Summary: The salvation that Jesus Christ has made possible for us came through conflict resolution.
What comes to mind when you hear the word "conflict?" Anger? Fear? Anxiety? A person’s name or face? A memory of a past event or a word spoken that you want to forget but can’t?
Some of us fear conflict, like the grass in the African proverb, “when bull elephants fight, the grass always loses.”
Others of us dread conflict much like opening the proverbial can of worms without knowing how to get them back in.
Others of us, however, seem to deal with it quite well like the Pastor who solved the squabbles between two members of the pastoral staff by telling them to “step into the hallway and hash it out. If you cannot reach an agreement in fifteen minutes, I’ll have to let one of you go.” In five minutes they were back. Both were smiling.
What is conflict? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines conflict as a “clash between hostile or opposing elements, ideas, or forces.” It used as both a noun and a verb.
Conflicts contain disagreements, issues, arguments, disputes, and quarrels. In fact, those are words that describe conflicts.
Conflict is a part of life; it is a part of human history. A study reported in the Canadian Army Journal regarding the frequency of human conflicts came up with this interesting statistic – since 3600 B.C. the world has only known 292 years of peace. During this period there have been 14,531 wars, large and small, in which 3,640,000,000 people have been killed.
Conflict is a continuous reality of life that we cannot escape. But, what can we do with conflict? Scripture has much to say about conflict and we will be looking at a significant passage that is filled with conflict. But according to Peacemaker Ministries, a wonderful Christian ministry that provides training and consulting in conflict resolution, there are three main ways of dealing with conflict.
The first option is escape or “peace faking” as they call it. The second option is attack that they call “peace breaking.” The third option is conciliation or “peace making.” This morning I want us to keep these three categories in mind as I share with you this thought: The salvation that Jesus Christ has made possible for us came through conflict resolution.
Our main text for today is Matthew 26 because it describes several conflicts and the resolutions to those conflicts that occur during this tense and tumultuous period of time in which the Son of God both experienced and walked through deep conflict to finally resolve the largest conflict there is: between humankind and God. I will not be reading the entire chapter but referring only to sections of it as we go along.
As we begin at verse 1, we have to go only a short distance to discover conflict resolution at work. As we read in verse 3, there is a meeting of the leading priests and other leaders at Caiaphas’ home. Caiaphas was the high priest who, as we recall in Exodus and Leviticus and other places in the Old Testament, was the only one who could enter the tabernacle and offer the sacrifices of the people to God.
But, Caiaphas and others were not talking about the Passover celebration. They were plotting how to get rid of Jesus! They had enough of Him. They wanted to get rid of Him. Why? They did not believe He was the Messiah! They were also jealous of Him!
John makes an interesting comment in his gospel account. We read in chapter 12 and verse 19 these words, “Then the Pharisees said to each other, “We’ve lost. Look the whole world has gone after him!” They are observing the reaction of the crowd as Jesus enters Jerusalem on what we now call “Palm Sunday.”
This observation causes conflict within them. Jealousy sets in. They are crushed because someone else is getting all of the attention. But, just a few days later, Matthew lets us know they are plotting their comeback. They are not going to lose to some upstart from Nazareth! They are not going to lose to someone who others believe is the long-awaited Messiah! They are going to get rid of Jesus!
They are engaging in conflict resolution. Actually it is murder! But, murder is as one way of resolving conflict. Though I do not recommend it!
But, they are not the only ones who are dealing with conflict and conflict resolution. A few miles away in Bethany the disciples are dealing with a situation as we read in verses 6 through 10. An expensive jar of perfume is poured over Jesus’ head and the disciples are very perturbed about how it was used and they complain, their method of conflict resolution, to Jesus about it.
So here we are only into verse 13 of Matthew 26 and there is plenty of conflict to go around. But, there’s more as we continue.