Midweek Lent 6 March 21 & March 22, 2018
Text: Ps.41:9 His Mercy Endures Forever: Savior in the Psalms
Theme: A Faithless Friend Added to Christ’s Anguish 18:2060
There is one name that parents do not give to their children anymore. At one time, many years ago it was very popular. It was one of the favorite names among the Jews and indicated praise to God. But nobody names a child “Judas” anymore. Indeed the name has become a synonym for traitor. Judas is a name that is universally scorned. But it wasn’t always that way.
There was a time when Judas was one of Jesus’ closest friends, and Jesus strove to maintain that relationship with Judas until the very end. Sadly, Judas would not maintain it with Jesus – once a friend, but in the end an enemy. David addressed that relationship in this psalm 1000 years before it took place. Here he tells us how A Faithless Friend Added to Christ’s Anguish by the trust he betrays and the injury he inflicts.
I. The trust he betrayed.
Can Judas really be called a friend of Jesus? Listen again to how the psalmist described it: “Even a man at peace with me, in whom I trusted, he who ate my bread, has raised up his heel against me.”
On Maundy Thursday evening as Jesus sat with His disciples around the Passover meal, Jesus quoted these words (Jn.13:18) right after He washed the disciples’ feet. Then, later that same evening, when Judas came with a detachment of solders to capture Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus addressed him saying, “Friend, why have you come?” (Mt.26:50) If ever the full sweetness and tender yearning of the Savior’s Gospel invitation was pressed into one little word, it was pressed into that little word “friend” that night. But Judas did not respond to it. Was Judas ever Jesus’ friend?
When he began to follow Jesus, we have no reason to believe that he was any different from the rest of the disciples. Like they, he was looking for Israel’s Messiah. He had been so drawn to Jesus’ teaching that he left everything behind to follow Him. It wasn’t like he was a spy or an under-cover agent planted among the disciples by Jesus’ enemies. No he was a follower who took part in Jesus’ ministry.
If you doubt that, look at the way that Jesus treated him. At first, he was trusted enough to be put in charge of the treasury. With all of his accounting skills as a tax collector, one might expect that position to be filled by Matthew. But that position of high trust was given to Judas. Besides that, Judas got to hear the full amount of Jesus’ teachings. He got to hear and see almost everything.
When Jesus sent out the Twelve on their first mission trip, Judas was there, going out with the Gospel in Jesus’ name. Wherever Jesus slept, Judas slept; wherever Jesus ate, Judas ate. Judas was always alongside, loved, trusted, and accepted as no less than the other 11. He wasn’t petulant like Peter; he was not a man of vengeance, as James and John once showed themselves to be; Judas didn’t display himself as a doubter like Thomas. But Judas did love money. Eventually it led him to steal from the treasury and betray the Savior’s trust. In the end such faithlessness added to Christ’s anguish in His Passion. It is one thing to have your enemies reject you; quite another to have your friends do the same.
Have you ever tried to identify yourself with Judas? Our hearts are drawn to hear Jesus frequently too, like Judas’ was. We also know the peace, trust, forgiveness, and fellowship of being close to Jesus. The Savior calls us to work for Him in His Kingdom. Through faith Jesus has made us a trusted friend of His with whom we share every blessing. There are many ways that we have been given the same opportunities and the same blessings of discipleship as Judas once had. Can we identify with him? In many ways, yes! But is there a difference?
That depends on the way we deal with the trust that the Savior has given us. Judas betrayed his trust. Judas underestimated the power of sin and temptation. Judas rationalized away his need for the Savior’s constant guidance and in the end rejected His word of life. Did he intend to walk off with the money at the start? Did he intend to betray the Messiah, for whom he was looking? I doubt it. But temptation overcame him when he did not keep his eyes on the Son of God but turned those eyes to look upon himself.
In the example of Judas, a close and treasured disciple, we see the Satan is active and well even among those who follow Christ. He perhaps wants nothing more than to see those who are close to the Savior betray the trust that the Savior has given us.
II. The injury he inflicted.
And such betrayal leads to great injury. David, in the psalm, describes the injury this way: “Even a man at peace with me (a man of my peace – close friend), in whom I trusted, he who ate my bread, has
raised up his heel against me.” How does such a close one do that?
Judas did not literally stomp on Jesus. He didn’t slap Him in the face or spit on Him. He didn’t whip Jesus nor push the crown of thorns down upon His head. He didn’t drive the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet. In fact, the only physical contact Judas had with Jesus was a kiss of greeting upon Jesus’ cheek in the Garden of Gethsemane. But it was that kiss of peace and friendship that turned Jesus over to those who sought to kill Him. An expression of closeness, an outward sign of oneness in heart from an supposed friend caused Christ such anguish.
If a stranger insults you, you don’t give too much attention to his words. He doesn’t even know you and is soon gone from your life. If a long-time enemy attacks, it’s something you might expect. But if a close friend, someone you expect is one of heart and mind with you, turns on you, that wound runs deep. The closer the relationship, the deeper the pain.
Of course this did not catch Jesus nor the heavenly Father off guard. Long before this, after the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus told His disciples, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil (He meant Judas…who was later to betray Him.” Jn.6:70). They knew. But here we have the mark of our Savior.
He endured such treachery and betrayal; He endured the injury and the anguish it caused at the hands of a faithless friend so that He could be our Friend in need – the Savior who fulfilled all Scriptures that He might suffer the payment for our sin. For God’s grace will stop at nothing to save us and declare us His friends, forgiven, for eternity.
Whenever we betray our Savior by sinful behavior, may we hear Jesus’ loving voice still pleading: “Friend.” And may we ever return in repentance and faith, unlike Judas who did not return to the Savior.
Ironically, the name Judas does not mean “traitor.” In the Hebrew language it means “praise.” And while we may not be inclined to name our children after Judas, what Jesus was willing to suffer at Judas’ hands moves us to proclaim the meaning of that name. So then, at the end of this Lenten season and in all the days of our lives we praise Christ for the anguish that was inflicted upon Him, also by a faithless friend, so that we might have a saving Friend for all eternity. God grant it to us in faith for Jesus’ sake. Amen