Christianity 201

April 2, 2018

Judas!

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles
– Luke 6: 12-13 NIV

The name Judas is certainly evocative to Christians. Nobody names their kid that. Surely it would make a better swear word than that of Jesus, wouldn’t it?

But as Philip Yancey points out in The Jesus I Never Knew, in terms of the twelve disciples, Judas was incredibly ordinary.

Chosen by Jesus – Scripture tells us (see above) that Jesus chose his disciples after a long night of prayer. This wasn’t a random act. It was divine providence. At The Christian Courier, Wayne Jackson writes:

The book of Zechariah divides itself into two major portions. Chapters 1-8 deal principally with events contemporary with the prophet, while chapters 9-14 sweep across the centuries, and have a decidedly “messianic” thrust. With this brief word of explanation, we now focus on a most remarkable prophecy in chapter 11 of the prophet’s composition.

The chapter begins with an ominous prophecy of a coming destruction that would vanquish the nation of Israel. This devastation would be a judgment from God because of the Jewish people’s rejection of Jehovah’s royal King. The description previews the Roman invasion that would culminate in A.D. 70 (cf. Matthew 22:1-7).

Out of this background comes the following prophecy.

“And I said unto them, If you think good, give me my hire; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my hire thirty pieces of silver. And Jehovah said unto me, Cast it unto the potter, the goodly price that I was prized at by them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them unto the potter, in the house of Jehovah” (Zechariah 11:12-13).

This is a stunning text; indeed, it is a powerful example of the minute details that characterize the prophetic literature of the Bible. Zechariah, speaking on behalf of the promised Messiah, makes the following points.

(To discover the detail of seven things predicted here, click this link.)

Trusted by all – At Desiring God, Jon Bloom writes:

Jesus could have given the moneybag to Nathaniel, “an Israelite indeed, in whom there [was] no deceit” (John 1:47), or to John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20), or to Levi, who had extensive financial experience (Luke 5:27). But he didn’t. Jesus chose Judas to be the treasurer of his itinerant nonprofit.

One is tempted to offer the Lord some consulting on good stewardship. Donors were supporting this ministry financially (Luke 8:3), and Jesus appointed the one guy he knew was a “devil” (John 6:70) to manage the money. But this was not poor judgment on Jesus’s part. It was deliberate; Jesus knew Judas was pilfering. Why did Jesus allow it?

(For his answer to that question, click here.)

Honored by Jesus – In a world where “sitting on someone’s right” or “sitting on someone’s left” was a place of prominence, Judas was sitting near Jesus. Ann Naffziger fills in some details including a prophetic word from the Psalms:

Throughout human history, the act of sharing food together has suggested a level of bondedness between the people sharing the meal. Some of the significance has been lost in this day and age of American drive-throughs and eating on the run, but certainly in the Jewish culture of the Middle East at the time of Jesus, a shared meal connoted a level of intimacy between eaters. (For this reason Jesus was consistently criticized for sharing food and drink with tax collectors and sinners.) The Passover ritual that Jesus celebrated as his Last Supper included the practice of sharing food from common bowls, not unlike in various cultures and ethnic restaurants still today. In this sense, Judas can be accused of betraying not just the bond of people who eat together but a bond which should have been stronger between those who celebrated a religious feast together. The text in Matthew which identifies Judas as the one who dipped his hand into the bowl with Jesus (Mt 26:23) might also be an allusion to Psalm 41:9: “Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

John’s gospel is slightly different in that it indicates that Jesus dipped his bread in the bowl and then gave it to Judas. There is a tradition that the host gave the dipped bread to an honored guest as a sign of affection. So perhaps John highlights this detail to even further heighten the act of Judas’ betrayal.

So then why did he do it?

Why did he betray Jesus? In Chapter 10 of the book, Yancey offers five possibilities:

  1. He would do anything for money.
  2. He was looking out for himself, knowing Jesus enemies were closing in.
  3. He was disillusioned; Jesus should be taking on Rome not clearing the temple.
  4. He had “no patience for a slow, nonviolent revolution.”
  5. He was doing all this “to force Jesus’ hand. If Judas arranged an arrest, surely that would prompt Jesus to declare himself and install his kingdom.”

Yancey points out that the difference between Peter and Judas. Their responses are the same in kind but not the same in degree.

Have you or I ever betrayed a church leader? As someone who spends time each week documenting some of the transgressions of Christian pastors and authors as part of my tracking of news events in the Christian community (on my other blog) I am acutely aware of the responsibility of not stooping to gossip or reporting on events in an irresponsible way that could bring damage to the cause of Christ. If I do, I am betraying Jesus.

Furthermore, as we consider the Passion Week narrative, we need to keep in mind that Christ offered up his life. While his flesh had misgivings at one point, Jesus was in charge and in control of all that was unfolding.

 

 

February 26, 2015

The Judas Effect

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:29 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

 He [Judas] did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
 (John 12:6)

As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”
 (John 13:27)

Judas is an interesting character, to say the very least. Like the thief on the cross, he is one of a number of exceptions to the rule, and many speculate as to what might have been if his betrayal had worked out like Peter’s denial and he had been restored. One writer suggests:

I do think that Judas was one of the very few in the Bible who did not have a free will, and was destined to betray Jesus actually from before the foundation of the world.

Another writes,

To summarize, be careful where you place Judas. He did the will of the Father and fulfilled the Scriptures. Peter, who we all love, tried to prevent Jesus’ crucifixion and was called “Satan” by our Lord. Peter, who was not mindful of the will of God, was restored. Was it not Jesus who said, “”For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:50) Be careful about placing Jesus’s brother, Judas, in Christendom’s “hell.” One day you may have to look up to Judas, instead of looking down on him. Peter denied him three times in one night while Judas declared Jesus innocent in front of the High Priesthood. Judas had a very important job in the Kingdom of God. For three and one half years, as a Priest he inspected the Lamb of God as an unbiased man. He was not “one of them” a Galilean. He was the outsider. He did his job perfectly. If Judas really wanted to mess things up, he could have agreed with the High Priesthood and called Him a “blasphemer” who claimed to be the Son of God when He really wasn’t. But Judas declared the Lamb spotless and unblemished*, the Perfect Passover.

*“I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” (Matthew 27:4a)

Where I wanted us to look today however is when did Judas go bad? The second of our opening verses suggests a particular time when “Satan entered into him.” It’s interesting that there is absolutely no variance on this phrase in any English Bible translations, though the AMP adds, “and took possession.”

The first verse however shows him to be embezzling money from the funds used to support Jesus and The Twelve in their ministry. (We know that many of the contributors and supporters were women, along with men.)

So if we look at a continuum of Jesus ministry, with one end beginning with the calling of the disciples, the scripture reading in the temple, and the turning of water into wine; and the other end consisting of the Passover meal, the arrest and betrayal; we see some rather bad behavior on Judas’ part long before Satan ‘entered’ him. There is evidence of something wrong before we would place an “X” on that continuum to mark what happened in the upper room.

Question: If it was found that the treasurer of your church was helping himself to money from the offerings or church bank account, would you necessarily say that Satan had entered into him?

Judas’ petty thievery is used to show that he was bad from the beginning, and is used to justify the position that he was never fully committed to Christ, but the scripture indicates that something especially significant happened as he exited that Passover meal to carry out his plan.

Again, it’s pointed out that:

[Acts 1] affirms that Judas was one of theirs in number and fellowship with ministration.* In other words, Judas worked cooperatively and in concert with the other disciples. There is no mention of his not being a good and faithful member of the group.

*v. 17 “…he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.”

I John 2:19 paints a broader picture of people who ‘share in the ministry’ but then do not continue in the faith:

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

The Reformation Study Bible says of this:

Paul too warns against false teachers who will arise from among the believers (Acts 20:29–31). As in the case of Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:9–24), visible membership in the church does not guarantee salvation. Inward apathy or hostility to the gospel may be masked by outward conformity. The false teachers revealed their hostility not just by leaving, but by the way they left. Because they went out to oppose the word of the gospel, their departure was as much a renunciation of the church and its message as was Judas’s departure from the Last Supper (John 13:30).

Some say this is also a picture of the Antichrist.

What is the point of studying Judas in such detail and what can we learn? This is just my opinion, but I believe that even though the Biblical picture is of a more dramatic turn taking place during that Last Supper meal, the events in Judas’ life compounded, one on top of the other.

Another commentator puts it this way:

Somewhere in Judas’ life, he took an evil turn that eventually resulted in rejection of Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior and eventual suicide. One bad attitude toward Jesus led to another, and a pattern of rejection and bitterness must have led to the ultimate rejection of Jesus.

and later writes,

Judas confessed his sin without repentance. There was no radical change in his mind that resulted in a change from spiritual death to spiritual life through faith in Jesus Christ. True repentance would have turned him to Jesus for forgiveness.

Does any of this resonate with you because of a person or situation you know? Let’s end with some encouragement from Galatians 6: 1

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.


I want to acknowledge Michael Card’s book, Luke: The Gospel of Amazement, for getting me thinking about this topic.


Go Deeper: Here’s The Message translation of I John 5:16-17 to get you thinking further along this topic. Use online Bible resources to help unpack this passage:

16-17 For instance, if we see a Christian believer sinning (clearly I’m not talking about those who make a practice of sin in a way that is “fatal,” leading to eternal death), we ask for God’s help and he gladly gives it, gives life to the sinner whose sin is not fatal. There is such a thing as a fatal sin, and I’m not urging you to pray about that. Everything we do wrong is sin, but not all sin is fatal.

Go Deeper Still: Some of today’s passages bear on issues dealing with free will and predestination, as well as the eternal security of the believer (perseverance of the saints). The verse in I John often is used to support the semantic idea that such people were “never saved in the first place.”  How do you see that verse fitting in?

 

May 1, 2013

Jesus Answer Knocks Them Off Their Feet

 

“…they drew back and fell to the ground.” ~John 18:6

The quotation above is from John’s account of Jesus’ arrest. Judas leads a group of soldiers and Pharisees to a grove of olives and Jesus steps out from his group and asks who they are seeking. They said, “Jesus of Nazareth;” and he answered, “I am he.” And then John tells us that at the words, ‘I am he;’ they fell to the ground. I’ve quoted the NIV (or ESV) above; The Message version adds a different dimension, “He said, “That’s me.” The soldiers recoiled, totally taken aback. Judas, his betrayer, stood out like a sore thumb.”

This detail about the soldiers is singular to John’s gospel. (He doesn’t mention the betrayal with a kiss at all.) I’ve often wondered what caused this particular reaction.

  • The Life Application Bible suggests that they were startled by the boldness of his question
  • The Wycliffe Bible Commentary suggests he unnerved his captors, some of whom may have been the ones previously unable to lay hands on him (John 7:43-46);
  • Though the Pharisees had seen Jesus teaching in the temple, it’s possible the soldiers had never seen him up close and personal. As they came into proximity with him he was either not what they expected, or they sensed something “wholly other” about him. (Matthew Henry adds that the term ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ was used derisively, and that Jesus could have simply answered “No” for technically he was ‘Jesus of Bethlehem.’)
  • The Life App. and various other commentaries tell us that his “I am he” answer used the “I AM” form of God’s name; it indicated his claim of divinity. There are many pivotal turning points in John’s text, but this is one where we often miss the full impact;
  • The above, combined with what they where about to do; they suddenly felt the impact of their own actions. Were they arresting an innocent man? Were they arresting God?
  • If the full force of his answer registered at all; Matthew Henry points out they would realize that he could simply strike them dead at that point. Was there any limit to his potential response?

Without taking away from any of these explanations, I want to introduce a new dimension to the narrative that had never struck me before in this context. I picked this up reading Michael Card writing in an older issue of the Our Journey devotional booklet.

“When Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane, He was already bloody before anyone laid a hand on him. He had been fighting a battle that would make certain the final outcome on Calvary. The blood and water that flowed from his wounds on the cross were preceded by bloody sweat that poured from His pores as He suffered the agony of a death more painful than the physical death of the cross, the death of the will... The painful crushing began appropriately enough, in the garden…” ~ Michael Card (Italics added)

What do you do if you are the soldiers, sent to arrest someone, who looks more like a victim than a criminal? What do you do if the plan calls for flogging or torture and the person seems to be already spent? Could that be part of what caused them to draw back and fall to the ground?

August 29, 2010

Have Hurting People Estranged From the Church Left The Faith?

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:52 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A piece I wrote at Thinking Out Loud about the need for confession and forgiveness used, as a springboard for discussion, a post from a ‘confessional’ website where a reader stated that they’ve actually left their faith, but are staying on the church’s e-mail prayer chain list so they can continue to be in on all the church gossip.

If you’re interested, here is the item I wrote.

A reader responded with this comment which expresses a rather comment sentiment which you’ve probably heard come up in any discussion of someone leaving the faith.

The obvious scripture about christians who are no longer christians is that they went out from us because they were never part of us. What’s terribly sad is that they really do think they were once a christian. Though they mislead a few. It’s not possible for those people to make a dent in the reality of Christians anymore than a drop of dew on a shingle. Thanks for the blog.

I fully understand that there are a number of people who feel that way.   However, I also recognize that this reader does not speak for many others who would be reading that particular blog post; so I responded:

I’m sorry, but the “They were never Christians to begin with” flow of argument just doesn’t work for the many, many readers of this blog who disagree with your dogmatic eternal security position.   Since this was a post about the need for confession and forgiveness, and not about other doctrinal matters, I won’t pursue it beyond suggesting that the Bible makes very clear the possibility of being “a partaker of the Holy Spirit” and then “falling away.”

The idea that if someone was truly “in Christ” they would never walk away is good positionally, and there is an extent to which I can embrace that; but then you run into people who have endured a great deal of brokenness in their post-conversion situation, and have elected to walk away.

But the simple rejoinder to your statement might be, if a Christian can’t truly ‘leave,’ then they haven’t actually left; they are just going through a period of extreme hurt, extreme pain or extreme rejection.   Some seed in the parable of the sower actually did “take root” and “sprang up” before it was scorched by the sun.

There’s a lot of scorched people out there.

(Actually, I’m amazed at the level of “belief” among so called committed atheists.  They say they’ve left the Church, but they hold on to an interesting mix of doctrines.)

It’s funny how you can coin a phrase in the middle of writing something.   Scorched people is one of those.   But they are legion and and I’m sure you know some.

How do you respond to the “they were never one of us” argument? Judas walked with Jesus for three years.   I believe he was as in as in can be.   Perhaps he had a predilection to some kinds of temptation.   Perhaps he was jealous of the inner-circle relationship enjoyed by Peter, James and John.   Perhaps he just felt the whole crusade wasn’t making enough of a political dent in Galilee.  But was his sin any different from the many distractions which carry away people in Christian leadership today?   If Satan had truly blinded him 100%, he never would have recognized his transgression; he would have continued to believe his cause was just.

I believe the teachings of Jesus “took root” with Judas as much (or more) as with anyone else.

But he got scorched.