“His Hurt for Our Healing – Hurt by Betrayal”

(Matthew 26:47-50 – Midweek Lent 1 – March 6, 2019)

Matthew 26:47-50 – And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him.

Dear Redeemed in the name of Jesus Christ, who was hurt for our healing:

I once read a book called Peace Child, by Don Richardson, who went as a missionary to the Sawi tribes of New Guinea in the 1960s-70s. The Sawi tribes were headhunters who practiced cannibalism. For a long time, they had practiced a horrible tradition. A warrior from one tribe would persuade a man from an enemy tribe to be his friend. The first man would fatten the other with friendship, with much kindness gaining his full trust. Until at last, in an act of great betrayal, he would invite his unsuspecting friend over to a supper feast among his own tribe. Guess what was for supper? It soon became horribly clear as the enemy surrounded their victim, mercilessly inflicting death on him and eating him. Then, two tribes that had been at peace were at war again. And this treachery would go back and forth. In fact, the more completely a man could fool his friend into becoming the feast, the more legendary were the stories told of him around the campfire. When missionary Richardson first related the account of Judas betraying Jesus, the Sawi laughed and celebrated Judas, not as the evil villain, but the greatest hero. Imagine the great hurt that must have been caused, again and again, by such betrayal. Later, we will hear how the Gospel missionary Richardson shared with the Sawi replaced the hurt caused by sin with the healing brought by God’s Peace Child.

Today, we begin a Lenten series entitled: “His Hurt for Our Healing.” Through the scenes of the passion history, we will consider the greatest hurt Jesus suffered for our sins to bring us God’s healing salvation and eternal life. Today, we see how Jesus was “Hurt by Betrayal.”

Earlier, in our passion history reading, the betrayer was identified. The chief priests and other leaders of the Jews had been plotting to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill Him (Matthew 26:3-4). They found a welcome ally in Judas. As a disciple of Jesus, Judas had by now lost all joy in following the Lord. Jesus’ teaching and ministry disappointed Judas, whose mind was on the things of this world. His chief motive in the act of following Jesus was mercenary. As holder of the money box that was to support the work of Jesus and the disciples, we are told that Judas would help himself to its contents (John 12:6). In his increasing lust for the riches and gain this world has to offer, Judas at last acted upon his true loyalties as he went to the chief priests and asked them: “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” They paid Judas thirty pieces of silver, and from that time he looked for an opportunity to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16). By continuing in a state of unrepented sin, Judas gave himself over to Satan’s temptation and service. Until at last, the night Jesus and His disciples were celebrating the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the upper room, Satan entered Judas. He went his own way to plot with the leaders how he would hand Jesus over to them (Luke 22:3-4).

Of course, Jesus knew everything that Judas was up to as His betrayer. At the Last Supper, Jesus forewarned His disciples about His betrayal. He even cited Psalm 41:9, which had long foretold it, when He said: But that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me'” (John 13:18). Jesus had then identified His betrayer saying: “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it” (John 13:26). When Judas acted surprised and asked: “Rabbi, is it I?” Jesus replied: “You have said it” (Matthew 26:25).

Yet, the rest of the disciples had no idea of their friend’s treachery. In fact, when Judas went out into the night, the other disciples thought Jesus had told him to buy things they needed for the feast, or to give money to the poor (John 13:29). Therefore, imagine their shock later in the Garden of Gethsemane, when the events of our text played out. Here came Judas, leading a mob with swords and clubs, come straight from the chief priests and elders of the people. This close friend of Jesus walked up and betrayed Him with a kiss, turning Him over to His enemies!

When Judas walked up and said: “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him, that hurt. Just because Jesus knew all that was to happen did not make it any easier. As the Son of Man, Jesus experienced human feelings as we do – hunger, thirst, tiredness, sadness. As A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3), He experienced deepest hurt when His friend betrayed Him. But it had to be so. For He who had come to bring healing to a world so deeply hurt by sin, had to feel deepest hurt Himself. Isaiah 53:4 says: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” One of those griefs and sorrows was the hurt caused by betrayal.

How often has this fallen world felt the hurt of betrayal? From the moment Adam and Eve fell into sin, they betrayed each other’s trust by pointing the finger of blame at each other. Soon, a son born in their sinful image betrayed his brother. Cain failed to rule over the sin that lay at his door; until in his impenitent state, Satan entered his hardened heart. While acting on friendly terms to Abel, Cain killed his brother in the midst of an act of worship (Genesis 3:12; 4:6-8).

When has treachery ever stopped? Our world is plagued by betrayal. How many unborn infants have been betrayed? They are conceived in the womb, embraced in the promise of a mother’s love; but that loving trust is betrayed by the treacherous act of abortion. How many spouses have been betrayed? Husband and wife vow their faithfulness; but that loving trust is betrayed by unfaithfulness, desertion, and adultery. How many times has political trust been betrayed? Seemingly loyal subjects hand over their leaders for personal gain. How many times has international trust been betrayed? Peace treaties are broken and nations are at war again.

Have you been hurt by betrayal? Has someone gained your full trust, pulling on your heartstrings with their overtures of friendship, love and loyalty; only to turn on you and hurt you deeper than anyone else could? The closer a person is to our heart, the worse they hurt they can inflict on us.

But now we must ask: as sinful children in the image of Adam, have we hurt someone by betrayal? Have we acted as a friend, gaining their fullest confidence, listening to their deepest secrets; only to have betrayed their trust when our relationship changed? Perhaps we were not there for them after all, when they counted on us. We betrayed that trusting spouse, child, or friend by going our own selfish way; we sought some personal gain at the expense of their hurt. Or perhaps as love grew cold, we betrayed trust by sharing their secrets with others in gossip and slander; we sought to gain new allies by handing them over to their enemies.

Are there even ways we have betrayed Jesus? Are there times when we, who have acted as His close friends, have turned Him over for selfish gain? Like Judas, have we cared more about worldly gain and alliances than loyalty to the Lord?

When you and I are hurt by another, our response is often to hurt back. As the saying goes: “Hurting people hurt people.” When we feel hurt, it is easy for us to justify the ways we pass on the hurt – whether back to the perpetrator or to others. We want to lay an endless guilt trip on the offender, refusing to forgive him. We want to make him feel the pain he caused us, whether it is dragging his name in the mud by evil talk and slander, or by injuring eye for eye, tooth for tooth. And sometimes even those friendly faces in our lives must feel the pain, day after day, as we lay the burden of hurt we carry on them. They are forced to cope with our unresolved anger, bitterness, and unforgiving attitudes. They must listen to our shocking words and destructive behavior. Until they too are hurt and are in need healing.

How long must the sin and hurt in our world and in our lives keep growing? Only until it is healed in Jesus’ wounds. Judas’ betrayal hurt Jesus deeply. But as the sinless God in our flesh, He had no inclination whatsoever to hurt back. He had only come to heal. He who said, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44), lived His Word. When Judas walked up and kissed Him, the first word out of Jesus’ mouth was: “Friend.” Judas, My beloved friend, what are you doing? Even now, Jesus forgave His enemy, while His enemy was in the act of hurting Him. Even now, Jesus was calling this sinful child of Adam to repentance, not wanting even his soul to be lost.

I wonder, what hurt did Jesus feel later, when Judas thought there could be no forgiveness for his horrible sin? In a rush of remorse and despair, he threw those accursed coins back at the leaders and went out and hanged himself on a tree. And Judas went to hell. That too must have hurt the Savior, because that horrible lie of Satan is not true: no sin is too great to be forgiven.

Jesus had come to die for the sins of the whole world; He had come to die for Judas’ sin, too. Jesus had come to die for the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). And Jesus came to die for you and me, no matter how horribly we have sinned, no matter how great the hurt we have caused. Jesus took all our sins to the cross, including our most shameful acts of betrayal. God’s Word leaves no doubt. We can kneel before the cross of His Son and lay our worst sins, all our sin, on Him. We can lay all our hurt on Him, too. Because “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

In Jesus’ hurt we find true healing and peace. God says: “I forgive all your sins. I have reconciled you to Myself. I am holding nothing against you.” The guarantee is in the innocent blood of His Son shed on the cross for us, which will never betray us. That blood of mankind’s truest Friend and Savior will always be there to wash away our sin and give us peace with God.

In that book, Peace Child, missionary Richardson wondered how he could ever convey the Gospel to the Sawi tribes. How could people so horribly steeped in sin – who exalted Judas-like betrayal of each other’s confidence, which in turn continuously perpetuated war with each other – how could they know God’s healing forgiveness and peace?

At last, he found a way to communicate the Gospel. The Sawi had a strange way of making peace. One day, Richardson watched as a man took his baby, his only child, from his hut and walked toward the enemy tribe. In an act that must have pierced his heart and the heart of the baby’s mother with unfathomed hurt, the man handed over his child to the enemy. Then, from the enemy camp a man brought his baby and gave it to the first. Each tribe gave what they called a “peace child,” adopting the other’s. They made that child their own and treated it well; for their man-made peace could last only as long as each peace child lived.

What an infinitely better message of peace missionary Richardson could share in the Gospel. He told the Sawi how, while we were yet enemies of God in our sin, He gave His only Son whom He loved. God sent His Son as the Peace Child, even though He knew He would be hurt by betrayal, mistreated, and crucified. But it was all part of God’s plan to bring us His peace. For through the blood of His Son shed on the cross, God provided atonement, making peace with sinners. And because this perfect Peace Child not only died but lives forever, He provides true and lasting peace. When the Holy Spirit brought the Sawi tribes to make God’s Peace Child their own by faith, at last peace reigned in their hearts – not only with God, but with each other.

Dear children of God, by His grace in Christ Jesus: Let us give all thanks and praise to our loving Savior, who suffered deepest hurt for our eternal healing. He was willing to be hurt by betrayal, as part of winning our healing forgiveness with God. That same blood of God’s Peace Child is powerful to bring healing forgiveness between people who have been hurt by betrayal. It is powerful to put to death the enmity, and make alive in God’s peace.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.