Satan Conspires and Men are Culpable
Have you ever wondered about Judas? How could a guy who spent the last 2 to 3 years traveling around the country with Jesus stoop so low as to betray him? The answer is only hinted at in Luke, but the Gospels as a whole answer it clearly enough.
Luke only tells us that the priests and scribes “agreed to give him money.” (Luke 22:5) But Matthew informs us that it was Judas who brought up the matter of payment (Matt 26:15). And John lets us know that Judas was regularly taking advantage of his position as treasurer for the apostolic band (John 12:6). Judas was afflicted with the love of money.
But surely Levi had been a thief. And Simon may have even been a murderer. Surely a sinless life was not a prerequisite for being called as an apostle. Surely Judas wasn’t the ‘worst’ sinner of the apostolic band. So why did Judas’ sickness lead to his demise? The answer is simple. Judas never confessed his sin. He never repented. He never brought his sin to the One who could cleanse him. Instead, he tucked his sin away in secret. And there it festered. Rather than starving his flesh, he fed it. And it brought him down.
Satan had been looking for an opportune time (Luke 4:13). Now he’d found one. The priests and scribes were eager to destroy Jesus, but were afraid of the crowds. Now that Judas had given Satan a foothold, that prowling lion seized the opportunity afforded him. He possessed Judas personally and led him to do what, I’m sure, he would have regarded unthinkable.
Surely Judas would not have recognized his love of money. He slept on the same hard ground as Jesus (Luke 9:58). Few of us recognize the great sacrifice involved in discipleship Jesus-style. These men left everything behind to follow Jesus around. They ate with him, traveled with him, and stayed wherever he stayed. They were supported by charitable donations. Judas would have protested vehemently that he didn’t love money more than Jesus. But that’s how sin works. If we do not confess it and turn from it and starve it, it will subtly, unnoticeably take us captive (Rom 6:16). And we open ourselves up to doing what we would regard as absolutely unthinkable.
Satan was scheming. And men were culpably complicit in the schemes. But Jesus was in control of the whole affair, and it was all going according to plan.
But Christ is in Control
As Judas was looking for an opportunity to hand Jesus over privately, so that there would not be a violent reaction from the mob, Jesus couldn’t let Judas know ahead of time where the passover would be celebrated. That’s why he sent Peter and John with cryptic instructions on finding the place. It is clear, however, that Jesus knew exactly where he’d eat the supper with his disciples. And as this supper was the single greatest symbol of what his ministry was all about, he was eager to share it, one last time, with his disciples before all was fulfilled. So he left Judas in the dark. Dark forces were conspiring against the Lord, but he is the Lord, and he always maintained control.
That’s important to remember. It’s important because in the previous chapter, Jesus had promised that we would suffer betrayal by those closest to us (Luke 21:16). Here we see that he, too, experienced that ahead of us. And when the world and the forces of the evil one conspire against us, let us remember that Christ is in control, and that all things are working according to God’s plan (Eph 1:11; Rom 8:28). I think it is because we are apt to forget, and quick to be shaken in our faith, that Jesus gave us the Lord’s Supper as a reminder. Among other things, it is a reminder that, though we will have tribulation in the world, Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).
So let us keep short accounts of our sins. Confess quickly and repent radically. Let no sin fester in your heart. Take it to the only One who can cleanse you from all unrighteousness and transform you into the holy man or woman he has declared you to be.