One of the phrases we hear a lot these days is “game changer.” Usually means something so big has happened that is has changed everything around it.
For me, getting baptized was a game-changer. So was when Tonya agreed to marry me. The birth of our two girls were game-changers. The same is true when both of my parents died.
In each of these cases, the circumstances of my life changed. What would be the game-changers in your life?
On a global scale, certain events have changed the course of history.
Here are a few examples …
- The Holocaust
- The invention of the bullet-proof vest
- Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech
- The moon landing
- Cloning of Dolly the Sheep
- September 11, 2001
Super Bowl 50 (OK, maybe it’s not on the same level as the rest)
We could have added to the list the discovery of penicillin, air travel, and the opening of the first Starbucks.
These events were certainly game changers but none have changed the world as much as the events that happened 2,000 years ago.
The truth is, no other week has altered history like the last week of Jesus’ life did.
But before we can get to Easter, we must first experience one friend betraying him and another one denying he even knows him. We will stand in the crowd as Jesus is put on trial. We will watch from a distance as he is crucified and buried.
Easter is coming. But to truly appreciate Easter, we must spend the entire week with him.
If you were to name your newborn son, which of these three names would you choose: James, John, or Judas? You might select James or John, but it’s highly unlikely you would name your son Judas.
You might name your dog Max or Buddy, but not Judas. Even a dog deserves a respectable name!
Ironically, the name Judas means praise, but it has become associated with the worst form of betrayal.
The seven days that changed the world begin with Judas.
1 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it. — John 18:1
This is the Garden of Gethsemane. This is where the other Gospels tell us that Jesus prayed so hard that his sweat was like drops of blood. What did he pray? “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.”
Even, so the prayer ends with Jesus submitting himself to God’s will.
2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. — John 18:2-3
Today, people get arrested for insider trading – using internal information to their own advantage.
What do Martha Stewart and Judas have in common? Both were guilty of insider trading. Judas knew the place because Jesus had taken him there before.
Who does Judas bring with him? A band of Roman soldiers and religious officials.
4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” 5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. — John 18:4-6
This seems strange.
Unarmed, with no money or status to speak of, wearing an old tunic and with zero Twitter followers, all Jesus had to say was “I am he” and the soldiers fall to the ground.
Why is that? All Jesus did was ask “Who is it you want?” But when they said Jesus of Nazareth, his answer was simply “I AM.” – this declaration of his divinity knocked them to the ground.
7 Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they said. 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.”9 This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” 10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” — John 18:7-11
Bummer to be Malchus! Although Jesus knew everything that was going to happen to him, Peter didn’t and decided to try and stop things. For Malchus, it was a good thing that Peter had been a fisherman and not a soldier. We know Luke’s account that Jesus reattaches his ear.
What makes this miracle so incredible is not that Jesus COULD do it but that he WOULD do it.
Malchus is only a servant, not an important person. He’s standing with the enemies. He works for the high priest who wants Jesus arrested.
Doesn’t Jesus treat us the same way?
12 Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13 and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people. — John 8:12-14
What do we learn from how the seven days that changed the world began? Part of what we see is this: There’s a little Judas, Peter, and Malchus in each of us.
- Like Judas, even when we betray him, Jesus still calls us a friend.
- Like Peter, we are often prone to take matters into our own hands.
- Like Malchus, we are recipients of Jesus’ tender care and mercy.
But let’s not forget these facts as well:
- Although Jesus was betrayed, he wasn’t surprised.
- Although he was out numbered, he was actually the one in control.
- Although he was arrested, he would have gone voluntarily.
British pastor Joseph Parker was asked, “Why did Jesus choose Judas to be one of His disciples?” He thought deeply about the question for a while but could not come up with an answer.
He said that he kept running into an even more baffling question:
“Why did he choose me?”
That’s a good question.