Mark 14:17-25 17 And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
On the night of Jesus’ death, His disciples finally began to understand the means by which His death would occur. The three previous times that Jesus revealed that He will die and rise again He did not mention anything about one of the twelve being an enemy of God. The enemies that would come against Jesus were described as external enemies: the elders, the chief priests, the scribes, the Gentiles. But now Jesus gives very specific details that not only would someone betray Him but that the person who would betray Him was actually eating with Him. It would be an inside job. How could this be? The thought was shocking to the disciples. It wasn’t so surprising to them after following Jesus for over three years that He had many external enemies but how could one of them, one of His closest friends be His enemy? The statement immediately shifted the disciples' focus from the external to the internal.
The disciples fell into the same trap that many in the Church today believe is true. There is a natural desire to think that there cannot be any enemies of God within the Church. We all would like to believe that everyone who professes Jesus as the Christ must be a Christian. It is almost like anyone who enters through the front doors of a church is automatically a Christian or will become a Christian or there is a forcefield somehow keeping away anyone who could be an enemy of God. The enemies of God are perceived to always be on the outside and the devil is never able to enter into a church building. We all like to simplify things and make the Christian life just a process or a method. If the enemy of God could be within the Church then each and every Christian would need to examine everything continually. This isn’t what we would like. We prefer to think that everything must be perfect within the Church or among Christians and that everything should just move forward step by step like a fine oiled machine and any and all evil is on the outside and just needs to be kept out. But just like during any time of war, the greatest damage that the enemy can perform is from within by someone who appears like everyone else but is in reality working for the enemy. This is not what the disciples expected.
The wisdom of God is seen in how Jesus reveals to the disciples that one of the twelve would betray Him to death. Jesus doesn’t directly make it known to them who it is. Jesus intentionally lets the disciples question whether they themselves could be the one who would betray Jesus. Instead of singling out Judas Iscariot to them all He makes the statement, “one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” And even for the disciples closest to Him while eating at the table (Peter and John) to whom He does make known that the betrayer is Judas Iscariot, they did not believe Him (John 13:21-28) or understand. In all likelihood Judas Iscariot was on the surface very much like the rest of them and perhaps even better than them. Judas Iscariot was in all likelihood a very moral person who on the surface appeared to be a great Christian but underneath it all was a corrupt heart that had never been born again. He had been following a false Christ and had never repented of his sins. Jesus knew the condition of his heart but no one else did or suspected. Jesus also knew that the rest of the twelve were true followers of Him but He doesn’t disclose this to the disciples as He makes known to them that one of them would betray Him to death. He doesn’t expose the false convert or reveal the true believers. Why? Because He wants each and every one of them to question themselves, “Is it I?”
The problem with a focus only on the external enemy is that it does not promote holiness within. It actually ends up producing hypocrisy where you condemn those on the outside who appear more sinful than yourself while inwardly you are becoming more and more corrupt and evil and may in fact be an enemy of God yourself. Jesus, in a most dramatic and powerful way, is teaching His disciples the need to continually examine their own relationship with God for any one of them could betray Him. You can see how this promotes holiness within the Church: if anyone within the Church could be a false convert and betray God then each and every Christian must continually seek after God. If every Christian recognizes this tendency within them to turn away from Jesus Christ and that they too could betray Jesus like Judas Iscariot did, then it will spur them on towards God in holiness. The very danger from within will cause them never to become complacent and lazy. They will need to be always on guard for the enemy that could be within.
Assurance of salvation is also important and we will see after Jesus rises from the dead how He restores His true followers and confirms to them that they are indeed His disciples but to question, “Is it I?” is in fact very healthy for a Christian. The true Christian knows that His sinful nature is so corrupt that even after following Jesus and knowing the truth of the Gospel, there can be a desire to turn away. The true Christian is so in love with God that they fear God and will do all that they can to keep on the narrow path. They know that the Holy Spirit will be their guide and sustain them to not turn away but at the same time without God actively at work in their lives they know that they could be the one who betrays Jesus. Each and every one of the disciples needed to realize that they were capable of betraying Jesus. This produced sorrow in their heart to recognize this and would have driven them nearer to Jesus, not farther away.
The false convert does not know this fear of God but only knows a selfish fear- a fear with a desire of self preservation and not a fear that their relationship with God could be broken. After all the false convert doesn’t know what a love relationship with God really is like but the born again Christian will do all that he or she can to remain in fellowship with God through Jesus Christ. This was the thought as the eleven disciples questioned, “Is it I? No. It can’t be. I will do anything to remain in fellowship with you Jesus.” Judas Iscariot could not say this as he had already met with the chief priests in order to betray Jesus (Mark 14:10-11)
Have you ever questioned whether you could betray Jesus? Does this bring you fear to think that you could deny Him? This is a good fear. Have you ever known this sorrow as the disciples experienced? Do you recognize that the enemy of God can be within the Church?
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 14:12-16 12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
As two of Jesus’ disciples went into Jerusalem at the command of Jerusalem to prepare for the Passover meal I can imagine they went with trepidation. There must have been a certain sense of fear and uncertainty in their steps by this point. They knew something was going to happen. They just didn’t know what. They had hoped that Jesus would soon be crowned King over Israel and that they would rule with Him. A week earlier, in spite of their fear in going to Jerusalem where there was a very real conflict between Jesus and any and all of the different religious leaders who were united in opposition against Him, it had all started off well. Jesus had entered on a donkey's colt accepting the praise of the people. He had defeated all attacks against Him in a war of words in the Temple. But then, when the disciples had been looking in awe at the Temple buildings, Jesus declared to them that it would all be destroyed and much hardship would face them as disciples. And finally, although Jesus had told them before that He must die and rise again, a woman actually anointed Jesus with perfume for His burial. It was one thing to hear His words and not understand, but this was a visible sign confirming that His death was drawing near. The significance of these events could not be lost on the disciples as it was not lost on Judas Iscariot who had already gone secretly to meet with the chief priests to plan how to betray Jesus by this point.
And yet in spite of all this, Jesus Christ was in complete control. The disciples needed to know this. They needed assurance as they approached the death of their Savior that they were still in the will of God. Jesus was leading them to the cross with Him. Although they would not die they would suffer tremendously. The very foundation of what they believed would be rocked to the core. Jesus could have left His disciples in Galilee and told them, “I need to finish my mission alone.” He could have spared them the internal struggle that each of them would go through. But they needed to be there. They needed to be His witnesses of both His death and His resurrection. Instead of destroying their faith, the events that they were soon to be a part of would prove to solidify the very foundation of everything that they believed. Through the darkness of the cross the light of the Gospel would be known to them personally and then declared to the world.
Also, at this point, the disciples were still very much not the leaders that they should be. They believed that they were ready to lead in Jesus’ Kingdom but through their actions they showed they were not. They were still very self-seeking. They lacked a deep concern for God’s will. Jesus would rebuke them and correct them but the events surrounding the cross would teach them and shape them far above and beyond what Jesus had shown them so far. The anguish they would suffer as Jesus was dying upon the cross would grow them spiritually in a most dramatic and accelerated fashion. They would soon view themselves in a completely different light as the true condition of their hearts were made known and as Jesus would restore their souls. But all this was yet to come. For now, they carried on in uncertainty. For now they would walk with caution not knowing where each step would lead. And yet Jesus was leading each and every step.
How much comfort this can give us as Christians. Every Christian will face a period of refinement like the disciples. All of us will start off in following Jesus with a misguided view of ourselves. All of us will hear the teaching of Jesus and yet still lack understanding. There will be many things that He tells us that we hear but they do not take root. And so He will lead us into darkness. He will lead us into dark places where we would rather not go in order to remove the dross within us. He will, in the only way that He knows best, lead us into the way of purification. He will refine the gold within us. In the midst of this purification we will become confused. We will feel loss. We will feel like we are a failure to Him. We will feel on the verge of hopelessness. And yet, He is guiding us every step of the way. He led us into the darkness and He will lead us out into the light once again. We may not recognize what He is doing in us in the midst of this purification. I’m sure the disciples felt like they had lost complete control in the events surrounding Jesus’ death. But they could be reminded of how Peter and John were led to prepare the Passover meal. Jesus was still in complete control. They could still rest in Him. Do you know the purifying works of Jesus in your own life? Has He led you in this way?
But the unbeliever will never know such peace. The unbeliever will never willingly submit to such acts of purification. Why? Because they love their sin. They do not trust in Jesus. As with Judas Iscariot, they would rather betray Him than be led to the cross. They may start off following Jesus just like the true believer but they will not remain. As Jesus leads them on a path to be purged from sin it is only a matter of time before they reject Him. They will not submit to the leading of Jesus. They will not be ruled by Him. There is no comfort and reassurance that they are being led by Jesus because they in reality are their own guide. They would rather take the advice of the devil and to do his will than to come to the cross of Jesus Christ. The unbeliever will do all that they can to preserve themselves and will not be overcome by Jesus Christ. Many such disciples had turned away from Jesus earlier. The only difference with Judas Iscariot is that He lasted much longer before turning away. Don’t be like these unbelievers.
John 6:64-71 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) ... 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 14:1-11 1 It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, 2 for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”
3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. 9 And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.
The twelve disciples had been following Jesus by this point for over three years. Every day Jesus had been teaching them something new. As the Holy Spirit was moving powerfully through Jesus Christ it would have been amazing to know that each and every day Jesus would do something or say something that would give them a deeper understanding of God and of the plan of salvation. There was so much to learn and Jesus was the best possible teacher. He knew each of the disciples better than they knew themselves and He knew exactly the best way to teach them. But along with the many blessings that came with being taught directly by Jesus also came personal hardship. The opposition to Jesus continued to increase as Jesus’ earthly ministry continued and at this point in the book of Mark it was just days before Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus had triumphantly entered into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt accepting the praise of the people who publicly worshipped Him as the Christ- the Savior who had come to rescue them. Jesus was on a collision course with the religious leaders in Jerusalem. They did not want to give up the power and authority that they had in Jerusalem. Every religious authority challenged Jesus in the Temple in a war of words and He was able to defeat them all (described in Mark 12). They were desperate to have Jesus killed but He was popular among the general public (as was John the Baptist previously). They were willing to hear any plan to have Jesus killed but they didn’t want to do it now during Passover as there were Jewish people in Jerusalem from all over the known world to celebrate God delivering their ancestors from Egypt thousands of years earlier. They desired to kill Jesus in secret and not in a public scene.
Then comes this surprising scene in Bethany which was near Jerusalem. Out of the blue, a woman pours a large flask of expensive perfume on Jesus’ head. We all naturally cringe when we see something very expensive broken by accident. A glass of spilt milk isn’t a big deal but a shattered TV screen or a written off vehicle from an accident hurts deeply for the one who incurs the cost. When the disciples saw this very very expensive perfume poured over Jesus they were shocked! What was this woman thinking? Was this an accident? How would she make up for such a loss? As they continued to watch they realized that this was an act of deep love and affection of which Jesus accepts and even confirms. But what she had done even she did not fully understand. She had anointed Jesus for His burial. Jesus once again confirms that He will die of which the disciples still could not accept or comprehend.
How does Judas Iscariot respond? We next read that Judas Iscariot goes to the chief priests in order to betray Jesus. He would be paid by them to betray Jesus. Now he only needed to come up with a plan. Judas Iscariot consciously decided to switch allegiances after seeing this woman anoint Jesus with this expensive perfume. We read in John 12:6 that as the treasurer he had been pocketing money from what was donated to Jesus (people would donate money to cover the cost of their expenses as they traveled). Judas Iscariot saw what he had perceived as wasted money that he wanted for himself:
John 12:6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.
Ultimately Judas Iscariot came to the conclusion that this wasn’t the Kingdom that he had signed up for. Judas Iscariot was more than willing to follow Jesus as long as it benefited him but now it was getting more dangerous to follow Jesus and it was obvious that they weren’t going to reign with Him in Jerusalem any time soon (Jesus had just explained to His disciples in Mark 13 that Jerusalem would be destroyed in A.D. 70 and that the disciples would suffer great personal hardship in the future and that Jesus would come again in the future to judge the world). Jesus’ actions with the woman who anointed Him with perfume only confirmed to Judas Iscariot that now was the time to jump ship before it was too late. The fact that Judas Iscariot was the only disciple from that part of Israel (Judea) may have also contributed to his decision as he gravitated back to what he previously knew and believed and what was comfortable to him. He had tried to follow Jesus and changed his mind and the only way he could prove that he was loyal to the chief priests instead of Jesus was to betray Him. If Judas Iscariot didn’t betray Jesus he still could be accused of being a follower of Jesus. Why not profit? But his decision would prove costly as it would cost him his very life and his very soul. After betraying Jesus, Judas Iscariot hanged himself (Matthew 27:3-10).
To follow Jesus is a life and death situation. It is costly to follow Jesus but it is absolutely worth it. God will test our love for Him and it will require sacrifice but the reward of knowing Jesus Christ is eternal life. It is the greatest gift and to reject Him is the greatest mistake. Sadly there are many who start off following Jesus with much excitement. They believe that they love Jesus Christ but they are really only looking for the benefits that they can receive from Him. They, like Judas Iscariot, justify skimming from the top and have never come to a true place of repentance and faith. If push comes to shove they will be willing to betray Jesus to save their own skin or to profit for themselves. Examine your heart. Are you truly loyal to Jesus Christ?
Mark 8:35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 13:32-37 32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
In the shadow of the cross, just before His crucifixion, Jesus teaches His disciples about the future. Jesus Christ came to this world in the flesh the first time, over 2,000 years ago, to provide for our salvation. Jesus died upon a cross to pay the penalty of our sin and to save all who are willing to repent and believe in Him. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection we can find forgiveness for our sins and the power to overcome sin. But one day in the future Jesus Christ will return to judge all the nations who have rejected Him. Those who deny Him will fear Him when He comes but for those of us who love Him, we will rejoice that our salvation will be revealed in full! One day in the future all sin and evil and the curse of the fall will be removed and Jesus Christ will reveal His perfect eternal kingdom in new heavens and a new earth!
As Jesus speaks of His second coming here in Mark 13:32-37, He repeats Himself multiple times: “Stay awake!” He is emphasizing the need to be ready and prepared for His coming. The truth is that apart from being born again by the Spirit of God the sinner is asleep in his or her sin. When a person enters into this world as a baby they are physically alive but spiritually dead. They can understand the world around them through their five senses but they cannot understand God. Because of the sin nature inherited from their first parents, Adam and Eve, they cannot have fellowship with God and they are unaware of the actual condition of their heart. The sinner is asleep in their sin. As Richard Baxter wrote in 1673, “The sinner has eyes and sees not, and ears but hears not, and a heart that understands not, nor feels anything.”
Not only is the sinner actually asleep but the great enemy of God, the devil, will do all that he can to keep the sinner asleep. He will do all that he can to bring the sinner into a deep sleep- a sleep so deep that even if the sinner reads the Word of God or hears the Gospel message they will never lay it to heart. Richard Baxter also writes, “The devil is awake and is rocking your cradle! None of your enemies are asleep and yet will you sleep, in the thickest of your foes? While he can keep you asleep, the devil can do almost what he likes with you.”
Not only does the sinner sleep under the care and control of the devil but they also remain under the judgment of God unaware of what awaits them. Richard Baxter says, “You sleep in irons, in the captivity of the devil, among the walking judgments of God, in a life that is still expecting an end, in a boat that is swiftly carried to eternity, just at the entrance of another world; and that world will be hell, if grace does not awake you: you are going to see the face of God, to see the world of angels or devils, and to be accompanied with one of them forever; and is this a place or case to sleep in? Is your bed so soft? Your dwelling place so safe? God stands over you, man, and do you sleep? Christ is coming and death is coming, and judgment is coming, and do you sleep?”
For those who are moved by the Holy Spirit, they have been awakened from their sleep and Christ has shone upon them (Eph. 5:14). They have come to experience the grace of God and are anxiously awaiting the second coming of Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior! They will be among those who are waiting ready for their Lord whom they love with all of their heart! They will persevere to the end and will not be surprised at His coming! They will stay awake!
The deception is that there are also those who will appear to have been awakened to the Gospel and who will appear to be awake (at least for a season). They may even be on fire for God but for one reason or another they fall back asleep. It may be the cares of this world or persecution or a lack of true understanding of the Gospel. It may be a false repentance or simply a desire to “try Christianity” or an attempt to imitate what they see in a person they admire. But the reality is that such a person will not remain awake when the Lord returns. They have been or will be lulled back to sleep by the devil and do not know the love of Jesus Christ. They may still believe they are awake and yet they are asleep. Such is the warning that Jesus gives. Such was the case with one of the twelve disciples. Judas Iscariot seemed to be awake but he fell back asleep and was used by the devil to betray Jesus.
But one day in the future all will be awakened including the sinner and the false convert. Richard Baxter goes on to say, “If you will not soon awake, death and vengeance will awake you. You will wake when you see the other world, and see the things which you would not believe, and come before your dreadful Judge! ‘Your destruction is not asleep.’ (2 Peter 2:3) There are no sleepy souls in heaven or hell, all are awake there: and the day that has awakened so many shall awaken you. Watch, then if you love your soul, unless the Lord comes suddenly and finds you sleeping.”
Today is Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many years ago the God-man Jesus Christ died the most cruel death imaginable to man as He was crucified and then buried in a tomb. On the cross He died for you and for me. On the cross He declared, “It is finished.” Then, on the Lord’s Day He awoke from the dead. He walked out of that tomb and He lives forevermore! Have you yet been awakened by Jesus Christ or are you yet asleep? Did you wake up this morning rejoicing in what Jesus Christ has done for you or does this event in history mean nothing to you? Seek Him while He may be found. Turn to Him before it is too late. Beware of the devil who is doing all that He can to prevent you from coming to know the love of Jesus Christ. And believe in the power of Jesus Christ to keep you awake. He is able to bring you to the end ready for His return! He is able to keep you for Himself when all you may have known before is failure and despair! You can be made free from the bondage of the devil! Jesus Christ alone has the power to save you and to save me! He overcame the grave! Even now He desires nothing more than for you to know His enduring love! Awake! Stay awake!
Pastor Murray Hack
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.