For drama, the 26th chapter of Matthew’s gospel has no equal: A last supper with a ragtag crew of twelve unable to understand their Master’s deep forewarnings; a sleepy midnight vigil in an olive garden; the Master’s struggle in prayer, sweating great drops of blood; betrayal with a kiss, vicious swordplay and a healing; a general desertion by fearful followers, a kangaroo court; a conviction; a disowning, and a rooster’s fateful crow.
There is no story like it. Narration of the angst and anger, the deceit and despair that the characters portray gives us a glimpse into the significance of this pivotal moment in earth’s history. Her only perfect son, fully God and fully man, performs the redeeming act required by His own perfect sense of justice to correct a race’s rebellion against its Maker.
“He is worthy of death,” the members of the Jewish supreme court of ancient Jerusalem pronounced. Their judgment was the product of greed and jealousy, of anger and ignorance and fear. Silent as a sheep before her shearers Jesus accepted the verdict without a word. Why?
The earlier scene in the olive garden provides us with the answer. Jesus’ struggle was never with human power or authority. In the garden before the mob ever arrived, we glimpse him wrestling in prayer in order to submit to His heavenly Father’s will that He be the scapegoat for humanity. “Not as I will, but as you will,” he conceded in the greatest mystery we humans will ever ponder. God the Son willingly agrees to pay your and my moral debt by suffering God the Father’s wrath against our rebellion. But was Jesus worthy of death as the Jewish council claimed? Heaven’s inhabitants claim He is worthy, but not of death.
The closing book of the Bible, known as Revelation, reveals a glimpse of the heavenly splendor to be seen one day by every eye—yours and mine included. John, the scribe of Revelation writes, “Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Rev. 5:11-13).
The characters of that world by the thousands and millions voice their judgment of this same Jesus, Son of God, redeemer of all people who accept His gift. Did you notice what they describe Him worthy of?
He is worthy of all creatures’ bursting and overflowing song-filled worship—awestruck wonder and praise. For how long? For ever and ever. And why? Because He who was perfectly pure and right, who has existed for eternity in joyful community with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, became one of us, precisely to submit Himself to the Father’s will which was that He bear the death you and I deserve.
The angels claim He is worthy, not of death but of eternal worship.
Our choice, yours and mine—while we have that moment of choice here on this earth—is to claim one or the other. Do we discount Him, ignore Him or desert Him? In effect we are pronouncing Him worthy of death. Or do we, regardless of the struggle, hold Him in highest honour, following in His footsteps, seeking the Father’s will? That is pronouncing Him worthy of honour and praise.
Read Matthew Chapter 26 again for yourself. As we prayerfully consider the final hours of His amazing earthly life—we will discover new ways He speaks to us through His ancient and moving story. He is worthy.