“So, Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, went there [to the garden] with lanterns and torches and weapons.” John 18:3
Let’s just say I had the opportunity to sit under Your tutelage, Your discipleship directly for three years. How would I approach You? What would I know of You? Could I have walked with You for three years and still not know You at all? Could I approach You thinking that a band of soldiers, lanterns, torches, and weapons would do anything to stop the one who calms the sea and storm and calls the dead to life? What was Judas thinking?! Or maybe the question should be, “What was Judas not thinking about?” And maybe that is always a good question to ask myself. Because maybe it’s necessary for me to do a continual attitude check and adjustment in order to keep myself from missing You.
Well, in a sense, Judas wasn’t alone in his “misrepresentation” of You, Lord. The disciples ran and scattered and faltered in their faith because they had a “misrepresentation” of You too. John Wesley, the pastor who became known as the founder of the Methodist denomination, had a misrepresentation of You that lasted for many years. But his end is very different than Judas’. Judas committed suicide; John Wesley committed to You.
I want to look at a number of people today because when we look at You and other people in relation to You, it helps us to see ourselves more clearly. The same things that cause others to fall, cause me to fall also. The same things that lift others up, lift me up also. So let’s look briefly at John.
John considered himself a believer from a young age. He was raised under the instruction of the Bible by both parents. He felt called into the pastorate from highschool and attended Oxford around 1719 where he excelled. He preached and became a missionary. Being unsuccessful, he was returning to England where He met a group of Moravian believers. Realizing their lack of fear during a storm while at sea, He questioned Minister Spangenberg about his lack of fear. The answer of certainty in being the Lord’s baffled Him. Even the Moravian children were peacefully certain that if they died in this storm, they would be in the arms of Jesus. What were they certain of? That by simply believing in Christ as Savior, they had assurance of salvation.
Well, as amazed as John was at what this Moravian shared, he walked away, not outwardly responding. Understand, this is after 20 years of thinking he knew who he was and what he believed already. This is now 1738. “The entry in his Journal under the date of Tuesday, January 24, 1738, is tragical: ‘I went to America to convert the Indians; but O! Who shall convert me? Who, what is he that shall deliver me from this evil heart of unbelief?'”(Newton Stein)
Look at the struggling in his heart as he entered another journal entry upon landing in England on February 1738. “This then have I learned in the ends of the earth (Colony of Georgia in the New World), that I ‘am fallen short of the glory of God’; that my whole heart is ‘altogether corrupt and abominable’…… that my own works, my own suffering, my own righteousness, are so far from reconciling me to an offended God… I want that faith which enables everyone that hath it to cry out, ‘I live not…but Christ liveth in me’…I want that faith…when ‘the Spirit itself beareth witness with his spirit that he is a child of God.'”(ibid)
Have you ever felt like that? Do you feel like that? Do you know anyone who is feeling like that now? It was so bad that he didn’t want to preach any more. “How can I preach to others, when I have not faith n myself?” But don’t despair. Keep pressing on. The Lord surrounded John with believers upon his return, even an old friend from college. Another Moravian friend, Bohler, encouraged him, “Preach faith until you have it; and then because you have it, you will preach faith.” Are you faultering? Do you have doubts? Keep searching out faith. Keep pressing on as though you believe it. Keep counting on it as though your life depended on it. And as you depend on it, it will become your dependency, and you will have it and know it!
John Wesley followed that advice. He started preaching this “new doctrine” and later in 1738 he believed! So what does that have to do with Judas? John realized how fallen he was. And that’s going to be important here, shortly. Judas never realized until too late how fallen he was. John fell at the feet of Jesus; Judas chose to fall before the scribes and Pharisees and before the Potter’s field. John was searching, the wrong way at first, but searching all the same. Jesus, You promise that if we search, if we seek You, we will find You. Maybe Judas was never really searching.
Which brings me to Your response, Jesus, to Judas. “Whom do you seek?” The arresting party answered, “Jesus.” Really? Were they really seeking You? Not really. Because seeking You looks a lot different than locating You in the dark to control You. Alright, the next thing to realize about this word “seek” is that the Hebraism means to worship. Stop a minute. “Who are You coming to worship?” The party answered, “Jesus.” Slight dejavue here. Really, is that worship? But I love how no one can remain a liar before You. You will make all things true. How?
How? You answered them, “I am.” I think it should probably be “I AM!” because of the effect it had. These men that came to control You, and to kill You, actually did worship You temporarily. They “went backward, and fell to the ground.” Yes, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! Even the ones that don’t believe will. Which makes me think of John again. Especially the ones who don’t believe but are seeking to worship You. Only then they will come to their own knees; they will fall before You willingly and not by force. Which brings me back to some Biblical examples.
When these men fell down, they literally fell to the ground. It’s the Greek word “pipto”. It has a Hebrew equivalent so we also find it in the Old Testament. It’s falling prostrate, under judgment, losing your authority, not having any more force. The Hebrew is “naphal” like falling from a higher position to a lower position. This was used for Ruth when she fell before Boaz in the field because of his grace and mercy to her, a foreigner and Moabitess. Here it is paired with a second verb “shachah” which adds the meaning of bowing down with an “attitude which is ‘bowed down’. And so the verb shachah is rightly used to describe one prostrating one’s self or bowing down before God with an attitude of reverence and worship'”. (preceptaustin) “When Abigail saw David, she hurried and dismounted from her donkey, and fell on her face before David, and bowed herself to the ground.” (ibid) She didn’t deserve mercy either because of the actions of her husband Nabal toward the king. “Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and prostrated himself,” (ibid) saying, “Here is your servant!” Did he deserve mercy? His Grandfather had tried to kill David.
Now, let’s hop back to Ruth. ” Ruth acknowledged her own unworthiness and accepted [Boaz’s] ‘favor’ or ‘grace’ for ‘favor’ (chen) means grace which was exactly what she had gone into the fields to find. She believed his promises and rejoiced in them. There was no need for Ruth to worry, for the wealthy lord of the harvest would care for her and Naomi. Furthermore Ruth was a perfect ‘target’ to receive grace, for as Solomon reminds us God ‘scoffs at the scoffers, yet He gives grace to the afflicted (humble – those who are ‘low’)'(Pr 3:34). The person with humility (Ruth) thinks of others first (Naomi) and not of themselves. ” (ibid) So what do I learn from this?
That when I stop seeing You as a set of rules and regulations to follow but start seeing You as a Person that I am desperately in need of, my whole perspective changes. But in order to do that, I have to acknowledge my own unworthiness and accept Your favor. I mean, truly, if You weren’t holding me together, I wouldn’t even be able to tie my own shoes, because every particle would just shatter apart. Without You, I’m just shattered pieces, but in You, I am filled with purpose and power.
John was searching for You, just like Ruth was searching for Boaz’s favor. I must seek Your favor because I don’t have favor to give You outside of You. I am unable to care for myself. The Lord of the Harvest must care for me. Am I putting myself into a perfect position to be Your target to receive grace? Have I come to the point where I am afflicted? Am I humble and low? Do I think of others first or am I still concerned about me most? Do I want to seek Your will above everything?
Lord, who am I receiving my help from? Am I numbered with the scoffers or the humble? Would I be so seeking You that I would commit everything to You? Is my belief an act of worship really? Am I really seeking You? Is my life really a life of worship? And if not, am I so desirous of You that I would commit to worship You until You change me and I experience Your grace and favor to me? Am I so desperate, so lost without You, that I will follow hard after You trusting that if I seek You, You will be found of me? That’s from 2 Chronicles 15:2. And when You say, “He will be found of you,” it literally means that You will come forth to us, You will appear, we will attain You, we will meet You, and You will be present with us. Lord, You know my answer. YES! I don’t want to just be thinking about You; I want to be living in You.