Our Savior's Sorrows Foreshadowed in the Psalms--Betrayed by His Own
Dear heavenly Father, as we enter Your presence this Lenten Season, fill our hearts with sorrow over our sins, but also with thankfulness and praise in view of Your grace and the redemption wrought by Your dear Son, Jesus Christ! May we be blessed by our worship this day, and may we prove faithful to our Savior every day! Amen.
Text: Psalm 41:9
Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted,
Who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.
In Christ Jesus, who endured the bitter taste of personal betrayal in the midst of redeeming our souls, dear fellow redeemed:
There are few things in life as disappointing as being betrayed by a friend. William Shakespeare immortalized Julius Caesar’ supposed final words as he was assassinated by members of the Roman Senate, among them his close friend, Brutus. Caesar cried out in sorrow: “Et tu, Brute” ... “And you too, Brutus?” When you study early American history there is no name quite as despicable as that of Benedict Arnold, because he chose to betray the cause of freedom and so violated his friendships with so many American patriots.
It should not surprise us, therefore, that our precious Savior Jesus, of whom it is written: “We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15), was also confronted with the bitterness of betrayal during His passion. As we have seen throughout this Lenten Season, OUR SAVIOR’S SORROWS WERE FORESHADOWED IN THE PSALMS. In our Psalm for today, we once again find David putting into words his personal experience, which would later be mirrored by the experience of our Savior. Yes, let us consider today how Jesus was betrayed by His own!
As already mentioned, Psalm 41 presents the thoughts and feelings experienced by King David. While David includes short explanatory notes at the beginning of many of his psalms, he did not do so for Psalm 41. We, therefore, cannot be certain at what point in David’s life it was written. Most Biblical scholars, however, connect Psalm 41 with the rebellion of David’s son Absalom, and David’s betrayal by his closest and most intimate friend—Ahithophel. Ahithophel had served David faithfully for decades as his most trusted advisor, but for some unstated reason he chose to betray him at the time of Absalom’s rebellion. Perhaps Ahithophel saw in Absalom a younger, more vibrant David and figured that his future lay with this young man rather than an aging David. Perhaps Ahithophel had convinced himself that Israel would be better off with a younger, stronger leader. We do not know. But we do know that David was devastated by the fact this close friend—his closest confidant had betrayed him. In the end Ahithophel’s treachery did not go unpunished, for we are told in 2 Samuel 17 that when Absalom rejected Ahithophel’s advice in a crucial matter in favor of the advice of Hushai, a counselor faithful to David, Ahithophel went and hanged himself, and so lost not only his earthly life but without doubt also his soul.
This incident foreshadowed that of Jesus and His disciple Judas. Judas was one of those twelve men chosen by Jesus to form His band of disciples. He was the only apostle who came from Judea. The others all came from Galilee. Some scholars have suggested that having come from Judea he believed himself to be better educated and more sophisticated than the other disciples, and that when Jesus did not bring on the expected rebellion to establish a Messianic kingdom, he decided to force the issue. This, however, is merely speculation. The Scriptures inform us that Judas was given the responsibility of being the treasurer of the apostles and sadly it is reported by John that he “had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it” (John 12:6). Judas, therefore, was a thief. The Scriptures also report that on the Tuesday of Holy Week, Judas slipped away from Jesus and the other disciples and “went to the chief priests.” He bartered with them over the life of Jesus, asking: “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” The price agreed upon was “thirty pieces of silver.” From that point on Judas “sought an opportunity to betray Him” (cf. Mt. 26:14-16).
That opportunity arose on Maundy Thursday evening. Jesus, of course, already knew what Judas had been doing and what he would do. Almost a year before after Jesus’ “Bread of Life” sermon (cf. Jn. 6:26-59) and the departure of many of His followers, Jesus knew about Judas. After hearing Peter’s confession concerning Himself “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Jn. 6:69), Jesus stated: “Did I not choose you the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (Jn. 6:70) During the Passover meal in the upper room, Jesus cites our text and stated: “I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’ Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me…. Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me” (Jn. 13:18-20, 21b). The disciples could not believe what they were hearing and, we are told, became “exceedingly sorrowful.” One after another they asked, “Lord, is it I?” Jesus then responded, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (cf. Mt. 26:22-24).
What a strong warning Jesus was giving Judas—a warning intended to reach out to and to save his soul! Yet, Judas continued to play the part of a hypocrite, asking with the others, “Rabbi, is it I?” (Mt. 26:25a) Jesus responded sadly, for He could see that Judas was determined to proceed: “You have said it…. What you do, do quickly” (Mt. 26:25b; Jn. 13:27b). Judas then left to go to the high priests to secure the servants and soldiers who would later arrest Jesus.
It was hours later in the Garden of Gethsemane that Judas together with the band of servant-soldiers approached Jesus and His disciples. Jesus had completed His prayers and instead of avoiding the mob, walked up to them. Jesus asked them: “Whom are you seeking?” They responded: “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus responded in turn: “I am He.” We are then told that “they drew back and fell to the ground” (cf. Jn. 18:4-6). On so many levels this scene reveals Jesus’ willingness and intention to fulfill His Father’s will for our salvation. Jesus did not run away, nor was He powerless in the face of this evil, but He willingly submitted to what God had planned in order to save our souls.
We are told in the Biblical accounts that Judas then stepped forward, greeted Jesus, and, as previously arranged with the chief priests, kissed Him so that the soldiers would know who to arrest. Jesus responded to this treachery by asking: “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Lk. 22:47b-48) What amazing love we see Jesus demonstrating over against Judas! Why, after all, would Jesus ask such a question? It was obvious what Judas was doing. Jesus did not have to ask him to find out what he was up to. No, in His great sorrow, Jesus was thinking not of Himself, but rather about Judas—about the welfare of his immortal soul. He was reaching out in an attempt to wrest this man’s soul from Satan’s grip. The Bible says, “God our Savior…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3b-4). Jesus Himself had stated earlier in His ministry to Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world!” (Jn. 3:16) Judas was included in “all men” and part of that “world,” and so was an object of God’s loving intention.
But, sadly, we know the rest of that tragic story. Judas did not repent, and while he was later filled with sorrow for having betrayed “innocent blood” (cf. Mt. 27:4), that sorrow led not to repentance and renewed faith, but rather to despair and ultimately to death by suicide—interestingly the same end to which Ahithophel has fallen so many centuries before. Matthew reports that Judas “threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself” (Matt. 27:5). What a tragedy for someone who had been privileged to spend nearly three years with Jesus!
My dear friends—what I am sharing with you today is a familiar history. But why did the Spirit of God lead David to speak prophetically of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, and why did He have the four evangelists record Jesus’ betrayal for us to review? Paul, of course, informs us regarding all of the Scriptures in general: “Whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). But what are we to learn, and how is it to comfort us and give us hope? Obviously, everything that Jesus experienced in His passion, He experienced as our Substitute, for He “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Is. 53:4a), including those of betrayal. It was through His entire passion that He has redeemed our souls--"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us" (cf. Gal. 3:13). This brings great comfort to us and fills us with hope for the future, for in Christ that future is secure! The apostle Paul assured us that we are “complete” in Christ (cf. Col. 2:10).
However, this record also reminds us of our heavenly Father’s will for our lives here in this world. We are to strive to have the “mind” of Christ (cf. Phil. 2:5). He was the Son of God betrayed by a sinful mortal man. Jesus could have poured out heaven’s wrath upon Judas, justly reviling and absolutely repudiating him, but He did not. Jesus reached out in compassion to save a lost soul. Ought we not strive to do the same? I began this sermon by saying that there are few things in life as disappointing as being betrayed by a friend. When that happens, how do we so often respond? Does not our disappointment reveal itself in anger, resentment, and at times retaliation? Do we not even feel justified in hurting that person, because he or she has hurt us? Yet, my dear friends, God would have us love as we have been loved! That was His new commandment given us on Maundy Thursday (Jn. 13:34). It is through such love that we clearly portray our Savior’s concern for souls—forgiving as we have been forgiven (cf. Eph. 4:32), and seeking to save the lost, even as we have been saved (cf. Mt. 18:11). May we this Lenten Season rejoice in our Savior’s love and may we be moved to view others with that same compassion! Amen.