Who is this Child Born in Bethelem’s Stable?

An exposition of Matthew 27:1-26. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, December 12, 2008.

The Christmas Season is in full swing.  I’ve already seen How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and I’ve watched The Christmas Story for the first of what will be about 10 over the next few weeks.   Black Friday has come and gone with at least 1 fatality up in New York.  Nothing says “Christmas” like the trampling of a human being on your way to saving a buck at Wal-Mart!  Perhaps I’ve grown a little skeptical as I’ve gotten older.  I still love Christmas.  I love the music (both sacred and secular).  I love the movies and television shows.  But I have to admit it has lost its luster through the years and that’s a good thing.  I think it is a good thing because Christmas has become less and less about Christ and more and more about us.  We now live in a world where it is “offensive” to say, “Merry Christmas.”  Schools must have “winter holiday programs” instead of Christmas programs.  Winter break has replaced Christmas break.  In Washington state they now have to allow for equal time in the public square and so along side “the holiday tree” in the state capital is a sign placed by a group of atheists and agnostics which reads, “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”  In addition the group has placed billboards near a nativity scene that reads, “Reasons Greetings.”  How is it that the “Christmas Celebration” grows larger and larger while Christ is shoved further and further away?  The simple answer is Christ has little to do with today’s Christmas celebration.

Folks can choose to ignore Him if they like.  They can have a wonderful time giving gifts, eating and celebrating with family and friends and give absolutely no thought to the Christ.  But they cannot do so with impunity.  There is a price to pay for a Christ-less Christmas.  Just who was that child who was born in Bethlehem’s stable?  Was he the Son of God?  Is he a myth?  A charlatan?  It is a question worth considering.  In fact…

Thesis: You cannot avoid it, you must decide what you believe about Jesus of Nazareth and you must be prepared to live with the consequences of your decision.

Often our focus at Christmas is the babe in the manger. That’s understandable – yet unfortunate. Because apart from His life and what He accomplished – His birth is without meaning. His was not a “birth” like ours. His was an “advent” or coming. He is the eternal one made flesh. And He came on a mission. He came with a specific purpose – He was born to die, to rise again and give life to all who trust in Him. With that in mind I want us to consider the question of who He is by looking at the end of his earthly life.  Our text this evening is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 27.

Text: Matthew 27:1-26

I. I want you to note, first of all, how the religious establishment’s response of hatred refused to even consider the truth.  (27:1-2)
Blinded by their own agenda the religious establishment sought his death from the beginning of his ministry.  We see the first rumblings in that house in Capernaum at the beginning of his ministry (Mark 2, Matthew 9).

John tells us that Jesus was taken to the house of Annas. Annas was High Priest AD 6-15. His son-in-law Ciaphas was the current High Priest. Annas was the power behind the power.

Back up to chapter 26:57 and following. They were waiting – assembled in the middle of the night!
This was an illegal court. Note the wording of verse 59- they were looking for “false evidence”. Yet Jesus was so pure – they couldn’t even dig up false evidence. Finally two men come forward with a charge of blasphemy.

The brilliance is in the question he asked – note 26:63. If he had asked if Jesus was the Messiah or just the Son of God – that would have allowed for loopholes.  By placing them together he was asking, “Are you the Messiah who is God?”

If Jesus said, “Yes” that is blasphemy and that is a capital crime. Note Jesus’ answer – 26:64 – that sealed his fate. He left no room for questions.

The verdict – 26:65-66. These leaders were not substantially different from millions of careless people in our own day.  Christ is proclaimed as God’s unique Son, but millions reject that claim and turn their backs on him.

From the religious establishment we learn that blind rage gladly exchanges the truth for a lie.

II. Second I would have you note that, Judas’ sentimental response proves inadequate.  (27:3-10)
This text is unique to Matthew’s Gospel. Here we read of the tragic end to the black-hearted disciple. Now you may think I’m a bit hard on Judas – especially in light of his response here. But look carefully. What is happening in this passage?

This is not repentance on the part of Judas – it is remorse. There is a world of difference between the two. This is an important distinction to make. Remorse leads to despair while repentance leads to life.

All Judas is acknowledging is that Jesus did not deserve to die. He is feeling bad about what he has done – he has not changed his mind or heart about Jesus.

Thus was have this powerful reminded that mere sentimentality is wholly inadequate.  Remorse leads only to despair while repentance leads to life.

Millions will get teary-eyed as Linus recites Luke 2 detailing the account of Jesus’ birth.  Both such sentiment is wholly inadequate.  A token nod at Christmas is no substitute for repentance and following after Christ.

III. Pilate’s response of indifference willingly yields to the expedient.  (27:11-26)
Pilate becomes for us a symbol of indifference and compromise. In a strange way the trial of Jesus puts you on trial.  You must decide what you will do with Jesus.  You may not hate him the way the religious establishment did.  Make no mistake they hated him and wanted him damned.  Since hanging on a tree was a sign of God’s curse – seeking to have him crucified was an attempt to damn him.  But you don’t have to hate Jesus in order to reject him.  You may, like Pilate, reject him through indifference.  Or perhaps like Judas your sentimental attachment may prove your undoing.  But I want to remind you, you cannot avoid it, you must decide what you believe about Jesus of Nazareth and you must be prepared to live with the consequences of your decision.

You be the judge.  What is your verdict?

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