Whoever is living in a so called Christina country knows that every year at spring time Easter is celebrated. It is also generally known that this is not mainly the festival of Easter Bunnies and Easter Eggs but that it’s origin is in Christianity. The Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus had been executed about 200 years ago. In close connection with this execution we read the name of Judas Ischariot. He betrayed Jesus for the sum of 30 silver pieces. Was he guilty of the death of Jesus? Who was Judas? Why did he do this?
Some people think that Jesus would have been executed because Judas Ischariot betrayed him. But this is not true. God did not need Judas. It had been God’s plan that His Son Jesus, who had never in his life committed any sin at all should die for the sins of all mankind. God resurrected him from the dead, and together with Him all those may live who believe in him.
Yet for this salvation it had not been necessary to sacrifice Judas. Jesus did never hide. The high priests could have arrested Jesus at any time and at any place. God did not need Judas in order to fulfil his plan of salvation. It had been the only and personal decision of Judas to betray Jesus. But why did he do it?
Judas had been among the first followers of Jesus. In all Gospels we read (Matthew 10, 4, Mark 3, 19, Luke 6,16) that Judas had been one of the twelve disciples whom Jesus selected. Jesus had selected him just in the same way as the other eleven. So Judas had been in close companionship with Jesus. He witnessed all miracles that Jesus did, he heard all his speeches. What had been different within him?
Recently I saw on a Christian TV an interview with a murderer who had been executed the day after. He reported that when he had been arrested all his friends had been most astonished. He had been a very normal average person. Nobody had the least idea of his secret evil activities.
In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke we read, that the disciples did not have any knowledge at all about the activities of Judas. At their last dinner with Jesus the following happened:
And as they sat and ate, Jesus said, "In truth, in very truth I tell you, one of you who eats with me shall betray me." And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, "Is it I?" and another said, "Is it I?" (Mark 14, 18 – 19, also read Matthew 26, 21, , Luke 22)
Just in the Gospel of John the facts are described in a slightly different way. There we already read in John 6, 68 – 71 that Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray him.
Then Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go ? You have the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that you are that Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus answered them, "Have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?" He spoke of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.
In John 12, 3 – 6 we find another report that shows the secret thoughts of Judas.
Then Mary took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, said, "Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?" This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.
Just think of a very normal Christian congregation. There are people whom we trust, which come to church every Sunday, and that share prayers. Do we know that we may trust every single one of them? How well do we know our brothers and sisters in our church congregation?
In our church several people do the regular service of cleaning the church hall, me too. About once every two months I have to clean certain rooms in our church. Once it happened that I did not really have time, and I did not feel like doing this additional work, and thus I did not do the cleaning. On the following Sunday I went to church, I secretly looked at the various corners and found out that obviously nobody had noticed that I had not done any cleaning. But I myself had a bad conscience. I reported my behaviour to a sister.
This precisely is the point. I just as well could not have told it to anybody, and nobody would ever have found out about it, nobody would have noticed anything. It had only been a little evil deed, yet it had been evil. When things function at little occasions, and nobody notices anything, why should they not also function in mayor things?
The devil is permanently looking for possibilities of getting hold of us. We should not even offer him the slightest part of us.
Perhaps in the case of Judas it started similarly. The disciples shared their money, and it had been Judas’ task to take care of the bag. Nobody noticed it when every now and then he took a penny for himself. Gradually it became more and more, and he found pleasure in it, and finally it came into his mind to get personal profit out of the fact that the high priests intended to arrest Jesus. Thus he betrayed him.
Yet what about the other disciples? They obviously did not have the least idea about their brother Judas’ behaviour. The reason was that they did not really care for him. What is the situation like in our congregations? Do we care for our brothers and sisters? Do we share personal thoughts and talks with them? Do we ask them whether they might have any problems?
It is so very important to care for our brothers and sisters in our congregations. Thus we may help to avoid that somebody might walk down the wrong way. The devil is always again trying to grab us. Yet God is stronger than the devil. But it is up to us to gather the tares and thorns so that they will not choke the small plants. In the case of Judas nobody gathered the tares and thorns.
Judas had committed a horrible deed. In order to gain personal profit he betrayed Jesus and got 30 silver pieces for it. Due to this it had been most simple for the high priest to arrest Jesus. Yet for the fulfilment of history this deed of Judas had not been necessary. Things had thus just been easier for the opponents of Jesus. But what happened afterwards?
In Mattew 27, 3 – 5 we read:
Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, "I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood." And they said, "What is that to us? see thou to that." And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
Here we come to a tragic turning point in the story. Judas realized that he committed sin. He seriously repented. He took the money back. Yet what happened?
The high priests and elders were not in the least interested. They left Judas alone. They did not accept his act of repentance. As a result of this Judas felt so lost that he did not see any way out, and he hanged himself.
Let us have a look at Jesus. He reacts in a completely different way.
There had been the woman who committed adultery and who should have been stoned. Jesus said to her: "Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more." (John 8, 11)
To the criminal who hang at the cross next to him, and who repented, Jesus said: "In truth in very truth I tell you today you will be in paradise with me." (Luke 23, 43)
When Jesus hang at the cross he said: "Father forgive them because they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23, 34)
Everybody who repents his sins, no matter how evil his deeds might have been, Jesus is forgiving him. Jesus is willing to forgive when we in return are willing to change life and not to continue sinning.
What a horrible impertinence of the high priests had it been not to forgive Judas! Judas did not have the courage to go to Jesus directly; nor did he have the courage to meet the other disciples. But he repented!
The murderer in that TV interview had repented as well. He had realized that he had committed horrible deeds. He was ready to accept his punishment. Yet at the same time he knew that Jesus had forgiven him.
A member of the family of one of the victims of this murderer had forgiven him as well. She had been able to do so because she is Christian. She does not hate him.
A horrible deed can never be made undone. Yet with the help of God it is possible to forgive the person who committed it, provided this person repents.
In our congregations do we practise this? Each of you may find the answer for himself.
The high priests set a bad example of what may happen when people do not forgive.
It is better to take Jesus as an example and to forgive.
In the same way when we commit an evil deed we may go to Jesus and tell him about it. When we honestly repent, He will forgive us, and he will help us not to do this or similar evil deeds again.