I don't know anything about sheep, and neither it seems, does Bishop Tom Wright, but he at least knows people who know about sheep. A priest near Cambridge reported to Bishop Wright that when sheep are take to be killed, they know instinctively that the slaughterhouse is a bad place. They can smell or sense something which warns of danger. The truck carrying them stops, the gangplank is put down, and the sheep refuse to move. But those who are paid to kill sheep are crafty, and they devised a way of getting around the problem of wise and stubborn animals. Slaughterhouses keep a sheep on the premises, who is used to the place and does mind it any more. They take it up the plan and into the truck, and then it walks down again quite happily. The other sheep, seeing one of their own leading the way, will follow. The slaughterhouse workers call this sheep 'Judas.'
Satan wanted the Son of God dead. Satan wanted his final victory, but the people were stubborn. Jesus entered the Holy City to cries of "Hosanna!" He had been to the Temple and left it a wreck; literally turning upside down everything the people thought they knew about relationship with God. He taught his disciples that they could move mountains, that whatever they prayed for they could get, BUT that in order to receive forgiveness they first had to forgive. And the people didn't get whipped up into a frenzy. They didn't get angry at his blasphemy. They didn't try to kill him themselves. Instead, as Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us, they were amazed at his teaching. So much so that even the chief priests and the scribes knew they couldn't touch him out of fear that the crow would riot.
Satan is crafty. He had his Judas on the inside. Satan knew that the only way to get to Jesus would be to get someone from his inner circle, one who would know when Jesus had stolen away for a few minutes alone, to turn him over to them. And once Judas went down the ramp, once Judas, one of the twelve, chose darkness over light; well then the rest would follow. And follow they did. The crowd that was amazed on Monday was, by early Friday morning, crying out "Crucify him!" And it only took one person to get the ball rolling, Judas.
Satan is crafty, but God is craftier. God is the craftiest because John's text does not end at verse 30, "As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night." The story does not end in darkness. Without skipping a beat, it seems, Jesus is back to shining the light. He knows what the next four days are going to look like. He knows about the Garden, where even his closest friends will fail him by falling asleep. He knows about his arrest. He knows about the late-night passing of the buck. He knows that Friday will bring with it whips and wood and wailing, but ultimately, Jesus knows that Friday will not be a "Bad Friday." Friday will indeed be a "Good Friday."
When Judas was gone, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him." Now God's plan for salvation is made complete. Now Satan's prideful trap has been set. The Son of God will die, but death will not be the end. The light will shine even in the midst of deep darkness. Satan is crafty, but God is good. It only took one man to get the ball rolling toward the Cross. It only took one man to take make that Cross reveal God's glory and and turn it into a symbol of God's great triumph. As we continue to walk with Jesus along the road of his suffering, may we remember that the devil prowls at every turn, but God's victory has been secured. May we not fall into the trap of Judas and follow instead our Savior to his glory. Amen.