The prophet Isaiah describes Messiah as what is called “The Suffering Servant.” (Isaiah 53)
The Jesus Story is one of suffering, to be sure. We have seen the sufferings of Jesus in the story thus far and we have yet to arrive at the account of His passion.
- We saw His grief at the rejection in His hometown synagogue when they wanted to throw Him off a cliff.
- We have seen Him retreat in pain to the wilderness after a town sent him away.
- We watched Him weep over Jerusalem’s misunderstanding of Him.
- When people received His miracles but rejected His message, his heart broke.
Still, the greatest pain was yet to come—His Passion: betrayal, arrest, trial, scourging, torture, and death at the hands of people He loved.
The Passion of the Christ begins with the betrayal of Judas, a man hand selected by Jesus for greatness, for the privilege of taking the Good News to the world. Of all the injuries Jesus suffered prior to His passion, the betrayal of Judas was the most painful. We tend to isolate Judas from the others because he carried the purse or because he was a thief. To Jesus, the kiss of Judas was as painful as it would have been if Peter had delivered it, or John, or James, or any of the others. Jesus loved the way God loves—not by degrees, this one more than that one—Jesus loves us all the same. The betrayal of Judas was a knife to the heart of the Lord.
The Passover Plot
Defeated at every point by the brilliance of Jesus’ answers and shackled by His constant display of power, the leaders of the people were out of options. The Feast of Passover was almost there. They had to find a way to discredit Jesus, arrest Him, and try Him before the people, and kill Him. But how?
Their opportunity came from a surprising source, one of His own men, one Judas Iscariot. Novelists and screenwriters feel they must reveal the motivations of Judas. Why did the man betray Jesus? The writers of the Bible make no attempt at this fruitless conjecture. It simply doesn’t matter why Judas turned on Jesus; it only matters that he did. Dr. Luke gives us the only hard evidence of how this happened.
“Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve.”
This fact does not absolve Judas from the responsibility of his actions but it does identify the source of the incident—Satan himself. The snake of Eden, the accuser of the brethren, the tempter in the wilderness, the father of lies somehow corrupted the mind of Judas; it does not matter how.
It does not matter
- what lies he told just as he did to Eve,
- what past sins he included in his indictment of Judas,
- what enticements he dangled before the man, or
- what scriptures he misquoted to deceive the disciple.
None of this matters for the decision was final.
Deeds Done in the Dark
Under the cover of darkness, Judas sought out the leaders, shuffling through the ranks of guards, soldiers, and servants until he was ushered in before the desperate councils of the priests and elders. The details were agreed upon and the price. The mountainside retreat on Olivet, safely away from the crowds, would be the setting. The suffering would begin, as it had in the beginning, in a beautiful garden.
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people. Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.
Lord Jesus, there has sometimes been betrayal in my heart as well. There have been times when You wanted me to stand and I took a seat, when You wanted me to speak up for You and I stayed silent, when I was tempted by sin and lost the battle. I will not allow myself the deception of considering myself superior to Judas. Help me be true, Lord Jesus! Judas did not possess the indwelling Spirit of God to make him strong but I do. By Your grace every gesture of affection I give to You will be worship, not betrayal. Keep me true, Lord Jesus, keep me true. Amen.
Keep Me True
Keep me true, Lord Jesus, keep me true.
Keep me true, Lord Jesus, keep me true.
There’s a race that I must run.
There are victories to be won.
Every hour by Thy power, Keep me true.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved