March 11, 2015: Fourth Wednesday in Lent

Text: Mark 14: 12-21

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

Which conversation would you prefer having? Telling someone they are hired, or fired? Telling a family member that another in the family is having a baby, or that a loved one died? Telling someone they made the team, or that they are being cut?

Everyone shies away from hard conversations. We’d always rather be the messenger of good news than bad. But that doesn’t mean hard conversations can always be avoided. Sometimes you have to break the news that grandma died, or that a fellow employee is being let go. And when such “talks” occur, they usually start with: “Take a seat, we need to talk.” Tonight we see Jesus not sitting, but reclining at the Passover table. And He’s about to initiate one of His toughest conversations ever. It goes like this: “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”

I

Imagine starting out a conversation that way? What would you have said? How would you have reacted? If a friend betrays us in some way, sometimes we give them the silent treatment for a while, or yell at them, or even plot revenge. But this “friend” wasn’t going to just betray Jesus’ confidence, he was going to hand Jesus over to be tried, convicted, and killed. This upper room talk is amazing and the first thing about it that stands out is that: Jesus is someone who is concerned.

He’s concerned for Judas. This is not the first time Jesus issued a stern warning to Judas. Earlier in His ministry Christ said this: “There are some of you who do not believe…Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” Tonight’s conversation is the last time Jesus reached out to Judas. But even when the soldiers have arrested Jesus later that night and His brow is sweaty and blood-stained, He still asks this former disciple: “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

Jesus didn’t see Judas simply as a pawn of Satan who wasn’t worth the time or effort. He saw Judas as a soul, a hurting, lost, confused soul who would die eternally without repentance. Marvel at the gentle way Jesus goes about all this. It isn’t in a grandiose fashion that the betrayer is exposed. No, it is simply by dipping some bread in the Passover sauce, which no one paid much attention to. That’s why when Judas leaves the rest think he’s just going to pay the tab or perhaps give money to the poor. Jesus is patient with Judas, so patient that He confronts his sin without berating or belittling him.

But it wasn’t just Judas that Christ was concerned about. By saying: “One of you will betray me” Christ shows His concern for all the disciples. This was His final chance to prepare them for the coming cross. This was His last Bible class with them. This “I tell you the truth” moment wasn’t just for Judas’ ears but for all of them—and us. And how do we know this? Mark reports: “They were saddened.” Not merely said Christ would be betrayed, but sad in their hearts because they knew they had betrayed Him with their own sins. This was a moment for all of them to look inward. And they did! “Surely not I!”

Those three little words hit us tonight, don’t they? Surely not I! They were disciples. They had listened, heard, and experienced His awesome ministry for 3 years. They had seen His glory. They had witnessed His miracles. For one of them, the answer to that question was: Yes. Yet, considering how they all reflected on it, that question hit very close to home, didn’t it?

II

As we hear the Lenten account, it should also hit home to each of us. And what we need to learn from this lesson is that Jesus is just as patient and caring for us as He was for Judas. Additionally, then, as now, Jesus is someone who is in control.

This fact was clear to all of the disciples before the first piece of bread was broken that night. Scripture informs us that Jesus gave them careful instructions for preparing the Passover meal and “they found things just as Jesus had told them.” Not “similar to” to “close enough” but just as. So on the night when things seemingly spiraled out of control for Jesus, in reality He was in complete control. From the meal prep to Gethsemane to the kangaroo court, He was in charge.

From our vantage point, doesn’t that raise our appreciation for our Savior’s love and passion? You’ve heard it said, “A friend is someone who knows everything about you and still likes you.” That’s our Savior. He knows all our warts, mistakes, failings and embarrassments. And yet He still loves us. He loves us enough to reach out to us, point out our sins, ask us to repent, and go to the cross to make sure we really are forgiven.

He did everything according to God’s plan for our salvation. Sometimes we wonder: “Couldn’t He have done it another way? What about option 2,3,or 4?” If a sports reporter asked the relief pitcher after the game in which he threw 9 straight 100mph fastballs to strike out the side and win the game, “Why didn’t you throw a curve instead?” well, you see the stupidity of our wonderment over other options!

Of course, it didn’t work out for Judas, but that wasn’t Christ’s fault. It was Judas’ fault. He rejected Jesus. He loved money more than his Savior. When Christ said earlier: “Woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man!” that “woe” fell on Judas not the other twelve. They all were weak. They all ran away. They all were guilty of turning their back on their Lord, but only one was lost. What’s the reason why? Faith. The rest repented of their weakness and turned to Christ in love. Judas did not. So, what about you? Do you seek to live in daily repentance, or not? Do you want to re-embrace Christ and Him embrace you, or not? If you do, than you, too can sing from the heart: “Chief of sinners though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me.” Amen