Very often in life… timing is everything. If your timing is good… things will go well… if your timing is off a bit… it can be disastrous. A good example of this is what happened back in 2010 at a Houston Rockets basketball game. Many of you have probably seen a video of someone proposing to their girlfriend in the middle of a sporting contest… and sometimes the big screen at the stadium will even catch the action and the happy couple will get to celebrate her “saying yes” along with thousands of cheering supporters… that is… if she says “yes.” At this Rockets game a guy brought his girlfriend out to half court and got down on one knee. The crowd went wild. The girl was speechless. And then… well, let’s just say she left one end of the court alone, and he left the other end with a mascot handing him a beer and putting an arm around his shoulder… Feel free to look it up on YouTube (after church!) if you want to see the sad scene unfold… Clearly this poor guy did not have perfect timing.
Tonight as we continue our Lenten series, Ironies of the Passion, we turn to a sermon text that is all about timing… man’s timing… and God’s timing, a text that features two groups of people discussing the timing of Jesus’ death on the Tuesday of Holy Week. We turn our attention to Matthew chapter 26:
26 When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 2 “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4 and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. 5 “But not during the Feast,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.”
This is God’s Word.
Jesus had spent the Tuesday of Holy Week preaching to the people, teaching his disciples, and confronting his enemies with a stern preaching of God’s law. At the end of this long day Jesus takes a moment to refocus his followers on what was really going on this week. “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” This was not the first time Jesus would predict his death, nor the last, but certainly Jesus couldn’t have been any clearer than he was here. He would be handed over to his enemies. It would happen in two days. On the Passover… he would be crucified.
Now jump over to the other group mentioned in our text… and what are they talking about? Well, ironically, the same thing. Except they’ve decided that murdering Jesus during the feast was not quite right – timing wise that is – after all… during the feast Jerusalem swelled from under 50,000 to hundreds of thousands of people as Jewish pilgrims from all over the world came to commemorate the Passover. Killing a popular teacher and miracle worker like Jesus with that many people around was a recipe for disaster. They wanted Jesus dead, but they didn’t want to see a riot.
And really how ironic too that these were the men leading the charge against Jesus. These were men charged to be the spiritual leaders of Israel. They should have been longing for Christ’s coming and been his most devoted disciples… but instead they saw Jesus as a threat to their positions of authority and influence over the people.
They had tried discrediting him for years… but finally decided it was time to get rid of him for good. In their hatred for Jesus they didn’t hesitate, during this holy week of the Jewish calendar, to plot treachery and murder. They knew they didn’t have any real reason to kill him so we’re told they met in secret at the high priest’s home, instead of the openly in the courts, and there they figured out how they could lie in order to have Jesus arrested on false charges… and their only concern when it came to the Passover was the timing of it when it came to killing Jesus. They were blind to the significance of the Passover and God’s timing in all of this.
But God was in control of the timing here as he always had been. Long ago God had instituted the Passover feast for his people… maybe you remember how that happened? In 1446 B.C. the nation of Israel was enslaved in Egypt. They had been there for 400 years and when the time was right according to God’s plans… he sent a man to lead them from slavery to freedom and promised homeland. The man was named Moses, and maybe you recall that God did many awe- inspiring miracles through Moses which were meant to teach Pharaoh and the Egyptians that there was only one true God and he would rescue his people whether Pharaoh cooperated or not. God sent nine plagues on the land and people of Egypt… but it was the tenth and final plague that God sent which would finally break Pharaoh’s resolve… the plague of the firstborn.
God told his people that he would send a destroying angel to bring death to every firstborn in Egypt… except… except for those who took the blood of an unblemished, innocent, year-old male lamb… took the blood from it and painted it on the doorframes of their homes… when the angel of death came to those homes… God’s wrath and the certain death that came with it would “pass over” those homes and spare the people who were marked with the blood of the lamb.
That night, the night of the first Passover, the people ate a hurried meal and prepared to leave the land of slavery for the Promised Land that next morning. And for generations to follow, the Israelites gathered every year to commemorate this deliverance and observe the Passover feast once more.
Do you get it? You understand God’s timing here, right? Yeah… God rescued his people in this way and established this Passover Feast to point ahead to his ultimate deliverance and to the Great Passover Lamb… the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world… the Lamb of God who was without blemish or defect… Jesus who was led like a lamb to the slaughter and who shed his blood on the cross… on the very day the Jews of Jerusalem gathered in their homes to celebrate the Passover… he shed his blood on the cross so that God’s wrath and the death that comes with it might pass us all over… and that we might find rest and peace forever in the Promised Land of Heaven he had won for us.
“Not during the Feast…” Wrong… it had to be during the feast… the timing was perfect… and God’s timing meant that the fulfillment of the ages had come… come to bring mercy for those who plotted to kill Jesus… those who enjoyed their position on this earth more than their standing in God’s family… and mercy for us who fall into the same traps… for you and me who try to force our will and our way and our timing on our lives no matter what God tells us in his Word… who so often close our eyes to God’s truth and God’s timing…
But we have a God that did not leave us to be lost in our fixation on the trivial things of this life and the self-centered worship of our lives… instead he gave the life of his Son to make us full- fledged members of his family. The Apostle Paul would later put it this way: But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons (Galatians 4:4-5). God’s timing was just right… for a bunch of people who were all wrong.
Very often in life… timing is everything. As we continue our march to the cross during this time of Lent… marvel at God’s timing in Jesus’ death for you… and surrender your timing to his perfect will… finding in him mercy for every failure and confidence in your standing… because the one who guides every minute of this world according to his perfect timing also holds us in his nail-scarred hands. All glory to him – our Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.