A Savior Who Serves: Betrayal
March 14, 2012 Series: Lent 2012 - A Savior Who Serves
Topic: Biblical Verse: Mark 14:43–14:52
The Third Week in Lent
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
“A Savior Who Serves: Betrayal”
The night seemed even darker with all those trees in the garden. Their party had left the city gates behind them to the west, heading down through the Kidron Valley and on to the lower reaches of the Mount of Olives that overlooked Jerusalem. Once they entered the walls of that garden – Gethsemane was its name – they had only the light of their torches to lead them to their objective. Well, the torches and the informer that was guiding them along. He claimed to be familiar with the man that they’d been sent to arrest, knowing where and when to find him. The Sanhedrin, the ruling Council who oversaw religious and civil matters among the Jewish people, had issued the warrant for this arrest and dispatched a contingent of the temple guards along with their representatives to bring this criminal in. Given that he was well known, and since they didn’t want the people to riot over this teacher, the Sanhedrin made their move under cover of darkness once they had learned that he’d be isolated and vulnerable. Coming upon a group of people in the midst of all those trees, the assembly stopped to wait and watch for the informer to mark their target. Stepping away from the posse, he walked up to one of the figures in the shadows cast by the torches. Even in the dark, you could almost see the sadness on that man’s face as the party’s guide drew near, calling out, “Rabbi!” and greeting him with a kiss.
We don’t know how Judas rationalized his action, since the Bible doesn’t say. He might have hoped that it would force Jesus to reveal himself as the Messiah, the one who would truly bring God’s kingdom to the people. Or he might just have turned Jesus over to the Sanhedrin for their promised reward. Mark doesn’t tell us any more about him. But whatever his reasoning, Judas’ action was a betrayal.
Betrayal. It’s a pretty bad thing, right? You can’t be betrayed by outsiders, only to them. Those who are close to you, those whom you’ve let in somehow – people who have been entrusted with your time, your resources, your data, your love – those are ones who have access to you. The action at the heart of betrayal, then, is giving someone up. Judas had access. He knew where Jesus would be, how to reach him. He could call Jesus “Rabbi!” or “Teacher!” and give him the kiss of greeting, gestures of friendship and closeness. Yet he twisted those acts to mark Jesus for arrest, giving him up into the hands of the Council. No doubt Jesus felt the stabbing pain of betrayal that night in Gethsemane – but Judas wasn’t the only one to give their Teacher up.
Mark records what happens with clarity and straightforwardness: “And they all left him and fled.” All of Jesus’ disciples, those other people who had followed him for years and seen him perform miracles, fled. They took off running. One of them even escaped by shrugging out of the linen cloth he was wearing, fleeing naked. They gave up Jesus to protect themselves, abandoning him to the Council’s minions. Are you and I any different?
Jesus’ disciples all betrayed him that night, giving in to their cowardice, protecting their own interests above all others. How many times have you acted out of fear, or rationalized out a course of action in “enlightened self-interest” that was just an excuse for doing what you wanted to do? When we flee from Jesus, thinking that we need to put self first and turning away from his Word, we betray him. Just as much as Judas and the other disciples, we are giving our friend over into the hands of the enemy that would lead him to the cross. And that’s a pretty bad thing, indeed. But Jesus did not put himself first and flee. He followed His Father’s will.
Jesus knew what was to come. He knew that Judas would betray him. And yet he kept his course. Would you let someone betray you if you knew that they were planning to do so? And if that betrayal would even lead to your death? As a Savior who serves, even in the midst of betrayal by his close friend, Jesus shows his resolve to save. It’s a stark contrast to our cowardice and self-concern, and thanks be to God for that! Jesus suffered the pain of betrayal – by Judas, by his disciples, by you and me – all so that he could save us from the enemy that has it in for us. Jesus is steadfast and faithful, because God is steadfast and faithful. He doesn’t give you up or give up on you. He went on to trial, torture, and the tree of the cross for you, so that you could know what it means to be his friend, the friend of God, forever.
Tonight we’re not gathered in a garden of olive trees. There are no torches or swords or clubs. But Jesus is here. He is here to forgive, wiping the slate clean for you and for me. He is here to encourage, calling us to trust in our God’s steadfast resolve to rescue us from the enemy. He is here to give you rest, giving you access to your Creator who keeps you in His care. Jesus is here. He is a Savior who serves, and he will never betray you.