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Devotion and Betrayal

Matthew 26:1-16

Lesson audio

One of the virtues of going directly through the Scriptures is that you find passages which somehow never find themselves the subject of a sermon. This is such a passage; as we shall see, it is not devoid of its lessons.


Mat 26:1-5 NASB When Jesus had finished all these words, He said to His disciples, (2) "You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion." (3) Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; (4) and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him. (5) But they were saying, "Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people."


It is helpful to remember that this passage follows after Christ’s discourses on the subject of His return. You will recall them:

  • The parable of the wise and foolish virgins – teaching us that when the Son of Man returns, it’s too late to start doing good deeds.
  • The parable of the talents, which teaches us that we are to use what we have and not compare ourselves with others.
  • The parable of the sheep and the goats, which teaches us that Christ will separate us based upon a faith which is shown by its good works.
The Passover connection

It seems strange, then, that the conversation would then turn to the suffering and death of the Christ. It is a “string of pearls” moment, and Christ leaves it to us to fill in the connection. Can we? Certainly, for it was by obedience in suffering that Christ was made perfect for the task of being the Lamb of God. The road to His glorious return runs right through the middle of Calvary.

Christ knew this. He knew exactly what would happen – and He went to Calvary all the same.

  • He knew when it would happen, for He is our Passover lamb.
  • He knew what would happen – He speaks of it as His Crucifixion, not death.
  • He knew where He would die – Jerusalem, Jerusalem.
  • He knew who would do the deed – both the betrayer and those who would crucify Him.
  • He knew why – for this was the plan from the beginning, and He was there for the beginning.

As He clearly shows us here, He expects the disciples should by this time know it also. They know it; they just don’t want to believe it.

The Chief Priests

Somewhere in time the office of High Priest changed from being a lifetime job to one which was rotated annually. This is distinctly not Scriptural; the single High Priest foreshadows the single sacrifice of Christ. To these men, however, its use is much simpler: they need the blessing of recognized authority to seize this man and do away with Him.

How God arranges His providences! These men have the authority, but they fear the crowd – whom they look down on, but also fear – which drives them to perform the deed in precisely God’s timing.

Some, especially those who believe in predestination, feel that this cannot be held against them. But hear the words of our Lord:

Mat 18:7 NASB "Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!

An Act of Devotion

Mat 26:6-13 NASB Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, (7) 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. (8) But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, "Why this waste? (9) "For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor." (10) But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me. (11) "For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. (12) "For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. (13) "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."

(As a side note, there is considerable dispute as to when this happened; whether Mary is a prostitute and just whose house this is. I take the incident as described. The dispute is irrelevant to the points being made).

Sacrificial Worship

A few weeks ago our High School youth minister was privileged to preach to the entire congregation. His sermon disturbed many of the older members, who felt they were accused of lacking the desire to change for the sake of the kingdom. They felt he went too far. I told him he didn’t go far enough; he asked us to change, but not to sacrifice.

Something of the same reaction occurs here as well. Mary is worshiping Christ – sacrificially. Of this we may note:

  • First and foremost, that He is worthy of this sacrifice. We love Him who first loved us – so much that He died for us.
  • The others about were shocked by Mary’s behavior. John tells us that she let her hair down – a sign of complete abandonment of dignity and decorum.
  • But here we see pure faith in action: nothing matters but her love for Him.[1]
Devotional Giving

This is an act of devotion on Mary’s part. See that it has a certain style that tells us of her complete, abandoned love for Christ:

  • From the world’s point of view, it is a waste. Look at all the money that cost! And for what? Worship! Worship is much too important to be done extravagantly, right?
  • From the giver’s point of view, it’s extremely expensive. It hurts; it is not giving out of the excess but out of the heart. The widow could have kept one of those mites. This hurt.
  • It has a certain style. It is elegant; it is timely. It is the best she had. Her insight into Christ told her “all of it, as if anointing the body for burial – now.” She was listening when He told of His crucifixion.

One of the surest signs of devotional giving is the reaction it provokes. Consider the “Taj Mahoney,” the new cathedral in downtown Los Angeles. It is, by all accounts, a magnificent one. It is also heavily criticized. But listen to that criticism:

  • You’ll find that most of the criticism is judging others. It’s personal; Mahoney is building himself a palace with the money of the faithful; he should have spent it on the poor; he should have – and he’s obviously a callous, unconcerned person since he didn’t.
  • Consider, too, that the motive for attacking this devotion is often a defense of a lack of devotion in the attacker. We want to let sleeping worms lie – not to stir our consciences to make sacrifices for God.
  • Often, such thoughts are expressed in anger – the anger that comes when my way isn’t The Way.

Act of Betrayal

Mat 26:14-16 NASB Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests (15) and said, "What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?" And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. (16) From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus.

One of the difficulties of teaching the Scripture is that there are so many who believe that man is intrinsically good – all you need to do is treat people well and all will be happy. They come to something like this and the question comes up: how could so black a heart be so near to Jesus, the Christ?

Let me introduce you to Satan, the enemy of the human race. How could one who was so near to God turn out to be so evil?

Isa 14:12-14 NASB "How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! (13) "But you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. (14) 'I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'

(“star of the morning” is often translated “Lucifer.”) His sin is pride; this despite his high standing:

Eze 28:13-17 NASB "You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The ruby, the topaz and the diamond; The beryl, the onyx and the jasper; The lapis lazuli, the turquoise and the emerald; And the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets, Was in you. On the day that you were created They were prepared. (14) "You were the anointed cherub who covers, And I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked in the midst of the stones of fire. (15) "You were blameless in your ways From the day you were created Until unrighteousness was found in you. (16) "By the abundance of your trade You were internally filled with violence, And you sinned; Therefore I have cast you as profane From the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the stones of fire. (17) "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, That they may see you.

At a later point the Scripture says that Satan entered into Judas; perhaps this seemed the only way he could have betrayed his Lord. Pride is Satan’s own sin; Judas might have seen it as a virtue:

  • How often we have the fact that we, in our pride, tell God what to do! Is it possible that Judas had an idea of what the Messiah should be doing?
  • Or is it just that he could not bear the shame of being discovered a thief?
Why didn’t Jesus stop him?
  • First, remember Christ’s mission – to die for our sins. It’s what He came for; Judas is simply a necessary part.
  • He is the one who is merciful, not vengeful.
  • He offered, at the very last, the chance to repent. Even in the garden He calls Judas, “friend.”
Ultimate Differences

May I give you three ultimate differences between Mary and Judas?

  • Mary had a pure love for Jesus; Judas had first a love for himself.
  • Mary gave a full commitment; Judas was content with partial measures.
  • Judas showed us measured, reasonable devotion – and Mary showed us complete abandon to God.

Perhaps these three things might serve as a point of examination for each of us today.

[1] Indeed, the word used for “pure” here is also the root word in the Greek for “faith.”

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