Mk. 14:53-15:1; Mt. 26:57-27:10; Lk. 22:54-71; Jn. 18:25-27
I recently re-watched one of my favorite movies, “The Dark Knight.” In it, Heath Ledger gave his last and greatest performance. As the Joker, he delivered many lines that provoke the heart and mind, but one that always stands out to me is his commentary on death: “In their last moments, people show you who they really are.” As we look at some of Jesus final hours before His death on the cross, we see an incredible picture of not only who He truly is, but a couple others who showed their true colors as well. Peter, Jesus’ closest and most trusted disciple, faced the challenge to align with His Lord and likely face the same end. Judas faced the consequences of his defining moment. In these passages, we see both showing what they were truly made of.

Peter was a man driven by passion. In his lack of understanding of Jesus’ purposes, he made statements that we now know to be completely wrong. However, these missteps were due to the broken understanding of the Jewish people. We often forget that Peter’s passion led him to become the only non-deity on record to walk on water. Unfortunately, in this story as in the walking on water, passion did not pass the test. Peter took his eyes off Jesus, looked at the forces welling up around him, and allowed fear in. With fear as his focal point, Peter passionately denied the one he had sworn to never abandon, not once but three times. In Luke 22:61, Jesus made eye contact with Peter as he denied Him for the final time. Full of shame, Peter ran away from His savior. Passion had proved insufficient.

It seems unlikely that Judas Iscariot started following Jesus with the intention of betraying Him. What is clear is that Judas was a man motivated by greed. Late in the story arc, we see Judas upset at a woman who pours out expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet because he was a thief and wanted that money for himself (John 4:5-6). At some point, his obsession with money landed him the job of group treasurer. Eventually, he realized that following Jesus would not get him a government job, because Jesus wasn’t establishing an earthly kingdom, so he betrayed the Son of God for thirty pieces of silver. As the weight of his actions bore down on him, guilt destroyed what was left of his conscience and he died a gruesome and lonely death. Money had been his master and, as it always does, it had shown its true colors as a cruel tyrant.

Jesus lived a perfect life, only speaking and doing what His Father directed Him to. Never once did a lie pass through His lips, or an evil action have Him as the perpetrator. He lived full of Grace and Truth. Thus, when He was brought to a mock trial by those determined to kill Him, they could not find any charge that would stick. The only words they could find to accuse Him with were true statements that they hated. Jesus suffered this intense scrutiny and abuse without fear or complaint because He knew that when you live honestly, you cannot be punished for your own sin. In the Father’s sovereign control, He would only allow His Son to suffer unjustly because it served His ultimate purpose, and that was something Jesus was willing to be part of. Dedicated to truth, in service of the Father, Jesus passed the ultimate test and concluded a life free of fear, guilt or shame. His resurrection victory is the evidence of His perfect life.

Today, I encourage you to consider what you’re made of. We will all face death someday and the qualities that define us today will be tested on our last day. It may not be passion or greed, but if anything besides truth and obedience to the Father is at your core, it will ultimately fail you. Follow the example of our Messiah: live for the truth. It won’t be popular, and it may get you into some difficult situations, but I promise you two things. When others try to accuse you of wrongdoing, you won’t be afraid of being found guilty. And if you still get punished, it will be in service of the King of the universe, free from any shame or fear. That is how I want to live and that is how I want to die.

by Ben Urban, Pastor of Student Ministries

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