” . . .the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” John 18:11b.
You don’t hear a lot about the word “sacrifice” these days. Sacrifice has fallen off our radar. Rhetoric of the day is filled with words such as, “financial gain”, and “appropriations”, and avoiding sacrifice by people who say, “It’s not my responsibility.” We do pay homage to the brave men and women in our military who die in battle defending our country. We say, “they made the ultimate sacrifice”, or “they paid the ultimate price.” What we really mean, but won’t say is “they gave their lives for someone else.” They “laid down their lives for others.”
We hear the word “betrayal” much more than we hear “sacrifice.” Politicians accuse their opponents of betrayal. Disgraced politicians admit to “betraying the trust of their constituents and their families.” Our elected officials accuse financial institutions of “betraying the public trust.”
We seldom hear of sacrifice and betrayal together. But we do in John 18. Betrayal and Sacrifice clash horns in one dark moment. We witness the ultimate betrayal and the ultimate example of sacrifice. In Matthew’s account it happened with a kiss on the cheek. Judas, who had been with Jesus for three years, who watched Jesus’ miracles and heard His teaching and witnessed His love for others, led the Roman soldiers to Jesus. To the place Jesus had taken His disciples for fellowship and teaching before.
Betrayal leaves an indelible mark on the betrayer and the one betrayed. Betrayal violates a sacred trust. It happens when a child watches their family falling apart. Acquaintances can disappoint us. Friends can make us angry. But betrayal’s roots run to the core of intimate relationships and sever the cords of intimacy. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of betrayal you know how that feels. Judas did that to Jesus. He had been intimately involved with Jesus’ ministry and with Jesus. For a few dollars Judas’ betrayal severed that intimacy. Judas’ pain and shame cut so deep that he hung himself attempting to escape his misery.
With the same kiss, at the same moment of Judas’ betrayal, Jesus displayed His obedience, His authority, His compassion and His sacrifice. In John 18:4 Jesus acted in obedience when He identified Himself as the one the Romans wanted to capture and the Jews wanted to crucify. As a result, the ultimate transformation of the world occurred on the cross because Jesus was obedient. If we yield to our preferences rather than choose to be obedient to God’s plan for us, we will find ourselves wandering off the path God has for us.
When Jesus identified Himself as the one they were seeking He responded with authority. Scripture says the crowd immediately drew back and fell to the ground. Probably out of fear, but more out of reverence because they recognized His authority and His power. We live in an age when people in all walks of life will do all kinds of wicked, lawless things to gain power over others. The world thinks it has power. Showing power in the world only draws people farther and farther from the real power of God.
Then in verse 8 Jesus protects His disciples. First, He wanted to save them from injury or harm because He loved them and cared for them. And second, He had given them the responsibility for spreading His gospel throughout the world. He was saving them for that task.
And finally, in that torch-lit night Jesus confronted the emotions the moment created. Peter, like the other disciples, was probably feeling a range of emotions, questions and uncertainty. In an outburst of anger, Peter drew his sword and cut off an ear of the high priest’s slave. Jesus told Peter to put his sword away.
Can you imagine that scene? The slave was probably writhing in pain, screaming and shaking. His blood is darkening the sand around his head. The disciples on one side and the Roman soldiers on the other drawing swords, both sides anticipating a blood bath. What does Jesus do? With the peace of God and His sweet, calm spirit, Jesus kneels to the ground and quietly, yet powerfully, heals the slave’s ear without a word. All the time knowing that His ultimate sacrifice looms in the day ahead of them.
Ask yourself when was the last time you sacrificed anything of yourself for anyone else?
Do you consider others better than yourself?
What are you willing to sacrifice for your family, your friends, your co-workers?
All Jesus wants from you is everything you have.
If you sacrifice everything you have to Him, He will fill you with everything He has for you.