And Just like that, everything changed.

We have a brand-new series starting this week at Cornerstone called: “The Day Everything Changed”. 

And many of us can point to a specific date in our lives when everything changed.

Maybe it was the day that we met your spouse, or the day we realized that your marriage was over.  Maybe it was the day a child was born, or the day a parent died.

But, for most people, there is “That day”.

It was on Dec. 10 that Wei Guixian, (Way GwaShean) a lady who sold Shrimp at a seafood market in Wuhan, first started to feel sick. Thinking she was getting a cold, she walked to a small local clinic to get some treatment and then went back to work.

Eight days later, the 57-year-old was barely conscious.  Ms. Wei is now being identified as patient Zero in the COVID-19 crisis. 

One day she was fine, and the world was normal, and just like that, everything changed.  And if you are wondering, she recovered.

In the scripture that was read this morning there was a very fitting story of that type of day.

Last week we celebrated Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.  This morning I want to look at an event that led up to those days, a day when everything changed.  Consider it a prequel.  Kind of like The Phantom Menace without Jar Jar Binks.

It is here, we discover the day that Judas decided to betray his friend, Jesus, and how that day changed everything.

But who was he?  Who was this Judas Iscariot?  Well we don’t really know all that much about him, we do know that his father was Simon and that his surname Iscariot was probably a combination of the Hebrew words Ish and Kariot, which would then be translated, Man of Kariot.

From the scriptures we discover that Judas was appointed treasurer of the twelve and that ultimately, he became a thief, stealing from that very same treasury.  But what would compel a man to sentence one of his closest friends to one of the most horrible deaths imaginable?

There have actually been six reasons suggested as to why Judas might have betrayed Christ. 

1) He was an Outsider Being from Kariot Judas would have been the only non-Galilean in the group.  It may be that he grew bitter over being the odd man out, tired of being thought of as a CFA, and that drove him to his dastardly deed. 

2) He was a Coward It may be that he turned crown’s evidence to save his own skin and then saw the enormity of what he had done. 

3) He was Greedy Maybe plain and simply he did it out of greed.  He did it for the money.  He probably would have denied that, but you know what they say, when anyone says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.  

One commentator estimated that the thirty pieces of silver would have been worth close to $1,600.00 today.  Not a bad piece of change for an evening’s work.  Sometimes money talks so loud that it can’t be ignored.

4) He was Nasty It could well be that Judas came to hate Christ because he couldn’t hide his inner self from Christ.  Others looked at Judas and saw one of Jesus’ disciples.   

A good man, a kind man, but Jesus saw him for who he truly was and so he had to destroy the one who saw into the darkest corners of his heart.

5) He was a Patriot It might be that Judas’ last name wasn’t a derivative of the Hebrew Ish Kariot as much as it was a form of the Greek word that meant “Dagger Bearer.”  Now the Dagger Bearers were a band of violent nationalists who were prepared to use every means available to them, including assassination to free Palestine from Roman rule.  Perhaps Judas had set his hopes on a Messiah who would deliver his people from his oppressors.  And then in bitter disappointment he betrayed him.

6) He was Naive   More likely than not though, Judas never intended for Jesus to die that day, instead he hoped to force his hand, so that when he was betrayed, he would use his power to liberate Israel.  If that was the case, then what a tragedy Judas witnessed when he saw his plan fly all to pieces.

Judas Iscariot; friend, confidant, disciple, treasurer, traitor.  How it must have broken Jesus’ heart when Judas stepped out of the crowd of those who came to arrest him and betrayed him with a kiss.

But the decision to betray Christ didn’t just happen, it wasn’t an all of a sudden, on the spur-of-the-moment decision in the garden. 

In the scripture that was read for us earlier we discover that it had happened a couple of days earlier.  And if we take a look at John’s account, we see a dynamic that may have led to the Judas’ decision to betray Christ. 

In John’s account, we see it was Judas who objected to the oil being used to anoint Jesus, and it was Judas who Jesus corrected.  So maybe Judas reacted in a tiff. 

We really don’t know.  What we do know it that even if this was something that Judas had been considering, this was the day when he made the decision to do it.

So, how did everything change on that day?

It Changed How People Viewed Jesus  

I wonder if the people of Israel had had more of Jesus, more of his teaching, more of his grace, what their response would have been? 

And maybe you’re thinking, well, wasn’t the cross the plan? 

Now we get into theology.  Did things work out the way they did because they were pre-ordained to happen that way?  Or did things work out the way they did because people exercised their free will, and God knew that was the direction it would go.

For example, if I had knowledge of an event that was going to happen days, months or even years from now.  By whatever means that might happen, just work with me. 

And I told you that on such-and-such a day, this is what will happen.  And sure enough, on that day it happened just as I described it.  Did I cause it to happen? Or did I simply relay what was going to happen.

There are those who would say that Judas was simply a pawn, that he had to betray Christ in order for things to play out the way they did.   That he had no choice in the matter.

Or did things play out the way they did, because Judas betrayed Christ.  Am I overthinking this?

The week before, the crowd had welcomed Jesus as the coming Messiah on what we now think of as Palm Sunday, or the Triumphant Entry. The people were ready to crown him as king.

But now, because of Judas’ betrayal and Jesus’ subsequent arrest, now the religious leaders control the narrative.

Now, Jesus isn’t seen as the messiah, he’s seen as a blasphemer and as a traitor.  In this era of social media, we see how easy it is for the person who controls the narrative to change our perspectives.  

If Judas hadn’t chosen to betray Christ, would Christ’s influence ultimately have brought more of Israel to the realization that he truly was the messiah?   Maybe without Judas’ betrayal and all that set in motion, the cross wouldn’t have been necessary.

But not only did Judas’ decision change how people viewed Jesus,  It Changed How People Viewed Judas

If I was to ask you to name as many of the 12 Apostle as you could, most would be able to get Peter, James and John.  Some would remember Thomas, Matthew, and maybe Andrew.  But only a few would be able to get all twelve.  But I would suspect that everybody would remember Judas.

It was actor Don Johnson who said, “Once you become famous, there is nothing left to become but infamous.” 

With his betrayal of Jesus, Judas went straight to infamous.

If immortality was Judas’ goal, he certainly achieved it. Really people just don’t like Judas or what he did.  When was the last time you saw a Saint Judas Church?  And a back when Biblical names were the flavour of the month for children’s names, remember?  We had Jepthaths and Joshuas, Joshias and Jeremiahs and Aarons and Levis and Obadiahs, but you never heard anyone naming their bouncing baby boy, Judas.

For that matter, you might remember that Jesus younger brother’s name was Judas.  But when he wrote the letter that would eventually become a part of our New Testament, he used the diminutive of his name, which was Jude.  Now we don’t read the books of I and II Pete or I and II and III Jack. So why was it that Judas felt that he had to shorten his name to Jude?  

Maybe because he didn’t want to be identified with Judas Iscariot, would you? 

The name Judas will go down in history being synonymous with betrayal. 

And while the day that Judas decided to betray Jesus changed a lot of things, there was another day that changed everything for Judas.  We pick up the story after Jesus had been arrested.   

Matthew 27:3-4 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.”

Ultimately It Changed How Judas Viewed Himself 

However, Judas may have justified his actions, and whenever we do something, we justify it for right or for wrong. After the fact, Judas realized the reality of what he had done. 

And he was so consumed with that guilt and knowledge of what he was responsible for, that he just couldn’t handle being who he knew he was.

We read the end of Judas’ story in Matthew 27:5 Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.

But if we keep reading we discover that Judas hung himself even before Christ was sentenced.  Before Pilate finished questioning Jesus, Judas was dead. 

Before Barabbas was released, Judas was dead.  Before Jesus was scourged with the whip, Judas was dead.  Before the crown of thorns was pushed onto Jesus’ head, Judas was dead. 

Before they nailed Jesus to the cross, Judas was dead.

But the real tragedy is this, that when Jesus looked down from the cross, at those who had mocked him, and spit on him, at those who had slapped him and struck him.  When Jesus saw those who had pulled his beard, who had beat him, had jammed that vicious crown of thorns deep into his forehead and nailed him to the cross. 

When Jesus looked at the mob and cried out inLuke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”  Judas was already dead by his own hand.

Judas’ choice that day changed his eternity. 

Do I think suicide is the unforgivable sin?  Nope, I think suicide is often the result of mental health issues, and I think God extends a lot more grace than we do. 

But, I think Judas could have and should have made a different choice.   

Judas Could have Chosen Forgiveness

Now you may be one of those who believe that what Judas did was so heinous, and so horrible, that Judas could never have been forgiven. 

But my bible still contains 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

Did you catch that?  The Lord is not wanting anyone to perish. Anyone, not even Judas. 

Just as it was Judas’ decision to betray Christ, so it was Judas’ choice to die unrepentant and go to hell. 

To write off the possibility that Judas Iscariot could not obtain forgiveness for his actions is scary.  You see, Christ’s forgiveness is not dependent on our behaviour, and for that matter it doesn’t even matter whether or not we deserve it. 

The forgiveness that each one of us needs is dependent on one thing and one thing only and that is the Grace of God.  Grace has been defined as the unmerited, undeserved or unearned love of God.  And surely Judas needed undeserved love as much or more than the rest of us.

You know the saddest part of the story is that Judas came so close to forgiveness.  If we were to list the three things that are required from us in order to experience the forgiveness of God, they would be 1) Acknowledgment of our sin 2) A sense of remorse for our sin. 3) Acceptance of the forgiveness offered us, by faith.

So how close did Judas come?  Matthew 27:4 “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.” “What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.”

There was the acknowledgment of his sin.  Judas didn’t try to justify himself and offer up excuses for what he had done.  “Well, really, they knew who he was, and it was just a matter of time until they came to arrest him anyway.”  And he didn’t try to rationalize his guilt, “Well how was I to know that they were going to hurt him, let alone crucify him?”  Instead he said, “I have sinned, for I have betrayed an innocent man.”

In verse three of that same chapter we read these words, Matthew 27:3 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.

Now most of us have felt remorseful over some particular wrong in our life at one time or another.  But usually only after we’ve been caught.  For the most part we are like King David who cried out “I have sinned against the Lord” but he only said that after Nathan had confronted him with his adultery and murder. 

And yet even with Judas’ acknowledgement of his sin, and his remorsefulness, he still couldn’t bring himself to ask for forgiveness.  And while two out of three might be all right in a Meatloaf song, it just don’t cut it when it comes to eternity.

There are people watching online today who know the truth of Romans 3:23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  They know that, and they are remorseful, they feel really bad about their sin. But for some reason they just can’t bring themselves to seek forgiveness from Christ. 

I don’t know what it is holding them back, whether it’s pride or stubbornness but I do know that it’s a dangerous game to play, because you don’t have to hang yourself to miss the forgiveness of Jesus. 

Let’s keep going with the story. Three days after Jesus and Judas died, Jesus rose again, but Judas was still dead. 

And as Christ appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, he made a statement that would never apply to Judas.  In John 20:19 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said.

Judas Could Have Chosen Peace. 

Peace, oh how that quality eluded Judas.  He seemed to have lived without it and now it would appear that he died without it.  That peace that Christ promised his disciples in John 14:27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. 

Even then it was just hours until Judas’ lips would touch Jesus’ cheek in betrayal.  Judas didn’t have to go ahead with his plan.  He could have chosen peace.

I wonder if Judas was struggling with his decision even as Christ spoke about peace.  I wonder if even then he was craving a peace that would never be his.  The world can never give you that peace and that is why suicide is the second greatest killer of Canadians aged 15-44.  That’s why teen suicide has increased so sharply over the past twenty years.  We look happy, and everyone may think we have the world by the tail, but we know deep down that we don’t.  We alone know whether or not we have that peace.

You know it’s easy to externalize a peace, to put on a mask. 

Felix Powell was the composer of “Pack up your troubles in your old kitbag and smile, smile, smile.” It was once called the most optimistic song ever written, and yet Powell died by his own hand. 

Every year in Canada close to 4000 men, women and children take their own lives, why? Because often they are missing a critical ingredient and that is peace.

Paul wrote in the letter that he wrote to the Christians in the city of Philippi these words, Philippians 4:7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

If you have that peace then you know what I’m talking about, but have you ever tried to explain the depth of that peace to someone who hasn’t experienced it? They just look at you funny.

You see, when most people talk about peace they think about what’s going on in the Middle East. But the peace that the Bible talks about isn’t just an absence of war.  The Greek word for peace is I-ray-nay which literally means “To set at one again”

And it deals primarily with broken relationships.  When we are granted forgiveness through the grace of God, then our relationship with God is restored. We are brought to the place where we belong.  Judas missed that restoration. Though he was a man who was torn apart with conflict, the method that he chose to resolve the conflict really wasn’t a viable option at all.  Suicide doesn’t solve problems, it simply creates them.

It is very doubtful that Judas was able to say at his point of death the same words that Christ used, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”

Judas didn’t damn himself at the point of betraying Christ.  But he most certainly did when he refused to set the relationship straight. I am convinced that had Judas sought the forgiveness that only Christ can give, then he would have experienced the peace that only God can provide.

Because of his choices, Judas missed a lot.  he missed the forgiveness of Christ and he missed the peace of God, but I’m here today to tell you that you don’t have to. 

All that Judas missed is available to you this morning.  Christ’s forgiveness is just as thorough today as it was 2000 years ago and you haven’t done anything so vile that Jesus can’t forgive you.  The peace of God still surpasses understanding in 2020, even in the midst of the chaos and confusion of today’s world.

But just as Judas had to make the choice for himself, you will have to make the choice for yourself.

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