Summary: Sermon describes the betrayal Jesus suffered in his final week, and how it compares with our betrayal of Him.
Most prisoners have a unique understanding of how Jesus felt in his last days. They arrive at the courthouse, only to see one of your best friends talking with the prosecutor. “Betrayal” summarizes well humanity’s response to Jesus.
Please read Matthew 21:6-11; 33-40
The story of God’s relationship with humanity is one of mankind repeatedly betraying the Almighty. How have we betrayed God? We have done so by betraying each of the three persons of the Holy Trinity. We have betrayed the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Humanity’s betrayal of the Father begins with Adam and Eve. Satan tells Adam and Eve that if they take the fruit they will know good from evil–just like God. Adam and Eve realize that this is an offer of independence from God, and they literally devour it. “God, we do not need you anymore. Thanks for making us and getting us started, but we will take over now!” It was and is rebellion and betrayal against our Creator. In the wake of such opposition, God responded by raising up a chosen people. However, they too betray the Father. God’s plan to restore humanity to himself began by his raising up a people for himself. They were to master the ways of God, to be an example and an invitation for all people. Yet, Israel repeatedly sought independence from its God by making alliances with ungodly nations, and even by worshiping the false gods of its neighbors. God sent many prophets to warn the people to return to him. Occasionally they would, but never for long. Finally, God allowed Solomon’s Temple to be destroyed, and his people to be scattered amongst many nations.
As in Jesus’ parable from the Scripture reading, after the Father sent representatives, he finally sent his own son–hoping we would at least respect him. Nevertheless, humanity also betrayed the Son. This time, the sad account begins with God’s chosen people betraying him. God sent his Son, Jesus “first to the Jews.” The religious leaders of the Jews rejected their Messiah. To this day, the Jewish man, teacher, prophet, and Savior, Jesus Christ, is a source of great division for Jewish people. Worse yet, however, is that Jesus’s hand-picked people betray him. The crowds in today’s passage were mostly made up of Jesus’ followers. They shouted his praise, and indeed, many had done so for up to three years. Yet, within a week, as Jesus faced execution, these supporters went into hiding, or became active opponents shouting for his death. Note also that Jesus’ most devout followers--twelve disciples–were nowhere to be found during his hour of need. In fact, one of them, Judas, was the agent of Jesus’ arrest. Of those twelve disciples, Peter, James and John were especially close to Jesus. He had groomed them for leadership, and had poured himself into them. We read nothing of James and John, and can assume they were in hiding. Peter tried to trail Jesus, but ended up denying his relationship with him three times!
To use a baseball metaphor, this final betrayal signals the end of all hope. “Three strikes and you’re out!” Humanity betrays the Holy Spirit. We actively betray the Holy Spirit when we resist his invitation and reject God’s offer of salvation and fellowship. How tragic that the Holy Spirit calls us to salvation, and we reject him in order to preserve our own delusion of self-determination. How tragic that, even as Christian believers, we often turn a deaf ear to the Holy Spirit, as he warns us against sin, and calls us to spend time with God. We passively betray the Holy Spirit when we endorse–but do not embrace–his call on our lives. Often we sense the Spirit of God and say, “This is God. This is good.” Yet, we do nothing–we make no attempt to become a part of what God would have done. I would guess that these are the people Jesus had in mind when he said that on the Day of Judgement many would call on his name, but he would say to them, “Depart from me! I never knew you.”
How can we learn from and depart from our betrayal of God? This is Palm Sunday. We remember how Jesus entered Jerusalem to the praise of his disciples, and of the crowds. Yet, how empty the praise turned out to be! The celebration of this day is really a reminder of humanity’s great betrayal against our Creator. Some would put special blame upon certain groups, but my Bible says all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. More particularly, YOU have sinned and come short of the glory of God. What shall we do? If you are not a Christian, today is the day to say yes to God. Yes to God the Father. Yes to his son, Jesus Christ. Yes to the Holy Spirit. Confess your sins, and ask God to take your life and empty the garbage. Then, ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with power to live your life God’s way. If you are a Christian, today is also the day to say Yes to God. Yes to the Holy Spirit’s warnings against sins you are tempted to commit. Yes to the Holy Spirit’s encouragement to enter into a closer relationship with God. Yes to the Holy Spirit’s prompting you to good works that will cause men to glorify God. Do you want to embrace, rather than betray, Jesus? Say yes to God.