Online Worship for Lent Three, Sunday March 20, 2022
Sermon for Lent Three – Sunday March 20, 2022
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
Matthew 26:47–50 (NKJV)
47 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. 50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him.
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Who despite our betrayals died for us,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Precious Blood –
This morning, as we continue to follow Jesus, we find ourselves in Gethsemane. It is very early in the morning, but we are well rested because like the rest of Jesus’ disciples, we have slept rather than watch and pray. Jesus has been watching and praying for us and He awakens us a third time to announce that his betrayer has appeared.
The betrayer is one of our own – not an enemy. Still, as the mob draws near to us and Jesus, we are again forced to answer the question: “What shall I do then with Jesus?” Shall I stand with Jesus or will I betray Him and stand with the far greater number that comes to arrest Him.
It may seem an easy question as we sit in a warm church on padded pews, but it really isn’t an easy question. It’s easy to imagine that we would have stayed awake and defended Jesus...but past experience proves it otherwise. It’s not an easy question because we have a sinful nature and within us the inborn desire to self-preservation. It’s not easy because we always say that ‘two heads are better than one’ so surely the many heads who come with swords and clubs against Jesus must be in the right. There are more who come out to arrest Jesus than there are those who stand with Him. There always appears to be more enemies of the Cross than friends.
What shall I do with Jesus? Shall I betray Him? May God the Holy Spirit bless our study that we may confront our sin and confessing it seek forgiveness in Christ Jesus, who died for our betrayals and rose again to make us God’s Friends for eternity. Amen.
47 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.
We tend to focus on Judas Iscariot as ‘the Betrayer’ – so much so that we forget that He was ‘one of the twelve.’ Jesus chose Judas to be one of His students. Judas followed Jesus along with the rest of the disciples for three years. Judas Iscariot was paired with another of the twelve and went out to preach the Good News of the Kingdom and to heal the sick and cast out demons.
Judas had been a follower of Jesus, a believer...and then at some point that changed. It’s not important for us to determine exactly when or why that changed, but it did. We may boldly sing with the hymnwriter (TLH 427:7), “I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.” We may boldly declare with Peter, “Even if everyone else denies you, I’ll never deny You.” We may be sure about our ‘strong faith’ but there is in us the same sinful nature that was in Judas Iscariot.
It’s true that no one can tear us from Jesus’ and the Father’s hand (John 10:27-29) but we can choose to leave Him. We can choose to make money more important than Jesus (like Judas ultimately did). We can choose to avoid speaking with family members who sin – because we don’t want to rock the boat – and so make them more important than Jesus (or at least love them more).
So, before we point a finger at Judas, let’s take a look at our own minds and hearts.
It’s not difficult to see how the chief priests and elders of the people viewed Jesus. He was a dangerous man. They obtained a cohort of Roman Soldiers and sent their own temple guards. The group sent to take Jesus into custody is called a great multitude. They were armed with swords and clubs.
They came out for Jesus as if He were a dangerous robber. They didn’t want Him to get away. It was urgent that they take Jesus and take care of Him.
There are times when we think that following Jesus is dangerous. We may tremble at the possible consequences of standing with Jesus in a time and society where those who speak of sin are accused of hate speech. As crazy as it sounds it is today considered the loving approach to tell sinners that all is well and they may live as they like...a sentiment that will be proven false when the Lord Jesus returns on the clouds of heaven to judge the living and the dead. Moreover, those who approve of or soft-pedal sin will then see the error of their ways. But it will be too late (cf. Romans 1:32).
There are surely consequences to following Jesus. We are to count the cost before we put our hand to the plow. There are consequences to denying Him (cf. Matthew 10:33, Luke 12:8-9) and I don’t mean choosing not to ‘like’ some nebulous statement about Him on Facebook. The Spirit of God assures us through the Apostle Paul that (2 Timothy 3:12):
“... all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
It may appear to be dangerous to follow Jesus. There are temporary earthly consequences, but there are also eternal benefits to answering the question: “What shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ?”
Jesus promises us (John 11:25-26):
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”
Let us count the cost of following Jesus...while also, even more, understanding the benefits.
48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.
Judas Iscariot arranged for a ‘secret’ sign. He told the soldiers with him, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” It was a common, friendly greeting. It was something that no one would consider a malicious thing.
Who would think us a betrayer if we walked up to a friend and said, “Hello! Good morning! How are you?” it was supposed to look like a friendly greeting...but it was a lie.
Have you ever wondered why Judas would arrange for this sign? Why would Judas want to use a common, friendly gesture to betray Jesus?
He wanted to act like He was Jesus’ Friend...when he was coming as His enemy. Judas wanted to deceive Jesus and the others by acting like he was a friend. He walked right up to Jesus like everything was good, and kissed him like a friend would in those days.
Now, before we think to ourselves that we would never betray Jesus...we ought to see that we already have. Our betrayals may not be evident to other human beings...but they are to God.
Do we ever act like Jesus is unaware of our hearts? Do we pretend to be a disciple of Jesus, while at the same time making private plans to sin? We come to church and sing with gusto...but then spend the rest of the week trying to avoid looking the part of the ‘goody two-shoes Christian.’ A wink at sin here. A four-letter word there. It’s like it’s a game.
Forgive me, Lord, for all the times that I have betrayed you. Strengthen me that I may rejoice to be called Your Child and unashamed to stand up for You. I need your strength, because I have none.
50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?”
So often we marvel at the love of Jesus – and we should. Jesus knew what was going on. The Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus made it clear to Judas that He knew all about his secret sign. He asked Judas a question, whose answer He knew (Luke 22:48):
“Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
Jesus reached out to Judas even then! He called Judas ‘Friend.’ He pricked Judas’ conscience by asking if he was really betraying his master with a kiss, with the gesture of a friend?
Jesus loved Judas to the end...and us too.
Our Savior still reaches out to us when we sin.
He may use conscience to ask us from within, “What are you doing?”
He may use chastisement, difficult circumstances to open our eyes to the fact that we are standing on the precipice and about to fall.
He may use His Word to turn us back to Himself.
Are you really pretending not to know me? Why?
Do you think that I don’t know what you are going through?
Do you think I don’t care?
Jesus still counts us as friends – not because He approves of sin – but because He came to win us for His Kingdom and save us for time and eternity. He still sees us as people worth saving...not because of some innate value in us but because of the value His own love places on us. When we sin, He reaches out to us and says: “Come back to me. Follow me. I’m going to the cross for you.”
How would we react if a friend betrayed us? We would be angry. We would refuse to talk to them. We may even refuse to forgive them. That’s because we are wretched sinners.
How did Jesus’ react? He turned and looked at Peter who denied Him and called him to repentance. He reached out to Judas with questions designed to recall him.
Let’s not shrug it off when Jesus turns to us and says, “Come back to me! I love you.” He proved it by going with those who arrested Him all the way to the cross. He did this so that You would have a room in the Father’s house with your name on the door.
What shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ? Shall I betray Him? I have...and I may yet again. Jesus won’t betray me, but will keep reaching out for me to take my hand that I not fall into the abyss.
Lord, take my hand and lead me Upon life’s way;
Direct, protect, and feed me From day to day.
Without Your grace and favor I go astray.
So take my hand, O Savior, And lead the way (WS 784:1)