Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Better Not to Have Been Born At All?

Mark 14:17-21 (ESV)
And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. [18] And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me." [19] They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, "Is it I?" [20] He said to them, "It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. [21] For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born."

Jesus doesn’t want the disciples to know who it is that will betray him. On the other hand he wants them to know he will be betrayed. He also wants Judas to know he knows that Judas will betray him. “For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!” It is a rather dark passage. The subject matter is dark. And there seems to be perhaps more to it than is readily available on the surface.
On the one hand, Jesus has to be betrayed. Jesus knows so much. It is within his power right now to have Judas lynched. He could expose all the plans and Judas would be deposed of by the other eleven disciples. Peter at least shows a willingness to kill for Jesus, if not die. Jesus doesn’t do this. He speaks of his impending betrayal only to let it be known that it happens according to his will, that he will go freely. Jesus knows what needs to be done, and he won’t stop it. He will do what Moses and Paul could not(Exodus 32:32-33, Romans 9:3), he will give up his life for the people he loves. That is the love of Christ. It is in fact a love he has for Judas, who will betray him. Jesus is more than willing to forgive.
Jesus would forgive Judas, but he also knows that Judas’s heart is now so hardened he will not receive the forgiveness. And yet Judas eats the meal, and partakes in the Lord’s Supper. All the while plotting and scheming to betray his Lord. 30 pieces of silver. That Is what Judas betrayed him for, and for this he will wish he had never been born at all.
That is a hard feeling to overcome at times. This world can be quite harsh. Most of us realize that we have betrayed Christ in our lives in many ways often for far less than 30 pieces of silver. When our sin confronts us and convicts us, when it blows up in our face, despair can be overwhelming. The petty fights we get in with our spouses culminate in divorce because we are unwilling to forgive, or perhaps they turn out unwilling to forgive. You lose a job because you were neglectful of your duties. Money you squandered elsewhere, you find you need now for more important things, and just don’t have it. Sin. Of course the despair is just as much a sin as everything that led up to it. Wishing you had never been born is sin. God gave us this life, it is his gift. He sustains it too. He gives us our daily bread. And every day we wake up, is truly a day of grace. It is a day in which he yet again forgives us our sins. We may still suffer all the earthly consequences of our betrayals, but we have been spared the eternal consequences all because Jesus allowed himself to be betrayed by Judas.
Yes Jesus was willing to forgive, but Judas wouldn’t receive it. For this reason, it was better for Judas not to have been born at all. It is true for the rest of us too. Without forgiveness it definitely would be better for us not to have been born. When we reject forgiveness, when we reject grace, we receive wrath. This is more than taking our earthly lumps. Those we will have to receive when they come, and we will know that we well deserve them. We deserve more actually. But God is loving, gracious and kind. He would spare us the eternal lumps we deserve of wrath and hell. He sent His Son to be betrayed by friend to spare us from these. To give us eternal life, to give us love. And all said and done, in the end all evil people, you and I included, who receive our daily bread by his divine grace, fatherly love and mercy, will be surprised to see just how often it was he who spared us even the temporal punishments we deserve. Then perhaps we will realize how evil a thing it is to wish we were never born, to despair of life even in the hard times, or on the eve of April 15th. This life, for all its hardships is a gift of God to be enjoyed. He forgives, he sustains. He loves. And in his love we love, we learn to love, we grow in faith and joy. In him there is joy. He turns our mourning into dancing. Yes he does. Yes he will.

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