This is it.
We’ve made it.
Beginning in the 26th chapter of Matthew’s biography of Jesus we see in full what Jesus’ life – his friendships, his ways, his teachings – could only show us in part.
We see God’s Kingdom Come.
And while the “twist” in the story - Jesus’ death and resurrection - may be familiar to us, it would do us well to read Chapters 26-28 with fresh eyes and ears and hearts so that we don’t miss the personal implications of Jesus’ triumph on our journey towards living a life of meaning.
If you’ve been following our Life. On Purpose series you’ve heard that Jesus came not only to be the perfect “image bearer” of God, but also to live in a way that continually bears God’s image. And throughout each chapter of Matthew’s recollection Jesus systematically flips our assumptions of what a life bearing the image of God, under His authority in His kingdom, really is. Jesus challenges our ideas of what is good, what is blessed, and ultimately what life in God’s kingdom looks like.
After establishing this new normal, Matthew tells of how Jesus used his authority as God’s perfect image bearer to generously heal and mend and reconcile and forgive. We learn that this calling is also placed on our lives - us, the “less-than-perfect” image bearers, learning how to bring peace and love and unity in this upside down kingdom.
As we read we see that throughout Jesus’ life His message is often received with skepticism, accusations, hostility – sometimes even from his closest friends. And boy, we can relate. Because, lets face it, this pursuit of purpose isn’t exactly what we hoped it would be is it? Living life in an upside down kingdom is a constant battle both within ourselves and often with those we love and do life with. And the expectations that we set – on God, on others, on ourselves – are constantly being challenged, redefined and reoriented.
It is this continual clashing of kingdoms – God’s vs our own – that is exhausting. And discouraging. Yet Matthew tells us how Jesus emphasized again and again that it was His selfless love that would conquer the competition between our opposing purposes. And as we remember the overlooked, the marginalized, the unloveable we will be reminded of God’s love for us, and live in that power instead of our own.
So if you are anything like me, up until chapter 21, you might have felt like you were tracking with Matthew’s account. I mean, I can get my head around being an imperfect image-bearer in an upside down kingdom. I can understand that there will be opposition and trials even, but that selfless love will eventually win the day. But then last week, as we studied chapters 21-25, particularly Jesus’s parables, I kept thinking of what Pastor Dave said in his sermon.
In Jesus’ parables, I am never the good guy.
I am never Jesus in the story.
I’m never the Savior.
So if I’m not Jesus…who am I?
A merchant in the temple? A Pharisee? A foolish virgin? A cowardly servant?
What? How can this be? How can I so misrepresent God’s ways? How can I so mess up my calling, my purpose? How am I still living in the kingdom of this world instead of the one I’m supposed to be living in? Who will rescue me from this perpetual misalignment of calling and culture?
This brings us to the final two chapters of Matthew. But before venturing into the story of Jesus’ rescue, Matthew makes sure to tell us of a beautiful act of worship that has always made me feel affirmed in my broken attempt at living out my purpose.
In Chapters 26: 6-16 we are told of a woman bravely anointing Jesus’ head with precious perfume, in a way anointing Him before His burial. We are told of the ridicule and criticism she endured from the disciples because of this simple act of worship. Her story comforts me because so often my best intentions can be misinterpreted and twisted by others – yet Jesus sees my heart, just like He saw hers. He not only defended her, but esteemed her sacrifice of praise as the opposite of wasteful – it was special and valuable and worthy. He sees us, friends. Our offerings small and large are priceless to him. Throughout Jesus’ final days, He lovingly reassures me – and us all – that He never misunderstands our intentions. And that victory is more than possible despite the struggle.
In fact, it is a sure thing.
While celebrating the Passover, as Jesus was leading his disciples in remembering their people’s rescue from exile (26:26-30), He was letting everyone know that just as sure as the rescue from Egypt happened so many years before, another rescue was happening again.
He was using the same symbols, but telling a new story, proclaiming a New Passover...God’s kingdom was coming. And nothing could stop it.
Throughout His arrest and trial Jesus continually affirms the grand narrative of scripture and God’s rescue plan for His people – whether quoting from the covenant God made with Noah (26:52), or affirming His own identity as Savior and King by referencing David’s 110th Psalm (26:64; Ps.110:1) – He is a living example that that victory in God’s kingdom, much like authority and blessing – doesn’t look how we think it would.
In light of this, it is really no surprise that Jesus’ earthly mission – and ultimately his call to living a life on purpose in God’s kingdom – would culminate in His death. Because in an upside down kingdom the innocent are accused. Failure is fulfillment. A King is a Servant. Death is life.
Throughout Chapters 26 and 27th we are repeatedly struck with the cost of living in God’s Kingdom. Matthew seems to be telling us that a life on purpose will endure betrayal (26:17-25), opposition (26:57-68), abandonment (26:69-75), injustice (27:15-24), abuse (27:25-26) disrespect and pain (27:27-44). We see our beloved teacher, friend, leader, Savior, Messiah beaten and butchered on the cross and the weight of the calling seems too much to bear.
Thank you Jesus for Chapter 28.
For each time I read the Angel’s assurance to the women at the tomb...
“Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here! For He has been resurrected, just as He said.” (28:5-7)
And Jesus’ own words as He met them on their way to tell the disciples...
“Good morning…Don’t be afraid…” (28:9-10)
I cannot describe the sense of relief and wonder and love that pours over me.
He is alive.
He has overcome.
The misunderstanding, betrayal, opposition, abandonment, injustice, abuse, disrespect and pain that Jesus embraced and endured had purpose.
His life…His ways…His love…His death…brought life!
Real. Lasting. New Life.
And friends – Jesus’ triumph is ultimately our own! Though thankfully most of us will never have to die for our faith, Jesus’ victory over not only death but all of the other trials and difficulties of his life is available to us as we live our own calling.
Jesus’ final words for us are triumphant and telling – and the perfect prescription to cure our apathetic approach to life.
You see, friends, our purpose in life is to live as citizens of God’s upside down kingdom in the power of Jesus through the Holy Spirit so that others may see and know and follow Him as well.
This is our calling.
This is our purpose.
Bringing people into His Kingdom. And don’t worry, Jesus assures us that we can do it. Because He will be with us. Yes, friends. God’s kingdom is here and our purpose is clear.
Let’s bring it.
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
Day 1: Matthew 26: 1-46
Day 2: Matthew 26:47-75
Day 3: Matthew 27:1-31
Day 4: Matthew 27: 32-66
Day 5: Matthew 28
As you read and reflect on these chapters consider the following:
1. Pray for fresh eyes and ears to read these last familiar chapters, in particular with the lens of your own calling/purpose. Note anything that surprises you about God’s kingdom and your role in bringing it here.
2. In what ways do these chapters display different responses to Jesus? What is similar about these stories? How do you see these reactions play out in your own life and in the lives of those you interact with?
3. What attributes of God do we witness through Jesus, God’s perfect image bearer, through these passages. How have you experienced these truths about God in your own life?
4. What signs show that God is at work in the crucifixion? Take a few moments to think about that. Does it inspire more faith to see God at work in your own life?
5. Life. On Purpose is both simple and complex. How are you experiencing victory in your journey with the Lord? Where are you feeling defeated? Pray for a fresh anointing and awakening to the power available to you through the Holy Spirit. Ask Jesus to show you and lead you into a deeper walk with Him.
6. List all of the things that are causing you stress and anxiety at the moment. Now record Jesus’ promise to you – the last sentence in Chapter 28. Pray to have a new sense of Jesus’ presence and purpose in your life and hand over these worries to the Him. He can handle it.