The Following thought for the day was written by Brother Richard Morgan and provides insight and encouragement for those seeking to serve the God of Israel.

Matthew 26 records the beginning of the end of our Lord’s ministry. Verse 14 tells us, “And from that moment [Judas] sought an opportunity to betray him.”

The phrase “from that moment” (or “from that time”) marks how Matthew subdivides the ministry of Christ into sections. The phrase occurs three times, in the beginning, middle, and here at the end of Christ’s ministry. The first time is in chapter 4 after Jesus’ wilderness temptations when “From that time Jesus began to preach” (v17). The second time is about two-thirds of the way through his ministry where we’re told: “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Matt. 16:21). And of course here in Matthew 26, as he is betrayed and heading towards the crucifixion.

When we analyze these three periods of time, we find several similarities and contrasts. Each of them is a time of trial and temptation. We have the wilderness temptations at the beginning, then in the context of Matthew 16, the Pharisees tempt him in verse 1, and then after Jesus told his disciples he had to die, Peter told him, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” (v22) followed by Jesus echoing what he said in the wilderness – “Get behind me, Satan!” (v23). Then, of course, after the betrayal of Judas, everything came to a head in Gethsemane, Jesus’ trials, and his death on the cross.

They were also times when God’s reassuring voice was heard from heaven: at Jesus’ baptism just before he went into the wilderness, at the Mount of Transfiguration just after Jesus told his disciples, he must die (Matthew 17) and on the eve of his death, recorded in John 12. We also see the same three disciples, Peter, James, and John, at the center of Jesus’ experiences. They were the first group of disciples chosen, recorded in Matthew 4, the ones Jesus took with him when he was transfigured, and the same group he brought with him into the garden of Gethsemane. Then there’s angelic guidance each time – when an angel appeared to him in the wilderness, the role of angels taken on by Moses and Elijah on the mountain, and then angels ministering to him again in Gethsemane.

These things summarize what God gives to us during times of trial and temptation – his reassuring voice in His Word, the companionship of our brothers and sisters, and angelic ministration.

However, there are also several contrasts between each period in Jesus’ ministry. In the beginning, the disciples fully recognized who Jesus was. In John 1, for instance, it’s recorded that they realized that he was the Christ, the Son of God. But in Matthew 16, Jesus had to ask his disciples who the people thought he was. Thankfully the disciples still knew he was the Christ, the Son of God. However, here in Matthew 26, those titles become the subject of Caiaphas’s charge of blasphemy – “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” (v63).

The other contrast is how Jesus lost popularity. In Matthew 4, we read how the crowds flocked to him from all quarters. But at the time of Matthew’s second “from that time,” John records, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” (John 6:66). Jesus’ popularity was on the wane, but it was going to get much, much worse. When we come to the garden of Gethsemane here in Matthew 26, when Jesus was arrested, “all the disciples left him and fled” (v56).

Jesus went through all of that for us. He was willing to lose everything in this world for the sake of you and me. When we face temptation or trials, what do we do about it? The example of Christ is to keep relying on the voice of God and the ministry of angels. Even if everyone else forsakes us, God never will – “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deut. 31:8).

Richard Morgan,
Simi Hills, CA

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