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This morning we delve into a piece of Jesus’ Passion Narrative that does not normally get much attention.
We typically read the Passion story all as one story on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, or most often on Good Friday.
I think part of the reason that we gloss over this story is that we do not want to be faced with the reality that we, like all of Jesus’ disciples, abandon Jesus when he needs us most.
So as we begin to contemplate this story this morning, I am going to give you a couple questions again as food for thought, but before I do that, let’s set the stage a bit...I want you to think back to when you were a child or a young adult and I want you to pick out a time in your life when someone you truly trusted and loved betrayed you.
Maybe it was a time when your best friend asked a girl to a dance after you had just revealed to him that you were going to ask the same girl…or maybe it was a time when you told your best friend about the thing you did last summer and she told all of your friends about it…or maybe it was when your boyfriend or girlfriend started dating someone else and you heard about it through someone else.
Remember the feelings and emotions…got an image in your mind?
Good, now the questions to keep in mind as we travel down this path this morning…What does it mean to betray someone’s trust?
What does it mean when we abandon those that we love after being betrayed or betraying that person?
As we move through our time this morning, we are going to focus our attention on what it means to be truly and utterly betrayed and also what it meant to Jesus that everyone left him alone to face his accusers.
So, let’s dive right in...
Betrayal is part of human experience
Betrayal is a part of our every day human experience.
I could give you three specific examples, right off the top of my head, in which I have been betrayed by those I thought I could trust and should be able to trust the most...One involved someone who should have known better and actually was sworn to hold certain things in confidence, one involved a previous partner with whom I had shared several years, and one involved someone who I thought was my friend only to find out that the person could not by any stretch of the imagination, keep anything private if they wanted to.
In each of these cases, I was hurt deeply, I would even venture a stab at saying that these betrayals cut me to the core.
By the way, these have all happened in the last 10 years…so not when I was a child but rather as an adult.
Regardless as to how I felt at the moment with what occurred, I have learned from each of these situations and gained something for myself.
In all three cases, I have learned how to put my feelings aside and still be able to be in relationship with those individuals that hurt me so deeply.
I know just as many folks who cannot do this and I have begun to wonder who is truly being hurt by our inability to truly forgive, is it the person who hurt us or ourselves?
Like we discussed a few weeks ago, you all know that I believe the person who is hurt the most by being unforgiving is the person who refuses to forgive.
With all this being said, I don’t think any of my examples compare to what Jesus endured at the hands of someone he trusted…
The betrayal and arrest of Jesus Christ
We heard the story this morning of Judas’ betrayal, but how did we get here?
Great question and I am so glad you asked…last week, we were on the Mount of Olives just after Jesus turned the tables in the Temple.
Today, we find ourselves in the the Garden of Gethsemane, just after Jesus and the disciples had eaten the Last Supper and Jesus had taken them to the Mount of Olives once again to pray…just to give you a visual of what the Garden might have looked like...
The Mount of Olives...
The Garden is made up of these Olive trees and well manicured areas.
It is, to this day, a place of prayer and solitude.
That is what Jesus was looking for that night after they had eaten and he had washed their feet.
Jesus knew that it was time for him to be betrayed and arrested.
He needed time in solitude to pray and prepare himself for what was about to happen.
Now, here is something we need to keep in mind…we know from some of the things that he said around that table, that Jesus knew exactly who was going to betray him.
He also knew that all 12 of them would abandon him when the Sanhedrin came to arrest him.
In those instances that I told you to remember before, would you have responded or acted differently in those situations if you knew what was about to happen?
For some of you, the answer is yes, but for some others, I would bet that the answer would be no because those moments have also shaped you into the person that you are today, am I right?
Here’s Jesus knowing what was about to happen and instead of withholding and trying to stay just a few moments longer, He goes out, does what He said He would do and prepares Himself for the arrest.
For Jesus, on that fateful night, knowing what he knew, he still allowed all of these events to happen and what happened was that one of his closest friends, someone he trusted, turned him over to be killed…then to top off the whole evening, everyone that came to the Garden with Jesus, runs away out of fear for their own lives rather than standing beside the one who taught them, trained them, and most importantly loved them enough to impart His wisdom upon them.
At the end of our story, everyone abandoned Jesus to fend for Himself and to take on all that was about to happen...
Judas determines to betray Jesus Christ
Let’s consider something…how did Judas know that Jesus would be in the Garden?
I mean, the stories that we have, did not really reference Jesus saying that he was going to go to the Garden to pray.
Yet, somehow Judas knew where to take those who wanted Jesus dead.
Not only did Judas hand Jesus over, Judas sold Jesus’ life to the Sanhedrin.
We need to remember that Jesus was a threat to the Sanhedrin.
He taught that we can all communicate with God.
Jesus taught that God loved us and forgives us without recourse.
The Sanhedrin hated him for this teaching because all that they were and had were tied up in the fact that people had to come to them for forgiveness.
Everyone had to buy sacrificial animals to receive forgiveness.
For the Sanhedrin, their very existence was challenged by Jesus’ teachings…sound familiar to any one?
In the moment that Jesus came forward, a target was placed upon his back and everyone in terms of power and authority wanted him dead.
So, for Judas, the only reasoning I can come up with for why he would betray Jesus for those 30 pieces of silver was because he never truly understood what Jesus was teaching them.
Jesus Christ is betrayed by a kiss
When we talk about how it happened that night, the mere fact that Judas kissed Jesus on the cheek seems innocuous at first, but it is truly significant…a kiss on the cheek between men was a way of saying hello to one another amongst the closest of friends.
Talk about adding to the hurt.
Judas told the Sanhedrin that he would take them to the man who was creating such a stir and that they would know who the “one” was because he would kiss the man on the’s that piece:
Again, this sounds trivial but it is very significant.
Do you still have that image in your mind?
When we are young, things like betrayal take us by surprise and cut deeper than when we are older and more mature and I wonder if that is because we just get accustomed to being betrayed.
However, when we are younger, we do not expect that someone we care about would treat us so horribly so as to burn a memory in our hearts that is filled with pain.
So, if our image involves someone who was very close to us, that pain and image is probably much clearer because of the hurt caused by that betrayal.
Depending upon how old we are, that distance from the time of that image til now should have dimmed but it hurts still to this day…now, I cannot imagine the deep hurt that Jesus must have felt as Judas’ lip brushed against his skin.
I cannot imagine how much pain that betrayal would have caused.
But I do know this, it was the ultimate betrayal from someone Jesus cared enough about to bring with him on his journeys.
And yet, no one stood beside Jesus in that moment, not that he really needed them to, but no one stood there to keep the Sanhedrin from arresting Jesus either.
Don’t get me wrong, there may have been a bit of a scuffle, but in the end, we are told that everyone left Jesus standing there before the Sanhedrin.
A second betrayal by those Jesus trusted...
The Second Betrayal
Jesus has just been identified and now everyone abandons him, running through the olive trees and into the night.
They all run and aside from Peter, who we hear about next week, and John, no one returns until after Jesus has died on the cross.
Now, there are many times in our lives when we need people around us to support and hold us up.
Yet, here in the time of what I would consider to be Jesus’ greatest need, everyone leaves him there to fend for himself.
Talk about the ultimate in betrayal.
In this moment, Jesus is forsaken by all the disciples.
As He is arrested for crimes He had not committed, He is lead away alone!
This reveals two great truths to us.
Many continue to betray and abandon Jesus when it comes to the crucifixion.
Oh, we can agree that He was a great teacher, prophet, and man, but we often refuse to embrace Him as the one who came to save us all from our sin, as the Christ.
It also reveals that what Jesus was about to do, He must do alone.
No one else was worthy to die for our sin.
No one else could drink of the cup He was about to taste and drink.
Jesus alone secured our redemption as He offered His body the perfect, living sacrifice for sin.
And that is why he taught so fervently against the Sanhedrin.
There is no need for further sacrifice or offering of sacrificial animals, he was the last one.
What does this story hold for us today?
There is one really tough question to answer and it is this one…read screen…I mean each year we study these stories, often glossing over the ones that are tough for us to read or hear.
Ones that remind us of a time in our lives where we had been hurt very deeply or maybe more importantly, a time when we too abandoned God and Christ in our lives.
I am no different.
I have spent time away from those who helped to make me the person I am today.
I have walked and even run away from my faith because I could not face the fact that my faith is the only thing that could get me through a tough time in my life.
I have betrayed and abandoned those who loved me and in particular the one who gave his very life so that I could read these stories and study them.
As we journey further into Lent, I think it is extremely important for us to be reminded that we are much like the man who ran away naked at the end of our story…we run at our own risk and peril and we do it being humiliated.
The multitude was determined to silence Jesus and decimate His following.
They wanted to strike fear in the hearts of all who followed Him.
This animosity remains today.
So, ultimately the question we need to contemplate is how do we respond?
Do we stand boldly, confident in our faith in Christ, or do we flee as the disciples did?
I want to have the boldness to stand for the Lord, regardless of the opposition!
Let us pray…Gracious God, without your Son, we have nothing.
Without your Son, we are nothing.
We have abandoned and betrayed you and your Son in so many ways.
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