I adapted this article from a sermon I preached this past Sunday.
When you read the Gospels, and you get past Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and you read about the last week of His incarnation – how often do you wonder about how the absolute demoralization Jesus must be experiencing?
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him (Mk 14:10-11).
We often skip over Jesus’ feelings in our minds because we know He’s
divine. We assume He’s just fine with treachery. We assume He can take betrayal.
We assume He can deal with being double-crossed.
More than that, we can sometimes assume Jesus isn’t bothered by this; the
worst kind of backstabbing imaginable. It’s almost as if we see Jesus as a
stoic philosopher, a rock which can’t be moved. But, He was also human! In the
incarnation, He added a human nature to His divine nature. He’s one divine
Person, with two natures. And, because He’s a flesh and blood person, betrayal hurts;
being stabbed in the back hurts; being forsaken by a guy you’ve trained
for three years hurts.
Think about it.
Jesus left heaven to come here. He trained Judas for three years. He poured
His heart and soul into him, all while knowing in advance Judas is going
to betray Him to be killed. And, Jesus still sincerely trained this guy
and all the others anyway. He didn’t go through the motions; He continued to
preach, train and equip Judas and the others.
Jesus deliberately chose Judas, knowing what would happen (Mk 3:14; cf.
Jn 2:24-25, 5:42, 6:64). Judas was one of the 12 who had divine power to heal
the sick and conduct exorcisms – to have power over demons! Judas preached the
Gospel with a partner throughout Galilee. Judas was one of the guys who came
back from their mini-missionary tour in Galilee, excited, and telling Jesus
everything that had happened (Mk 6:30)
Jesus has done so much for the 12. He picked each of these guys. He trained
them. He taught them. He coached them. He corrected them. He rebuked them. He
orchestrated the heavenly preview of the Kingdom at His transfiguration,
complete with the Father speaking from heaven (Mk 9:1-9).
He let Lazarus die a terrible death on purpose, so He could go raise him
from the dead (Jn 11:4, 11-14), so it could be another proof for the disciples
that He was the divine Son of Man (Jn 11:41).
The disciples don’t even confess He’s the Messiah until Mk 8:27-30! Now, by
the time Judas hatches his plot, it’s two days before the crucifixion and the
disciples are still as clueless as can be, and one of the 12 has deliberately
plotted to betray Him … and that has to hurt bad.
Jesus knew all this would happen, and He kept on keeping on. He even
spoke about His struggles:
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again,” (Jn 12:27-28).
The Father spoke to reassure the Son, and to testify to the
crowd who listened – but more to reassure Jesus. This is why Jesus can sympathize
with you, because He understands what it’s like to be discouraged, abandoned,
forsaken, betrayed, stabbed in the back, and even killed.
He understands injustice. He understands unfairness. He’s been there –
and unlike you, He won’t let it cripple Him from doing God’s will.
But why, in the face of all this, did Jesus even bother? Why didn’t He
pack His bags and go home? Why didn’t He “sense God calling Him elsewhere?” Why
did Jesus know this was how it was going to end, and still come here anyway? Why
does Jesus bother with people like us?
He did it because of grace:
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not (Isa 53:3).
Jesus knew this would happen. Isaiah wrote all about it 700 years before,
and Jesus still came to live and die for His people. As we move forward, to the
account of the last supper, think about the grace and love inherent in Jesus’
actions, even as He knew how this night would end.
Judas, like a hungry dog, is actively looking for an opportunity to
betray Jesus (Mk 14:11). Wherever it happens, it has to be somewhere out of the
way and quiet. The Sanhedrin doesn’t want a disturbance at Passover. Judas is
one of the 12 who come to Him, eager to figure out where they’ll celebrate
Passover (Mk 14:12). As Jesus gives the answer, Judas is likely figuring out if
this is a suitable ambush site.
The disciples prepare Passover meal (Mk 14:16). The location isn’t secluded
enough for Judas’ purposes. So, still plotting, Judas actualy helps to prepare
the Passover; perhaps the supreme irony. Passover celebrates God rescuing His
people from slavery and bringing them to the promised land. Jesus is the “new
Moses” (cf. Deut 18:15-19) who rescues His people from spiritual slavery and
leads them to the figurative promised land in eternity (Heb 3-4). But Judas
helps prepares the Passover, all while plotting to kill the prophet who
inaugurates the New Covenant!
As they prepare to observe the festival, Jesus explains, “I have
earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you
I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God,” (Lk 22:25-26). Jesus
means this; it isn’t an act. Judas listens, perhaps even smiles
and nods, and he’s probably already decided on Gethsemane as the ambush site.
Then, Jesus teaches a lesson on humility and service in the covenant
community – and He washes Judas’ feet (Jn 13:10-11).
Jesus announces someone at the table is going to betray Him (Mk
14:18-19). They each (including Judas!) look at one another, astonished, and
ask if they’re the culprit (cf. Mt 26:22; Jn 13:22)! Jesus explains He has to
die, because Scripture prophesied His death. But, the man who betrays Him still
bears personal responsibility.
Jesus then challenges Judas:
Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly,” (Jn 13:26-27).
I can picture them locking eyes. Jesus’ words are a direct challenge
(“are we gonna do this, or not?”). They look at each other, as Judas holds the
piece of bread on his hand . Then, Judas makes his decision; “So, after
receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night,” (Jn
Even though one his closest students, a guy He’s known for three years,
has run out the door to betray Him – Jesus calmly continues the meal and
explains why He came:
And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God,” (Mk 14:24-25).
The Old Covenant was inaugurated by blood; an object lesson that taught penal,
substitutionary atonement. The New Covenant is inaugurated the same way; with
Jesus’ blood. It’s a covenant that’s infinitely better, built on better
promises. It’s efficacious to anyone who repents and believes the Gospel. Jesus’
remark about a future Kingdom reunion signals His death isn’t the end.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities (Isa 53:10-11).
I would have given up and walked out a long time ago, and so would you! Jesus
stayed anyway, and He did it so that whoever believes in Him wouldn’t perish, but
have everlasting life (Jn 3:16).
I’d be just as clueless as Peter, James and John, and so would you! Jesus
knows all about your cluelessness and your sins. He even taught Judas, gave Him
supernatural gifts, and commissioned him to preach the Gospel. He even washed
Judas’ feet! He let Judas betray Him to be tortured and executed.
And He did all that, to rescue people from this present, evil age (Gal
1:4); people from every nation, culture and color. Jesus let Himself be
abandoned, in order to save the people who betrayed Him. He didn’t simply die
for “really bad” people like Nero, Hitler, Stalin or Caiaphas. He died for the
sins of the very guys and gals who’ve followed Him around Galilee, Samaria and
Judea for three years. He died to atone for my sins, and yours.
He died to atone for our sins; for Hitler, for Stalin, for Caiaphas, and for
you. Let’s remember what Jesus endured for His people, and remember His
grace that’s greater than all our sins.