Road to Easter2
The Road to Easter
Matt. 26: 20-21
Nothing hurts worse than betrayal by a close friend or family member.
Jesus knew the feeling well, for one of his own 12 disciples supremely betrayed Him.
In our opening scriptures, we find Jesus gathered at a table with His twelve disciples on the night before His arrest.
He had just washed all of His disciple’s feet.
Out of nowhere, Jesus drops a nuclear bomb:
“Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
Can you imagine the shock on the disciple’s faces at that point?
Immediately they each began to ask if they were the one.
Even Judas, who had already taken 30 pieces of silver from the chief priests as payment for turning Jesus over to them, had the gall to ask “Is it I?”
Of course, Jesus knew full well who it was that would commit the crime of the ages.
Now, if we pull back from this drama and view it from God’s eyes, we would know that God’s sovereign will was at work, even in the midst of the evil actions of men.
Jesus could easily have repeated Joseph’s well-known words, “What you mean for evil, God will work it for good, to save many people alive.”
The first thing we see at work in the betrayal of Jesus is:
After informing them of His impending betrayal, He told His disciples:
“…this is to fulfill the passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’
The Scripture Jesus quoted was Psalm 41:9 – "Even my close friend, in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me."
Like so many of the events of Jesus’ life, the betrayal of Judas was foretold in prophecy hundreds of years before it happened.
Judas was fitting right into God’s master plan.
There are other prophecies predicting this betrayal. Psalm 55:12-14 contains one:
"For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, then I could bear it; nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, then I could hide myself from him. But it is you, a man my equal, my companion and my familiar friend; we who had sweet fellowship together, walking in the house of God among the worshippers."
And so it was that Judas, who had been one of Jesus’ closest companions for over 3 years, who had watched all of His miracles, heard all of His teachings, and had traveled with Him continually—
This was the man that betrayed Him with a kiss—worse than a harsh slap in the face!
But amazingly, God, Who knows the end from the beginning, had already revealed the personal nature of the betrayal to His prophets of old!
Not only was PROPHECY FULFILLED, but a second thing in the drama of Jesus’ betrayal was:
2. PROVIDENCE at work
To the natural eye it looked as if evil was winning the day.
They tried Jesus in kangaroo court on trumped up charges.
All of His friends and disciples fled.
Peter denied ever having known Him.
At the request of the Jewish people, they released Barabbas, a hard core murderer, rather than Jesus.
They beat Him beyond the ability to recognize Him as a human being.
Yet when Jesus was brought before Pilate, John records in chapter 19:
“Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?”
“Then Jesus said (to Pilate), “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.”—vs.10-11
Jesus knew Who was in charge of events, no matter how bad it looked.
PROPHECY fulfilled, PROVIDENCE at work, and third I see:
3. PERFECT LOVE displayed
Notice, it says that after predicting his betrayal, “Jesus was troubled in spirit.”—13:21
Unmasking Judas as the betrayer apparently caused Jesus deep trouble and anguish.
What was it that troubled Him?
Was it the fact that Judas had been given the same degree of love and consideration as the other disciples, yet was about to reject it?
Was it His deep hatred for sin and how it was ravaging Judas’ life?
Was He troubled by Judas’ hypocrisy?
Was He burdened as He thought of Judas facing eternity in Hell?
Was He bothered because, time and time again, He had tried reaching Judas, only to see him move farther and farther away?
"One of you will betray Me," Jesus said to His disciples.
Look at their response:
John 13:22 “His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant.”
Think about it: the perplexity that showed on the face of each man is very telling.
It reveals that Jesus had shown the same love for Judas over the three years of His ministry that He had shown to the others.
If Jesus had ever treated Judas any differently from the rest—had He been more distant or shown some resentment for what He knew Judas would do—they would have known the identity of the betrayer immediately.
Apparently their three years together had shown Jesus to be just as gentle, just as loving, just as kind to Judas as He was to the other eleven.
I HAVE A QUESTION: How could you love someone you knew was going to double cross you and cause you the greatest anguish of your life?
How could you treat kindly someone you knew would take every good thing you had done for him and throw it back into your face?
Only by practicing the agape love of God!
Jesus was living out in his relationship with Judas the very thing He called us to do—"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
BUT I BELIEVE THERE IS MORE TO IT THAN THIS:
Why would Jesus unmask Judas at this point?
Why not remain silent and just let the betrayer do his treacherous deed?
I believe He did it for Judas’ sake.
He was giving Judas one last chance to consider what he was about to do, and turn around.
But Judas’ heart was hard by this time, likely made that way by the many months of stealing from the moneybox.
Judas had been the treasurer of the Jesus ministry.
Scripture reveals that he had begun stealing from it.
Sin has a cumulative effect on people.
With every sin there is a slight hardening of the will.
If the sin is repeated, the hardening gets worse.
Eventually, we can become dangerously hardened to the pleading of God’s Spirit.
This is what Hebrews 3:13 warns us about: "But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ lest anyone of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."
Such a "hardened" person does not want to return to God anymore. He or she loves their sin too much.
I believe that was the case with Judas.
He was fully deceived by Satan. He had been flirting with sin so long that now Satan had taken over.
The next verse confirms that:
“As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.”—13:27
At this point, Jesus seems to pull His grace back. He said to Judas:
"What you do, do quickly."
Finally, we see:
4. PERMANENT CONSEQUENCES to resisting God’s grace
John records the final departure of Judas from Jesus, one that I am certain he remembers with anguish to this day in his lost eternity:
“As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.”—vs.30
It is always “night” when we walk away from Jesus,
Walk away from His grace,
Walk away from His voice.
Off Judas went, into the night, a solitary figure, leaving not just his companions of the last three years, but the final offer of God’s grace.
Off he went, not only into a Judean night but also into an eternal night from which he would never return.
Soon he would betray Jesus with a kiss.
Soon he would hurl his blood money back into the faces of the priests that had paid him.
And soon he would die by taking his own life.
Providence at work
Perfect love displayed
Permanent consequences to resisting God’s grace
These are the lessons surrounding the betrayal of Jesus.
There are people like Judas in every age – people who enjoy the blessings of Christ’s presence, who hear His word and enjoy the fellowship of His people.
They are given every opportunity to receive salvation by God’s grace.
But like Judas of old, they are people of a double life.
Yet, Jesus reaches out to them in love, ever hopeful that they turn back.