May 1, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Mark 14:17-21.
When it was evening, he came with the Twelve. And as they reclined at table and were eating, Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be distressed and to say to him, one by one, “Surely it is not I?” He said to them, “One of the Twelve, the one who dips with me into the dish. For the Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”
Jesus may have been making a reference to David’s song in Psalm 41: “Even the friend who had my trust, who shared my table, has scorned me.” The language of the Revised Standard Version (a revision of the King James translation) is more poignant: “Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” The next line, though, goes, “But you, LORD, have mercy and raise me up that I may repay them as they deserve.” Did Jesus have this in mind as well when he warned that it would be better for his betrayer if he had never been born?
Mark tells us that each of the Twelve responded to this stunning announcement, “Surely it is not I?” Judas must have been a practiced liar. None of the others detected his lie; none suspected that he was the betrayer. Otherwise they surely would have restrained him to prevent his treachery. Jesus had remarkable insight into the minds and hearts of men and women. Judas’ denial didn’t fool Jesus. He knew that Judas’ heart had been turning to stone, his mind rigidly fixed on revolution to liberate Israel from Rome.
I’ve always felt sorry for Judas in making the choice that he did, for being a pawn in God’s plan. But that misses the point entirely. He is an example of the consequences of spurning God’s love again and again until time runs out.
Jesus tried once more to save Judas before his time ran out, this time with a dire warning that would give most of us pause. What could be worse than to never have been born? To be in the presence of God, to know His great, unconditional love and then to be cut off from Him forever, left with memories, deep regrets, and anguishing remorse that become an endless torment. To know that he had a choice and he chose badly. That’s worse.
Barclay puts it well, “Here is the whole human situation. God had given us wills that are free. His love appeals to us. His truth warns us. But there is no compulsion. It is the awful responsibility of man that he can spurn the appeal of God’s love and disregard the warning of his voice. In the end there is no one but ourselves responsible for our sins.”
That is the awesome responsibility of my life. To choose to love God, to obey his will, to repent of my sins and return to His love. I pray that I will always turn to God as a response to His love and not to His warning of endless remorse by choosing otherwise. I don’t want to risk running out of time.