Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Lent Midweek 1

Lent Midweek 1[1]
March 4, 2009

Text: Matt. 26:20-25 (ESV): 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.”

If things had been different, if instead of despairing and taking his own life Judas had repented of his betrayal of our Lord and turned to Jesus for forgiveness, could even Judas Iscariot have been saved? You’d better believe it. You’d better believe it, because as hard as it is to hear, Judas’ story is your story… at least the betrayal. “Is it I, Lord?” you ask (Matt. 26:22). Yes. You are the man. You are the woman. For every sin is a betrayal of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a betrayal of our Lord unto death. Just like Judas, your betrayal nailed Jesus Christ to the cross. Jesus died for every falsehood proceeding from your lips, every lustful glance of the eye, every quickening heartbeat of exaltation in the misfortune of your neighbor, every evil thought, bitter word, wicked deed, and every failure to do what your gracious God commands. That is to say that you called for His crucifixion just as surely as did the Jewish crowds. You nailed Him to the cross just as surely as did the Roman soldiers. The wound of betrayal is inflicted upon our Lord not only by Judas, but you and me.

There is little that stings like the wound of betrayal, especially betrayal on the part of someone close to you, a friend or a loved one. Betrayal can be the most difficult sin to forgive, and the guilt of betrayal the most overwhelming. To call someone a Judas, a Benedict Arnold, a traitor, is perhaps the most severe insult. Betrayal of country, high treason, is punishable by death. Betrayal of friendship usually spells the end of the friendship. Betrayal among family members can lead to the breakup of the family, the shunning of the betrayer, and maybe even the betrayed. And all this is because betrayal destroys a relationship at its core. It obliterates any possibility of trust. It is the very opposite of love. It aims at the downfall of one who considered the betrayer a friend. “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me,” says Jesus (v. 23). “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heal against me,” lamented King David, foreshadowing Judas’ betrayal of Jesus (Ps. 41:9). Betrayal breaks Judas’ relationship with Jesus. “What you are going to do, do quickly,” (John 13:27). For thirty pieces of silver, Judas betrays His Lord and Savior into the hands of those who want to kill Him. It is true, Judas later realizes he has betrayed innocent blood and throws the 30 pieces of silver back into the temple, but don’t mistake this for repentance. Judas despairs of any possibility of forgiveness and takes his own life, hanging himself in the potter’s field and consigning himself to hell. “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” (Matt. 26:24). This is not a statement of hatred, but of love. Our Lord so loved Judas that it broke His heart when Judas went to hell. It would have been better for Judas never to have been born than to suffer eternally where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. The love of Jesus Christ for those who betray Him is so strong, pure, and true, that it leads Him all the way to the cross, for Judas, for you, for me.

And dear brothers and sisters, this is our comfort and our sure hope. Like Judas, we have betrayed our Lord in our sinfulness. But do not despair, as Judas did. Jesus goes to the cross for you. His suffering, His death is for you. It is for your forgiveness. In the dramatic twist of the ages, the betrayal of Jesus Christ to death on the cross accomplishes the salvation of those who betray Him. The blood of Jesus Christ was shed for the forgiveness and salvation even of Judas! The tragedy is that Judas rejected that forgiveness, rejected the love of his Savior. Because of Jesus’ holy, precious blood, because of His innocent suffering and death, He whom you betrayed has forgiven you. In a supreme act of love, He has saved you from yourself, from your sin, from death, from hell. His wounds heal you. Your relationship to God and to His Son has been restored. On the cross, Jesus has made friends out of His betrayers. What love! What grace! All for you.

This evening our crucified and risen Lord Jesus invites His forgiven betrayers back to the Table to break bread with Him, the bread that is His body, and drink of the cup of His blood. The meal He established on the night He was betrayed is for His betrayers, for their forgiveness, renewal, and strengthening. Dear brothers and sisters, come again to the Table of your Savior this evening. Hold no malice in your hearts. Forgive those who have betrayed you. Forgive them, for Christ has forgiven you, and nothing they have done against you can compare with what you have done against Christ. Nor does the death to self that your forgiving requires compare with the death to self that Jesus had to undergo for you. Jesus sets you free from the guilt of your betrayal. So also you set those free who have betrayed you. Come to the Table of your Lord this evening in repentance, freed from anger and bitterness, freed from fear of God’s wrath. Christ’s body is given for you, His blood is shed for you, for the forgiveness of all of your sins. “Is it I, Lord?” You have said so. You have betrayed Jesus unto death. But the Lord also has taken away your sin. His death is for your forgiveness. And the fruits of His cross are here on the altar for your healing and restoration. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] This year’s Lenten series is based on the book, Sacred Head, Now Wounded (St. Louis: Concordia, 2009). The sermon is my own, but the theme and many of the ideas in this sermon come from the book.

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