Matthew 26:47-56 Part 4


In the several previous sermons we found that Peter proceeded to unlawful violence.  At first view it appears that Peter might have been praised for his valor and courage in the event of the oppression of his Master.  We could even say, in the non-threatening comfort and safety of this room, that we too would have moved aggressively on His behalf – given similar circumstances.

But we seem to be much more ready for fighting, and shedding blood, than we are for bearing the cross and wielding the Sword of the Spirit!  It might be said that we are ready to take an aggressive stance at almost any provocation.  As a bird ruffles and display its plumes when another invades its space, we proudly position ourselves in a combative stance as proof of manhood and courage.

But a fighting spirit is a sign of irregular and unlawful zeal.  Confused irregularity reigns in fallen man.  But God’s Law forbids us striking another.  And especially grievous is a blow struck at God’s ordained authority (or the representative of such authority), as was the case when Peter hacked off Malchus’ ear.

Although there are circumstances in which we are required to offer a defense (such as against the common enemies of mankind – robbers and killers and rioters), God’s Law forbids the shedding of blood.  (Of course that’s the law for individuals – not for the state – which has the command from God to execute evil-doers.)

And Peter improperly attempted more than the holiness of God allows.  And his rashness in striking out at the magistrate is justly condemned by the Lord… it was against the express and written will of God.

Our obedience is not to be based on the emotions which are raised in the immediacy of the situation, but we must be acceptable to God in living by His Words!  And His will is that we not lift a finger except so far as He commands.

Now, Jesus continues His reprimand of the disciple in verses fifty-three and fifty-four.  Listen to those two again.  After He requires Peter to put the sword away He says:


“Do you think that I am not able to call upon My Father and He would provide Me now more than twelve legions of angels?  How therefore the Scriptures should be fulfilled, thus it is necessary to be.”


Now, first let me give you the way these verses are not to be approached; and then we’ll proceed from there.  But there are issues that naturally come up in the course of the reading of the text, and then subsequently in its study, that can easily be made to be controversial; or that can be made to be inconsistent.  And more often than not these things arise because of the mind-set of the reader!  If one approaches the Scriptures with a desire for them to be inconsistent and controversial, then it’s very easy to find ways to do that.

It’s a lot like arguing about things that don’t mean anything.  The example that’s used so often is:  how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?  First you have to contest the size of the pin; then the battle occurs about whether angels have the power to become large or small at will… and many other nonsensical pursuits.  And of course the Bible condemns that as vanity.

But the controversy that a reader, or commentator, may cause to arise out of this text has to do with whether Christ, Who was under the decree of the Father to suffer death, could have obtained angelic assistance from heaven.  Those two things are inconsistent, you see – that God the Father delivered and exposed God the Son to the horrors of abandonment and death because it was necessary and decreed and appointed; and God the Father could be prevailed upon (by prayer) to send Jesus relief.  Do you see why those two things are so inconsistent?

And the mind-set that looks for, and requires, and thrives on (perceived) Biblical inconsistencies latches-on to words like these and delights in them and capitalizes on them… I think because there is underlying hatred for the absolutes of God’s Word; and because those perceived inconsistencies provide an opportunity to wax philosophical and to appear brilliant.  First, there’s the discovery of the inconsistency (which has the “shock” effect upon readers or listeners); then there’s a period of building the “dramatic effect” of the inconsistency; then come the high and lofty words (those of the pseudoteachers) in which the commentator provides his words and his solutions for all to read or hear!  All in all, it is the commentator’s opportunity to build his stock rather than to declare the Gospel and point people to the glory of God and what He has done in Christ the Lord.  (As stated, I want to say a lot more about that shortly… in preparation for going into the new year.)

But, you see, that is labor to no purpose!  It’s as if a man woke up in the early morning and went out into the field to work.  There’s no reason for him to do the work; there’s no plan for work; there’s nothing accomplished which gives the work any meaning… there’s just – work!  Purposeless work.  It’s vain… empty!

So it is labor to no purpose to approach the Scriptures with an eye toward whatever inconsistencies, or controversial antitheses, one might perceive.

What we must do, rather, is to labor in the Scriptures in order to discover the brilliance and glory of God – especially as Jesus submits to Him and obeys Him at every instance.  The sole purpose of God the Son was to glorify God the Father.

So where does it fit in that we should promote the perceptions of inconsistencies, or controversial antitheses, in the text?  Where does it fit in that we should provide ourselves with opportunities to wax eloquent and speak philosophically and shine intellectually?

Why is it of any purpose whatever to labor over the “possibility” of an angelic invasion – given the decree of God?  Would God have repented His eternal decree for the suffering and death of Messiah had Jesus asked Him for the hosts of heaven?

You see, that’s a perceived controversy, because it’s not even an issue that arises out of the text!  Jesus, whose sole purpose was to obey and glorify the Father, was not promoting antithesis here; there is no “polarity”, or opposition, between the will of the Son and the will of the Father; no “possibility” of the negation of an eternal decree of God proceeds from this text… except in the minds of those who delight in “discovering” perceived inconsistencies and controversies in God’s Word!

So the proper way of approaching this text is to recognize how Jesus obeys and glorifies the Father rather than by examining perceived inconsistencies.  And we do that while remaining in the text and the context – the tried and true procedure.

And the context here includes 1) the eternal decree of God the Father that God the Son was appointed to suffer and die for the sins of the world.  And the events toward that end are prophesied in some detail all along the way; and 2) Jesus, while accompanied by His eleven disciples, is now delivered into the hands of a multitude of men with clubs and swords who have come to execute the decree of God; and 3) Peter lashes out in unrestrained zeal and wounds the personal representative of the chief magistrate of Israel.  Not only has he attempted to overturn a heavenly decree and obstruct the path of redemption of mankind; and not only has he attacked in the face of thirty to one odds (an act of pure folly, an irresponsible act of zeal which, under most circumstances, would have ended in the immediate deaths of Jesus and all eleven disciples); but Peter has unsheathed his sword against the magistrate – a very serious offense against God’s explicit Law-word!

And it is in this context that Jesus requires His disciple to cease his attack; He corrects the injustice by healing Malchus’ wound; and He continues to chasten Peter (and the other disciples) by saying:  “it has been appointed by God and written in the prophets; but if I wished to have a guard to defend My life I would immediately obtain – not eleven disciples, not even eleven angels… but a large and invincible army of heavenly creatures.  But since I do not will to employ the angels to come to My assistance, much less would I resort to unlawful acts and ill-considered means!”

Now that’s a sharp and stinging rebuke to Peter and the other disciples… and, as a result, they all ran away.

So, you see, this is not a passage of Scripture in which a doctrinal or philosophical question arises concerning the will of Christ as opposed to the decree of the Father!  That’s not an issue that arises from the text.  In fact it doesn’t come up anywhere in Scripture!

Quite the contrary, the entire corpus of inspiration affirms the absolute willingness of Jesus, under extreme suffering and humiliation, to submit to the Father’s decree and to obey every facet of His holy Law!  That was required of Him in order to be the perfect sacrificial atonement.  There would be no rescue from our cursed, depraved condition otherwise.

So, doctrinally, textually and con-textually we are to look for His glorification of the Father in all that Jesus does and says; and not to search out contentious, philosophical inconsistencies and controversies in the Scriptures.  That endeavor only belies an apostate mind.

Now, also flowing from this text is the idea that those who resort to unlawful means, on the plea of necessity, dishonor God and His Law-word.  Peter did that.  His effort, in the face of a desperate situation, was unlawful!

But men (and women and children) are faced with these kinds of things every day, aren’t they?  The first thing is to remember that there are no dilemmas.  There are no situations in which a newborn babe in Christ is forced to disobey and dishonor God.  There are only men with sinful natures, an incomplete knowledge of God’s Words, incomplete facts, unwise judgment and unwillingness to submit!

But men, faced with perceived dilemmas and destitute of lawful means, run headlong to schemes and unlawful means.  And that’s always dishonoring to God.

Why not, rather, obey and look for the secret providence and protection of God which, alone, ought to set our minds at rest?  Hebrews one, fourteen says that the angels of heaven are placed at the service of the inheritors of God’s salvation!  God is providentially caring for all of us who are His – even to the point of placing His heavenly creatures at our service.

So, those who are in some kind of danger and are compelled by excessive anxiety toward unlawful and forbidden remedies are unfaithful servants who renounce the providence of God!

Now I want to leave enough time to comment on a local and contemporary event (which, I think, will be of some interest even to those who might read later on).  So I’ll make just a few comments now on the last two verses of our text (fifty-five, and fifty-six), and then, if that’s insufficient, we’ll come back to them on the next occasion of it is appropriate.

But Jesus now turns His attention to the crowd which has come to seize Him; and He lays guilt upon them for seizing a blameless and innocent Man.  They have come out armed and with a large force… as if Jesus had committed a terrible wrong.  But the perfections of the God-Man had been manifest in every way – in public!  He was guilty of nothing.

He had not been armed; He had done nothing seditious; He had not advocated a violent overthrow of the government (in fact He had warned His disciples sternly [chapter twenty-three, at verse two] to obey the magistrates).  He had committed no evil deed, and He had harmed no one.  He had taught publicly in the temple, and no one could refute Him Biblically; so they couldn’t (rightly) accuse Him of blasphemy.

Although appearing maybe somewhat eccentric, His lifestyle was one of extreme moderation… always obeying the Law, even to the point of paying the temple tax (even though He Himself was to be the Passover sacrifice, which the temple tax supported).

So He was blameless and guiltless – One Who no one could accuse of wrongdoing.  If they had taken Him when He was in the temple, they would have had to accuse Him falsely, publicly, before the great crowds that had followed Him to Jerusalem.  But those crowds believed Him and held Him in high esteem; and no false accusation would have been sufficient.

And because they had no grounds for His arrest, they had to come at night and in secret.  And it is clear that God had granted it to them to do this.  Luke quotes Jesus as saying, “This is your hour, and the hour of darkness”.  Through the Satanic activity and the disorder and confusion and death, one thing abides through it all:


“But this all came to pass in order that the writings of the prophets should be fulfilled.”  (verse fifty-six)


Although the whole order of the world seemed to be turned upside down, one thing was certain:  the seizure and apprehension of the blameless Son of God was by God’s providence and eternal decree.  It was written, and it was so.

These men were set at liberty in the darkest hour of human history to lay guilt at the feet of the Guiltless.  And although it was decreed and written, all the guilt was credited to them instead.


Now.  Having completed that portion of this chapter that’s in your printed text, I want to spend the next few minutes with you on an event that’s more local and more contemporary than those events in our text.

And I do so because it is of utmost importance that, for the well-being and safety of Christ’s Church, Biblical Truth and its historical orthodoxy be brought to bear upon public religious events in which heretical doctrine is taught.

Once again, we don’t do this in order to build ourselves up in our own minds that we are always right.  We do not “play god” here.  As explained before, there are two reasons (at least) why this is necessary for us to do.

First, it is commanded in God’s Word (by Paul, by Jude, by Peter, and by John in his epistles), that we preach the received Word only.  And the apostles literally scream at the Churches to single out and expose those in the Churches who would lead The Lord’s people astray by false doctrine, by the philosophies of men, and by seduction, and by rebellious behavior.  And we can’t “shy away” from that under the pretense of putting on a “positive” face.  To put that in simple, logical terms (as one famous thinker once said), “A cannot be non-A.”  In other words one can’t be Christian and also be non-Christian.  And should a man attempt to do that, he 1) shames the Name of Christ, and 2) he becomes shameful in his own right by exposing his own lack of integrity in search of acceptability.

Second (and similar to the first) is the fact that we are all subject to being “overwhelmed” by what so many others think is right and good for the Church and the Kingdom of Christ.  But the apostle Paul, in chapter ten of his first letter to the Corinthian Church says:


“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”


As I’ve said a number of times before (and this was the theme of our exhortations to you last week for entering into the New Year), we have to examine everything – every idea, every philosophy, every theology, every process, every organization – that confronts us and seeks our acceptance and attention.  There are subtle incursions into our thinking that take root and grow; and there are sensational circumstances of wide-spread public acclaim that tend to confuse us and invade our defenses.  (One such is “The Purpose Driven Life”, the Rick Warren book that has broken every sales record for a hard-backed book in history.)

And we just can’t let any of these things pass!  We are duty-bound (by the apostles’ commands) to examine them and to expose them to the light of the received apostolic doctrine.  If we do allow them to pass, and Christ’s “little ones” are entrapped by them, then we’re no better than the pharisees of Jesus’ day.  The apostle commands us to “give an answer”.  And to be able to do that, we have to be able to discern what is right and what is wrong (that means we have to “know” the difference… as God defines it); and we have to be able to counter it – and expose it.

Now.  The more local and more contemporary event that I have reference to at this point was briefly mentioned once previously.  It is propitious that we do it again right here at the beginning of the New Year as an example, because (as I said last week) it forms an opportunity to begin this year with all of us recommitted to Christian thought and Christian living.  (In addition to weight loss, better health and more business, let’s make that our prime “resolution”… Christian thought and Christian living!  Novel, eh?)

There was an evangelistic crusade that roared into Tyler a while back; and the incredible number of Churches involved, and the newspapers, and the radio stations, and television stations – all together in a massive promotion of that ministry – flooded the city and the surrounding counties with the intensity of a presidential visit.

The pre-crusade set-up teams were very effective in raising money, getting support from all the media, and pulling all the Church leaders together.

But, unfortunately, all of that effort went toward supporting an individual whose stated goals were thoroughly unbiblical and ungodly.  But that didn’t matter!  The media and the Churches fell right into line in supporting and spreading that message.

What was that message, you say?

The evangelist promised all the people, the Churches and the media, via a pre-crusade television message to the city, that he was not coming to Tyler to preach about sin.  How’s that for a pre-crusade promise!

Preaching about sin threatens people and it separates people; and (as a result) they don’t attend crusade services.  People in this enlightened time don’t want to hear about sin; they wish to be entertained and to leave religious gatherings “uplifted”.  They want to feel good; they want to be motivated; they want to have their esteem bolstered.  And if one preaches about sin, then none of that happens.  And the evangelist promised he wouldn’t do that.  (And, of course, he’s still doing the same thing today in many other cities and in other countries in this hemisphere.

By nearly every means of calculation, the crusade was a success.  Tyler turned out by the thousands.  The problem is, the message isn’t Christian!

The Gospel of God is the Power of God into salvation for those who are faithing.  And the Gospel faithfully preached is the actual “voice” of Christ to the hearing of men.  And that Gospel calls all men to repentance from sin through the gift of faith in Jesus Christ, Who is the one-time payment for the sin of the world!

What can be more clear than that?  So, I don’t think it’s stretching the argument at all to say that a promise was made to the city of Tyler to conduct a Christian crusade without preaching the Gospel!

Another one came to my attention just yesterday morning.  (There are so many examples it’s hard to choose.)  But Fox news was interviewing the pastor of a Texas mega-church (7000 members) on national television, and the subject of the interview was the Church’s New Year’s Eve worship service.

The pastor promised he was going to give a five-minute talk on God preparing each of us a mansion in heaven.  Then there was going to be a three hour lotto drawing for a new $125,000 house.  (A free “mansion”)  (You have to be present to win, winner to be announced at midnight.)

Now, before I exhort you for the New Year and let you go, let me go over once again the reasons why we do these critiques; because I want no one to leave here with the idea that we’re super-critical separatists here, and we think we’re better than anybody else.  After all, we’re sinners too; and we’d better not think too highly of ourselves.

But we must make judgments.  God’s Word – not by our own preferences!  We analyze companies in order to decide whether to do business with them; we make judgments about families in order to decide whether to expose ourselves and our children to them; we scrutinize and dissect arguments as to their truth or falsehood.  The Scripture even commands us not to subject ourselves to the counsel of the ungodly!  So we have to audit and appraise whatever it is, or whoever it is, that seeks our approval, and compare it to the Faith by which we live our lives.

So, here are the two basic premises by which we do that.

Again, first and foremost, the apostles warn the Churches in letter after letter, to expose false doctrine in order that Christ’s “little ones” not be seduced by it.  Pseudo-teachers, pseudo-prophets, rebellious men, and seducers abound in the religious community.  And what they say and do must be set in contradistinction to apostolic doctrine.  The Church for which our Lord died deserves that.  It is our duty.  It’s not a choice” that we can make whether to do it or not to do it.

And secondly we have a command from the apostle Paul to “take every thought captive to Christ.”  Every teaching, every philosophy of men, every idea, every organization, every relationship, every act is to be examined in the light of the received Christian Faith.

We are overloaded and bombarded with the way the world order operates.  To be filled with the knowledge of God and the Gospel of God concerning His Son Jesus The Christ is the means that our God has provided us in persevering in the Faith!

So the exhortation for this New Year is to look closely at everything from God’s perspective.  Make this year one in which you vigorously, and thankfully, participate in those endeavors that honor and glorify our Lord (having examined them and found them holy and just); and that you renounce and repudiate whatever militates against His honor and glory (having examined those things and found them to be out of accord with received apostolic doctrine).


“It is the effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense.” – G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), in 1923


Repent… Turn!  Examine everything.  Make your actions and your thought processes conform to Christ.  And have a great 2006.