Matthew 26:47-56 (Lent Midweek 1—The Crucified King)
“The King Betrayed”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
March 12, 2014
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Our text for is the Gospel lesson recorded in Matthew 26:
While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” 55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. 56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
Some sins are considered “hot.” The ones where you lose it. Outbursts of rage, lust, anger, a mad craving for what is forbidden. Think of Adam, craving and grabbing the fruit that was not his to have. Think of David, boiling with lust for his loyal soldier Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, and sending messengers to grab her and bring her into his bed. Or think of Peter, slashing away with that sword and taking off the ear of the high priest’s servant.
But some sins are considered “cold.” Those, for instance, that are coolly planned and plotted. Those are the ones that take some thinking, some scheming, and some calculating. Picture Adam thinking quickly on his feet in the garden before handing over his own wife: “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12) Think of David, plotting and planning the death of his own loyal soldier to cover up the affair with Bathsheba. Or think of cold-blooded Judas, one of the Twelve, plotting and scheming and betraying Jesus with a kiss. Now that’s cold.
Dante would agree. In his fictional work Inferno, the author reserves the innermost circle of hell for betrayers. That’s where he locates Judas’s soul. But surprisingly, Dante doesn’t surround his soul with flames. Dante places Judas into a lake of ice. His plight is to spend eternity frozen in the ice, because he had such a frozen heart when he lived.
Consider how his cold heart plotted. It started out with his greed for money. But he didn’t just go and steal some for himself; he pondered how much He could get for His friend and teacher. Then he did some research on what he might get for his Master’s head. He had to get all his ducks in order and somehow keep it a secret. There would have to be hypocrisy and deception, “Is it I, Lord?” He’d have to think about a sign for his partners in crime. Then he’d have to figure out the best time and place for them to arrest Jesus. Then would have to come the greeting, and then the kiss. The One who chose Judas as one of the Twelve, Who befriended him, taught him, fed him, and loved him to the end, this One Judas handed over to the enemy, using a sign of warmth and affection. Now that’s cold.
But before you say, “How could he do that to Jesus?” take the temperature of your own icy heart and your own evil schemes and plots. You just handed over your colleague to the boss at work, and then smiled and joked with him in the break room with that hypocritical smile. Now that’s cold. You’re expected to speak well of your neighbor at all times and cover up his sin. But you’re a cold-blooded gossip and you know it. Judas got 30 pieces of silver for his disloyalty to Jesus. But you’ve been disloyal for much less, sticking with your confession of Christ as long as it doesn’t cost you too much. Now that’s cold.
Whether they are “hot” sins or “cold” sins, they all come from a heart that is opposed to God and capable of all sorts of evil. Whether it’s like King David’s lusting to Judas’s betraying, you and I have done it all and earned for ourselves nothing but God’s present and eternal punishment and a spot in hell’s inner circle, frozen or flaming.
But tonight, God has gathered us that we might sit in wonder as we ponder the good news of how God deals with betrayers through His Son, Jesus, our Savior. He is merciful with them to the end. Notice that Judas, one of the Twelve, does not catch Jesus by surprise. In fact, Jesus knew all along that this betrayal was coming. He doesn’t put up a fight. He doesn’t prepare His disciples for what is about to happen. He doesn’t even say, “Here comes that traitor.” He lets Himself be kissed and even still calls the betrayer “friend.” He even encourages Judas to “do what you came to do.” And He puts up no fight or opposition when they lay hands on Him. He’s there as the One who wants to be handed over. He’s there that the Scripture might be fulfilled so that even betrayers might be saved.
Stand in wonder as you see the will of the Father being carried out. The Father whose love for sinners drove Him to think up a plan to deliver man from before the foundation of the world. He coolly plotted a plan that would save you from the threatening perils of your sins and eternal ruin.
His love for you drove Him to do what no other Father would do. What other Father would be silent to His Son’s cries from the cross? What other Father wouldn’t spare His Son all the mocking and injustice? What other Father wouldn’t muster up all his physical strength and try to do something to stop it? Only One: God our Father, who is so faithful about His promise to deliver you and hand you an eternal Kingdom, that He delivers His own Son into death. God, who forsakes Him, deserts Him, and abandons Him for your sake. When it comes to your salvation, there is no one more cold-blooded than God, who hands over His Son for sins He didn’t commit. You might say, He is willing to be the chief of betrayers for your sake.
Yet the Father’s plan is exactly what Jesus is eager to carry out. The Father’s plan called for Jesus to be handed over in the garden to the high priest, then to Pilate, then to condemnation, then to crucifixion. Jesus is handed over according to plan, that the Scripture might be fulfilled and that you might be handed over from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom you have redemption, the forgiveness of your sins. The Father’s plan called for Jesus to bear on the cross all your sins to their death—the “hot” ones, the “cold” ones, and all the ones in between—and then triumph over them in the resurrection. Because only by handing over His Son will He have the blood that atones for your sin and a kingdom to be handed to you.
Ever loyal to His Father, Jesus willingly gave Himself to the enemy, that you might be baptized and presented before the Father as faultless and holy. A better king than craving Adam or lusting David, Jesus is the crucified King, willing to be deviously betrayed with a kiss and handed over to die. But He did it so that at this altar His precious body might be placed on your tongue, and His precious blood poured on your lips as a divine kiss of mercy for you. Amen.