Have you ever tried to bargain with God? God, if you will ________, then I promise I will _________.
Sometimes it’s kind of silly stuff; “God if you make that person like me, if you let me pass that test, if you make the officer just write a warning and not an actual speeding ticket, I promise I will.”
And other times it's super legitimate. If you have a loved one that's going through a difficult time, especially if it's a medical thing, you’ve said to God, "God, I'll do anything if you'll heal them”.
And we bargain with our prayers, our church attendance, our giving, our time, or our obedience, but at the end of the day what we’re saying is what do I need to do to get God to do what I want God to do?
And sometimes this bargaining thing just didn’t work out very well; You did your part but God didn’t do what you thought God ought to do, and so you said, “You know what, forget it because if God were truly a good God, then he would have honored his side of the bargain.”
Today's character we’re looking at as we make our way towards Easter was a guy who had given up everything to follow Jesus but when Jesus wasn’t doing what Jesus was supposed to do, this guy bailed.
His name is Judas Iscariot. For Judas, Jesus was always a means to an end. But before we're too critical of Judas, you need to know that it wasn’t just him. All of Jesus' disciples struggled with this.
There’s a story you may be familiar with; it's called The Rich Young Ruler. This young guy comes to Jesus and says, "Jesus, what do I have to do to have eternal life?" And Jesus says, "Well, you need to keep the law and keep the commandments."
And he says, "Done. I've kept all the laws and all the commandments," which he had not, and Jesus responds, "Great! Now sell everything you have, give the money to the poor, and follow me."
At the end of the story, the guy walks away because he just had too much stuff, and he didn’t want to give it up. Jesus says to his disciples, "It's difficult for people with a lot to lose to choose to follow me.”
And then Peter asked what they were all thinking, and perhaps what some of you have thought, "We have left everything to follow you . . . What will there be for us?"
That's the question we ask. "Okay, God, I've done this; I gave up my Sunday mornings, I tithed, I served,
I got out of that relationship, I quit cussing. Now, what’s in it for me? What's the benefit?
Then, at the end of Jesus' ministry, when they realized, "This is really going bad,” all of them walked away. Why? Because there was nothing in it for them.
Jesus was, to some extent, a means to an end for all of them. But they all came back, ultimately,
except for one person, Judas Iscariot.
Now, let me tell you a little bit about Judas to help us understand his thinking. Judas was most likely a member of the zealots; a fanatical religious sect that believed that God would send a Messiah to be a political or military leader who would throw off Roman rule and restore Israel to its glory days.
And as Judas watched Jesus, he believed that Jesus had a lot of the characteristics of the Messiah that were predicted in the Old Testament, but there were a few exceptions.
One of the exceptions was Jesus didn't hate the Romans. That’s a problem. The other was Jesus was always stirring up trouble with the religious dudes and Judas knew that if they are ever going get a movement started to throw out the Romans, we need the religious guys on our team.
Not to mention, Jesus was a little too liberal with the money. You’ve got to have money to have a movement but every time their war chest began to grow, Jesus would just give it away.
So, Judas began to lose patience with Jesus, and then something happened that was the final straw. Interestingly, it was an act of generosity that sent him over the edge.
Let’s listen to our text: READ Matthew 26:6-12
Jesus was in Bethany, a little town just outside of Jerusalem, in the home of Simon the leper, and some woman comes in with a jar of expensive perfume and poured it on Jesus’s head.
Now John, gives us a detail that Matthew doesn't. He tells us, that this jar of perfume was worth about a year's wages. Think about that for a minute. Someone takes something that costs a year’s worth of salary and ruins it by pouring it over somebody's head when you could split it up into smaller vials and sell it and do something else with the money. You know, like give it to the poor.
That’s why the disciples were indignant and said, "Why this waste?
So, Jesus says to them, "Why are you bothering this woman?" First of all, it's her perfume, she can do whatever she wants with it. Secondly, she has done a beautiful thing; she has honored me”.
But then He said something that was incredibly disturbing, “When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial."
And they were thinking, “Wait a minute, you can't die, you're the Messiah. Hello. Messiahs don't die. Besides, do you have any idea how long we've been waiting for you? Do you have any idea how much we’ve given up for you? So, don't start talking about a funeral because that’s not the deal we have.”
But the real issue is . . . If You die, what's going to happen to us?"
In Johns version of this gathering there’s an interesting detail added. He says that Judas is the one who stirred up the animosity against this woman; not because he wanted to give money to the poor but because he was a thief and as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
What transpired that night was not only affecting Judas’ expectations of Jesus, the supposed Messiah, but it was also going to affect his lifestyle and that as the final straw. So, Judas leaves the dinner party and makes his way to the High Priest, Caiaphas (we talked about him last week) and he says,
"What are you willing to give me if I deliver him to you”. In other words, he was going to get a return in his investment either way this thing went.
Now, this little conversation with the Chief Priest is important because of what we talked about last week. Do you remember what kept Caiaphas from arresting Jesus? The Crowds.
Everywhere Jesus went there was a crowd, but Judas was an insider and he says, "I can get Jesus away from the crowd and deliver Him to you but what’s in it for me; what’s it worth to you.”
So, they counted out 30 pieces of silver and gave it to him. Think about this; Judas had been a ministry partner with Jesus for three years; he experienced and participated in his miracles, he heard his words, he shared meals, they had traveled tons miles together by foot and on boat but he was so fed up with Jesus because Jesus wouldn’t do what he thought Jesus ought to do so he traded his relationship with Jesus for 30 pieces of silver; the same amount someone would have paid for slave.
From that point on, Judas looked for an opportunity to hand him over and it didn’t take long to find it.
Right after this little deal he made with Caiaphas, it was Passover. It’s the day before Jesus is going to die and so he get’s his friends together to share one last meal with them.
Now, the way the meal would have worked is this: unlike our dining, their dining table would have been lower to the ground, and it would have been surrounded with pillows, and you would lean on one arm, and you would eat with your head towards the platter of food, and your feet pointing away.
So, Jesus is sitting there talking with his friends, he notices that they all have dirty feet.
Now in that culture, typically a servant would clean your feet as you came into a house because you’ve been walking along muddied paths and you’re wearing open toed sandals so it’s between your toes, and under your toenails and your feet are nasty.
But they were using a borrowed room for the meal so there was not a servant and in this scenario the job would go to the person in the room who was considered the lowest on the totem pole.
According to Luke’s version of this story, the disciples are busying arguing over who is the greatest so clearly none of them see themselves as the lowest.
So, Jesus takes off his outer garment and puts a towel around his waist, gets a basin of water, takes the feet of the men and he scrubs them. This is humility beyond imagination.
Well, Peter couldn’t believe what he was experiencing. It was horrifying to see Jesus washing his stinky, dirty feet. This didn’t fit into his little box of things that Jesus was allowed to do. So, he says, “You’re not washing my feet”.
Jesus responds, “Then you’ll have not part in me.” If you do not let me be who I am, if you do not let me stoop down and act of your behalf to cleanse you, then you cannot enter the kingdom.”
Washing the disciple’s feet pointed to the only thing they needed – the Cross. And Jesus is using this living parable to tell his disciples that “You only need me to enter my kingdom”
After Jesus had this exchange with Peter, he took back his place of honor at the banquet table and he says to his disciples . . . “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet.”
- And here he is referring to both permitting Him to cleanse us, love us, heal us, and renew us.
- And it also means being the hands and the feet of Christ. Of having Christ live in us in such a way that he works through us, so that his love continues to be shown to its full extent.
Now, the thing that strikes me most in this foot washing scene is that Jesus washed the feet of Judas, the feet that are going to walk out of the meal and betray him for a couple of bucks . . . why would he do that? We’ll swing back to this question in just a little bit.
As the conversation continues, someone mentions, "Hey, after the meal, we should go to the garden of Gethsemane to pray." And when Judas heard that he thought, "Bingo! That's my opportunity!" It'll be dark, there won't be anyone around, this is the perfect time for me to deliver Jesus over to Caiaphas.”
But he had a problem, how is he going to get out of this room without anyone noticing?
And then Jesus says something that must have sent chills down his spine, “Very truly I tell you that one of you is going to betray me.” And as the group is trying to figure out what he’s talking about, Jesus leans over to Judas and say, “What you’re about to do, do quickly.”
Yes, Judas, I know what you’re going to do but I’m not going to stop you. I’m not going to get in the way of the choices you make, because they are yours to make.
After Judas leaves, he says to the disciples, “In this moment, the son of man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him.” In other words, everything is working out exactly as planned.
I don't know exactly what Judas was thinking would happen, but I would imagine that he didn’t think this thing would escalate out of control. Maybe they’ll mess with Jesus a bit or throw him in prison but he’s Jesus and he’ll figure a way out it, at least he got 30 pieces of silver out of the deal.
But when Judas found out that Caiaphas had gone to Pilate, he knew that was a death sentence and immediately he was seized with remorse and he goes back to the religious guys, throws the 30 pieces of silver on the ground and says, "I have sinned. I betrayed innocent blood.”
What was of extraordinary value, in one minute, had no value the next. What he sacrificed his relationship with Jesus for one minute, was something he wished he'd never done.
And how they respond is incredibly powerful. They say, "What is that to us? That's your responsibility."
Here's why this is such a big deal, so often people trade their relationship with Jesus to preserve something they’re going to lose in the end anyway and when we decide there is something more important than a relationship with Jesus, we are responsible for outcome. God so honors your freedom; he will not interfere with it even it means you’re undermining your own happiness.
But here's the promise . . . when we surrender, when we finally say, "God, it's killing me to give this up, but this is not worth losing my relationship with you.” God takes responsibility for the outcome.
With that in mind, lets swing back to the question I asked, why would Jesus wash the feet of Judas?
He did this because he wanted to bring glory to God. On that night, Jesus had the clearest sense of who he was, and no sooner did he gain clarity, that he was on the floor wiping the mud off the feet of grown men – even those who would betray him.
But I really struggle with this because Judas is a punk, and a thug and a thief and a murderer and he shouldn’t get his feet washed.
But as I struggle with this it forces me to get honest with myself.
- Have I taken money that God has blessed me with and used for things other than God’s purposes?
- Have I turned my Back on Jesus? Yeah.
- Have I at times thought that God was wrong or that God didn’t know what he was doing, and that somehow Jesus needed my advice?
And yet, Jesus humbled himself before me. He has loved me. He has served me. He has forgiven me.
So, I think that the real reason that Judas bothers me so much is because I am far more like Judas than I am like Jesus . . . and maybe you feel the same way.
In this foot-washing scene, Jesus shatters this idea that we can bargain with God as he takes all the responsibility upon himself, and he tells us what it means to be a follower.
This king is inaugurating a kingdom of foot washers.
But washing Judas’ feet, now that’s a hard task; loving those who are unlovable, caring for those who no one else wants to care for, embracing those who want nothing more than to hurt you.
Washing Judas’ feet is about living your life and loving God and asking God to show you those places where you could take opportunities, just like Christ took this opportunity to serve somebody; to humble yourself, to love them, to extend God’s grace.
Because you know what that does . . . you know what it does when you wash the feet of Judas . . . It reminds you of your own brokenness and brings you back to the cross where Jesus died for you, loved you, healed you, and set you free.