If you have been with us through this series, then you know we have been talking about what it takes to follow Jesus and one of the things I have found both interesting and helpful is thinking about the people who were the first to follow Jesus. First of all, they weren’t perfect – so there is hope for me. We don’t have to be perfect to follow Jesus, we come just the way we are and in time Jesus changes us. They also didn’t believe in Jesus as the Savior or Lord and they struggled to understand what it meant to call him the Messiah but they followed anyway and learned along the way – which again is good news for me because there are times I struggle to understand what it means to call Jesus the Lord of my life when so much of the time I want to be in control. And last week we learned that one of the key first followers of Jesus, one of the four fishermen and the man on whom Jesus would build the church, Peter, was at times more of a consumer of Jesus than a follower.
Think of what it means to be a consumer. We buy something because we think it will help us or make our life better. We consume something because we are told it will make us happy or satisfy us in some way. Think of some of the great ad campaigns and slogans that through the years have driven this point home.
|We Bring Good Things To Life|
|Have It Your Way|
|Coke Adds Life|
This mentality is also true when we think of Jesus. If we follow Jesus just to improve our lives or to be happy, we are a consumer. If we follow Jesus so that we can get something from him at the end of life, like going to heaven, we are a consumer. These aren’t bad things and many of us start following this way, but Jesus doesn’t want consumers who are only in it for themselves, he wants followers.
Last week we learned from Peter that to follow means sacrifice and suffering. It means giving up our will and following God’s will. It means denying ourselves and taking up a cross. Ultimately Peter did this. While he struggled several times to follow Jesus, and even failed at times, ultimately Peter did set aside his will and took up a cross and followed. Today we are going to look at someone who struggled to give up his wants and desires and in the end chose not to. This person was also one of the first followers of Jesus, one of his disciples – Judas. We don’t know a lot about Judas and why he chose to follow Jesus, but we do learn that Judas was more of a consumer of Jesus than a follower. He followed Jesus to get what he could for himself and we see this clearly in one particular incident that happened near the end of Jesus ministry. John 12:1-8.
So Judas was a consumer of Jesus. He followed Jesus in order to help himself to the money that the group collected to help support them in their work. While we never hear how Jesus supports himself or where the money came from for their money bag, it did take money to sustain this group as they traveled from town to town so they clearly had money from somewhere. Judas enjoyed being a follower because he got what he wanted – money. As long as Jesus was popular and the crowds loved him, the money was there and as long as it looked like Jesus was going to be a powerful leader and ruler, the promise of money was there, but when Jesus started to talking about suffering, denial and death, the prospect of wealth and riches was gone. The turning point for Judas seemed to come at this dinner.
When a woman comes in and pours a pint of expensive perfume on Jesus, it is more than Judas can stand and so he complains about the waste of money. The perfume was worth a year’s wages and while Judas said it could have been sold to help the poor – that is not what he would have done. He wanted the money for himself. He wanted to add the money to their collection so he could help himself to it any time he wanted. Judas is not thinking about Jesus and the beautiful act of love and devotion given by this woman, and he is not thinking about the poor and ways to help them, he is thinking of himself and what it is he wants to get out of following Jesus. He wants money. While Judas followed Jesus, he maintained his own wants and desires. He refused to let them go.
We all begin to follow Jesus holding on to our own wants and desires. We follow asking God to bless our plans and to help us accomplish what we want in life. We follow still focused on what we want hoping that Jesus never asks us to let go. So in some sense we all begin to follow as a consumer looking for what we can get and what we want from Jesus, but for all of us there will come a point in time when we will be challenged because we will find that our will is not always God’s will and our desires are not always God’s. As the agenda for our lives competes with God’s will, we learn that we can’t have it both ways. We will have to make a choice – last week we called this a defining moment. For my friend Andrew it was to turn from a life of politics to the life of a Jesus follower. For me it was to turn from death to life. For Peter it was the challenge to deny himself and carry a cross – which he did.
Judas is facing his own defining moment here but unlike Peter, this story shows us what happens when we hang on to our own desires. Judas was upset that Jesus allowed this perfume to go to waste and for Judas this was the last straw because there were so many other times when Jesus could have done something to gain power, position or money and chose not to. What Judas wanted to get from Jesus, fame, power and fortune, was conflicting with what Jesus wanted, a sacrificial love that forgives and redeems, so holding on to his own wants and desires – Judas goes into action. In Matthew 26 we find the same story of the woman anointing Jesus but we also see what happens to Judas after, Matthew 26:13-16.
Judas agrees to hand Jesus over to the chief priests. He betrays Jesus into the hands of the religious leaders. Now let’s just stop and think about this for a moment. That Judas thinks he can actually hand Jesus over seems absurd when we think about all that Judas had seen in Jesus. Judas was there when Jesus silenced the storm and calmed the seas – so Judas saw the power and authority Jesus had over nature. Judas was there when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead so Judas knew that Jesus had power and authority over death itself. Judas was there when Jesus restored sight to the blind, made the lame walk and healed the lepers. Judas was there when Jesus silenced the religious leaders and walked out of their plans to destroy him. Judas had seen all this power and authority in Jesus and yet he wants what he wants so badly that he is blind to who Jesus really is and the power Jesus has and believes that he can insert his will over God’s will. Looking at it that way, it seems absurd for Judas to do this, but in some way, we do the same thing.
When we only call on God when we need God to step in and help us and do what we want God to do and when we ask God to do things our way and in our time and then ignore God until we need him gain we are acting much the same way Judas did. We are consumers looking to get what we want from Jesus. Judas was trying to get Jesus to do what he wanted Jesus to do. Judas was trying to force Jesus hand by turning him over to the religious leaders because if they arrested Jesus then Jesus would have to reveal who he was to the world and then they would all rise up into positions of power and authority and then they would have all the money they wanted.
Judas was saying to Jesus, I want what I want and I am going to do what I have to do to get it regardless of what you want. So on the night of the Passover, Judas saw an opportunity to betray Jesus when Jesus said that they were all going to go alone to the Garden of Gethsemane. The garden was a remote place outside the city and at night no one would be around so it was the perfect time and place for Judas to give Jesus into the hands of the religious leaders. Judas told them to come to the garden and arrest the man that he would greet with a kiss.
So Jesus and the disciples go to the garden and then Judas and the soldiers of the high priest arrive and Judas greets Jesus with a kiss and Jesus is arrested. So far, everything is going just the way Judas had planned it, but the next day something unexpected happened. Matthew 27:1-4.
Judas handed Jesus over to the religious leaders knowing that the religious leaders did not have the power to execute someone. They could arrest and put people on trial but they could not execute them. Judas betrayed Jesus thinking that during a trial it would force Jesus to make himself known as the Messiah. This would not only raise Jesus into a position of power but it would raise up all of his disciples as well, which was what Judas wanted. But when the religious leaders decided to hand Jesus over to Pilate and the Romans to be killed, Judas realizes that his plan has gone horribly wrong. This was why Judas tried to return the money and repent of his actions. But for Judas it was too late. He can’t undo what he has already done. There are some choices, some decisions and some actions we can’t undo. We can ask for forgiveness, but we cannot go back and Judas could not go back.
Not only could Judas not go back, but we also see here that God’s plan could not be stopped. What Judas was trying to do was to keep Jesus from dying, but we see here that God’s hand can’t be forced and God’s will can’t be thwarted. We cannot impose our wants over God’s will because God’s will can be changed and if we insist on our will and getting our own way and doing things our way, we will lose. Judas lost. Not only were his plans turned upside down, but the rest of the story does not end well for Judas. Matthew 27:5.
By trying to live his life his own way and seeking only what he wanted – Judas ended up with nothing. To put this into the words of Jesus we heard last week, Judas tried to save his life but in the end he lost his life. He tried to gain the whole world but he lost his soul. Consumers look to Jesus looking for and asking only for what they want. Consumers wear the shoes they believe will lead them to fulfill all the hopes and dreams they have in life. No where do we see that more than in the basketball shoe market. If we wear the right shoes we can become an All Star like Chuck Taylor
|Chuck Taylor wearing the Converse All Stars|
or we can be like Mike if you prefer Nikes.
|Michael wearing his “Air Jordans”|
We buy and use these shoes to fulfill our wants and dreams but when we follow Jesus there will be times when what we want will compete and be in tension with what God wants and while the temptation will be for us to keep our shoes on and just do it, what we need to do is stop and pray a simple and honest prayer.
We don’t pray, God I want what You want more than I want what I want because that is not always very honest, we don’t always want what God wants, so our prayer needs to be, God I want to want what you want more than what I want.
In my own life there have been those times when my wants and desire have not always lined up with God’s desire for me and while I want to pray, God may your will be done, I find I am often just not ready to say that. But I want to be able to say that. I want to want God’s will. I want to want to follow God’s plans and purposes for my life. So many times my prayer has been, God I want to want what you want for me more than I want what I want for me. This is not the prayer of a consumer but a follower.
We all have choices to make in our faith. We can be a consumer and look to Jesus to give us what we want. We can look to God and like Judas ask God to do things our way and in our time and then step forward and just do it – or we can stop in those moments and pray, God help me want what you want, not what I want. This is the prayer of someone who turns to Jesus and follows.
FOLLOW ~ I Want
1. Have you ever wanted something so much that you were willing to do anything to get it? Did you ever get it?
2. Read the story of Judas Iscariot.
• Matthew 26:6-16 and Matthew 27:1-10
• John 12:1-11
3. What was it that Judas wanted? How did this conflict with what God wanted?
4. How did Judas try to force the hand of Jesus or thwart the plans of God? Did it happen?
5. Identify a time when you felt tension between God’s will and your desire? How did that tension get resolved?
6. Can you name a person in your life who has given up what they wanted to be faithful to the will of God? How has their example shaped your faith? Inspired your life?
7. If you are feeling a tension today between the will of God and your own desires, make this your prayer, God, I want to want what you want more than what I want.