************ Sermon on Matthew 26:24 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 21, 1999
TO: Jesus, Son of Joseph
Woodcrafters Carpenter Shop
FROM: Jordon Management Consultants
RE: Staff Team Evaluation:
Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for management positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests; and we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.
It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education, and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking.
Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, sons of Zebedee, place personal interests above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel it our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.
One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man. All of the other profiles are self explanatory.
We wish you every success in your new venture.
Judas showed such promise. He had potential. So what went wrong? What happened? In our Scripture reading we see Matthew's answer to these questions: namely, prompted by Satan, Judas betrayed Jesus; yet, this was according to God's set purpose and foreknowledge.
I Satan Prompted Judas' Greed/Avarice
A What do we know of Judas? When it comes down to it, we know precious little. We aren't sure what his name "Iscariot" means. We don't know where he came from. We don't know his family. We do know he was one of the twelve disciples. In fact, he was the treasurer of the group (Jn 12:6). He was one of the Twelve privileged to walk and talk with Jesus during the time of His earthly ministry. When the Twelve were sent out, we can presume that Judas too was given the power and authority to "heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons" (Mt 10:7). Judas, in other words, was a full disciple of Christ.
B It is in the events leading up to Jesus' arrest and crucifixion that we are given a first-hand look at Judas. In verses 14-16 we read that he arranged for the Lord's capture in exchange for "thirty silver coins." Thirty silver coins was a considerable amount of money for Judas. The silver coins were shekels, each shekel worth 4 denarii; so Judas was given 120 denarii in total. A denarii was the average working man's wage for one day's work. In today's currency Judas was paid ten to twelve thousand dollars.
Why did Judas do this? Scripture tells us that "Satan entered Judas" (Lk 22:3) and the devil "prompted Judas to betray Jesus" (Jn 13:2).
We can't leave it at this, though. Satan couldn't possibly enter Judas unless he already had gained some foothold on Judas. Satan's foothold was greed. Judas was motivated by greed and avarice. Notice how Judas approached the chief priests: "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" he asked. A more literal translation of the Greek here is, "If you give me enough I will hand him over to you." Judas was not willing to hand Jesus over unless the chief priests give him a substantial amount of money. As far as Judas was concerned, this was a business proposition, a simple matter of buying and selling.
Judas, then, was motivated by greed. The devil gained entrance into his life because of his avarice. Elsewhere Scripture can tell us that Judas "was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it" (Jn 12:6).
We see in Judas an example of what the Apostle Paul warns us against in 1 Timothy 6:
(1 Tim 6:9-10) People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. (10) For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.Judas loved money. He wanted to get rich and be rich. He was motivated by greed and avarice. So he betrayed Jesus. His eagerness for money plunged him into ruin and destruction and led him to commit suicide a few days later.
We just finished singing a song in which we dared to declare that Jesus is more precious than silver, more precious than gold, more precious than diamonds. But Judas would disagree with this. He decided that nothing was more precious than money. He decided that gold and silver came before Jesus.
The love of money is not the only root of evil. The New Testament tells us of others. Nevertheless, congregation, we should take a lesson from Judas: that we are not to love money and the things of this world overly much or else we, like Judas, will be plunged into ruin and destruction.
Topic: SatanThis is a picture of many Christians. The devil with his crafty devices tries to ensnare them. He appeals to the appetites of the flesh which can lead to their spiritual downfall. As long as they hold on to worldly bait, they cannot escape from Satan's trap. But he keeps on urging, "Don't let go! Enjoy the pleasure of your sin just a little bit longer!" So, listening to the tempter's alluring voice, they continue in their evil way.
Subtopic: Arch Deceiver
Title: Monkey Traps
Monkey trappers in North Africa have a clever method of catching their prey. A number of gourds are filled with nuts and firmly fastened to a branch of a tree. Each has a hole just large enough for the unwary monkey to stick his forepaw into it. When the hungry animal discovers this, he quickly grasps a handful of nuts, but the hole is too small for him to withdraw his clenched fist. And he doesn't have enough sense to open up his hand and let go in order to escape, so he is easily taken captive.
My brothers and sisters, are you caught up in sinful practices that Satan uses to destroy your testimony and prevent you from growing in grace? Stop and think it over. Get out of Satan's trap now while you can.
What is precious to you? Like the song we just sang, do you think that Jesus is more precious than silver, gold, and diamonds? Or, do you think money or goods are the most important thing in life?
C At the Last Supper we are given another glimpse into the character of Judas. There we see him to be an out and out liar. While they were eating Jesus solemnly announced, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me" (Mt 26:21). This announcement came as a staggering blow to the disciples. They could scarcely believe Jesus when He predicted His crucifixion and death. Now they find out that one of their own number is involved. They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord?" (Mt 26:22). Judas, putting on a false appearance of innocence, asked this question too: "Surely not I, Rabbi?" (Mt 26:25). Judas was a liar when he asked this as he had already made his deal with the chief priests.
Especially galling is the fact that Judas betrays the Lord right after sharing a meal with Him. This reminds us of the words of King David:
(Ps 41:9) Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.These words were spoken by David when Absalom rebelled against him. At that time, if you remember, one of David's closest and most trusted friends, Ahithophel, supported and counseled Absalom in his rebellion.
In the Middle East, to share a meal is to covenant together. It implies friendship and trust between those partaking. It puts them under obligation to protect and support each other. Ahithophel often ate at David's table. By supporting Absalom he broke covenant and faith with David.
Judas covenanted with Jesus since the beginning of Christ's ministry. He was treated as a close and trusted friend. By going to the chief priests he broke covenant and faith with Jesus. Yet, in the Upper Room, he participated in the institution of the Lord's Supper, the covenant meal of God's New Testament people, as though he were still a trusted companion.
In this light we are to interpret Jesus' words in verse 24:
(Mt 26:24) ... woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.To break covenant and faith with Jesus has only one possible outcome: eternal death. A maimed life or no life at all is better than eternal death. For this reason Judas is elsewhere described as the "Son of Perdition" or "the one doomed to destruction" (Jn 17:12).
Judas is the first terrible example of what the Apostle Paul describes in his letter:
(1 Cor 11:27-29) Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. (28) A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. (29) For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.Judas partook of the covenant meal in an unworthy manner: he partook even though he planned treachery against Jesus. In effect, he ate and drank judgment upon himself.
It is a serious matter, congregation, to share the covenant meal at the Lord's Table. Unworthy partaking, as in the case of Judas, results in judgment.
D As I already mentioned, we are to see Satan's hand behind Judas betrayal of our Lord. Why did Satan prompt Judas to betray the Lord. What could Satan possibly gain from this? After all, the point of Satan's temptations of Jesus was to keep Jesus from going the way of the cross and the grave.
What happens when someone betrays you? How do you feel? What do you do? Generally, betrayal leads either to anger or discouragement. Those who are angry at betrayal want to strike back, they want to get even. Those who are discouraged at betrayal want to give up, they want to quit while still ahead or before any more damage is done.
Satan either wanted Jesus to become angry and strike out. Or, he wanted Jesus to become discouraged and give up. Either way, Satan wins. Either way, Jesus chooses for a route other than the way of the cross and the grave. Either way, and Satan succeeds in destroying the Son of God, the Word of God, the Kingdom of God, and the Church of God.
II God's Purpose & Foreknowledge
A When it comes to the betrayal of Jesus we can't just speak of Satan and Judas. We also have to speak of God's purpose and plan. We see God's purpose and plan in what Jesus said in the Upper Room: "The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him" (Mt 26:24). Jesus is thinking here of the many Old Testament passages that predict His suffering and death. Already in the Garden of Eden His suffering and death was predicted. In other words, Christ's suffering and death is not an accident of history, the result of circumstances spinning out of control. Rather, Christ's suffering and death is within God's eternal plan for our salvation.
"The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him." Jesus could just as well have said, "The Son of Man will suffer and die just has God has planned from eternity."
Remember the words of God to the serpent in the Garden of Eden?
(Gen 3:15) I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.In the Garden of Gethsemane, before the Sanhedrin, in front of Pilate, and upon the cross these words took on reality: Satan struck a blow at Jesus. But, praise God, it was Satan, not Jesus, who was given the death blow.
The most well-known Old Testament passage predicting the Messiah's suffering and death is found in Isaiah. Consider the words of Isaiah about the Suffering Servant, written seven centuries before their fulfillment in the suffering and death of Christ:
(Isaiah 53:3) He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering ...Isaiah states that this is the LORD'S will.
(Isaiah 53:6) ... the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53:10) Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer ...
Over and over again the message of Scripture is the same: it was according to the plan of God that Jesus be betrayed and crucified by the hands of sinful men. And, according to that same plan, Jesus suffered this in our place.
The Apostle Peter in his Pentecost Day sermon makes the exact same point. Listen to what Peter said about Jesus to the assembled Jews:
(Acts 2:23) This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
B In the story of Judas we are taught a lesson about the providence of God. In the story of Judas we see that sin and evil – no matter how bad they may be – are never unattended by the providence of God. God can take evil and either avert it or turn it to our profit. In the case of Christ's betrayal and crucifixion, God took the actions of sinful men to accomplish what is now being done: "the saving of many lives."
This is not the first time we see this in Scripture. Remember what happened to Joseph? His brothers hated him and to get rid of him they sold him as a slave. You all know what happened: God was with Joseph and put him in charge of Egypt; when famine struck it was Joseph in Egypt who was used by the Lord to save the covenant people. In speaking about this Joseph could say to his brothers,
(Gen 50:20) You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
This is the kind of God that we serve, congregation. He is almighty and all-powerful. Nothing happens apart from His will; and, by His providence the sinful actions of Judas or Joseph's brothers are used by Him to accomplish His eternal plan for our salvation.
What do we see in the story of Judas? We see that prompted by Satan, sinful man betrayed Jesus and put Him to death; yet, this was according to God's set purpose and foreknowledge.
Jesus could have stopped Judas. Jesus could have escaped the crowd sent to arrest Him. Jesus could have struck down those who hated Him. But He didn't. Rather, He said, "Friend, do what you came for" (Mt 26:50).
Jesus submitted Himself to the will and plan of God. He was "obedient to death – even death on a cross!" (Phil 2:8). He willingly put Himself into the hands of sinful men to accomplish what is now being accomplished: "the saving of many lives."
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