It is Wednesday evening of Passion week and Jesus has just finished His last Passover with His disciples a day earlier than the religious leaders would celebrate the feast. During the meal He announced to His disciples that it was one of them who would betray Him. Also during the celebration He established the Lord’s Supper, imparting an even fuller meaning to the bread and cups of wine that were shared as part of the meal in remembrance of the Jew’s deliverance from their bondage in Egypt, which as miraculous as it was, was but a type of the much greater deliverance from the bondage of sin that Jesus was about to accomplish as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. After singing the remaining Hallel Psalms that all Jews knew by heart and that concluded with one of the most prophetic passages of Scripture about the ministry of Christ’s salvation (Psa 118:22-29), what else did Matthew note as significant to his Jewish audience as they were on the way to the Mount of Olives where all of God’s promises would immediately unfold? See Mat 26:31.
What does Jesus mean that they would all fall away? Notice that the Greek word used means literally to stumble or cause to stumble as in Mat 11:6, 18:6,8,9. See Mat 13:21, 24:10 where it is also translated by the NAS as fall away, and Mat 13:57, 15:12, 17:27 where the causing to stumble is understood as offending another so as to alienate or turn them away, which is how the KJV translates the word in Mat 26:31. The actual word used is σκανδαλίζω from which we get our English word scandal, and could also be translated as scandalize to get at the perceived notion of a malefactor for why others would be offended or fall away. Note too that another word for fall away, ἀφίστημι, is used in Luk 8:13,1Ti 4:1, and Heb 3:12; it is from this word that we get our apostasy. A still different word, παραπίπτω, is used in Heb 6:6 and has the connotation of falling away through grievous and adulterous sin or transgression, as it is used in the LXX; cf. Eze 14:13, 15:8, 18:24, 20:27. So then, should we necessarily suppose that because one stumbles, even to the point of falling away in some measure, that he is therefore lost and cannot be restored? Cf. Psa 37:24, 94:18, Pro 24:16, Luk 22:31-34, Joh 21:15-17. See also Joh 16:1 where Jesus used the same word as in Mat 26:31 just a little later that evening to encourage the disciples with truths that would help prevent them from stumbling so as to fall away unto perdition, as Judas did.
Why did Jesus say that they would all fall away that very night? See Mat 26:31. What is meant by strike down the shepherd? Notice that the word used is that found throughout the Bible for smiting another, often to death, and typically with the sword. See Mat 26:51, Luk 22:49-50 where the same word is used, as well as Rev 19:15 for the sword of the Lord, which is His word (Heb 4:12) that smites the nations; cf. Act 12:23, Rev 11:6. See also Zec 13:7 from which Jesus is quoting in our present context. What does the inherent meaning of scandalize to the word Jesus used for the disciples falling away from Him indicate about His understanding of the sword in Zec 13:7 that would be awakened against the Shepherd who was God’s Associate? Think: who is it in the world that wields the sword in the name of justice and for the cause of what is right? See Rom 13:4. How does this help us better understand the opposition that Jesus understood He would face as the Messiah and Associate of God from the kingdoms of this world (and the spiritual powers of darkness behind them) in establishing the kingdom of God on earth? See Psa 2:1-3 and cf. Mat 21:37-39.
What did the prophecy from Zechariah 13:7 say would be the result to the sheep of the sword smiting the Shepherd, and how does this help us to understand what Jesus meant when He said His disciples would all fall away from Him that night? Although scattering under such circumstances is less than noble, is that the same as renouncing or repudiating Jesus under such circumstances? In what way have enemies of God’s kingdom throughout history sought to smite the shepherds of His flock in order to scatter the sheep of their folds? Cf. Num 27:16-17, 1Ki 22:17, Zec 10:2, Mat 9:36, Joh 10:12. In what way has God actually used such scatterings to further His kingdom? See Act 8:1-4, 11:19, 1Pe 1:1 where a different word, διασπείρω, is used that means more specifically to scatter seed; hence, what God’s enemies intend as a scattering to the wind of chaff to prevent His kingdom from taking root, God in His sovereignty uses as the scattering of seed to further His kingdom! Although Christ’s sheep are often scattered geographically, often as a result of persecution that especially targets their leaders, what prevents them from ever being scattered away from Christ? See Heb 13:20-21, 1Pe 2:25. What does this remind us about the way of the cross unto suffering and even death being the way unto life and spiritual victory over the world and its kingdoms? See Mat 16:24-26, Joh 12:24-26.
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- What is the relationship between Jesus’ sacrifice and our redemption, forgiveness and receiving an inheritance per the terms of the covenant / will that was effected by His death?
- From what, and to what, are we saved? Is it Jesus’ death alone that saves us? What part does His resurrection have in our salvation?
- Does the justice of God demand the satisfaction of blood before He will forgive, similar to what pagans throughout history have believed?
- What was the purpose of the Old Testament sacrifices?
- Does blood alone atone for sin?
- How does Christ’s death render powerless the devil?
- To whom was Christ’s life given as a ransom? From what are we ransomed?
- Why did Jesus not only die, but suffer and die? If all that was necessary was His shed blood, why didn’t God sovereignly ordain a more merciful death for His own dear Son?
- What is the relationship between a will or testament, and a covenant? What was willed to Jesus as an inheritance from His Father, and what was willed to us through the new testament in His blood?