Luke 9:43-45 “And they were all amazed at the greatness of God. While everyone was marvelling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, ‘Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.’ But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.”
Why did the Lord Jesus speak of his own betrayal at this juncture, immediately after healing the boy even though God would hide the meaning of his remarks from them. They didn’t have a clue of what he was on about, and after this display of his glory in the transfiguration were even afraid to ask “what in the world do you mean about being betrayed?” I think there were several reasons.
i] The first was that he had seen close up the agonizing grief of a father whose son had been entered by Satan and the evil one was destroying his beloved boy. Jesus thought of his own Father’s grief – the one who 24 hours earlier had come to him on the mountain top and told him how much he loved him – God would grieve, I say, at what Satan and his powers and authorities would do to the Son of God on the cross. Grief in fathers caused by the work of Satan was on our Lord’s mind, and aren’t devilish deeds on our minds some times and we grieve?
ii] Here was also one of his own disciples named Judas standing there and in less than a year Satan would enter him and destroy him too. Didn’t Jesus love Judas? Hadn’t he been good to him? Yet Judas would betray his loving Lord. God permitted this Satanic wickedness to happen both to Jesus and to the little boy, and then God also brought great good out of Satan’s cruelty in both these cases. Here all the crowd saw the transformation of the boy whom Satan had been permitted to enter, and they were all amazed at the greatness of God. They glorified God for the work of Jesus of Nazareth. So it was to be with what Judas did. His betrayal of Jesus would lead to what? To Golgotha’s mighty redemption, and to the conquest of Satan, and victory over the grave, and the salvation of untold numbers of sinners, and the making of a new heavens and earth. All this came through God permitting Satan to enter Judas. The church ever since and for eternity has glorified God for the work of Jesus of Nazareth. “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!” I believe that that was another connection between his words about his betrayal in our text and the deliverance of the boy from Satan’s malice. They are telling us not to despair at the apparent successes of the god of this world. God can make him over-reach himself and serve our cause. One of the Puritans said that there are times when God will put one of his own eggs under Satan for him to hatch.
iii] The third reason for this reference to his betrayal is this, that there are times when men feel close to God. They have a ‘peak experience’ as they confront a magnificent landscape or seascape; the sun is setting, and the sky is breathtakingly beautiful. A flock of 3,000 starlings is performing breathtaking aerobatics, and people ‘Ooh’ and ‘Aah’ in delight. There is a warm joy in their hearts; it is a ‘sunset touch.’ If they know God they might be thinking, “How mighty are his wonders.” There are times when Christians also experience a new touch of God’s blessing, when a truth that is familiar sparkles in a new light, and they see more clearly than ever before some of their privileges as children of God and the joy of knowing the Lord as their Saviour. Those are great times, but then they have to return to the husband they love who no longer recognizes them because of his dementia, or they feel the ache of the absence of their best friend whom they can never share these joys with again. That too is the real world in which we have to live, a fallen world ruined by sin and death. That is the world Jesus lived in.
The scenes that have been before us in this chapter have been glorious, the transfiguration of the Lord Jesus, and a little boy delivered by the Lord Jesus from a life in which he was being demonically destroyed by violent convulsions. He’s been completely healed and is safe and well in the arms of his father looking calmly around at them all with his big eyes! The watching crowd are in a state of awe. How great is God to have done something like that! They were all saying to one another, “How marvelous! How wonderful is everything Jesus does,” and that is the background to what Christ then proceeded to say to his disciples. The disciples are beginning to think that Christ will always come in like the cavalry and save the day. So he says “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men” (v.44). It seems quite a brutal word to tell them on an occasion like this. It seems so utterly deflating – like throwing cold water into their faces. We would think, “Let them savour the moment. Let them marvel at the redeeming love of God that overcomes demonic power and delivers a child.” The warning of Jesus seems as inappropriate to us as speaking of death at a wedding service, and yet this is the occasion our Lord chose to address them about his messianic sufferings.
Throughout the life of the Lord Jesus two things go side by side, firstly, his exalted power and glory as the incarnate God living and working in this world healing the sick, commanding the winds and waves, raising the dead, and then, secondly, by contrast, his being despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. This is a fallen rebellious world, at enmity against God, one in which men love darkness rather than light. Never forget this; so it has to be throughout your lifetime and to the end of time. Mortality rules and all men are sinners. Even in each wedding service death makes its appearance as husband and wife make their vows of love and faithfulness ‘until death us do part.’ There are times when we are overwhelmed with the beauty of the creation or the marvels of the redeeming love of Jesus Christ, and yet we have to remember that the whole creation is groaning in pain, and men are defying and ignoring their Creator.
The Lord Jesus is bringing a painful, vital lesson home to his disciples, that a miracle like the one they’ve just observed is merely a sign of a world to come. It hasn’t come yet, and it can only come through the cross work of the Lamb of God. We’re not to lose touch with reality through a temporal or spiritual blessing. We’re to be realistic in our joys, and we’re to be serious people in our public praise, not escapists, not holy rollers. We’re to rejoice in the Lord always, yes we are, and yet also always to be taking up the cross and denying ourselves and following the Lord. The future is not going to be all lollipops and roses; there will be suffering and heartache and death and judgment ahead for us all, but our Saviour has gone that way first, and he will never leave us, and we will be more than conquerors through them all. Christ is pleading for balanced realism. Enjoy such moments as transfiguration and deliverance, but be aware that our mighty Lord is the suffering Saviour, the Messiah who is going to be delivered into the hands of evil men. But have you noticed that Jesus doesn’t say ‘evil’ he only has to say the word ‘men.’ That’s the problem; we all know what men can do to their fellow men. We can say of someone, “He is behaving like men behave;” they don’t need drugs and alcohol to behave like that. Don’t subvert the work of God by demanding heaven here and now, and then whinge that because you’re not getting it you won’t be following Christ any longer. To think seriously is not to think morbidly. You want your religion to be one of happy thoughts and joyfulness, yes, and I want that too, but I dare not forget that this is a fallen world of betrayal, suffering and death, and only by the agony and bloody sweat of Christ can life and hope come to me or you. “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.” In other words, “You also live in this spiteful world.”
iv] The fourth reason he had to speak to them like this at that moment is plain. These disciples needed this sobering word then. Jesus knew what was in them. Ten minutes later they were to start arguing among themselves which of them would be the greatest (v.46). Peter argued, “I reckon it will be me;” he was the one who got the answers right, but James thought it would be him, while John said that Jesus was particularly fond of him and so he should be the greatest. They had been with the meek and lowly Saviour for a couple of years and yet were arguing about that. It is unbelievable, but it is what men do. So Jesus needed to warn them about his betrayal, but it was like water off a duck’s back. They were like children. Now the Holy Spirit tells us that in matters of doctrine we are to be like men – mature, but in malice towards other people as weak as a little child. They were the opposite. So let us grow in understanding and meekness and our careful consideration of Jesus’ betrayal can serve that end – he that hath ears to hear let him hear.
IT WAS PLANNED BY GOD, AND THE SON OF GOD KNEW THIS.
Jesus tells them plainly that this was going to happen. It wouldn’t be an accident. It wouldn’t be bad luck. It was God’s plan, and Jesus knew that this was going to happen. He didn’t then make plans to avoid it. He didn’t take off to live in Egypt as his father Joseph once took the family to escape the death threats of King Herod. Jesus knew he was going to be betrayed and suffer and die, and yet we are told, “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (v.51). There was no turning back; there was no Plan B.
How was Jesus to die? What would be the circumstances? Would they capture him as he and his followers fought against them? No. He was no unwilling victim. Would he try to escape to the mountains or to Damascus or Samaria until his hiding place was rumbled and a search party found him? No, it is not right that a sacrifice should be hunted to death. Would he give himself up to them? No, that would excuse his murderers; he would become party to their evil. Would he be taken accidentally, or unawares, turning a corner one night in a Jerusalem street and walk into a crowd of soldiers who got him? No, it would be nothing like that. He must drink the bitterest cup. Jesus must be betrayed by a friend. Are there any sins that men are incapable of doing? They will kill their wives and their mothers and even little children. They would kill God if they could. The novelist, Kingsley Amis, being asked about his not believing in God said, “it’s more that I hate God.”
Judas hated Christ and so he betrayed him, and the reason God permitted this was that Christ might offer a perfect atonement for sin. Let me explain; the first Adam betrayed God. He was given the custody of Eden and he should have kept its green avenues so that daily he and God could walk together in the cool of the day, but Adam betrayed that trust. He listened to the Serpent rather than the Lord. Eve tolerated those vile insinuations that she should have scorned. The first Adam betrayed the Lord, and so when the second Adam came he must find a man who would be traitor to him. There must be a counterpoint if that sin is also to be in all the sufferings he endured. You and I have often betrayed Christ. We have met temptation and we have submitted to it. We have taken the bribes of hell, but he who bore the chastisement of our sin tasted the treachery of it. The cup he drank contained every ingredient of our sin, even betrayal. If Jesus were to become a faithful and compassionate High Priest able to sympathize with us in all our afflictions then he must experience all our sore temptations. You’ve been betrayed by your husband. You’ve been betrayed by your wife. Your parents betrayed you. Your children betrayed you. You were betrayed by your friends, and how painful were such betrayals, but Jesus Christ can sympathize deeply with you. He also was betrayed by someone he loved and it really hurt our Lord., yet that betrayal was God’s wise plan.
WHO WAS THIS MAN WHO BETRAYED CHRIST?
Judas was a Jew. With a name like that he was presumably of the tribe of Judah. He was a man who knew the history of his people. He knew that Joseph had been betrayed and sold into slavery by his brethren. He knew that King David was betrayed by Ahithophel. He knew that the judge Samson was betrayed by his lover, Delilah, even as they lay in bed together. Judas knew of the infamous betrayals of his people’s history and yet he betrayed the Messiah.
Judas was one of the twelve. He was not one of the seventy, or one of the five thousand who listened eagerly to what Jesus preached to them. He was in the most intimate and honourable circle of Jesus’ companions. He was not one of the secret disciples, men who believed but they kept their friendship with Christ a secret. He was known as one who was inseparable from Jesus for three years. He’d been chosen by Christ to become one of the apostles. He was one of Christ’s family by day and night. The apostles have been called ‘the feet of Christ’ as they carried his message all over Galilee. They have been called ‘the eyes of God’ as they were attentive to the needs of Jesus. They have been called ‘the breasts of the church’ as they’ve fed and nourished the children of God by their teaching. Judas was one of those.
Judas was a friend of Jesus. Our Lord lavished such pastoral care on him, answering his questions, strengthening his faith, teaching him and making him wise. They would pray together; he’d often sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to all the gracious things he said. Some Christians have said, “I would love to have seen Jesus in the flesh. To hear his voice and see his miracles.” Judas did that. He not only saw him, he traveled with him, ate and drank with him, and all the time he was with Christ he was attentive and thoughtful and reliable. He was a most winning and gracious disciple and Christ was so kind to him; he washed Judas’ feet. He’d never done a thing to Judas to make him bitter and resentful.
Judas was a man of unsuspected integrity and honesty. When they needed a treasurer to look after the money they’d been given it was natural for them to turn to him and give the money to him to keep. He was chosen above the rest. He’d take care of paying for the food and accommodation in which they stayed in their itinerations. He’s settle up with the landlord and he’d give 10 shekels to a poor widow. Who would ever suspect that such an honest man would sell Jesus for thirty pieces of silver? It was just incredible. When Jesus sat in the Upper Room and told them that one of them was going to betray him they had no idea who that could possibly be. Judas hadn’t put a foot wrong in three years. He’d never spoken out of turn. He’d given no hint of his hatred for Christ. They all looked at Jesus when he told them that one of them was a traitor and they said, “Is it I? Is it I?” Nobody said, “It’s Judas.” That would have been incredible to them.
Judas was a man with a conscience. He was not a debauched man. He never spent twopence on vice. He lived a moral, outwardly blameless life, except for the times his hand slipped into the money bag. He never took a lot or it would have been noticed. If he were the greediest of men he’d have asked for more for betraying Christ. A little money was a great thing to Judas. He could be generous with other people’s money, but he still had a conscience and it was a ferocious conscience, a flaming red-hot conscience because it drove him to hang himself. The problem with Judas’ conscience was that it worked in fit and starts, sometimes sitting on the throne of his life and sometimes not.
WHEN DID JUDAS BETRAY CHRIST?
There are a number of startling answers to that question. After he had seen the majesty of God in Christ. After he had heard the Son of God speaking to his Father in heaven on many occasions. After he had listened to him preaching the Sermon on the Mount. After he had seen Lazarus raised from the dead. After he had seen Jesus deliver men from demons. After he had been in a boat in a storm and heard him command the winds and the waves to obey him. After he had shared in all the food and hospitality of the friends of Jesus for some years. In fact he was treated better than his Master. When there was arguments and accusation they were always directed at Jesus never at Judas.
Again we can say that Judas betrayed him after he had been commissioned to become a preacher and miracle worker. He was a foremost preacher who had gone through the villages of Galilee for nine months and many lives had been changed by his preaching. Peter said of him, “he obtained part of this ministry” that is, part of the apostolic ministry. Many had been cheered to hear his messages. At his word the blind saw and the leper was cleansed, the demon possessed were delivered. He who couldn’t keep the devil out of himself could cast him out of others. He who was a prophet and spoke with learning and wisdom showing all he’d learned from Jesus – he betrayed him. You understand that no spiritual gifts guarantee the presence of saving grace. You can speak with the tongues of men and angels and yet have as much grace as a sounding brass or a noisy cymbal. No doubt there will be bishops in hell. There will be theologians in hell. There will be Baptist ministers and deacons and elders in hell bewailing their hypocrisy. Maybe it is the most dangerous of all positions for a man to become well known and respected in the religious world but be rotten at the core, to have friends who, if he fell, would speak up for him and make excuses – what a dangerous place to be, where we seem to be able to do nothing wrong, to have a fair reputation but yet have a false heart – that was Judas.
Again we may say that Judas betrayed Jesus after he received many warnings, some general and others which were very direct and personal concerning this event. He was here listening to Jesus when he said this, and he remembered it for a year. It was repeated, and it became more specific. Remember the scene in the Upper Room and how our Lord began his time with them as they ate the Passover meal, “When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me.’ They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, ‘Surely not I?’‘It is one of the Twelve,’ he replied, ‘one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born’” (Mk. 14:17-21). This was spoken in Judas’ presence and one would have thought that words as dreadful as those would halt anyone in his tracks, that he would have been scared stiff to go ahead and sell Jesus. But then it became even more personal; Matthew tells us that Judas approached him and said to Jesus, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you” (Matt. 26:25). The peril was made spectacularly clear to Judas. Jesus really laid it on him.
Again, we may say that Judas betrayed him after he had received a paltry sum of money. He was not going to retire to a villa on the Sea of Galilee or on the Med with thirty pieces of silver. He was the seller, but he went to the priests and said to them, “What will you give me?” How much would they give him to have Christ delivered to them? One of the old Puritan divines says, “This is not the way people generally trade. They state their own price. Judas says, “How much is he worth to you? Anything you like.” Another Puritan says, “What could they give him? What did the man want? He didn’t lack food and drink. He had just had a good meal in the Upper Room, and three years of decent eating with Jesus and the other eleven. He had fared as well as his Master. All he needed for clothes and a roof over his head and warmth and friends of his own age had been his for the last years, and yet he said, “What will you give me? What will you give me? What will you give me?” And the first price they offered he accepted. It’s about twenty pounds in today’s currency, that is, $30. I expect they thought when they saw that he accepted it so readily, “We should have offered him twenty pieces of silver.” Judas sold Christ like a local farmer sells a sheep to the butcher for profit. If he could get anything out of Christ’s blood it would be a profitable commodity to him. It is a wonder he did not ask for more because the priests had been trying to get the Nazarene for months. They’d sent two of their men to arrest him but they had failed. They would have paid good money for him. What a sale this was, the blood of the Word made flesh, the blood of Jehovah Jesus, and all the gold and silver of the world is not worth one drop of it, and Judas sold it for a trifle.
Again, we may say that he betrayed him after deciding to do this all by himself. He had no companions who persuaded him to do this. There was no plot of which he was the chief plotter. He hadn’t walked in the counsel of the ungodly, or stood in the way of sinners, or sat in the seat of the scornful and complained that all those bad companions had influenced him. No. Judas was an utter loner. The high priest had not sent for him, he took the initiative and approached the high priest who was surprised when a servant announced the arrival of one of the Twelve wanting an interview with him. None of the twelve had the slightest inkling that Judas was planning to do this. He was a volunteer; he offered himself to do this dirty work and it heightens the sin and makes it even more sinful. He couldn’t plead, “They pressured me to do it. They persuaded me it was a great thing to betray Jesus. They threatened me and said they would kill my mother if I didn’t do it.” No. No one did that.
WHY DID JUDAS BETRAY CHRIST?
That is a very searching question. Why should such a moral man, in the presence of Jesus for some years, the observer of the very greatest events that have taken place in the history of the world, turn on him and betray him to be crucified? There are hints that he was a thief (John 13:6); he pilfered from the bag, but I ask again, if he’d been greedy for money then why sell Jesus for peanuts? When Mary pours the precious perfume over the feet of our Lord then it is Judas who complained and said that the money she’d spent on that perfume would better have been spent on the poor. He didn’t see her beautiful deed that Jesus praised. So there is insensitivity, blindness; Judas seems a bit of a cold fish, an aloof man.
Judas’ greed was compounded by the devil. Satan targeted him and worked in him to encourage the betrayal (John 13:2&27), and that too is an important factor. There is something of the pit about such cruelty. Then there are other mere theories, for example, that he was jealous of the closeness of Peter, James and John, or that there was fear that the inevitable outcome of Jesus’ ministry would be a judgment on all of them, and so Judas turned king’s evidence to save his own skin. Then there is the theory that he was really a way out enthusiastic supporter of Christ who tried to force his hand by going to the priests so that Jesus would have to declare himself to be the Messiah in power and glory. Then, when nothing happened he became bitter and his disappointment turned to spite and spite to hatred.
Yet I think of all the privileges Judas had – the time spent in the presence of the King of love, the sermons he had heard, the answers to men’s questions, the signs he had been a part of – drinking the water turned into wine at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. I know that if God’s blessings like that don’t soften your heart and make you more Christlike then they can harden your heart, yes, God will see to it that your heart is hardened as he hardened Pharaoh’s heart after he saw all the signs in Egypt. So Judas’ heart became like a stone and what may religious men do if they have hearts of stone? Anything. Unspeakable things. They will burn men at the stake and set up inquisitions.
THE MANNER IN WHICH JUDAS BETRAYED CHRIST.
Judas came to Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane with a group of soldiers and servants of the high priest and he came up to Christ and he kissed his cheek. “Rabbi,” he said to Jesus. That is the only title by which he addresses Christ in the gospels. The word “Rabbi,” and the sign, a kiss. Here is honey on the tongue and poison in the heart. Here is hatred hidden behind lips that kiss you. Every apostate book and every heretic who preaches does so with a kiss. What religious books or what sermons have you heard which did not begin with a declaration of profound respect for the truth? They betray the Son of Man with a kiss. They all begin with a sickly pile of saccharine humbleness and seeking after the truth. Then they all quote that the Reformed Church is always reforming. Then you know that here is something rotten because if it starts like treacle then it will end with all the bitterness of the betrayal of biblical Christianity.
Jesus came to Judas from his time of bleeding prayer in the Garden. He was calm, and his first word to Judas was, “Friend.” “Friend!” Not, “Judas, how could you? I have been so good to you and is this the way to treat me?” No; this is the Jesus our children love to sing about, gentle Jesus meek and mild. “Friend why have you come here?” If there was anything good left in Judas then that word and that kind question would have brought it out. If he didn’t possess a heart of stone and was driven by Satan and greed then he’d have fallen at his knees and cried, “My master! I came to betray you. What wickedness! Please forgive me. If you are going to be bound then I will be bound to you and I will be bound with you. Where you go I will go. Where you die I will die too.” But there was nothing of that, and Jesus asks another question, “Do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” The mark of loving affection was taken by Judas and used as a badge of treachery and betrayal and then he was silent.
There is no one here who has not with Peter denied his Lord. There is no one here who has not with Judas betrayed Jesus. Every one of us feels guilty for what we’ve done, but every Christian feels a deep determination that though every other person should betray him he will never betray his Lord. We will cling to him in his shame and suffering, and when we see his nailed hands and feet we will remember that all this came from the treachery of a friend. Let’s be very jealous of ourselves lest we crucify the Son of Man afresh and put him to open shame.
HOW THE BETRAYER ENDED HIS LIFE.
We conclude with the repentance of Judas. He did repent; yes he did repent; but it was the repentance that doesn’t result in new life, life in fellowship renewed with God. Peter denied Christ three times and then he broke his heart and three times affirmed that he loved Jesus. David committed some terrible sins but he confessed them with a deep repentance in the words of Psalm 51. Judas’ repentance did not bring renewal of life with Christ, but it brought about death. Judas told the priests that he had done wrong; “I have sinned for I have betrayed innocent blood.” That was true, but there was no respect to the horror of the deed he’d actually done – only grief as to its consequences. He was very sorry that Christ was condemned to be crucified. Some latent love that he’d once had to this kind Rabbi welled up when he saw that Jesus was dead. Perhaps he didn’t think his betrayal would come to that; he may have had a hope that Jesus would escape out of their hands and remove himself by some miraculous display of power, or that he would proclaim and establish the kingdom. Then he saw himself as one who was hastening on that blessed day. Men and women, if we merely repent for the consequences of what we’ve done then we’re not repenting. The criminal repents of his prison cell but not of his crime, and that is no repentance at all. Human law of course must measure sin by its consequences, but God’s law does not do that. So in his despair Judas threw the money away which he’d received for betraying the Lord Jesus, and he went away and hanged himself.
John Flavel has a sermon on Judas and these are some of his counsels:
i] We are never in more immanent danger than when a temptation comes to us which is exactly suited to one of our darling sins, one of those sins which easily besets us. Beware!
ii] No man knows where he’s going to stop when he begins to walk down a path of sin.
iii] Judas sold Christ for money. What power to destroy us does greed and covetousness possess! Money is the root of all kinds of evil.
iv] Men promise themselves such happiness if they just sin a little, but the misery they bring on themselves can fill them with regret and despair.
v] What folly to be prejudiced against gentle Jesus, meek and mild. Where will you hatred of the Christian gospel eventually take you?
vi] Judas was a gifted member of the Twelve, but one drop of grace is better than a sea of gifts. Gifts are dead graces, but graces are living gifts.
vii] If Judas was a companion of the apostles and could live and die like that then take great care what companions you choose to live with throughout your life.
6th December 2009 GEOFF THOMAS