Darkness for Jesus
Darkness for Jesus John 13:21-38 Amongst the Dead Sea scrolls there was discovered a facsimile which read: “From the Jordan Management Consultants to Jesus the son of Joseph. Dear Sir. Thank you for submitting the resumes of the 12 men you have picked for leadership positions in your new organisation. All of them have now taken our series of tests. We have not only run the results through our algorithms but arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant. It is the staffs’ opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a sceptical attitude that would tend to undermine morale. Matthew has been blacklisted by Consumer Affairs Jerusalem. James the son of Alpheus and Thaddeus have radical leanings, and both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale. However, one of your candidates shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness. He meets people well. Has a keen business mind. Has contacts in high places. Is initiative-taking, ambitious, and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your CEO and right-hand man.” Nobody expected Judas to do a Judas. Except one. Ever since ch5, the Jewish leaders have been wanting to get rid of Jesus. The question on their minds was never, “Should we get rid of him or not?”. The question was, “How are we going to do it?” They knew they couldn’t just walk up and grab him. Jesus was too popular with the crowds, and it would look bad for them if they were to remove him. That was their dilemma. They want so desperately to get rid of Jesus, but they are afraid of the people. Somehow or other, they needed to do this business under the cover of darkness. So quite tellingly, John says at the end of v30, and it was night. Just the right time for something sinister to go down. You get the sense that when John says, “And it was night”, he’s talking about more than just what time of day it was. This was a dark time for Jesus. He was troubled in his spirit, v21. Why? “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” You might be tempted to think, well it says only one of them. There are still 11 others, right? I mean, look at Peter. V37, Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Wow! Wouldn’t it be good to have friends like that. If you’ve got friends committed like that, you can put up with one or two walking away from you, couldn’t you? You probably could, but Jesus turns to Peter, v38, “You’ll lay down your life for me, will you?” Turns out he does, but there’s a fair bit of learning that needs to happen between now and then. You wonder, what’s it going to take for Peter to learn some humility? “Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow till you have denied me three times.” Friends, Jesus is on his own here. It was night for Jesus. It was a dark and difficult time. You could probably also say, it was night in Judas’ heart. I’m sure even the religious leaders didn’t expect it. They could hardly imagine that the way out of their dilemma was going to be provided by one of Jesus’ inner circle. If they’d been sitting around for any length of time strategizing about how they could do it, there wouldn’t have been one of them who would’ve thought to say, ‘Hey I’ve got an idea, maybe we can convince one of the twelve to just hand him over to us at an opportune time.’ ‘You mean one of those twelve individuals who have been with him the whole time, who have been following him, hanging on his every word?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Mmm, that’s not a bad suggestion.’ ‘Really?’ ‘No, that’s dumbest idea there’s ever been in the history of ideas. Not in a blue moon (A blue moon is an additional full moon that appears in a subdivision of a year: the third of four full moons in a season) would that ever…’ ‘Excuse me gentlemen, there’s an individual in the outer courtyard, says his name is Judas.’ ‘Never heard of him.’ ‘He says he’s one of the twelve. Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, the Judean.’ ‘What does he want?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Why don’t we bring him in?’ They brought him in, and what Matthew (26) tells us one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “Just wondering fellas, what will you give me if I deliver Jesus over to you?” What!? They said, ‘20 pieces of silver’, and he said, ‘how about 40’, and they said, ‘we can do 30’, and he said, ‘deal’. Fom that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd. The way in which all of this is described by John in v27 is this, Satan entered into him. In other words, the devil had an active part in what now takes place. Not only in the words and activities of Judas himself, but indeed in the whole unfolded drama of the crucifixion of Jesus. You have the forces of hell unleashed against this heavenly prince. Judas had surrendered to the power of Satan. He has allowed himself to come completely under the influence of the evil one. The struggle is not ultimately human, but it is definitely human. There is a cosmic dimension to what’s taking place, but the battle is not being fought beyond our limits, up there, out of sight, as it were. The battle that is about to take place is a battle that is happening right down in a real moment in time, in a real individual, in an encounter with a real group of people. The cosmic dimension of what’s taking place shouldn’t be used as a means of trying to exonerate Judas from any blame. Poor old Judas, that’s the reason he existed, he didn’t have a part in it, Judas was a pawn. No, he wasn’t. When you read of Judas being entered, encountered by Satan, what does it make you think of? A lot of people think of an unwelcome invasion, and that is incorrect. You should be thinking of a welcomed invitation. It’s not that Judas was going in a completely different direction and then Satan man-handled him and wrestled him to the ground and made him do something he didn’t want to do. Not for a moment. The devil comes alongside him and says, “Hey you don’t want to go there Jonah, I’ve got a boat going over here. You sick of Jesus Judas, well come over here.” Don’t think of Judas as somehow being involuntarily possessed, unable to control his own actions. In fact, if you had suggested to Judas at the time that Satan has entered into you, he would’ve said, “No he hasn’t, I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing and what I thought up.” And that’s exactly how it works. We make our own choices. Judas made his own choices. That’s how Satan and sin works. We make choices, but according to our default, sinful nature our choices are always bound by Satan, to which we gladly agree. That’s how it will always be unless something or someone changes our nature. Even then, it’s still a battle this side of heaven. How could Judas do this? How could he? Pretty easily really. How could Peter deny Jesus three times? How could I, when I find myself with an opportunity to tell someone about Jesus, choose to remain silent or change the subject? The how question is easy. How could he do this? Well, there’s enough sin in all of us to be able to do this. Perhaps what’s more interesting is why. Why did Judas do this? What’s his motive here? What does he really get out of it? What would stir a man or woman to such betrayal? We don’t know for sure. It must at least have something to do with money. You can hardly say Judas without saying 30 pieces of silver. There was something going on in Judas about money. However, I don’t think money’s the complete answer, because if it was the complete answer, he shouldn’t have settled for 30 pieces of silver. He’s selling himself short there. There’s a good chance Judas was a jealous guy. You can imagine Judas saying, “Why’s it always Peter, James and John, or John, Peter, James. Always the same three. What about me? Where do I fit in all of this? Why wasn’t I at the transfiguration? I could’ve had a good shot at that. How come I’m the only one from Judea?” There’s a good chance Judas was an anxious fellow. Perhaps what he did was he said to himself, “Our teacher has had plenty of opportunities to seize the day, to establish his cause, to bring in the kingdom, but lately, every time he takes us aside, he says we’re going up to Jerusalem where he must suffer and die”. “Well, I don’t want anything to do with suffering and dying, thank you very much. “So, guess what? I’m going to go in the cover of darkness. I’m going to betray him and when he goes down, I won’t go down. They will look favourably upon me, and I will at least have a future. Unlike these sorry friends of mine who are so brainless in their devotion to Jesus.” Maybe there’s something like that in it. Money, jealousy, anxiety, protectionism. Sure, Judas was hanging around with the right people, but in his heart, he is opposed to the one he professes to follow. On the surface, they didn’t know. V22, The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. If we could pull back the layers of his deception, we would probably find that he was saying to himself, ‘I thought this was going to be much more successful and much more profitable. I’ve been sold false hopes, empty promises. This whole journey has been a complete waste of my time.’ What we see is it’s very possible to hang around Jesus without ever holding on to him. If you pull back the layers even more you see Satan involved. What do you see if you pull back the layers even more? Jesus has just said one of them will betray him, v21. Peter then has this game of charades with John to get him to ask Jesus who it’s going to be, vv23-25. Jesus then answers, v26, somewhat cryptically, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Then v30, So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. Yes, it was a dark time for Jesus. Yes, the Jews have a plan, Judas has a plan, Satan has a plan. All of those parties are guilty of their actions and will be held accountable for their heinous acts against the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, the Author of Life. Who’s ultimately responsible here? I think Jesus is saying, and John’s point of including it is to say: sure, the Jews, Judas, Satan all have their schemes, but above and behind all of that are the plans of Jesus. When John says after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him… after receiving the bread he went out, it’s a way of saying Jesus is the one running the show here. Satan didn’t enter Judas until after Jesus said, “OK, you can do it.” Judas didn’t leave until after Jesus said, “OK, off you go.” The Jewish leaders do not have the upper hand. Judas does not have the upper hand. Satan does not have the upper hand. There’ll all doing what they’re doing because they’re in the sovereign hand of Jesus. At the end of the day, it’s Jesus calling the shots, and making the plans. In case you’re thinking I’m making too much of the whole bread dipping thing, go back to: • V11, Jesus knew who would betray him. • V18, he not only knew, he had also chosen who would betray him and who wouldn’t. • V18, this was to fulfill Scripture written 1000 years earlier. • V19, he was telling them now, before it happened, so that when it did happen, they would believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be, the Messiah, the Son of God. • Then even with Peter, V38, Jesus knew not just that Peter would deny him, but that he would do it three times, and that he would do it before the rooster crowed. These are not accidents, or blips, or obstacles for Jesus to have to somehow find a way to get around. All this sinful scheming was determined and used by God to do exactly what he wanted to do the way he wanted it done. The forces of hell were never unleashed. In fact, Satan doesn’t even have a leash. Jesus is holding the collar. What does all of this mean for us? I want to say two things this morning. The first is: Don’t be foolish What we see here is it’s quite possible to be hanging around Jesus, but never really holding on to him. Just because you’re hanging around Jesus (you go to church, you have Christian friends or family) doesn’t mean you belong to Jesus. Are you just hanging around Jesus? Or are you holding on to Jesus? Do you love being here because you love what you get out of it? Or do you love being here because you love Jesus? You might ask, ‘How do I know the difference?’ Let me ask the question another way. Which Jesus do you want to be with? The one who is there just to give you what you want? To call upon when you need and ignore (or worse betray) when you don’t? That’s what Judas thought. The one who is there to treat you like you’re the king. Or would you prefer to be with the one who says, no, no, I’m the king? I’m calling the shots, I’m running the show. It’s not about you, it’s about me. Which Jesus would you prefer to be with? If it’s the first option, the Judas-Jesus, then that’s really foolish, because Jesus is the king. And just hanging around is not enough. Have you bowed the knee and said I’m going to hold on to him? Don’t be foolish. Frankly, why wouldn’t you want to come all the way to Jesus? The more you see of Jesus, the more you’ll want to hold on to him. Here’s someone in their deepest, darkest hour, one of his closest friends is about to betray him, one’s about to deny him, the rest will all abandon him, yet he is still in complete control. Not despairing or doubting, not whimpering or whinging, not playing the victim card. Judas is the one singing, what about me, it isn’t fair, not Jesus. There is no one like Jesus. No one even comes close. If you do belong to Jesus, secondly: Don’t fear You might be thinking how do I know I’m not going to do the same thing? Maybe Satan will get me, like he got Judas. Let’s be honest, there’s plenty of sinful material in here for him to use. I know I’m holding on to Jesus now, but perhaps I won’t later. Maybe I better not talk to anybody, look at anything, or do anything in case I betray Jesus like Judas did and lose my salvation or wreck God’s plans for my life. Well, first, it’s important to say that Judas never belonged to Jesus. Not really. He hung around for his own gain, and eventually that was exposed, but he never belonged. Secondly, for those who do belong to Jesus, it’s not possible. At the end of the day, it’s not about how hard you hold on to him. It’s about whether he’s holding on to you. He says to all those who bow their knee before the Sovereign King, I’m holding you. I’m holding on to you with my sovereign hand, and no sin, no Satan can cause me to let go, because I’m holding on to them too. My plans are perfect, and far from being upset by sin or Satan, my plans include them, and therefore cannot be undone by them. Are you worried about Satan? Are you worried about losing your salvation? Jesus says, “Look at John 13. Wasn’t I calling the shots then, even in my darkest moments? Then be sure I’m calling the shots now, and into all eternity.” Don’t be foolish by thinking that merely hanging around is enough. Don’t fear by thinking that Jesus holding on to you is not enough. Our heavenly Father, when we read about Judas, we do say there but for the grace of God go I. We confess that if it wasn’t for your grace, we would all be there, so we thank you for your grace. Even more so as we see it’s a sovereign grace. Sovereign over sin and Satan. Sovereign over our salvation, that not only saves us but keeps us. Give us a rest and a trust in the sovereign goodness and grace of Jesus.
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