One of You Will Betray Me
“Now as they were eating He said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.’” (Matthew 26:21)
Our sins represent a violation of trust. God has never dealt with men according to our sins. He has given us every reason to trust that He wants what is best for us through the many good things He has done for us.
And, yet, each one of us has betrayed God’s trust. How do bad things happen in the world? Are there forces so strong that God cannot stop them? Are there opponents of good who are so intelligent that God just cannot perceive what they are doing? No. The created betray the trust that the Creator placed in us when He gave us the ability to choose to love Him and serve Him.
In the same way, Jesus was not captured by an army that was too strong for Him to overcome. Neither was the wisdom of the Sanhedrin too great for Him to realize what they were trying to do. Jesus was captured because He was betrayed by a friend. Of course, we know that it was also the Father’s will. The death of Jesus was necessary for our redemption, but the way that the Father allowed Jesus to be captured doesn’t seem to be random.
In one sense, our betrayal was inevitable or unavoidable: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The cross shows us that no mere human was ever going to live a sinless life. Christ didn’t die to bring about an order where human beings no longer commit sin. Christ died because all have sinned and His blood was the only way for us to be redeemed from our bondage. However, we are not excused because of our weakness. We will still be judged if we do not obey the gospel. We will be judged because the weakness of the flesh is not the only reason that we sin. James says that “each one is tempted when he is enticed by his own lust” (James 1:13)
Jesus shows us that beings of flesh can resist temptation. In fact, James commands us to resist the devil with the promise that he will flee from us (James 4:7). The devil is incredibly skilled at finding our weaknesses and placing temptation before us…but the devil cannot force us to do evil. The problem of sin is much uglier than the weakness of our flesh. Every time that we sin, we have chosen our will over the will of the Father. We have chosen to exalt ourselves rather than to exalt Christ who left heaven to endure humiliation and death at the hands of His own creation for our redemption. If we commit sin while we are not Christians, we take the blessing of life and corrupt it for our own purposes. If we commit sin while we are Christians, we turn our backs on the One who gave everything for us and we disregard the covenant that He made with us. We promised to repent and live for the will of the Father. Such behavior is the epitome of betrayal.
Still, it would be a mistake to use the fact that we can resist temptation to arrive at the conclusion that it is possible for us to live a sinless life or that we may never sin again as Christians. There is a difference between practicing sin and committing sin in some isolated cases (1 John 3:7-9). It is the ongoing practice of sin that becomes impossible for the one who is born of God. There is a difference between resisting temptation and actually saving ourselves by living a sinless life. Again, the cross makes it abundantly clear to us that saving ourselves was never an option: “if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly’” (Galatians 2:21).
The weakness of the flesh is real and it reminds us that we will always need God’s help in this life. Surely, He helps us in ways and at times that we do not even realize. In fact, every way of escape from temptation that we have ever found was provided by God: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:13, 14). We have a will that is capable of resisting the flesh. This is why Paul’s encouraging words about God providing a way of escape were immediately followed by a conclusion and a command to flee from idolatry. God provides the way of escape. We are responsible for running away. If we do not run away from temptation, we will be overwhelmed because of the weakness of the flesh.
It may hard to imagine being in Judas’ position and doing what he did, but we don’t have to literally sell Jesus for 30 pieces of silver to betray the love and the trust of God. Every time that we sin, we are betraying the trust of our Creator who made us to be light for Him in this world.