THE BLESSING OF BETRAYAL
Dr. Charles F. “Chuck” DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
APRIL 24, 2016
14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. 17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. 20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”
— Matthew 26:14-25, ESV
Nothing is more disheartening to the soul and disrupting to the lives of many than betrayal. It changes our world in ways we wish it would not. When it strikes, we can see no good coming from it at all.
Our American forefathers had made West Point an impenetrable fortress, until the turncoat Benedict Arnold handed over its secrets and gave the advantage to the British. Spies like Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Robert Hanssen sold American secrets that enabled the Soviet Union to heat up the Cold War. Most infamously of all, Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver.
Betrayal is the loss of a battle. But who won the Revolutionary War? Who won the Cold War? And, who rose from the dead to be proclaimed as King of kings and Lord of lords?
Article four of the historic Baptist creed “The Abstract of Principles” states: “God from eternity, decrees or permits all things that come to pass, and perpetually upholds, directs and governs all creatures and all events.” Even betrayal is not beyond the scope of our sovereign God. He who makes “all things work together for good to them that love God” (ref. Romans 8:28) can even turn the heartbreak of betrayal into a hidden blessing for His children.
God places people in our lives who will betray us.
In Christian and secular surveys of the world’s worst traitors, Judas Iscariot is usually first on the list. His name has become anathema ever since his existence two thousand years ago. How many men named “Judas” have you met in your life?
Little is known about Judas except his infamous end. This text tells us he was “one of the twelve,” the strategically numbered first followers of the Messiah. He is designated in John’s Gospel as the treasurer of the group, meaning he must have been highly trusted. Some renderings of the gospel actually defend Judas, painting him as well-intentioned zealot trying to force Jesus’ powerful hand, or as a victim exercising the excuse he took from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemene, “The devil made me do it.” But the Bible tells the truth that, from the beginning, Judas was a hypocrite, a thief, and a traitor waiting for the most expedient moment to sell out the Savior for his own personal gain.
So why did Jesus allow Judas to have such an important place in His life? Judas obviously fooled his fellow disciples, who couldn’t fathom Christ’s subtle identification of “his hand in the dish.” Did he fool Jesus, too? A lack of judgment is not necessarily a sin, so was the sinless Savior fooled by Judas’ false statements on his application for apostleship? No, He wasn’t. Judas was a member of “the twelve” because Jesus chose him and put him there deliberately. It was all part of the perfect will and ultimate plan of God.
If God put Judas in Christ’s inner circle, could he not put someone in your life who has betrayed you? Maybe that business partnership really wasn’t a bad idea, it was just with a bad person. Maybe you weren’t stupid to trust that boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe you weren’t wrong in marrying that person who eventually left you. Perhaps God put that person in your life, knowing it would bring you pain and sorrow, in order to accomplish something greater, more spiritual, thoroughly redemptive, and everlasting in your life and the lives of others.
But that still doesn’t make it right, does it?
God will punish those who betray us.
Sinners and traitors cannot blame the devil for their sin. If the devil made them do it, they are the ones who let the devil in. Sinners and traitors certainly cannot blame God for their sin, for God cannot make anyone sin, He simply gives us the gift of freedom of choice. Sinners and traitors sin and betray because they choose to do so, for their own selfish and sinful reasons.
Judas Iscariot made a choice, similar to that of may nominal Christians, to follow Jesus for earthly gain. He must have thought the prophet from Galilee had enough power and charisma to grant him all the health and wealth he could ever want in this lifetime. There may be a hint of truth in the take of some Judas sympathizers, who claim that once Judas saw Jesus reach for the cross instead of the crown, he bailed. But when you freely and willfully cause another person’s pain for your own pleasure, this is sin, this is betrayal, and it will be punished most severely by God.
Jesus pronounced a “woe” upon Judas and said of him, “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Stronger language our Lord could not use. The Gospels tell us that while Judas eventually felt remorse for what he had done to Christ, he did not repent. He died a most horrific death on earth, and then things for this traitor got eternally worse.
Some of us have been betrayed by people who have not even felt remorse for what they have done. Do not pray for their remorse. Pray for their repentance. Remember Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Luke, “Except you repent, you will all likewise perish.” These are extremely harsh and punitive words coming from the lips of our loving Lord and Savior. Do you really want them to go to the place where Judas Iscariot has gone? Pray for them and let the Lord take care of them, one way or another.
God will judiciously take care of the traitors. God will graciously take care of those among His children who have been betrayed.
God will use betrayal for our good and His glory.
Is there any question that Judas’ betrayal was used for the ultimate glory of God and the gospel? Is there any question that Judas’ betrayal has become a blessing to all who come to God by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone? God put Judas into this picture. Judas chose to betray the Son of God. God took the sinful choice of Judas and wove it into the fabric of redemptive history, for the glory of God and the good of all those who are saved. Hallelujah, what a Savior!
This does not change the fact that nothing is more wicked than betrayal. Nothing hurts more than being betrayed by someone you love and trust. But, betrayal can be a blessing when you trust in God. Here’s what you must do:
Stop blaming yourself. In a world where the victim card is played too often, those who have been betrayed are the purest victims in the world. It is not wrong to love someone, to trust someone, to value someone, like Jesus did to Judas. Though you give your love and trust in imperfect ways, it is in no way your fault when someone else betrays that love and trust. No one deserves to be betrayed. And when a person is hell-bent on betrayal for selfish and sinful reasons, there is nothing you can do to stop them.
Stop hating the one who has betrayed you. There is not a hint of hatred in the words and actions of Jesus towards Judas recorded in Scripture. Betrayal is a serious sin, so is vindictive hatred. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Pray for the person who has betrayed you, realizing they have put themselves in a precarious position before God, and God will hurt them infinitely worse than they have hurt you if they do not repent.
Start trusting in God and allow the pain to deepen your faith. Start trusting more deeply in God’s word, burn Romans 8:28 into your memory. Start trusting more deeply in God’s sovereignty, He really does take the sinful choices of His free creatures to put grace and goodness into the lives of His people. Start trusting more deeply in God’s Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. He knows what it feels like to be betrayed. He knows what it feels like to get over it. He knows the truth that even the worst betrayal can lead to the greatest blessing.
A SCENTED SERVICE
Dr. Charles F. “Chuck” DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
APRIL 3, 2016
6 Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.
— Matthew 26:6-13, ESV
Follow your nose. There are many places you can go and know you are there by the smell. Even people who don’t drink coffee love coffee shops. Everybody loves the smell of a bakery or donut shop. And who can go to the movies and resist a bag of hot popcorn?
Historically, churches have been known for the scent of candles and incense. Not only do they symbolize the light of God’s word and the presence of the Holy Spirit, in ancient days they covered up the musty odors of the buildings and, in some cases, the irregularly bathed bodies of the congregation. Today, we use candles in our church for the former, not the latter, reasons.
However, in this day and age, people can be known by their smells, too. Some ladies wear distinctive perfumes and some gentleman can leave a lingering scent of after shave long after they’ve left the room. No matters how quiet he is, we know when our dog, Atticus, has entered into the living room because he is, to say it kindly, gassy.
In our text at hand, which depicts the final days in the public ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, we get to know the characters by their smell. Simon, somehow related to or otherwise affiliated with Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, smelled like a skin creme a leper might have used. Lazarus smelled like embalming fluid, lingering from before Jesus raised him from the dead. Martha smelled like food, of course. But Mary smelled like a broken and spilled out bottle of wonderful perfume.
Jesus loved each one, smells and all, but He singled out Mary. He said she would be remembered forever for what she had done, and we are proof that she is! Why were Mary’s actions, her scented service for the Lord, so very important?
The Pattern of Mary’s Life
Though this act seems to define Mary, it is not definitive of this great lady. Mary was no one hit wonder. She should not be limited to merely fifteen minutes of fame. Her one shining moment was not a fluke, it was the faithful culmination of a long-standing devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee first met Mary of Bethany in Judea on one of His many pilgrimages to the city of Jerusalem. It was during our Lord’s public ministry in which he went about proclaiming the kingdom of God and offering Himself as the promised King and Messiah. Most of the people chose not to believe in Jesus, but Mary was different.
Mary professed her faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. She proved it by her hunger for the word of God (ref. Luke 10:38-42). She witnessed it at the funeral of her beloved brother, Lazarus (ref. John 11). And, she poured it out in front of God and everybody on this special occasion, just days before the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord.
Saving faith is not merely a profession, it is a practice. It is an ongoing hunger for God’s word, a constant commitment to congregate with God’s people, and a steadfast willingness to sacrifice self for the glory of God’s Son.
Most professing Christians today are hanging their hats on one relatively brief moment in their lives. When their lives are over, they are going to be horrified by Jesus’ judgment and rejection (ref. Matthew 7:21; Luke 6:46; 1 John 2:3-6). One moment did not make Mary, and one momentary profession of faith does not make you a Christian. A true Christian, like Mary, is one who makes a constant and total commitment of life to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Cost of Mary’s Perfume
You have probably already heard the joke about the chicken and the pig walking down the road. They approach a diner advertising the morning special, bacon and eggs. The chicken wanted to go in and get breakfast, but the pig refused by saying, “For you it’s a small contribution, for me it’s total sacrifice!”
A true follower of Jesus knows Christianity it is not mere mental assent, not a momentary ritual, not a part-time job on sporadic Sundays. It is your life. It is giving all you are to the One who has given all He is for you. Mary’s scented service for the Lord is, as Jesus pointed out, a “beautiful” illustration of genuine, sacrificial, saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mary’s bottle of expensive perfume was not an uncommon possession. Many Jewish women in her day would save up all their lives to buy such perfume, which came in a crude jar made much like a modern day piggy bank. You saved it and saved it and in order to use it once, and then you had to break the bank and use it all up. Typically, this was done on one’s wedding day.
The alabaster jar of perfume would have been the most precious, valuable possession a Jewish women could have owned. It represented her life savings, her life’s inventory, her life dreams, her entire life: past, present, and future. And as you can see, or smell, Mary gave all of her life to the Lord.
“And once it was broken and spilled out,
A fragrance filled all the room.
Like a prisoner released from his shackles,
Like a spirit set free from the tomb.
Broken and spilled out, Just for love of You, Jesus.
My most precious treasure, lavished on thee,
Broken and spilled out, and poured at Your feet.
In sweet abandon, let me be spilled out, and used up for Thee.”
— Gloria Gaither
The Scent of Mary’s Sacrifice
Put yourself in the midst of this scented service. Simon must have wondered why Mary would give her life savings to Jesus. Martha must have wondered why Mary wasn’t helping in the kitchen. Lazarus might have wondered why Mary didn’t use the perfume on his body when he died the first time. Judas, who smelled like a rat, wondered aloud why this valuable jar wasn't sold and given to the poor, but religious hypocrites are always saying things like that. But what does it look like, what does it smell like to you?
Mary’s sacrifice smells like genuine faith, as I have stated, along with total commitment, which is what constitutes saving faith. But it also smells peculiar, by that I mean particular, specific. Mary’s sacrifice smells like faith and commitment to the whole gospel of Jesus Christ.
Mary called on the name of the “Lord” Jesus Christ (ref. John 11:32). Mary understood, and may have been the only one, that Christ had come to sacrifice Himself as our Savior, too. She offered her sacrifice, in the words of Jesus, “to prepare me for my burial.”
Mary committed her life to the life of Christ. Mary committed her life to the death of Christ. Mary committed her life to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In other words, Mary committed her life to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Have you?
For years I have witnessed the gospel to people, as a believer, and counseled people about salvation, as a pastor. A child or adolescent is always a challenge. When their parents being them to me and say they want to accept Christ as Lord and Savior, I ask them a couple of questions. What is your favorite toy, gadget, thing, possession? Would you give it up and give it over to Jesus, right now? So many have honestly answered, “No.” If they are not ready to give a little thing to Christ, they are certainly not ready to give their lives to Christ, are they?
You cannot buy your salvation with toys, money, or perfume. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. But genuine salvation is never alone. It comes with deep faith, total commitment, and willingness to give all you have and all you are for Him who gave His life for us. That’s what Christianity looks like and smells like. It smells like a scented service, like Mary and a broken bottle of gospel perfume.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org