While going about your daily business two thousand years ago, a certain man ambled by and addressed you with sound authority. You had recently heard bits of rumors about him… he is a prophet, a great teacher, and a healer. He invited you to join him and his group of followers, and perhaps sensing something unique about him, you decided to follow him too.
You lived, ate, walked, talked, slept and pondered with him and his men. He told you about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the Ten Commandments. He explained some of the mysteries of scripture, cured diseases, resurrected people from the dead, and told you how to live a pleasing life for God.
How mesmerizing he was explaining how to love people and love God, warned you of false prophets, calmed your fears, forgave your sins and taught you how to pray. Gradually your admiration for this man grew into a secret desire for some of his power.
One day he called you and his other disciples around him and chose twelve to be his closest apostles. You were one of the twelve! What an honor! What glory! To be one of his inner circle! That’s a choice position! You must really be someone special!
Soon after this event, he gave you and the others real POWER: power to heal the sick, make the blind to see, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons and raise the dead. WOW! He told you to go to the cities where the Jews lived and tell them “the kingdom is at hand!
Repent!” Pretty heavy stuff here! Pretty heady too!
For three years, you and the other disciples performed miracles and followed this man. He took you and the others aside one day and asked, “Who do men say that I am?”
One of your group answered, “Elijah!”
“A great prophet!” said another.
“John the Baptist!” answered another.
Peter spoke up, “You are the Christ, the Son of God!”
The Messiah?! The Son of God?! Just think of that! You have seen, felt, and experienced the Messiah!
You saw him perform thousands of miracles, weep at the loss of a friend, have compassion on the poor, the children, and sinners. What honor, what pleasure, what glory and power and elation filled your spirit. You not only witnessed the Messiah and His works down here on earth, you were among His special disciples. That was something to write home about.
Then…now that your head is puffed way up out of proportion, and your heart is filled with pride…then…this Man says something that immediately bursts your bubble. The hot air is still hissing from your big balloon when he continued, “I must suffer many things in the days ahead…the elders and chief priests and scribes are going to reject me…I will be killed…and after three days I will rise again.”
Your mind spun out of control, the thoughts flashed by one after another with lightning speed. WHAT? He just said the elder, chief priests and scribes did not believe He is Messiah. They are going to kill Him? He will rise again in three days?
Peter spoke out, “Lord, You don’t have to go through all that. We’ll fight for You. I’ll lay down my life for You! Don’t say things like that!”You didn’t want to hear things like that either.
The Master rebuked Peter and called him, “Satan!” He continued, “Whoever saves his life will lose it but he who loses his life for My sake will save it. Don’t be ashamed of Me because if you do, I’ll be ashamed of you when I come again to judge you.”
Over the next few days or weeks He warned you of more things to come. “Don’t be deceived, for many will come in My name. There’ll be wars, earthquakes, famines and lots of trouble. You’ll be delivered up to councils, be beaten and brought up on trial before rulers and kings. You’ll be hated by all men because of Me. But endure, be faithful and you will be saved.”
Passover arrived. You joined the others in an upper room, had a good meal, good discussions and maybe got a little drowsy when you suddenly perked up at the voice of Jesus. “One of you is going to betray Me!”
That took your drowsiness away! “Betray You, Lord? Me?”
Jesus answered, “He that dips his hand in this dish with Me, that’s who it is. Woe to the man by whom I am betrayed! It’d been better if he would have never been born!”
You slowly rose from your resting place, walked over to Jesus and asked, “Master…is it I?”
He looked up at you and replied, “Yes, you have said it.”
You immediately left the room. Meeting with the chief priests and scribes later, you told them, “Jesus and His disciples will be in the garden of Gethsemane tonight. Go get Him! I’ll greet the prophet with a kiss.”
That evening you approached the garden, followed by the priests, scribes and soldiers from the temple. Walking over to Jesus you proclaimed, “Hail Master!” You leaned forward and kissed Him on His right cheek. He peered into your eyes and asked, “Friend, why did you come here?”
Later, after realizing your mistake, you had second thoughts about this event. You didn’t know it would go this far. You gave the money back. Jesus didn’t have to be crucified. “Why don’t they stop this awful nonsense?!” But it is out of your hands now.
Dejected, you found a rope, put a noose in it and prepared to end your misery. Seconds before you flung yourself off the tree branch, you vividly saw again your Master’s face and hear His last words to you, “Friend, why did you come here?” Thus was the fate of Judas Iscariot.
It might be that Jesus asks us that question today. “Friend, why do you come to Me?” Is it for the glory, the power, the esteem, the need to feel better than others? Or do our hearts reply, “Whoever saves his life will lose it but he who loses his life will save it.”
“Don’t be ashamed of me because if you do, I’ll be ashamed of you when I come again to judge you.”
Do we truly mean, as the old hymn so eloquently pleads:
Just as I am without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me;
And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee
O Lamb of God…I come…I come.
Just as I am Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve.
Because Thy promise…I believe!
O Lamb of God…I come…I come.
(Just as I am, written by Charlotte Elliott, 1789-1871)