Here is the Man! Betrayed.
Midweek Lent Service
Here is the Man! Betrayed.
Text: Mark 14:43-50
Not a very glorious finale or farewell. The arrival of Judas the betrayer in the Garden of Gethsemane marked the final time that all twelve disciples would be together. After this they all fled in separate directions, and Judas was going to run off in grief and commit suicide.
How had it come to this? Think about the joyous moments over the previous three years: from drinking wine that used to be water, to seeing the wind and waves be stilled, to collecting basketfuls of multiplied loaves and fish, to watching Lazarus walk out of his tomb—what extraordinary moments! Think about the incredible preaching and teaching over the previous three years: from the tender yet pointed Sermon on the Mount, to the fiery rebuke of the Pharisees, to the caring moments with tax collectors and sinners, to the turning over of the tables just a few days before—what extraordinary moments!
And now this. These disciples sure look like a rag-tag bunch of losers in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter, James, and John were still wiping the crust out of their eyes from falling asleep three times. Judas showed up with the temple police and a detachment of Roman soldiers. Peter pulled out his sword and chopped of the servant Malchus’ ear. And the last verse today says, “Then everyone deserted him and fled.”
What in the world was going on here? These twelve had been with Jesus Christ himself for three years. They had personally seen and heard his miracles and his teaching. How could you go from such an intense and wonderful relationship with Jesus to betraying Jesus? How could the eleven desert him and betray him? How could Judas sell him out and betray him for 30 pieces of silver?
A bible verse comes to mind: “So if you think you are standing firm, be care that you don’t fall!” Satan can bring down even the strongest believer, and any faith is susceptible to the damage of temptation and sin. When there is a crack in your faith because of weakness, Satan will love to exploit that crack and make you crumble.
Look at the eleven disciples. One of their many weaknesses seemed to be a sort of overconfidence—overconfidence to the point of being spiritually lazy. Take the brothers James and John who thought so much of themselves that they argued about who would have a greater place in heaven. Take Peter, James, and John who missed part of Jesus’ transfiguration because they fell asleep on the mountain. Last week we heard how they fell asleep three times on this night even when Jesus warned them to watch and pray. And it was Peter who led the eleven in being so confident in their faith that they proclaimed they would be willing to die for Jesus. Yet what do we see this evening? When the rubber met the road, when danger presented itself and fear crept in, they deserted Jesus and fled.
Look at Judas. We know where his heart was at from a story just before this. Jesus was anointed by a woman who used perfume on his feet that was worth a year’s wages. Judas was the most vocal objector to this use of possessions. He suggested it could have been sold and given to the poor. But then we are told that he really only said this because he used to steal from their moneybag and keep some for himself. So obsessed with money, this seems to have pushed his greedy heart over the edge. From that event he went directly to the chief priests and agreed to betray Jesus for the 30 pieces of silver.
Now finally on this Maundy Thursday evening two Bible writers tell us that Judas had committed his heart to this greed so much that Satan entered into him. We can see what fully giving over your heart to sin can do to your relationship with Jesus. Judas didn’t greet Jesus with, “Friend,” or, “Lord.” He gave the official and rather cold greeting of, “Rabbi,” which means, “Teacher.” Judas was also so bold in this sin that he dared to greet Jesus with a kiss, the sign of friendship and love.
As we shake our heads in disbelief at the actions of the disciples, we also shake our heads at how often we have done the same thing. Satan hasn’t stopped looking for weaknesses as he still tries to exploit those cracks and make us crumble.
Like the eleven disciples, our faith might be relatively strong most of the time. Some of us are even lifelong or longtime Christians. But when the rubber meets the road, suddenly that changes. It’s surprising how often we know we are in a situation in which we should be witnessing, but we stay quiet. It’s stunning how often we run away from confrontation and conflict, avoiding any uncomfortable faith situations. It’s staggering how quickly we doubt our God when the slightest little problem or tragedy comes our way. Rather than embracing Jesus when the going gets tough, like the eleven we often betray Jesus, desert him, and flee.
Like Judas we also know how strong the temptation of greed can be. I cannot imagine any Christian saying that they haven’t at some point skimped on offerings because they wanted to take care of something for themselves first. I cannot imagine any American Christian not struggling with what a want is versus what a need is. I cannot imagine that most Christians are actually satisfied with how much they give back to God in offerings. And yet isn’t it amazing that we Americans have more possessions and bigger homes than people in almost every other country of the world, but we still complain about what we have or don’t have.
Satan will exploit any little crack or crevice in our faith and use it against us until he reaches his final goal of making the mighty fall. It happened to Judas. It happened to the other eleven. It has happened to many others, and it can and does happen with us too. Before we know it, we too have betrayed our Savior Jesus.
It truly is remarkable to compare those disciples and we disciples today to Jesus himself. What would you do to someone who betrays you? Get really angry? Not talk to that person anymore? Remove that person from your life? Sometimes we even say things to people who betray us like, “You are dead to me.” Isn’t it remarkable that instead of Jesus having an attitude of, “You’re dead to me,” he decided to die for his betrayers!
From his human point of view, this evening in the Garden of Gethsemane must have been awful. He already would have been frustrated to no end with Peter, James, and John falling asleep when he told them to watch and pray. Then his disciple of three years is so rude and sin-stricken that he betrays him with a kiss. Meanwhile Judas was surrounded by Jesus’ own kinsmen and fellow Jews who were so eager to execute the Messiah they had been anticipating for ages. Then Peter hauls out his sword and attacks the temple servant. Then finally everyone ran away and left him alone. What a painful evening!
But this was part and parcel to his passion. It would only get worse, and Jesus knew that. While it was painful according to his human nature, his divine nature would not let him veer from the path or the plan. In perfect humility and obedience to his Father, Jesus allowed himself to be betrayed. You might even remember the little detail that when Jesus told this mob who he was they all fell over backwards. He could have escaped. But he didn’t. He was willing to be arrested. He was willing to suffer. He was willing to die for all betrayers of all time.
What love of Jesus, that he would allow this to happen! What love of Jesus, that he would willingly be betrayed! What love of Jesus, that he would die to pay for the sins of those who betray him! What love of Jesus, that though we often put ourselves first and him second, he put himself second and us first!
Again, it was Pontius Pilate who later would bring Jesus before the people and speak the words of our Lent theme: Here Is the Man! Tonight, we see this man, our King, continue his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. One by one his disciples were falling or fleeing, like the prophecies had foretold they would. Everyone around him was betraying him for their own personal, sinful desires as we still do today.
Yet this was part of the plan. It was part of the suffering. It was part of the path to the cross to pay for all those sins and many more. Look closely once again this evening. Here Is the Man! Betrayed. Willingly. For his betrayers. For us.