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God’s Word for You

Mark 14:10-11 The betrayal

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, December 10, 2023

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were glad to hear this and promised to give him money. So he started to look for a way to betray him.

Was Judas angry or embarrassed that Jesus had corrected him in public for his words about the cost of the perfume Mary had used? It would be an easy, even a perfectly natural, conclusion, that Judas’ betrayal is somehow connected with the way Jesus corrected him and scolded him at Bethany for Mary’s gift. Matthew and Mark both place the betrayal negotiation immediately after the anointing (see Matthew 26:13-16). But in the same sequence of events, John explains simply and plainly that Judas was a thief. “He held the money box and used to steal what was put into it” (John 12:6).

The betrayal came from one of the Lord’s very own inner circle, one of the Twelve. Hadn’t David foreseen? “Even my close friend (lit, “one who was at peace with me”), whom I trust, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9). Peter said sadly: “He was one of our number and shared in this ministry” (Acts 1:17).

Which did Judas want more? To be sure that Jesus was killed? To make some money from Jesus before he broke away from their friendship? To make money and keep making money from Jesus, using his miraculous powers as income? Or was he unhinged, unable to reason properly, and possessed no plan at all?

If he only wanted Jesus killed, he would not have bargained for the sum he got (Matthew 26:15). He would simply have set up a trap, told them where Jesus usually went, and the soldiers would have found him in the olive grove of Gethsemane. The problem with that scheme was that all of the other Apostles had the same Galilean accent that Jesus had (Matthew 26:73), and in the darkness, one bearded Galilean man in his thirties would look very much like eleven others.

If he wanted to make money before he broke from their friendship, he surely would have seen the flaw in such a plan. Jesus would have seen right through him and stopped him. The others would be sure he would have handed over the cash box before he left, and a clean break by outright desertion would have been better. The other possibility here, that he might just start shouting for guards while with Jesus and then run for it, was flawed because most of the disciples of Jesus were fishermen and were very fit and athletic. John and Peter could both run quickly, although John tells us that he could outrun Peter (John 20:4). So Judas couldn’t be sure of escaping in that way.

Did he think he had found a way to make money again and again and again? Perhaps. It’s just possible that Judas thought Jesus would escape from being betrayed, that he could bargain again for more money, and make a financial killing, playing the friend and enemy at the same time. The sinful mind is always capable of such treachery, because sin clouds and obscures the truth and ruins good judgment. “A trap seizes him by the heel; a snare holds him fast. A noose is hidden for him on the ground; a trap lies in his path… He is driven from light into darkness and is banished from the world” (Job 18:9-10, 18:18).

It is probably wisest to remember that Satan entered into Judas (Luke 22:3), and that his plotting was unreasonable and driven by nothing more than hate, since he could no longer love his Savior. “The sinful mind is hostile to God” (Romans 8:7), and “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Therefore when the Gospel writers set these accounts, the gift of Mary and the betrayal of Judas, side-by-side, they demonstrate that only a believer can do a good work, and that an unbeliever cannot do any good work at all.

This makes us shudder, because we know—each and every one of us knows—that we are sinners, too. Some speak of mortal sins, sins that damn. Well, every sin by its nature is a mortal sin, on account of Adam and Eve’s fall. But a believer stands in the shower of God’s grace, and is clean through faith in Christ. Why, then, does Jesus supply us with additional assurances of forgiveness? Why baptism? Why the Lord’s Supper? Why the proclamation of forgiveness? Fallen sinners do not only have flaws regarding sin, but we have flaws regarding things like trust, memory, and understanding. Just as a good husband tells his wife he loves her more than once and in more than one way, so also the Bridegroom of the Church sends us his love in words and in deeds, and reminding of his love in more than one way.

For the terrified Christian, the assurance of Isaiah was repeated by Jesus: “A bruised reed he will not break; and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Isaiah 42:3). God is not out to get us. He does not desire to punish. He watches out for the weak, for his wandering ones. He is the Good Shepherd.

Judas betrayed and did not repent. We sin every day, but God has given us a conscience to prick our hearts, and God cleanses us from a guilty conscience just as a good bath cleanses us from dirt (Hebrews 10:22). Trust in his forgiveness. You are not Judas, even if your parents gave you that name. You are you, and Jesus your Lord knows you, calls you, and offers you complete forgiveness. Forever.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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