So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas,
I had intended to post on today’s sermon; God’s active hardening of sinners, from Romans 9.17-18
… but kerux
beat me to it. His new feature
is fantastic, and he couldn’t have picked a better week to begin open discussions on his sermons. Instead of posting reflections on the sermon here as well as there
, I thought I’d just post this article I wrote a couple of years ago for the school newspaper at my old Bible College, right before our graduation. I hope it helps you to love Christ more.
the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel,
Satan entered into him.—John 13:26b-27a
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,
that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed
for you that your faith may not fail.—Luke 22:31-32a
So what will you do with your summer? Or even better, what will you do with the rest of your life? You have put in some time at Bible College and now what? I’ve heard variegated responses from the students and graduates with whom I’ve conversed. Some plan to go right into ministry opportunities, internships, or seminary training, while others of us are off to begin married lives, and find secular employment. We are all at different stages of life with different plans, and yet we are all determined to serve God wherever we go. United we form a veritable troop: A formidable front of young people off to minister to people and glorify God. One wonders if Judas was any different.
Many of us have spent two, three, or even four years here at Bible College training for the tests to come. Judas followed our Lord and God for three and half years: He walked with him, conversed with him, slept by his side and sang praises with him at night. There were seasons of Judas’ life when the Christ would set aside time to invest in his twelve closest followers—and Judas was there. He was part of our Lord’s “in crowd.”
When I picture Judas in my mind, too often I picture him as a kind of shady bloke with shifty eyes and an evil laugh. In my mental images, he is always set apart from the group, and segregated. The other eleven always wondered why he was there and how long till he fell.
This projection is patently untrue. Judas was just as much a follower of Christ (at least as far as the eye could see) as any of the other eleven. When Jesus suggested that one of them would be the betrayer (on the very night he was betrayed), each disciple to a man looked around to make sure he was not the suspect, and perhaps apprehensively asked: “Surely, not I?”
Within each of their hearts there was trepidation and a fear of being exposed. Each of them knew his own heart. Each knew good and well that within his own soul there was the possibility that he could be the one to come up short; he could be the one to blow it. After making the announcement that he would be betrayed by one of them, Christ said to Peter that Satan had demanded to have him, that he might sift him. Peter veiled his fear that he might be like the betrayer behind his impressive, if not brash, claim: “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” He was not ready to be exposed to the others as one who would betray his Lord.
That same night every single one of those disciples was exposed. Each one is portrayed in Scripture as the hypocrite that he was. Each one turned his back on Christ. Sure, Peter followed Christ that night, but it was only “at a distance,” and it only led to an even greater betrayal. Of all the betrayals explored in the gospels that night, Peter’s is the most poignant.
One might ask (and perhaps rightly): “What was the difference between Peter and Judas?” They both betrayed our Lord and Saviour when they should have stood strong at his side. Why should one fall away and the other be restored?
There is a good probability that not all of us here at school will hold firm to the faith once for all delivered to the saints; not all of us will persevere. Some of us will fall into grave sin—some of us will deny our Lord outright (though I do pray, even as I write that this might never be so). Though we now profess “Lord, I am ready to follow you to prison and to death,” in our deepest moments of reflection and meditation we realize the weakness of our faith and cry, “Surely Lord, not I?”
So what will be the determining factor? What is essential to keep us safe in the arms of our Saviour? It is the grace of our Saviour and that alone.
Not a single one of us will stand on our own strength. Not a single one of us will stand even by our prayers (for the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, and whether by sorrow or exhaustion, we all fall asleep).
Like Peter and Judas, we stand or fall by the grace and the will of our Christ. Of Judas it was written, “He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.” Thus, Jesus handed him the morsel. And Satan, having received the divine acquiescence necessary for him to act did all his will with whom he was given.
Satan, however, was not satisfied. He demanded more. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.” But the morsel was not given. Peter’s Saviour makes the difference between Peter and Judas absolutely clear: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” It is only the grace of Jesus that enables a human to persevere. It is only the grace of Jesus that saves us. It does not therefore depend on man, who wills or who runs, but on Christ.
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” Who will persevere? Who will break down and fall away? Who will give up? Who will “finish the race”? We must all fall into the arms of Christ, our loving God and Saviour. For in his will, and in his will alone, we find life and grace.
Again, “What is man that you are mindful of him / the son of man that you care for him?” We do not deserve this care of provision. No matter how much we have trained for serving Christ, no matter how much of the Bible we know, no matter how great we think we will be for the church of God, we must depend utterly on Christ and on Christ alone for persevering grace. “Pray that you do not fall into temptation.” Pray with all your heart. But remember always, that Christ alone holds your salvation. May he hold us all and preserve us in his love. For inasmuch as there is no hope outside of him, there is now no condemnation to fear for any who are in him.
Do not assume your preserving grace. Pray for it. Do not presume to be a follower of Christ except you see the fruits evident in your life. Pray for them. Do not presume to be a follower of Christ because you have “followed him” for three years (or 13 years!) at Bible College. Judas followed him too.
Update, 02/18/06: See this article at “the Christian Mind” for some thoughts on the upcoming publication of the Gospel of Judas.