Matthew 26:31-35 Part 2


Jesus, on an occasion which was about two and a half years prior to the event here in our text, was teaching from Isaiah sixty-one in a Jewish synagogue in Galilee.  (Remember… a “synagogue” was a “gathering”.)

“The Word Made Flesh” was bringing them the Word of God.  And the Scriptures indicate that Jesus’ teaching was received very well by the Jews.  That is, until….

When Jesus said to them that they despised the Truth, and that the New Age/Jubilee/Kingdom of God would come upon the heathen Gentiles rather than on them, and that He was the expected Messiah/King, they flew into a rage and sought to kill him right there!

They were “entrapped” in Him (snared in the trap), and dashed to pieces and crushed on the Rock which is Christ – the entrapment and crushing reaching its highest and most evident manifestation in the destruction of the temple and the city and all of Israel in 70 AD.  And all remaining Jews in the world were “scattered” in all the nations of the earth.

In our text this morning, as Jesus quotes from Zechariah chapter thirteen, the future apostles of the Church were to be entrapped in Him during this very night!  And as Zechariah said, they would be “scattered” when the Shepherd was struck down.

So there was, in Jesus Christ, an entrapment of the Jews and an entrapment of the disciples/apostles of the Church.  And there was a scattering of the Jews and a scattering of the apostles.

The difference here is that those who were once “gathered” (synagogued) together are crushed on the Rock which is Christ; and the Church (the remnant of Israel and the Gentiles far away in the nations) are gathered on the Rock which is Christ!

So the entrapment/snaring of unbelieving Jews was to their ruin.  But the entrapment of the apostles of the Church was for their “scattering” or “dispersion” – in order that they then might be “gathered together”.  That’s what Jesus means, in verse thirty-two, when He says that after He is “to be raised”, He will “go before them” into Galilee.  After the resurrection He would gather them together!

And that’s a picture of the whole Church isn’t it?  The resurrected Christ goes before us, and the Church is gathered up out of the nations.  It is “congregated”.  It is “synagogued” (to use the verbal form of the Hebrew word); it is the “eklnsia” (the Greek word).  And the New Age/Jubilee/Kingdom of God is established in all the families of the heathen… all gathering in the Name of Christ and on that “Rock” which grows into a huge mountain filling the whole earth.

There’s great verbal imagery here, and it’s all brought into the picture as Christ tells His disciples that all of them will be “entrapped” in Him in this very night.  And that fulfills the prophecy of Zechariah that when God strikes the Shepherd, the sheep will be scattered.

Now, once more we need to define and illustrate entrapment, because it’s necessary to the understanding of all of this imagery.  And then we can look for a few moments at the way the apostles themselves used that imagery as they built up the Churches with their inspired letters.

First, in the parable of the sower in chapter thirteen of our Gospel, the sower sows seed; and some seed falls onto rocky soil”.  There’s only rocks underneath, so there’s no place for roots to be put down.  So when the dry, hot sun beats down on the sprigs that have “shot up” quickly, they just die.

Jesus likens that allegorically to those who show great vitality concerning spiritual things, and they joyfully attach themselves to Christ and His Church, but it’s not very long before we find them doing something else.  In the last part of verse twenty-one of that chapter He says, “but when there occurs pressure and persecution because of the Word, he is “entrapped”.  (This is the same word as here in our text.)

Because of the Word of God, or because of pressure or persecution related to the Word of God, he is driven away from Christ and His Church.  It all becomes repugnant or distasteful.  And even though he might retain religious sentiments and appear to be “good” as a person, there has occurred a negative reaction to Christ and His Word and His Church; and he turns away from it and avoids it.

Now, there’s another “kind” or another “category” of entrapment back in chapter eleven of the Gospel (we heard it four years ago about this time of the year).  Some disciples of John the Baptist came to ask Jesus if He was the One expected?  And Jesus says that they are to go and tell John what they see and hear.

The blind are seeing again, and the lame are walking about.  Lepers are cleansed, and deaf are hearing.  And dead are raised, and poor have the Good News preached to them.  And then He says, “blessed is whoever be not entrapped by Me.”  (same word) (prophecy of Isaiah)

Depraved men are nothing if not, by nature, proud creatures.  And hardly anything is much valued by us if it isn’t attended by a great degree of outward “show”.  And nothing can be further removed from greatness – outward greatness – than being “under” authority, and poor in spirit, and meek, and mourning because of personal sin.  (That’s what Paul meant when he instructed the Church to be under the Spirit… under Authority.)

And for this reason many are driven to despise the Gospel (entrapped by Christ0 because it isn’t embraced and held by eminent people!  The Gospel is generally despised by the great, or the powerful, or the wealthy, or the content, or the settled… who, puffed up with their own importance, see no benefit in the grace of God!  Hardly anyone avoids swelling up with confidence at his own person or gifts or position.  People are just naturally full of themselves and their own importance.  They don’t wish to be under authority.

I knew a man once (an elder of a Church!) who obviously hated the Gospel.  He objected to the word “driven”.  I was explaining that Christ’s people are driven by God to poverty of spirit and mourning of sin.  This man’s “pride of life” was exposed… his innate “entanglement” with his own self… he couldn’t conceive of himself being “driven” to anything.  That would have been the “end” of his control and autonomy!

The autonomous man; the wealthy man; the self-made man; the healthy, the intelligent, the content, the settled (and I’m speaking of women and children here as well) – all are self-serving and self-sufficient.  What need do they have for meekly putting themselves under for the sake of Christ?

But the “poor” in that chapter eleven text are those whose condition is known to be wretched and despicable.  And they aren’t seen to have any value.  They aren’t held in high esteem.  Jesus’ followers were the poor and despicable of society to whom the Scribes and Pharisees would give no time or patience, because they were despicable… they weren’t great, and they couldn’t pay!

They were scattered abroad, and they were caused to suffer greatly.  These were the “remnant” of God who were beaten down and burdened.  The theologically and economically great and advantaged ones had preyed upon them until they had no hope; and they were overwhelmed by that affliction.  Their “shepherds” were really “wolves” who had gotten into the pen; and they ripped and tore at them and scattered the flock.  (And that’s what Jesus does to His Own eleven disciples here in our text.)  (It was prophesied.)

But what is it that causes proud men and women and children to be revolted by Him?  Well, not only did Jesus spend His time with the poor in spirit – the afflicted and despicable – but He, Himself, appears with His cross… disfigured and despised and exposed fully to the reproaches of the whole world.  And (figure this), He calls all men to share in His affliction and the reproaches of men and His shame and His persecutions!

And He says “kill your self-willed autonomy, repent of your sin, put on My righteousness and holiness, and think My thoughts after Me.”  And He says you must become reborn like a little babe and “come under” the authority of the Spirit.

Destroy your “self” is what He means.  If you kill your “self”, it’s gain!  If you value and retain your self, it’s loss!  But in comparison to the alternative, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light!”

All of these things are at variance and sharp contrast to the senses of men, and, with haughtiness and arrogance at the mere suggestion of such things, they run (not walk) to the nearest exits… the idea being to escape – to flee – even the hearing of them!

They are snared in a trap.  They’re painted over with whitewash, but they’re entrapped in Christ and crushed on the Rock.

Now, in that great eighteenth chapter of our Gospel, we have the requirement of rebirth in Christ Jesus.  And His “little ones” are so valued by God that when one is “received”, Christ is received.

But when one of them is “entrapped”, there is hellish judgment to pay.  This means that anyone who causes one of Christ’s “newborns” to sin, or to disbelieve the Truth, or to believe a lie, has committed a very serious offense against Christ.  His “New Creations” are not to be entrapped nor despised, for they belong to God; and it is not His will that one of them should be lost.  And those who entrap them will all be gathered up and destroyed.

That same idea is found in the parable of the Zizanium in the Field, isn’t it?  All the zizanium and the entrapments are to be gathered in bundles and burned.

So, back to our original premise, there is entrapment of the wicked in Christ; and a scattering and gathering for destruction.  And there is an entrapment of the elect remnant; and a scattering and gathering in Christ.

The remnant of Israel was scattered all over the place.  And even the apostles (here in our text) were entrapped in Christ and scattered… leaving Jesus isolated to suffer alone for their sakes.  There were none who were to suffer with Him for the remission of sin….  He alone was to receive the blow from His Father.

Peter and John and Matthew and the rest were entrapped in the fear of suffering and persecution, and they deserted Him.  It was prophesied in Zechariah.  But God would gather them together with the Risen Lord in Galilee.  So it isn’t the man who wills or the one who works, but it is the will of the Father.

The wicked are entrapped in Christ and gathered to destruction.  And the “little ones” are entrapped in Christ; but God puts His hand over them (according to Zechariah thirteen) and gathers them for worship!  No one else better entrap them, for they are God’s to entrap and scatter and gather!

And the whole history of the Church is the scattered people of God in every nation on earth being “gathered” in the Churches for public worship of the Risen and ascended Christ.  And that same “Rock” which is Christ is the very One upon Whom the world order is being entrapped and crushed; but the ones gathered in His Name are built upon it!

The entrapments are inevitable, Jesus says, but woe to that man through whom the entrapments come.  They may come by way of fear and suffering and affliction, as it was with the disciples; they may come by way of the pride of lust of life, or self-confidence in ones’ intelligence or money or status; they may come from false prophets and teachers; or by way of humiliation from friends – or any number of other ways.  But Jesus said that, whatever it is, cut it off or pluck it out!

Many of Jesus’ followers left because His teaching was hard!  Arrogant men who wouldn’t believe that God had chosen the Gentiles of the world and would sift the Jews like wheat – scattering the chaff to the four winds and holding on to the remnant with His strong arm.

They could not and would not believe that His parables were for the purpose of blinding the blind.  They couldn’t believe that His miracles were signs of judgment on an apostate people.  And they couldn’t believe that God’s sovereign election would include the filthiest Gentiles of Samaria and beyond!  They were entrapped in the Gospel of God and in His Anointed Christ.

Entrapment to sin; entrapment to unbelief; entrapment to apostasy… entrapment to denial and desertion.  Entrapments are inevitable; but God in His electing love puts His hand on His Own and gathers them for His Own pleasure.  And He puts His Law into their hearts and calls them His people.  And they call Him their Father.

Now, as far as the brashness of Peter and the other disciples is concerned (verses thirty-three through thirty-five), we need to look at it from two distinctly different perspectives, don’t we?  From the perspective of Divinity; and from that of the men themselves.

Jesus tells them that they all will be entrapped in Him… it’s written.  (The reason being that He alone is to be struck by His Father for the remission of sin.)  But Peter says, “Not me.  I won’t be entrapped.”  But Jesus tells him that he will disown Him three times before morning!  But Peter comes right back at Him and says that if he has to die with Him, he will!  He won’t disown Him.  And all of them agreed!

Now, God was bringing in the salvation of the world.  And He had decreed that it be His Own Son Who would pay… and Him alone.  No other would participate – no other could participate.  There was no other perfect blood sacrifice!  There could be no remission of sin unless the perfect God/Man shed His blood to pay for it!  He alone!

And every man, woman and child in the world (or would ever be in the world) was in the same condition.  There was equality in their depravity!  All of them disowned Him.  All participated in His death.  Jesus would pay… isolated and alone.

And God would use even the entrapment of His Own elect people, through their own sin.  The chosen apostles of the Church would disown the Savior – denying they even knew Him – becoming entrapped in His persecution and suffering and death.  They sinned against Jesus Christ, and by fear they were scattered like sheep… to be gathered later by the hand of God the Father.

Having no power of the Spirit in the resurrected Christ, Peter and the others brimmed with self-confidence.  But, as we all know, there is nothing more transitory than unconscious zeal!  It’s a script written about failure!

Without taking into account the prophetic Scriptures (Zechariah thirteen), without considering the decrees of God the Father, not understanding the full implications of the necessary atonement to be made, and having no concept of their own depravity, they all committed to the death!

Human presumption is intoxicating.  Brash once, Peter is shown just how weak he is when Jesus tells him what he is soon to do.  But, far from toning down his self-confidence, Peter shows his lofty pretensions with more fierceness than before – “I’ll die with You!”

They all knew that nothing would be more contemptuous than forsaking their Master in His time of need.  But they pretended to a confidence which they did not have.  And their failure was as predictable as the crucifixion of Christ.  It was written.  And it was spoken to them by Jesus.

The Scriptures are careful to reveal just how presumptuous we all are.  In fact God told us that whenever we say that we are going to do so and so, we are to qualify our intentions by the will and plan of God our Father.  “God willing”… I will do so and so.  Or “God willing” I will go here or there.”

And whenever there are decisions to be made, or difficulties to overcome, or persecutions to endure, we are to take our weaknesses and limitations into account and enter into the presence of God our Father in prayer.

Presumption and self-confidence and over-confidence are the activities of autonomous man.  Do not think more highly than you ought.  Do not put yourselves in the position of being entrapped.  Because that’s what will happen!  Go to the Father in prayer… asking for wisdom and help and strength in time of need.  And “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God Who works in us to will and to perform.”

Lastly, I was going to spend a few minutes with the letters of these apostles of Christ… looking at how they exhorted the Churches with regard to “entrapments” (especially since they were entrapped in Him, and they, themselves, disowned Him!).

But we’ve run out of time for all of it.  Let me just say that, with Paul and Peter, the use of the entrapment concept is, in each case, taken directly from the prophets; and it has to do with Israel’s entrapment to its destruction.

But it is John (First John two) who exhorts the Churches with reference to Christ’s “little ones” (Matthew eighteen).  He says that one who claims to be in the “light”, but hates his brother, is walking in darkness.  And in defining “hating his brother,” John uses the Lord’s commandment in Matthew eighteen against “entrapping” the little ones!

In other words, those who say or do those things which might cause sin in the lives of those for whom Christ died, are hating those who are rebirthed in Him; and there’s no light in one who does that!  We may not “despise” (look down on) one who belongs to God.

We’ll surely take this up again and again in other settings; but be very, very careful about your teaching, and about your use of the language, and about what you do and the way you live.  Because our Lord is jealous abut His Own.  And He Himself warned us about the consequences involved with entrapping one of these.