Having finished His discourse to the disciples on the Mount of Olives about His coming in judgment not just upon the Jewish nation but upon all the nations of the world, Jesus reminds them that after two days the Passover would happen, with which He associates His being betrayed and handed over to be crucified. Recall that just hours earlier on that day as He entered the temple Jesus had been confronted by the chief priests and the elders of the people about His authority to teach and cleanse the temple (Mat 21:23). They had rejected Him as their Messiah and were seeking to catch Him in something that would allow them to put Him to death, but could not (cf. Mat 22:15-34). Rather, Jesus exposed their hypocrisy with seven-plus woes of condemnation before forsaking their temple and predicting its destruction because they would have their worldly spirit and not His Holy Spirit to fill it. What does Matthew now say was happening on their part even as Jesus was predicting His forthcoming crucifixion? See Mat 26:3-4. Was this the first time they had plotted against Jesus? See Mat 12:14, Joh 11:53. From their perspective, why had they been unable to seize Him and accomplish their purpose? See Mat 21:46, 26:5, Luk 19:47-48, 20:19, 22:2. From God’s perspective, why had they been unable to do so? See Joh 7:30, 8:20; cf. Joh 12:23, 13;1, 17:1, Luk 22:53. What does this remind us about the sovereignty of God to frustrate the plans of men and accomplish His own purposes? See Psa 33:10-11.
Consider that the persistence of the religious leaders to seize Jesus and put Him to death eventually paid off—they accomplished their purpose, and God’s, at the same time. But, by persisting in their evil desires to accomplish their purpose, which they eventually achieved, they also hardened their heart against the truth and brought upon themselves their own destruction. How does this illustrate the way that God accomplishes His purposes while at the same time extending every opportunity to the wicked to repent? Cf. Mat 23:37-38, Rom 10:21. What does it also remind us about the great danger to our souls of stubbornly pursuing what we know in our heart of hearts is contrary to God’s will, which we perhaps even pray and ask God to grant us? Consider the example of Balaam, who is upheld as the epitome of a false prophet (2Pe 2:15): Although he outwardly refused Balak’s money to curse Israel, inwardly he sought a way to help him for the financial reward it would bring; cf. Num 22:7,12,17,18,19,20,22,32,34,35, etc…, Num 25, 31:16, Rev 2:14. Is it not also likely that the religious leaders of the Jews were beseeching God to grant them their desire against Jesus, and that they considered Judas’ approach to betray Him as an answer to their prayers? Cf. Psa 18:25-26, Eze 14:1-8. Should we then necessarily suppose that an answer to our prayers is necessarily a sign of God’s blessing if our heart is not right and we are not asking according to His will? Indeed, if we persist in what we know is questionable in God’s sight, and seem to be prospering, is it not possible that God is in fact hardening our hearts according to our deceitfulness? And may it also be that when He refuses to answer our prayers it may be a mercy to prevent our heart from becoming even more hardened in its deceitfulness lest it be all the more difficult for us to be saved?
How does the Scripture say they were plotting to seize Jesus and kill Him? See Mat 26:4. What is meant by stealth? Cf. the KJV subtilty (subtlety), which is most commonly translated as deceit or guile; the word was originally used for the bait to catch fish, and hence a lure that uses fraud to craftily entice one into a snare or trap. For the same word see Pro 12:5,20, Zep 1:9 and contrast Psa 32:2, Isa 53:9, Joh 1:47. Although they supposed they were acting in the best interests of the nation (see Joh 11:47-50, and consider how the leaders of our own nation often act in defense of our “national interests”), is acting with guile and deceit more in keeping with the nature of God, or Satan? See Gen 3:1, 2Co 11:3; cf. Act 13:10. Is such guile or deceit befitting of the people of God? See Mar 7:22 and Rom 1:29 where this word is listed among other expressions of evil, and contrast Joh 1:47, 1Th 2:3, 1Pe 2:1, 3:10.
Recall that in Mat 26:2 Jesus had just predicted that He would be delivered up for crucifixion during the Passover; how was what the religious leaders were plotting specifically contrary to that? See Mat 26:5. What does their concern about causing a riot among the people illustrate about why the forces of evil always seek to act subtly and under the cover of darkness? Cf. again Luk 22:53. How does that contrast with the way that noble truth is advanced? Cf. Joh 18:20, Act 2:14, 5:42, 17:22, 18:4, 20:20. Although they were plotting to seize Jesus sneakily, in what way would God bait them with their own evil intent to accomplish His own purposes exactly according to His own timing, and that would catch them in their own devices? See Mat 26:14-16 and cf. Job 5:12-13, Psa 2:1-6, 7:15-16, 9:15-16, 57:6, and again Psa 18:25-26.