Throughout history and around the world there have been traitors, those who were willing to turn against their nation for their own benefit. Aldrich Ames, known as Rick by his friends and family, worked for the CIA for 31 years as a Central Intelligence Agency counter-intelligence officer before he was arrested on espionage charges on February 21, 1994. He had unlimited access to United States military data, CIA assets, and the names of US agents.
Rick Ames began working for the C.I.A. in 1962, following in his father’s footsteps. After three years of working undercover in Turkey, he married a C.I.A. colleague and they spent the 70’s in Washington and in New York, where he spent the bulk of his time with Soviets assigned to the United Nations. It was during that time that he began entertaining the thought of living a double life. Rick’s marriage didn’t last. He went alone to work in Mexico City for the next two years. In Mexico City he met Maria del Rosario Casas, a Colombian cultural attache working for the C.I.A. The two fell in love and were later married. Rick was later promoted to the position of chief of the Soviet branch of the counterintelligence division. His job was recruiting and running foreign agents.
In 1985, Rick began to sell secrets to the Soviets and was paid $50,000. The money was intoxicating and Rick began to unlock more and more secrets of our nation for the Soviets. He continued spying for nearly nine years, first in Rome, where he served from 1986 to 1989, and then from inside the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia. During the 80’s he sold at least 12 of our nation’s best secret agents into the hands of the Soviets. All were jailed and most were executed.
From 1990 to 1994, he oversaw operations in Western Europe against the Soviets and their satellites, ran spies in Czechoslovakia and worked in the C.I.A. Counter-Narcotics Center, flying to meet his Russian handlers in Bogota and organizing efforts against the heroin trade in Moscow. While he was officially working for the United States of America, he was handing over our nation’s secrets to the Russians in exchange for money…lots of money. He was paid $60,000 by the C.I.A. yet he paid $540,000 cash for a new home in Arlington, Virginia. He drove around C.I.A. headquarters in a brand new Jaguar which he paid cash for — all the while waltzing out of his offices with classified papers to sell for his own benefit. Today, Rick Ames is known as prisoner #40087-083 as he serves a life sentence without the possibility of parole in a Federal Prison, the Allenwood U.S. Penitentiary near Allenwood, Pennsylvania.
Aldrich “Rick” Ames joined a long list of those who sold out their nations, their friends, for their own benefit. We can list their names and debate which of the traitors were the worst in history. We can discuss which of the traitorous acts was most heinous, but you would be hard-pressed to find a list that did not include the name Judas Iscariot.
Judas was one of Jesus’ closest confidants. He had been chosen by Jesus as one of the twelve disciples. He had been trusted by Jesus and the other disciples so much that they had named him the Treasurer of their little group, yet he handed Jesus over to those who wanted to kill Him. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today and see what we can learn.
18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’ 19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He. 20 I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” 21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” 22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” 25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. “What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him, 28 but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. (John 13:18-30 NIVO)
Jesus had just finished washing the feet of His disciples. They were all stunned at what Jesus did. No teacher would ever wash the feet of his disciples. No Jew, not even a Jewish slave, would ever be required to wash the feet of anyone, and yet Jesus washed their feet. Jesus said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:15 NIVO) Remember, Jesus, in these next few chapters of John, is set on preparing His disciples for the time when He will go to the cross and leave them. As He washed their feet He was setting them an example for what they were to do for others. Jesus then said, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:17 NIVO)
All the while Jesus was teaching by example and sharing the importance of what He had done, He had in the back of His mind one particular disciple who was reclining at the table with Him. Even though they had all lived together, worked together, and spent most of every waking moment together during the past three years…nobody knew what was going on in the mind of Judas. Nobody could have ever imagined that he would betray Jesus, hand Him over to those who had been planning and plotting Jesus’ demise since they first heard Him speak. Even though Peter, James, John and the other disciples were oblivious, Jesus knew the thoughts that were rambling around in Judas’ mind. Jesus knew what would happen in just a few short hours and He wanted His disciples to know, once it did happen, that it shouldn’t shake their faith in the least. God is Sovereign. He’s always in control. When what we believed to be true proves not to be true, when we have no understanding about what is taking place, when the unimaginable becomes our reality–God is still Sovereign. He is the unshakable Rock on which we stand when all else fails. Jesus was preparing His disciples for what was about to take place. Let me show you what I’m talking about. In John 13:18, Jesus quoted a verse from Psalm 41:9. King David wrote the Psalm about what he had believed to be a trusted friend who turned about to be a traitor. David wrote,
9 Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. (Psalm 41:9 NIVO)
Most Bible teaches believe that David was thinking about his most trusted counselor, Ahithophel, when he wrote Psalm 41. David was totally caught off-guard when he learned that his son, Absalom, had turned against him and was plotting to kill him. Absalom had convinced many of the citizens of Jerusalem to side with him and David had to flee the palace with his men. Ahithophel stayed behind as David and his men left. David later learned that Ahithophel had joined forces with Absalom. When David got the news he was so shaken that he prayed, in 2 Samuel 15:31, for the Lord to intervene. Listen to his prayer.
31 Now David had been told, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” So David prayed, “O LORD, turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness.” (2 Samuel 15:31 NIVO)
God answered David’s prayer, but not in the way David had asked. Ahithophel’s counsel to Absalom wasn’t foolish, but Absalom wouldn’t listen to him. When Ahithophel realized that Absalom wouldn’t listen to him, he left Absalom. Turn to 2 Samuel 17:23 and read along with me so we can find out what happened.
23 When Ahithophel saw that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and set out for his house in his hometown. He put his house in order and then hanged himself. So he died and was buried in his father’s tomb. (2 Samuel 17:23 NIVO)
Ahithophel’s life ended just like Judas’ life would end–both men hung themselves. Judas had been chosen by Jesus. He had been Jesus’ traveling companion. Jesus had never treated Judas any different than He had treated any of the other disciples, yet Judas would betray Jesus and go down in history as the most notorious traitor in human history.
The authors of the New Testament had 20/20 vision as they sat down to write God’s Word inspired by the Holy Spirit. In every list of the disciples that we find in God’s Word Judas always appears last, except for the book of Acts, where his name doesn’t appear at all. Also, every New Testament writer who mentions Judas adds the tag of “betrayer” to his name when they mention him. Let me give you a couple of examples. In Matthew 10, we find a list of Jesus’ disciples. Read along with me beginning in verse 2.
2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (Matthew 10:2-4 NIVO)
In Mark’s account of Jesus’ time in the Garden of Gethsemane he writes about the moment that Judas came with the guards to arrest Jesus. Turn with me to Mark 14:43-44 and let’s read together.
43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” (Mark 14:43-44 NIVO)
“The betrayer had arranged a signal with them.” From the time Judas betrayed Jesus until this day, he has forever been known as “the betrayer.” Not only is Judas known as the most notorious traitor in history, but anyone who betrays their friends quickly gets labeled as a “Judas.” I remember back in 2010 when LeBron announced that he was taking his talents to South Beach and leaving his home state of Ohio and the Cleveland Cavaliers. People who hadn’t darkened a church doors in years, if ever, stood on street corners and announced to the world that LeBron was Judas as they burned his jersey. Those same people in 2014 welcomed LeBron back to the Cavs from South Beach like he was Jesus. Judas is the most notorious betrayer of all of the betrayers that have ever lived.
We all know what a traitor Judas was, but maybe you are like me and you’ve never really put much thought into the relationship that Jesus had with the one who would hand him over to those who would kill Him. I learned something this past week that got me to thinking. Jesus told His disciples, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” The disciples might have missed much of what Jesus had said during the three years that they had spent with Him, but they didn’t miss His statement that one of them would betray Him. John tells us how the disciples reacted to Jesus’ words when he writes,
22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. (John 13:22 NIVO)
They couldn’t believe what they were hearing. They just stared at each other wondering, “Who is it?” Matthew tells us a little more about what was going on in the disciples’ hearts and minds when he writes about the same story. In Matthew 26:21-22 he writes,
21 And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” 22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?” (Matthew 26:21-22 NIVO)
They had no idea. During the three years that they had traveled, eaten countless meals together, and had thousands of discussions with Jesus about everything under the sun–Jesus had never tipped them off about Judas and Judas had never given any indication of his plans to betray Jesus.
Let me show you something else I learned this week. When they heard that one of them would betray Jesus, Simon Peter motioned to John, the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” who was reclining next to Jesus on His right, to find out who would betray Him. Peter asked Jesus and Jesus said,
26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. (John 13:26 NIVO)
We read that and don’t really think anything about it, but in the ancient Near East when a host dipped flat bread into a cup and gave it to someone at the meal it was a sign of honor, an expression of friendship. This was the last meal that Jesus would share with His disciples before He went to the cross. What more perfect time could there have been to stand before all of them and announce the devilish plans of Judas? Instead of unmasking Judas, Jesus honored him.
We can learn another interesting fact about Jesus’ relationship with Judas by taking a look at the table and arrangement of the disciples at the table. When I say, “table,” I’m not referring to a table like we are accustomed to in our day although the typical, daily meal was enjoyed sitting at a table. At special meals like parties, weddings, and special religious observances those who gathered reclined on something like cushions set up in a “U shape” around a low table. The Last Supper didn’t take place as Leonardo Da Vinci depicted it in his famous painting. The disciples and Jesus were reclining on the floor leaning on their left elbows so they could use their right hands to eat. John was reclining on Jesus right hand side. We can know that by reading John 13:23-24. Turn there with me.
23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” 25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” (John 13:23-25 NIVO)
The place of honor was at the right and left of the host for the evening. John was at Jesus’ right hand side, but who was at Jesus’ left side? As John was leaning back against Jesus’ chest to hear the Lord tell him who would betray him, Jesus dipped the piece of bread and handed it to Judas. John tells us, “Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon.” Dr. John Stott writes,
…Judas was within arm’s reach of Jesus through occupying the place on his other side, the host’s left, the place of special honor. For one last, lingering moment Judas’ destiny hangs in the balance as the love of God incarnate shines one more time into his benighted heart. But the moment is no sooner present than it passes, as Judas in a final act of defiance closes his heart against the light, and turns away into the darkness that has no end. (Stott, John. The Message of John. pg. 202-203)
I have to tell you, this past week as I’ve been spending time studying and praying over this scene of Jesus and Judas at the Last Supper, my heart has been fixated on two things.
First of all, I’ve been so convicted by Jesus’ love for the one who would betray Him in the worst possible way. Last week we read, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.” (John 13:1 NIVO) It’s easy to think of this verse as applying to eleven of the twelve disciples and forget the ways that Jesus showed Judas His love until the moment Judas left the Upper Room to execute his plan. I hope this morning you’ve been able to better understand that even though Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him, He never stopped showing Judas the “full extent of His love.” Throughout the three years of Jesus’ ministry Judas was an important part of everything Jesus did. Jesus gave Judas every opportunity that He gave the other disciples. When Jesus sent out the twelve to minister, Judas was with them to preach the Gospel, drive out demons, and heal the sick. Mark tells us as much in Mark 6:7-13.
7 Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. 8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff– no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” 12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. (Mark 6:7-13 NIVO)
The Lord treated Judas as His own even though Jesus knew what his heart was like. Jesus knew Judas was going to betray Him, but Jesus still had hope, right up to the end that Judas’ eyes would be opened, that he would see Jesus for who He was, and turn His heart back from his diabolical plan. There are some today who would say that Judas was “chosen” by God to betray Jesus giving him no choice but to do what he was prepared to do. To believe this means that God foreordained Judas to his place in infamy. I can’t believe that because of what I’ve read in God’s Word. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us,
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 NIVO)
There’s another reason I don’t believe that and it is because of what we’ve already read in John 13:21. Just before Jesus announced to His disciples that one of them would betray Him we read,
21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” (John 13:21 NIVO)
Jesus was troubled and I don’t think His troubled heart simply stemmed from what awaited Him on at the cross. James Montgomery Boice writes,
Here he was undoubtedly also troubled by the thought of the impending betrayal and of the one who would prove traitorous, one who had lived with him in the closest communion for three years. Yet at the end of that time was willing to sell his master for the price of a slave. (Boice, James Montgomery. The Gospel of John: Volume 4. pg. 1026.)
Jesus was troubled by the choice that Judas would make to betray Him. That realization prompted a question in my own heart and mind. Am I troubled by those who hurt me? Do I desire nothing more than to get even with those who mean me harm or do I grieve over the choices they make and the lostness of their soul? In Matthew 5:44 Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” He never asks us to do anything that He hasn’t already done.
Second, I’ve been stopped in my tracks this past week by the missed opportunity and deception of Judas. Stop and think about it. Judas had every advantage a person could have to learn of God’s ways. He followed in Jesus’ steps for three years, but never gave Him his heart. Why? How? Many of those who followed Jesus from a distance had hoped that He was the Messiah, but their understanding of Messiah was totally different than Jesus. The Jews were hoping for the Messiah to come in and overthrow the Romans so that power would be restored to Israel. Many believe Judas was among this crowd. He had no interest in a heavenly kingdom, no interest in the things of God, but he desperately desired for Israel to return to power and all that was missing was a powerful leader. In Judas’ life, God’s will was trumped by his own desire for what he wanted. Is that true for you and me also?
And think of Judas’ deception. His closest friends didn’t really know him. They trusted him enough to let him keep track of all of the money that came into the ministry, but all the while he was fooling them all. Who really knows you? Who really knows me? Do we share our struggles with those closest to us or do we simply continue to play charades when it comes to the things of God? I want to encourage someone this morning to come out of the shadows, stop playing games with God, and trying to fool those around you into thinking that you are somebody you aren’t. You can continue to deceive those around you, but you’ll never fool God. He knows your heart. He wants your heart. Won’t you give it to Him this very morning?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
February 28, 2016