2nd Wednesday of Lent
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, parenting is risky business, isn’t it? You pray for your children, but your children aren’t always the little angelic answers you had hoped for in your prayers. You do your very best to train them in the instruction of the Lord, but then, no matter your pleading and encouragement they stray away, maybe even far away from God and His Word. That is a fear of mine. You do your best in training your children but eventually you don’t have the influence you once had and you have to pray that they make the right decisions. I don’t know how many times I’ve been contacted by very concerned parents or grandparents (often of BSU students) whose hearts are breaking because they know their children are wandering away from their Lord and they don’t know what to do. I’m sure everyone of us has felt the pain of a loved one who has walked away, turned to another path. But how much more pain, then, did Jesus feel that night in the Garden of Gethsemane when his friend, his disciple because his enemy and his kiss meant death??
Judas Iscariot was called by Jesus as one of his twelve disciples. So we can picture Judas sitting at Jesus’ feet learning the Word and asking questions. Jesus also sent out the disciples to preach and do incredible miracles (Matthew 10). Can you picture Judas preaching the Word, cleansing lepers, healing the sick, driving out demons, even raising the dead? What kind of picture do you have of Judas? As one of the disciples we can assume that he was zealous, eager, and faithful in following Jesus.
But what did he do? He betrayed Jesus. Wait…what? How did that happen? How did we get from preaching the Word, healing the sick, raising the dead to betraying the Messiah?? Well, he didn’t just wake up one morning and say to himself, “I think I’m going to betray the Son of God today.” But how did Satan begin to work on Judas’ heart? How did it start? It starts wherever he can get a foothold. For Judas it started with greed.
Remember what God’s Word warns? “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Tim 6:10). And think about what Judas would have heard straight from Jesus: your real treasure is in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy, a person cannot serve both God and money- he will hate the one and love the other, the deceitfulness of wealth can choke the Word right out of the heart, it’s easier for a camel to be crammed through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. He heard all of that! But then slowly he began turning away from Jesus and turning toward gold and silver.
He was also the keeper of the money bag. Money passed through his hands and he helped himself to it. He became incensed when Mary gave Jesus a precious gift anointing him with a perfume that cost a year’s wages. Jesus wasn’t worth that! And then the opportunity came. Jesus’ enemies were rich and powerful and willing to pay cold cash. Now Judas became deliberate: discussing the “business transaction,” carefully watching for a time to betray, leading the soldiers, having a pre-arranged signal of kissing Jesus.
30 pieces of silver. It felt so good in his hands, but ate away at his heart. He was seized with remorse, tried to return it, when they wouldn’t take it back, he threw the money, and went away and hanged himself. He got his money, but he forfeited his soul. Now he’s been suffering penniless in hell for almost 2,000 years.
“Poor Judas.” No. Instead we should be saying, “God help me!” God doesn’t tell us about Judas so that we can pity a dead man, but so that we can avoid his dead end. “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.” We have all kinds of examples in Scripture of faithful Christians who fell away. Here’s the warning: Any sin that we let take root in our hearts- be it greed, neglecting God’s Word, envy, coveting, etc, any sin that takes root can spin us into unbelief. Look at Judas!
But do you know what’s most tragic about Judas? When he came to his senses after seeing Jesus led away like a lamb to the slaughter, he had a change of mind. But instead of turning to Jesus for full and free forgiveness, he turned to his guilty conscience, instead of turning to the Lord for mercy, he turned to the corrupt priests to try to unbuy his betrayal. But no money, not even all the silver and gold in the world, could pay for one sin, only the innocent blood of Jesus can. In despair Judas turned to a noose instead of his Savior.
Learn from Judas, don’t turn toward your sin, turn to Jesus! Turn to Jesus who has turned to you in love with every word he spoke and every deed he did. Turn to Jesus who willingly allowed a lynch mob to arrest him and bind him and lead him away. Turn to Jesus who endured scorn, ridicule, mocking, and insults so you wouldn’t have to. Turn to Jesus who willingly allowed his hands and feet to be nailed to a cross to take your punishment on Himself and save you. Turn to Jesus who suffered hell for all the times we betrayed him with our sins. Because of that it is impossible for you to be more forgiven than you already are in Christ. Don’t turn to your sin and guilt- that’s spiritual suicide- look at Judas. No, turn to your Savior, He will always receive you with arms outstretched and hands with scars that prove His eternal love for you. Turn to Jesus, do not turn away. Amen.