Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Heart of Judas

All of us, at one time or another, has faced betrayal by a friend or a family member. We understand the pain of betrayal. But how many of us understand the betrayer, or the thing that leads to betrayal. There is a perfect picture of betrayal and the betrayer in the Bible, in the betrayal of Jesus. I want to use that picture to understand what it is that led Judas to betray Jesus and what may cause us to betray Him, as well.

John 6:64-71
64 “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.69 “Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?”71 He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.

The Hidden Heart

We often think of Judas as evil don’t we. And don’t get me wrong I don’t want you to think he’s a victim of his environment or give some other pop psychology excuse for his actions. He betrayed Jesus, which is a role that defines evil for us. He betrayed Jesus and that betrayal led directly to His crucifixion.

But I wonder if Judas was evil from the beginning. I wonder if he harbored in his heart from the beginning a desire to betray Jesus for financial gain. It seems odd that if financial gain was his motive that he settled for such a small sum. Thirty pieces of silver in those days, was the price of a slave.

I want to examine Judas’ heart. I want to look more closely at the betrayer because I want to give us opportunity to examine our own hearts and look for the seeds of betrayal that bloomed in Judas’ heart so that we can remove them.

Jesus knew from the beginning who would betray Him. But I believe the betrayer himself had no idea that he would be the one to sell Jesus out. . Jesus chose twelve men to be his inner circle. He called Judas in the same way that He called the others. None of these men attached themselves to Him on their own. Each member of the inner circle was called. Judas did no less than the others when he forsook all to follow Him. Judas was a part of that same inner circle of men, an intimate of Christ. He was a part of Jesus’ ministry. He saw the miracles; he heard the words of Jesus that were reserved just for the twelve. And like the rest of them he had given himself as a follower of Christ.

Judas was a trusted member of this community of men. He held the purse; he was the keeper of the finances. He had the same hopes and aspirations that this man, they all followed was the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior. He was a friend of Jesus.

Isn’t that true? If you’ve ever been betrayed who was it that betrayed you? Was it a friend or a loved one? Betrayal takes place in a relationship. There can be no betrayal without a real relationship? A stranger can’t betray you because betrayal speaks of building and then deserting a relationship.

So Judas and Jesus are friends. But there are things that are hidden in Judas’ heart. They’re not hidden from Jesus, He is the searcher of hearts. He’s the one who understands our failings. But there are things that are hidden in Judas’ heart that are hidden from Judas. Many times we are blind to our own sin. That’s how we can justify it to ourselves. Justification of sin is blindness to sin.

Judas had the heart of a thief, and what is it that lurks in the heart of thief? The root of it is greed and selfishness. Look at this verse; watch how Judas justifies his greed.

John 12:4-6
4 Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said,5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

He justifies it as if he’s using it for good works. But the truth is, according to John, that he’s stealing it and using it for his own purposes. He’s hidden it from himself and he’s hidden it from the others. John writes as if he understands Judas’ intention at the time. But this was written a number of years after the event and John has the benefit of hindsight as he writes this. Look at Mark’s account of the same event.

Mark 14:4-5
4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted?5 “For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply.

The others joined in the criticism. There is no suspicion of his thievery. This is something that’s hidden from them. But I believe there is one other thing that’s hidden in his heart and that’s unbelief. In John 6:64, Jesus tells us that there are some following Him that didn’t believe. There is a link between unbelief and the betrayal that follows.

John 6:64
64 “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.

Let’s look at the context of that statement. To find the context that he’s speaking of we need to look at the day before. Jesus had been preaching to the multitudes. It got late and the people were hungry and Jesus had compassion on them. He fed five thousand men and their families on five loaves and two fish. Look at the reaction of the crowd at the end of this miracle.

John 6:14-15
14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.

Jesus sends the twelve to Capernaum. The Bible says He “constrained” them to get into the boat. That word constrained means compelled. He made them leave. He sent them away. He didn’t want this thought that He was a temporal or worldly king to creep into their thinking. He didn’t want them to get the wrong idea of His mission so he told them to leave. After they left He sent away the multitude. But the next day the multitude was back and Jesus begins to deal with them about His purpose.

John 6:38-41
38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.39 “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.40 “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” 41 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.”

He declares to them that He came not to be a king, but to do His Father’s will and that is to deliver mankind from sin. The people turn away and don’t follow Him anymore after that. They want a political king that will lift the oppression of Rome off them. But that’s not his purpose and so they turn away. Jesus gives the reason in verse sixty-four. He says, “There are some of you who do not believe,” and the verse goes on to say that he knew who didn’t believe and who would betray Him. There is the implication of unbelief in the betrayer’s heart.

Judas is disappointed, perhaps, that Jesus isn’t going to be a worldly king. Maybe that’s the reason that he chose to follow Jesus, because he expected Him to be a king in the political sense. What advantage is there to a thief who is a part of the government.

A High-ranking police officer in the US recently appeared before A federal judge on charges of corruption. He is an elected official who is accused of accepting more than $350,000 in bribes for favors for friends and supporters, one of them notorious for his son’s rape of a 16-year-old girl. The indictment alleges that he ran for re-election in order to continue the lifestyle of corruption that he had lived. A man like this has a thief’s heart. This is the same heart that Judas has.

The unnerving part of all of this for us is that his unbelief led him to betrayal. Why is this unnerving? Because, we don’t always have faith in God. It’s easy to believe when we see the miracles happening right before us. We want to grab hold of Jesus in that situation. When Jesus is blessing we want to believe in Him. What we really want is a Jesus that will make our lives better and easier. That’s why the prosperity Gospel is so popular. But we start to balk at a sovereign God who expects our obedience. We hesitate to embrace a Jesus who came not for our purposes, but for the purposes of a sovereign God. “This is a hard saying who can believe it.” That’s what those who turned away said. We want a God made in our own image, of what God should look like. We struggle with believing that God has a different agenda than making life good and easy for us. That’s the unbelief that makes it easy for us to walk away and betray the savior of mankind. Jesus didn’t come to make our lives better. He came to bring eternal life. The sin and unbelief in Judas’ heart led to his betrayal of Jesus and we need to recognize the unbelief in our own hearts before it destroys us.

The Strength of a Pure Heart

In the text, Peter declares a heart of faith for them all.

John 6:67-69
Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.69 “Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Peter is speaking or them all. He doesn’t see the treachery that is forming in Judas’ heart, he only sees his own faith. What is interesting is that Peter saw all the same things Judas did. He heard Jesus speak the same things Judas heard Him speak. These things led to the firm conviction in Peter that Jesus came to bring eternal life. Look at his declaration, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of Eternal Life. We believe and we know that you are the Christ.” Peter is convinced by the things that he’s seen and heard that Jesus is God.

He was convinced when Jesus told him to lower the nets on the right side of the boat and the miracle fish they caught almost swamped the boat. “Depart from me for I am a sinful man, oh Lord.” By declaring himself a sinner he is declaring the lordship of Christ. He is acknowledging that Jesus is God.

But later unbelief creeps in and he denies that Jesus must die on the cross. This is a moment when he is like Judas.

Matthew 16:21-23
21 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

The unbelief of Judas was that he saw Jesus, not as the Christ, but as a king. He looked to the worldly resolution of things. The cares and concerns of the world overrode his thoughts. We see Peter, here, also being rebuked for having worldly concerns rather than spiritual ones.

This comes after Peter has declared Jesus to be the Christ. It comes after he has said they will remain faithful because they are convinced of whom He is.

We also are convinced. We believe that Jesus is God. We believe that He came and died to pay the penalty of our sin. We are convinced that He is our salvation. But every backslider was at one time a convinced believer in Jesus. Unbelief can creep in as we worry about the day-to-day things; as we struggle under the stresses of life. It is in these struggles that the engine for betrayal is set into motion. Backsliding is a betrayal because it is a willful destruction of a relationship.

There is one aspect of betrayal we must see. It is from this time that Judas begins to be estranged from Jesus. Verse 71 is the first mention of Judas in the book of John. All of the other acts of Judas take place after this. This is the moment of his turn from Christ. Yet, he continued on with jesus and with the others and no one else knew or suspected. At the last supper, Jesus tells him, “What you do, do quickly.’ He sends him on his mission of betrayal and look at the reaction of the others.

John 13:28-29
28 But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him.29 For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.

His heart has changed and it isn’t apparent to any of the others. We can conceal betrayal in our hearts. It springs up out of this root of unbelief that blossoms into bitterness and ends in destruction. Judas’ betrayal leads to the death of Jesus nut also to his own.

Matthew 27:3-5
3 Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!”5 Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.

Betrayal destroys not only the object of the betrayal but the betrayer as well.

Having the Heart of Peter and not the Heart of Judas

Both Peter and Judas struggled with unbelief. But only the unbelief in Judas heart led to betrayal. The difference between them may have been the things that were hidden in the hearts of the men. The things that they were seeking that were apparent.

Judas had the heart of a thief. He sought the advantage that a thief seeks.

I knew a man who robbed his family of a great deal of money. It was very interesting because he seemed so open to people. He was friendly and outgoing, you’d never have thought he’d be a thief. But a thief seeks advantage in order to steal

Perhaps this was Judas’ motivation, he was looking for an advantage. He waited until that advantage could be turned for profit, before he moved. Judas sought material gain. He looked for worldly power.

Peter looked for eternal life. “To whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” He said we have no choice but to be faithful, turning to that which we have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God. Look at the Wuest Expanded New Testament:

And as for us we have believed, and still believe and have come to know and still know experientially that you are the Holy One of God

He is saying we know from our experience that you are the Son of God. What we have seen of you convinces us. Judas has seen what they have seen. He has experienced what they have experienced the only thing that’s different is what is hidden in their hearts: Things that may have been hidden even to them.

I don’t believe that at this moment, the moment of our text that Judas has planned already to betray Jesus. I believe that the moment of betrayal came later.

John 13:27
27 Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”

He has opened a door that Satan can use, through his unbelief. He has given Satan access to his heart and the act of betrayal began in that moment when Satan entered in. How many of us have had moments of unbelief? How many times have we had doubt that our faith would see us through difficulty? How many times have we considered leaving our church because of something that’s been preached; or because what God’s doing isn’t apparent; or because what God’s doing doesn’t fit your vision of what God should be doing? This is the same root of unbelief that led to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. I would imagine that Peter also faced these moments. In fact, Jesus telling him that He must die is one of those moments. The difference was Peter’s desire was for the spiritual. “You speak the words of Eternal Life. Who else has that?” This is how Peter thinks.

Peter thinks that eternal life is more important than political change. Politics, by its nature, is temporary. There is something going on here that’s bigger than Peter and he sees that.

On the other hand, people betray over feelings, over disappointment, over advantage. They can’t look beyond their own needs. They selfishly look for their own fulfillment. That’s how Judas thinks. He’s looking for advantage both politically and materially: His own needs come before anything else. He’s disappointed that Jesus isn’t here to become a worldly king. He’s disappointed that it will affect his own standing and power, so he is motivated to betray.

How easy it is to think like Judas. But how much better to think like Peter.

Some things are hard to accept – But to whom would we go?
Some things seem so important for the moment – But you have the words of Eternal life.
I have believed that you are the Holy One of God – That’s why I followed you in the first place.
I still believe that because I have experienced you – And I’m still seeing your power

This is the thinking that protects against betrayal, because it is thinking that’s rooted in belief, not unbelief. God is not created in OUR image. God is not responsible to be who we think He is, He is who He is. You can believe in Him; even when it gets tough; even when it doesn’t seem like what you get is what you want. If your thoughts are rooted in belief, you protect yourself from betrayal.

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