When you go to the top part of the Niagara Falls there is a point which you can reach which is called “the point of no return”.
No boat, no matter how powerful the engine, is able to pull away from the surging of water heading over the falls.
Once that point is reached a crash at the bottom of the falls is inevitable.
Now imagine if you were on the deck of a boat that had reached the point-of-no-return at Niagara Falls. What would be happening? For some it would be the pure terror of the inevitable … “I know I am going to die”. There could be the individual drive to try and preserve yourself and fight for the safest place on the boat … if there is one. For some there would be that real sense of regret, “Why did I ever come on this tour?”. That’s how it would work … don’t you agree?
Now let’s have a look at Jesus as He also reaches the point of no return.
Read Matthew 26:47-56
Why is this the point of no return for Jesus?
Because, from this moment on, all the events that eventuate in the crucifixion of Jesus will unfold.
From this moment He is under constant guard and cannot escape.
From this moment His destiny is in the hands of the Pharisees, Pilate, the crowds and the soldiers.
Now let me ask you. When you see how Jesus responds to this situation what do you see?
Do you see ... ... any terror?
Just prior to His arrest Jesus has just been pouring out His heart to God in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane.
He was overwhelmed.
He knew it was going to be a difficult cup to swallow.
Luke’s Gospel tells us that the situation caused Jesus to sweat drops of blood, and that angels needed to attend to Him.
But from that prayer Jesus gets up and says to His Father, “Not My will but Your will be done”.
Such words are not said lightly. Jesus is about to face a once-in-an-eternity pouring out of God’s anger onto His Son. Jesus knows He is in for the most difficult part of His ministry. Yet Jesus faces that moment with a determined resolve.
Or what about the actual arrest itself. John’s Gospel gives us another witness account of the situation – and you get a sense it is a bit of a shambles.
Let me read it for you.
Read John 18:1-6
Judas – on the verge of earning 30 pieces of silver – for one kiss.
There are officials from the temple – just to make sure they get the right man.
There is a detachment of soldiers – just in case there is a battle.
They have torches lanterns and weapons. All Jesus and the 11 disciples have are two swords. Yet when Jesus says three words “I am He … they drew back and feel to the ground”. It is a shambles.
There is no terror from Jesus ... in fact He is probably the only one in the group who doesn’t feel scared in some way.
Well, if there is no terror, has Jesus turned to self-preservation?
When Judas comes to give Him the “kiss of death” Jesus doesn’t turn away He says, “Friend, do what you came for”.
When Peter is ready to fight for Jesus and successfully cuts of an ear ... Jesus rebukes Peter. Jesus is not happy about the actions of His bodyguard.
If anyone was able to wiggle his way out of any situation – it was Jesus. Do you think I cannot call on My Father and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?
A legion is usually 1000. 12 legions is 12,000 angels.
We read about one angel in Scripture who is able to shut the mouths of a Den of lions and protect Daniel. Imagine the power of 12,000 angels.
Jesus could easily take the road of self-preservation, but he doesn’t.
What about regrets? As Jesus enters the point of no return does He have regrets?
Jesus has known for a long time that Judas was going to betray Him. Right back in John 6:70-71 we read:-
Jesus [said], “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil! (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, thought one of the Twelve, was late to betray Him).
That was a couple of years ago – even then Jesus knew what was going to happen. That being the case Jesus could have exposed Judas at anytime between then and now – but He doesn’t.
A prime opportunity occurred at the Lord’s Supper; which was only a few hours earlier. In the middle of the supper Jesus looks at each of His disciples and says, one of you is a betrayer. Each disciple answers “Surely not I, Lord”. When it came to Judas Jesus reveals the truth “Yes! Yes it is you” – but not in a way that makes the other disciples suspicious of what is happening. Jesus knew. He could have made Judas a target.
Is He now regretting it? As Judas comes with that kiss does Jesus say, “O I wish I had told everyone about the real person you are?”
Here’s another thought – it flows out of John 18:1-2 which I read earlier.
When He had finished praying, Jesus left with the disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and He and His disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed Him, knew the place because Jesus had often met there with His disciples.
All Jesus had to do was go to a different spot, not the regular spot. Judas would never have found Him. Do we see Jesus now full of regrets ....
“I should have gone to a different location.”
“I should have just left town.”
Is that Jesus? Not even close.
Jesus is at the point-of-no-return. The world has turned against Him. The death and the suffering which is His to endure can no longer be avoided. Yet … Jesus has peace … and Jesus is willing to accept God’s will in this matter
... no terror.
... no self preservation.
... no regrets.
Let’s stop for a moment and think about ourselves.
We have all had times when we have felt betrayed and our world has turned upside-down.
We have all had those days when those, who we thought were for us, have turned against us.
And it hurts ... doesn’t it.
Betrayal is a hard thing to accept because, by its very nature, it can only come through a friend or a loved one. It’s not a stranger who is inflicting hurt. It’s not a random act. It doesn’t happen by being a victim of circumstance. Betrayal is a weapon only found in the hands of the ones you love. Betrayal is an inside job.
• It’s more than just rejection. Rejection opens the wound – betrayal pours salt on it.
• It’s more than just loneliness. Loneliness leaves you out in the cold – betrayal closes the door.
• It’s more than just insult. Insult attacks your pride, betrayal breaks your heart.
That’s betrayal and it can take many forms … and it can claim many victims.
• The women who is made to feel useless because she is not the bread-winner.
• The man who just wants to provide – but it is never good enough.
• The parents who find just want their children to show some respect, and all they get is the cold shoulder.
• The children who must miss-out on even the basics because their parents can’t manage their money.
• The wife who is emotionally abused and made to feel less of a person.
• The husband who is continually derided in public by his wife who never has a kind word to say about him.
• The parents who are kept at a distance because “the are old and they don’t understand”.
• The children who miss out because their parents think building a house is more important than making a home.
• People who are out of work because they are redundant.
• Friends who lose touch because priorities have changed.
• Churches that drive Pastors to breaking point.
• Pastors that abuse their spiritual privilege.
Betrayal ... it happens more often than you think.
And what is the result? You get all these people who feel they have come to the end.
And they are lost.
And they are lonely.
And they have no peace.
And they are afraid.
And they are full of regret.
But, as we look at our text, we can see that it doesn’t have to be like that. For Jesus has shown that, in the midst of betrayal, we can move forward.
It revolves around this one significant word. Friend.
Despite the fact that, humanly speaking, it is Judas who is about to put Jesus onto the point-of-no-return Jesus does something amazing. He calls Judas friend.
And it is not said with sarcasm. His words to Judas are the culmination of an attitude which Jesus has shown all the way along.
Very early on Jesus knew who the betrayer was – but we are never given any indication that Judas was treated any differently, or that he was left out, or that he was mistreated, or that he was neglected.
And when Jesus says at the Lord’s Supper “One of you will betray me” – there wasn’t a sudden whisper, “It’s Judas – Jesus told me privately”. None of the other disciples had any idea. Judas was smart enough to keep the truth hidden. And Jesus never gave the game away. He had known what the betrayer was going to do, yet Jesus treated Judas as if he was faithful.
When Jesus calls Him friend it is spoken with true love and a true willingness to forgive.
Jesus calls Judas a friend because Jesus sees what many don’t.
Jesus knew that Judas had been seduced by a powerful enemy – Satan himself was clamouring at Judas’s heart. And Jesus knew how hard it was for Judas to withstand.
It doesn’t justify what Judas did.
It doesn’t minimise the deed.
It doesn’t release Judas from his choices.
But it does enable Jesus to move forward. You see when you keep on allowing betrayal to eat you ... when you keep on allowing the one who hurt you to have in influence ... well then a jail door is shut. But you are the one who finds yourself locked up.
In a world where we can be turned upside-down by betrayal here is a road to peace.
That is what Jesus taught Himself.
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Mt 5:44)
Because when you do this you are given release.
Now maybe you’re sitting there thinking “That’s unrealistic – or even simplistic?”
Perhaps the thought of trying to understand the Judases of this world seems too gracious.
What’s the alternative?
Will harbouring anger solve the problem?
Will getting even remove the hurt?
If you could punish them, how much would be enough?
And let’s think about the bigger picture here. Do we want to have a philosophy of life that says:-
When people hurt me I will hurt them back?
When I have been let down I have a right to be angry and retaliate?
When betrayal has occurred then that is the end of forgiveness?
Is that what we want?
Because the reality is we look at Judas and call him the betrayer. But there are heaps of others who fit the category. Judas may have been the one who dobbed Jesus in – but he wasn’t the only one of whom it could be said “Here comes My betrayer”.
• Think about John, Peter and James – they slept while Jesus prayed even though Jesus specifically asked them to keep watch.
• Or what about Thomas, Andrew and Nathanial – just some of the disciples who ran when Jesus was arrested.
• You can paint Peter into the same corner. Adamant that he would stand by Jesus. Ashamed when he denied Jesus 3 times.
There are others as well. The Jewish leaders:- the men who were charged with dispensing goodness and who were keeping watch for the Messiah … men who now vow to kill him. The crowd who called for Barabbas to be released … probably a similar crowd that were hailing Jesus as king. Caiaphas the high priest who knew all the laws … yet who bent them because of jealousy.
And what about us?
How many times have we turned our back on Jesus?
How many times have we closed our ears to His voice?
How many times has His call in our lives been put to the end of the list?
We are silent when people ask about faith.
We act like unbelievers even after we have professed that Jesus is Lord.
We are inconsistent.
Sometimes we don’t think twice about treating the Saviour of the world like this.
And sometimes we are just as guilty of treating others the same.
It’s true, isn’t it.
And for all that. For these reasons, and so much more. Jesus steps onto the point of no return. On the road to the cross.
Earth didn’t want Him and heaven was against Him.
Cursed by God.
Cursed by man.
To bring forgiveness for all the betrayers.
To open a door of peace for all who have been betrayed.
It’s forgiveness that brings freedom.
To live life
... without terror.
... without self preservation.
... without regret.