The enemy of Love – Lenten Devotion 3 by Beth Mann

Matthew 27:3-26

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’

‘What is that to us?’ they replied. ‘That’s your responsibility.’

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

The chief priests picked up the coins and said, ‘It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.’ So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: ‘They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10 and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.’[a]

Jesus before Pilate

11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’

‘You have said so,’ Jesus replied.

12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, ‘Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?’ 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge – to the great amazement of the governor.

15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, ‘Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.

19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: ‘Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.’

20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

21 ‘Which of the two do you want me to release to you?’ asked the governor.

‘Barabbas,’ they answered.

22 ‘What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ Pilate asked.

They all answered, ‘Crucify him!’

23 ‘Why? What crime has he committed?’ asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood,’ he said. ‘It is your responsibility!’

25 All the people answered, ‘His blood is on us and on our children!’

26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

Who is the enemy of love? We know it is satan, the devil, the evil one we are up against, but sometimes it is not so obvious. What if I was to ask you what stops you from sharing God’s love?  Is there something holding you back from letting love live? It may be fear, shame, anger, laziness, too busy, pride. We know these thoughts and feelings aren’t from God, and if so, then where are they coming from?  Paul in his letter to the Ephesians (6:12) informs us that,

our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against the mighty powers in this dark world and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

What can trip us up is how the devil often disguises himself in ways that are unseen. He is crafty and he sneaks into our lives when we don’t expect it. However, we have this hope, whilst the enemy comes to steal and kill and destroy love; Christ has come that we may have life and experience the fullness of His love.

When reflecting on the text for this evening, it became evident to me that the enemy took on many different forms in order to steal, kill and destroy love. Firstly, we see the enemy in the form of fear, shame and guilt in Judas. There is no clear explanation in the scriptures as to why Judas betrayed Jesus. Perhaps it was his love of money or perhaps Jesus didn’t become the political savior Judas wanted him to be. However, what is clear is that Judas deeply regrets it, and he didn’t intend for Jesus to be sentenced to death. Thus, he is in the temple courts seeking repentance. However, the chief priests and elders know the scriptures in which Deuteronomy 27:28 says

“Cursed be anyone who takes a bribe to shed innocent blood.”

Wanting nothing to do with a man whom they believed to be cursed, the chief priests and elders cop out and say

“What does your sin have to do with us? That’s your responsibility.”

Not only do the priests refuse to relieve Judas of his guilt, but they add to it. In refusing to take the money back, the Jewish leaders admit that Jesus was innocent. Judas, in his despair, convicted by the law ends his own life.

The enemy of love also disguises himself in the form of hatred, envy and pride as found within the chief priests. The priests were the spiritual heads of the Jews and were the ones who interceded between God and His people. However, they misused their authoritative power and by their envy, they persuaded the crowds to turn against Jesus to stop his ministry. Furthermore, the temple was meant to be a place where you could be reconciled with God through burnt offerings and sacrifices. Yet, when Judas came to the chief priests to return the 30 pieces of silver, they were ruled by their own selfish desires and ignored Judas’ needs. Their love for ministry was overcome by their hatred for Jesus. They take no responsibility for the role they have played in Jesus’ trial. It’s almost as if they were piolet and had wiped their hands clean from doing anything wrong. They say “Why do we care? It’s not our problem.”

I find this very convicting as I know I have thought to myself, why should I care about this person or that’s not my problem, or even that this is below me. My pride gets in the way of my ability to love others. These debilitating thoughts remind me of the Good Samaritan story- of the Levite and priest who both ignored and refused to help the man in need. Perhaps in our own ignorance we forget to love the people around us in our church and wider community. When we meet someone who is different from us in age, belief, opinions, sexual orientation, gender orientation, are we the priest or the Levite who ignore the opportunity to share Christ’s love and forgiveness saying  to ourselves “that is someone else’s problem”? Or are we the Samaritan who helps our neighbor and shows unconditional love?

The enemy of love also rears up its ugly head in Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate. This time in the shape of injustice. I don’t know if you have ever wondered what Jesus’ trial may have looked like if was ever held in Australia, but I have, and it helps paint a picture of the true injustice Jesus faced. The defendant, Jesus, sits before the judge, and is given no lawyer and has no defense for himself. The judge is aware that the defendant has only be brought to court because the prosecutor is envious of his popularity. The judge can’t believe the case that is unfolding in front of him. So, he comes up with an idea. He brings out a notorious criminal, Ned Kelly. He asks the jury who’d they rathe be set free; Ned Kelly, who has robbed their neighborhoods and killed police officers, or Jesus who cannot be found guilty of any crime. However, little does the judge know, that during recess, the prosecutor persuaded the jury to release Ned Kelly and to sentence Jesus to death. Thus, when the judge asks for a verdict, the entire jury gets up and shouts Ned Kelly. Confused, the judge asks, what should I do with Jesus? The jury demands he be given capital punishment. Even more confused, the judge asks why, but they give no answer. The entire court room echoes with the people sentencing Jesus to death. Worried that a riot might break out in his court room, the judge gives in, saying he wants nothing more to do with this trial. Ned Kelly is set free. And instead of the police escorting Jesus, the whole court room, including the jury, take him away to be killed. What terrible injustice. Yet, Jesus allows this to happen because of his love for the jury, for the prosecutor, for the judge and for each one of us.

In all these circumstances the enemy of love thinks he has control, but he doesn’t! He came at Jesus using all his weapons of fear, guilt, shame, envy, pride, injustice, hatred and even death! Whilst Jesus did die, and was buried, he did not stay there. Jesus was resurrected, he defeated death! Though the enemy of love tries to attack us with the same weapons and seeks to stop us on our mission to let love live, he has no control over the children of God. Furthermore, we do not fight this battle alone. Christ has gifted us with the Holy Spirit, His Word and His own body and blood. I leave you with Peters exhortation to us from his first letter,

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”





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