How would you define love?
If we’re honest, its not an easy question to answer. Love is one of those words that we often use to describe other things. However, when it comes to thinking about what love really is – what it looks like, what it means, what it does – it’s a pretty tricky question.
In his sermon, “The Greatest of These,” Mark Buchanan told the following story:
“A group of children were once asked, “What does ‘love’ mean?” Here are some sample answers:
- Rebekah, 8, said, ‘When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time—even when his hands got arthritis, too. That’s love.’
- Billy, 4, said, ‘When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.’
- Bobby, 7, says, ‘Love is what’s in the room at Christmas, if you stop opening presents and listen.’
- Nikka, 6, says, ‘If you want to learn to love better, you should start with someone you hate.’
- Tommy, 6, says, ‘Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.’
- Cindy, 8, says, ‘During my piano recital, I was on a stage, and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me, and I saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. And I wasn’t scared anymore.’
- Jessica, 8, says, ‘You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot.’”
However we choose to define love, there are certain truths about it that are almost universally recognized. And one of those truths is that it is not always easy to give. It is a basic fact of life: some people are easy to love…and some people are not. Frankly, some people are just hard to love. And sometimes the hardest person to love is ourself.
All throughout the Gospel accounts, the Bible displays the enduring and abundant love of Jesus for all people – both those easy to love and those hard to love. When Jesus commanded His followers to “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44), He was not commanding them to do something that He Himself was unwilling to do or could not do. The focal passage of this devotion proves that beyond any possible doubt.
Luke 22:1-6 tells of the plot to kill Jesus and lays out the three central players in that plot. While there would be many personalities and many sources of opposition and hostility the Lord would face in the days leading up to the fulfillment of His earthly mission in His death, burial, and triumphant resurrection, the foundations of the plot against him involved three initial actors: the governing religionists, Judas Iscariot, and Satan himself.
First, it was the governing religious leaders who were seen plotting to kill Jesus. Verse 2 of this passage paints a dramatic picture. The Jewish nation was celebrating the Passover – a season of feasting, celebration, and worship commemorating the deliverance of the Jewish people by God as they left Egypt in the Exodus. The great irony is that during this season of worship and celebration, the unbelieving, self-serving, and self-interested religionists were plotting to put Jesus to death. “And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death” (Luke 22:2 ESV, emphasis mine). The word “how” is a translation of the Greek word πῶς (pōs). While, at surface level, “how” doesn’t appear to be a pivotal word in this verse, this word is significant. The word πῶς conveys the point that there was no debate among the religionists as to whether Jesus should be put to death – their resolution was already that Jesus would be put to death. Verse 22 declares their deadly intent. The only question that remained was the means. The importance of that factor is highlighted by the concluding portion of verse 2, which explains, ‘for they feared the people’ (Luke 22:2 ESV). At this point, it was no longer a question of whether Jesus would die, but instead how they would bring about his death without a violent reaction from the people.
Then enter Judas Iscariot. Judas has an unrivaled position, standing above even Marcus Junius Brutus (better known simply as “Brutus”) and Benedict Arnold as the single, best-known traitor in world history. Judas was one of the original twelve apostles of Jesus. While his reputation as a traitor to the Lord is well known, there is much about the background of Judas that often gets missed. By virtue of his selection as one of the twelve, we know that Judas knew Jesus face-to-face. He walked with Jesus. He heard Jesus preach and teach. He saw the many incredible miracles Jesus performed. He was trained as an apostle. He was commissioned as an apostle. He was trusted as an apostle., , 
The critical question then becomes: knowing all that he knew about Jesus, why would Judas betray His Lord? The answer is given in verse 3. “Then Satan entered into Judas…” (ESV). Satan took control of the priorities, focus, and, ultimately, the actions of Judas Iscariot as the tragic day of the Lord’s betrayal drew near. Correctly understood, this declaration doesn’t imply that Judas became possessed by Satan. Rather, Judas yielded his mind and heart to the designs of Satan. The same idea is conveyed in other tragic instances elsewhere in the New Testament. In Acts 5:3, Peter charged Ananias, the husband of Sapphira, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit?” (ESV). John recounts the influence of Satan on Judas’s life and actions in the same manner, writing, “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him” (John 13:27 ESV).
Why did Judas yield his mind, heart, and life to Satan’s influence? Some scholars argue that it was for the money, while others believe that the money was a secondary concern. The Scripture makes it abundantly clear that the money was certainly involved, but the mention of money in the Gospel of Luke appears more incidental than motivating in relation to Judas’s actions. Both Mark 14:11 and Luke 22:5 imply that the money was agreed upon after Judas resolved to betray Jesus. If not the money, what could it have been? We don’t know for certain. Power, arrogance, pride, and conceit are definite possibilities. Judas, like many of the Lord’s followers, was likely expecting a worldly, earthly, political Messiah – one who would gain military might and thereby deliver the Jewish people from the clutches of Roman domination. As the Lord focused upon the greatest need of all – the salvation of His people from their sins – Judas may well have thought that he could do better. That is, under the influence of Satan, Judas may well have resolved that if Jesus wouldn’t rise up and cast of Rome, perhaps he could. Refusal to trust in God’s plan and His timing will always lead us to futile, tragic, and destructive decisions.
Regardless of the reasons, the bone-chilling phrase, “Then Satan entered into Judas,” reminds us of the terrible tragedy of yielding one’s mind to self, and ultimately Satan, when one refuses to place their trust in Christ. In a world full of far too many individuals who like to claim that they’re indifferent to the Lord Jesus, the existence of Satan, any concept of heaven or hell, or any expressed religion altogether, the sobering truth is that there is no middle ground. Human beings are either for Jesus or they are against Jesus. There is no room for indifference – for sitting on the fence. The Savior who declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV), leaves no room for apathy. To refuse to trust Him is to reject the truth He embodies. And to reject the truth He embodies is to place oneself in league with Satan – whether actively intended or not. That is the reality of absolute truth – God’s absolute truth. Satan’s chief objective is to snatch the truth of God away from the hearts of human beings (Matthew 13:19) and to blind their hearts and minds so as to leave them in unbelief and a destiny of destruction (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Judas Iscariot chose to yield to self and, thereby, Satan. The governing religionists chose to yield to self and, thereby, Satan. And so stood Satan in the center of it all – the chief architect of the Lord’s opposition and betrayal. Having been largely silent since Luke 4, Satan now appeared to stand triumphant in orchestrating the Lord’s apparent fate. Yet what he failed to see –the true climactic point of this passage – was that in sealing Jesus’s temporal fate, he paved the way for Jesus to seal eternal victory.
The question is often asked: why didn’t Jesus destroy Satan then-and-there? If Jesus was fully God (as He absolutely was, is, and always will be), why didn’t He instantly destroy all three of the opponents represented in Luke 22 – the religionists, Judas, and Satan, all? The answer is the deepest, most profound, and most significant point of all that unfolds in the passion narrative.
Jesus did not go to Calvary because the religionists would stop at nothing to get him there. Jesus didn’t go to Calvary because the Roman soldiers forced him to walk those agonizing, miserable, humiliating steps. Jesus didn’t go to Calvary because Judas Iscariot betrayed Him and the rest of His followers fled. Jesus didn’t go to Calvary because Satan forced His hand. Jesus didn’t go to Calvary in weakness, fear, desperation, conformity, bitterness, hatred, or hopelessness.
Jesus went to Calvary in love.
Love for who? Love for sinners far and wide – the fallen, the hopeless, the broken, the weary, and the despairing. Love for those who failed Him. Love for those who betrayed Him. Love for those who opposed Him. Love for those who stood in the crowd. Love for those far away from the crowd. Love for those then living. Love for those not yet born. Love for you and love for me.
As Dr. Kent Hughes wrote in his magnificent commentary on this passage, ‘In the Incarnation he stripped himself of his glory so he could wash us clean. He is our servant-Savior. Though we have raised our heel against him, though we have been Ahithophels, he offers his eternal friendship. He stretches his arms out on the cross to embrace us.’
In spite of the opposition, in spite of the betrayal, in spite of the pain, the misery, and the agony of it all – Jesus went to the cross of Calvary because of His love for us and His desire to save us. Two wrongs don’t make a right. That which is broken and imperfect can’t substitute for something else which is broken and imperfect. Jesus went to Calvary because He was the only one who could. In all of world history has lived only one perfect man: Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord Jesus Christ. Only He could die a perfect, sinless death to atone for an imperfect, sin-sick world. And He willingly paid that death in our place and on our behalf. His crucifixion paid our debt; His resurrection secured our victory.
The enduring love of Jesus…
‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him’ (John 3:16-17).
 Mark Buchanan, “The Greatest of These,” PreachingToday.com. Accessed June 8, 2021. https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2010/october/8100410.html
 Chad Brand et al., eds., “Passover,” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1250.
 Barbara Aland et al., eds., The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition. (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014), Lk 22:2.
 ABC News, “History’s Most Infamous Betrayers,” ABC News, January 6, 2006, accessed June 8, 2021. https://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=79400&page=1
 F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 912.
 Steven M. Sheeley, “Judas Iscariot,” ed. David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 748.
 Gerald Cowen, “Judas,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 959.
 R. Kent Hughes, Luke: That You May Know the Truth, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 306.
 Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 536.
 Hughes, Luke, 312.