4501 Waller Rd E
First Midweek Advent Service
February 10-11, 2016
Redemption/Lynnwood and Ascension/Tacoma
Pastor Paul Naumann
"I WAS THERE!"
Grace and Lenten peace be multiplied unto you, Amen. This day's text is found in the 27th chapter
of Matthew, verses 3-5, as follows:
Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back
the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, "I have sinned by betraying
innocent blood." And they said, "What is that to us? You see to it!" 5 Then he threw down the
pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. Here ends our text.
In the Name of Christ, the Lamb of God for sinners slain, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
Nothing is more powerful and convincing than an eyewitness to an event. This week, as we begin
our meditation on Jesus' Passion, we've decided to enlist the aid of one of those who was most
involved in the events that led up to Jesus' death. This week we bring one of the main players in
Christ's Passion directly onto the stage to speak to us. Everything you will hear about him is based
on Bible fact. It's our prayer that the Lord will work powerfully through His Word as we consider
the words of:
I. My life is a dire warning!
II. My death was a needless tragedy!
Yes, my name is Judas Iscariot, and I was there. The story I have to tell you is a deeply tragic one. I
was a man who lived close to heaven, but ended up in hell. Mine was a life of fantastic opportunity,
that somehow ended in horrible disaster. Countless generations of Christians have cursed my
name, and will continue to do so till the end of time. My very name, in fact, has become
synonymous with betrayal and deceit.
I'm not asking for your forgiveness, just your understanding. For a moment, try and forget about
that dark closing chapter of my life, and remember that I was human, like you. I acted like a human
being. What I did any human is capable of doing, even you. And that's what makes my life such a
dire warning for you!
I was born in the town of Kerioth. My parents had great hopes for my life, as witnessed by the
name that they gave me. Judas means "Praise of God." As my mother and father stooped over my
infant cradle, it would have broken their hearts if they could have heard the words Jesus would one
day speak concerning me, "It had been better for that man if he had not been born."
I was raised like other boys in Judea. From an early age my parents taught me to know and believe
in Jehovah, the God of our ancestors. By the time I became an adult, I had developed a deep
interest in spiritual matters. Then came the greatest day of my life, the day on which that prophet
from Nazareth extended His hand to me and said, "Come, follow Me." Now, that may puzzle you a
bit. Why, you ask, would the Master choose someone like me to be His disciple? Well you'll pardon
me for asking, but why would he choose someone like you? Did you ever think of that? We're both
sinners. But "God would have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."
With the best intentions, I left everything behind and followed Jesus.
What a time that was! For more than two years I lived with Jesus, traveled with Him, and took my
meals with Him. The other disciples and I received extensive personal instruction from Him. Can
you imagine having Jesus Christ Himself conduct a Bible class for you every day of the week?
That's the privilege I had. With my own ears I heard His matchless sermons. With my own eyes I
witnessed His incredible miracles. But when they killed Jesus and He left earth for heaven...I killed
myself and went to hell.
Let me tell you how it happened. Pay attention, and you'll learn how a single sin can destroy a
person's soul. It didn't happen quickly, like a bolt of lightning might strike down a huge oak tree in
an instant. No, this sin took control of me slowly, gradually, almost imperceptibly, like a parasitic
vine might wrap itself around that same oak tree and finally kill it over a long period of time. My
downfall didn't come about suddenly on Maundy Thursday evening. Oh, no! It had already been
taking place long before that.
My master passion? The single sin that led to my undoing? Yes, it was greed. And since I was the
treasurer for our small group, temptation was there all the time. We didn't have much in the till, but
one day some of it stuck to my fingers and fell into my pocket. As you count sin in your world, it
was a small sin. I told myself you couldn't even really call it sin. Some day I was going to pay it
back. Even if I didn't, the trifling amount I took was much less than I deserved for shouldering the
duties of treasurer. Take my life as a dire warning! When you want to commit a sin, the devil will
give you a thousand excuses - a thousand ways to conceal its wrongness and its danger even from
Looking back on it, I really wish I'd been caught the first time I took money. If I had, maybe there
could have been a different outcome to my story. I'll give you some advice: when you get caught at
a sin, thank God for it! Because it's the sins you get away with that can harden you and curse your
life for years to come...and possibly for eternity! Those are the sins you try again and again.
As time went on, of course, this pet sin of mine grew like...well, like cancer, just as the Bible says.
The amounts I stole became larger and larger. Also, I noticed it bothered me a lot less. I think it's
true what they say: we human beings live on an incline - a slanted surface where it is much easier to
fall than to rise. The hypocrisy became easier and easier for me. One night I even had the nerve to
protest indignantly when Mary anointed Jesus with some expensive perfume. "What a waste!" I
said. "This should have been sold and the money given to the poor!" As if I really cared about the
poor. As if Jesus couldn't tell that what I really wanted to line my own pockets with the money! It
wasn't long after that that I went to the priests and made my despicable bargain with them. They'd
give me money - thirty pieces of silver. In exchange, I would betray Jesus into their hands.
Greed! How it has ruined me! And don't think I wasn't warned, either. I was. And often. Thinking
back, the many admonitions of Jesus sound as clear to me as the blast of a trumpet on a still
summer night. For instance, there was the time he said to us, "Beware of the leaven of the
Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden
that will not be known. ...Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in
the abundance of the things he possesses." Lk 12:1-2, 15. Another time Jesus asked, "What will it
profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" It felt like His warnings were all
aimed directly at me, and everybody else knew about it. Never say God doesn't warn you in your
sin. You may ignore the warnings, but the warnings are always there. I just hope you never have to
look back on those tragic, unheeded warnings the way I must now do for the rest of eternity!
I recall the meal in the upper room that Maundy Thursday evening. I was there. I, and the black
plans I kept hidden in my heart. Still Jesus was warning me: "One of you who are eating with Me
will betray Me," He said. The other disciples were immediately concerned. "Is it I?" they asked, one
after another. And of course, I chimed in with a hypocritical "Is it I?" And still Jesus was loving
and considerate. He didn't point an accusing finger. He didn't shout a harsh rebuke. He replied, "It
is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it." He dipped the bread, and handed
it to me. My fellow-disciple John wrote, He then having received the sop went immediately out: and
it was night. John 13:30.
It was indeed night. Nighttime for my soul, too, for in my heart lay a plan of blackest treachery. As
you know, I played my part quickly. I led the squad of soldiers to the Garden of Gethsemane. I knew
very well that Jesus would be there. Then I identified Him - I shudder to think! - with a kiss. I
betrayed the Son of God with a kiss. He was arrested and taken away prisoner.
With that, my world crashed. A horror swept over me that I pray you may never know. The
enormity of my sin confronted me in all its hideous blackness. I was in such despair that I - yes I!
Greedy Judas! - tried to give back the thirty pieces of silver. I should have known better. My
friends, be warned: you can't take back a sin once you've committed it! You can't cast it from you,
and you can't make up for it.
Obviously, my story - the story of Judas Iscariot - will always serve chiefly as a warning about
how thoroughly sin can overpower a person and destroy his soul. But if you look closely, you may
also find a strange encouragement for you in my story. True, my death was a tragedy...but mark
well it was a needless tragedy! I needn't have gone to hell.
1 Peter didn't! In two weeks you'll hear my fellow-disciple's story from his own lips. Peter's was a sin
nearly as black as mine. You'll hear how he denied Jesus in the courtyard of the High Priest, and
how he went out and wept bitter tears over his sin. Well, what about me? You think I didn't cry? I
cried an ocean! Like Peter I was truly sorry for what I'd done. Unfortunately, that's where the
similarity ends because, unlike Peter, I never went back to ask Jesus for pardon. Peter returned to
His Savior and found the peace of forgiveness. I didn't find it. Not because God refused me, but
because I didn't ask for it. I didn't believe in it. Peter turned back to Jesus, I turned away. His road
led to peace, mine led to a tree in the valley - a hanging tree. There I took my own life, and with that
last unrepented sin of murder on my soul, I delivered myself to Satan's doorstep in hell.
I'm here today to tell you one thing: you need not follow me there. Rejoice that, for you, the time of
grace has not run out! You still have time to identify those pet sins you've been nursing in your
life. Eradicate them before they gain control of you. You still have the privilege - blessed privilege
I'll never know again! - of returning to your Savior to seek His pardon. See with what loving words
he calls you - "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take
My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for
your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Mat 11:28-30. Listen to me: answer that
call! Heed that blessed invitation. For me the invitation no longer applies.
Yes, my death was a needless tragedy. Jesus loved me, and sought me right up to the end. But fool
that I am, I threw away my chance at eternal life, like a drowning man who refuses to grab onto a
rope. You be smart! You take the rope! No matter how great your sin is, the Lord Jesus has
promised you pardon. How foolish I was not to trust Him! What a different outcome there might
have been if I had only trusted the eternal Word of God! Doesn't the Bible say, "Though your sins
are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as
wool."? Isa 1:18. I didn't believe those words; with Spirit-inspired faith you still can. On the cross of
Calvary - that cursed cross to which I, Judas, betrayed Him - the Lord Jesus atoned for your sins.
His broad shoulders bore the weight of each of your transgressions, each of your deceits, each of
your betrayals. Wonderful Good News - that although you have been unfaithful to your Lord time
and again, He remains faithful to you. His blood covers your sin completely. He has forgiven you
for everything in your past, and will continue to forgive you in the future. His mercy really does
endure forever. Because I doubted that, my torment here in hell will endure forever.
My friends, be not faithless, but believing. Trust in the forgiving heart of your Savior. Trust in the
love that drove Him even to the cross...for you. Cast off - while you still can - the filthy garment of
your own righteousness, and take on you the robe of righteousness purchased with His blood. The
offer is there, and I advise you to take it. I didn't, and I'll spend an eternity of condemnation
regretting it. Heed God's Word, place all your confidence in Christ, and you'll spend your eternity in
heaven with Him. AMEN.