The wrong way to deal with sin
And now, the end is near And so I face the final curtain My friend, I'll say it clear I'll state my case, of which I'm certain
I've lived a life that's full I've traveled each and every highway And more, much more than this I did it my way
With not much editing, those words could have been the words of Judas Iscariot. Judas, the betrayer of Jesus the Son of God, who faced the final curtain after realising the extent of his actions.
Judas, who lived the fullest life ever, because for the last 3 years he was in the physical presence of God himself, laughing with him, eating with him, watching him feed 5000 people, watching him raise his friend Lazarus from the dead. You can’t get a fuller life than that...
Travelling each and every highway with the Son of God, seeing the miracles and talking with God himself as they travel along the roads. Travelling through the highway to Galilee, passing through Samaria and seeing repentance and forgiveness - seeing the kingdom of God break forth in front of his eyes as he travelled each and every highway...
And yet, when all was said and done, he did it HIS WAY. When confronted with the sin in his life - when confronted with the horrendous thing that he did and the consequences of his actions, Judas did it his way.
He judged himself and condemned himself to hell by doing it his way.
What I discovered during the week was that many commentators thought that Judas didn’t want Jesus to be crucified. Apparently, the consensus is that Judas didn’t want to see Jesus suffer and die at all - that wasn’t his intention, according to many people.
Instead, what they think is that Judas had had enough of Jesus’ lack of progress. He may have recognised that he WAS the Messiah and he had an idea in his head of what the Messiah would do.
He was the one to come and set the captives free. He was the one to come and break the chains of oppression from the Romans and establish God’s kingdom of Israel as THE kingdom.
But if you’re impatient and don’t see anything happening, some people are inclined to take matters into their own hands. Some people want to do it THEIR way.
And that’s what the commentators thought Judas was doing.
They think that by betraying Jesus to the chief priests and leaders of the church, that Jesus would be placed in a position where he could unleash all of his Messianic power on them and start the wheels in motion of what HE THOUGHT the Messiah was supposed to do.
And so when Jesus is bound and handed over to Pilate to be condemned, Judas realises that his plan had backfired. He realises that he’s just sentenced Jesus, the Messiah, to death…and he is filled with remorse and regret over his actions...
2 So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor. 3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.
His plan had backfired...
But actually, and ironically, his plan hadn’t backfired at all… Because Jesus was about to unleash all his Messianic power and set the captives free. He was about to demonstrate immense awesome power, breaking the chains of oppression, but it was to happen through his death - not through a feat of strength.
In fact, Jesus was going to conquer sin and death through a feat of weakness and humility rather than in a feat of strength.
But Judas didn’t see it like that.
He had walked each and every highway with Jesus. He had spent time with the Son of God, seeing him do all these inexplicable things, and yet he still didn’t get it. He still didn’t KNOW Jesus.
Im sure he THOUGHT he knew Jesus…he certainly knew of him. He knew ABOUT him…but he didn’t KNOW him. He didn’t love him like Peter loved Jesus.
In fact, let’s look at Peter for a minute...
Because Peter also betrayed Jesus - he denied any knowledge of him not once, not twice, but three times…So Judas and Peter are in the same boat here.
And they were in the same boat when Jesus calmed the storm. They were in the same boat when Jesus walked on the water. And yet Peter KNOWS Jesus and loves him. It seems that Judas just knows ABOUT Jesus.
But after Jesus defeats death, he asks Peter on the shore...
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
Peter, do you love me? Not once, not twice, but three times. One time for each time Peter denied Jesus.
And Peter says, ‘you know I love you.’
Peter Knows Jesus and he loves Jesus…Judas just knows ABOUT Jesus.
[Peter knows Jesus, Judas knows about Jesus]
…and there’s a difference.
And Peter is filled with remorse, just like Judas was. And Peter repents, just like Judas kind of does - there’s a bit of debate over that, but he’s filled with regret, he goes back to the religious leaders confessing his sin. The greedy man gives back the money he was given - that looks a lot like repentance to me.
But where Peter and Judas differ, is that Peter waited for his Lord and he reconciled with Jesus on the shore.
Judas did it his way…and he took his OWN life rather than letting Jesus GIVE him life.
Peter and Judas had both seen Jesus forgive many people on their way. Judas travelled each and every highway with Jesus, seeing him heal and forgive. Peter did too. With Jesus there was always grace and forgiveness and redemption.
Peter knew this because he KNEW Jesus.
Judas only knew ABOUT Jesus.
If Judas really KNEW Jesus he would have waited for his Lord to forgive him…except that Jesus wasn’t his Lord.
If you KNOW the Son of God and betray him, you would seek his forgiveness, despite the horrendous nature of your sin and betrayal - you would still seek him and come to him in repentance and accept his grace and his love…that’s what Peter did - that event on the shore was Jesus and Peter being reconciled together again.
But if you only know ABOUT the Son of God and you betray him, then what else can you do but take matters into your own hands and condemn yourself?
Judas hanged himself - he did it HIS way. He judged himself. He condemned HIMSELF because he didn’t go to Jesus and accept his forgiveness and his grace.
And when the end was near and he faced the final curtain, Judas did it HIS way.
And his way wasn’t the right way.
Judas sinned. He committed a horrendous sin, but it was part of God’s plan for Jesus to save the world - it was God’s plan for Jesus to unleash his Messianic power and set the captives free - people like you and me, who were held captive by the power of sin and death. Jesus set us free from that captivity when he died on the cross.
It was God’s plan to establish his kingdom here on earth - not Israel, but the kingdom of God - an unshakable kingdom where its citizens have a unique relationship with their king himself…and it came through Jesus’ death on the cross.
Judas’ plan had worked. It had backfired with respect to the way HE might have wanted it to go, but it had worked.
But while God used Judas, Judas still sinned.
And the thing with sin is this...
With sin, we can’t turn back the clock and undo what we did. Once it’s done it’s done. Once a sin has been committed there is a price to pay and there’s guilt and shame that goes along with that.
And also, with sin, a lot of times people often end up hating the very thing that was gained by the sin. Judas was greedy for money. And after he sinned to get it, he threw it away.
But HAD he KNOWN Jesus, had he not done it HIS way - he would have come to Jesus and Jesus would have forgiven him and shown him grace and love, as he did with Peter.
Despite how serious this sin was, there is no sin so bad that Jesus can’t forgive. The only sin that can’t be forgiven is the sin of ignoring the gospel message and doing it YOUR way.
Because when we do it OUR way when it comes to being righteous, OUR way is the wrong way. It doesn’t work, and it sends us to hell. Because nobody is righteous except God himself.
Judas did it his way…and HIS way didn’t work.
23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.
This verse is used of Jesus Christ, because he was hanged on a tree.
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
Jesus became cursed by hanging on a cross (made from a tree).
Judas cursed himself by hanging himself on a tree.
And the irony here is that Judas was guilty of a grievous sin one and he cursed himself and condemned himself to hell.
Jesus was innocent, but he became cursed and was condemned in our place, bearing our curse and our shame and our guilt for the grievous sin that WE commit.
Judas bore his own guilt and he is paying for it right now because he did it HIS way.
Jesus bares OUR guilt - not matter how awful the sin. So while we can’t undo the past and our past sins, we can leave the past in the hands of Jesus free from guilt and shame.
And so we have a choice… we can do it OUR way and live with the shame and the guilt and the condemnation - we can do it OUR way, or we can let Jesus bare our guilt and shame for us.
Frank Sinatra sounds proud that he did it HIS way...
When it comes to our sin and righteousness, is doing it OUR WAY really something to be proud of?
The Chief Priests and Elders also did it THEIR way.
They were so concerned about keeping the law to the letter and yet they were happy to murder an innocent man.
Jesus calls them out on this in Matthew 23...
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
And Matthew is pointing out the irony here. When Judas returns the money to them it’s ludicrous what happens next...
They’ve just sentenced an innocent man to death…not only that they have orchestrated his capture and death. This has been planned to the very finest detail, with false witnesses, bribes - this is murder in the first degree.
And yet they don’t want to use the money that Judas gives back to them because it’s against the levitical law???!!! Are you serious?
What Jesus said, on the screen, is being played out in real life. They have just murdered a man - Judas was their instrument, but it was THEIR plan and THEY executed it, but they are worried about what to do with the money in case they break God’s law!
The irony is thick here.
Once again, they are doing it THEIR way - they are blatantly picking and choosing which bits of the law they can keep - ‘yea, we can’t use blood money for our treasury’ - but they are happy to have an innocent man murdered.
They did it THEIR way, and I’m sure they felt justified in doing so.
Now admittedly, some of this is speculation. We don’t know what Judas’ intentions were when he betrayed Jesus, and we don’t really know how he felt - whether it was repentance or remorse...
But what we DO know is this.
In life we have two options. We can do it OUR way or we can do it God’s way.
And when it comes to being right with God - what the bible calls righteousness… We can do it OUR way, like the chief priests and elders did, by trying to keep the letter of the law - and let’s face it, we keep it when it suits us, like they did…and we relax other bits to suit us, like they did.
Or we can accept the grace and love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ - in other words, we can accept HIS righteousness, offered to us as an act of grace through our faith in Jesus. That way saves us from the burden of striving to be perfect for God.
And when it comes to our sin - we can do it OUR way and try to work harder next time and we can try and be better… OR we can accept the grace, love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, who forgives our sin when we confess it to him.
And when it comes to our guilt and shame for our sin, we can do it our way and suffer under that shame, driving us INSANE with guilt…or we can let Jesus free us from the guilt and shame of our sin.
Judas condemned himself by hanging himself. He cursed himself.
Jesus was cursed FOR those who would put their faith and trust in him.
But in order to accept Jesus’ grace, love and forgiveness, it means NOT doing it OUR way and it means letting Jesus do it for us.
It requires humility, it requires repentance and it requires faith...
And it requires us to KNOW Jesus, not just know ABOUT him.
For what is man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught To say the things he truly feels And not the words of one who kneels The record shows I took the blows And did it my way.
Doing it OUR way won’t get us anywhere. Judas is a reminder of that.
A much better way is to let Jesus do it FOR us.
Let HIM take our punishment.
Let HIM be cursed in our place.
Let HIM give us HIS righteousness rather than trying to work at it ourselves.
Let HIM forgive us no matter how awful our sin.
Let HIM shower us with love and grace.
Let HIM do it HIS way.