Click HERE to access the online service that includes this message.
As we continue our Lenten series “the Son of God Goes Forth to War”, we focus our attention on Judas, and we learn that the battle is personal.
We read Luke 22:47-48. While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd appeared, and the man called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He came near to Jesus to kiss him. But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
Have you ever experienced betrayal? As a child, maybe you were playing hide and seek with your friends and you learned that the person you thought was your friend had betrayed your best hiding place to others. Or, maybe you shared a personal secret with someone you thought you could trust. You made them promise that they wouldn’t tell anyone what you told them, only to find out that they revealed your secret. Betrayal is personal. It hurts. It destroys relationships. It breaks the bond of trust. The betrayal of Jesus added an even more personal element. Not only was it in person, but Judas intended to betray Jesus with a kiss!
How did Judas, one of the twelve, not just a casual follower of Jesus, but someone who was hand-picked by Jesus to be with him full time—how could he have done such a thing!
It helps if we ask ourselves the question, “have I ever betrayed anyone?” Maybe you were the one who betrayed your friends best hiding place. If so, why did you do that? Were you jealous that they kept winning, that their hiding place was better than yours? Maybe you were the one who betrayed your friend’s confidence. If so, why did you do it? Were you looking for the attention some juicy gossip might bring you? Had they betrayed you at one time and you wanted to get even? Even if you didn’t do these things, did you want to? Were you tempted?
That’s the point. Judas, like all of us, was tempted. Like all of us, he had a sinful nature. Who knows what any of us would have done if we had been in his shoes! Remember how confident Peter was that he would never betray his master? When we look at the sins of others one of the best things we can say is, but for the grace of God there go I.
The Bible gives us some hints at the inner temptations Judas was struggling with. John tells us that Judas was the treasurer for the twelve. He felt the temptation to embezzle, to secretly take some of the money from the treasury for himself. And, John says, that he didn’t always resist that temptation. When Mary anointed Jesus with a very expensive perfume Judas objected and suggested that it would have been better to have sold the perfume and given the money to the poor. John suggests that he wasn’t thinking about the poor, but about more money passing through his hands, some of which he could pilfer for himself.
Satan had found a foothold in the heart of Judas. There was greed and love of money in the heart of Judas, just as there is in all our hearts by nature, and Satan was fanning it into flame. Jesus rebuked Judas and any others present who agreed with what he said about selling the perfume. He reminded them that Mary had done a wonderful thing, that she understood there would be plenty of opportunities to help the poor, but that he would not be with them much longer. When he was rebuked, instead of repenting Judas was offended. He saw another opportunity to get some cash. The Jewish leaders were offering a reward for Jesus. So he met with them and offered to betray Jesus for money. They paid him 30 pieces of silver, not a anything that would make him rich, just the price of a common slave.
The weak spot for Judas was apparently greed, the love of money. What’s your weak spot? Our Seminary professor, Dr. Becker, talked about how we all have weak spots that are likely very personal, different from the weak spots others may have. He said alcohol was not a temptation for him. He just didn’t like the taste of beer. But, he confessed, that he would never go to Las Vegas. He knew that those one-armed bandits would be a huge temptation for him, not for the money, but from the standpoint of competition. He would want to keep pulling the lever until he won.
Maybe your weak spot is alcohol. Maybe it’s wanting the security you think wealth can provide. Maybe it’s beating the odds at gambling. Maybe it’s pornography. Whatever it is, Satan knows what it is, and he is hard at work trying to get you to gratify your personal sinful desire and betray Jesus. The battle is personal.
Remember what God said to Cain when he was jealous of and angry at his brother Abel. Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it. (Gen. 4:7) Jesus did the same thing for Judas. In the upper room he told everyone that one of them would betray him. He was warning Judas, calling on him to master his desire. When Judas said, surely not I, Lord. Jesus said, yes, it is you. When Jesus gave the bread to him, indicating to John that Judas was the one he meant, we are told that Satan entered Judas. He let his desires rule him. He gave himself over to Satan. But even after that, Jesus still called out to him, urging him to think about what he was doing and repent. He said, Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?
We all have sin crouching at the door of our hearts. We all have sinful desires that are constantly trying to get the upper hand and rule over us. The battle is constant and it’s personal. Like Paul we confess, the good I want to do I don’t always do, and the evil I don’t want to do I sometimes do. The desire to do good is present with me, but I am not able to carry it out. In my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. Or as Jesus commented about the disciples who were sleeping instead of praying, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Paul cries out, What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:22-24).
When the battle gets personal. When we recognize we are struggling, and often failing in our struggle against the sinful desires that want to rule over us; it is then that we are especially thankful that we have a personal Savior.
Unlike us, Jesus mastered every temptation to sin. Unlike us, Jesus never betrayed anyone. He didn’t betray us. When he was faced with drinking the cup of suffering in our place he didn’t say, “I know I promised to drink it for you, but it’s just too much, I just can’t do it. You are on your own.” No. You know what he said. Father not my will but your will be done. Just as he had promised to Adam and Eve and every one of their descendants, he humbled himself, became one of us, and made himself subject to death, even death on a cross. He didn’t betray us. He kept his promise. He paid the price of our sins and the sins of the whole world. He rose from the dead on Easter. He is the answer to Paul’s question, to our question. Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? The answer is Jesus. And it’s not just “will” rescue, Jesus has rescued us.
When Judas did what Satan wanted him to do, he felt remorse. When he did, Satan was not there to help him. He realized that whatever joy or pleasure or power or satisfaction he thought he was going to get from those thirty silver coins didn’t materialize. Instead he felt guilt for what he had done and horror over what happened because of it. Satan didn’t offer him any consolation. Satan spoke through the Jewish leaders when Judas tried to return the money, looking for some solace for his guilty conscience. They said, “It’s all on you Judas. It’s your responsibility.” Judas despaired. He lost all hope. He thought his only solution was to end his life.
If you have ever felt that way, remember what Paul says. Remember the answer to the question, who will rescue me? Jesus! That’s what Judas needed to hear but didn’t. He needed to hear what Nathan told David when David confessed his sins. God has put away your sin. You are not going to die.
What a blessing we have in Jesus! He is our personal savior! He told his disciples, if you forgive anyone their sins, they are forgiven. Luther reminds us that when we hear the absolution in church, or privately from a pastor or a fellow Christian, “this is as valid and certain as if Christ our dear Lord was speaking to us himself.” What a blessing that he has given us the Sacraments through which he comes to us personally, one-on-one. As the waters of baptism touch us, he says, “your sins are washed away. I am calling you by name, you are mine.” How wonderful it will be when the time comes that we can gather to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together again! In the supper we do proclaim together that we believe that Jesus lived and died and rose again and that he is coming again to take us to glory with him. But, in the Supper, the YOU is not plural, it’s singular. It’s personal. “This is my body given for (say your name), this is my blood, shed for (say your name) for the forgiveness of sins. You are the one Jesus is talking to as you eat the bread and drink the cup. It’s personal.
The battle against Satan and our sinful desires is personal, but so is our savior. He doesn’t betray us. He doesn’t leave us or forsake us. He gives us weapons to use in the battle. He gives us the powerful sword of the spirit, the living and enduring word of God. He gives us faithful friends and pastors and teachers, who unlike the Jewish leaders, know what we need when we lose a battle and come burdened by our sin. He gives us people who point us to Jesus and who say to repentant sinners, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” With the assurance that Jesus has rescued us from sin and death we can face every battle against our sinful desires in the strength of the Lord, filled with the peace and hope that only Jesus can give.