The hardest seat to sit in in life is the passenger seat because it is there we learn to trust God’s guidance to get us where we need to be. Can we place trust in God?

Click here to read Matthew 26:14-50, 69-75

A Great Deal on a Curious Car

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My brother recently retired from teaching and is now starting a second career working at a local car dealership that’s relatively close to where he lives. He’s enjoying working with the public while also working with some former classmates of ours.

Recently I asked him how his training and sales were going. He was very happy with the process and he said, “Hey, you should check out our new app. You’ll see deals that will blow you away.” 

I opened up the app and started scrolling. Black trucks, blue trucks, red trucks, high mileage, low mileage, make, model, year, and the price is given with white letters in a red bubble.

I saw a beautiful one and said, “Oh, look at this. Ford Mustang. $4,000. Someone made a mistake. I think you mean $40,000.” 

No, $4,000 is correct.

How old is it? 

One year old and just a few hundred miles on it, but it’s had several owners in that time.

I said, “Man, you’re kidding.”

No. No. It’s yours for $4,000.

I clicked the pictures and saw the odometer. The accident report was clean. The interior was pristine. No dents. There was even a short video of them cranking the engine and it sounded so nice and angry.

It’s low mileage. It is only a year old. For there to be such a steep discount and for there to be a bunch of owners—something’s up.

He said, “Well, there’s one thing. It’s strange. None of us have ever seen anything like it. I can’t explain it, but for some reason even with the new chips and new GPS technology, this car will not take you where you want to go. It will only take you where you ought to go.”

I said, “Bro, I don’t think I’d ever buy that car.”  Would you?

And if someone I knew pulled up beside me, rolled the window down and said, “You want to get in?” I’m not sure my hands would ever touch the handle.  

Jesus Travels to Jerusalem and Judas’ Detour

In Luke, chapter 9, which happened several months before this passage, Jesus said, “Get in boys, we’re going to Jerusalem.”

Why?

Because I have to, I ought to, I need to. Because it’s pleasing to God and it is God’s will for me. 

Here’s the thing that you’ve probably noticed about God. You can’t hurry God. You can honk and gesture all you like, but Jesus is not going to rush.

That seems to be one of the issues with Judas the other is his fixation on money. In the passage just before this, Mary pours out expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. Judas is upset about two things. First, Jesus explains that Mary is foreshadowing his burial by putting perfume on him. 

Judas took Jesus seriously. Oh, Judas thought, the ride’s almost over. What’s going to happen to me? Did we drive all this way for this?

Second, Judas, who is always taking the quarters out of the ashtray, says, “We could have sold the perfume to help the poor.” Yes, poor, poor Judas. 

He’s upset. Disappointed. “At the next stop light, I’m getting’ out. Here’s a man who can walk on water, give the blind sight, and raise the dead, but he always drives in the slow lane. Forget it. I’m done.”

So, Judas gets into his car and drives across town. He hits every pothole on Grand Avenue and he hits all the green lights. He turns down a dark street, rolls down the window, and motions for the guys to come over. He explains his situation. “I’m out.”

How much money will it take for you to sell Jesus to us? 

He writes the price on a piece of paper and circles it. 

I think you made a mistake here, old boy. Don’t you mean $140,000? 

No. No. No. $1,400 is enough for me. 30 pieces of silver; $1,400 is all. I need a new set of tires. They hand him an envelope filled with cash. “I’ll betray him tonight.” 

In Jerusalem with a Seat around the Passover Table

Jesus and the disciples finally pull into the city limits of Jerusalem. Traffic is start-and-stop. Sidewalks are crowded. It’s an important festival that marks God’s saving them from the grip of Egypt and also providing food in the wilderness. 

Guys, there’s a man across town who offered me the use of his Airbnb if I ever needed it. Tell him that we are going to need it tonight. It’s a good space and we can have the Passover meal together. Please get everything ready. 

They do. 

The food is prepped and everyone takes their seat at the table, including Judas who can feel the bulging envelope in his back pocket. 

“Guys, you remember several months ago when I told you that we are going to Jerusalem and that I will be arrested and killed? Well, something happens that kind of jumpstarts it all. I will be betrayed by one of you.”

Wait. What?

Surely not me. Surely not me. Surely that kind of action doesn’t exist within me. After all, I take my religion seriously and I’ve got principles.

Who is it, Jesus? Surely not me.

Well, tonight when I went to dip my bread in the sauce the one who will betray me touched my hand. 

Pass the potatoes, please, Judas. {Leaning in to hand it to Jesus} “Here you go. Couldn’t be me, could it?”

Jesus knows Judas doesn’t want to buy the Mustang. He knows Judas will go his own way and go down the wrong road because he says, “Oh, woe to the person who betrays the Messiah because it would be better if that person was never born.” Why? Because God hates them? No, because no one can carry that load and that remorse and come back so easily. It’s a one-way street.

Disciples, you remember that our people were in Egypt and it is there that God came to us in God’s own time and delivered us. From there God gave us the Law, water from a rock to quench our thirst, and bread from heaven to sustain us on the long road to the promised land. 

This is my body. Just like the manna came down and settled on the earth and nurtured them, so it is with me. I am the bread from heaven.

This is the fourth cup of the Passover meal and it is when we remember that God came so close to us and promises to be our God forever. The cup is my blood and it is a promise to you. 

And, like so many households in Jerusalem that night, they sang from the book of Psalms, chapters 113-118 about God’s grace helping them, lifting them up, sending them in the right direction where the people love to go where they ought.

The Long Walk to the Garden and the Disciples Flee

“Now, Judas, I know you’ve got some errands to run, so why don’t you go do that while me and the others go to the Garden to pray? You can meet up with us later there.”

The door closes and the engine cranks and as the disciples get up from the table, they hear the squeal of tires in the driveway. 

At any point, Judas could have come back. He didn’t understand that there are no dead ends with God. Every road has a roundabout. He could have changed. Do you not want to scream at the page, “Judas, don’t do it? Turn around. It’s not worth it.” 

There he goes.

Guys, I’ve been in the car all day. How about we walk over to the olive grove? 

Okay.

Good meal. Nice place your friend has. Nice night. The air feels nice.

Hey, guys, I need to tell you something. Earlier I said that one of you will desert me. 

Yep. That’s scary, Jesus.

Garden of olive trees
Found at https://www.itraveljerusalem.com/ent/garden-of-gethsemane/

Well, one of you will betray me but all of you will desert me. When that happens, it’s not a one-way street. Just find your way back to where we started in Galilee. I’ll meet you there. 

And Peter responds, “No, Jesus. I’m riding shotgun. I’ll never leave you.” 

And what Peter says is kind of naïve. “I could never be ‘that person.’” I’ll never lose my way. I’ll never grow tired, aggravated, frustrated, disappointed with my faith or God.”

 “Peter, I love you, but before morning comes and that rooster crows, you will have deserted me and denied me three times. See you in Galilee. I mean it.”

Jesus and Ought

And Jesus models how we can live with the ought. He goes to the garden, which was an olive grove. The fragrance is in the air and he prays. He prays honestly. He argues. He wrestles. 

Even Jesus wrestled with ought. Ought caused tension in him. “God, I believe this is what you want from me. I believe this is what I ought to do. I need you to carry me there. Because this is awfully tough, and scary, and I feel alone. Carry me, Father. Make it possible for me to do this. I don’t want to just go my own way like none of this matters. Not my will, but yours be done.”

Contrary to what it looks like, not even Jesus was in the driver’s seat. He modeled patient trust and dependence upon God. 

We all know that it’s hard to take your hands off the wheel. It’s hard to sit in the passenger side of life. God has his own speed, his own way, and his own way of getting there. 

He prays and says, “Thank you, Father. I know you love me. I’ll do what I ought. Amen.” Jesus walks back over to the sleeping disciples.

Click here to read about how Christ can shape our hearts so we want to go the right way.

Judas and the Cash and the Crash

Car lights flash at the top of the trees. They slow and shift to park. They leave their engines running. The doors open. Men with baseball bats get out. 

Judas steps forward. The 11 disciples stare at one another and gasp, “It’s Judas! Traitor!” 

They fight like their faith depends on it. They punch, slap, grab, and grunt but they are soon overpowered.  Then someone says the word, “Run!” 

And there in the darkness with chests heaving and blood mixing with sweat, they grab Jesus and throw him into the backseat, and say, “It’s time to go for a ride.” 

Away they go with Jesus. The disciples have run away. Judas is alone.

There under the blue glow of Passover’s full moon with the smell of olives drifting through the air, he doesn’t withdraw to pray about where he ought to go. He puts his hands on the door handle.

Forgetting that the engine is running, hands shaking he fumbles in his pockets for his keys and he pulls out that white envelope. He tosses it to the ground.

He sits down behind the wheel. An hour ago, he looked Jesus in the eye, “Couldn’t be me, could it?” But now he can’t look himself in the eye so he pushes the rearview mirror down. He revs the engine and leaves the seat belt unbuckled.

Off he speeds on the curviest road in town, accelerator to the floor, and in just a few minutes his time on this earth comes to a screeching halt.

Peter Takes a Seat Around the Fire

Unlike Judas, Peter turned around. The traffic was bumper to bumper, but he finally made it. He found Jesus’ makeshift trial and Peter is standing around the fire someone made to keep warm. Everyone in the circle is talking excitedly about the night’s events. Jesus is on trial. It’s the end of the road for him.

What do you know? Have you heard of him? 

“I’ve heard of him.” 

Your accent gives you away. Are you one of his disciples?

No. Don’t know him. 

Then why are you here? 

“I’m here for Passover not for drama.”

In the corner, scratching at the ground is a rooster.

Voices raise and there’s another scuffle as someone punches Jesus. Someone says, “Shhhh-shhhhh-sh.” 

“He’s probably getting what he deserves. Trouble maker.” 

What makes you think he’s guilty? 

See, you must be a follower. You are on his side, aren’t you? 

No. I don’t know him.

The rooster flits over to the top of a wood pile.

For Peter, the threat is external. He is surrounded by people, some of who have weapons. Can I be strong in the face of such intimidation? Can I do what I ought to? Will I betray Jesus?

For Judas, the threat was internal. Could he ever have done what he ought?

The Mustang Approaches and Who is in the Driver’s Seat?

It’s difficult to imagine being there in the dark of night facing those questions. Though the fire is comforting, it’s scary. Anything can happen in the dark. 

And if you were there, maybe you’d stand on your tiptoes to see if you could get a look at what’s happening to Jesus. Over time, just like the fire, the conversation is dying down.

And as you stand there with Peter you hear a familiar nice and angry sound rumbling down the road. The driver pulls into the parking lot and you hear people chatter, “Wow, look at that Mustang.”

The driver slows down and parks in the spot nearest you.

The driver makes eye contact. They look familiar. They motion you over. You look around and you notice the shadows, the crowds, and the commotion around Jesus. You feel tears drop from your eyes. 

Nervous, your stomach aflutter, your mind races, and your muscles ache. You walk over, timid. 

You hear the door unlock and you see the window go down. 

The driver leans over and asks, “Do you wanna get in?”

Well, do you?

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