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Posts Tagged "John 18:1–11"

Return to the Lord: Return from Betrayal

March 03, 2021
By Rev. David French

Imagine for a moment that someone you trust deeply has betrayed you. Maybe you told this person something in confidence, and he or she shared it with someone else. Maybe this person betrayed your friendship or your trust for personal gain. Now, I imagine some of you are thinking about something that actually happened to you. You haven’t had to conjure up some imaginary betrayal. No, I’m guessing that the suggestion brought to your mind an actual betrayal; something that hurt you deeply at the time and still stings when you think about it.

Our theme for today revolves around betrayal. As you know, we’re working through a sermon series this Lenten season based on God’s call to return to Him. We’re looking at different events that occurred during Jesus’s Passion and thinking about the sins committed. My hope is that we’ll see the ways that our own sins pull us away from God and that we also will hear His call to return to Him because He offers reconciliation and forgiveness.

In our gospel reading, the betrayal, of course, is that by Judas Iscariot. He makes a deal with the chief priests and scribes to turn Jesus over to them, knowing full well that their intention is to have Him put to death. Judas’s actions are hard to wrap your head around; they’re dark and painful, completely self-serving.

Clearly, we have no problem seeing the sin in what Judas did. No, our problem is that we don’t always see as clearly when it comes to our sin or how we betray Jesus by the things we do. But, we’ll get back to that in a minute. First, I want to set the stage by looking at another betrayal, an older betrayal, that of King David by his son Absalom and his longtime trusted adviser Ahithophel.

This is a lesson about betrayal, but it is also a lesson about how one sin can lead to many others, and how the consequences of sin ripple out and touch many more people than we might expect. It starts with the adulterous affair between David and Bathsheba. You know the story. He sees her bathing on the rooftop. He initiates an inappropriate affair. She becomes pregnant. He tries to find a way to cover up his sin, but his plan backfires. David has to up the ante and basically puts a plan in place that ensures Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, will be killed in battle. Shortly after that time, David is called out for his sin: he repents, the baby dies, and a huge split is created within David’s family.

The truth is that split in the family becomes one of the major unintended consequences of David and Bathsheba’s affair. That event led Absalom, one of David’s sons, to rebel and begin a campaign to unseat his father and take over his throne. One of the people that Absalom gets to help him in his plot is Ahithophel, a trusted adviser of David, who also happened to be … wait for it … Bathsheba’s grandfather.

As the story unfolds, Ahithophel suggests a plan where Absalom would raise up an army of twelve thousand men to hunt down and kill David. Absalom liked the plan. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way, which is a little ironic because it probably would have worked. The thing is, David had planted a spy, Hushai, who came up with a different plan involving a lot more men, and Absalom chose to go with that one. Hushai then informed David and in the end Absalom and Ahithophel die and David keeps the throne. But, the betrayal haunted David. In fact, we hear about it in Psalm 41 where David says, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9). David laments the fact that a trusted adviser has betrayed him, turned against him, and taken steps to kill him in order to place someone else on the throne. To be sure, betrayal is very hurtful and can have long-lasting effects.

We understand the pain that betrayal causes because we’ve all been subjected to it. What we don’t often think about is how our actions betray others, including our Lord Jesus Christ. Ahithophel betrayed David in order to put someone else on the throne, and we do the exact the same thing. We’ve betrayed Jesus in order to put ourselves on the throne. With our thoughts, words, and deeds, we deny His lordship over our lives before others. We’ve ignored God’s commandments and sought to do things our own way. We’ve treated others thoughtlessly and elevated ourselves at their expense, directly contradicting God’s Word to consider others better than yourself (Philippians 2:3).

And what is the result of our betrayal? The Gospel message is distorted. People don’t hear or see the amazing love of Christ because we push Jesus into the background or deny His importance in our own lives. Jesus says, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Do we? Do you … love others as Jesus loves you? Why not? Are you ashamed of the love He has for you? Of course not; then why not show His love to others? And I don’t mean a select few. God’s love in Christ isn’t for a few, but for all. So why do you betray Him? By keeping for yourself the love He has commanded you to share, I mean.

You see, the law - it can be brutal. Like the words Peter spoke in Solomon’s Portico when he called the Israelites to repentance, “You denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead” (Acts 3:14–15). But, the Law is never God’s last Word as Peter continues, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). It echoes the invitation that we heard on Ash Wednesday from the prophet Joel, “Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents over (or as the NIV puts it, He relents from sending) disaster” (Joel 2:13).

Certainly, Jesus knew all of this in the Garden. He knew about Judas’s betrayal, and He knew about our betrayals. He knew that we would fail. He knew that you and I would betray Him in uncounted ways without ever intending to, and often without even noticing. Jesus also knew that He had the solution when He asked, “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11).

God calls, “Return to me! I want you to be faithful to me because it is what’s best for you, but I know you and so I have already provided for you - a great blessing!” I have paid for your sin. And with His words, He offers the strength to turn back to Him and so receive the blessing He purchased for all and offers to you again this evening through the simple yet life-changing words, “you are forgiven.”

In His name, Amen

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