Mark 14:1-2, 10-50
14 It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus[a] by stealth and kill him; 2 for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”
10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
12 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 13 So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” 16 So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
17 When it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread[a] into the bowl[b] with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”
22 While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 24 He said to them, “This is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
26 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written,
‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’
28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.” 30 Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And all of them said the same.
32 They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34 And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” 35 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 He said, “Abba,[d] Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” 37 He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? 38 Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial;[e] the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. 41 He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
43 Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. 47 But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 48 Then Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.” 50 All of them deserted him and fled.
Today we are going to examine a villain. The Bible is a collection of books that has all kinds of people. Some are heroes and heroines, some are bystanders to the greatest story ever-told. And some are just scoundrels, people who are necessary to the story but definitely not role models. Most really good stories need someone to root for and someone to root against. Judas is the one we are going to root against forever in this story.
The artist portrayal…
Colin Smith writer and pastor wrote a book called, “Heaven, So Near-So Far” (The Story of Judas Iscariot). He writes about how there are four major events that led up to the Judas Kiss. The first is the commitment that he made. We have two ways of dealing with bad news. One way is to keep denying that it will happen. It’s a defense mechanism because we do not like to be reminded of our own weaknesses. Especially when the one we love has always been in charge, always the strong family member. Peter and the rest of the disciples are vehement that they will not leave Jesus, they will fight whoever comes to take him away.
But Judas made another commitment. He decided that he was going to force the hand of Jesus. Many believe that Judas wanted the kingdom of David or the earthly kingdom to come about and remove the Roman Occupation. Judas knew that if they came to take away Jesus that God and the angels would act to save the Messiah and surely not let him be led away to his death. Jesus power should have led directly to glory and restoration NOT THE CROSS!
Second is the opportunity Judas was given. He was in charge of the finances for the group. The story that is left out of the reading for today is when a woman comes by the home of Simon the Leper and she brings expensive perfume to anoint the feet of Jesus. Judas is outraged and can’t believe that the expensive perfume was wasted as he put it. Right after this event Judas goes to the council and tells them he will help them arrest Jesus away from the crowds so that there will not be an uprising.
Judas walked away from the fold. That is not that different from many that we know. Often times friends and family members walk away from church as well. We ask the questions where did we go wrong? What could we have done? Did we fail in our teaching? Did we fail in our example? Sometimes the truth of the matter is there is nothing we could have done. The person that made the choice walked away and we have to give them room to find their way back. We can encourage but not stifle and belittle them or guilt them into coming back. We can keep the door open for the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit still needs to work.
Third is the choice that Judas made. Judas chose to listen to others. The others were very evil people who did not want Jesus to continue his ministry. We see the power of evil for what it is, Satan. In the gospel of Luke, we find these words, “3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; 4 he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them.” And in John 13:2 and 27, “2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him.” And, “27 After he received the piece of bread,[a] Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.”
The power of Satan in the world is a force that we do not reckon sometimes. We think that we can fight the power on our own. The truth is that Jesus even when tempted in the wilderness was forced to fight Satan. Jesus being without sin was able to fend that power off. We are not always so strong. We do not always trust completely in God and then have the spiritual maturity to drive the Devil away. When Jesus goes to the garden to pray he takes the three disciples Peter, James and John with him. While he prays, three times they fall asleep. That sleeping is like falling into the powers of Satan.
The story of the disciples is interesting because earlier they were sent to cast out demons and heal people. They were unable to do so, and Jesus says in 9:29,” 29 He said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.” Even though the disciples fell asleep and failed to pray with Jesus they became stronger in the faith when they allowed the Spirit to help them. The Spirit will pick us up and allow us to start again—even if we have lapsed for a while.
Colin Smith’s last point is Judas Embraced the outcome. By the power of Satan and the reasoning skills of Judas this was the best hope of keeping Jesus alive. Forcing God to save the Son of Man, Judas just knew that the kingdom of God would be revealed. But that was not the case because God’s will was greater than all. Zechariah 13:7, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is my associate,” says the Lord of hosts.
Strike the shepherd, that the sheep may be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones.” Judas told the officials who brought the sword and clubs of the officers of the church court, you will know who he is by the one I kiss. The other disciples fled from the Great Shepherd. The plan was not to bring Jesus down to the pit, but to exalt him to heavenly glory. Judas in essence gave Jesus the kiss of death. The Judas kiss reminds us all that we have the power within us to betray the Son of God.
Judas is a reminder to us all that when we allow the powers of this world to rule we miss the greater picture. We lose sight of the gift of grace and love that God wants for all his children. After each of the disciples ran away, after Jesus faced the persecution, the crucifixion and the death, after he was risen from the grave by the power of God, Jesus came back to each disciple and told them to not be afraid and that he forgave them and loved them. I believe that if Judas had not taken his own life, Jesus would have restored him as well.
God’s power is greater than death. We would do well to remember that when we deal with our own guilt. Each one of the disciples were wallowing in their own guilt because they promised not to abandon Jesus and yet they did. Each were feeling the power of grief more so because they were responsible for Jesus death. Yet Jesus reminded the disciples that was more work to do. Jesus and the disciples form a new people because of the passion and crucifixion, they spread the gospel to all nations of the world. Our confidence in God’s love for us can only grow when we pray regularly and acknowledge our dependence on God’s Spirit to sustain us. When we stray from God and believe we cam do it all on our own, that’s when the power of Satan grows. The power of Satan gains each time we forget that we are not in charge, but God is.
One of our biggest challenges is letting go of guilt. We sometimes are so weighed down by guilt that it separates us from the love of God. Satan loves guilt because it creeps in at the dark of night before bed, or in moments when we really need God’s sustaining grace and we feel unworthy, so we hide in our guilt. Judas’ guilt was enormous when he realized that God’s plan was not his and he had helped to crucify the Son of God. Yet it does not have to come to that for us with our guilt. We can take our guilt before God and confess our sins and shortcomings and ask God for forgiveness. God will restore us and take our burdens away.
There is one more presence that we need to recognize in all of this and that is the chemical balance within our brains. That at times can go awry. It is just like any other malfunction in our body, like appendicitis or heart disease or cancer. We would never dream of ignoring those things. We should never ignore depression or mental illness. Seek help from professionals’ doctors and psychiatrists. Get the chemicals back in line with medicine. Chronic depression is treatable, so we need to seek help. Prayer is always good, and prayer may be leading you to find answers to your problems so seek those solutions also.
Every good story must have a scoundrel and villain to help tell the story. Judas was the one in the greatest story ever told. Judas was a but a mere pawn in God’s plan. God sent Jesus to redeem the world. God sent Jesus not to condemn the world but to save it. That good news for all of us. Amen.