Message: Face to Face, Judas and Jesus
Scriptures: Matthew 26:14-16
This message was offered Sunday, 3/04/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. It was inspired by the book Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire
Holy Week is so special, most of the days have a name
- Palm Sunday- The day Jesus entered Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna” and a crowd waving palm branches (Matthew 21:1-11; Luke 19:29-44; Mark 11:1-11; John 12:12-19)
- Fig Monday – The day Jesus cursed the fig tree for not bearing fruit (Matthew 21:18–22; Mark 11:12–14 and 11:20–25)
- Tuesday is unnamed. It is the day Jesus turned over the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple, was confronted by the Jewish leadership, and witnessed the widow making her offering in the temple treasury
- Maundy Thursday – The day Jesus gives a new commandment, a new mandate, a new mandatum. “Love one another just as I have loved you.” (John 13:34-35)
- Good Friday- The goodness and love of God seen in the death of Jesus
- Holy Saturday, sometimes Silent Saturday- Jesus is in the tomb
- Easter Sunday- The resurrection of Christ
Wednesday is one of my favorites. Spy Wednesday, the day Judas betrays Jesus. (cue the James Bond music)
Matthew 26:14-16 NRSV
14 One of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
Jesus chose Judas to be one of his closest disciples- one of the twelve. They were together for three years, yet it seems Judas never placed his trust in Jesus. He never crossed the threshold of faith.
How could this be? All that time in the very presence of Jesus, all he heard, all he saw.
How could this be?
- He had no choice. Judas was predestined to betray Jesus. No, we believe in free will
- Judas was driven by his own agenda- driven by greed, driven by power
- Maybe it was something more subtle. Judas was just being practical.
Judas was the disciple with the head for business. Jesus put him in charge of the money. When the woman with the alabaster jar anointed Jesus with costly perfume, Judas complained about the extravagance. “You should have sold that perfume and given the money to the poor.”
Judas was being practical in thinking of himself. He often kept some of the money he was to watch for himself, so the extravagant gift was money out of his pocket
When the tide of popularity began to turn against Jesus, Judas started looking ahead, taking precautions to protect himself, socking away a little more money here and there. Just in case.
To Judas, he wasn’t being greedy, it wasn’t stealing, it wasn’t a betrayal. He was just being practical. “I’ve left everything. I’ve done so much. I earned that money. I need to take care of myself.”
Then Jesus starts confronting the religious leaders, people with influence, people with power. The leaders are like a huge pot of stew- bubbling with hate, jealousy, and paranoia. Judas gets wind of what’s cooking- the leaders are plotting to kill Jesus. Judas’ mind starts calculating- if they kill Jesus, they’ll come after his followers next.
To Judas, his shift in loyalties wasn’t a power grab, it wasn’t a betrayal. He was just being practical. “If Jesus was determined to dig his own grave, I’ll just help him with the shovel. He’s asking for it. It’s inevitable. I need to look out for myself. There’s no dishonor in jumping from a sinking ship. And the thirty pieces of silver? Well, that’s just a life preserver, a little something to keep me afloat until I land somewhere.”
So on Spy Wednesday, Judas makes the deal with the Jewish leaders
Now it’s Thursday, time to celebrate the Passover
A time to look back-back to the nation’s deliverance from four hundred years of Egyptian slavery. A time to look forward— forward to the time when the Messiah will bring peace, freedom, and salvation.
Jesus and the disciples gathered around a low-lying table to celebrate the feast. They recline on padded mats, propping themselves on the left arm, leaving the other free to handle the food.
Each type of food reminds them of the nation’s first Passover.
- The bowl of herbs, vinegar, and salt is a reminder of the bitter years of slavery
- The flat cakes of yeast-less bread are a reminder of their hurried departure
- And finally, there is the roasted lamb, a symbol of deliverance.
What broke Pharaoh’s oppressive fist that first Passover was a final, climactic plague—
a visit from the angel of death to kill every firstborn son. To spare the Jews from that fate, God instructed them to kill a lamb and sprinkle its blood on the sides and tops of the doorframes outside their homes. When the angel of death saw this evidence of faith, it passed over that house and traveled on to another.
Tonight, heaven will be preparing its Passover Lamb- an innocent lamb, without spot or blemish. Jesus’ blood will mark a wooden cross outside the city. A perfect, once for all sacrifice. All Jerusalem will behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
What God in Jesus was choosing to do was anything but practical
Earlier in the upper room, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, teaching them a final lesson about love and serving. Two of those feet belonged to Judas. Dusty and calloused. How could Judas bear it? How could Jesus? What Jesus was choosing to do was anything but practical.
Jesus has so much to tell his disciples. But so little time. A hush falls over the room as he speaks, “He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.”
Many things have been said against Jesus. Never once did But the Pharisees accused him of not practicing what he preached. In these last minutes with his betrayer, the Savior lives his own words from the Sermon on the Mount,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
It is anything but practical
Now it is time for Jesus to unmask his betrayer. “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.”
At the mention of a traitor in their midst, the disciples begin to ask, “Is it I?”
“It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”
It was customary for the master of the feast to put bits of lamb onto a piece of unleavened bread, dip it into the bitter herb sauce, and hand it to his guests. And it was customary to offer the first piece to the most honored guest. Jesus hands the bread to Judas . . . to take . . . and to eat. Jesus honors Judas. Jesus offers bread to lips whose kiss would betray him. It is anything but practical.
The dramatic moment is not only an unmasking of the traitor but a final offer of salvation. Does Judas feel regret? Does he question his choice? There’s still time to choose another path, but he doesn’t.
“What you are about to do, do quickly.”
With those words, Jesus acknowledges Judas’ choice. They would both go their separate ways to separate trees.
Judas makes the practical choice.
The choice Jesus makes is anything but practical.
What choice will you make?
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.
sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.