray the Lord will help us do so with a humble heart, and not with the attitude of a better-than-thou Pharisee. We are not in the business of making self-righteous legalists. Never forget, we are weak in ourselves; we are strong only in Him.

Distrusting self and trusting God are two sides of the same coin. We can learn from the germination of seeds. When planted in the ground, seeds send a root down, and a stalk up. To survive, a plant must do both. Similarly, for us, the essential root is self-distrust, and the required stalk is trust in God.

The “trusting God, distrusting self” paradigm remains a necessity for our whole lives. Without this ongoing practice, even many years of virtuous service cannot guarantee future success. John Bunyan saw a backdoor to Hell from the gate of the Celestial City. Many have professed for years, only to fall at the last. Distrust not only yourself, but also your past.

Matt. 26:26a As they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed,. . .

While celebrating Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage, Jesus instituted the first observance of the Lord’s Supper, which commemorates our deliverance from an even worse oppression, our bondage to sin. The meal memorializes the Lord’s death, and how we appropriate its benefits.

Jesus began by offering a blessing over the food. The prayer we offer before a meal fulfills at least three purposes. One, it invokes God’s blessing on the food; we are asking Him to benefit its partakers. My father-in-law’s meal prayer included, “Bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies.”

Two, our blessing God includes giving thanks to Him for the food. I grew up saying with the family at each meal, “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for the food; by Thy hands we all are fed, Thank thee Lord for daily bread. Amen.” Three, by blessing God we say we know we do not deserve His blessings on us. We realize He is the dispenser of all benefits, not only food, and gives to us out of His kindness. Thus we often call the meal prayer “saying grace”.

Praying before meals is what first caught my eye about Ruth. While the rest of us college students at A&W Root Beer tore into our food like pigs (By the way, pigs still never say grace before a meal.), I noticed one of us always took time to pause for a moment of silent prayer. I started looking at her every day, and I am still looking at her daily. I liked and like what I see.

Jesus gave us only two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Both of them highlight what we remember and celebrate most about our Savior: His death on our behalf. We treasure His tender, wise words, His virgin birth, sinless life, and miracles. These things matter to us, but what touches us most is contemplating the moment He gave His life for us, when He allowed His body to be broken, and let His blood be spilled out, for us.

The fact bread is one of the essential elements in the Lord’s Supper proves His death was for our profit, for us to appropriate its benefits. The only purpose of bread is to be eaten. We don’t make it to look at, talk about, or decorate walls with. It serves one purpose, nourishment. It is to be eaten.

By comparing Himself to bread, Jesus was saying He had taken upon Himself a form, a shape, a substance, whereby He could do something that we could receive benefits from. We are also reminded that bread uneaten is wasted. Jesus’ death is of no avail to any who won’t appropriate its benefits.