The Lord's Day Evening
January 22, 2006
“Selling Your Soul to Satan”
Dr. Derek W. H. Thomas
Please be seated. Now let's give our attention to the reading of the Scriptures, the word of God in the Gospel of Mark; and we've come this evening to the fourteenth chapter, where we're going to pick it up at verse 12 of Mark 14; and before we read the Scriptures together, let's come to God in prayer. Let's pray.
Once again, O Lord, we quieten our hearts and still our souls in the majesty of Your presence. We thank You for the Bible, the Scriptures, this inestimable gift. We treasure it. It is, next to Your Son, the most precious thing that You've ever given to us. We thank You that it is a light unto our path, a lamp unto our way. We want to think that it is sweeter to us than honey. We want to be men and women who are always in Your word, who love this Book more than any other book. We pray tonight again for help because we cannot understand it apart from the help of Your Spirit. Holy Spirit, come down and shine a light upon the Scriptures and upon our minds and hearts, and help us to read and mark, and learn, and inwardly digest. Speak to us from out of Your word. Cause us to see afresh the glory and greatness of the love of Jesus for us. For Jesus’ sake we ask it. Amen.
Now this is God's holy and inerrant word:
“On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples said to Him, ‘Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?’ And He sent two of his disciples, and said to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, ‘Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?’ And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; prepare for us there.’ The disciples went, and came to the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.
When it was evening He came with the twelve. As they were reclining at the table and eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me–one who is eating with Me.’ They began to be grieved and to say to Him one by one, ‘Surely not I?’ But He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who dips with Me in the bowl. For the Son of Man is to go, just as it is written on Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.’”
Amen. So far, God's holy and inerrant word.
It is Passover, what the Hebrews call Pesach, and it's hard for us tonight perhaps to imagine what Jerusalem was like during Passover. Jerusalem was a relatively small city. We would probably not even call it a city; we would call it a small town. Its population may not have been much more than 30,000. Josephus, whose numbers are never to be trusted, tells us that in A.D. 66 just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, a quarter of a million lambs were slaughtered on the eve of Passover. Now, assuming that one lamb would be sufficient for one family unit–that's ten people (mother, father, parents, children) that would make the population in Jerusalem in the confines of the walls of the city of Jerusalem somewhere around two and a half million. Now, that's impossible, and that's why his numbers are not to be trusted. Probably it's more like a tenth of those numbers, but even if the population of Jerusalem was normally 30,000, during Passover it could well have escalated to 300,000–ten times the normal occupancy of the city.
We thought Jackson was full after the hurricane when you couldn't get a room in a hotel, but that's nothing in comparison to what's going on here. You have to imagine (if it's not offensive) something like Mardi Gras in New Orleans — the streets full of people. And these festivals like Passover were family occasions, and children who perhaps didn't live in Jerusalem would come from the outlying parts of Judea and perhaps in the northern outskirts of Israel, and even the Diaspora Jews have come to Jerusalem, and they've come to the city that their parents were always talking about. And they’re pointing out, bustling, and jostling with each other, the various bits of architecture that every Jew had almost memorized.
And there were lambs everywhere...the lambs obviously tethered in some way on bits of string or rope, brought for the Passover. Some, to be sure, were purchased outside the walls. There would have been hucksters selling lambs cheaply to those who couldn't be bothered...or perhaps something had happened to the lamb along the way...and the meal for the Jews’ Passover was a time to eat this extraordinary meal. Just like you think of Thanksgiving and turkey and...I can't even remember now what you have!...but, sweet potato casserole, the cranberry sauce — that's what you think of. It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without turkey and the cranberry sauce. Well, Passover wouldn't be Passover without roast lamb. (I like roast lamb. I'm actually very fond of roast lamb. I had roast lamb just a week or so ago in South Africa, and good it certainly was!)
It's Passover, and the disciples are staying with Jesus in Bethany, a few miles outside of Jerusalem. Now, the Law (Deuteronomy 16) stated the Passover, the actual meal, had to be celebrated within the city walls itself. That means that the occupants of the city, the normal residents of the city, would have to let out part of their house — perhaps a rooftop, perhaps a room somewhere...in this case, an upper room...for other family members; other groups of families would use it for this occasion of Passover. There is almost nothing like it in our particular culture. Every family was expected to be in Jerusalem and within the walls of the city of Jerusalem on the night of Passover.
Mark tells us, somewhat loosely, I think, in verse 12, that this is the first day of Unleavened Bread — and technically, Unleavened Bread didn't begin until the day after Passover, but I think Mark is speaking euphemistically according to the system that then had begun to associate the entire season of Passover, which lasted for many days, as the season of Unleavened Bread.
It is something for which preparation has to be made, and that word prepare occurs three times in the text. The disciples are burdened now: Where are we going to celebrate the Passover? And evidently not with their own families, but they’re going to celebrate Passover with Jesus as their Head. And these twelve disciples and Jesus must find somewhere within the city, and it needs to be prepared. Wherever they’re going to celebrate Passover, all of the leaven, all of the yeast, has to be removed from the house. Every last trace of it has to be removed from the house. The lamb has to be prepared. It has to be taken sacrificially to the temple and slaughtered according to the manner, and then brought back and cooked and prepared, and the bitter herbs and the unleavened bread and the other delicacies that were associated with Passover, all of this has to be prepared. And this is the great question: Where are we going to celebrate Passover?
Now, three things emerge in the description of now what happens.
I. All that happens here does so according to a plan.
First of all, all that happens here does so according to a plan. Look at what Mark says in verse 21. He's quoting the words of Jesus: “For the Son of Man is to go just as it is written of Him.” And again in verse 16: “They found that everything was just as He had told them.” There is a plan afoot here. Jesus had prepared it all. This Passover will yield eventually to Jesus’ being arrested, and to Jesus’ being crucified, and all of the details of it are planned by Jesus.
Albert Schweitzer, famous (infamous) theologian, medic, missionary, turn of the nineteenth/twentieth century Swiss, wrote what still today reverberates in the corridors of theology - a very famous book, The Quest for the Historical Jesus. And part of the core of that volume was to suggest that Jesus was hoping to introduce the kingdom, and everything now seems to go wrong. He lost control of the situation; He overplayed His hand. And nothing could be further from the truth!
He sends two of His disciples (Luke identifies them as Peter and John) into the city. And they’re to find something which in the culture would have been unusual: a man carrying a pitcher of water. Normally it would be women who would carry pitchers of water. It may indicate that this room was near the Pool of Siloam. And when they see this man they’re to follow him. And when he enters into the house they’re to ask this preset question. And everything happens just as Jesus says - all the details of it. It's all planned. It's all organized. He's not just some hapless victim of circumstances that are beyond His control. On several occasions now He has said to the disciples, “The Son of Man will be betrayed, and He will be handed over, and He will be crucified.” He knows that He is the Passover Lamb! He knows that He is the true sacrifice on behalf of sinners. That's the mission that He has come to perform. He has come to be Messiah; He has come to be our substitute; He's come to lay down His life for us; He's come to be the Suffering Servant of the Lord.
You know, later the disciples will look back on this event — Peter, especially - just six weeks from now, on the Day of Pentecost, and Peter will say that what took place in Jerusalem happened by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. By the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God...Jesus is in full knowledge and absolute control here. He is steering this ship towards an inexorable destiny: that He will become our sin bearer and substitute.
He had planned, you see, that there would be a room for these disciples in which not only would they celebrate Passover, but they would be apart from the jostle of the crowd. There would be quietness, and He would be able to instruct them. And you remember the instruction that He would give them: John 14, 15, 16, 17, in which Jesus will give them instruction about the coming of the Holy Spirit, the other comforter, the other paraclete, the One who will be Jesus’ representative agent when Jesus is gone, the One who will lead them into all truth.
He will say to them in the quietness of that room, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. Let not your hearts be troubled; you believe in God; believe also in Me.” And they must have listened with rapt attention as Jesus began to pray what we now call that high priestly prayer in John 17, as their souls and spirits were lifted up on high as they listened to the Savior pray on behalf of the disciples, on behalf of future converts, on behalf of the likes of you and me in that prayer. And all of it was planned, and all of it was purposed — every detail, every exigency, even to what looks like this secret, furtive, engagement of a man carrying a pitcher of water.
And you think - you think tonight that the details of your life are just random events! And every one of them, every single one of them, is in the palms of Jesus’ hands to rule and to reign as the Sovereign King of heaven and earth. Everything that happens — everything — happens according to a plan, all the details.
II. All that happens here does so according to an act of betrayal.
And in the second place, all that happens here does so according to an act of betrayal. According to an act of betrayal: “One of you will betray Me,” Jesus says. “One of the twelve, the one who dips with Me in the bowl.”
Now Mark has already told us about Judas’ intent in verse 10, that “Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests, in order to betray Him to them.” And we see that now working itself out, and four things come to the surface.
The first thing is a question. Why does Jesus put it that way? Why does He speak in this enigmatic way? Why doesn't He pull Judas aside and say to him as Master to disciple, ‘Judas, I'm disappointed in you. I expected more of you. You’re a leader; I chose you to be one of the twelve disciples, and you've let me down and you've let the other disciples down.’ You can imagine the conversation. I can't begin to put it into words, but you can imagine that conversation. Why does Jesus put it in this general fashion so that all of the disciples now begin to think, ‘Well, perhaps it's me...?’ Isn't there something cruel about it? That Jesus would begin to say something that would lead the likes of John or Peter, Andrew or Nathaniel, to think “Is it me? Is He talking about me?” But Jesus knew all along it wasn't them.
I think the answer, my friends, is something that Robert Murray M’Cheyne once said: that the seeds of every known sin lie within each one of our hearts. It may not be John who betrayed Jesus, but John was capable of betraying Jesus. It may not have been Peter who betrayed Jesus, but Peter was capable of betraying Jesus. And I think what Jesus is doing here is causing these disciples to search their own hearts and to think the unthinkable, and to think that it could possibly be them, so that when they come to reflect on what Jesus did on the cross, it was for the likes of them as sinners that He did it. And I think in this Passover meal Jesus is causing these disciples to reflect on their own sinfulness and their own propensity to sin.
Do you know that hymn, Ah, Holy Jesus? Bach used it in his St. Matthew's Passion, but we sing it today in our hymnbook:
“Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon Thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee.
T'was I, Lord Jesus; It was I denied Thee.
I crucified Thee.”
And then something else: that Judas's betrayal was not something the disciples anticipated. You know, none of the disciples said when Jesus made this enigmatic statement, “It is one of the twelve, one who dips in the bowl with Me,” none of them said, ‘It's Judas! I never trusted him! Something about his eyes, something about that shifty manner of his, those furtive glances that he would....’ None of them said that. It is obvious that Judas has been stealing from the moneybag for some time, but the disciples are unaware of it. And there was nothing in the character and disposition of Judas that led any of the disciples in the upper room to say, as we sometimes say when Ligon is preaching in the morning, ‘Oh, he's preaching about So-and-So.’ None of them say that.
And it reminds us of a truth that is very, very, solemn. It reminds us of the extent to which a person can give a profession of faith, and that profession of faith seems to be genuine even amongst the people of God; and at the end, that person turns out to be reprobate.
That's why the New Testament can say without explaining it that Christians fall from grace. Now I know you’ll come and ask me questions about this — I know that now! — but understand what I'm saying. When the New Testament talks about “Christians”, it talks about Christians according to the language of their profession. They profess to be Christians. Judas would have professed to be a believer. Now, he wasn't elect; he wasn't a true believer, but in the eyes of the disciples, he was a believer, and he fell. He fell from grace. And you see what that says to us tonight? It says to us tonight that we can never ever presume simply on the language of a profession that we made five years ago or ten years ago or twenty years ago. “He that perseveres to the end, the same shall be saved.”
And then something else: that there is no limit to the duplicity that the natural heart is capable of. You know, among the chorus of voices in that upper room who said, “Surely, not me?” was probably Judas’, who knew full well what he was doing, who had already made a deal with the Sanhedrin. The specter of the reward was already on his mind, but I guarantee you - I guarantee you - in that upper room one of those voices saying “Surely, not me?” was Judas’. And you know, he probably believed it, because secret sin had been going on in his life for so long now that it had seared his conscience. It had seared his conscience, and he is no longer sensitive to the things of God.
My friends, this is a solemn passage. This is not a “joy, joy, joy” passage. We sang that this morning — you had your joy this morning! This is a solemn passage, and it's terrifying, the extent to which Judas himself, I think, believed at that moment he could repent of his sin any time he wanted; that he was in full control of the situation, and he could hit the brakes when he wanted to. And you know the truth of it? That Judas had reached the point where he was unable to repent any more, and he didn't know it. And he didn't know it....
But there's something else here, too, I think. Could it be that Jesus puts it this way —not identifying Judas — because Jesus desires the repentance of Judas? Now I know it's hard to hold all of those things together, and if you begin to think too much now you’re going to get into all kinds of trouble. But there's a verse in Scripture that we cannot erase: “Not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance....” That's what Peter says, and I wonder, when Peter penned those words was he thinking of Jesus in the upper room? Even with the likes of Judas, that He desires the repentance of Judas, who could no longer repent?
My friends, no matter how steeped in sin you may be, Jesus longs and desires your repentance. And I think that one of the reasons why Jesus put it this way was that it was giving Judas...at least, from an earthly perspective it was giving Judas one more opportunity to repent. And the only reason why he didn't repent was his own fault.
You know, from another perspective, it was one more nail in Judas's coffin that he failed to repent in the last hour. The dying thief could repent in the last hour. Jesus didn't say of the dying thief, ‘You know, he's of no use to Me now. Even if he repents now, he's of absolutely no use for the kingdom.’ He received him into His arms and said, ‘Tonight we’ll sup together in heaven.’ And even here, even in the darkness of this upper room, here is the heart of God: not wishing that any should perish, not one; but that all should come to repentance.
III. All that happens here does so according to Scripture.
And there's a third thing I want us to see very quickly, and that is this: That all that happens here does so according to Scripture. All that happens here happens according to a plan; all that happens here happens according to an act of betrayal; but, thirdly, all that happens here happens according to Scripture.
We read, “The Son of Man is to go just as it is written of Him.” You know, the interesting thing is that when you read the Old Testament, that expression the Son of Man — the Son of Man figure in the Old Testament is not a figure who faces persecution and trial and death. There are other figures in the Old Testament that allude to that, but not the Son of Man figure. The Son of Man figure comes from Daniel 7. The Son of Man is a glorious warrior who reigns in triumph.
And do you see what Jesus has done in reading the Old Testament? Yes, He is the Lord of glory; He is the triumphant, victorious One, the Son of Man; but He's wedded that picture with another picture, the picture of Isaiah 53, the picture of the Suffering Servant. And the only way to victory is via the cross.
And do you see what Jesus is saying to His disciples? This has to happen, and it has to happen this way. It has to happen according to an act of betrayal. It has to happen according to an act of execution upon a cross, because that's the only way that sinners are going to be atoned for and redeemed, and the ransom price paid: because
“There is no other good enough
To pay the price of sin.
He only can unlock the gates of heaven
And let us in.”
And Jesus is setting Himself on the course so that Scripture is fulfilled, so that the promise of Genesis 3:15 that the head of Satan will be bruised and crushed...the Seed of the woman who gives Himself on the tree unto the anathema of God for our sins, yours and mine.
Thomas Kelley puts it in his glorious hymn, Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted,
“Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great,
Here may view its nature rightly;
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed;
See who bears the awful load:
T'is the Word, the Lord's anointed,
Son of Man, and Son of God.”
Let's pray together.
Our Father, we thank You again this evening for this little glimpse of the heart of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who, knowing what lay before Him, yet inexorably set His way to go to Jerusalem to become our sin-bearer, to pay the price for the guilt of our sins, to let us into heaven to be with Him in the mansions of glory that await us. Fill our hearts with praise and bless us now this Lord's Day evening; and write these things upon our hearts for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Please stand and receive the Lord's benediction.
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
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This transcribed message has been lightly edited and formatted for the Web site. No attempt has been made, however, to alter the basic extemporaneous delivery style, or to produce a grammatically accurate, publication-ready manuscript conforming to an established style template.
Should there be questions regarding grammar or theological content, the reader should presume any website error to be with the webmaster/transcriber/editor rather than with the original speaker. For full copyright, reproduction and permission information, please visit the First Presbyterian Church Copyright, Reproduction & Permission statement.