To be truthful I am not sure how to start this blog this morning because the subject is a difficult one. It has to do with free will; the ability God has given us to make decisions independent from him. This has led to much misunderstanding and a lot of blame levelled at God. People may say things like, "Why didn't God stop me from doing that?" or "Why did God allow such a thing to happen?" I can only imagine how often we break his heart when we choose against him and end up hurting ourselves and others. Do not be mistaken, God grieves over the great pain and suffering in this world but he made the decision from the beginning to allow us to make our own choices, good and bad, which leads to a lot of pain but to great victories as well. It is thinking about Judas that has provoked this subject this morning.
Some people may tell you that Judas was locked into the role that he played in the history of Jesus, that he had no choice. But if he had no choice it means that God is a liar. For a person to be born for the purpose of a single evil act and to be condemned to eternal torment would be cruel beyond imagining and our God is opposite to cruel. No, we are born to a life of choices, to millions of possibilities and God sees every single one of them for every single human being living today. It boggles the mind to realize how many outcomes today could have depending on who makes what decisions, but what is truly amazing is that God has laid down his plans for every one of them. Nothing surprises God.
In the case of Judas we hold to the understanding that he made a choice. It was his choice born out of whatever motivation pushed him in that direction. Only one thing was certain in those days and that was the cross to which Jesus was heading. The cross was certain but the path to it did not need to include Judas' betrayal. It could have been anyone or it could have been in a different manner but it did not have to be Judas. Jesus declared to his disciples:
The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. (Matthew 26:24)
The cross was a definite but Jesus also knew that Judas had made his decision, that he had already taken action. Jesus knew and he also knew what the outcome would be:
But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born. (Matthew 26:24)
This was not a curse as some have seen it but a simple statement of fact. Jesus knew the condition of Judas' heart, he knew the actions he had already taken and he knew the despair that would destroy him. Some may question why he did not make a final plea with Judas, but that is the same as asking why God doesn't prevent us from doing wrong. Judas had spent three years with Jesus, watching, listening, learning and participating. If he did not understand after three years how would any plea from Jesus change things now. God has given his all to us. He speaks to us in everything around us. He speaks clearly through his Word. We are possessed by the Spirit who teaches us. What more can he do besides taking our free will away from us?
The words Jesus spoke about the cross and his betrayer are similar to what Jesus said about sin and the world:
Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! (Matthew 18:7)
Just because sin and evil are a common thing in this world is no excuse for it happening. Just because it is a natural product of a fallen creation does not mean we get to claim innocence. We cannot turn around and say it is God's fault because he did not stop us. We cannot say that he created us this way so we are only doing what comes natural. Jesus made it clear that we are to blame for any sin we bring into this world. We stand fully condemned by the decisions and choices we make:
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:18)
Judas should not be pitied as a pawn in God's plan. He had a choice and he made his choice. God simply did what he always does; he used what the dark powers intend as bad to bring about good. The truly sad thing about Judas, the thing for which we can have pity, is that he removed the possibility of repentance and restoration by giving into his despair and ending his life. Our own story does not end with our act of evil, with our act of sin because our Jesus is all about redemption and restoration. Jesus knew the outcome for Judas because he could see the condition of Judas' hardened heart but that does not have to be our outcome:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)
That is God's plan and always has been. He has no desire to see us destroyed but instead has given everything he has to see us forgiven, renewed and restored to him. Before we sin we have a choice but praise be to God for his great grace, even after we sin we have a choice. Woe to the man through whom sin comes into this world but double woe to the man who remains unrepentant of that fact. We are not locked into some course that we have been given. The sins of our past, the mistakes we have made, do not have to define who we are today. It is amazing how God is able to work good out of those sins when we allow him to do his thing in our life. He offers us a rebirth if we are willing to trust him, a new future, a better course to take, a greater destiny. It is our choice what decisions we make:
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. (John 3:19-21)
You are not locked into the sin of your past. Not even Judas was locked in. Leave your poor choices, your mistakes and your sins behind and allow Jesus Christ to bring you into the light of the greater destiny he has planned for you.