Then they spit in his face…
I am writing up reflections on my devotions every day for six weeks. This is one of those posts.
The combination of Matthew 26 and Psalm 36 is like a double punch to the gut—in the best way possible. Reading through Matthew 26, I was struck over and over again by the force of what is going on: Jesus, knowing exactly what was about to transpire, went willingly forward. Every step of the way, he knew what was coming next.
He knew that the religious authorities who should have seen him for who he was would plot to kill him. He knew, when a woman came and poured expensive ointment on him, that it was a preparation for his death. He knew when Judas went to the priests to sell Jesus’ life for a few pieces of silver. He knew exactly what the Passover had always been pointing to, and he knew what he meant—even if his disciples did not—when he spoke the words of institution of the Lord’s Supper. H knew that all his disciples would fall away, and the boldest and most devoted of them all would publicly deny him. He knew the enormity of the price he was about to pay, and in agonized prayer pleaded with the Father that if there were any other way, it be made available. He knew when Judas returned what his “friend” was about. He knew the hearts of the men who came out at night for fear of the crowds. He knew the hearts of the men who condemned him for “blasphemy” because he was indeed the Son of God, and they would not worship him.
They would not worship him. Instead, as verse 67 tells us, “they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him…” They spit in the face of the Messiah, struck very God of very God, slapped the final Passover lamb. Peter denied the one who came to save him.
This is us. This is you and me when left to our own devices, when trapped in our sins. We refuse to worship God. We spit in his face. We mock him. We deny him. Jesus knew this. He knew us. And, in loving obedience to the Father, and in love for us—when we were the worst of rebels, traitors, wicked fools in open revolt—he went knowingly, and willingly, to his death.
Psalm 36 opens with a picture of “the wicked”: the sort of person who “plots trouble while on his bed” and “sets himself in a way that is not good” and “does not reject evil” (v. 4). Then David turns and glories in Yahweh—his steadfast love, his faithfulness, his righteousness, his judgments, his sheltering, his abundance, his delights, his life, his light. The psalm is a perfect complement to Matthew 26: they both point to the wretched sinfulness of man and the glorious loving kindness of God.
I cried as I pondered these verses tonight (and I near tears again now): my God—against whom I sin over and over again, against whom we all had propped ourselves up as little dictators and tyrants over our own lives—the God who made all things and who is righteous and just and holy—my God died in my stead. I can stand before him now because he is righteous, and in his righteousness he counts my debt paid because Jesus Christ, the blameless Lamb of God took away the sins of the world. He knew then every wicked deed of my life, knew the weight he would bear for me, for you, for all of our hatred and racism and murder and adultery and gossip and gluttony and every last unkind word we speak to our spouses. And he went willingly to that cross, that the Father might be glorifed and that you and I might be saved.