Thursday, April 07, 2022

Passions of the Passion: Betrayal

 Mark 14:43-49

And immediately while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, came up, accompanied by a multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now he who was betraying Him had given them a signal, saying, "Whomever I shall kiss, He is the one; seize Him, and lead Him away under guard." And after coming, he immediately went to Him, saying, "Rabbi!" and kissed Him. And they laid hands on Him, and seized Him. But a certain one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off his ear. And Jesus answered and said to them, "Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as against a robber? "Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has happened that the Scriptures might be fulfilled."

Sermon for Lenten Wednesday 6                                                     4/06/22

The Passions of the Passion
Betrayal: Judas in the Garden

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

I have to tell you the truth.  We have already looked at the beauty of the Passion.  It was the topic on Ash Wednesday, the love of Jesus Christ for us.  In the words of the old saying, "that's all there is, there ain't no more."  Everything else about the passion is ugly.  The fear was huge and ugly.  The anger and hatred, which was so undeserved, was ugly.  The humiliation before Herod was so unjust and ugly.  The abandonment by all those who were so close to Him was painful and ugly.  And tonight is uglier yet.

Tonight, our passion of the Passion is the betrayal which Jesus experienced at the hands of one of the twelve He chose.  The act was not a passion but a deed.  But the sense of betrayal and the horror of it had to be painful and hideous.  It was doubly painful for Jesus, for He was betrayed by one of the closest and most trusted of His disciples, and He knew what it meant and would mean for all eternity for Judas.  Let us pause briefly on our passage to Good Friday this last Wednesday mid-week service, and examine the betrayal of our Lord as a passion of the Passion.

The betrayal did not come to Jesus as a complete surprise.  There was no prophecy about a betrayal, explicitly, but Jesus knew it was coming.  He had announced it at the last supper.  Modern musicals and plays and such try to paint Judas in a sympathetic way.  Judas is pictured as trying to protect Jesus, or as misguided but good.  Those are fiction.  Judas had been stealing from the group treasury for his own gain for some time, and when he betrayed Jesus, he was selling out his friend and teacher for the money.

Jesus undoubtedly knew these facts.  Knowing probably did not make it any easier to deal with.  When Jesus sent Judas off with the cryptic instructions to do what he must do quickly, He did not want it done, but He knew that it would be, and that it must be done if He was to complete the passion for our salvation.  All the Scriptures could have taught Jesus about this was the price that would be paid, Zechariah tells us that, and that the money would profit Judas nothing.  But Judas had been an early follower, and at one time so trusted that they made him treasurer for the group.

Jesus had invested those three years in Judas too.  He had loved Him and taught Him, and chosen him too. To be clear,  Judas was not fated to be the traitor.  He chose that for himself.  Jesus pointed out that the offense had to come, someone was going to betray Him.  But Jesus did not elect Judas.  Judas elected Judas to the awful task.  Jesus was sorrowful about it.  Jesus said that it would have been better for that man if he had not been born.  The fact that one of His twelve was to turn against Him tore at Him.

Judas was not concerned about Jesus.  That concern did not arise until it was far too late - something typical for us all in our sins.  We often sin without a concern for the consequences to anyone else - sometimes without concern even for consequences to ourselves.  Then, when the deed is done, and it is time, as they say, "to pay the fiddler," then we discover concern for the damage we have caused.  Even after he witnessed the awful effects of his sin, Judas was more concerned with himself, crying out not that He had betrayed a beloved teacher, nor pleading for Jesus, but simply horrified for himself that he had betrayed innocent blood.

Judas proved that he had never really learned much from Jesus either.  Judas did not repent.  Instead, he despaired.  He had not learned that God is loving and forgiving.  He had not understood what Jesus was all about or what Jesus had come to do.  He is the perfect illustration of the truth that just because someone attends church regularly, and seems to be one of us, does not mean that they know, or believe, what this is all about.  Not every "church member" is a true member of the True Church - that is, a believer.   Judas certainly had no concept of who Jesus really was, or Judas would not have had the temerity to betray the Son of God into the hands of those who hated Him.  Poor Judas had been with Jesus the whole time and had not yet figured out what was going on.  Nor would he.  He committed suicide rather than confess, repent, and be forgiven.

And there can be no doubt that Judas would have been forgiven.  It is not a simple coincidence that the greatest hero among the disciples and the traitor were both guilty of turning away from the Lord.  One of them repented and saw the risen Lord and was forgiven.  The other despaired and took matters into his own hands and died.  The contrast cannot be more striking.

Jesus' comment about how it would have been better for the one who would betray Him to never have been born tells us of the other pain of betrayal.  Jesus had come to rescue mankind from sin.  He was about to suffer the unimaginable.  He did it all so that none might perish, but all who would not reject His grace, but who would believe, might have forgiveness and life everlasting.  But here was one of His own, one of the twelve.  This one, near and dear to the Lord, was about to betray Christ, and despair of his sin, and die without forgiveness and go to hell.  And there was nothing that Jesus could do about it.

What pain and sorrow must have filled Jesus at the thought that Judas was going to die.  We might be tempted to think that Judas deserved it, but then, don't we also deserve what Judas got?  Haven't we all sinned?  It is true, we haven't sinned the sin of Judas – but knowing the price paid and believing the Gospel, we have gone on to deliberate sins at times, acting as though Christ had not suffered for us to buy us out of sin.  Yes, Judas had it coming, but so do we.

But Jesus had spoken through the prophets in the Old Testament saying, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that all should repent and live!  He came to redeem us - and even Judas - but He also had to know that Judas would not taste the goodness of God but would die, none the less.  What a betrayal!  Judas did what had to be done.  He chose to do it, selling Jesus out for thirty pieces of silver, and then he threw the money away, and denied the goodness of his Lord and threw the greater thing, his own life, away as well.  How awful, how painful, how frustrating and horrible to bear this must have been for Jesus!  Even before He suffered all He would have to suffer, He lost this one, one of the twelve.

But Judas could have repented and been forgiven.  That truth stands before us as a comfort and a challenge.  We cannot view this passion of the passion without hearing the call to repent and to believe.  We do not need to follow Judas into despair and death.  We know that Jesus lives and that He forgives us when we repent of our sins and trust in His promise to forgive us.  Lent is a penitential season.  We take this time to consider our sins and our Savior, and repent.  The sorry tale of Judas should urge us toward that faithful Lenten observance, that we might celebrate the joy of Easter all the more fully and sweetly.

This passion of the Passion was a dirty and ugly thing.  It was not necessarily a major player in the agonies of Christ, but like the sense of abandonment last week, served to make every aspect of the pains of our Savior truly painful and awful agony - the cup of suffering filled right to the brim for us.  It was suffering we earned, but Jesus bore in His body, and His mind, and His soul on the cross.  Let us take this moment – take all the time you need – to full appreciate the passions of the passion.  Then, let us repent of our sins, and believe the Gospel which Jesus purchased with His great Passion!  Your sins are forgiven!

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)

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