Time and again Matthew especially records Jesus saying of something he was teaching or doing that it is “Just as it is written.” In Matthew 26 there are several such instances that I want to focus on in this article. The first is as Jesus and the twelve gather for the last supper. As they were reclining at the table Jesus seems to start the whole conversation with the announcement that “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” They all are saddened by his statement and begin to say, “Surely, you don’t mean me, Lord?” Jesus identified the betrayer as the one who dipped his hand into the bowl with him. Then said, “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to the man who betrays the Son of Man! It would have been better for him if he had not been born.”
While I want to look more closely at the whole thing of Judas betraying the Lord and God’s foreknowledge of who would betray him as it relates to his free will, this isn’t the time for that discussion. Instead look at the statement, “The Son of Man will go just as it is written.” It seems amazing from our point of view that the religious leaders of the time, who were obviously well read with regard to the Old Testament Scriptures, nor the apostles of the Lord had seen the multiple Scriptures that foretold his death by crucifixion had picked up on this point. Their whole view of the Messiah would have been changed had they seen the fact it was written that he would be betrayed, would be rejected by men and would die for the sins of the people. Probably the most well known segments of Scripture to foretell the gruesome death Jesus would go through is Isaiah 53 and Psalms 22. I have no doubt they had read these verses time and again. But it didn’t fit the mental image they had of what the Messiah would do. They instead saw the Messiah as coming, setting up an earthly kingdom and reigning as king over the Israelites as a nation. He was to be the conquering king. They had obviously seen the suffering servant as being someone completely different. There were different interpretations of such passages. Often they saw such Scripture as applying more to the nation of Israel than to the Messiah. Who can doubt that if someone had asked these religious leaders especially to quote for them these segments of Scripture that they wouldn’t have been able to quote them word for word. Had we been able to ask them if they believed these words they would certainly have answered, “Of course. We believe all the Scripture.” But knowing what the text says and being able to quote it word for word doesn’t mean we understand it or have made the correct application of it. Jesus death on the cross wasn’t going to be a surprise. It had been the path he had been walking down from the very beginning. What this does demonstrate is that when a clear teaching from Scripture doesn’t fit the ideas we have of what Scripture is supposed to say, we will tend to either reinterpret it to fit what fits our mind-set or ignore it altogether while focusing on the ones that do fit our thinking. Our challenge is to allow God’s word to form our thinking instead of trying to make Scripture fit our thinking.
After Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper and they all sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives. Jesus again says something to the group that had to be shocking. Now that Judas is gone, he turns to the others to say, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Think about how they had felt when he said one of them would betray him. Now he turns to the whole group to say you will all fall away. Of course, Peter speaks up to say the others may but not me. Jesus laid the whole thing out when he said, “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” So it wasn’t just written that one of them would mess up and betray the Lord. It was written that all of them would fall away. Sometimes what is written about even the followers of Jesus isn’t what we would like for it to be. We want it to be written in the word that we will all do well, remain faithful and accomplish great things for him. But it isn’t the case. But the Lord had no doubt they would return. His message to them that he would go before them into Galilee shouted the message their fall wouldn’t be fatal. They would return and be faithful to him again. As a matter of fact their fall would lead to greater faith and strength on their part in the future. Like Peter we want to think that such a thing would never happen with us. But what matters most isn’t whether or not we will ever stumble or fall, but what then? Will we stay away or stay down when we fall? Or will we arise from the dust to serve with greater fervor in the future.
The next time doesn’t contain the phrase “It is written” yet the thought is behind it. Jesus went further into the Garden. He left all but Peter, James and John and took them closer to him. Then after leaving the three he went a stone’s throw further and fell on his face before God. He said to the three, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He prayed to the Father, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” It happened three times. Each time with agony. But what he had to do was go forward with the plan. It wasn’t his will. But God’s will had to reign. He said back in John 10 that no one would take his life from him but he would lay it down for the sheep. It wasn’t that the Romans or the Jewish leaders could kill him. But his submission to the Father would lead him to the cross and the horrible death there because it was in God’s plan that he would make a way for us to be forgiven.
God’s plan wasn’t a multiple choice. It was the only way for people to be forgiven. God’s justice had to be met. His mercy, love and justice would meet at the cross as he reached out in grace to save men and poured out his wrath on Jesus for our sins.
God’s plan was to make a way for our redemption. Christ was at the heart of the plan. The Father’s will had to be done. Think about it, if Jesus was ready to go that far to fulfill the Father’s will, how far are we willing to go to do His will?