“Our Lord Jesus Christ on the night when He was betrayed.” Every time we come to the Lord’s Supper, we hear this word: Betrayed. It is a word which chills the soul and sickens the stomach. To be betrayed is to have a friend turn on you, treating you as an enemy. It was Passover, Israel’s glad festival of liberation and deliverance from bondage. This is the setting for Judas’ treachery that would result in Jesus being bound and led way to stand trial and ultimately to die as a condemned criminal.
What thoughts were going through Judas’ darkened mind as he went to the chief priests with a calculated offer to betray his Lord? Mark does not tell us. We do not know. We only know Judas, one of the twelve, treated his friend as an enemy. This is what betrayal is, to treat a friend as an enemy. It is with a token of friendship, a kiss, and a greeting of loyalty, and “Master,” that Judas identifies Jesus. Signaling to the soldiers He is the One they want on that shadowy evening in Gethsemane’s garden.
Before they had gone to the garden, Jesus kept the Passover with His disciples. This would be the final Passover, for in the death He was about to die, the Passover would be fulfilled and rendered obsolete with the New Testament of the body and blood of our Lord. It was here in this final Passover as Jesus is handing over His body and blood for His disciples to eat and drink, that He tells them one of them will betray Him. “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.” The disciple’s question among themselves, “Is it I?” Soon, they will know who will betray their Lord into the hands of sinners. Soon, they will know it is Judas, who will forever be known as the betrayer, who will do the deed.
It is with a token of friendship, a kiss, and a greeting of loyalty, and “Master,” that Judas identifies Jesus.
The other disciples will find no comfort in the fact that it was Judas and not they who betrayed Jesus. Peter, so bold and overconfident in himself, will end up denying Jesus before the night is over. He, along with James and John, cannot even stay awake as our Lord prays in the agony of the garden as the Father presses to His Son’s lips and will not remove the cup of wrath which is His alone to drain dry in His thirst for us and our salvation. The weakness of the flesh overcomes the willingness of the spirit, and these disciples are drowsy and dull with their own fatigue. They have no strength in themselves, only exhaustion. When the soldiers come with their frightening weaponry of clubs and swords, every last one of the disciples will forsake Jesus and run away in fear. The prophecy is true: “I will strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.”
Scattered they are, but Jesus adds a promise to the prophecy: “After I am raised up, I will go before you in Galilee.” Raised from the dead, the Good Shepherd will gather His sheep. Betrayal and denial. Weakness and fear. It is all there in Mark’s telling of the passion history. But this week which we call Holy Week is not finally a saga of human pathos of tragic proportion but it is the divine drama of the Lord who suffered it all so we might not be handed over to sin, destined only to death, and eternal captivity to the Devil. Do not flee from Him this week. Listen again to His words as He goes to the cross. He was betrayed by a sinner into the hands of sinners that by His death a world of sinners is reconciled to God. The betrayal, the sweaty and agony in the garden, the sham trial, and the bloody death are all for you. He was betrayed but He will never betray you. This week is the demonstration of how trustworthy and sure a Savior He is for you. Amen.