The Sovereignty of God in the Betrayal of His Son
Text: Mark 14:12–31
Main Idea: God sovereignly ordained that his New Covenant promises would be established through the betrayal and execution of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
I. The Plan of God (Mark 14:12–21; 26–31)
II. The Providence of God (Mark 14:21)
III. The Purpose of God (Mark 14:22–25)
How big, how powerful, how sovereign, how glorious is your view of God? Is he comprehensively sovereign over very atom in the universe or is a docile observer who passively endures the fickle pursuits of mankind while he helpless pines for their attention?
And what impact does your understanding of his character and divine attributes have on your affections toward him? Does your understanding about God fuel your trust and delight in him today? Or is your God so small, polite, and innocuous that he endorses your every desire, priority, and decision?
This is an important question on so many levels. But, especially when it comes to our passage today— a passage that follows Mark’s signature sandwich structure. See, Mark wants us to understand that every single event in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus transpired according God’s predetermined plan. He left nothing to chance.
- The disciples found the Passover room just as Jesus told them (v. 16).
- Judas betrayed Jesus just as it was written of him (v. 21).
- The disciples were destined to fall away from Jesus, just as it was written of them (v. 27).
- And tucked in between these unexpected revelations of divine sovereignty we find the ultimate reason that Jesus came. He came to inaugurate the New Covenant by pouring out his blood for the salvation of many (v. 24).
The sovereignty of God in these verses show us that the cross was not a spontaneous tragedy, a historical mistake, or an accidental moment of divine oversight. The cross was the very means by which God planned from eternity past to establish his New Covenant through the death of his Son, opening the way for sinful humans to escape his wrath and be forever reconciled to him though repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
Main Idea: God sovereignly ordained that his New Covenant promises would be established through the betrayal and execution of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
So as we turn to this familiar text this morning, it is my heart-felt desire that God would awaken and expand your affections for Jesus Christ. And that at the same time he will ever-deepen your grasp of his promise-keeping, faith-awakening, peace-inducing inexhaustible sovereignty.
For simplicity sake, I’ve organized my message around the three primary themes of this passage instead of following the natural structure of the passage.
- The Plan of God
- The Providence of God
- The Purpose of God
- And then we will conclude with a few points of Personal Application
The Plan of God (Mark 14:12–21; 26–31)
A Predetermined Place (Mark 14:12–16)
Notice that even though, Jesus is in his final days but he is not trapped in a series of unfortunate events that are completely outside of his control. There is no hint of desperation, fear, anger, or futility. Rather, he displays, as he has throughout the entire Gospel, a sovereign freedom and authority to follow the course he has freely chosen in accordance with God’s plan.
And we see this sovereign freedom most clearly displayed in that he does not avoid Jerusalem but sends two disciples to secure a Passover room in Jerusalem just like he sent two disciples to secure his colt for his public entry into Jerusalem. Both errands involve mysterious meetings, and both transpire exactly as Jesus predicts.
And this is even more surprising when you realize that finding a last-minute Passover room in Jerusalem was harder than finding a last-minute hotel room during the Superbowl. And that is because visiting pilgrims were required to celebrate Passover within the physical walls of Jerusalem itself (Deuteronomy 16:5–8).
Yet, in this seemingly impossible situation, verse 16 tells us that “the two disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.” And at this point, Mark fast forwards to the Passover meal itself.
A Predetermined Betrayer (Mark 14:17–21)
The scene in these verses is very different than the popular paintings of the Last Supper which depict most of the disciples sitting serenely around the table. Mark’s depiction of this meal differs significantly from these portraits, in that, every disciple’s face is twisted in grief, horror, and abject fear. Fear that Jesus was going to be betrayed. Fear that they might be the very one who was going to betray him. And fear that one of them could possibly break the most solemn trust and friendship known among men.
Yet, Jesus does not expose his betrayer so that he can expel him from the group nor avoid his trap. He reveals his betrayal so that his disciples might know that his coming death was not an accident. In fact, if we look at the parallel account in John 13 we can see that Jesus understands Judas’ betrayal as the present fulfillment of David’s experience in Psalm 41:9.
Psalm 41:9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
John 13:18–19 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.
Jesus wants them to know that everything is unfolding according to God’s sovereign plan. And that his plan is far more specific that they could ever imagine, in that, it foretold their fall as well.
A Predetermined Fall (Mark 14:26–31)
Now, I realize that its common to focus on Peter in this passage because Peter is the loudest voice in the room. But, every single one of the disciples made the same promise:
Mark 14:31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.
And Jesus knows that they are not going to uphold their promise because God already ordained his death and their fall in Zechariah 13:7.
Mark 14:27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered. 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’”
First, notice the first-person singular pronoun: “I” will strike. God will strike Jesus the shepherd. Don’t miss this. Jesus is saying that God will use evil to fulfill his saving purpose.
Second, he is saying that even though the disciples are destined to fall; their fall will not be like Judas’ betrayal. Notice, Jesus does not pronounce an oracle of woe against his over-confident disciples. No. He delivers a word of comfort in verse 28. “I will be struck. You will be scattered. Then I will be raised from the dead and I will go before you to Galilee. In other words, your fall will not be final because I will gather you to myself again.”
Does anyone feel uneasy about all of this? Judas betrays Jesus “as it is written” and is held accountable for his betrayal. But, the 11-disciples deny and fall away from Jesus “as it is written” and are promised future restoration…. It just seems wrong… …that is unless we understand the providence of God.
The Providence of God (Mark 14:21)
Mark 14:21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.
Notice: the two parts of verse 21 are almost a perfectly balanced blend of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility:
God’s sovereignty: “For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him” (14:21a). His betrayer was a part of God’s sovereign plan (at it was written of him).
Human responsibility: “but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed” (14:21b). His betrayer was morally responsible for his actions that were written of him.
This is one of the hardest truths in the Bible. And unfortunately far too many Christians completely jettison one to preserve the other.
- On one extreme are those who elevate human freedom so high they virtually abandon the Bible’s clear teaching about God’s sovereignty—Open Theism.
- And on the other extreme are those who elevate God’s sovereignty so high they virtually deny what the Bible teaches about human agency and accountability—Hyper Calvinism.
But, as Christians who are committed to the inspiration and authority of God’s revealed Word in Scripture, we must deny both of these extremes because the Bible constantly proclaims that they are wholly compatible even though their relationship is fully paradoxical, which means that one does not exempt us from the other. A Few Passages
Lamentations 3:37 Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?
Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.
Deuteronomy 30:15–18 See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess.
What do we see in this? God is sovereign over all things yet humans are fully accountable for their actions. So, how does God want us to respond to this? Two more texts:
Deuteronomy 29:29 The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
What is God saying? Do what I command you to do and don’t worry about what I might be doing behind the scenes. I will hold you responsible for obeying the things that I have revealed.
And just in case Judas (or any one else) attempts to even suggest that he really wanted to remain faithful to Jesus, James 1 tells us the truth.
James 1:13–15 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Why do we sin? We sin because we chose to sinfully fulfill our preexisting desires. In other words, We do what we do, because we want what we want, because we love what we love. And as we saw last week, Judas betrayed Jesus because he loved money more than he loved Jesus.
A Working Definition
So me take a moment to describe what I mean by the providence of God because I believe it will help us embrace a biblical view of God’s inexhaustible sovereignty and human responsibility.
Providence is the means by which God in his wise and purposeful sovereignty both freely and unchangeably ordained everything that will come to pass from eternity past. Yet, in such a way that he never sins, nor condemns a person unjustly because his ordaining work is wholly compatible with the moral accountability of mankind.
Or as the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon replied to the question: “How do you reconcile God’s sovereignty and human responsibility?” He simply replied, “There is no need to reconcile friends.”
Now I admit that this can be a lot to take in. But, the greatest comfort in God’s providence is this: that God is working all things together for the good of those who love him, for those who are the called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28). God had a purpose in the betrayal and murder of his Son. A purpose that completely eclipsed anything that he had done in the history of mankind, including Passover itself.
God’s Sovereign Purpose (Mark 14:22–25)
The Passover Celebration
Remember, Jesus is not celebrating any-old-meal with his disciples. He is celebrating the Passover. A meal that commemorated the very night that Israeli slaves slaughtered a lamb and smeared it blood on the door posts and lintel of their homes to protect their first-born from the angel of death— the 10th and final plague that broke Pharaoh’s will and wrought Israel’s freedom from Egypt.
And this meal followed a very specific pattern.
- The head of the family would pronounce a blessing over the family.
- The youngest child would ask, “Why is this night different from other nights?”
- The family head would then pray over the foods that symbolized Israel’s bitter slavery in Egypt so that they could remember what God had done for them. After this the family and guests would eat the Passover meal together.
- And sometime about midnight the feast would conclude with the singing of Psalms 116–18 and the drinking of the fourth cup of wine.
The New Covenant Celebration
The most notable thing about this meal is that Jesus completely departs from the Passover script and reinterprets the elements in light of his imminent death and resurrection. The bread is a picture of my body that will be broken for you. The wine is a picture of my blood, the blood of the New Covenant, that will be poured out for the salvation of many people. Jesus is telling his disciples how to understand God’s purpose in his death and resurrection.
See, the reference to the “blood of the covenant” cannot be understood without understanding to the old covenant. The old covenant was sealed with the life of a sacrificial animal and established when Moses literally threw sacrificial blood on the people (Exodus 24:3–8).
But the prophets announced a coming day when God would make a new covenant with his people (Jeremiah 31:31–34). And Jesus is saying, that time is now. In fact, this blood is not simply thrown on the people (external picture), but it must be consumed by individual people (they drink it—internal). Because it is a covenant that will not merely tell them what to do; but through faith grant them the ability to desire and do very things God demands (Deuteronomy 30:6–8; Ezekiel 11:17–21; 36:23–31).
The Passover Pattern
Just as the lamb was slaughtered on Passover night, Jesus would be slaughtered.
Just as the Israeli slaves were protected from the angel d of death by believing God’s promise of protection by smearing the lamb’s blood on their doorposts. So also sinful humans can escape God’s wrath by believing God’s promise of forgiveness and restoration through the death of his Son.
Or to put it another way, Just as God did not look inside the house to see who was worthy but looked for the blood on the doorposts. So also God does not look at our worthiness he looks for our faith in the blood of Jesus Christ. (no one is worthy…)
John 3:16–18 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 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. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Notice how verse 18 fits the pattern of the Passover. Israel was not exempt from the angel of death. If they did not believe Moses and follow his Passover instructions they were already condemned. In the same way the gospel is God’s appointed means to deliver those who are already condemned.
If you have not come to faith in Christ, you need to know that God’s wrath against your sin is real and his coming judgment is just as certain as the sunrise. Every single day you see the that ball of fire in red morning sky it should remind you that you are one day closer to his promised return and that you need the blood of Jesus Christ. You need to receive his free gift of forgiveness and salvation by faith before it’s too late. Today is the day of salvation for all who believe.
The Comforting Peace of God’s Providence
If you are a believer I want you to find comfort and peace in the truth that no one can derail God’s sovereign plans. What I mean by this is that the providence of God reminds us that God always accomplishes his purposes. And that many times he accomplishes them through the evil intentions of wicked men, not just in spite of them. Remember what Joseph told his brothers at the end of Genesis?
Genesis 50:22 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Don’t miss this. He does not say you meant it for evil but God just happened figure out a way to turn it into good. He says, you meant it (you purposed it) for evil but God meant (he purposed it) for good. Joseph is saying that his years of slavery and jail time were part of God’s good and providential plan to bring good to Joseph’s entire family—even the family members that had evil intentions. This is why Paul can say:
Romans 8:28; 31–32 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 31If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
No matter what is happening in your life or in the world today (and boy do we have a list), if you truly belong to Jesus Christ you can know that God has everything under control and that he is working all things according to his sovereign plan to accomplish his sovereign purposes.
 David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 526.
 This section is heavily influenced by: Jason Meyer, “The Divine Design in the rejection of Jesus,”https://bethlehem.church/sermon/the-divine-design-in-the-rejection-of-jesus.
 When someone asked Charles Spurgeon, “How do you reconcile God’s sovereignty and human responsibility?” He simply replied, “There is no need to reconcile friends.”
 Num 23:19; 1 Sam 15:29
 Is 46:9–10; Prov 16:33; Prov 19:21
 2 Tim 1:9; Eph 3:11; Eph 4:1; 1 Pt 1:20; Rev 13:8
 Deut 32:4; 1 Jn 1:5; James 1:13; Ro 3:4
 Rom 1:20; Rom 2:11–12; Dan 4:37
 Rom 3:19
 James R Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 432.
 Points 1–3 are adapted from: Jason Meyer, “The Divine Design in the rejection of Jesus,”https://bethlehem.church/sermon/the-divine-design-in-the-rejection-of-jesus