Let us pray: Dear Savior, hypocrisy is a dirty word and one every person can understand. Lord, too often we say one thing and do the opposite. Too often we betray Your love by giving a false or uncertain confession of it by our actions. Tonight remind us that unlike us, You are never hypocritical. Your anger over our sins stands resolute, but so does Your forgiveness for each of them. May we glory in that fact, and that blessed gift. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR BLESSED SAVIOR FROM SIN
TEXT: Luke 22: 48: “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
The purpose of a cross-examination in a courtroom trial is to verify testimony previously given by a witness and to see whether or not they are telling the truth and whether the witness is reliable. The cross-examination lets the judge and jury look as much as possible into the witness’ heart to see their level of honesty and integrity. Tonight’s cross- examination is designed to get us to look into our own hearts while also examining Christ’s.
The last few hours of Judas Iscariot’s life were tragic. Greed and theft had corrupted him. He thought wealth would bring happiness, but it only brought shame and pain. It is tragic to see a disciple of Christ, who was with Him for 3 years, end his life by committing suicide. It is tragic to see him send himself to hell. As we read the story of Judas we naturally want to turn the page and go on—quickly. But, since “all things have been written for our learning” it is important for us to linger and ponder Judas. And so we shall with this poignant question:
ARE YOU BETRAYING THE SON OF MAN WITH A KISS?
This question leads us to look into our own hearts. And as we do so, we need to think back to Christ’s struggle in Gethsemane. He prays for strength. He prays for His sheep. He prays for Judas and for us. As Jesus was doing this near His dozing disciples, Judas approaches with soldiers carrying clubs, spears, and swords. They have come to arrest Christ. Upon seeing Jesus, Judas rushes to Him and gives Him the warmest, most intimate greeting there is: he kisses his Lord. This looked good on the surface, but in actuality it was a sign to the soldiers marking Jesus for arrest. It was the ultimate betrayal. Jesus’ question: “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” is designed to reveal that He knew the treachery in Judas’ heart. It revealed that Jesus was not deceived and will not be deceived.
But, this question had more to it than that. It was also designed by Jesus to get Judas to look inside and to see his sin. It was designed to get him to contemplate his hypocrisy and to repent. But, alas, Judas’ heart was just too hard and this call to repentance went unheeded. And for this, Judas will always be remembered with scorn. Indeed, it is interesting that although Judas was a common name at this time, since then literally no one names their child Judas. The shame of that name is just too great.
Do we have a “Judas gene” in us? Of course, the answer is: yes. Like Judas we lie, we cheat, we steal. We lie to men and to God sometimes about our sins. We sometimes cheat employers of our time, just like we cheat God of our time by using it to engage in unchristian behavior. We sometimes steal not only money, but another’s good name by gossiping about them, while at the same time stealing God’s glory by dishonoring Him. A number of years ago, the actor Michael Douglas played a dishonest Wall Street tycoon. In that movie he gave his famous speech how: “Greed is good.” No, it isn’t good. Greed takes advantage of others—usually the weak and the poor. Greed reveals unconcern, even contempt, for other human beings. And greed is so prevalent and so dangerous that God gave us not one, but two commandments which rail against it.
We all need to look deeply into our own hearts. We all need to ask ourselves: “Am I betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Are we hiding a sinful, cold, unloving heart behind a loving, friendly Christian exterior? Are the lips we use to praise God at church filled with profanity and cursing when outside these walls? Do the hands we fold in prayer turn into instruments of wickedness when we leave church behind? Do our ears itch to hear the latest gossip? Do our eyes focus on smut and filth instead of salvation?
Hypocrisy afflicts us all. It sneaks into our hearts so easily. The hymnwriter captures this problem o so well when he writes: “Ah, I also and my sin wrought your deep affliction; this indeed the cause has been of your crucifixion.” No, we weren’t in the garden with Judas betraying Him to His enemies. And yet, we’re just as responsible. For it was our sins that helped nail Jesus to that accursed tree!
“Are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” That question should also prompt us to gaze not only in our hearts, but into Jesus’ heart, too. When Jesus first asked it, He knew the answer. He knew Judas would not repent, either. And yet, Jesus still asked it. Even knowing the outcome, He still extended the olive branch of His love to Judas. That same loving heart of Christ reaches out to us tonight.
If we knew with 100% certainty that some hurtful, dishonest person would betray us and never change their mind, how would we react? We’d lash out at them. We’d cut them off. We’d turn our backs on them. Jesus knows in advance whether or not you’re going to give in to a certain sin and betray Him. He knows the pain of such sin—after all, He felt it while nailed to the cross. And yet, Jesus still reaches out in love to us and says: “I forgive you.” He holds His love before us and begs us to take it, to use it, to live it. If that fact doesn’t reveal the overwhelmingly kind heart of our Lord, nothing does!
So, tonight He pleads with you: “Are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” And while we’re pondering that, He also says: “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” He says: “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” God’s Word also says: “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who respect him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” St. Paul summed up Jesus’ kind heart when he wrote: “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man…but…I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”
Christ paid for our sins on the cross and also bought our souls at the same time. Turn to Him in humble trust and that question directed at Judas will never have to haunt you again! Amen