April 5, 2023
The Beginnings of Betrayal
“When Jesus had finished saying all these things, He said to His disciples, ‘As you know, Passover begins in two days, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.’ At that same time the leading priests and elders were meeting at the residence of Caiaphas, the high priest, plotting how to capture Jesus secretly and kill Him. ‘But not during the Passover celebration,’ they agreed, ‘or the people may riot.’ Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While He was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over His head. The disciples were indignant when they saw this. ‘What a waste!’ they said. ‘It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.’ But Jesus, aware of this, replied, ‘Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to Me? You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have Me. She has poured this perfume on Me to prepare My body for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.’ Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, ‘How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?’ And they gave him thirty pieces of silver. From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.” (Matthew 26:1-16)
It’s Wednesday of Passion Week - As the people of Jerusalem begin to gather for Passover, tensions are higher than ever. So high, in fact, that the religious leaders were now plotting to kill Jesus. Passover was, at its core, a celebration of redemption. Every year, the Passover observance gave the Jewish people a chance to remember what the Lord had done to bring them out of Egypt and save them from oppression. The Lord had told His people to observe Passover because He knew they would be tempted to forget. Everything, from avoiding yeast in bread to sacrificing an unblemished lamb in the evening, was designed to point people back to the saving power of God.
The Jews worshiped a God who was serious about redeeming His people. So serious, in fact, that He sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to die the death we deserved. Jesus, in line with prophecy and in spite of His enemies, was going to be the ultimate Passover sacrifice. He was going to take the sin of the world upon His shoulders, and defeat death once and for all. And this was only a few days away. Jesus had already predicted His death multiple times. He knew it would be in Jerusalem. He knew He would be rejected by the chief priests and elders. He knew He would be mocked, flogged, and crucified. But He also knew that He would be raised to life again. However, while it seems that Jesus couldn’t have been any clearer about all of this, even His closest followers didn’t understand what was happening.
In the 21st century, it’s easy for us to look back at the last week of Jesus’ life and ask, “How could they have missed it?” However, we must remember that many people in Jerusalem, including some of Jesus’ closest friends, were still hoping He would be a conquering king who would drive out the Romans and establish an earthly kingdom. One of the reasons Jesus had been so warmly welcomed on Palm Sunday was because the people believed He had arrived to violently strike down Israel’s enemies. But after Jesus cleansed the Temple and taught the crowds, many were beginning to see that this wasn’t the case. The true Savior King, Jesus, was still going to defeat the powers of death and oppression, but not in the way anyone expected or wanted. He was going to die for His people. If there was going to be violence taking place, it would be Jesus who was experiencing that violence.
Jesus must have been incredibly intimidating to the religious leaders. They saw Jesus and all of His teachings as dangerous. He was far too radical for them and far too inspiring of change for the people. His way of living and His call to true repentance meant that their special status was simply unnecessary. Their invented rules didn’t actually make them more holy. Suddenly, they were no better than the leper or the widow. It was the condition of the heart that mattered, and only Jesus had the power to change the heart. Ironically, their plan to take Him down was exactly what God intended from the beginning. As they plotted to kill Jesus, the religious leaders actually move God’s mission forward. Jesus was going to rescue His people from their sins and He would accomplish this with His own death on the cross.
FOLLOW UP ACTIVITY
Are there times when we, like the crowds who first welcomed then later rejected Jesus, want Jesus to be something God the Father didn’t intend Him to be? Are we waiting for Him to do something for us out of false hopes, vanity, or even selfishness? Most of us have done this at one time or another. Today, take time to reflect on this, then write out a prayer of confession to the Lord, ending with a time of thanksgiving for all He has done for us. If you are leading your family through this time of devotion, dialogue with them about the questions above, then lead each member to write their own prayer of confession.
PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, Thank You for giving Your life for me. You have done so much for me. Forgive me for when I’ve attempted to turn You into something You are not. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.