THE CHOICE

First I would like to give you the backstory on how this post came about. It was inspired by a conversation we had in my Men’s Group a couple of weeks ago. One night in our group meeting, Dan, a very good friend of over 20 years, asked the question “Have you ever thought about Judas?”

I was certainly intrigued by the question because I have thought a lot about Judas over the years. He was a very interesting character to me. I often wondered how he could have done it. How could he have betrayed Jesus?

Dan went on… “Do you think Judas had a choice?” Ok, so now you are driving to the heart of the matter for me! I have asked myself that very question time and time again over the years. Dan then made a pretty bold statement. He said “I sort of feel bad for Judas”. Now you may be asking yourself, “How can you feel bad for the guy who turned Jesus over to the men that would have him so gruesomely beaten and put to death for 30 pieces of silver?!”

I can tell you how because I have always sort of felt bad for him. When you realize that Jesus crucifixion and death to save us from our sins was necessary and in order for that to happen someone had to be the guy to betray Him, the conclusion is you feel bad for Judas. You look at Judas as the chosen one, but on the bad side. You get the idea he didn’t have a choice in the matter. He just drew the short straw. He lost the coolest disciple contest.

To prove this theory, I looked at Matthew 20:18 where Jesus predicts the betrayal:

“Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die.”

Then later on in Matthew 26:21-25 Jesus specifically calls out who His betrayer will be:

While they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one, Lord?” He replied, “One of you who has just eaten from this bowl with me will betray me. For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!” Judas, the one who would betray him, also asked, “Rabbi, am I the one?” And Jesus told him, “You have said it.”

So there you go. Poor Judas just happened to be the guy, by no choice of his own, the one that had to betray Jesus so we could all be saved. Sucks for him, but someone had to be picked to do it. I bet Peter was thinking, “Man I’ve said and done some dumb things, but glad I wasn’t Judas. That guy really messed up!”

There’s one problem with that theory. It’s a little thing called free will. God has given us all the free will to love Him or not. He created us and loves us unconditionally but doesn’t require that we love Him back in return.

Judas’ true character actually comes out well before he betrays Jesus. In John 12:6 we read:

Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself.

Judas was basically the CFO for Jesus’ non-profit and he was stealing from the petty cash. He was making choices counter to what Jesus was teaching for quite some time.

It makes sense that if any of the disciples were going to betray Him, it would be Judas. But it wasn’t because he was predestined or chosen to be the one, it was because he chose to be. And Jesus knew it. He knew out of all of His guys, which one would turn him in.

Jesus could see what was in Judas’ heart. In Luke 22:3-4 it says:

Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples, and he went to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them.

 You might wonder how can Satan enter a man that had walked with and been so close to Jesus. It goes back to one of Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 6:19-21, 24:

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”

Sort of makes you wonder if Jesus was in some way speaking to the crowd with Judas in His peripheral.

Judas was serving another master. Jesus was not the top priority in Judas’ life, money was. This made it very easy for Satan to enter in and use him to betray Jesus.

What really saddens me about Judas is that at any point he could have made the decision to truly follow Christ. Not just in the half hearted manner in which he did, but truly follow him. Think about it. He had Jesus in the flesh and blood with him every day! How awesome must that have been! Yet with Christ in his presence everyday He chose to not follow. That’s extremely sad.

As I reflect on Judas, I can’t help but think of all of us. You may think about Judas and say, “Yup he messed up. He had Christ with Him everyday and he still messed up.” But what about us? We have the opportunity to have Christ with us everyday.

In John 16:7 Jesus says:

But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you.

We can walk everyday not with Christ next to us, but with Christ IN us simply by inviting the Holy Spirit in.

Like with Judas, Jesus is simply waiting for us to make the choice – The choice to put Him first in our lives.

Earlier I mentioned Peter. I want to take a moment to compare Peter and Judas. Before I do I must qualify that Peter truly loved Jesus. He was the one who had the right answer when Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?”, he had the faith and courage to step out of the boat, but he also could put his foot in his mouth at times. (“Get behind me Satan…”) The most significant time being when he denied Christ 3 times. Now granted denial and betrayal are not quite the same, but as it says in Romans 3:23:

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

Simply stated both Peter and Judas messed up and fell short of God’s standards.

Also, what I want to compare is not really the sin, but the response to the sin.

Let’s first look at what Peter did after recognizing his mess up. We pick up the story in Luke 22 at the point when Peter denies Jesus the third time.

But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately while he was still speaking the rooster crowed. At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning you will deny three times that you even know me.” And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.

 Now let’s look at Judas’ response to his sin. Matthew 27:3-5:

When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.” “What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.” Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.

Peter wept bitterly and Judas hung himself.

The picture I have of Peter is on his hands and knees crying and praying to God for forgiveness. He knew Jesus. I mean he KNEW Jesus. He had a relationship with Him. Peter knew he screwed up big time, but He also knew that he could be forgiven.

Judas on the other hand, upon finally coming to the realization that he had sinned, felt like he had no other choice but to take his own life. I imagine Judas felt shame and guilt beyond belief for what he had done. But the problem was at that moment Judas once again made the wrong choice. Judas knew that the wages of sin was death. But because he did not know Jesus like Peter KNEW Jesus, he missed the message. Judas failed to see that while the wages of sin was death, the debt for his sin was about to be paid by the man he had just betrayed.

The title of this blog post is “THE CHOICE”. It’s this last choice Judas made to hang himself that the blog is titled for. Here’s why.

Mark 16:5-7

And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.  But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”

The scripture intentionally reads “and Peter” because Jesus knew that Peter had beaten himself up for his sin. This was Jesus’ way of calling Peter back and letting him know that he was forgiven and accepted.

That being said, I can’t help but believe that if Judas would have made one final choice correctly, the choice to weep and pray for forgiveness instead of hanging himself that this verse might read “But go, tell His disciples – and Peter and Judas – …”

With all the ways Judas had messed up and sinned, even at the very end, all he needed to do was chose Christ and he would have been there with Jesus and the rest of the disciples. Jesus didn’t die for everyone’s sins minus one. He died for all our sins, including Judas.

Judas chose incorrectly. This Resurrection Weekend how do you chose? It doesn’t matter how messed up you are or how bad you’ve sinned. Jesus wants you just how you are. Like my pastor says, you don’t fix yourself and then come to Christ, you come to Christ and then He fixes you.

If you’re struggling with making the decision to let Christ in your heart and follow Him, my prayer is that you don’t struggle any longer and you chose Him. This weekend of all weekends is the perfect time to take that step of Faith to God.

If you don’t have a church, call a friend who is in church and ask to go to service with them this weekend. If you are in church and have accepted Christ, call that friend who isn’t in church and invite them. You will be surprised to find out that they have been long awaiting your call.

This is Resurrection Weekend. IT IS FINISHED! HE IS RISEN! THE BATTLE IS WON! Don’t carry the burden a second longer. Accept His invitation of forgiveness!

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the great men in my Men’s Group who all contributed great insight to the conversation we had that inspired this blog post: AJ, Bob, Charles, Dan J., Dan Z., Dwight, Eric, John, Jonathan, Kyle, Matt, and Sandip you are all great Men of God and I am humbled to be able to walk through life with you.

Happy Resurrection Weekend Everyone! Be blessed!

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