We greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I thank the Lord for these Easter days when we are reminded of the death of Jesus Christ. Paul said that we are not bought with silver or gold but with the precious blood of God’s only begotten Son. This event is when Jesus bought us with His blood. Even if we cannot attend church at this time, we should remember that we were bought with this precious blood.
According to Biblical history, it was yesterday evening when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane where He was arrested. He was judged through the night by Pilate and King Herod and then sentenced to death on the cross. Allow me to go back to the time before He was crucified.
Today’s text is taken from Luke 22:37,39-44
37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’[ and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfilment.”
39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.]
This is a touching and sad text. If you are a child of God you cannot remain untouched by this text. You can feel the pain that Jesus felt while he knelt and prayed. You realise the battle that He went through.
Jesus had a close group of 12 disciples. When Jesus helped people and prayed for them, He went with His group of disciples, but this group was no longer complete because Judas was absent. When Jesus needed the support of his close disciples, this disciple was not present. My prayer is, “Lord, when You are in distress, I do not want to be far from You.” When Jesus needs you, you should be close to Him. I counted the number of years that I have followed the Lord, but it would be heart-breaking if when the Lord needed me, I would not be there. May God help us to be close to the Lord and support Him in the difficult times. What happened to Judas should not be taken lightly because such a thing can happen to us. You may have been a child of God for many years and attending church but such a thing can happen to you too.
Let us take a closer look at the life of Judas. Judas met the Lord Jesus and his sins were forgiven. He left everything to follow Christ. He experienced the wonder and warmth of being with the Lord Jesus. He witnessed Lazarus being raised from the dead. He saw people healed and the blind receiving their sight. He witnessed the miracles that Jesus performed. He knew the Lord. He walked with the other disciples. When Jesus preached the sermon of the mount, Judas was there. When Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God,” Judas must have heard it. When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness,” Judas heard these words too. After hearing all these words, Judas was not there in the end. The others experienced the blessing of Jesus praying for them, seeing the angel strengthening Him but Judas was not there.
You might witness how others receive God’s blessings but you are not one of them. Judas, after experiencing so much with Christ, why were you not there? The devil entered the heart of Judas and he betrayed the Son of God who had no sin. The Bible says that we should not give the devil a foothold. If he enters, he changes everything. That which is good he says is bad. That which is bad he says is good. The truth is a lie and the lie is the truth. Judas allowed the devil to enter his heart and He did something he never imagined he would do.
Brethren, do not give the devil a place in your heart. If the devil is trying to entice you with something, run away and do not give him a place. If he enters your life he will take away your peace and the joy of the Lord.
When the devil entered Judas’ heart, he told the high priests that he would betray Jesus. He betrayed Jesus who had no sin. Jesus was arrested and crucified because Judas had allowed the devil into his heart. When Jesus hung on the cross, he cried out, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” He asked for forgiveness for the people who crucified Him. Who would do this? He asked forgiveness for the people who had beaten and crucified Him. I believe that Jesus included Judas in this prayer, but I do not know whether Judas ever received that forgiveness. Someone can request forgiveness on your behalf but you do not accept it. While a person prays for forgiveness for you, you should also pray for it. What happened to Judas, could happen to you.
37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’[b]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfilment.”
What is a transgressor? A person who does not know the Lord and does evil – a criminal, a liar, a thief. Jesus said that He needed to die the death of a transgressor, a dishonourable death. Crucifixion was not meant for an upright person. People who were criminals were punished in this way. This was the type of death Jesus had to go through. Jesus came to earth to do the will of His Father. He never did things out of His own will. He did God’s will at all times. That is why He said that He needed to die the death of a transgressor. Jesus said that He needed to work while it was still day. Jesus did nothing because He wished to but because He had to. Jesus needed to die. Without His death you and I would not have been saved. We are saved through the death of Jesus. His blood needed to be shed in order for us to be saved through it. If Jesus would not have died we would not have been saved.
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” Revelations 7:9-12
When John saw this vision, He asked who the crowd was and He was told that they had come out of great tribulation and had never stopped cleansing their garments. They were able to stand there because they had diligently washed their robes and they were white. If Jesus would not have died these people would have been unable to stand before the throne. Jesus had to die so that their robes could be washed as white as snow and to enable them to praise God day and night.
After Jesus told His disciples that He needed to die as a transgressor, he went to the Garden as was His custom. It was here that Jesus would pray and be one with His God. He did not stop going to the garden because He knew He was going to die. He still went there to pray. There His heart was troubled. He cried out Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
I remember one Easter, Rev Stegen explained this matter: Jesus was not troubled because He faced death but it was the prospect of drinking the cup full of our sin – our disobedience, lies, immorality – that troubled Him. He had to die bearing the sin He knew nothing about. This troubled Jesus. He prayed earnestly and his sweat drops were like drops of blood.
Jesus endured all this so that He might take your soul out of hell. His sweat became like drops of blood because of His effort to take your soul from hell. Without Him having gone through this agony we would have gone to hell.
May the Lord bless and help us as we continue with these Easter services.