Sermon Transcript - Wednesday, March 4, 2020
Christ the King, Palm Coast, FL ~ Pastor Jay Zahn ~ Luke 22:47-53 ~ Wednesday, March 4, 2020
It’s a very personal act, packed with meaning. But what does each of these kinds of kisses mean? A kiss on the back of the hand? A forehead kiss? A cheek kiss? A mouth-to-mouth kiss? Or how about this one: a mafia boss leans in and gives another the “kiss of death” also known as the “Judas kiss”? With that miss a mafia boss marks a person to die. They stole the act from Judas. It’s a symbol of affection, though it is actually a betrayal.
Jesus had just stood up from His time of very intense prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. After being comforted and strengthened by the angel that appeared, He was ready. He was ready to face what was already headed His way.
Luke tells us that the man who was leading the mob was Judas. One of Jesus’ own disciples. Judas was leading this motley horde towards Jesus. Of all the ways Judas could have identified Jesus to those who came to arrest him, Judas chose the kiss. Cheek-kissing between men is often considered inappropriate (and even offensive) in many cultures. But in the Middle East and parts of Europe, Africa and South America, it’s common for men to greet one another with a cheek-kiss. A kiss was appropriate to show respect to a rabbi or a teacher. It’s what makes this kiss such an ugly act of treachery.
“He approached Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to Him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’” With his question, Jesus highlights for Judas and the others the raw and heartbreaking significance of what is happening here. Rather than pointing and saying, “There He is!” Judas would walk up to Jesus, look Him in the eye and embrace Him and kiss Him on the cheek. Judas would wrap his arms around Jesus even holding Him until the Romans could arrest and bind His hands.
Nor was this just one kiss. Matthew and Mark use the compound verb which means to shower with kisses. Judas prolonged the act as if to tell Jesus’ captors: “See, this is the man you want!” The reason Judas chose to use an act that expresses loyalty and affection to positively identify Jesus to those who have come to do him in is his cold-hearted attempt to deceive the other disciples, even Jesus himself, into believing that his own heart is breaking at the sight of Jesus getting arrested. In other words, Judas’ choice to use a kiss isn’t just an act of cold-hearted betrayal but it flows from a heart darkened by the deepest kind of hypocrisy.
In his painting of the Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci captures the dramatic moment when Jesus announces, ‘One of you will betray me.’ And if you look at that painting, every single person is surprised, shocked, tormented, asking one another, ‘Who is it, who could it be?’ The only person not surprised is Judas. He knows what he is going to do. He has calculated it all out in advance.
Why did he do it? Some say it was greed. That may have been part of it, because the Bible tells us that as treasurer of the little band of disciples Judas sometimes stole money from them. Or was it disappointment, because Jesus refused to become an earthly king and Judas wanted power for himself? We can only speculate about this.
This we know for sure: though Judas was making good show of his allegiance to Jesus on the outside, the inner truth was his heart was far from Jesus. In this way Judas is a warning to the power of the sin nature in every Christian, the part of us that will never be converted to faithfulness to the Lord but lives only for ourselves and our own advantage.
You are a follower of Jesus. Your presence here tonight is evidence of that, right? Why are you following him? That’s the deeper question!
Everyone likes God when life is going along as you had hoped. But when you’re not getting the things you want, will you still follow him? When it looks as if following him is going to bring you benefit, it’s fine. But when it becomes obvious that faith will cost you, what will you do?
In our heart of hearts the central question is: do we love God for who he is? Or do we love the things that he does for us? It’s worth asking ourselves, transparently, honestly:
What happens to my relationship with God when he allows money to be tight; sickness to hit home harder this year than in the past; when school or work is hard; the ministry he’s called us to be part of at Christ the King is heavy?
What happens when God’s Word calls me to do things that don’t come easy, like:
Proverbs 3: 9 Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops
What happens when God’s Word calls me to turn away from things that do come easy, like:
Galatians 5: 19 sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. (Notice these aren’t ranked…they’re all lumped into the same heap!)
What happens when the way of discipleship feels very much like Jesus himself describes:
Matthew 16:24 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”
Do you faithfully follow your Lord’s leading, always? Or do you try to claim that you’re being true to Christ while deliberately, even callously making decisions that go against his Word?
If the answer is yes, you share this in common with Judas. It’s so easy to betray Jesus in the ordinary course of life. If you choose to believe the lie that Jesus isn’t enough, or if you believe that he isn’t living up to your expectations, it’s a subtle but real form of betrayal. It’s so easy to make big promises to God on Sunday, only to see them crumble when you are with your co-workers on Monday morning, or talking with friends to vent out your frustrations whether in person or online. In those crucial moments where we have opportunity to demonstrate faithfulness to Jesus, do we essentially betray him with a kiss? Down deep: how much of what you choose to do is done for your own advantage? How much of why you do what you do is living out the faith in Christ that you claim is in you?
Have you ever been so stunned that you can't speak? Have you ever been so shocked that you can't even move! Has something ever so blindsided you that you were temporarily immobilized? When Judas leans in to kiss Jesus in order to betray him, you’d expect Jesus to be stunned by the shock of it all. But Jesus isn’t taken by surprise! Instead he shows his complete trust in his Heavenly Father’s control over this situation while also showing his incredible compassion as Savior of souls.
Listen again to Jesus’ question: “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Jesus’ response is not an affront. “How dare you! How dare you betray Me! How dare you do this!” Jesus’ response is to immediately assume the posture of a surgeon of souls and begin to speak words to Judas that are designed to help Judas face his own wickedness and the terrible danger of what he is doing and to produce in him repentance and to turn him back to God. Look at Jesus’ words. “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” In other words, He's saying, “Really Judas, really — you’re going to do this this way? You’re going to betray Me with a kiss? Don't you realize the danger of this to your soul? Don't you realize what you’re doing? You think that I'm on trial here. You think that I'm the one that's undergoing the temptation. No, Judas, you’re the one who's undergoing the temptation. You are walking down a path towards hell and I am here trying to turn you back.” That’s what Jesus had already been attempting earlier this evening around the dinner table, when he warned: “Woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24). Those words of Jesus weren’t just meant to ruffle the feathers of Judas’ conscience or get his attention, they were intentionally cutting! To cut through the hardness of heart and mind that has brought Judas to this moment. To cut through and turn Judas back to Jesus in repentance, yes this is what is on Jesus’ heart as he asks: “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Jesus’ goal was to bring healing, but first his cold and darkened heart of unbelief had to be cut to pieces…for this was Judas’ one last opportunity to repent.
Call it “tough love.” When you hear those kind of words from Jesus through studying the Scriptures, singing a hymn or secretly remembering a truth of God, and when they hurt, let the tough love of Jesus do what it is designed to do. Let it cut! Let it sting. Let it destroy your sinful desires, tearing them to shreds through repentance. Even in the darkest hours when Satan and sin and unfaithfulness seem to triumph, Christ is still the Son of God, and cares so very deeply for you, questioning you with the seriousness of someone who loves you more than life itself. This is why he allowed the violent hands of men to seize Him and carry Him away as a criminal. He accepted the kiss of a supposed friend betraying Him into death. He even allowed the darkness to have its hour, and to inflict its worst upon Him. He did this all to rescue you! Yes, this is the love of Christ for you.
When you find yourself in sin—whether it’s an obvious moral failure you can’t hope to hide, or a subtle pattern of pride that you don’t want to admit—learn from Judas. Do not turn a deaf ear and an unfeeling heart to Jesus’ voice! Answer the question of your loving Lord with a crushed heart, one that wants to be rescued, longs for mercy, and desires to receive healing! For this is what your Savior lives, dies, and rises again to give to you! Amen.