Foundations of Our Faith Day 4: Jesus Betrayed and Condemned to Die
So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” (John 18:3-5a, ESV)
Betrayal is one of the worst feelings ever. When someone you love turns their back on you, it causes profound emotional pain. And while I’ve been betrayed by people I love, I’ve never experienced the immeasurable pain that Jesus surely felt from being betrayed, denied, and forsaken. Judas, a part of His inner circle of closest friends, sold out our Lord for 30 pieces of silver, and yet Judas could have no power or control had God not allowed it for a purpose. And Peter, who promised to never deny His Lord? We read in the Gospels that he denied Him three times. Almost everyone turned away from Him; what lonely sorrow that would bring.
But let’s back up for just a minute. Before Judas turned Jesus over to the authorities, Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying. Yesterday we discussed how, even with all that was ahead of Him, Jesus was still able to eat as He reclined at the table, but now we see His anguish as He sweat drops of blood while praying in the Garden. There is a medical condition, hematidrosis, in which sweat and blood mix together, and it is caused by extreme anguish. I am also the cause of His anguish because He was heading to the cross to pay the price for my sins—and for yours too. Let’s never forget that.
We see Jesus’ willingness to obey His Father as false accusations are made and the soldiers come for Him. He doesn’t run away or try to get out of what’s ahead for Him but willingly goes. Knowing He would face flogging, a crown of thorns, rude insults, being spit on and mocked, and then being nailed to a tree and separated from the Father, it’s hard for us to fathom how He could allow what was to transpire. For us humans, it doesn’t make sense. Since He is God, why not retaliate and destroy these false accusers and all who stood to condemn Him? And yet we know the answer is because of a love greater than we can understand—a love so great that it led Him to rescue us even as it cost Him everything. Had He not been willing, we would be forever lost and condemned.
As we read of Jesus on trial, those of us who know Jesus as Savior know He is without fault. And Pilate also came to the same conclusion, but was easily swayed by the crowd of protesters seeking His death. Pilate could try to wash his hands in an effort to cleanse the guilt of his sin, but it just doesn’t work that way. Washing our hands can never cleanse the darkness and filth of our hearts nor the guilt we all have before God—only the blood of Jesus can do that. And so, Pilate was guilty, Herod was guilty, Judas was guilty, the soldiers were guilty—and so are you and I. Our sin led Jesus to this place; His love was the motivator to do what He must to pay the price for our sin. May we never forget this.
Another notable part of this history was the custom to release one of the prisoners at Passover. Pilate, aware that Barabbas was known as a dangerous criminal, offered his release over Jesus in hopes that the people would set Jesus free. Barabbas, guilty of some of the worst sin imaginable, was facing certain death. He certainly never entertained the idea that this Jesus would take his place and that he would go free. How ironic, really, that this man became the very picture of the gospel. His being spared was a testimony of what Jesus does for each of us—He became sin for us so that we could go free.
The day ahead was dark as the crowd yelled, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” When a public flogging would not appease the people, Jesus was condemned to die. His body was so severely injured that surely some might feel compassion and seek His release—yet that didn’t happen. They called out for His blood to be on them and on future generations; all that mattered to them was that He would breathe His last and be forever gone from them.
May we pause today, close our eyes and dwell here in this place for a time. Oh, that our hearts would feel some of the anguish He felt as He faced the cross. Oh, that our eyes would shed tears for the pain He endured for our sins, not only past sins but future ones—maybe even sins we will commit today. The cost for our redemption was so, so great. Oh Lord, forgive us, as You forgave those who put You to death. Your love for us is unwarranted and so deep that we cannot understand it. May we even in a small way enter into what You suffered in our place. May we offer a heartfelt ‘thank You’ for Your suffering—such a small, small gift to place before You today as we try to comprehend the magnitude of all You suffered for us. Amen!