Read: Acts 17:1-9
And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” (Acts 17:2, 3 ESV)
Jesus died. But he didn’t stay dead. He returned to life. He ascended, bodily, into Heaven. He went before us into death, and then into resurrected eternity, to prepare the path that who belong to the kingdom of God will one day travel.
Upon his conversion Saul of Tarsus, an infamous persecutor, became an enthusiastic proclaimer of Jesus. He often went into Jewish Synagogues to teach about Jesus, no doubt hoping to bring the truth to his people. He was articulate, and intelligent, persuading a great many people to open their hearts to Jesus—the Christ and King.
It was Jesus’ role as Christ which infuriated the Jews; but it was his role as King which the legality of persecution stemmed from. Salvation can come from no source but Jesus. That hasn’t stopped a multitude of people from attempting to save themselves, but it is folly.
Just as errant is the rejection of Jesus Christ as King. People often refuse to acknowledge any authority that is not of their own making. They want the throne of their lives left alone. We like to play King, Jesus is both Christ the Savior and the King of kings.
And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:62 ESV)
Jesus told Peter that he would deny him three times and Peter refused to believe it. Jesus also told Judas that he was the betrayer and Judas knew it to be true. What was the incredible difference between these two followers of Christ? I believe that the most significant difference between Judas and Peter rests in their response to their sin against Jesus.
Judas hung himself before Jesus was even crucified. He knew his guilt. And he felt trapped by it. Peter wept at the realization that he had sinned so greatly by denying Christ. The difference in these two responses is incredible. It’s a point I have written about often but I believe we cannot look at it too closely. Judas regretted his actions and killed himself. Peter showed genuine remorse, and sought forgiveness.
Peter betrayed Jesus. He knew that he had done it. He felt horrible. But he also recognized that there was a way back. No, not immediately, but he did take his sin to Jesus. Jesus reminded him that he knew about it before it had even happened. He forgave him.
Peter and Jesus had a unique relationship in terms of teacher and disciple. But all Christians share a similar experience with the two. In the connection between redeemer and redeemed we are all Peter, and we all need Jesus.
And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:5 ESV)
Judas Iscariot returned the money he had received for betraying Jesus. Then he went and hung himself. The chief priests rejected his plea for forgiveness because they refused to acknowledge that anything wrong had taken place. They then used the thirty pieces of silver to purchase a field called the field of blood.
Judas threw the money into the Temple out of disgust. He was disgusted with his own actions, but he was also probably disgusted with the responses of the religious leaders. He realized his erroneous ways
Judas was remorseful, he regretted his actions, that much is clear. However, he did not take his sin to the one place where it could be dealt with. He did not take his sin to Jesus. He did not repent. Instead he ended his own life.
Judas Iscariot’s story is tragically sad. It is the story of a what can happen when we deal with our sin in the wrong way. Jesus does save us from sin. He died for that very thing. But we have to take it to him, we have to believe that he will do it, and we have to entrust our lives to him.
Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” (Matthew 26:33 ESV)
I really like Peter a lot. Mostly it is because I feel like I understand him. He made a lot of mistakes but seemed to genuinely want to do the right thing almost all of the time.
When Jesus was telling his disciples that they were all about to abandon him Peter piped up to claim that he would never waiver in his loyalty. It was a wonderful sentiment. It was a wholesale rejection of the kind of apparent peer pressure we are usually conditioned against. Too bad it didn’t okay out that way.
Peter did scatter with the rest. He even went so far as to betray Christ by denying his standing as a disciple. It was a tragic moment for Peter. Thank God his story didn’t end there! Peter was so sorrowful and repentant after his betrayal. Ultimately he was forgiven. And eventually he went on to lead the church. What could have been a tragic end became a hopeful beginning.
And Jesus offers each of us that same beginning. We all like to think we are above betrayal. We talk really big. But we have our moments. We aren’t perfect. And we need the loving grace of God Almighty to restore us, encourage us, and point us in the right direction.
They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” (Mark 14:19 ESV)
Jesus had forewarned his disciples of his approaching trials and death multiple times. They never quite seemed to understand what he was referring to. But when he made the announcement that he would be betrayed they all perked up. They were all concerned it would be them.
Their response reveals a common idea. It is something I have noticed a lot over the years, and have struggled with myself at times. We are afraid of letting God down. We are woefully uncomfortable with the possibility of our own inadequacy. That’s not a bad thing.
Still, the truth is that we really are incapable of doing it on our own. We do fail. We do let God down when we choose to sin. And that is a betrayal of all that He is and does for us.
That sounds pretty harsh doesn’t it?
The good news, The Gospel actually, is that in spite of our failings, conformities, and bad decisions—our betrayals are the whole reason why Jesus died. It is our sin that His death overcomes. Yes, we may fall short of the hope God has for us, but he is big enough and good enough to make up the difference.
Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” (John 13:27 ESV)
Over the centuries there have been a lot of questions surrounding Judas. I feel pretty unqualified to answer them. I am a firm believer in just letting the Word speak for itself on those issues that can be all too easily confused.
Jesus knew Judas would betray him. He called him out about it ina. Very subtle and private manner. He told Judas to do what he was going to do. He told him to do it quickly.
It makes me wonder if Jesus ever looks at you or I and (fully knowing our future) hopes that we will hurry through a particularly troubling season. Maybe he sees a mistake we will knowingly choose to make, but he also knows that we will choose to be reconciled after that mistake.
You see, Judas and Peter both betrayed Jesus. Judas plotted and schemed for money, but Peter denied his connection to Jesus outright. Both were wrong. The difference is in how they chose to respond. Peter sought correction and redemption through forgiveness, yet Judas chose painful rejection without reconciliation.
I don’t believe Jesus wants any of us to knowingly sin, but he also knows just how imperfect we all can be. What if he is less concerned with slow punishment, and more attracted to quick redemption?
Read: Luke 9:37-45
“Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” (Luke 9:44 ESV)
Jesus had just worked an incredible miracle. A boy terrorized and possessed by a demonic spirit had been delivered. The disciples were unable to perform the miracle despite having Christ’s authority. The father of the boy was himself struggling with unbelief about the after. But Jesus did what he could for the boy. He did everything. And immediately recorded after this awesome and compassionate act is Jesus’ prophetic warning about his impending persecution.
Jesus knew. He knew what he was born on this earth to do. How it would happen. Who the culprits were. He knew. And till he chose to come. Still he chose to minister. Still he chose to love, serve, heal, deliver, and teach. Jesus repeatedly reached out with the tender-hearted hand of compassion, eternal hands of compassion. Even as he warned his closest followers that a day was soon coming when he himself would suffer at the hands of men.
When men are on control there is death. There is selfishness. There is wanton reckless rebellion.
When Christ is control there is peace in the struggle. There is hope in affliction. There is rescue from damnation.
Jesus knew what it meant to fall into the hands of men. He understood. And yet still he chose to love us, live for us, and die for us. Truly it is a remarkable thing when we draw life and live life from the grace of Jesus, the work of Jesus, and the hands of Jesus. In the hands of men were held the hammers that pierced the hands of the Son of God, but by that affliction my eternal sorrows are undone, and by that torment are my troubles pulled down from their high places. Thank God for the hands of Jesus.