April 3 – Fifth Wednesday in Lent
by Pastor Pete Scheele
Read John 13:12-30
Grace and Peace to you as you let Jesus’ love take over your life, from God, our Father, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
That Thursday night, when the disciples gathered around Jesus to celebrate the Passover meal with Him, little did they know what Jesus knew about that night. Oh, they knew what each of the elements of the Passover meal meant, but they didn’t know what was going to happen later that night to fulfill the prophecies of the Passover. Jesus though knew what was going to happen. He knew that Judas would betray Him into the hands of His enemies for 30 pieces of silver. He knew that His trusted disciple was conspiring with the very people who would put Him on a cross where He would hang until dead.
Knowing what He knew, Jesus, nevertheless, gave Judas every indication that He loved him. John’s gospel seems to indicate that Jesus had asked the disciples He loved, John, to recline at His right and He had given Judas the place of honor on His left. A host at that time reserved the place at his left and his right for his most intimate friends, so that they could talk privately during the meal. Jesus loved Judas, even though He knew what Judas was planning to do!
There’s more. When Jesus took a piece of the Matzah bread and dipped it into the Charoset sauce and gave it to Judas, he was giving him a sign of special favor, a sign of friendship. Jesus was honoring Judas, even though He knew Judas was going to betray Him. He gave him a piece of unleavened bread dipped in the Charoset sauce as a show of friendship and love.
There’s even more. The Charoset sauce into which Jesus dipped Judas’ tidbit of Matzah, is a sweet, dark chunky sauce made of ground apples or figs, nuts, honey and wine, reminded every Jewish person at the Passover celebration of how their ancestors in Egypt felt betrayed by God as they slaved for the Egyptians. As they carried the heavy mortar, which the Charoset sauce symbolizes, the Hebrew slaves felt that God had abandoned them and betrayed His covenant promise. They felt so alone, it seemed like nobody cared about how much they worked or how poorly they were being treated, not even God. So, whenever they looked at mortar, they felt alone. They felt as if God had lied to them, betrayed them but He didn’t and wouldn’t.
Even when Moses arrived to deliver the Hebrew slaves, they still though that God had betrayed them. In fact, they felt more abandoned, after Moses first demanded that Pharaoh let the Israelites leave Egypt and the Egyptian king refused. He retaliated by ordering that the Hebrews be given no straw for making bricks. That meant that they had to find their own straw to mix into the mortar, yet still make just as many bricks as before. When they could not meet the quota of bricks, they were whipped. With Moses’ arrival, the oppression got ten times worse, not better. No wonder Moses turned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have You done evil to this people? Why did You ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all.” (Ex. 5:22-23)
All the Israelites thought God had betrayed them, though, of course, He hadn’t, and the Charoset sauce, into which Jesus dipped Judas’ Matzah symbolized their feeling of abandonment and betrayal. After they were free and no longer slaves, the Jews people ate the Charoset sauce to help them remember that, even though they thought God had forgotten them, He hadn’t and wouldn’t ever. What irony! The sauce that reminded the Jews how they had felt betrayed by God is now given in love to the man who would betray God’s only Son and abandon Him.
Michael Card, a Christian songwriter, in his song, “Traitor’s Look” poses some piercing questions to Judas and to us: How did it feel to take the place, Of honor at the meal?
To take the sup from His own hand, A prophesy to seal?
Was it because He washed your feet, that you sold Him as a slave?
The Son of Man, the Lamb of God, Who’d only come to save.
Of course, Jesus could have given the Matzah bread dipped in the sauce of betrayal also to Peter, who later denied his Master to save his own skin. Jesus said to Peter, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times!” (Jn. 13:38) Peter did just as Jesus had predicted. When a maid thought, she recognized Peter as Jesus’ disciple, Peter denied, cursed, swore and exclaimed, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gatewayand the rooster crowed. (Mk. 14:68) He betrayed Jesus to save his own skin. He didn’t want to hang on a cross with Jesus. Jesus could well have given the Matzah bread dipped in betrayal sauce to Peter. Really Jesus could have given that Matzah dipped in Charoset sauce to each of us. For we betray Him and we deny Him, and still He loves us every bit as much as He loved Judas and Peter. Take a piece of your Matzah and take a taste of the Charoset Sauce.
Do you know how much Jesus loves you? He loves you with AGAPE love, Godly Love, a love that loves not because we are lovable, but just because He wants to give us His love to you. God loves you with a love that loves whether you appreciate it or not, accept it or not, and certainly whether you deserve it or not. That is how Jesus continues to love us who betray Him and deny Him.
First, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet on Maundy Thursday, the feet of men who would desert Him before the night would end. Next, as a sign of intimate friendship, Jesus offered Judas the Matza dipped in the Charoset sauce of betrayal. Then, as He went from the table to the garden to the trial and to His death, He said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. 32 If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him at once.” (Jn. 13:31-32) To leave that Upper Room and go to the Cross was Jesus’ glorification because He loves each of us. His love is His glory and He wants each of us to have it. Certainly God’s glory is seen in His power that created all things with a word. Certainly, God’s glory is seen in His wisdom that made everything so amazingly wonderful. But His Glory Is Most Fully Seen in His LOVE that brought Him to the cross for your sins and mine. For His glorious death, God has exalted Him to the highest place and given Him the name above all others. God has exchanged the shameful crown of thorns for a glorious eternal crown.
Now Jesus, who loves us so much that He gave His life for us, says to us, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (Jn. 13:34) Let God’s Word and Sacraments give you the power and the wisdom to love each other unconditionally. Find your glory where Jesus finds His, in giving AGAPE love for each other, in the will of our heavenly Father.
But we all deny Him when we say, “No, Lord! I will use my power and my wisdom to care for me!” We betray Him when we say, “The heck with You, Lord, and Your people whom You have given Your love!” We deny Him when we say, “What’s mine is mine! I will use it for myself! Let people who don’t know You live in darkness. Let people who need a kind word from me live in rejection and loneliness. Let people who need some food, medicine or education that I could share, live in hunger, sickness and ignorance.”
In the third verse of Michael Card’s song “Traitor’s Look,”
he reminds us that we aren’t all that different form Judas: Now Judas, don’t
you come to close, I fear that I might see;
That traitor’s look upon your face, Might look too much like me.
just like you I’ve sold the Lord, And often for much less,
And like a wretched traitor, I betrayed Him with a kiss.
Knowing that we are all traitors and deniers, Jesus offers us Matza dipped in the Charoset betrayal sauce as a gesture of His friendship and intimate love. Let us eat some more of the Charoset sauce, now and with the second piece of Matza share with a friend.
Even though the Charoset sauce looks bad, all brown and mushy, it really tastes sweet. That’s how life is sometimes. It looked as if God had forgotten about His people when they were slaves and had to make mortar, but God made their troubles end. He brought them out of slavery with an outstretched arm and led them to the promised land. He promises to help us work out our troubles, too. For His Only Son has brought our slavery to an end. It is by the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross of Calvary that we are given freedom from sin, death and the devil, our slave master and brought to the promised land.
Know that Jesus offers you His friendship and forgiveness again and again, as He offered it to Judas on Maundy Thursday. He offers it in Baptism, in His Word of Absolution and in Holy Communion. “I know who you are,” Jesus says to each of us, “Yet, I love you and I forgive you. You, betrayers and deniers, come to Me, turn to Me, ask Me for forgiveness. I forgive you. Do not go out into the darkness as Judas did. Do not hang yourself in despair as Judas did. Stay here with Me. Find in My love, the true source of power and wisdom that only I can give to you. I give you My forgiveness and love so that you can share it with the rest of the world like Peter and the rest of the disciples did.”
Knowing what Jesus knows about us, could He become weary of our waywardness and finally deny us before His Father? No! Never! Yet we are asked to cling to His promises, repent of our sins and believe in Him. Jesus promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:5-6) Jesus can’t deny His promises, He has paid the price for all our sins and He has given us the Holy Spirit to help us remain in His love and share it with others for all eternity. Amen.
Let us pray: Oh, Almighty God, You have never betrayed Your promise to us even though we have betrayed you constantly. Help us abandon our ways and hold tightly to Your love and forgiveness given to us by Your Only Son, Jesus Christ, our suffering Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.