Jerry C. Brewer
Slipping away from the last Passover meal that he and his fellow apostles will eat with the Lord, Judas Iscariot departs from the lighted room where the Lord sits, and enters the darkness of the city’s night. Slinking through the streets and alleyways of Jerusalem, he makes his way to the chief priests on his mission to betray his Lord.
Two days earlier Jesus had said, “Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.” (Matthew 26:2). At the same time, in a meeting of the chief priests, scribes and elders, a consultation was held to “take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him.” (Matt. 26:4). The Jewish leaders had already formulated their plan and now met to implement it with the aid of Judas, whose covetous character had been revealed in his objection to Mary’s anointing of Jesus with the precious ointment. He said it could be sold and the money given to the poor, but John explains the real reason: “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” (John 12:5-6). It was his self-interest that led Judas to the chief priests shortly after the anointing in Bethany.
“And one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.” (Matt. 26:14-15).
Sunday morning dawns and a family prepares to make their once-weekly trip to a place of worship. But they’re tired of that place because they “get nothing out of it.” They’ve heard of another congregation in the next city where there is “something for the young people.” Just last week their children attended a “youth rally” there where they ate pizza and enjoyed a program from that congregation’s drama group. It was fun! So this Sunday they drive over to ask the preacher or elders, “What will ye give me?” They are promised “Fun, Food and Fellowship” for their teenagers, so they covenant with them place their membership there.
Tired of “nosy” elders, preachers and members asking them about their absences from the church’s assemblies, another family covets membership in a “church family” where they can be free from such harassment. There is a large church about 20 miles from their little town which will probably welcome them into its membership and where they won’t be expected to be there at every assembly because they will have to drive such a long distance. Besides, the little congregation where they live expects too much of them—like being there every time the doors are opened, supporting the gospel meetings, and reading their Bible lessons for class. And the preacher even had the audacity to ask to use their home for a Bible study during Monday Night Football! Making their way to the large congregation, they ask, “What will ye give me?” Satisfied that there are enough “others” to do whatever needs to be done and that they won’t be expected for Bible class, they place membership there.
A young couple lives two blocks from where a sound congregation meets. But the elders there have a policy that only the King James or American Standard versions can be used in Bible classes and in the pulpit. This young couple just doesn’t like the “old fashioned, traditional” worship, and despite their college degrees they just “can’t understand that old King James Bible,” so they start looking for a “progressive” congregation that will meet their cultural needs. Remembering the one in their old college town, they drive over and ask, “What will ye give me?” What they are given is “contemporary worship,” “praise leaders,” and studies from the New International Version to confirm what they want to hear. They place membership there.
The covetousness that motivated Judas to betray the Lord still moves men and women to betray Christ’s cause today. Modern families and individuals covet discipleship without authority or obligation, Christianity without accountability, a gospel which pricks no hearts and makes people “feel good,” reward without service, social-gospel “ministries” instead of the gospel of Christ, and assurance from pseudo-gospel preachers that God’s egalitarian grace will save them. They are spiritual deadbeats who want something for nothing.
Christianity is a religion of self-denial, that gives instead of getting. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Luke 9:23-25). The way of Judas is the way of death.