[Simple short message for ECM]
And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” ~ Mark 14:17-21
Today’s passage is very tragic. Here, we are nearing Jesus’ last few days before going to the cross and here, he is having one final meal with his 12 disciples. Just like nowadays, back then, to share a meal together meant that there was a close, personal friendship and a bond of trust and camaraderie. I mean, you don’t just have a meal with any stranger. But Jesus brought a note of doom and sadness into this picture – not only was he going to the cross, but one of the people at this table was going to betray him, one of these disciples who had been together with them all for the past 3 years, who had experienced the thrill of Jesus’ miraculous healings and teaching.
It must have been a very heavy, sad moment. If you’ve ever been the recipient of betrayal, you must know how painful that would be. The sting of betrayal, here? There must have been a pause of disbelief among the disciples. Then, realizing that Jesus was serious, eleven of the disciples must have tersely – and sorrowfully – looked around the room. Who would do such a thing? “Is it I?”, they each wondered aloud, thinking that maybe they would do it on accident or in the heat of the moment, but surely, no one would actually plan on betraying Jesus.
However, one of them did. It was… Judas. When Jesus said that one of them would betray him, Judas must have been a little shifty-eyed… felt a little uncomfortable. His cheeks might have reddened, but he remained silent. You see, without any of the other disciples knowing, Judas had already planned to betray Jesus to the chief priests for 30 silver coins. Though none of the other disciples knew, Jesus knew this.
It’s very interesting to note Jesus’ response. Jesus didn’t force himself upon Judas. He didn’t say, “Truly, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me. And his name is JUDAS ISCARIOT! Judas, leave my presence, at ONCE!” No… Jesus didn’t say that. He fully knew, yet, he didn’t call Judas by name and accuse him to his face, exposing him in front of everyone else. He offered one last, intensely personal, yet unforceful plea to Judas. He was giving him a chance to stop this madness, to repent, and to come back into a restored relationship with Him. A chance to drop the pretense, the betrayal, the pride.
You see, ultimately, Jesus still loved Judas. He could have yelled at Judas for being ungrateful, for being a greedy fool, for being the unworthy disciple that he was. But Jesus gives him one more chance without forcing his hand. Right after Jesus said that one of them was going to betray him, Judas could have confessed at this point or apologized.
But no, unfortunately, instead of stopping right there, Judas went ahead with his plan and the next time he saw Jesus, he turned Him over to the soldiers.
This was Jesus’ heart: to give Judas mercy and room to repent. It was no small sacrifice to let Judas choose. In fact, Judas’ betrayal cost Jesus humiliation, torture, and death on the cross. This costliness shows us how much God values people and their choices. Similarly, God waits for us too, hoping that we will repent and come to him.
You see, just as Judas traded Jesus in for 30 silver coins, we also trade in Jesus for our own selfish benefit as well. Instead of following him as Lord and Savior, wouldn’t we deny Jesus in order for, say, 30 people to think well of us? Wouldn’t we deny God’s rightful claim over our lives for… 30 years of comfort? Wouldn’t we prefer to trade him in or pretend that he doesn’t exist in order to indulge in 30 angry or complaining thoughts? I’m not sure about you, but I certainly had times in my life when I pretended to not know Jesus because it wasn’t cool to be Christian. I even felt embarrassed to pray before meals because no one else was. So I know that I’m definitely someone who denied Jesus in order to try to get just a few people to accept me.
And you know what? Just like how Jesus didn’t flex his spiritual muscles to coerce obedience out of Judas, God didn’t strike me down with lightning or anything like that. In the end, Judas was judged because he didn’t repent. Similarly, Jesus will not force us to love him, but his mercy will only last for so long. Fortunately for me, I eventually realized what I was doing and asked God to forgive me.
Romans 2:4-5 says: Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
Today, I want to implore you to learn from Judas’ mistake. His life ended tragically, but it’s not too late for us, because we still have a chance to repent! If we’ve ever ignored God because we had our own ideas about how we ought to live, that is a betrayal against God. When we choose to have selfish thoughts, jealousy, impatience, or bitterness, we are choosing to betray the way God made us to be in relationship to him and others. Have we ever betrayed God this way? The good news is that even though we are like that, God wants to forgive us, if only we would repent. He already knows the full extent of the ugliness of our sins, yet He is extending his mercy to us today. His kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. God wants to let you know that he loves you so much that he was willing to take on the worst that you could throw at him. Actually, Jesus did take on the worst kind of death by dying the cross for our sins.
If you’ve never repented before, I want to let you know that repenting simply means admitting the ways in which we refused to love God, asking God for forgiveness, and desiring to love God more. And whether you are Christian or not, you can repent before God today.
1 John 1:9 says: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us. It says “just” here because all of that justice fell onto Jesus, so we can have the courage to repent. God has already promised to forgive us, even if we are betrayers like Judas. If any of you think that you have rejected or ignored God in some way, there is no more need to pretend. Rather, let’s choose to come to Jesus. Instead of hiding that part of your life away, you can ask God to forgive you, and he will! If you want to ask God to forgive you today, do you mind raising your hand? One of us will come pray with you.