Sour Grapes and Upset Stomachs

Matthew 26:17-30
(c) Copyright 2004 Rev. Bill Versteeg

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus
14 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

The Lord’s Supper
17 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. 20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.

King Solomon may have said that “the wounds of a friend can be trusted” (Proverbs 27:6) but he should have added that the wounds of a friend also really hurt. We need each other and yet its in the context of close relationship that we often hurt each other. Where have your deepest wounds come from? If you answer that question for yourself, I suspect that it had to do with family or a friend. In the context of close community we receive our most basic needs, our richest rewards and our deepest wounds. In the safety of love, of a loving community, it is there that Satan seeks to destroy, it is there that confusion and pain and sin can often inflict scaring interactions that leave us wondering about what love, what community, what family, what church is all about. Ravi Zacharias in his book, Deliver Us From Evil. ( gives this haunting illustration, this a true story, he writes

"As he labored through the details in recounting their first contact, I knew this was not just another crisis in a minister's routine, but an ineradicable scar on his pastoral heart.

He told me of a young couple he had married some years ago, who had represented to him every ideal worth emulating. They were the mascot of excellence held up before the youth of the church. Both were in preparation for the practice of medicine, and were on sizable scholarships of merit. As he had driven away after performing their wedding ceremony, he had rehearsed in his own mind what a grand occasion it had been, and that in all his years of ministry he had not seen a more radiant couple. He thrilled at the prospect of all that lay ahead of them.

But then like a shattered dream, only a few months into the marriage there was a dreadful awakening. In the pre-dawn hours of a wintry night the pastor was aroused by the telephone, and a voice out of control which begged him to come to their apartment. The caller, the young man of such promise, kept stuttering the words, "I think I have killed her! I think I have killed her!" The minister hastily dressed and rushed over to their home, only to find the young woman lying lifeless in her bed, and the young husband emotionally ravaged, sobbing inconsolably at her side.

What had happened? What had led to this pitiful state of affairs? After a long time of prying and pleading, the story unfolded. Some weeks earlier this young woman had discovered that she was pregnant. With years of study still ahead, neither of them had wanted to start a family. This sudden turn of events spelled chaos into all their plans, and drove them desperately in search of a solution. Every option was considered. Finally, one statement escaped from the young woman's lips that she had never dreamed she would utter. "This is completely devastating," she said. "There is no other way but to abort this child if our careers are to survive."

The very suggestion precipitated a deep rift between them. They were both known on their campus for their outspoken conviction on the sanctity of the child's life in the womb, and that that life, they fervently believed, had a right all its own. Now, beyond their control contingencies had invaded their absolutes, and "fate" had threatened their autonomy. Conviction was in conflict with ambition, and a private decision was being made that they hoped would never be betrayed in public. Husband and wife were uncompromisingly on the opposite ends of this dilemma as he pled with her to reconsider.

That is when her final solution was proposed. "Then let us do this at home," she said. "You bring all the equipment we need to the apartment, and no one need ever know." As a young medical student, he felt this could be accomplished, and so meticulous plans were nervously laid for that fateful night. Not yet fully trained in the administration of an anaesthetic, he stumbled through the procedure and unwittingly gave her a much larger dose than he should have. His greatest fear became a ghastly deed, and he lost her. In the panicking moments that followed, with trembling hands and a cry of desperation he reached for the telephone and uttered those remorse-ridden words, "Pastor, please hurry and come to our apartment. I think I have killed her."

That’s where his story ends. Between a couple that truly loved each other, nothing less than murder. Not only a wife but a child as well. Satan was in the mix.

In our scripture passage today, we see a picture of a loving community, participating together in the highest happiest meal that an Israelite could participate in - the Passover feast, the feast that celebrated God’s deliverance from Egypt. But times and circumstances had become very confusing.

Though the shouts of Hosanna were recently heard in the streets and talk throughout Jerusalem was about this one who came in the “Name of the Lord,” secret plots were being spun to rid Jerusalem of this rabbi named Jesus. Twice now, he had come and overturned the changed tables in the temple scattering the animals, causing chaos to Jerusalem’s religious infrastructure and certainly lots of conversation among the disciples. People had listened with admiration as he pronounced curses on fig trees and church leaders, told stories designed to divide the people who were with him from the people who were against him. The atmosphere was electric with tension, stormy with confusion. Humble people like a sinful women worshipped, worshipped very expensively. Secretly religious leaders made their plans agreeing with Judas - just 30 pieces of silver, enough to buy a slave or a Potters field. Jesus instructions may have been about love, peace and unity as they ate that meal, but the context had put this discipled community into mental and emotional chaos.

You see, the Diabolis, Satan lurking in the shadows was part of this picture. The disciples no longer knew wether they were for him or against him. They followed, they listened, they had for three years, they loved him, but these times were so confusing that they wondered if they still knew him, so confusing, this passage makes clear, they wondered if they still knew themselves.

21 And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”

Pay special attention to these words. These were words addressed to a loving community. And they started with a phrase in Jewish culture that had special weight. Sometimes translated Amen and Amen, other times translated “this is certain” Jesus was telling his disciples that in the context of loving community, it was an absolute certainty that one of them would betray him. Betrayal and wounding in community was inevitable. There was no changing what was coming. Satan was in the mix.
22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?”

Even proud Peter who had just a short time earlier said “Lord, I will follow you even to death!” now responded with the same words that the other disciples responded with “Surely not I, Lord?”
These words were said with tears, literally in the original language, this is said with gut wrenching shock and grief, the disciples were becoming aware of how weak their love was, how fragile their community was, how vulnerable they were even though their intentions were good, how vulnerable they were to Satan exploiting their weaknesses and harnessing their sins to his ploys against the divine One.

Each disciple in turn said with strong hints of self doubt in their voices “Surely not I, Lord?” Any one of them could be the weak link, the contagen, the source of pain in community. And as Jesus would go through his last hours to the cross, each one of them would disappear into the shadows overcome by weakness, weariness, despair, abandoning their Lord and Master in his suffering. Community would disintegrate, the pain of confusion, of self doubt, of abandonment to great.
But Jesus words, this time were focused on one person who had already been bought, the betrayal was in process. King Solomon had said 6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
And there was an enemy at this table...

23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”
Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.”

Judas, having made the small choices of greed that led to betrayal now no longer could call Jesus Master, he had reverted to the word of respect but of distance - the title Rabbi - teacher, the title the Pharisees used for Jesus. And it would not be long before the kiss would come...

This morning, as we come together in confession, I invite you to look at your own live, your own heart. Are you a person who has wounded those around you, those you love? Are you a person whose weaknesses Satan has exploited to created distrust and anger? How have you wounded another near you, maybe unintentionally? Or could you, in the right circumstances, with Satan in the mix betray, even more than that, murder, with your words?

In this time of confession, spend a few minutes in reflection and prayer, confessing the wounds you have given to God, sins and wounds against especially the people you love, your family, your community. And after that time of confession, I invite you to take the little card you have on your seat, sign it, and bring it forward as an expression to God that you are choosing to live by his grace and by his strength to truly love those around you.

(During the time of confession, we had a period of silence after which the congregation had the opportunity to bring their notes of confession forward.)

To his friends who would abandon him, to his friends filled with confusion and doubt about him and about themselves Jesus then said these words - we read

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

As the pastor breaks the bread
The bread which we break is a sharing in the body of Christ.
We who are many are one body
for we all share the same loaf.

27 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

The cup for which we give thanks is a sharing in the blood of Christ.
The cup which we drink
is our participation in the blood of Christ.

This morning, as you come to this table, remember the forgiveness Christ gives you as part of his community, one of God’s beloved. We may wound each other, we might abandon, in our sins, whatever that might be, Satan might manipulate and capitalize on our weaknesses, but together we are the body of Christ, broken at times, but here together participating fully in God’s forgiveness and grace. As the Lord said to Isaiah (1)
18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.

People of God, come to the table. All who are truly sorry for their sins, and who seek to live in obedience to our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ are welcome to participate in communion this morning.

During Communion, prayer ministry will be available in the front of the church.


Closing Songs

Jesus said, when the supper was over

29 I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”


30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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