Encounters

The World Today

Among the three most popular names today are Aiden, Jackson, and Liam. Which would you think is the most popular? It’s Jackson. What about the most popular names for boys in biblical times. Would the most popular be Peter, James, or Judas? It was Judas and, while we can’t imagine why in our modern-day understanding, there was a very logical reason for its popularity. Judas Maccabee, a Jewish priest led the successful Maccabean revolt (167-160 BC) which banished the Hellenistic culture and the worship of Greek gods from the Jerusalem Temple. At the time of Christ, he was counted among one of the great warriors of the faith, alongside the names of Gideon, David, and Joshua. Today, the name is synonymous with the words betrayal and traitor and is rarely heard as the name of a child.

In my studies of Judas, unnerving similarities between Judas and common responses to issues and challenges we face today came to light. It leads me to believe and share with you the disturbing bit of reality that there is a little bit of Judas in all of us! So, today, I want us to consider three principles that highlight those similarities, three ways that we are just like him.

The Word Revealed

Jesus was around 30-years-old when He began His ministry. He had lots of followers but had the very real need to surround Himself with a much smaller number of disciples. They would be a band of twelve whom He would handpick and personally mentor to carry on the work and the ministry of God’s Kingdom in His absence. Herein lies the first principle for our consideration.

  1. It feels good to be chosen.

Among the others He selected, Jesus intentionally chose Judas. Like Judas, we all like to be chosen. During my elementary years in the late 1950’s, it was popular to be “charmed.” At West Elementary School in Snyder, Texas, it referred to the practice of exchanging a heart shaped pendant with the name of the giver engraved on the back. Looking back on the practice these many years later, I realize that it was a simple way for kids to mark a classmate of the opposite sex as someone they liked, someone they had chosen, in an elementary sort of way. I never expected to be liked in such a way, to be chosen, for I was in no way athletic or popular. I was always the last to be chosen for anything.

One day, as I was sharpening pencils at the back of the classroom, one of most popular girls in the entire school approached me. As I turned to return to my seat, she held out a charm necklace, with her name engraved on the back of course, and placed it around my neck. I guarantee, that afternoon my parents and I made a blazing trip to the store where those charm necklaces were sold and engraved. The very next day, I took the first opportunity to give it to her out of fear that she would want hers back. Fortunately, she didn’t. I’ve long since forgotten what she looked like, but I will never forget her name nor the experience of being chosen.

Jesus has chosen you and He wants you to be on His team. Regardless of what you may have done, regardless of what you are doing in your life today, regardless of what you will do in the future, Jesus chooses you! We know that we don’t deserve it, but nothing we have or may do will make Him stop loving us, will make Him stop choosing us. Paul understood that quite clearly, as he shared with the Church in Rome:

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Roman 8:35-39, NLT).

Jesus chose you, Jesus likes you, Jesus wants you on His team. And like Judas whom He chose so long ago, it feels good to be chosen!

You remember the story of Mary that we considered in the first sermon of this series. Jesus had gone to the home of Mary, Martha, Lazarus to visit His friends. Mary walks in and bows at His feet, carrying a jar of very expensive perfume. She proceeds to pour the expensive perfume on His feet. Judas loudly objects, declaring that it could have been sold for an amount equal to a year’s wages and the money given to the poor. While we can imagine that Judas was at least partially sincere, we know that he was not shy about spending money out of the disciples’ treasury. It’s easy to assume that his true concern was that Mary’s waste literally represented money out of his own pocket. Immediately following Jesus’ reply, defending her action, Judas leaves and plots to betray Jesus:

“Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you” (Matthew 26:14-15a, NLT).

His action points to the second principle we should consider:

  1. It’s often hard to remain patient with Jesus.

Let’s consider a “what-if” scenario for a moment. What if Judas’ greatest sin was not his greed, but it was his impatience? We know that he was greedy; Scripture clearly points that out. But I think it’s important for us to consider that he also possessed a healthy dose of impatience with Jesus. Think about it – he had traveled with Jesus for three years and believed, at least initially, that Jesus was the Messiah. Judas could have been among those who hoped that Jesus was a political Messiah, one who would lead a rebellion which would set them free from Roman rule.

If so, it would have been his hope that Jesus would usher in a political kingdom, that the Kingdom of God which He spoke of was an earthly kingdom with its capital in Jerusalem.  As such, Jesus would bring great power and fame to Himself and His disciples. Out of his disappointment, it becomes obvious that Judas was far more committed to such a cause than he was to Jesus. If such was the case, in his betrayal of Jesus in exchange for money, Judas sold out a movement that he understood as having failed, not the Messiah.

What if the final straw for Judas, the ultimate reason behind his final sin of betraying Jesus was out of complete frustration and impatience with timetable of God? That’s where we can see ourselves in Judas, our inclination to become frustrated with God’s timetable. Parents, you spend at least eighteen years raising you children. There are times you feel like saying to God: “I’ve done everything right. I made sure they were in church, that they went to youth group, that we said prayers before meals and at bedtime, and that they tithed their allowance. God, why haven’t you changed them into what I want them to be? If you can’t get it done, I guess I’ll just take ‘em back!”

Or you’re single and you challenge God, saying, “Why haven’t you brought that someone special to me? Why haven’t you helped me find my soulmate? If you can’t get it done, I guess I’ll just go back to the clubs and look for myself. The common theme in both of these scenarios is “God, if you can’t get it done, I’ll just do it myself! That’s exactly the point at which we get ourselves into a situation we can’t escape.

When the patience runs out, watch out! It’s when all kinds of damage is done. Judas was greedy, but he was also impatient; he was more committed to the cause of a political Kingdom than to Jesus. The lesson for us is that we must be patient with the timetable of God. Just because we can’t see His hand at work in our family, in our finances, in or friendships, jobs, or marriage, it doesn’t mean that His timetable is not in motion. Just because we can’t see Him working in our lives right now doesn’t mean that He’s not working in our lives at all. We must be patient with God!

It was the evening of the Last Supper where Jesus and the disciples were gathered in the quiet Upper Room. In the quiet, solitude, and peace of that setting, they were enjoying a pleasant Passover meal. Breaking the pleasant tone of the meal, Jesus announces that one of them would betray Him that very night! The disciples were shocked and at a loss of what to do. John asks Peter who it was. Peter turns and asks Jesus. Jesus explains, dipping bread into the bowl and gives it to Judas. Immediately, Judas leaves his closest friends, he leaves the ones with whom he has been serving and ministering with over the last three years, he leaves them behind to betray Jesus. His actions bring to mind the third principle.

  1. It’s possible to just pretend to be Jesus’ friend.

As late as the Last Supper, just hours before the Savior’s betrayal, none of his fellow disciples suspected Judas. They didn’t all point to him at the same time and say, “it’s him!” Judas was accepted by the others, involved in their lives and shared ministry, entrusted with the disciples’ treasury. In many ways, he was just one of the guys. In that way, aren’t we a lot like Judas? We want to just blend in, to appear to be Jesus’ friends. We look, walk, talk, and act like fully devoted followers of Jesus while sin and betrayal is on our minds. I can imagine that there is someone here today, sitting with sin on your calendar. You know when and where you will do something you hope Jesus won’t see, an act in which you literally turn your back on Jesus. I can imagine that’s what Judas was thinking when he walked into the darkness to betray Jesus.

If that’s where you are right now, you don’t have to run and hide from Jesus any longer. You can erase that sin that’s on your calendar. All it takes is a decision to do so. It’s interesting when we consider that the things that cause guilt and grief in our lives and challenge our relationship with God are not the sins we committed before we became Christian, but the ones that we continue to commit. Paul had no problem admitting that in his letter to the church in Rome:

“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15, NLT).

In other words, as a friend of mine once said, it’s “what we do when we do what we don’t want to do!” If that’s truly the case, if that is what separates us from God’s favor, then what do we do? You do two simple things:

(a) don’t follow Judas’ example. It led him to an experience of shame, regret, and remorse that ultimately led him to end his life.

“Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself”(Matthew 27:5, NLT).

(b) follow Peter’s example. Yes, in that courtyard that night, he too betrayed Jesus as he disowned and denied Him. He must have felt the same sort of shame, regret, and remorse that Judas felt, but instead of ending his life, he chose to change it! Every morning, Peter would hear the sound of the rooster for the rest of his life. Every morning, he would wake up to that sound reminding him of who he was, reminding him of his past. Every morning, do you subconsciously “hear” your rooster, reminding you of your past, always challenging you, saying things like, “who are you, thinking you can do something good for your family? Who are you, thinking you can sign up to serve, to do something in the church? After all, you are your past and you’ll never change!”

What you need to do is to SILENCE THE ROOSTERS! Peter experienced the same shame, regret, and remorse as Judas, but he didn’t choose to end his life, he chose to change it! Right now you can make the conscious decision to silence the roosters, recognizing that your past doesn’t determine your future!

Booker T. Washington was a prominent African American author, educator, and adviser to presidents in the late 19th and early 20th century. He recounts that, growing up, he and his family despised the crow of rooster for it reminded them as they woke of the back-breaking labor of slavery that was their everyday reality. One day, a man by the name of Abraham Lincoln signed something called the Emancipation Proclamation and the slaves were freed! The next morning, everyone in the house heard the crow of that rooster, but there was something different about the sound. As he looked out the window to see what all the commotion was about, he saw his mother chasing the rooster around the yard with an axe in her hand. He concludes the tale, with a smile on his face, declaring, “that’s the day we killed the alarm clock and ate it!”

Even for us today, the first step out of the slavery to sin is to silence the rooster. That’s likely what some of you need to do today!

Applying The Word to the World

Take Away: Our Take Away is in the form of a question. What rooster from your past do you need to silence today? What rooster, what subconscious voice that taunts you with memories of your past do you need to silence today? As you consider it, I need to forewarn you that as you leave today, whether it happens in your car or as you are relaxing at home, Satan will relentlessly keep reminding you of your past. And here I ask you to do something more for yourself than for me. When he does begin his rooster-like assault on your faith, remind him that you have been emancipated, remind him that you have been set free, remind him that you are redeemed by what Jesus has done for you, what Jesus has done in your life!