Have you ever been betrayed? Not just let down, but consciously undermined by a friend? Betrayal isn’t just an attack, it is an attack from behind, from your wingman, from your business partner, from your spouse, by your father. Have you ever been betrayed? Do you remember, or are you still experiencing the feeling of being betrayed? It’s that fight or flight adrenalin, mixed with a sense of hopelessness and hurt. I remember my brother once describing the feeling as feeling gutted, that’s what it feels like.
Have you ever betrayed someone.? Do you know the bitter taste of gall in your mouth when you realise what you have done? It is easy to get angry and self-indignant when someone else does it. But, oh the bitter taste when you realise you have got it wrong, and you have stabbed someone. They might have been in the wrong, you might have thought that you were doing God’s work; but gradually it has dawned on you that you should have had their back and instead you betrayed them. Or, you might have betrayed someone with a high hand. You might have just decided they were in the way of you achieving your desire, but later you realised what you had done.
Do you know that feeling?
I am not promising you cheap grace or an indulgence today. But keep listening because I do want to assure you that forgiveness is possible. God has the right and the power to forgive you, he has paid the ultimate price on your behalf, you have been forgiven, you can be forgiven and here’s the best part – you can live as a forgiven person
So let us look at Judas’ story. He was one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, with him from the beginning, he looked after the money, Iscariot may have meant that he belonged to a radical group of zealots that we would called terrorists today. In the few days before Passover Judas went to the chief priests and teachers of the law and asked how much will you give me to hand over Jesus? I have so many questions about this? And I’m sure there is no one tidy answer. Why? Why? Why?
They offered him 30 pieces of silver. A month’s wages, it is not a lot of money. In fact it’s the exact amount that you had to pay if your ox gored someone’s slave and they were killed. The cost of an accidentally killed slave. Forget health and safety, this was a relatively small amount of money, 5 grand, maybe 10 grand. For that sum Judas handed Jesus over; under the cover of darkness, in a relatively quiet spot. Whatever else he expected, I don’t think Judas expected Jesus to die; and so when he realised that he had mis-calculated he tried to give the money back. That was a waste of time, and he was so overcome with remorse that he did the most stupid thing. He eternally cut himself off from God. I do not think that everyone who commits suicide misses out of heaven, I am certain that some people who take their own lives still go to be with God. But I don’t think that everyone who dies goes to heaven, the only way to heaven is through Jesus’ forgiveness – and Judas didn’t ask.
Why did Judas do it? –
A.Was it simple greed? John tells us that Judas kept the money bag and would steal out of it? Was Judas perhaps getting restless and thought, “I’m getting out of this and I’m going to get some money on the way?” Did he think Jesus would not let them take him? Was simple greed part of the story? It’s a traditional view of the church that greed was part of the story. And we can all be greedy.
B. Was it a personal falling out. Had Jesus and Judas had a row? Was it maybe over the woman and the perfume that she had poured over Jesus? Was Judas genuinely offended by Jesus’ action? Did Judas think, ‘hey mate you might have started this movement – but you’ve got it wrong’. We started off being about the Kingdom of God and now it’s all about you? Was Judas jealous? Was there some temporary personal falling out, and Judas turned that into something disastrously permanent?
C. Was it political. Was Judas always what we would call, ‘ideologically driven’. A zealot. The land of Israel comes first and everything lines up behind that. Was he a Maccabean, a Zealot a Terrorist first and a follower of Jesus second. When it came to the crunch did he think he could force Jesus’ hand? Hand Jesus over and force the revolution to start! I think you could make a very strong case for this. When Jesus didn’t fight Judas was undone, he was lost and he lost everything.
D. Satan. This is the strongest Biblical argument; Satan came into Judas and made him do it. Obviously Satan could have used all three of the reasons above, but is there also a supernatural evil at work? The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. 30 pieces of silver, Jesus died and Judas was destroyed. This betray has the signature of Satan on it.
But what about us? How do we betray?
A. We betray Jesus for greed when we choose the things of this world before the priorities of Jesus, in our housing obsessed culture we can be so easily tempted to put our house before Jesus. I’ll just tell a few lies about the house so that it will sell. Cars, career, sport, anything where we just want more. Or we can use Jesus to make money for ourselves. It’s the most subtle temptation in ministry to treat the call of God like a job. And it’s not just paid roles.
B. Personal betrayal, that’s where we use Jesus for our personal goals, to make me feel better about myself; to make me look like a good person. It is so tempting to create an image of Jesus that meets my perceived needs. We can create a gentle Jesus meek and mild who would never challenge me on what I watch on Netflicks, on how I harbour resentment in my heart, on how much I drink, or who I’m having sex with. We betray Jesus when we use him for access into the church and it’s ministries which we then use for our personal agenda not his.
C. Ideology, Feminism, Conservatism, libertarianism - Jesus is not a republican, he doesn’t vote labour and he isn’t on the green party mailing list. He stands over and gainst every political ideology. He loves us being involved in politics, but no political ideology – zealot or tax collector stands before him. I think for us Christians the greatest danger is when we put our Theology before Jesus. Of course, we all have a Theology. However, let’s be mindful of who our Theology enables us to crucify. We can get stuck in a particular educational pedagogy, or counselling style, or groups philosophy – all good things – But Jesus is first.
D. Finally do not under estimate the enemy. He get into things. He twists things. He compromises and he is the one who loves you to think you are doing God’s work – when you are not.
Jesus was bitterly betrayed by Judas. Judas went and hung himself. Jesus said it was foretold. Was there any chance of redemption? Yes. But Judas didn’t. Our world and our Theology has this tension between freedom and determinism, Arminianism and Calvinism, Our Freedom and God’s sovereignty. I can only tell you that we should read Calvin because it’s both and. Jesus knew what Judas would do; but Judas could have done differently. At the last supper Jesus conformed Judas. ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me’. Judas said not me! Jesus said Yes You! And the meal continued. Jesus offered Judas forgiveness, but he wouldn’t take it. He denied his problem, and denied his guilt. What if Judas had said – ‘O God what have I done? Please forgive me?’ What would Jesus have said? He would have said I forgive you. Jesus died for Judas. But Judas refused to receive his forgiveness. Even after the betray Judas could have swallowed his pride and sought forgiveness. In our scriptures there could be a beach story about Judas being restored. History could have been different.
Now here’s the rub. Your history can be different. If you have been betrayed. Jesus want to help you forgive. Maybe it’s just a little step. But he wants to do that today. If you have betrayed someone, Jesus wants to forgive you. Jesus wants you to stop walking around with slumped shoulders. He wants to start cleaning up your heart. And he has the power and authority to forgive you. Don’t say he could never forgive me. Because he already has. He has bought your forgiveness on the cross. He is the judge of all the earth. And to anyone who has a legitimate claim against you he has the right to declare that claim void. He wants reconciliation – but even if there cannot be reconciliation, he has paid your debt on the cross. As the owner of the universe, he has the legal right to declare your debts paid. The cost to you is not a $10,000 indulgence; it’s free in that you could not buy it, but it’s costly in that you must surrender your life to Jesus as a condition of being able to access his forgiveness. It costs you your life to have your life redeemed. And the best part of all is that Jesus wants you to live as a child of God. Be free and know you are loved.