The Night He Was Betrayed
April 3rd, 1977 @ 7:30 PM
THE NIGHT HE WAS BETRAYED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 11:23
4-3-77 7:30 p.m.
In keeping with this first Sunday of April, in which we have the observance of our Lord’s Supper, I have chosen, if God will help me, to present tonight in the message the background of why it was that our Lord was so bitterly rejected and so summarily crucified. The text would be in 1 Corinthians 11:23: "the night in which He was betrayed." And, I shall read the whole passage together when we observe this memorial of the Lord’s Supper.
"The night in which He was betrayed." To us who love the Lord, it is almost beyond our imagination that so beautiful a character, so sweet and gentle a person, so meek and mild a teacher, should have been so ruthlessly and mercilessly condemned and crucified. How could such a thing have ever come to pass?
If God will help me, I hope I can portray that in this sermon tonight. Going back and following the events, when Jesus came to the latter part of His three-year ministry, He steadfastly set His face to go toward Jerusalem, announcing to His apostles that He should be delivered into the hands of sinners and should be crucified and die and, the third day, rise from the dead.
So, going through Galilee and, as most Jews did, crossing over into Perea, on the eastern side of the Jordan, and coming down southward; in that journey through Perea, he was by the rich young ruler. And, this is something for many of us to remember who work with people who need the Lord. The Lord did not succeed all of the time. He also knew what it was to see someone say no and walk away. So it was with the rich young ruler. The Lord invited him to eternal life. But, he refused to pay the price. He loved the world more than he loved God, loved his possessions more than he loved Christ and walked away.
Then, the Lord crossing over Jordan, came to Jericho on the way up to Jerusalem. And, in Jericho, we have the story of the healing of the blind man, Bartimaus, and, then, the Lord calling down Zaccheus out of the tree and announcing that He would spend the day with that despised publican. And, seated there at the table with that despised tax-gatherer, the Lord announced to him that, this day, salvation had come to his house. And, Zaccheus, standing as tall as his short stature would allow, said, "Master, this day have I given my heart and my life to the faith, and to Thee. And, if I have wronged any man, I will restore him fourfold. And, a portion – and a large one – of all that I possess, will I give in the ministry to those who have need."
It was a wonderful thing, a keeping with what I was preaching about this morning: a personal testimony, the Lord going to that particular tree, looking up into the face of that particular sinner and saying to him He was going to spend the day in that man’s house and winning him personally to the Lord.
That’s the best way in the earth to win people to Christ is one by one; so the Lord, in that wonderful story of Zaccheus in Jericho. And, then, leaving Jericho, He came up to the little city of Bethany, which is located on the farther slope of Mount Olivet.
The next day is Sunday. And, on Sunday, our Lord entered Jerusalem, at the exact time we’re told by Gabriel, the angel, to Daniel, the prophet-statesman, in the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel. In the exact way as it was prophesied by Zechariah, the prophet, the Lord Jesus came riding, on the foal of an ass, into Jerusalem. And, the people, the throngs, were ecstatic in their praise of God, in the coming of their promised Messiah.
This was the great historical rendezvous of God with His chosen people, Israel. The mighty and victorious and triumphant day had come. Israel was presented with her messianic king. And, He came as the prophet, as prophesied, riding on the foal of an ass into the city. And, the people took palm branches and waved them before Him. They even took off their clothes for that beast of burden to walk upon. And, the children shouted the praises of God. The whole multitude burst into the glorious paean of love and adoration: "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the Son of David, Hosannah in the highest." [Matthew 21:9]
Now, the throng was ecstatic. They were happy. They were filled with praise. But, the rulers of the nation and the theological professors of the rabbinical schools, and all of the leaders in the temple and among the people, were offended by what the throngs were doing. And, they said to the master, to the king who had come: "Bid these be still." And, the Lord said: "If these were to be silent, the very stones would cry out." [Luke 19:40]
This was the great concomitant day for Israel. Her king had come. The next day, the Lord came back again into Jerusalem from Bethany where He was spending the night of that Passover week, the week in which we are now living: Passover. And, when the Lord came down the mountainside and up into Jerusalem, He passed by a fig tree. And, because He was enhungered, and because the tree had leaved and shown forth itself as being full of fruit – coming to the tree, it was barren. There was no fruit upon it. Yet, a leafed fig tree was a sign of an abundance of fruit. And, the Lord cursed the fig tree. It was sterile and barren. Instead of bearing forth fruit unto God, it was empty.
And, the fig tree is always a sign of Israel. And, when the Lord cursed the fig tree, because of its barrenness and its unfruitfulness and its sterility, it was a parable, a picture, an earnest, of what God was doing with the nation that was about to refuse their messianic king.
Then, the Lord comes into the city of Jerusalem and cleanses the Temple. Here, again, was an affront of the first order and the highest degree to the leaders of Jewry. You see, there was not anything more profitable than that Temple traffic. They bought. They sold. They changed money. And, for these Sadducees, and for the high priest and his family and the ruling clique of the Temple, it brought in untold wealth.
And, when a man touches a fellow’s pocket-book, he touches the most vital nerve center in his life. And, when the Lord cast out those that were buying and selling and changing, He caused an indescribable bitterness to rise in the hearts of those who were trafficking in the Temple and, thus, making money like a mint. There was a bitterness that arose in their hearts that was as deep as life itself.
At that time, there came the Gentiles – the Greeks, saying: "Sirs, we would see Jesus." And, that brought to the heart of our Master the vision of the cross, upon which soon He would die: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me," [John 12:32] the message of salvation, not just for Israel, but the whole world to be included in the family of God, who look by faith to Him.
Then, the Lord returned to Bethany for the night. The next day, which is Tuesday – the next day was the day of the tremendous and violent confrontation between the King Messiah, the Lord Jesus, and the rulers of the Temple, and the rulers of the nation, the priesthood, and all of those who were in exalted leadership among the Jewish people.
First of all was the Sanhedrin. When the Lord appeared in the Temple, the next day, on Tuesday, He was accosted by the Sanhedrin. And, they came up to Him and asked: "By what authority do you dare to do these things?" Well, it is a good question. Here is a man, by the simple sheer aura of His personality, that could cleanse an entire twenty six acres of the Temple. And, they didn’t dare seize Him, for fear of the people.
There must have been something about the Lord that was beyond anything that we have ever been introduced to. What could happen in the presence of the personality of the Son of God? When people decry the miracles of the Lord, it is because they don’t realize what is possible in the presence of God. For example, when they sought Him in Nazareth, to cast Him headlong down into death, the Book says He just walked in the very midst.
There was a majesty and a glory about Jesus that we do not know or could enter into, having never seen Him. So it was in His cleansing of the Temple. Why didn’t they seize Him? Why didn’t the Temple police take hold of Him, drag Him off to prison and to jail?
It was because of the love of the people for Him and because of that intangible something that accompanied the personality of the Son of God. The Lord Himself said: "You could have no power over Me except it is in the purpose and plan of God that I die for the nation and for the world." So, at that first confrontation, the members of the Sanhedrin come up to the Lord Jesus and they say: "By what authority doest Thou these things?"
And, the Lord replied – and you’re going to follow through now to some of the most brilliant dialectics you ever were introduced to in your life. How the Son of God could speak! And, the Lord replied: "Let me ask you a question. And, if you answer Me, I will answer you. The baptism of John: Was it from God or was it from men? Is it something the Lord commanded of him? Or, is it something that he invented of himself? The baptism of John: Whence came it; from heaven or from men?
And, they reasoned among themselves and said: "If we say it is from heaven, why, He’ll say, ‘Then why don’t you believe him, for he’s a witness to Me?’ But, if we say ‘It was from men’ – he invented it himself – the people will stone us," because all men, everywhere, received John as a prophet.
And, so, the Sanhedrin said to the Lord: "We don’t know. We can’t answer thee."
And, the Lord said: "Neither will I answer Thee."
Brilliant! Then, the second confrontation there in the Temple. Now, the Herodians and the Pharisees hated each other. The Pharisees hated the Herodians and the Herodians hated the Pharisees. But, they all agreed they hated Jesus more.
So, the Herodians and the Pharisees had a trap. What a trap! It was as brilliant as the Devil himself, who says: "I am the king of this whole world and its glory is mine."
They had a trap. No way in the world to get out of that. You see, it was framed like this. The people of Jewry hated Rome. They were the chosen people of God, but they were slaves to Rome. And, Rome imposed heavy taxes upon them. And, they hated Rome. So, they devised a question. "Is it right to give tribute to Caesar?" How innocent a question! Why, it had been debated for years and for years: Is it right to pay tribute to Caesar?
If the Lord says yes, the people will hate Him, stone Him, for they were galling under the yoke of Roman slavery. But, if He says it is not right to pay tribute to Caesar, then He’s guilty of treason. All they had to do was to accuse Him before the Roman procurator and, immediately, He was arrested for sedition, treason. You couldn’t get out of a trap like that. What a plan, and a simple innocuous question! So, they come up to the Lord Jesus and say: "Is it right to give tribute to Caesar or not? What do you say?"
And, the Lord said: "Bring Me a piece of the money that is current in the land."
And, they brought Him a piece of the money. And, holding it in His hand – a denarius – He said: "Whose image and inscription is that?"
And, they said: "Caesar’s."
And, He replied: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s." It was an amazing answer.
But, they’re not done in this day of confrontation. The Sadducees came forward then, to ridicule Him: "You believe in the resurrection? Huh? You believe in being raised from the dead? Huh? And, you believe in a life that is to come? Huh?
"Then, let us ask you something: According to the Levirate law, if a man has a wife and no child and the man dies, his brother is to take his wife and to raise an issue to the brother that had died lest his name perish and his family perish in the earth." Now, said the Sadducees – and, they told a old hackneyed story over which they had laughed for the years of their existence: "There was a man who had a wife. And, he died without leaving any issue, without any son. So, by the Levirate law, his brother took her. And, he died, not having a son.
Then, the third brother took her. And, he died and no issue. And, the fourth brother took her, and the fifth one and the sixth one. And, there were seven brothers, and all seven brothers had her and died without any issue. And, last of all the woman died. Now, in the resurrection – Ha, ha, ha," said those Sadducees – "Now, in the resurrection, whose wife is she, for all seven of them were married to her? Ha, ha, ha, ha." They had devastated and decimated those who believed in the resurrection for centuries with that old hackneyed story. Ha, ha, ha. Boy, have we got Him in a corner. Let’s hear Him answer now.
And, the Lord said: "In the resurrection, we’re like the angels. That is, our instruments and vessels of procreation, of fertility, are not anymore given to us. We’re like the angels, like Gabriel and like Michael. We’re like the angels of God in the resurrection. But, as concerning the resurrection, you do greatly err, not knowing the Scriptures. For did you never read: I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dust and of the dead and of the grave. God is the God of the living: I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, living, living."
Let me point out something to you there, talking about the infallibility and the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. In that answer of our Lord, He is basing the entire doctrine of the resurrection from the dead upon the tense of a verb: "I am the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God of the living." Now, in that confrontation, when the Pharisees saw the Lord had put to silence the Sadducees, who do not believe in the resurrection. The Pharisees came up to Him and, in a way to entrap Him again, one of the lawyers stood up and asked Him a question over which they had debated for centuries and centuries, again: "Master, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?" [Matthew 22:36]
Here is something I learned from the Lord for all of us. There are differences in commandments. Some are more weighty than others. Some are more vital than others. Some are more significant than others. Some things are more important than others.
And, the Lord so answered: "There is a great commandment in the law. It is – and He quoted the shema, from the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy: Hear – hear, shema – Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one Lord. And thou shalt worship the Lord thy God" – not a multitude of gods, just one, the one Jehovah, Jesus, God –
Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God with all of thy heart, and strength, and might, and mind, and soul, and body.
And the second commandment is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
[Matthew 23:37, 39]
And, the Pharisaical lawyer looked at the Lord Jesus: "Master, you have answered well. To love the Lord thy God is the greatest commandment of the Lord. And to love a man’s neighbor, to love people, is like unto it."
What a day! What a day. And, it closed with the Lord’s scathing denunciation of these whited sepulchers and, ended in sobs and in tears. You read the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Matthew, which is the conclusion of that day of confrontation, and the scathing denunciation and judgment of the Lord. And, it closes: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how oft would I have gathered, but you would not. Your house is left unto you desolate." [Matthew 23:37]
And, as the Lord passed by, the last thing in His public ministry, He watched the people give unto the treasury, and saw a poor widow cast in everything that she had. And, He said: "She hath given more than they all, for they out of abundance hast cast in, but she, all of her living." [Luke 21:4]
Now, the last day of His life: in going up, leaving the city for the last time, they pointed out to Him those great stones in the Temple. And, then, walking up Olivet, He seated Himself and gave that marvelous discourse on the end of the age: "Master, you say these stones are to be destroyed and the Temple, torn down? When shall it be? And, what shall be the sign of Thy coming?" – in His great Apocalyptic address, in Matthew 24 and 25.
That night, He is the guest in the home of Simon the leper. And, Mary anoints Him with oil, with spikenard. It would take a man a whole year to work to buy that much ointment. And, when Mary anointed the Lord, Judas Iscariot, because he was a thief, John said, and had the bag – he was the treasurer, Judas Iscariot said: "Look at this waste! Why, we could have taken that and fed the poor" – because it was in his hand, that he had the bag – if it were turned into money and sold and given unto him.
And, the Lord said: "She hath anointed Me for My burying." And, Judas, stung with that rebuke, and seeing the confrontation of the day and the cause was lost, immediately went to the high priest to bargain for the betrayal of the Lord Jesus.
And, on Thursday, He sent Peter and John to arrange for the Paschal meal in the upper room. And, as the disciples come in for that Paschal, to show you how human and how carnal all of us are, they began to argue about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom: who is going to sit on His right hand and who is going to sit on His left hand. And, it was then that Jesus took off His clothes, which is the humblest thing a man can do, girded Himself with a towel and washed the feet of the apostles, saying: "If I, your Lord and Master, will wash your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet." Footwashing, humility.
The Lord took bread and brake it. This is My body. Took the fruit of the vine, blessed it: "This is My blood of the New Covenant, shed for the remission of sins. This do, as oft as ye eat, as oft as you drink, in remembrance of Me," until I come again.
Then, while they ate the Paschal meal, He is asked – Simon Peter says to John: "John, ask Him who is it that is to betray Him?" And, the Lord replies: "It is to him to whom I give the sop and he dipped the Paschal bread" – the unleavened bread in the gravy of the lamb – and handed it to Judas Iscariot. And, Judas went out immediately and arranged for His betrayal that night.
O blessed Savior. How men treated Thee! And, refused Thee, rejected Thee, spit upon Thee, plucked out Thy beard, mocked Thee, crucified Thee. But, Lord, raised from the dead, having died for our sins, we love Thee and offer Thee the fruit of our hands and of our lives. This is the night in which He was betrayed.
We’re going to sing our hymn of appeal in just a moment. And, while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, to give himself to the Lord or to come into the fellowship of this dear church, while we sing this hymn of appeal, would you make it now? Come now. On the first note of the first stanza, come. Make the decision in your heart.
And, when you stand up to sing, stand up, walking down that stairway or coming down this aisle. I’ll be here to this side of our communion table. Come to me. "Pastor, tonight, I’ve made this decision for Christ and I’m coming. I give you my hand. I’ve given my heart to God and here I am." Do it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.