“And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” Matthew 21:44
To illustrate the truth of this text, we are going to study a little from the life of Judas; Judas, a man whose very name invokes loathing and antipathy with just a passing mention. A man that, rather than fall on the Rock and be broken, had the Rock fall on him and was ground to powder. But, do you know that Judas loved Jesus? Did you know that in Jesus’ teaching Judas recognized a superiority to all other teachings he had heard? Did you know that he desired to be with Jesus and to be changed by him? Did you know that Judas hoped, by connecting himself with Jesus, that he could experience this change of heart? If these things are true, and we will discover from Inspiration that they are, what went wrong, terribly, irrevocably, and eternally wrong? We are going to look at The Desire of Ages, to assist us in answering these questions. In finding answers to these questions, consider seriously this tragic account and learn a lesson through this sad history, such that we choose a different course and be spared the dreadful end that befell Judas on account of his choices.
In The Desire of Ages, beginning with page 716, it says, “The history of Judas presents the sad ending of a life that might have been honored of God. Had Judas died before his last journey to Jerusalem he would have been regarded as a man worthy of a place among the twelve, and one who would be greatly missed.” Judas was loved. He was respected. He led an outwardly exemplary life. He looked good. He had wonderful talents and characteristics. He did not appear the demon we often picture him in our minds. He had compassion on the poor and on the suffering. He worked miracles. However, because of these outward characteristics, the reality of his character was not seen. “The abhorrence which has followed him through the centuries would not have existed but for the attributes revealed at the close of his history. But it was for a purpose that his character was laid open to the world. It was to be a warning to all who, like him, should betray sacred trusts.” Ibid. So God had a very powerful purpose in preserving this sad narrative. Let’s pay close attention that God’s purpose of instruction for us may not be in vain.
We join the story shortly before Passover. Judas had already covenanted to betray the Saviour. “A little before the Passover, Judas had renewed his contract with the priests to deliver Jesus into their hands. Then it was arranged that the Saviour should be taken at one of His resorts for meditation and prayer. Since the feast at the house of Simon, Judas had had opportunity to reflect upon the deed which he had covenanted to perform, but his purpose was unchanged. For thirty pieces of silver—the price of a slave—he sold the Lord of glory to ignominy and death.” Ibid. By the way, Simon, the host of that feast, was also Simon the leper, healed by Jesus, rescued from a horrendous disease and a terrible death, and from the loathing and banishment from society. He was restored, by Jesus, to his family, his friends, to health, to respectability, and … to his son Judas. Yes, it seems that Judas the betrayer was the son of Simon the leper. Yet it was this Healer, this benefactor that Judas had already covenanted to betray.
We wonder, stunned, how could he have done this wicked and dastardly deed? But dear friends, before we become too smug, too self-assured, and before we continue our lesson, I would like to share one sentence for your consideration and thought. It is taken from The Acts of the Apostles, 312, and is a very powerful, yet frightening statement. And in this one sentence we see the root cause of Judas’ demise. If we are honest with ourselves, this sentence will cause us some earnest heart searching. It says, “One sin cherished is sufficient to work degradation of character.” Is there any sin that you cherish or hang on to? “One sin cherished is sufficient to work degradation of character.” And my friends, the result will be every bit as dreadful as was the result for Judas. But this degradation does not happen all at once. Consider this, also from The Desire of Ages.
“Judas had naturally a strong love for money; but he had not always been corrupt enough to do such a deed as this. He had fostered the evil spirit of avarice until it had become the ruling motive of his life. The love of mammon overbalanced his love for Christ. Through becoming the slave of one vice he gave himself to Satan, to be driven to any lengths in sin.” The Desire of Ages, 716.
One vice is all it took. One vice first allowed to be retained, then fostered, then cherished places us under the control of Satan to “be driven [by him] to any lengths in sin.”
But as we just saw, Judas had not always been corrupt enough to betray His Lord. We read, “Judas had joined the disciples when multitudes were following Christ. The Saviour’s teaching moved their hearts as they hung entranced upon His words, spoken in the synagogue, by the seaside, upon the mount. Judas saw the sick, the lame, the blind, flock to Jesus from the towns and cities. He saw the dying laid at His feet. He witnessed the Saviour’s mighty works in healing the sick, casting out devils, and raising the dead. He felt in his own person the evidence of Christ’s power. He recognized the teaching of Christ as superior to all that he had ever heard. He loved the Great Teacher, and desired to be with Him. He felt a desire to be changed in character and life, and he hoped to experience this through connecting himself with Jesus.” Ibid., 716, 717.
Let’s review what we have learned so far. This to me is astonishing.
- He felt in his own person the evidence of Christ’s power.
- He recognized the teaching of Christ as superior to all he had ever heard.
- He loved Jesus.
- He desired to be with Him.
- He felt a desire to be changed in character and life.
- He hoped to experience this through connecting himself with Jesus.
Does this not sound like a converted man? Or at the very least, he was in the process of being converted? So what happened? What changed this process and caused his downfall?
“The Saviour did not repulse Judas. He gave him a place among the twelve. He trusted him to do the work of an evangelist. He endowed him with power to heal the sick and to cast out devils. But (and here is the crux of the issue) Judas did not come to the point of surrendering himself fully to Christ. He did not give up his worldly ambition or his love of money. While he accepted the position of a minister of Christ, he did not bring himself under the divine molding.” [Emphasis added.] Ibid., 717.
Oh, if we are to avoid the same dreadful fate as that of Judas, we must surrender fully to Christ. Do you understand the seriousness of this? “One sin cherished …” Is there a sin that plagues you, a sin that may be in your heart of hearts, though you may not consciously recognize the fact, is there a sin that you just can’t quite surrender to God? Well, if that is the case in any of our lives, we had better listen very carefully to what follows or we will end up like Judas. Because as we continue, we find that it was this lack of complete surrender that led Judas to betray His Lord. And that same result will also be ours if we follow the path, the choice of Judas. The next few paragraphs detail the characteristics Judas either retained or acquired because of his lack of a full surrender. These characteristics were directly opposite of those wonderful characteristics we just read about that were in him. Because of his lack of full surrender Judas
- Had a high opinion of his own qualifications
- Looked upon his brethren as greatly inferior to him in judgment and ability
- Regarded himself as an honor to the cause
- Was blinded to his own weakness of character
- Indulged his covetous disposition
- His heart was open to unbelief (note: was he in unbelief? No, his heart was simply open to unbelief)
- He was questioning if there might be some other reason for Jesus’ power and miracles
- He was afraid his own hopes and ambitions would be disappointed
Going back to The Acts of the Apostles, to the quote we previously read, the beginning of the paragraph reads, “In the epistle to the Hebrews is pointed out the single-hearted purpose that should characterize the Christian’s race for eternal life: ‘Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith’ (Hebrews 12:1, 2). Envy, malice, evil thinking, evil speaking, covetousness—[are these not the very characteristics that Judas chose to retain?] these are weights that the Christian must lay aside if he would run successfully the race for immortality. Every habit or practice that leads into sin and brings dishonor upon Christ must be put away, whatever the sacrifice. The blessing of heaven cannot attend any man in violating the eternal principles of right. One sin cherished is sufficient to work degradation of character and to mislead others.” The Acts of the Apostles, 312. Can we doubt the truth of these words?
There is a similar statement found in The Desire of Ages that says, “Any habit or practice that would lead into sin, and bring dishonor upon Christ, would better be put away, whatever the sacrifice. That which dishonors God cannot benefit the soul. The blessing of heaven cannot attend any man in violating the eternal principles of right. And one sin cherished is sufficient to work the degradation of the character, and to mislead others.” [Emphasis added.] Ibid., 439. If you read just a few more paragraphs you would see the potent truth of these words about misleading others. I would suggest you read pages 719, 720 of The Desire of Ages.
But then the quote continues, “If the foot or the hand would be cut off, or even the eye would be plucked out, to save the body from death, how much more earnest should we be to put away sin, that brings death to the soul!” The Desire of Ages, 439.
Oh my friends, Judas lost his earthly relationship with Jesus, he lost all that he had so fondly cherished of this world, the power, the position, and the prestige, and he lost the earth to come—because he did not fully surrender to Jesus.
I would like to expand on this thought with a quote from Selected Messages, Book 1, 327. “We are to surrender our hearts to God, that He may renew and sanctify us, and fit us for His heavenly court. We are not to wait for some special time, but today we are to give ourselves to Him, refusing to be the servants of sin. Do you imagine you can leave off sin a little at a time? Oh, leave the accursed thing at once! Hate the things that Christ hates, love the things that Christ loves. Has He not by His death and suffering made provision for your cleansing from sin? When we begin to realize that we are sinners, and fall on the Rock to be broken, the everlasting arms are placed about us, and we are brought close to the heart of Jesus. Then we shall be charmed with His loveliness, and disgusted with our own righteousness. We need to come close to the foot of the cross. The more we humble ourselves there, the more exalted will God’s love appear. The grace and righteousness of Christ will not avail for him who feels whole, for him who thinks he is reasonably good, who is contented with his own condition. There is no room for Christ in the heart of him who does not realize his need of divine light and aid.”
“But you say, ‘This surrender of all my idols will break my heart.’ This giving up of all for God is represented by your falling upon the Rock and being broken. Then give up all for Him; for unless you are broken, you are worthless.” Ibid., 329.
Was Judas useful to Jesus? That almost seems like a blasphemous question, but we must think carefully about these things. Ultimately, Judas enacted the most dastardly deed that could be done on this earth. He betrayed His Lord. Why, because he did not fully surrender himself to Jesus. To make a full surrender we must recognize our need. We must be broken. Did Judas consider himself in need? Did he consider himself broken? No. Therefore, was he useful to God? No, absolutely not. He was less than useful. But if he had allowed himself to be broken, to fall on the Rock, he would have been useful to Jesus.
Today, each one of us has a choice. Will we fall on the Rock and be broken? Will we become broken that we might be of use to our Lord? Or will we choose to cherish some sin, however small, and repeat the history of Judas, and reap degradation, ignominy and ruin? The choice is yours. Today my friends, whatever the sacrifice, whatever the cost, surrender fully to Jesus.
Brenda Douay is a staff member at Steps to Life. She may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.