2020-1-12 The Betrayal of Jesus

The Betrayal of Jesus
Mark 14:43-52
January 12, 2020

Prayer for Illumination:

Lord, you tell us that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from your mouth. Feed your people today. Make your word come alive to us and in us. Give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand. Nourish our souls. In Christ, amen.

And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. And they laid hands on him and seized him. But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” And they all left him and fled. And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.[1]

This is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

One of the most awful things a kid can call another kid is Benedict Arnold. It’s a cruel insult to level at someone who betrayed you. Arnold betrayed American forces during the Revolutionary War. He had been a general under Washington. He led an invasion of Quebec City and held the city until British forces forced Americans to retreat. For his heroics in Canada, he was made commander of Philadelphia.

While he was stationed there, he became disgruntled. He felt as though he was being passed over for better positions. Even though being the commander of Philadelphia was prestigious and he was a general, he wanted to be showing his tactical acumen and leading troops to victory; not protecting a city. So he began betraying America by corresponding with the British. He started writing to British commanders and sharing American secrets. He was eventually made commander of West Point and began planning a British coup. However, the betrayal was exposed when his British contact was captured. Benedict Arnold truly betrayed America when he joined with the British forces.

This passage is filled with betrayal. Judas betrays Jesus to the Sanhedrin; the other disciples betray Jesus by deserting him. As we examine this passage we’ll see that just because someone is near Jesus doesn’t mean they are his disciple and that even those closest to Jesus can betray him.

Not All Near Jesus Are Disciples

Jesus and the eleven disciples are in the Garden of Gethsemane. That’s where they went after the Passover Meal. There, Jesus began to feel God’s wrath for sin. He fell down on the ground and prayed that if possible, God would remove the cup before him but he submitted to the Father’s will. He submitted because he knew that even though he would suffer, it would be for the good of those who believe; it was through his suffering that he would redeem his Church. He also taught us to pray during times of trials.

The Garden of Gethsemane was a place that Jesus frequently went to when he was in Jerusalem. John in his gospel account tells us that. He probably went there regularly because the Mt. of Olives carried special significance in redemption and the end times. So he went there regularly. And he would have taken the twelve there to pray with him. So Judas knew that Jesus would go there after the Passover meal to pray.

And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” 45 And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him.

Judas had been looking for a time and place to betray Jesus for some time. He had met with the chief priests to plot and plan how he might betray Jesus (Mark 14: 10-11). This was not some spur on the moment decision. Judas had not had his arm twisted until he submitted. Judas had been looking for a time and place to betray Jesus and hand him over to the Sanhedrin and he knows that the night of the Passover is the perfect time and place. So he shows up with a crowd from the Sanhedrin armed with swords and clubs.

Mark underlines Judas’ betrayal with the words he chooses. He calls Judas “one of the twelve”. That wasn’t necessary. We had known Judas was part of the twelve since Mark 3:13-19. There, Jesus chose his twelve and Mark recorded that Judas was one of them.

So why does Mark mention that Judas was one of the twelve? He mentions that Judas was one of the twelve to highlight the fact that even though Judas was near Jesus, he was not really Jesus’ disciple. Judas was as close to Jesus as anyone could be. He lived with Jesus. He travelled with Jesus. He sat under Jesus’ teaching for three years. And yet he didn’t really believe. Even though Judas was as close to Jesus as anyone could be, he wasn’t a disciple of Jesus.

Mark continues to underline Judas’ betrayal by saying that he calls kissed Jesus and calls him rabbi. To kiss someone is a sign of intimacy. As Americans, we tend to reserve kisses for family but in Ancient Near Eastern cultures friends would hold hands or kiss as a sign of affection. A good friend of mine is Sri Lankan, he has told me that even today it is not uncommon for male friends to hold hands in public or kiss one another on the cheek. It’s a sign of affection. Judas gives a sign of affection.

He also calls Jesus rabbi. Rabbi is Aramaic for master or teacher. He is calling Jesus master. But he doesn’t serve Jesus. He is calling Jesus teacher. But he doesn’t learn from Jesus. He is making a big show about loving Jesus but he doesn’t love him at all. Judas does not mean these signs of affection. Judas feigned all of those affections.

Just because someone is a member of a church does not mean that person is a disciple of Jesus. Just because someone is near Jesus does mean that person is known by Jesus. In Matthew 7, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

One commentator explains, “These persons are thus not criticized for their charismatic activities but for their dependence upon them as a substitute for the righteousness taught by Jesus. We may conclude that charismatic activities, done apart from this righteousness, have no self-contained importance and are in themselves insufficient for entry into the kingdom of heaven.”[2]

Jesus is talking about people who are near to him, people who know some of his teachings but don’t believe in him. He is talking about people like Judas. Just because someone does good things, things Jesus has commanded, does not mean that person knows him.

Dr. Russell Moore is the president of the Ethics and Religious Life Commission, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. In his book “Onward” he tells a story of how one day an old friend called him up one day and asked for a recommendation for a church. It surprised him because his friend was an avowed atheist.

Moore responded by saying that he didn’t know his friend had become a Christian. He writes:

I was waiting for his eyes to well up with tears, as he would recount how my rendition of the theistic argument for design had clinched the decision for him, saving him forever from atheism and despair. He rolled his eyes. “I don’t believe any of that stuff,” he said. “But I want to go into politics, and I’m never going to be elected to anything in this state if I’m not a church member. And I’ve looked at the numbers; there are more Southern Baptists around here than anything else, so sign me up.[3]

There are people like Dr. Moore’s friend who become members of a church not because they believe Jesus is the Christ; they become members of a church because they believe it can help them. They are like Judas. Judas didn’t believe in Jesus. He followed Jesus because he thought being near Jesus could help him. Not all people near Jesus are his disciple.

These persons might claim faith, but it’s the type of faith Jesus talks about in the parable of the sower. Their faith is like seed that was scattered on rocky soil or soil with weed seeds. Something might come up but will never produce any fruit. They might profess faith for a time but under duress or desire for material things, their faith will wither away.

They might be people in the pews; they might be people in the pulpits. When I was in middle school, there was a well known pastor. He wrote several books that were popular and considered must-reads for every middle school youth group. By the time he was my age, he was pastoring a mega-church in Gaithersburg, Maryland. This past July, he announced that he no longer believed in Jesus.

Here was someone who by all accounts was a disciple. He knew Scripture as well as anyone. He had shared the gospel with hundreds of thousands of people. But at the end of the day, he wasn’t known by Jesus nor did he know Jesus. Not everyone who is near Jesus is one of his disciples.

Let us examine ourselves daily. Do we attend worship because we think it will benefit our careers? Or do we come and worship because we know Jesus has died in our place and are transformed by his work? Do we study Scripture just to know it? Or do we study Scripture because it is God’s Word and it nourishes us? Let us examine ourselves and our motives because not all who are near Jesus are his disciples. Let us examine ourselves and truly believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and be transformed by it.

Close Disciples Can Betray Jesus Too

We also learn that even close disciples can betray Jesus too.

But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” 50 And they all left him and fled. And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.

Simon Peter, one of the closest of Jesus’ disciples, attacks the servant of the high priest, cutting his ear off. Mark doesn’t identify Peter as the man who cut off the servant’s ear, but John does. In John 18:10, we’re told that Peter is the one who cut off the servant of the high priest’s ear. Why would he do that? Peter is betraying Jesus by trying to prevent him from going to the cross.

Jesus had told them three times that he was going to die. In Mark 8:31-33, Mark 9:30-32, and 10:32-34 he told the disciples that he was going to be betrayed, handed over to Gentiles, crucified, and on the third day rise again. But the disciples didn’t understand. The first time that Jesus told them that he would die, Peter took him aside and rebuked him. He tried to convince Jesus that he didn’t need to go to the cross.

Here, he is doing the exact same thing. He is trying to prevent Jesus from going to the cross. So he takes a sword and swings away hoping to hit someone. He hits Malchus, servant of the high priest, and cuts off his ear.

After Jesus speaks, Peter and the other disciples flee. A young man, who had followed Jesus and the disciples, fled as well running away naked. Tradition says that young man is Mark, the author of this gospel and Peter’s assistant in his later years. And in Jesus’ hour of need, Mark runs away naked. In that culture, nakedness was shameful. Mark, and the other disciples, would have felt immense shame for betraying Jesus.

Hours earlier, Peter and the other disciples said that they would never betray Jesus.

29Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

They all professed that they would never betray Jesus. And yet, here the eleven disciples betray Jesus. Here the eleven disciples deny Jesus. Unlike Judas, they believed that Jesus was the Christ. And these men betrayed him. Even the most devote Christian can betray Jesus. For a moment, they can wander from Jesus and his teachings.

The Westminster Confession of Faith says this:

Nevertheless, the temptations of Satan, the world, and their old carnal nature, along with neglect of the means of their preservation, may lead believers to commit serious sins and to continue in them for a time. They consequently displease God and grieve his Holy Spirit, have some of the fruit of God’s grace and his comforts taken away from them, have their hearts hardened and their consciences wounded, hurt and offend others, and bring temporal judgments on themselves.[4]

True believers, for a time, might fall into sin. For a time, we might give into our besetting sins and betray Jesus. That will leave us feeling shame and guilt over our betrayal of Jesus. Even those closest to Jesus are prone to betrayal. As the old hymn says, “Prone to wander Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love”.

In those moments, we might have the assurance of God’s salvation removed from our hearts. In those times when we have fallen into sin and betrayed Jesus, we might wonder about our salvation. These are true believers I’m talking about.

I know that’s not the most uplifting thing. We don’t long to hear that we might for a season betray our lord and savior. We don’t long to hear that we might leave the God we love for a season. But it’s true. It is possible that each one of us might wander from God; that each one of us might give into our besetting sins for a season, and betray God. But it’s true. Like Peter, we might betray Jesus. Like Mark, we might run away in nakedness and shame.

Is there any hope? A few days after Jesus rose from the dead, Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, John, James, and two other disciples went back to Capernaum and went back to their old lives. They started fishing again.

Just as the dawn was breaking, someone asked if they had caught any fish. They replied no. They had spent the entire night fishing and hadn’t caught a single fish. He told them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. When they had cast their net, they were unable to pull it in because it was so full of fish. John immediately recognized that it was Jesus who had told them to cast the net on the right hand side of the boat. They all went ashore and had breakfast with Jesus.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep (John 21:15-17).

Even after betraying Jesus like he did, even after denying Jesus three times, Jesus restored Peter. Peter went on to become a pillar of the Church. He wrote two letters that we still read today, believing them to be inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Those who are truly disciples of Jesus, God will preserve them. True disciples of Jesus, even if they fall into a season of besetting sin and betray Jesus, they will come back to him. That is the difference between Peter and Judas. Both denied Jesus as the Christ. Both betrayed him. But Peter repented.

Maybe someone you love has fallen into a season of sin, has betrayed Jesus, and is struggling with their assurance of salvation. Take hope. If they are truly in Christ, then they will come back. God in his infinite love, wisdom, and power will make sure that those whom he has called will persevere to the end. They might fall away for a time; they might betray him. But in the end those whom God has called to himself will persevere; they will be restored and they will repent of their sins.

The perseverance of the saints depends not on our ability; it depends not on the strength of our faith. The perseverance of the saints depends completely and entirely upon Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.

People have betrayed Jesus since the beginning of time. Some have truly betrayed him, despite the fact they were near him. Just because someone is near Jesus doesn’t mean they are known by him or know him. Not all of those near Jesus are his disciples. They will betray him in time. But others who are his disciples might also betray him. They might fall back into betray him by falling back into besetting sin and feel shame. The good news is that God will cause his people to persevere, he will restore them to their standing.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 14:43–52). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] Hagner, D. A. (1993). Matthew 1–13 (Vol. 33A, p. 188). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[3] Moore, Russell D. (2015). Onward (p. 1). Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group.

[4] Westminster Confession of Faith, XVII.3