Luke 22:47, 48
Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. Amen.
While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
It’s easy for us to focus on the war that the world has against us. To see Satan setting up temptations for us to trip over. I don’t want to say it’s comforting, but we get used to the constant temptation, the attacks, the lies that the world throws against us. Sometimes we even start enjoying seeing how the world is going to try and attack us next. What new lie that will be aimed at Christians. What new scheme the unbelievers have in store to make us look bad. But honestly, the world and Satan often aren’t our greatest enemies. A lot of the time we don’t have to look any further than ourselves to see the biggest struggle we have. The sinful nature in us is plenty capable of tempting us and causing us to sin. The constant fight we have with our own thoughts, words, and actions should be enough to convince us that the battle is personal. It’s happening in us. And we aren’t the only ones who have this problem.
It was right after Jesus and the disciples had their last meal together. They had gone out to the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives. There, Jesus prayed. When he finished, he returned to his disciples, who had fallen asleep. Jesus woke them, and “while he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’” (Luke 22:47,48).
Judas seemed like he was just greeting his good friend. A kiss on the cheek. It maybe seems uncomfortable to us, but for that culture it was how you greeted a good friend. A sign of closeness and friendship. Judas was just showing kindness. Or, at least, that’s how it wanted to make it look. Instead he was using this act of friendship to show the soldiers who they were supposed to arrest. It’s not like he didn’t know what he was doing. He knew that the Jewish officials hated Jesus. That’s why he went to them. It’s why he laid out his plan. It’s why he haggled with them. It’s why he spent days looking for the best time to hand Jesus over. And now in the darkness he found his chance. Knowing that the officials wanted Jesus dead, Judas was killing Jesus with a kiss. In Matthew’s Gospel we see Jesus finally say to his backstabbing disciple, “Do what you came for, friend” (Matthew 26:50). What had turned Judas from a friend into someone who could betray Jesus? Who out in the world made him do this? Why look out there when the answer was inside. Judas had wrestled with his sinful nature and lost. And instead of turning to God for repentance, Judas kept right on going. How long had Judas struggled with this? How many miracles was he at and still planned on finding a way to make money from Jesus’ death. How many sermons and private teachings had he sat through and completely ignored while he counted dollar signs? Even when at the Last Supper. Jesus had told all of his disciples that there was a traitor eating with them. “And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 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.” (Matthew 26:21-24)
“Of course you can’t mean me Jesus!” How could Judas have kept such a straight face? How could he eat with the one he knew he was going to betray to death. Because Judas was fighting a battle he couldn’t win. He didn’t have a weapon to defend himself. But Jesus knew. “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, ‘What you are about to do, do quickly.’” (John 13:27).
What a sad life. It’s obvious that Judas experienced a huge struggle inside him, especially at the end. Satan had gained control of the sinful nature within Judas and driven him to commit the worst sin that has ever been committed by someone who called himself a disciple of Jesus.
When Jesus told the disciples at the Last Supper that one of them was going to betray him, did they all turn their heads to look at Judas, just as we do when we see a movie about the Last Supper? No. They didn’t know who would betray Jesus. But what did they do? I find it amazing that “his disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant” (John 13:22). Why did they suspect one another? They knew their own weakness. Each had a sinful flesh that Satan could attack and use to drive them away from Jesus. Which of them could possibly do this?
Yes, the disciples knew themselves. The battle against Satan is a personal one for Judas and for all the disciples of Jesus—us too. We know . . .
Jesus had warned them all that they would desert him. He had given a special warning to Peter, who had strongly declared that he would never disown him. On the same night, after the disciples received the Lord’s Supper from our Savior, they all deserted him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter swung his sword, but then he also ran away into the darkness. Yet Peter followed the soldiers into the courtyard of the high priest. There he kept denying he was a disciple of Jesus, even to the point of swearing it. He too was a betrayer. Peter was also fighting that battle inside himself too.
But we all know this battle; this inner struggle that we all have with our sinful natures. We don’t want to sin. We want to live for our God. To delight in his ways. To serve him with everything that we think say and do. But then why do we wrestle with the things we know are sinful? It should be an easy fight. But we lose. Often. Paul’s words in his letter to the Romans is right on. “In my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:22-24).
We have this guilt. These feelings of sadness and shame for our sins and failures. We know how often we have failed. How terrible we are. We tried to fight but we lost. Are we in the same place as Judas?
No. No, Judas was in a much different place. The sad thing was that the very weapon he needed to win the battle was the one he kissed. Jesus is the warrior that Judas needed. But he had turned away from the Savior. Had hardened his heart. The amazing thing is, that Judas was forgiven. For all of his sins and failures. For all of his lost battles. But sadly, Judas refused to hear it. Instead he fell into despair. A man who died without knowing the full love and forgiveness of God.
No. Judas ran away from the very warrior he needed. But you and I know him. Despite all of the battles we have lost. Despite all of our sins and mistakes we know we can trust in our Savior “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).
Unlike Judas, we have this faith worked and strengthen by God in our hearts. And God is the powerful weapon we need in this very personal battle. Though we have sinfully gone our own way, Jesus never turned from us. At the cross Jesus made our personal battle, his battle. At that cross, everything was decided. The battle was done, the war was finished: Jesus won the day. And he rescued us.
While we know that we can trust in Jesus’ victory, there are still daily battles that we face. Constant struggles against our sinful nature. And our mighty King is with us. It is through his strength, his power, his promises that we have the ability to turn away from all those temptations that come to us. Whether it is from the Devil, the world, or our own sinful nature, we can trust that Jesus will give us all that we need to turn away from everything that would hurt us.
Poor Judas lost his battle because he turned away from the One who gives every victory. Today and every day, let’s remember to listen to God and trust in the one who saves: “Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13). Amen.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. Amen.