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Aug 19 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 17, 2014 – Matthew 26:6-15

Jesus Leaves the Door Open

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table. But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, “Why this waste? For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.”
But Jesus said, “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”
 Matthew 26:6-10

Intro: We’ve spent the last five months with people who met Jesus

Today’s person of interest is Judas Iscariot
– until now, everyone else had been a stranger to Jesus prior to their encounter with him
• not Judas, he was “one of the twelve” (v. 14–i.e., one of the apostles, 10:1-4)
• Jesus let him in close

If I could, I would begin this morning with a recorded interview with Judas
– I imagine it going like this:

[Camera on Judas] “I really didn’t ‘get’ Jesus at first. None of us did. Good grief! His behavior had John the Baptist asking pointed questions.
“He was powerful; he healed the sick. He was charismatic and could control a crowd. But he did not fit any of our conceptions of the Messiah.”

We tend to think of Judas as a “stock” character — as one-dimensional
– “the one who betrayed Him” (Mt. 10:4)
• we’re familiar with the label, but we don’t know the person
○ he is a complex character – capable of change
○ the truth is, we have not been able to figure him out

William Barclay explored the possible motives Judas may have had for handing Jesus over
(by the way, “hand over” may be a better translation that our loaded English word “betray”)
– Barclay suggests that Judas was trying to force Jesus’ hand
• that he fully believed Jesus was the Messiah, but he was moving too slowly
• he thought that engineering a show down with religious authorities would force Jesus’ hand
– remember, the disciples imagined a revolution that would bring a new empire
• the world would be turned right-side up
• all of them would be placed in positions of power and wealth (Mark 10:35-40)
○ it’s possible Judas wanted to hurry it on
○ this is certainly a different picture of him than the typical image of him as a scoundrel

We learn something from the context around the story

Before this episode a conspiracy was brewing, but it had hit a snag (vv. 3-5)
– then immediately after this episode Judas met with those very conspirators (vv. 14-16)
• what is the significance of this context that brackets the passage we read?
• it indicates that Jesus’ response to the woman what triggered Judas’ actions
○ perhaps Judas’ frustration with Jesus had been building for some time
○ but this flagrant disregard for the value of a denarius sent him over the edge

It’s shocking that the disciples viewed the woman’s actions as a “waste”
– perhaps I am romanticizing the story – after all, they lived in a “culture of scarcity”
• few people had more than enough and the common person was denied luxuries
• preoccupied with survival goals, they were hyper-sensitive to waste
– but if I view this scene through a romanticized lens, they viewed it through a monetized lens
• John tells us that Judas was the spokesperson on this occasion and explains,

Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it (Jn. 12:6)

• so it’s no surprise he would later ask the chief priests, “What are you willing to give me?”
• we don’t know what he thought of Jesus, but he did not share the Lord’s values

Vv. 20-25, Jesus held up a mirror to the disciples

They had discovered that Jesus knew things
– things about them they didn’t know themselves
• so each disciple was unsure of himself and asked, “Surely not I, Lord?”
• each disciple except Judas
○ not until he was implicated by having dipped his bread in the same bowl as Jesus
– then, unlike the others, he did not say “Lord,” but “Rabbi”
• perhaps he had enough integrity to not fake that
• if he was manipulating Jesus and handing him over, he could not rightly call him Lord

Jesus gave Judas fair warning
– but he did not try to control or manipulate him
• he allowed him to make his own decision
– Jesus would not manipulate Judas, though Judas was willing to manipulate him
– Judas would not surrender to Jesus, though Jesus willingly surrendered to him

Vv. 45-50, This is a major turning point in the story of Jesus

Until now, Jesus traveled freely – followed his own agenda
– but from this point on, he is in the hands of others
• it would be hard to understand why he fell into their hands
• harder to understand why Judas would sell him out
• and harder still to understand why he would willingly surrender himself to them
– it’s the surrender he always wanted from Judas, but could never win

I’m not sure that we know what the kiss meant when Judas greeted the Lord
– Judas obviously used it to identify Jesus
• he knew the Lord well enough to recognize him in the dark
• but in the Greek text, the word for kiss is intensified
○ the kiss was genuine, it was an expression of a deep or passionate love
– again it was “Hail Rabbi!” – he could not call Jesus “Lord”

Jesus’ response, “Friend, do what you have come for”
– did Jesus use a well-known cliche?
• archaeologists recovered a molded glass cup that was dated from the early first century
(it was made in Sidon, which is immediately north of Galilee)
○ four words are inscribed on it
“Rejoice, that’s why you are here” – it is a toast
○ this was also a well-known saying, attested in literature and other archaeological artifacts
• Jesus used three of the four words on the cup (substituting “friend” for “rejoice”)
○ “Friend, this is why you are here”
– what would be the significance of this statement?
• first, the cup was a central symbol in that night’s events
○ the literal cup Jesus gave the the disciples during the last supper and its spiritual meaning
○ the symbolic cup in Jesus’ prayer, from which he did not want to drink
○ in scripture the cup symbolizes what God’s will holds in store for a person
▫ perhaps salvation, perhaps wrath
• secondly, “This is what we are here for”
○ this moment of you handing me over to them — we were born for this moment
○ its expanded meaning could be something like, “This is our destiny”

27:3-5, One last scene with Judas

Notice that Judas made his turn-around after Jesus was condemned
– it’s possible things didn’t go as he expected
• that he thought a confrontation would force Jesus to unleash his divine power
○ it is only now that he realizes he did something terribly wrong
• it’s impossible to know what gave out in Judas
○ he knew for certain he was guilty of “innocent blood”
○ maybe he concluded that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah
but, still, he was harmless; he was, in fact, a good man
– overcome with remorse, Judas fell into despair and was distraught
• which makes the response of the priests incredibly cold-hearted
“What is that to us? See to that yourself!”
• at the very least, they could have attempted to consol him,
“It’s okay, Judas. You did the right thing in handing that troublemaker over to us. There is no need for you to feel guilty or remorseful. You did God’s work tonight.”
○ but there was none of that
○ although they were religious leaders, their concerned was for the institution
○ and for their positions and perks within it — they had little concern for others

Conc: Judas’ story is about “the one that got away”

For awhile Jesus had him and then lost him
– Judas wasn’t able to give up his cherished beliefs or longings
• he could not release his attachment to the things of this world
○ so he never discovered how Jesus’ word could work creatively in him
• never experienced transformation
○ and what does transformation actually look like?

  1. The breaking down of our prejudices
  2. The severing of our secure attachments
  3. The willing exploration of our inner lives–our mistaken assumptions, dysfunctions, etc.
  4. The commitment to cooperate with God in making real and deep changes
  5. The renewing of our minds, which is to say allowing God to redefine reality

○ transformation only comes through surrender
– but Judas’ story is about transformation or the failure to transform
• what his story boils down to is the word “friend”
○ in their final conversation, Jesus addressed Judas as “Friend”
○ although Judas could not call Jesus Lord, Jesus could still call him friend
• Jesus did not hate Judas for the role he played
○ the Lord always leaves the door open — he is always willing to be our friend

He says, in effect, “You can change your mind about Me if you want. It does not matter what you’ve done. Your guilt will not stand in My way. I will always accept you.”

If we do not surrender to Jesus’ offer of friendship, we have nothing left but this world
– then we become slaves to its need and greed, its treasures and ambitions
• and its emptiness as well

There was not one disciple Jesus could count on the night he was handed over
But that did not change or affect his love for them
And in this I find the truth that I can trust; that even if I don’t get Jesus, he gets me

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