By Verse : John 13:6,7; Ephesians 2:4,5 Topic :

March 11, 2018

Our choir sang about two themes of Lent. Betrayal and the nails. One, is about Judas, the other about Jesus being nailed to the cross.
We don’t often think much about Judas, do we. We know what he was… a thief, and what he did… stole money from the treasury the disciples had gathered. But the biggest thing he did that he is remember for… is when he planted the kiss of death on the cheek of Jesus in the garden and the journey to the cross went full tilt.
Reading any of the gospels you find that his act happened when the disciples went to the garden with Jesus following the Last Supper. In John’s gospel we read that when Jesus broke the bread and was giving it to the disciples he said, “One of you are going to betray me.” They looked at each other… then at Jesus and each one said, “Is it I?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to who I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. “What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him…”
And the deed was done! Judas, as we know, left that group of friends, headed out to find those who were willing to pay for his betrayal. He sought out the religious leaders, told them he was one of Jesus’ followers, and for some monetary appreciation, he would be willing to turn him over to them… for, let’s say, the going price of 30 pieces of silver. The deal was made. The religious leaders were happy. Judas was happy, and the dirty deed was done! Judas never made it back to the Upper Room, nor did he tell them where Jesus was. But he knew where and when he would be in the garden. So, he waited until the proper time and then led them to Jesus.
Thinking of Judas, we might ask how could he do that? He had been with Jesus for three years just like all the rest. He saw the things Jesus did. He heard the messages. He must have been called to follow Jesus by Jesus himself. He even became the one who held the purse strings. There were no background checks in those days. No checking out references. Jesus called a bunch, as Scripture says, but only a few, the 12 he set upon as his disciples, those whom he believed he could trust, who would be his witnesses. Fishermen, tax collectors, men from all other occupations, set aside by Jesus. And then there was Judas. A good guy in the beginning? We don’t know. Something turned him around…or someone got under is skin, right to his heart. Someone maybe who wears red, and I don’t mean Santa. Like some of the others we never hear much about him. But what we know startles us.
It is so hard to believe that Jesus, knowing all things, would pick someone like Judas to follow him. Did he know he was stealing from them? Did he know that this fellow would one day turn him over to the authorities for 30 pieces of silver? Or did he believe that, sure, Judas may have had a bad background, but maybe being with Jesus, he would change his ways. Remember, these guys weren’t all saints. They all had their flaws. And if you want to push it a little, when Jesus said one was going to betray him that night, it could have been any of them. In fact, we all know that in some way they all did. They did it when they ran from the garden to hide. Their actions spoke louder then their words. And you just can’t blame Judas. He kind of repented in some way when he tried to turn things around after he turned Jesus over to the authorities, but it was to late. The work had been done. They were not about to release their thorn in their sides. No! Jesus had to go. They wouldn’t take back the 30 pieces of silver, and forever and ever, Judas came to be known as the betrayer, and used often to describe people who betray others as well.
But the one thing that hurt, I’m sure, was when Judas led the troops to the garden to arrest Jesus. When Jesus greeted him, Judas did the unthinkable. He didn’t just point to Jesus and say, “There he is.” He didn’t say, “The man I kneel before is your man.” As a sign to those who came to arrest him, Judas said, “the man I kiss on the cheek is the one you are seeking.” So, he stepped out of the dark, into the moonlit night, and as they embraced each other, perhaps exchanging a few words of greeting, Judas kissed Jesus on the cheek and with that signal, they took hold of Jesus. That was it. A fight broke out, a man lost his ear for a moment, the disciples fled, and Jesus bound, was led away. And Judas? He runs into the night perhaps mournful of what he has done. Maybe he didn’t expect this. Nor did he expect what was going to happen to Jesus. Matthew records, “When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver coins to the chief priest and elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
We might say Judas came to his senses. It’s like those who are lost but now are found, are blind but now can see. We might say he was like the Prodigal son who sitting in the pig sty knew he made the wrong choices and came to his senses of what he had done. But unlike the Prodigal, Judas didn’t run back to Jesus. Unlike sinners today who are touched by Jesus and repent of their sins and return to the fold, he ran away to hide. He didn’t come seeking the Father. In his remorseful state, he did the unthinkable. He took his own life.
Could he have been forgiven? Would Jesus have forgiven him? Would the Father have forgiven him? Tough questions, but the answer I believe is yes, Jesus and the Father would have forgiven him. He was remorseful. He, as he said in Matthew’s gospel, “had sinned” when he betrayed Jesus. He admitted it. HE HAD SINNED!
That brings us to Ephesians 2:4-5, written by a fellow who knew what it was like to be a sinner. His name is Paul. His sin, betraying God by arresting and punishing those who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. He watched, and gave his blessing once while Stephen, who had accused the Jewish religious leaders of crucifying the Messiah, was stoned right in front of him, right at his feet, we might say.
But something happened that Paul could not ignore. As they were stoning Stephen, Stephen looked to heaven and saw God’s face. He then prayed, as Jesus did when he was nailed to the cross, for forgiveness for those who were doing what they were doing. And he went to heaven, to the arms of the Father rejoicing that he, a believer, was able to testify to his new-found life through the cross of the one who died for him. This one day, changed the life of Paul, and I’m sure he never forgot that moment, and realized that one moment in time was what haunted him until his Damascus road conversion through meeting the risen Christ himself.
Now Paul, in prison for the sake of the gospel, writes to others these words of hope through Christ, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved…. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourself, it is a gift of God-not by works, so no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do.”
That’s what this whole thing is about. This is what God has offered us. No nails could have held Jesus on the cross. Nothing that Pilate or the chief priest, nor other religious leader could have done could have stopped God’s love that day. Sure, they arrested Jesus, beat him, spit on him, the religious leaders had their mock trial, and someone lied about him. Yes, they turned him over to Pilate, who made it worse. But in the end, when offered a choice between Jesus and Barabbas, they made the choice. Like Judas himself, they made their choice. They, the religious leaders, were the ones that incited the crowd to call for the release of Barabbas. And to add to that when Pilate asked what to do with Jesus, they didn’t say put him in prison for a while. They didn’t say scold him. They didn’t say send him away to an island. No, they very boldly yelled for him to be crucified. Pilate washed his hands of it….at least for now…and he had nightmares after that…and his mission from Rome was never the same. And Jesus was led away to be crucified.
But Paul wants us to know that, yes, it happened. Christ died, yes, but not in vain. Christ died for the purpose of setting the world free from its sin. We, all sinners, no doubt about it, are offered God’s grace through that cross that held our Savior. He could have called an army of angels from heaven to come down to destroy those who put him on the cross. He could have ended the task and not gone through all those hours of misery, but he didn’t. It was needed for the salvation of mankind.
The choir sang, “O, scared hands, now wounded and nailed upon a tree. The feet that walked on water are pierced by cruelty. How could love be so precious and bought at such a cost? The Lord of heaven now hangs upon a cross.”
A thief, folks who betrayed him, nails that were there holding Jesus to the cross, all symbols of God’s wonderous love for us. Paul may not have been there at the cross that day. He may have just heard the slanted, one-sided story about Jesus from the religious leaders about how they nailed him to the cross and got rid of the one causing so many problems.
But they forgot that was only Friday, and Sunday was coming. And on Sunday many of these folks who thought their problems were over found that that was not the case. For when the women went to the tomb they found something remarkable. They found the stone rolled away, angels sitting on top of it, and the tomb was empty. When the women asked where Jesus was, the angel said, “Forget looking inside this tomb. He has done what he said he would do. He has risen. Go and tell the story.”
Now Paul, years later, tells his story. He tells of the miracles from the cross. Oh, not just of Jesus rising, but of the forgiveness that is offered to every human being who believes the story, and receives by faith, God’s son into their lives.
As we get closer and closer to Holy Week. As we get closer to Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, let us not forget all that Jesus did for the world, which includes you and I. Paul reminds us, “God made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved.”
Folks, that’s God’s story and I’m sticking to it. We, like Judas, like Peter, like doubting Thomas, like the disciples who went into hiding, like Paul the persecutor are sinners who like them, found what God’s love and grace was all about, for each one of them received something wonderful. They received the love of God, the grace of God, the forgiveness of God. And that free gift is offered to each of us today. It truly is by faith we have been saved. Christ died on that cross for you and me.
Let me end with just a verse from a powerful hymn that says it all.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree? Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?”
 Though you were not physically there that day, we were all there, for on that day he took all the sins that would ever happen upon himself in order that we today might know the power of his love and be forgiven.
That’s why we come to the cross this Lenten season and remember and relive it all. With every pounding on those nails in Jesus’ hands and feet we are reminded how much Jesus cared for us. Even today, because God loves us still, even when we pull a Judas, or we act like Peter, or have our doubts like Thomas, the amazing love of God flows freely from the cross. The chorus from a hymn says, “At the where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away. It was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day!”
That’s the amazing love God has for us.

Mason Schmulbach receives a bible from Pastor Dick!

Happy Birthday Grace Sherrock…

Happy birthday Donna Slavens

Dave Benner…Happy Birthday!

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