+ In Nomine Jesu +
"Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)" In the name of Jesus. Amen.
"You, me and Judas." You might wonder, what do you and I have in common with Judas Iscariot? After-all, we all love Jesus and believe in Him. Judas hated and doubted Jesus enough that he gave Him up to be crucified. We thank God every day that Jesus paid the price our sins deserved so that we needn't despair of hope. Judas, though he heard Jesus preach about grace and forgiveness, in the end, didn't believe that Jesus could forgive a sin as awful as his. Thus, in despair, he went out to the potter's field and he hung himself. You and I, because our sins have been washed away by Jesus' blood, that cleansing splashed over us in the water of our baptisms, are destined for an eternity in heaven. Judas, though loved and cherished by God, became "the son of perdition." Thus, he suffers eternally, separated as he is from the mercy and grace of God.
So, what could you and I possibly have in common with Judas Iscariot? It seems to me that we shutter at the mere thought of being like Judas. In fact, in contradiction to God's word, some of us console our fears of following in his steps by putting him into a category completely distinct and separate from the rest of us. What I mean is, fearing that we might possibly fall from the faith as Judas did, we are tempted to believe that Judas was brought into the world by God to do what he did. In other words, we are tempted to believe that he was destined to betray Jesus. After-all, Luke does say in the Acts passage before us this morning, "the Scripture had to be fulfilled." Jesus had to die for the sins of the world! And someone, says the prophet Jeremiah, was going to betray Him for 30 pieces of silver!
The problem with that view is that it portrays an image of God that is cruel and arbitrary. The other problem is that it ultimately robs you and me of the certainty of God's grace toward us in Christ Jesus. The point is, if there is even one person that God brought into the world for the express purpose of damning them, then none of us can be sure that His intent toward us is any different. God's grace is either universal, that is, for all people, or it's particular, only for some. If it's particular we can hope we've been chosen, but we can never really be sure.
Let's go back to the original question. What do we have in common with Judas? Well, apart from our having faith in Christ and Judas lacking that faith, we have everything in common! Judas came into this world the same way all of us did, a sinner in need of God's grace. We've all sinned, haven't we, and fallen short of the glory of God? Our sins may differ in type but not in their ability to separate us from God in this life and ultimately to damn us for eternity. An old preacher once said, "How idle to talk of other men being greater sinners than we are—to flatter and deceive ourselves with that! A person who has his or her head beneath one inch of water drowns as surely as the one who, with a millstone hung round the neck, has sunk a hundred fathoms down into the sea."
So, as to our sin, we are really not any different than Judas. And, the thing is, as to God's grace in Christ, we are the same too. God, you see, "would have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth." That includes "you, me and Judas." "For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life." God loved and cared for Judas as surely as He loves and cares for you.
For a reason unknown to any of us, Judas rejected God's grace toward him in Christ. Oh, the external signs are evident, but the 'why' remains a mystery. He chose temporal wealth over eternal wealth, the favor of Kings and governors over the favor of the King of kings and Lord of lords, the praise of men over the praise of God. Why though did Judas choose the things of this world over the things of God such that he was lost for all eternity? After-all, we all face the same temptations Judas faced.
Matthias was chosen to replace Judas, in part, because we are all like Judas. As Luther reminds us, "we can't believe in Christ or come to Him, unless we have been called by the Gospel, enlightened with His gifts and sanctified and kept in the one true faith." Therefore, we are "called by the Gospel.". God's word must be preached so that we can hear it and believe what it says. As Paul says, "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ."
My friends, forsake the question of why Judas didn't believe, and hear the word of Christ, the word preached by Matthias and those who would come after him, the word of God's love for you, a love that moved Him to sacrifice His own Son for you!
A traveler in Europe once noticed a carving of a lamb high up on a stone near the top of a church tower. He had seen such carvings of a lamb before, but never in such a place. Usually they would be inside the church, near or on the altar or pulpit. Asking for an explanation, he was told that in the days when the church was being built, one of the workmen lost his footing and fell from the scaffolding just when that particular stone was being laid. His fellow workmen hurried to the ground and they were shocked to see the man standing there brushing the dust from his clothes. He had fallen into the midst of a flock of sheep. One lamb in particular broke his fall. The man, looking at the lamb said, "he was crushed, but I live.” The workmen carved a lamb on that stone so that all might remember the miraculous escape of the workman. But more than that, it also points everyone to “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”
Jesus was crushed for you! He broke your fall as you were heading headlong into the abyss of hell. He lifted you up in the power of His resurrection to live before Him in innocence, blessed and peace. He gives you, even today, His pledge of His forgiveness and grace, His broken body and His crimson blood.
"Lord, I believe,were sinners more
Than sands upon the ocean shore,
Thou hast for all a ransom paid,
For all a full atonement made."
"You, me, and Judas."
In Jesus' name. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +
Send Rev. Alan Taylor an email.