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31. Jesus, Judas, and Peter

Read Luke 2 2:45-62.
“And when he rose up from his prayer, he came unto the disciples, and found them sleeping for sorrow; and he said to them, Why sleep ye? Rise and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. While he yet spake, behold, a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them; and he drew near unto Jesus to kiss him. But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss? — And they seized him, and led him away, and brought him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed afar off.” (Luke 22:45-48, 54).

An atmosphere of holy seriousness pervaded the hail in which Jesus ate the last Passover meal with His disciples. He spoke His words of farewell to them, and they were filled with apprehension for the future. Judas left and sold the Savior for a few pieces of silver. Soon the others broke up and made their way to Gethsemane.

In this lovely garden, secluded from noise and bustle and from critics and foes, Jesus had met the Father so many a time. Here He had gathered strength through prayer for His labor among suffering humanity. On this dear spot He wanted to meet the prince of this world; from this place He would go forth to meet the powers of darkness. Among these venerable trees He had built a fortress; now He was ready for battle.

Who can fathom all that had transpired between heaven and earth on this spot? Night after night for three years Jesus had pleaded with the Father for deliverance from death; through suffering He had learned obedience.

There is something so divinely human in this that Jesus desired to begin His final conflict here. Even the garden seemed to give Him comfort. Is there not something remarkable also today about the places where you and I have fought our crucial battles and found God’s help? We too want to be there when a new crisis approaches; especially do we want to be there for the final battle. Many a soldier of Christ who has had to fight his last battle in a foreign place has had but one desire: That he might die in the place hallowed by so many memories of God’s help in days past.

Jesus too was human. He was so like us, save for sin. It is not unreasonable to suppose that this garden had a wondrous attraction for Him.

That which affected Him most was that His own failed Him, Even the eleven fell asleep. Three times He came from the throes of wrestling in prayer and asked them to wake with Him. It seems that they couldn’t; they slept and rested while He agonized in prayer so near to the portals of death.

Every distress is an unwelcome guest, but doubly so when those who are dear to us seem to be unconcerned. Then it takes great courage to persevere. Also this burden was added to all the others that Jesus had to bear.

*      *      *

Then Judas came. He was now the leader of Satan’s ruffian band; he gave the Master the kiss of death. Jesus was able to address this ignominious man with the salutation of “Friend.” This alone should convince us that Jesus was more than a mere man.

This was not to be the end of Christ’s disappointments. It was not enough that one of His own should be used to betray Him, and that the others fell asleep; Peter proceeded to add another stone to the burden that was heavy enough before. He sat down among the enemies and denied vehemently that he knew this man.

These were they who for three years had been together with Jesus. On mountain top and raging sea He had helped them unstintingly and untiringly. He had revealed God as Father to them, and had opened their eyes to see the kingdom of heaven; and now they failed Him when He was in need and asked a favor of them.

How can this be? Something rises within us when we hear of it, and we are ready to pass the most merciless condemnation upon such people. We do well, however, to postpone our judgment until we learn to know human frailty and depravity a bit better. It may be that we shall find the same weaknesses in ourselves.

How was it possible for Judas to stoop so low that he could sell His Master for thirty pieces of silver? It is difficult to believe that he had always been a devil.

It appears to me that to begin with Judas had been as honest as any of the others. It is inconceivable that Jesus should choose dishonest people to be His disciples. He who knows the hearts knew what was in Judas when He chose him. He saw that Judas was a practical man and had the ability to fill an important position in the Kingdom of God. Paul, who replaced Judas, towers as a king over the others in talents and gifts.

That Jesus made Judas treasurer indicates that he had a genius for business. But Judas was like all others; the greatest gift and the greatest danger nestled so close together in his life. Business geniuses are easily tempted to love money. Here lay both his great strength and besetting weakness. Slowly but surely the love of money gained the upper hand; the day soon came that he was ready to betray Jesus for money. By this act he had also sold himself.

When one who has been a Christian, Judas or anyone else, stoops so low he is the most depraved man on earth. No other sin is so devastating as the love of money. There is more of true humanity left in the harlot and drunkard than in such a sleek servant of Mammon. Many a follower of Jesus who could have filled important positions in the Kingdom of God has fallen into the same pit as Judas; they sank intO Satan’s bottomless sea of gold.

But why did Jesus make Judas treasurer? Could not another have filled that position?

God does not call to be preachers such as lack the ability of speaking in public. Nor does He make leaders of those who have no capacity along that line. He makes use of each gift in its proper place, and gives grace to each man who will receive it.

Our responsibility and danger lie precisely where our tasks and talents are. The greater the responsibility and talent, the greater is the danger and temptation. But if the man stands the test, he will become a better instrument in the hand of God. Therefore both Peter and Judas had to have these places, and had to meet the tempter precisely here. Steel must be subjected to fire if it is to be a sword; if it is found defective here, it will be worthless.

Peter endured the tempering process, and became a mighty tool in the hand of God. Judas broke under it and was lost.

Thus it was then, and so it is now for all of Christ’s servants.

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Many disparaging statements are made today about Christian people in the business world. It is often said that Christians have no business to be in business. Much of the criticism we hear comes from such who have little understanding of these matters. We should be just in our judgment of each other.

A Christian has as much right and duty to enter a business and earn money as others. This is not only because the Kingdom of God needs money, but because he should be a useful member of the society in which he lives. We all need food and clothes, and it takes money to procure these. God alone can set a limit to the amount a Christian may earn and own. We know that many Christians have great business abilities and understand how to earn money. It is unjust to criticize them for that.

There are two considerations, however. We must earn our money honestly and with a clear conscience. We must also make money our servant in order that we may serve God better. Here is the responsibility and danger. Unless we are alert to the danger and seek God’s help we will soon saunter over to the marketplace of the world and sell the Savior for a pittance. One does not have to be rich to stumble here.

He who stands the test on this point, especially one who is wealthy, can serve God better than many others. Let me say in love and seriousness to all Christians; Pray God that you may remain poor rather than to become rich if wealth will make you dishonest and stingy. Take care that money does not replace Jesus in your heart. Remember Judas, and take warning.

He who succeeds on this point will be a humble Christian even if he is a millionaire; he who fails loses his soul even if he doesn’t own a rag.

Let the fact that Jesus made Judas treasurer remind us that Christians will be called to fill such positions. But let Judas’ unfaithfulness warn us of the danger. Let the treasurer and the business man go to his work prayerfully; then there is no danger that he will betray his trust.

Then it will be blessed for a Christian to be rich.

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But Peter! How could he who was so forthright a man deny that he knew Jesus, and that directly after so clear a warning?

God’s Word gives us the answer. He depended upon himself and thought he could in his own strength manage a situation which required God’s power. Nothing was farther from his mind than that he would fail; others might deny Christ, but not he.

To depend upon one’s own strength in temptation is to invite failure. Peter found this to be true more than once. The secret of victory in temptation is to distrust self and trust God. His strength is perfected in weakness. Peter had to learn this through many defeats; others have also had to learn through such bitter experiences. But they have learned.

The other reason for Peter’s fall was that he chose to walk incognito among the enemies, and that by voluntary choice. He thought he was unknown to the enemies by the fire. Perhaps he consoled himself by the thought that he did no wrong; surely there is no danger then.

To remain incognito by free choice among God’s enemies is a dangerous practice for a Christian; it affords a most excellent opportunity to deny the Savior. The temptation rises so cunningly. There is innocent conversation on ordinary topics. Each one adds his bit, and before long the discussion becomes animated. After a while it sinks to frivolity and even blasphemy. Then the Christian becomes ominously silent; he dares not to speak up and show his colors. He is now on glare ice and fails to find footing; this is because he discarded the shoes God gave him.

Such was the case with Peter; and it is so with many a one today. Has it ever happened to you? Many of you might have good reason to go out and weep with Peter.

Our comfort is that Jesus consoles and helps those who weep over their sin. On Easter morning Mary brought a special greeting from the risen Savior to Peter. Judas did not weep over his sin, and his fall resulted in judgment and death. He broke under the tempering process and was lost. Peter was also wounded, but he was healed again, and was permitted to lay the foundation for God’s church on earth.

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In the midst of our sinful, erring and failing race stands He who neither sinned nor failed and who was never ashamed of taking the side of God and truth. It was He who on Holy Thursday prepared Himself to taste death for us all, who looked lovingly at Peter and addressed Judas as “Friend.”

Perhaps you are one who struggles along alone and sheds tears in secret because you have no one in which to confide. Then come to the suffering Savior; He fought your battles alone too. He understands you and longs for an opportunity to help you.
He is your and my Savior. He is the Savior of all the world. If you like Peter falter and fail, come to Him who can restore you again.

“Come unto Me, ye weary,
And I will give you rest.”
O blessed voice of Jesus,
Which comes to hearts oppressed.
It tells of benediction,
Of pardon, grace and peace,
Of joy that hath no ending,
And love that cannot cease.
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