Is It I, LORD? 26 March 2017

Is It I, LORD?
Series: A Love That Never Dies
Matthew 26:21-25

Series Big Idea:
Throughout Lent, we prepare for Jesus’ death, resurrection, and return

Big Idea: Lent reminds us of our need for forgiveness…and its availability.

Betrayal. Have you ever experienced it? Have you ever had a friend turn against you? That’s not what friends are supposed to do!

My name is Kirk and we’re continuing our Lent sermon series, “A Love That Never Dies.” Every day should be a day to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus, but this season leading up to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday is an especially good time to focus on Holy Week, including the cross and empty tomb. We contemplate our sins which caused Jesus to endure a horrific death…and remember the love of God can never die.

Death. It’s the one subject most USAmericans hate to discuss. It makes us uncomfortable, even fearful. Sure, many Christians say they’re ready to die, but that doesn’t remove the uncertainty of when…or how.

For some of us it will be soon. But we don’t know.

For some of us it will be quick and easy, while others will agonize for years.

Are you uncomfortable yet?

There are so many unbelievable aspects of Jesus’ death. We’re all aware of the physical anguish of being beaten, wearing a crown of thorns, carrying a cross, and the nails. Those three spikes.

Most of us pay less attention to the emotional and mental anguish Jesus endured…because he loved us so.

First, Jesus spent thousands of years preparing to die. He knew before the foundation of the world we would exist…and need a Savior (Ephesians 1:4). That means before he spoke the universe into existence, he knew about the plan to enter our world and die.

Have you ever anticipated pain? It can be worse than the pain itself! At this very moment I’m anticipating the pain of the vaccinations I need to travel to Africa this summer to train pastors (I’ll share more about that soon). I don’t like shots. I’m dreading the needle. If you just randomly walked up to me and gave me the shot, I wouldn’t have any anxiety (though I’d be startled and momentarily quite upset with you!).

Imagine anticipating pain…forever. Imagine spending 33 years on this planet knowing you would willingly die. We’re all going to die—the odds are 100%—but Jesus died intentionally. He died to demonstrate his love for us…not because we’re good, but because we’re desperate. We saw two weeks ago…

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

In today’s text, Jesus is celebrating Passover, the pinnacle of Jewish festivals. Thirteen men gather around food and drink to commemorate the exodus from Egypt of their ancestors. It was a huge deal.

And then Jesus drops a bomb.

And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” (Matthew 26:21)

What? That’s not party talk! Betrayal? How did Jesus know? Can he predict the future?
Who would possibly betray a friend, much less Jesus? And why?!?!?!

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” (Matthew 26:22)

“Is it I, LORD?”

In case you need a definition, one dictionary described betrayal as

1: to give over to an enemy by treason or treachery
2: to be unfaithful
3: to tell in violation of a trust

Is it possible to “accidentally” betray someone? The betrayer knew. So did Jesus.

Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 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.” (Matthew 26:23-24)

That’s an understatement, though it was all part of God’s plan.

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” 

Jesus answered,
“You have said so.” (Matthew 26:25)

“Is it I, LORD?”

“Yes, Judas.”


Is there any emotional pain greater than betrayal? It takes years to establish trust, to develop a deep friendship…and an instant to lose it.

Judas betrayed Jesus shortly thereafter…with a kiss. That simple gesture we reserve for loved ones became the signal that would begin the series of events leading to the gory execution of the only perfect human in history. Judas sold his soul for thirty pieces of silver, about four months’ wages for a common laborer.

What was Judas thinking?!

What must he have been thinking when the mob cried out, “Crucify him!”? (Matthew 27:23)

When they said to Pilate, “His blood is on us and on our children,” he knew the blood of Jesus was on his hands. (Matthew 27:25)

Imagine how Jesus’ words must have echoed in the mind of Judas.

But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24)

We all want to make a difference in this world. You want your life to matter, right? Imagine hearing God—not an ignorant fool, but GOD—saying your life was wasted.

Is it any wonder Judas committed suicide?

I don’t think Judas was a lost cause. Jesus’ words reflected his own sorrow and pain more than a personal statement toward his friend, Judas.

Jesus loved Judas. Jesus’ love never dies. He says to Judas and to me and to you

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
Jesus would have forgiven Judas, just as he forgave Peter when he denied Christ three times. And he forgives you and me.

In the book of Romans, we read

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written: 

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  (Romans 8:35-36)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)

I want to close with one simple verse I love to quote.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

So What?

I want to give you an opportunity to respond today. We’ve all sinned. We’ve all offended God. We’ve all disobeyed. Maybe you have not denied Christ or betrayed him—or maybe you have—but Jesus died to forgive you of your sins—past, present, and future. It says, “If we confess.”

The altar is open every Sunday, but occasionally we draw particular attention to it. To close today, I simply want to invite you to come forward and offer personal prayers of confession. You can do so in your seat, if desired. You are also free to quietly exit the sanctuary. Just know if you are a follower of Jesus, you are forgiven. That’s why Jesus died. That’s what Lent is all about. That’s why we possess and share good news. Hallelujah!

Questions for individual or group reflection

  1. What examples of betrayal can you cite from recent movies, books, or current events What makes betrayal such a disgusting, shameful act in almost every era, every culture?
  2. Why do you believe Jesus chose Judas to be one of the disciples?
  3. The name Judas means “praised one.” How does this add to the irony of Judas’s life story?
  4. Compare John 13:18 with Psalm 41:9. Based on these verses, what do you deduce about the meaning of eating together in the culture of both Old and New Testament times?
  5. Who initiated Judas’s act of betrayal? We can only guess, but what motives might have been behind this? (See Matthew 26:14–16 and John 12:4–6.)
  6. Compare Matthew 27:1–8 and Acts 1:18–20. What do you think lay behind Judas’s suicide?
  7. Together with everyone in your group, brainstorm these two questions:
  8. - In what ways were Peter’s denial (Matthew 26:69–75) and Judas’s betrayal alike?
  9. - In what ways were they different?
  10. Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 26:48–50 and his warning in Mark 3:29. Would Jesus have forgiven Judas as he later forgave Peter? How does this make Judas’s death even more tragic?
  11. Where in the events we have been considering do you see Jesus’ love, a love that never dies?
  12. Based on all this, what would you say to someone who might say to you, “I’m so ashamed. What I’ve done is unforgivable”?
  13. What one key point will you carry away when you leave today? Explain.
  14. What will you ask Jesus to do in and through you in response to what you’ve heard?
Credits: Questions and some sermon ideas from Rev. Steven H. Albers, CTA.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
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