Read Luke 22 here or click on the speaker icon below to listen to it.
One of the holiest days – Passover – is drawing near, and instead of engaging in prayerful preparation, the chief priests and scribes are wracking their brains over how they can put Jesus to death. Their obsession.
But they were afraid. Not a fear of God and His judgment, but a fear of people. They couldn’t risk the public uproar if they arrested Him among the crowds that were always surrounding Him. God knows they have tried and tried and tried unsuccessfully to deceitfully trap Him. But to no avail. He is too smart for that.
They needed another plan. They needed to know where He retreated, where He went in private. They needed to do it then and there. But how?
To their pleasant surprise, in walks Judas. One of the twelve who Jesus hand-selected after prayer and fasting to be His disciple. One of the twelve who camped with Him, ate with Him, listened to Him teach, watched Him heal…for three years!
“High offices in the church do not preserve the holders of them from great blindness and sin,” says J.C. Ryle. This is crystal clear in observing the religious leaders in Jesus’ time.
And to these religious leaders, Judas looked like a committed follower of Jesus from the outside. But here he is. Offering to betray Jesus for only thirty pieces of silver. They couldn’t have orchestrated a better plan.
Why Judas? We are told Satan enters Judas. But don’t let that fool you into thinking Judas was an innocent bystander. We know from John’s gospel that this same Judas was a lover of money and helped himself regularly to the moneybag. Perhaps Judas rationalized that he had been betrayed by Jesus. He signed up to be part of a political superpower, not a humility and service gig. He loved money and power and prestige more than he loved Jesus.
John Piper notes, “Satan has power where sinful passions hold sway.”
Deception and greed opened a door in the heart of Judas, and Satan capitalized on it. “The devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
George Morrison says, “not only did Judas sell Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, but he also sold himself.”
Sin will destroy us, but God’s plan will never be destroyed. The cross meant to kill is our victory.
It is a powerful reminder not to be deceived by how something appears on the outside. But even more importantly, a reminder to check our hearts and motives frequently. To do whatever it takes to keep that door of our heart slammed shut from Satan slithering his way through.
“Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.” (2 Corinthians 13:5 MSG)
Meanwhile, Jesus hosts Passover with the disciples and institutes the Lord’s Supper. Where the Passover celebration was a remembrance of God’s faithfulness to their ancestors, this will be a new remembrance of a new sacrifice and covenant.
Among this news, Jesus also tells them that one sitting at the table will betray Him. He knows what Judas has done and will do. The disciples question one another about who it could be… and they also dispute about which of them is the greatest. They are missing the point of what Jesus came for and who He is. He tells them the greatest is the one who serves. He also warns Peter that he will deny Him three times. The temptation to fall away is strong. Let us be warned and on guard in prayer.
Time and again, Luke tells us of miraculous and complete healings by Jesus. Fast forward to Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion. In agony, He prays, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
We all know how this story ends. Jesus dies a brutal death. God could have removed the cup. Jesus could have saved Himself. But Jesus was the one willing… willing to die for us on his own accord. It had a purpose. It was a bigger and better plan…the only one that could save us.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, Paul recalls… “ So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Three times Paul pleads for healing. But the suffering continues. It had a purpose. To keep Paul humble and to demonstrate God’s power. God wants us to love Him and follow Him, not because we will always get what we want, but because He is worthy. Healing or not, God loves us and has good plans for us. He sees the bigger picture, and it is so very good.
Rising from deep prayer, Jesus finds His disciples sleeping despite His insistence they stay awake and pray to not fall into temptation. While still speaking to them, the crowds come with Judas, the betrayer. Peter instinctively reacts, striking the ear of the servant of the high priest. But Jesus isn’t going by force or defeat; He is going willingly to take the punishment meant for us. Jesus heals even the one who came to arrest Him. As Jesus foretold, Peter denies Him three times and sorrowfully remembers the words of Jesus. Indeed, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Oswald Chambers says, “Peter did not wait for God. He predicted in his own mind where the test would come, and it came where he did not expect it… Peter’s statement was honest but ignorant… Jesus had a deeper knowledge of Peter than Peter had of himself. He could not follow Jesus because he did not know himself or his own capabilities well enough. Natural devotion may be enough to attract us to Jesus, to make us feel His irresistible charm, but it will never make us disciples. Natural devotion will deny Jesus, always falling short of what it means to truly follow Him…beware of stopping anywhere short of total surrender to God.”
Jesus is mocked and taken to the religious leaders, where He is questioned and accused of a crime he didn’t commit. But Jesus isn’t here to defend Himself. This is what He came for.
Can you trust God even when the healing doesn’t come? Do you still believe in His goodness and love for you and sovereignty?
Why is it so hard to follow and obey Jesus in our own power?