The cross is fast approaching as we hit Wednesday of Holy Week. Jesus recognizes this fact, saying to his disciples, “After two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified” (Matthew 26:2). Jesus knew that the Jewish leaders were actively plotting to kill him. They wanted to arrest him secretly, without the knowledge of the people because they feared “an uproar among the people” (Matthew 26:5). The appointed time for him to die for the sins of the world had arrived.
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry he called twelve men to follow him and become his disciples. This group of men followed Jesus for three years. They were his close friends and brothers. They listened closely to Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom and strove to follow the example of his character. The majority of these men would go on to become the foundation of the church as we know it today, penning God-inspired letters and gospels that would instruct the church as the very words of God for centuries. But there was one disciple who didn’t follow Jesus to the end, Judas Iscariot.
For reasons unknown to us, other than Luke’s note that “Satan entered” into his heart, Judas decided to betray Jesus. We don’t know whether the chief priests had approached Judas some time before or whether the entire plot was his own doing, but the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are all clear that Judas went to the chief priests and agreed to sell Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. The picture here is of one of Jesus’ twelve closest buddies sneaking off in secret to commit the greatest act of betrayal we’ve ever seen. If you have ever been betrayed by a friend or anyone close to you then you identify with Jesus’ emotions deeply. Few things feel worse than the disloyalty of someone you love. An adulterous spouse, a backstabbing friend, a family member...when the betrayal comes from someone dear to your heart it hurts that much worse. This is exactly what Jesus would experience Thursday evening when Judas' plot would come to the light. But the Bible has prepared us for this sometime before.
In the book of Genesis we read about a man named Joseph in chapters 37-50. He was one of twelve brothers, sons to the patriarch Jacob, later to be known as Israel. Joseph’s brothers betrayed him. They conspired to kill him and eventually settled on selling him into slavery for some cash because they were jealous of the favoritism their father showed Joseph, and if we're honest, Joseph was a bit of a brat. His brothers' goal was to get rid of him and teach him a lesson. Instead, the story progresses and comes to a Hollywood-worthy resolution when Joseph becomes the prime minister in Egypt after experiencing several years suffering as a slave and prisoner. Now his treacherous brothers are at his mercy.
Rather execute then execute a Michael-Corleone-on-Fredo-style revenge, however, Joseph forgave his brothers. They came to him during a famine, not knowing who he was other than the Egyptian prime minister who had stockpiled enough food for the nation. Joseph was in the position of power and could have easily refused or even executed his brothers for their evil so many years before. Yet, he forgave them and left all readers of the Bible with amazing insight into the mind of God. As his brothers awaited their fate, now realizing the true identity of this Egyptian leader, they expected full revenge especially after their father’s death. Instead, Joseph said to them, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive” (Genesis 50:20).
Joseph's God-given insight was that God's plan all along had been to use the evil intentions of Joseph's brothers to bring about mass salvation for the entire nation. Isn’t that the story of Jesus? Judas and the chief priests had intentions that were pure evil: to betray, falsely accuse, and murder an innocent man. Yet their incredible evil was subject to the sovereign control and plan of God. The same is true of ALL evil. By the treachery of his brothers, Joseph was able to be in a position to feed and save an entire nation during a widespread famine. By the treachery of his brother, Jesus was able to take on the punishment for the sins of the world and save everyone who believes in him!
My hope is that you would always see evil and suffering in this perspective, especially in a world that has seemingly gone mad lately. EVERYTHING is under God’s control, including the evil we see. This can be a difficult truth to grasp, but difficulty doesn't make facts any less true. God knows and he has a plan greater than we could ever fathom. There is no way Joseph could have known what his slavery would ultimately accomplish as part of God's plan. And as Judas ended up killing himself in despair, believing that his treacherous actions pushed him too far from grace, let us never make the same mistake. Judas couldn’t imagine that Jesus’ death would result in the salvation of millions, maybe billions. Yet that was the wisdom of God to crush our Savior (Isaiah 53:10) so that we might live.
We, too, have no idea what will result from the difficult times we face. And if we aren't careful, we can look at our circumstances and despair. But if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you can be certain of the fact that although Wednesday may be full of traitors, deceit, and back-stabbing, SUNDAY IS COMING. Jesus came back on that beautiful Easter morning, conquering death and providing a way of hope. Our ultimate Sunday is coming as well. One day, when Jesus returns a second time, he will put an end to the sin, death, misery, and betrayal of the world in which we currently live. He will bring a new heaven and a new earth where all who trust in him will reign with him for eternity! Sin will have no place there. Don't spend your time in worry, in fear, or in despair over your own wrongdoing or that of others... SUNDAY IS COMING!