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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Skip Heitzig » Skip Heitzig - Jesus Loves Traitors

Skip Heitzig - Jesus Loves Traitors

Skip Heitzig - Jesus Loves Traitors
Skip Heitzig - Jesus Loves Traitors
TOPICS: Jesus Loves People, Palm Sunday, Betrayal

Would you turn in your Bibles, please, this morning to Matthews gospel; Matthew, chapter 26. We're going to look at several verses of Scripture and then we're going to participate in this event of the cross; Matthew, chapter 26. Years ago a speaker and author by the name of Dale Carnegie, who had written and said many great things, said this: "Two men looked out of prison bars; one saw the mud, the other saw stars." It's a great little saying, because think about it, you've got two men in exactly the same place sharing exactly the same experience at the same time, but two of them have a different outcome, because they have a different outlook. One is looking down at the mud; one is looking up at the stars. "Two men looked out of prison bars; one saw the mud, the other saw stars."

Well, let me introduce you to two other men. Both of them are well known. Both of them were followers of Jesus Christ. Both of these men were apostles of our Lord. Both of them were handpicked by Jesus to be on his team. And both of these men shared a close proximity with Jesus for between three to three and a half years, which means both of them saw with their own eyes all the stuff Jesus did in great power. They saw the power Jesus had over disease, the power he had over demons, the power he had over death, the power he had over nature. They both saw that. Furthermore, both of these men heard some of the most profound truth ever spoken. Both of them heard Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Both of them heard Jesus' Olivet Discourse and the Upper Room Discourse.

Both of them heard the answers Jesus gave to difficult questions that people posed to him. And beyond that, both of these men experienced what it was like to have power themselves. Jesus gave to them power to cast out demons and to heal diseases, both of them. Both of these men became preachers. Both of them went out after Jesus sent them out to proclaim that Christ was the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the Son of God. And both of these men were traitors. Both of them betrayed Jesus Christ openly, strongly. And when they betrayed Jesus, they both knew that what they were doing was wrong. They both had strong, remorseful, emotional feelings. In fact, one was so remorseful that he took his own life; the other was so remorseful that he repented of his sins.

Now, in spite of the fact that both of these men were traitors, both of them for a time were in league with Satan against the cause of Christ. In spite of that fact, one of these men's names is still so noble and so honorable that some of you are named after him, or some of you have named your son after him. Churches have been named after him for the last 2,000 years. Not that his name is anything special. "Peter" just means a rock, a stone. It's like Rocky. No great spiritual meaning there. "I'm going to call him Rocky." But the other traitor, his name is so dishonorable that you have never met a man named Judas. I've never dedicated a baby named Judas. You've never met a dog named Judas, even though his name is a spiritual name. "Judas" means praise. It's an honorable name, but it was given to a very dishonorable man.

Furthermore, these two apostles in every single list in the New Testament where the apostles are named, Peter is always named first, Judas is always named last. One of these traitors every true believer will meet one day in heaven; the other traitor every unbeliever will meet in hell. So allow me to revise what Dale Carnegie said. He said, "Two men looked out of prison bars; one saw the mud, the other saw stars." I'll revise it to this: Two men walked with Jesus Christ; one saw death, the other saw life. And Jesus even spoke of this reality, did he not? He said, "People are going to come to me in that day and say, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast demons out in your name, and do wonderful works in your name?' And I will say to them, 'Depart from me, I never knew you, you workers of iniquity!'"

Question is: Why? What makes the difference between the traitor Judas and the traitor Peter? What was the big difference between them? And, furthermore, what did Jesus do with these guys? How did he handle them? So we want to look at these two in Matthew, chapter 26. First of all, we'll begin with Judas, the traitor who didn't live up to his name. I want you to begin with me in verse 6. "When Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when his disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, 'Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.' But when Jesus was aware of it, he said to them, 'Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for me. For you have the poor with you always, but me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil on my body, she did it for my burial.'"

Okay, so Matthew tells us that the disciples piped up and complained. John's gospel tells us who started it. John tells us it was Judas among the disciples who said, "Why this waste?" It was Judas. And then John actually adds a comment. He said, "It wasn't because Judas cared for the poor, because he was a thief," John said. And he was the treasurer. "He kept the money box, and he used to take out what was in it." That's why. But listen to his words: "Why this waste?" It sounds so noble, doesn't it? It sounds so spiritual.

"You know I'm just trying to save you guys money around here. I don't like what you're spending it on." That's Judas. Francis Bacon said, "A bad man is worse when he pretends to be a saint." Sort of like Jesse James. You know him because he was a notorious murderer and a thief. But did you know that Jesse James loved church? He loved going to church. His own words he said he loved church. One day he robbed a bank and killed a man; the next day he was baptized in the Kearny County Baptist Church. And Jesse James joined the choir. I don't know if he was any good, but he was in the choir. And he used to say, "You know, I love Sundays, but I can't always make it to church." Of course, he was robbing banks. You know, you gotta do what you gotta do. Pure hypocrisy. Same with Judas.

And his hypocrisy was made worse by his treachery. If you go down a few verses to verse 14, it says, "Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, 'What are you willing to give me if I deliver him to you?' And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray him." Did you know that thirty pieces of silver, according to Exodus 21, is the price of a slave? Price of a slave who has been gored by an ox, thirty pieces of silver. What was Jesus worth to Judas? A slave's wage. That's very insightful to me. Shows me that Judas really wasn't wanting to serve Jesus; he was wanting Jesus to serve him, to fulfill his needs, his wants, his expectations, the price of the slave.

Now, some people have conjectured that Judas was really trying to force Jesus into acting. That's why he betrayed him. The theory goes like this: Judas expected Jesus to be the political messiah, to overturn the Roman government. And so he got Jesus arrested, so Jesus would have to act. I don't quite buy that theory. What I tend to see the reason he betrayed Jesus is because Judas hated the cross. He despised the cross. And that night after he complained about the woman wasting God's money, once Jesus said, "She did it for my burial", he had been predicting his death all along. When Jesus announced that, it's like, "Ah, it is true then, all that he's been saying all along. He isn't going to overturn Rome. He isn't going to set up his kingdom immediately. He's going to die."

And he went out and he betrayed Jesus. Judas despised the cross. Now, let's go down to the Passover meal, the Last Supper. Beginning in verse 19, look at the proximity of Judas to Jesus. "So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and they prepared the Passover. When evening had come, he sat down with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said", now this sort of comes out from nowhere, out of the blue in the middle of the supper, "'Assuredly I say to you, one of you will betray me.'" I don't know what the meal was like up till that point, but Passover meal was generally a very fond, familial, endearing, relaxing, wonderful, untense kind of a meal. All of that ended now. Jesus announced, "One of you is going to betray me." This sends shock waves through all of the disciples.

They become very introspective. It says, "They were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to him, 'Lord, is it I?' He answered and said, 'He who dipped his hand with me in the dish will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it was written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he would have not been born.' Then Judas, who was betraying him, answered and said, 'Rabbi, is it I?' And he said to him, 'You said it.'" You know, if I were to stand up here and make an announcement that one of you will betray Jesus, I think I could make that announcement. I think I'd be safe in with a crowd this size making a prediction that that will happen. I've lived long enough to watch people who say they follow Christ.

I think in a crowd this size for me to say, "One of you before you die, you're going to turn away from Jesus," I think I'd be safe to say that. And probably you'd go, "Oh, I-I-I can see that." But in that room with these twelve men, these handpicked disciple-apostles of Jesus? They were all shocked, which goes to show you, no one in that group suspected Judas. "Is it I?" "Is it I?" "Is it I?" Finally, Judas said, "It is I?" "You said it." Now, at this point Judas gets up and leaves the room and goes out to do the deed to betray Jesus. Question: Where in that meal at that table was Judas sitting? Well, we don't exactly know, but I'm going to make a suggestion to you. I know that we love Leonardo da Vinci's picture of the Last Supper. And he's been a wonderful inventor and artist.

But he has done us a great disservice by that picture, because now in your minds you all picture how the Last Supper was. That they were actually sitting in chairs, and they were all in one side of the table facing the camera or the painter, right, like a pose? But that's not how meals were conducted 2,000 years ago. They didn't sit in chairs like you are sitting in chairs now. They were on the ground. They were reclining. And the table was a low table, a U-shaped table known as a triclinium. And at that table people would lean on their left elbow and have their right arm free. There'd be a pillow under their elbow. So, they were all leaning, reclining. We know where John the apostle was. He was right next to Jesus. In fact, he was at Jesus' right side.

Because it says in John that John was leaning on Jesus' breast, on his bosom, which means he was leaning left and Jesus was to his left. John was to Jesus' right to get that head toward the chest of Jesus. Question is: Where was Judas? And in John, chapter 13, Jesus says, "The one that I give the bread once I have dipped it is the one who will betray me." And it says he dipped it and he gave it to Judas. Judas had to be close enough in this huge U-shaped triclinium, and I suggest it was right to Jesus' left side. He dipped it, couldn't give it to John, gave it to Judas. Judas would have taken it and passed it to the rest.

Now, here's what's interesting about that: the right hand and the left hand at a meal like that were only given by the invitation of the host, which meant that before the meal Jesus probably walked up to John: "John, I want you sitting right here." And he walked up to Judas and he said, "Judas, friend, I want you seated right next to me on my left," knowing that he was being betrayed by this man. It's as if he takes this traitor and reaches out to him one final time in love. "Sit here, place of honor among this table." I don't know if I'd have done that. I know Donald Trump wouldn't have done that. Donald Trump would have said, "Judas Iscariot, you're fired!" Jesus said, "Judas Iscariot, sit here, sit here." So that was the traitor who didn't live up to his name.

Now, go down with me to verse 30 and let's look at the traitor whose name is still loved; and that is, Peter. Peter was a confident fellow. We see in verse 30, "When they sung a hymn they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, 'All of you will be made to stumble because of me this night, for it is written: "I will strike the Shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered." But after have I been raised, I will go before you into Galilee.' Peter answered and said to him, 'Even if all are made to stumble because of you, I will never be made to stumble.'" Now we know Peter is pretty confident, right? We remember the night or the day when they were far up north and Jesus asked the question, "Who do men say that I am?" followed up by the question, "Who do you say that I am?"

Peter was the only one of the twelve that got the answer right. He said, "You are the Christ, you are the Son of the living God." And we remember what Jesus said back to Peter. He didn't say, "Yeah, that's right." He said, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, flesh and blood didn't reveal this to you, my Father in heaven revealed this to you." How would that make you feel? If I were Peter, I would have gone, "Yeaahh, did you hear that, other eleven disciples? He didn't say you were blessed, he said I am blessed." He took a confident man and made him more confident. A little too confident, because as the conversation goes on our Lord tells his disciples, "I'm going to Jerusalem. I'm going to be arrested. They're going to kill me."

And Peter says, "Far be it from you, Lord, this will never happen to you." Remember that? I'm sure Peter expected Jesus to say a second time, "Ah, blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, you did it again." But he didn't say that, did he? He said, "Get behind me, Satan!" Now, here's Peter saying, "If everybody stumbles, or is made to stumble or offend, I will never be made to stumble." In the Greek it's more emphatic than it reads in the English; it's "I myself will not, not now, not ever, betray you." "Jesus said to him, 'Assuredly I say to you this night, this night, before rooster crows'", that is, before morning, "'you're going to deny me three times.' Peter said to him, 'Even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you!' And so said all of the disciples." Well, let's keep reading. Let's go down to verse 69.

Let's see the great catastrophe for Peter that night. By this time Jesus has been arrested. He's at trial. He goes through six trials in twenty-four hours. Verse 69, "Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, 'You also were with Jesus of Galilee.'" There's a fire outside. There's enough light cast by the illumination of the fire to see the features of Peter's face and she recognizes him. "But he denied it before them, saying, 'I do not know what you are saying.'" That's strike one. "When he had gone out to the gateway", so Peter gets up at this point, gets away from the light, but somebody recognizes him still by the gateway. "Another girl saw him and said to those who were there, 'This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.' But again he denied with on oath", it's a solemn oath.

He's bringing God into it. It's like saying, "I swear to God", "with an oath, 'I do not know this man!'" That's strike two. "And a little later those who stood by came up to him and said, 'Surely you are one of them, for your speech betrays you.'" That's a nicer way of saying, "We can tell by your unsophisticated, provincial, hick accent that you are Galilean, you are not from Jerusalem. I can tell by how you're talking that you're Galilean." "And then he began to curse and swear." This is Peter. This is Saint Peter. "Began to curse and swear saying, 'I do not know the man!' Immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, 'Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.' And so he went out and he wept bitterly."

Now, what happened to these to traitors, Judas and Peter? Chapter 27, verse 5, tells us Judas was so beaten up, so remorseful, so emotional that he "hanged himself." What happened to Peter? Well, it says that he was weeping bitterly, but he shows up later as a leader in the church. We know that Jesus restored Peter, said, "Peter do you love me? Feed my sheep," and restored him back to being a follower as well as to being a leader. But both of them were traitors. Peter didn't do it for money like Judas did, but Peter threw Jesus under the bus three times. In effect he was saying, "This is not the Christ, the Son of the living God." Let me tell you what I think is Peter's conversion. This is what changed it all.

Without turning to it, let me just give you a reference. You can look up later. Luke, chapter 22, tells the same story. Luke chapter 22 verse 61 tells us after Peter denies Jesus three times, it says then "The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And then Peter remembered the word of the Lord that said to him, 'Before the rooster crows, you will have denied me three times.'" When their eyes met, in that look of Jesus, which I cannot believe was a sneer, like, "You dirty rat! You rascal, you ratted me out?" I think it was just a look of tender love. It brought such crushing conviction to Peter that in his remorse he repented. Just that look is all it took. Now, Judas and Jesus also looked at each other that night in the garden of Gethsemane.

When the Roman soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Judas led them there, and walked up to Jesus and gave him a greeting. Their eyes met. And then Judas betrayed him with a treacherous, hypocritical kiss. But though they made contact, there was no remorse. There was no repentance in Judas' heart like there was in Peter's heart. And let me submit to you what I think is the difference. It's this, it's the cross. Judas despised the cross. He wasn't expecting the cross. He hated the cross. He despised that. And when he knew that Jesus was really going to die, when it dawned on him, it says, "Satan entered him." The Bible says that. And he betrayed Jesus. Peter didn't expect the cross either, but Peter came to realize that the best thing for him is to let the cross stand between his sin and his Savior, and he did.

Peter writes later on, First Peter chapter 2, "He himself bore our sins on the tree... for by his stripes we are healed." That's what Peter wrote. One despised it; one received it. One's remorse led him to take his life; the other's remorse led him to receive life from the life-giving Savior. Jesus reached out to Judas by saying, "Sit here next to me"; he reached out to Peter with that look of love that brought a conversion to his heart. Judas was a traitor; Peter was a traitor. I'm a traitor. I see as I read the narrative of both Judas and Peter, I see a lot of myself in both those guys. The big difference is I want that cross between my sin and my Savior. I want that to be the bridge. It's the only bridge. In the Revolutionary War there was a pretty famous preacher. Now, you have to, you're going way back. His name was Peter Miller.

Peter Miller had an enemy who hated him because of his Christian life and his Christian stance. This enemy eventually got arrested for treason, tried, and he was going to be hanged. Peter Miller walked sixty miles, walked sixty miles and said to George Washington, "Please, release this man." And Washington said, "I'm sorry, looking at his record, I can't release your friend based on what he has done." And Peter Miller the preacher said, "Oh, no, no, no. He's not my friend at all. He's my greatest living enemy." Washington said, "You mean you walked sixty miles to see your enemy released?" And he said, "All right then, I'll release him." With papers in hand, release papers in hand, Peter Miller went to the place where his enemy was being executed on the scaffolding. He was about to be hung.

His enemy saw him there and said, "Ah, Peter Miller my old enemy, come to take revenge and watch me hang." Imagine his surprise as he stepped forward and handed the executioner the paper that set him free. Your sin, my sin, taken by our Savior taking the punishment on the cross, so that we could be free. Here's how we're going to end the service. I'm going to pray, communion board's going to come up, worship team's going to come out. You have a piece of paper around you somewhere. It was on the seat as you came in, a single sheet of paper and a pencil. Write on that piece of paper some sin you've been struggling with. We don't want to go too low with the lights; they need to see to read and write. But write that down and write down something you're struggling with that you want to ask forgiveness for.

And you can cover it up as you write. You don't want anybody to see it. Some of you are thinking, "I only get one sheet of paper? I need a pad." Now just-just sort of isolate it, one or two things you want God to really take away and deal with and ask forgiveness for. And you fold it up so nobody can see it. We're going to pass envelopes out. And you're going to put it in that envelope and we're going to nail it to that cross. Like the song says, "My sin, not in part but the whole, was nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul!" We sang it moments ago.

Father, we want to thank you for something we could never do on our own. It would take an eternity for us to pay for our transgressions, our iniquities, our sin. But that was done for us. It's a completed task. It was done by one person 2,000 years ago in one place, never to be repeated again. We, by faith, look to Jesus, look to the cross as Jesus looks to us with tender forgiveness. And we place our sins where they belong and where they were dealt with, on that cross. Thank you for redemption, in Jesus' name, amen.

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