Marcus Junius Brutus the Younger, Guy Fawkes, Robert Ford, Judas Iscariot … these four all have something in common with each other. They are all traitors.
Marcus Junius Brutus, often referred to simply as Brutus, was a Roman senator who served under Julius Caesar. He is best known from Shakespeare’s play entitled Julius Caesar. Brutus was a noble man and a nobleman who, despite being treated kindly by and sharing a close relationship with Caesar, joined in the assassination plot against Caesar that resulted in Caesar being stabbed to death.
Guy Fawkes, he was a member of a prominent Yorkshire family in England and was a convert to Roman Catholicism. His adventurous spirit, as well as his religious zeal, led him to leave Protestant England and enlist in the Spanish army in the Netherlands. Angered by King James I refusal to grant more religious toleration to Catholics, he joined some other zealous Catholics in hopes that the confusion which would follow after the murder of the king, his ministers, and the member of Parliament would provide an opportunity for the English Catholics to take over the country. Needless to say, the plan didn’t work. An anonymous letter was sent and the whole plan was spoiled. Fawkes was discovered with the thirty-six barrels of gunpowder which was set up under the Parliament. In light of his betrayal … each year in England on November 5th, the day Fawkes was discovered, England celebrates Guy Fawkes Day with fireworks and a bonfire.
Robert Ford was an American Outlaw in the late 1800s. He shot his personal hero, mentor, and gang leader, Jesse James in the head to collect a bounty. James had trust Ford and his brother as the only surviving members of his gang. Despite being promised a $10,000 reward, the Fords only received $500 and were almost hanged for their action.
And of course, we all know about and heard earlier about Judas Iscariot. Judas is one of Jesus’ hand-picked disciples. He was disciple which was in charge of the money. Like the other disciples, he is close to Jesus. He’s an insider. Just like Brutus and Robert Ford, Judas was trusted. But something happened to Judas.
It’s the Wednesday of Holy Week. Luke tells us and we know from our other encounters of Jesus with the chief priests and teachers of the law in the temple that these leaders want to do away with Jesus, they want to get rid of him. But they were running out of options and they were afraid of the people because they were backing Jesus. They needed to flip someone on the inside, but how? How are they going to flip those who are close to Jesus?
Luke tells us, “Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve” (22:3). We don’t know what this means exactly. Was Judas possessed by Satan? I think that might be a bit extreme. What this suggests at a minimum is a satanic direction and influence. One thing this remark does do is that it raises the stakes of what is about to happen in the days to follow. Yes, the battle in the fore front is between the religious leaders and Jesus … but the much bigger battle happening in the background is between God and Satan.
On the forefront, Judas goes to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard to discuss how he could betray Jesus. After some discussion, a price is set and Judas is paid. Judas leaves and then “watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present” (22:6).
In light of what follows during Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, these six verses from Luke help set the stage. They are great insight to some of what is happening behind the scenes. But this passage is not just a history lesson. It is a study of human nature at its worst. It is revealing in that the form sin takes as it compounds upon itself.
Brutus didn’t just decide one day that Julius Caesar needed to be killed. His willingness to be a part of the assassination plot actually started with an event which happened when he was just a young man.
If Fawkes never converted to Roman Catholicism, he may never had thought of being a part of a plan which involved blowing up King James I, his ministers and the Parliament.
Robert Ford probably never would have thought of shooting his hero, mentor, and gang leader Jesse James if it wasn’t for the bounty on Jesse James’ head. He may never had thought of shooting him he if didn’t care about titles. Robert Ford was known for and it is actually written on his gravestone as “the man who shot Jesse James.”
Someone today doesn’t just decide … “Oh hey, I’m going to go rob a bank.” Or, “I’m going to go have an affair.” Sin, untreated sin, has a way of compounding upon itself.
Judas didn’t decide on this particular Wednesday night of Holy week, “Oh hey, let me go to the chief priests and help them figure out a way to get Jesus.” No, this was something which was slowly building.
While in Bethany, when Martha’s sister, Mary, loving anointed Jesus’ feet with a pound of expensive ointment, Judas questioned why it wasn’t sold to help feed the poor. In that story, it’s revealed that Judas doesn’t care about the poor, he was upset because he had stolen from the group’s money. If they could have sold the ointment, Judas could have pocketed more money. Even before this account, Luke says way back in chapter 6 that, “Judas, who became a traitor”. (6:16). Sin was working on Judas, it was working hard.
After Judas betrays Jesus, the guilt of Judas’ sin sets in. Judas realizes that he has betrayed innocent blood. In the midst of his agonizing guilt, Judas goes back to the chief priests, searching for forgiveness. However, they had nothing to offer him. Instead of trying to help, they took this bruised reed of a man and snapped him in half. Stuck in his guilt, Judas takes matters into his own hands and hangs himself.
Sin has a way of doing the same thing to you and me which it did to Judas. Sin can wear us down, sin can cause us to feel guilty, sin can make us feel like we are unforgiveable.
But the thing is … sin is forgivable. Each time we sin, each time that guilt overwhelms us, we should be running! Running not to ourselves, but running away from whatever it is which is tempting us, whatever it is which is leading us down that dark rabbit hole and we should be running to the cross. We should be running to the foot of the cross of the One who stretched out his body upon it and died. At the foot of the blood stained rugged cross, we see the deep, deep love of Jesus. From that blood which flowed from his shredded and crucified body, from the blood which stained that wood a dark crimson … from that blood come forgiveness. All who believe in Jesus as their Savior are forgiven.
As amazing as that is … when we look up from the foot of the cross, we don’t see the body of a man who is hanging where we should be … we see that the cross is totally empty. Behind you, from the direction of the tomb where the body of Jesus was laid stands a man. A man who didn’t come to draw you in only to stab you in the back, but a man, a man with holes in his hands and side. A man who forgives you. He removes your sin from you as far as the east is from the west. A man who deeply loves you and who will not be far from you. Your Savior stands at your side to guard and protect you from the evil one. In the midst of temptation, don’t be like Judas and look within yourself, but turn to your Savior. You and I … we are forgiven traitors. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.