Sermon – Lent Mid-week – February 27th, 2013
Benediction Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI
“Judas and Christ”
There's hardly a greater insult than to call someone a “Judas”. Betrayer. Turn-coat. Backstabber. The one who sold our Lord Jesus down the river, into the hands of those who would kill him. Mommas don't name their children “Judas” very often. For thirty pieces of silver, he gave up the Holy One of God.
And even though Jesus certainly knew it was coming, and allowed it to happen, Christ himself has little good to say about the betrayer. “Woe to that man!” Jesus says. And when he finds them in the garden, with violent men in tow, Jesus laments, “would you betray me with a kiss?”
Judas had seen so much, had been a part of it all. He had seen the miracles, the healings. He had heard the sermons, and the teachings. He was with Jesus for those three years of public ministry. He was even sent out with the rest of the 12 to cast out demons and preach in Jesus' name. All indications are that he was a full-fledged member of the apostles, beleiving, and even presumably, baptized.
But temptation came, and for whatever reason, Judas fell. He was tempted to leave the fellowship of Christ – and his departure from that upper room was emblematic of his forsaking of his faith. Judas felt sorry for his actions, even admitted he betrayed innocent blood, but he ultimately found no comfort in the Gospel. He hanged himself in despair, and Peter later comments, he “went down to where he belongs”, in other words, to damnation.
There but for the grace of God, go I.
Oh we love to wag the finger at naughty Judas, the betrayer, and make ourselves seem better in contrast. He sold Jesus out, but not us. He fell away from Christ, but not us. He was a big fat sinner... but... do we really want to go down that road?
How often have you and I succumbed to temptation, yes, even as Christians? A holy people, a royal priesthood, children of God and heirs of heaven – but still wallowing in the mud of our sins. Still biting and snapping at each other. Still shaking a sinful fist at the creator.
How often have we betrayed our Lord with a kiss? You know the routine – gossip about your neighbor but cloak it in this veneer of true love and concern for the person. Put on the good Christian facade – go to church, pray, do your best to avoid sin – but then wear it all as a prideful badge of honor, “look at how wonderfully Christian I am”.
Confess Christ on Sunday, but unite him with the prostitute, if not in your flesh at least in your mind, and at the computer screen. Smile as if everything is peace, peace, but in your heart it bubbles and seethes with unrighteous indignation.
How often have we betrayed the Lord of truth by giving ear to the sweet-sounding lies of those who preach glory in his name with no cross in sight? Oh, but everyone says he's such a good preacher. It's so uplifting. It's so practical. Let's not get bogged down in all this doctrinal mumbo jumbo. As if Jesus doesn't care about his own teachings.
Steal, lie, cheat... eat, drink, and be merry, and lazy, and angry, and on and on... Every sin is an offense to God. And particularly for the Christian, a betrayal of who we are in Christ. Every sinner is a Judas, turning away from Christ with every impure thought, word, and deed.
Would you, Christian, betray the Son of Man with a kiss? How could you? After all he's done for you, Christian, how can you go on sinning like this? How can you so easily give in to temptation?
What would you say to Judas? After he had betrayed Christ, and as he was standing at the precipe, fashioning his noose. In his despair, having betrayed innocent blood. Having fallen for temptation and fallen under the power of Satan. What would you say? Woe unto him?
What would you say to any sinner facing the gravity of his sins? Repent and believe in Jesus Christ! For Jesus has paid for your sins. Not with 30 pieces of silver or 1000 talents of gold, but with his holy precious blood, and with his innocent suffering and death. Believe in Jesus Christ who came to seek and save the lost, to call enemies to be his friends, and to raise even those dead in sin to life in him.
You see, the word of God and particularly the good news of Jesus Christ is really all there is. It's all there is for the fighting of temptation and the defeat of the evil one – It's all Jesus used in the wilderness, as he kept quoting, “it is written...”. And it's all there is for us – faith in his word – which can quench the darts of the devil – and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God – the only weapon for defeating the foe.
The word of God, and the good news of Jesus Christ is all there is – for comforting lost sinners, for dragging us from the pit of despair, for calling us back from the cliff. Jesus gives hope to the hopeless. Jesus gives love to the loveless. Jesus even forgives all your betrayals and backstabbing and covering of sins with kisses. It's the very reason he goes to the cross. It's the very reason he submits to it all – for you, and even for Judas, had he only believed. Yes, Jesus paid even for the sins of Judas, his betrayer, and so the one who died for the sins of the world can and does even forgive your sins, even today.
The law rightly shows us that we are no better than Judas. But the Gospel offers us a hope that Judas rejected. The promises of God in Jesus Christ are for all – no exclusions – no sinner too sinful for the blood of Jesus to cover. Hitler and Stalin, Jezebel and Judas, sinful you and me – Jesus died for all.
The same Jesus who gives his life as a ransom for many, indeed, for all – is the same Jesus who gives his body and blood in the Holy Supper. We receive these gifts even today. It's notable that even Judas was present as Jesus gave this sacrament. If only he had believed. For the word of Christ says it, given and shed – for you. For the forgiveness of your sins. Not just some, but all of your sins. Not just the little ones. Not just the ones before you believed. Not even only the ones you know. Christ is that good, that merciful, that forgiving.
Let Judas stand for us as a warning of temptation – that even for an apostle of Christ it is possible to fall away, fall into dark sin and deep despair. Watch out! But let him stand even more to remind us of the even deeper love of Christ. Who loved sinners, and still loves sinners, even those who betray him. Even you.