Sermon – February 24, 2021 – Lent Wednesday
Printable PDF: 2-24-2021 Midweek 2 Sermon
Pastor Robert Smith ~ John 13:21-30 ~ February 24, 2021 ~ Midweek 2
HANDS OF BETRAYAL (Judas)
21After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” 22His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” 25Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.
King David of Israel knew what it was like to be betrayed. As king, he had an adviser named Ahithophel. He was a close friend and trusted confidant, a man who dined at David’s family table. David trusted his counsel. His advice contributed to the success of David’s kingdom. Yet when David’s son, Absalom, rebelled against David, Ahithophel betrayed David and joined Absalom’s cause. In fact, if Absalom had followed Ahithophel’s advice, he might have been successful in his rebellion, but God saw to it that he wasn’t.
Another friend who turned on David was Joab. He was a trusted general. They had gone through any number of battles together. Joab even helped David arrange for the death of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba. Yet when it came time for Solomon to succeed David, the one David appointed by the will of God, Joab backed Adonijah instead.
No wonder David wrote in Psalm 41, “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, who shared my bread, has turned against me.” Did David have in mind Ahithophel or Joab? Probably Ahithophel, maybe both. In any case, David knew what betrayal felt like.
Is there anything more biting than betrayal? We might have enemies, people who don’t like us and even try to hurt us. But we know what to expect from them, and we do what we can to limit the damage they can cause. At the same time we expect our friends to be loyal. We trust them. And if our friend betrays that trust, it hurts. Big time.
David wasn’t the first person to suffer betrayal, and I’m sure he won’t be the last. However, when he wrote Psalm 41, he was really pointing ahead to another betrayal. Jesus used the words of this Psalm to predict his own betrayal by Judas. Like Joab, Judas was close to Jesus. Like Ahithophel, Judas was part of the inner circle, one of the Twelve. He was a trusted friend who broke bread at Jesus’ table. And like them both, Judas lifted up his hands in betrayal.
In fact, the name Judas is synonymous with traitor. If we call someone a “Judas,” that’s what we mean. That person is a traitor. Why would Judas do something so evil as to betray Jesus? After all, he was handpicked by Jesus, just like Peter, John, and all the others. He went on missionary trips with the other disciples. He was now with Jesus and the other disciples in the upper room.
The Bible also makes it clear that Judas had a greedy heart. Do you remember when Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume? That perfume was nard, very expensive, worth a year’s wages. Judas argued that the perfume should have been sold to help the poor. However, the Holy Spirit tells us what was really going on in his mind – “He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.”
The love of money was a terrible temptation for Judas, and the devil knew it. The devil now had his foot in the door, and he fanned his greed into flames. Just what would he be willing to do for 30 pieces of silver? It wasn’t that Judas wanted to be a big sinner. Garden variety greed, unrepented and unchecked, was the sin that corroded his soul over time, and eventually put Judas’ betraying hands at the table. “The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.”
Betrayal hurts because it’s personal. It is brutal because it’s usually done in secret. Judas was living a double life, promoting himself as a disciple, but letting his greed run wild in his soul. The rest of the disciples were fooled; they thought of Judas as their friend. At this point they were not aware of his greed. But Jesus knew. We read, “Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.’”
This accusation brought instant tension to the room. The disciples reacted defensively. They stared at each other, “at a loss to know which of them he meant.” Each said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” They searched their hearts for any sign of betrayal.
We need to search our hearts as well. Do we have secret sins that have gone unrepented and unchecked? Is greed one of the sins that is crouching at our door? It’s easy to fall into the sin of loving money more than God, it’s quite common, and there might even be a little bit of it in our own hearts. In one way or another, we are all guilty of sin. We all have sinful desires, and we need to be aware of the power of temptation.
As the accusation hung in the air, and the disciples scrambled to avoid blame, Peter signaled to John, who was sitting next to Jesus, “Ask him who he is talking about!” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, ‘What you are about to do, do quickly.’”
We should note, however, that Jesus was showing loving concern for Judas. He had given Judas warnings over time. Once he said, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” On another occasion he said, “You are clean, though not every one of you.” Now at the Passover table, Jesus dips his hands into the bowl with Judas’ betraying hands. Jesus was reaching out to Judas. He was telling him, “Resist Satan. Don’t do it.” Even to his own betrayer, Jesus showed love and pastoral concern for Judas’ soul right to the end.
Judas went ahead with his betrayal by identifying Jesus with a kiss. He abandoned Jesus. There was someone else who abandoned Jesus at the cross – his own Father. Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” At the cross the Father did abandon Jesus; he let him suffer painful death and humiliation at the hands of sinners. Why? Why did the Father abandon his Son? The answer is love. In his love for us, God sent his Son to do what it took to set us free from sin and death, even the sin of greed. As Isaiah says, “By his wounds we are healed.”
Does God forgive even traitors? Jesus died for all sins, even big sins like betrayal. However, at least a couple of these stories have unhappy endings. Ahithophel and Judas were filled with so much guilt over their betrayals that they committed suicide. In their despair they felt that God could not forgive them. They were wrong. The gospel teaches us that God doesn’t betray sinners; instead he turned his back on his own Son. He forsook Christ! He reconciled the world. Banish the thought that God will banish us for our sins. Don’t let Satan or anyone convince you otherwise. God made peace with us in Christ. We might ask, can God forgive even big sins and sinners? The answer is yes. Jesus paid the price for all sin. You see, God is no traitor. He keeps his promises. He kept his promise to save us from sin. Thanks be to Jesus that he was willing to suffer betrayal that God might show his loyalty to us by forgiving our sins. Amen.