United Church of God

Take a Good Look at Yourself: Preparing for the Passover

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Take a Good Look at Yourself

Preparing for the Passover

MP3 Audio (47.15 MB)


Take a Good Look at Yourself: Preparing for the Passover

MP3 Audio (47.15 MB)

Will you face the world with knowledge, courage, confidence, humility, preparation, and prayer? Will you let yourself be restored to Him to serve Him better?

Sermon Notes

Matt 26:31-35

Setting the Scene:

Jesus had just inaugurated the New Covenant with the 12 and gave them the new signs of the Passover (the bread and the wine) as a remembrance of His blood which would be shed and His body which would be broken. The Old Covenant would be finished out within the next 24 hours with the execution of Jesus in Jerusalem.

After the Passover meal, Jesus promised them gifts of peace, joy, contentment, and comfort. He told them about the coming of the Holy Spirit, the very power of God, that would come to each of them to strengthen and guide them along with the word of scripture. He warned them of persecution but promised their ultimate deliverance from it. He prayed with them for their unity, and for the unity of those who would come later. (John 14-17)

Then they sang the traditional hymn and went out from the upper room. It’s here that we picked up the verses we read earlier. Perhaps this is what they discussed walking down the festive streets of Jerusalem, out the gate, across the Kidron brook and then up the Mount of Olives to a private (probably walled) garden called Gethsemane or (The Olive Press).

Jesus’ conversation during the Passover meal had been mostly positive, encouraging filled with promise… now, He began to discuss some of the harsh realities of the dark hours that were just ahead. Let’s use this section of scripture to create an outline for personal self-examination prior to the Passover this year!

1. A Lesson About Weakness & Strength

Why talk about weakness and failure at such an hour? You would think an exhortation to bravery and courage would be more in order…

To go forth and carry the message of truth into the world they would have to be strong. But to be strong, it first helps to realize where you are weak so you can work on building strength. USE EXAMPLE OF BODYBUILDING.

Verse 35 – they all thought they had sufficient love of God, commitment to His way, self-control and courage to face the accuser… they thought they were strong. BUT when a group of 600 heavily armed men trudged up the hill to arrest Jesus they all ran away. Jesus was right, He knew. (verse 55-56)

So, examine yourself. Take a good look at yourself… where are you weak? What areas do you need to strengthen?

2. A Lesson About Ignorance Vs. Knowledge

The disciples didn’t realize their weakness compared to the power of the adversary, Satan. They did not know he had entered into Judas, that Judas was leading the soldiers and priests to them in the garden, they did not know how the Priests would act… AND they did not know how to interpret the prophecies of the Messiah in Zech 13:9… without the help of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus, by contrast, knew what was going on behind the scenes and most important He knew the prophecies and how they would apply. He knew He was walking through the steps of the Father’s will and appointed plan.

Zech 13:7 prophecy was not obvious to the casual observer. It was difficult to interpret. But being filled with the Holy Spirit Jesus knew that the verses were not talking about the untrustworthy shepherds of Judah but rather were about the shepherd sent by God, the mighty man who is at my side (my associate)… in hindsight, obviously the Word, the Messiah, Jesus. He would be put to death, they would all scatter.

Because Jesus knew scripture He had the bigger picture in mind. He had the prophetic picture in mind. He knew that the power of God would raise Him from the grave, from death to life, to lead His people. So, confident in God’s plan and power of life that He was already making an appointment to meet them later after He was resurrected.

These things about to happen were not initiated by Judas, the priests, Pilate, or Herod… they were the next steps in the plan of God for that salvation of mankind.

So, examine yourself. Take a good look. Do you know the plan of God? Can you explain it to others? Do you meditate on it? Do you know it well enough to draw strength from it in troubled times?

3. A Lesson About Fear Vs Courage

The words “be offended” or “fall away” [in verse 31] is from the Greek word skandalizo. It means “to entrap” or “to trip up”. What would entrap them? What entraps you or me? Isn’t it the fear of what others might think of us, and what others might do to us?

I think they were expecting Jesus to rise up in power when the soldiers came to arrest Him. BUT, when He would not raise a hand to defend himself… would He… could He defend them?

Many have stood firm in times of battle or danger, but going down for a noble cause is one thing… going down for a cause where you will be considered a traitor, a lowlife, a nutcase, a heretic… by your own people, everyone who knows you… that’s harder to swallow.

Meanwhile, Jesus headed steadfastly forward with great courage to His execution, facing death, pain, temptation so that others might receive salvation. Knowing He was fulfilling the plan of God and knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt the Father could and would raise Him up.

Hebrews 2: 13-15 The disciples were afraid of death. They had no power to overcome death of themselves. Whereas, Jesus in human form and filled with the Holy Spirit… sets the example for us, not trusting in his own power… but in the power of the Father.

So, examine yourself. Are you holding back because you are worried what others might think of you… because you are trying to fit in?

4. A Lesson About Pride vs. Humility

We already read where Peter boldly contradicted Jesus and proudly claimed to be the most reliable disciple of all  “all others may be skandalizo… but I never will”.

Where did Peter get such false confidence? He seems to have put a lot of stock in his own courage, knowledge and commitment. Let’s see how Jesus approached the exact same circumstance?

Luke 22:31-33 Jesus understood what was at stake and turned to the one who had the power to help Peter… God the Father

Jesus knew they would all abandon and deny Him. Yet he was still willing to sacrifice himself for them in all their weakness, ignorance, and false pride. He put their well being and need for salvation above Himself. He submitted Himself to insult and indignity toward His holiness, and His place in the family of God. He was willing to drink the full cup of God’s terrible wrath against sin… so they could have life in the family of God.

So, examine yourself. Where are you showing pride? [chase it down the rabbit hole]

5. A lesson About Preparation & Prayer

Matt 26:36-46 even in the middle of personal agony and struggle with temptation Jesus was their teacher. He was giving them a living breathing lesson in how to prepare and deal with temptation and trial.

This Garden area was a private place away from the bustle of Jerusalem at Passover. It was probably walled with a gate. Jesus had some of them stay by the gate to protect the seclusion… and based on His later comments expecting they too would pray. And He took Peter, John and James along with Him into the garden area to provide an object lesson in spiritual vigilance in trying times.

BUT… the disciples did not pray. Perhaps they thought… they had given their word, they had accepted the signs of the New Covenant. What could possibly go wrong? It was past midnight, they had eaten a big meal, drank wine, walked all the way from town up the mountain… they were tired. So, they slept.

Jesus did not need their help. He was there to connect with the Father, the one who had the power to help. Jesus did not ask the disciples to pray for Him… verse 41. He told them to pray for themselves!

Jesus was there in the weakness of flesh too. He knew pain, sorrow, temptation, grief, tears. But He had the understanding to know that strength and power to do great things would come from the Father.

At the beginning of His ministry He faced three waves of temptation from Satan with fasting and the word of scripture. Here He meets three waves of terrible temptation and turmoil with prayer… is this that opportune moment? Luke 4:13

You’re the Son of God, why put yourself through this ordeal, this affront to your dignity and majesty? For what… for them?

Jesus was filled with incredible sorrow and deeply troubled. He could see it all before Him… betrayed by Judas, abandoned and denied by His closest friends, rejected by Israel, to suffer the injustice of men, to be mocked, to bear the full cup of God wrath toward sin… and to be abandoned by the Father.

So intense that Jesus appears to have suffered from Hematidrosis! According to WiKiPedia:

Symptoms: Blood usually ooze from the forehead, other skin surfaces, nails, and umbilicus (caused by a bursting of the subcutaneous capillaries), note: mixes with sweat and thus appears more as a blood tinged secretion

Etiology (cause): Very rare but may occur when a person is suffering extreme levels of stress, for example, facing his or her own death

6. A Lesson About Submission to God’s Will

Jesus personal example of prayer here is less about changing God’s design and will. Its more about getting ourselves in line with His will for us… verse 39, 42. To realize, accept and believe that His will for us may not be what we want… but it is the best way to get us from where we are to where He wants us to be. To fulfill His plan to bring us into His family filled with glory.

So, examine yourself. Are you submitting to the will of God or resisting?

While Jesus was preparing Himself the disciples were… sleeping. Present and ground zero of the most important even in cosmic history and they couldn’t keep their eyes open. AND when Jesus said “rise, let us go forth to meet what’s coming” they were not prepared.

Matt 26:47-56 (mention Peter’s denials)

7. A Lesson About Restoration

The disciples were not worthy of Jesus love. They let Him down in his hour of need. They simply did not yet have the spiritual resources that would come to them on Pentecost. The next step in God’s plan.

He met them later in Galilee as promised [John 21] and re-commissioned them to the task He had called them to in the beginning. He called to them on the lake where they were fishing. Once again He miraculously filled their nets with fish and called them to be fishers of men just like He had 3 years earlier. He personally restored Peter three times commanding him feed and take care of the church… once for each of the three denials.

Did The Disciples Change?

Acts 5:41-42 now fully restored and filled with the Holy Spirit they were prepared to face all things.

Identifying yourself with Jesus means risking the disapproval, the distain, the mockery of others. To be “skandalizo” “tripped up” or “trapped by fear” of what others might think, what they might do to us, what they might not do for us. Is a powerful source of temptation we must face.

So, examine yourself. Will you face the world with knowledge, courage, confidence, humility, preparation and prayer? Will you let yourself be restored by Him to serve Him better?

Or would you rather sleep…