The Man I Might Have Been
By Pastor Hal Mayer
Welcome to Keep the Faith Ministry. Thank you for joining us today. It is a great pleasure to spend this time with you. I hope and pray that the Lord is opening the windows of heaven upon you and your family. We are living in the last days, and more than ever, we must anchor our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Master.
Thank you for your prayers and support. They mean an awful lot to us at Keep the Faith. I am thrilled as I travel from place to place and meet with God’s people because I see what a help our little CD preachers have been to them. So many people tell me that they listen to the messages every month. I am so very thankful for that.
Please pass our CDs on to others. Feel free to copy them all you wish. We’ll even send you bulk quantities to share with others if you ask us. You are in our hearts and in our prayers.
I recently had a lovely visit with Elder Lawrence Nelson, my predecessor and founder of Keep the Faith Ministry seventeen years ago. He is 95 years of age and is of very good mind, though his physical ability is limited. He is no longer able to preach, so I asked him if he had any sermons that he would like me to do on his behalf. He kindly gave me the notes of a number of sermons that have never been recorded. My message today is actually a joint effort. I have added some of my own material to his message and together we present this message to you. While you will only hear my voice, the message is from both of us.
Today I’m going to share with you the autobiography of a man whom you will recognize. This sad story is a warning to us. I’m going to tell it in first person, in his own words so to speak. It is as if this person is telling his own personal story from outside the walls of the New Jerusalem after it has come down out of heaven, just before judgment is meted out to the wicked at the end of the millennium. You are in a dream, which has taken you forward in time to that great moment. You are standing next to him outside the walls. The wicked have been raised to life to receive their eternal sentence. I hope it helps you realize what you must do to secure your place inside the city.
Listen to this statement from Great Controversy, page 666 and 667. “In the presence of the assembled inhabitants of earth and heaven the final coronation of the Son of God takes place. And now, invested with supreme majesty and power, the King of kings pronounces sentence upon the rebels against His government and executes justice upon those who have transgressed His law and oppressed His people. Says the prophet of God: “I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” Revelation 20:11, 12.
Notice that the wicked are judged according to the things they have done in the flesh, according to their works. Their works are a window on the “thoughts and imaginations” of their hearts.
But listen to the next sentence. “As soon as the books of record are opened, and the eye of Jesus looks upon the wicked, they are conscious of every sin which they have ever committed. They see just where their feet diverged from the path of purity and holiness, just how far pride and rebellion have carried them in the violation of the law of God. The seductive temptations which they encouraged by indulgence in sin, the blessings perverted, the messengers of God despised, the warnings rejected, the waves of mercy beaten back by the stubborn, unrepentant heart—all appear as if written in letters of fire.”
Can you imagine the gripping scene? There, standing before the judge of the earth will be the wicked that will see all their sins in vivid detail and all at once. They will no doubt have a sorrow and bitterness that nothing can change or heal.
I’ll read on. “Above the throne is revealed the cross; and like a panoramic view appear the scenes of Adam’s temptation and fall, and the successive steps in the great plan of redemption. The Saviour’s lowly birth; His early life of simplicity and obedience; His baptism in Jordan; the fast and temptation in the wilderness; His public ministry, unfolding to men heaven’s most precious blessings; the days crowded with deeds of love and mercy, the nights of prayer and watching in the solitude of the mountains; the plottings of envy, hate, and malice which repaid His benefits; the awful, mysterious agony in Gethsemane beneath the crushing weight of the sins of the whole world; His betrayal into the hands of the murderous mob; the fearful events of that night of horror—the unresisting prisoner, forsaken by His best-loved disciples, rudely hurried through the streets of Jerusalem; the Son of God exultingly displayed before Annas, arraigned in the high priest’s palace, in the judgment hall of Pilate, before the cowardly and cruel Herod, mocked, insulted, tortured, and condemned to die—all are vividly portrayed.
Think about that celestial video. Did you hear that about His betrayal? That’s Judas, our subject today. How could a man who had been with Jesus day and night for three years, do such a terrible deed? Perhaps when we listen to him we will understand a little better.
Continuing on… “And now before the swaying multitude are revealed the final scenes—the patient Sufferer treading the path to Calvary; the Prince of heaven hanging upon the cross; the haughty priests and the jeering rabble deriding His expiring agony; the supernatural darkness; the heaving earth, the rent rocks, the open graves, marking the moment when the world’s Redeemer yielded up His life.”
“The awful spectacle appears just as it was. Satan, his angels, and his subjects have no power to turn from the picture of their own work. Each actor recalls the part which he performed. Herod, who slew the innocent children of Bethlehem that he might destroy the King of Israel; the base Herodias, upon whose guilty soul rests the blood of John the Baptist; the weak, timeserving Pilate; the mocking soldiers; the priests and rulers and the maddened throng who cried, “His blood be on us, and on our children!”—all behold the enormity of their guilt. They vainly seek to hide from the divine majesty of His countenance, outshining the glory of the sun, while the redeemed cast their crowns at the Saviour’s feet, exclaiming: ‘He died for me!’
For the wicked, Jesus died in vain. Did Jesus die for you in vain, my friends? I hope not. One of those for whom He died in vain was one of His disciples. I will tell it in his own words, just as if you are there in your dream listening to him speak outside the walls of the New Jerusalem.
I’d like to remind you of a verse found in Matthew 27:5. This verse describes a moment shortly after I realized that I had made an irreparable mistake. Listen to it. “And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed and went and hanged himself.” That’s talking about me, Judas. I was so devastated; I could not live with myself. Once I had betrayed Jesus, once I saw Him accept the abuse of the leaders, I knew I was finished, lost! I mean, I thought He would not let Himself be taken and crucified. I was certain that He would have freed Himself and set up His earthly kingdom.
But, how wrong I was. When I realized He would do nothing for His own deliverance, I knew I had miscalculated Jesus. I also knew the hatred and malice of the church leaders toward Him. It was similar to those who were the religious leaders just before the close of probation a thousand years ago. They thought they were doing God’s service when they ruthlessly persecuted those who followed Him and were living by His law, especially keeping the seventh-day Sabbath. I had no hope, no hope of relief from the guilt. There is no sorrow like that. No distress as painful and impenetrable. No experience so dreadful. I was compelled to take my life. I self-destructed because of my sin. Now I am facing the final judgment where sinners will be sent to their everlasting punishment. I will be as if I never was. My eternal destiny is sealed. I am about to go through the lake of fire and there is nothing I can do about it! It is too late!
When you think of me, you usually have negative thoughts. You wouldn’t name your children after me like you do the other disciples. Why is it that John, Peter, James, Matthew and others were popular names, but not Judas? Once upon a time, my name was a good name. Otherwise my father would not have named me that. Judas actually means “Praise of God,” which is perfectly suited for any boy with godly parents, who rejoice and praise God when they have a little boy.
One of Jacob’s sons had my name. Do you remember Judah? So did one of Jesus’ brothers. He wrote the book of Jude. And even a famous warrior and military leader had my name. Do you remember Judas Maccabaeus? He was to the Jews what George Washington was to the United States.
I also had another name, Iscariot, which means “son of Kerioth,” which is a village where the prophet Amos was born about 50 miles south of Jerusalem. I was the only disciple that was not from Galilee.
So you see I had a good start. I was raised in a religious home. I was taught to believe in God and love my country. Early on, I wanted to do something with my life to relieve my people from the Roman yoke of oppression. I could see, even as a young boy, I had talent, and I wanted to use those skills to bring freedom to my people. I had been trained in the best schools. I had done very well in economics, political science and law, and I learned to read and write.
And I also caught the vision! I was taught that when the Messiah would come, He would free the Jews from their Roman oppressors. And I wanted to be part of that!
So when I graduated from my course, I dedicated my life to being a scribe. A scribe was someone who was very well educated. He could read and write, which made him very valuable to those who couldn’t, particularly leaders who had not been educated in these things. Scribes were often given positions next to kings, governors, military captains and even the High Priest. Scribes wrote letters, drew up decrees, managed finances for their employer, and handled many of his personal or political affairs.
Being a scribe was the best way to get an appointment to a high position in the church or in the nation. Scribes were insiders. They were on the inner circle of power and knew all the affairs of the domain of their employer, whether military, government or church. Scribes were the doctors of the law and often they were interpreters of scripture. I knew all the prophecies of the Messiah and taught them to others in the way in which I had been taught. I was working my way up the ladder. My work kept me close to the centers of influence in Jerusalem and other places around Judea.
Being an insider had its special privileges too. A scribe could anticipate what was going to happen and position himself to benefit from it, something like insider trading in your day. But in those days, you could get away with it. Being a scribe was a much respected profession and usually led to good pay and a very comfortable life.
Reference: McClintock and Strong, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Harper and Brothers, 1880.
I knew I had a lot to contribute and thought perhaps that I might be able to hold a high position in the Messiah’s government. I thought perhaps that the time for the Messiah was near. It just seemed that things could not have gotten much worse in society. Also, the prophecies of Daniel seemed to indicate that maybe the Messiah would come soon. But I told no one of my personal ambitions.
One day I heard about a new rabbi in Israel. He had amazing powers. He could heal the sick, make the lame to walk and the blind to see. “Maybe,” I thought. “Just maybe this is the Messiah, the one who would end the reign of terror and oppression.” So, I set out on a journey to see if I could find Him and discern if maybe He was the One.
I watched Him from a distance for a while. I didn’t want to make any move that would identify me with someone who was a mere imposter. There were many in those days who led uprisings against the Romans and who would be sacrificed as victims of Roman rule. I could not afford to attach myself to anyone too soon because I had talents that could help the Messiah and I had to be certain that I wasn’t going to just throw them away.
As I listened to Jesus speak I was impressed. If, in fact, He were to set up a kingdom like He suggested He would, it would be a great place to live. No war. No injustice, no famine, no trials, no death, no sorrow, constant peace. Who wouldn’t want to live there? I didn’t realize that He was talking about the kingdom of the heart, and that the only part of that kingdom on the earth was the characters of the people who would one day populate it. Yes, He spoke about His Father’s place, a physical reality, but I didn’t realize that He was referring to a spiritual kingdom with a physical reality that would not and could not be in the present. I just thought He was using euphemisms to disguise His real intentions.
I could also see that with His supernatural powers, the Romans wouldn’t stand a chance. Nothing would stand in His way. I became convinced that He was in fact the long awaited Messiah.
And the more I watched Him the more attracted to Him I was. I felt the influence of His Divine power and was not insensible to the beauty of His character. I was drawn to Him. I needed Him. But I also knew that I must not let go of my mission – to become one of His closest advisors in the new national kingdom.
I saw the other disciples whom He had chosen and I wondered if He really knew what He was doing. He had chosen the most unlikely group of men to train for His kingdom and I was a little disappointed that He did not think more carefully about His companions. It didn’t make any sense to me for Him to hire humble fishermen. They would never help Him get ahead. Nor was it a good idea to choose a tax gatherer. That would never ingratiate Him to the church leaders. They despised publicans. Jesus would need their support. So, He needed someone to give Him better counsel. Being a scribe, I knew I could do the job. Besides, I was pretty well connected in Jerusalem. I had all the qualifications to make Jesus’ work a success.
Jesus would need someone like me who was an astute businessman with a good political and economic background. He would need someone well connected, and someone who could manage His personal affairs. He would also need someone who had scribal skills, a lawyer who could make sure all His legal affairs were right. Someone who had been trained in clear thinking and careful management needed to be closely connected with Jesus if He was ever going to succeed in overcoming the Romans, be the king of the Jews, and restore the prosperity of Israel. And prosperity was something very important to me. I knew that for a time there would need to be sacrifices. That’s always the way it is with revolutionary projects. But eventually the payoff would come and the sacrifices would be well compensated. That is the way the political world works. I was willing to make those sacrifices for a while, so long as I was assured that there would be a high position in the new government for me at the end.
So I decided to introduce myself to Jesus. I dressed my best and spoke respectfully with one of His disciples and suggested that maybe I could be of service to their Master. When I gave him my credentials and my personal history, my resume, he was very excited and introduced me to the others. Eventually, they took me to see Jesus and recommended that I be one of their number. They could see that I had executive ability. I also had a commanding appearance and could speak with authority. But Jesus didn’t welcome me nor repulse me but He said something that seemed very strange to me at the time. You can read it in Matthew 8:19-20.
“And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath no where to lay his head.”
It bothered me a little but I was optimistic and felt that Jesus just wasn’t shrewd enough to know what to do to improve His situation. But I made a good impression on the disciples, and I believed that I could work with them. In fact, they held me in high regard and believed that I would bring prestige. They thought that I was an excellent counselor and sought me out for advice. After all, I had keen discernment at least as far as Jewish affairs were concerned.
Being around Jesus however was not what I had expected. It was as if when He spoke to us disciples that He could read my heart, and many of His words spoke directly against my principles and plans. I knew I was better than those other disciples. I knew they appreciated my gifts and talents, but Jesus never acknowledged them or approved of them. The disciples needed me. Peter was so impetuous. He would act before he would think. I was always very careful to think before I acted. John was a terrible economist and financier. Matthew was too honest and particular and was always absorbed in Jesus’ teachings to be trusted for sharp business dealings. And the same was true for the other disciples. I was the only one with qualifications to be effective as a leader. So, to my way of thinking, once the new national kingdom was established, I would be the only choice Jesus could make for prime minister, foreign minister or some other very important post. I would be an honor to the cause.
I lived with Jesus for quite some time. I listened to His sermons and heard the same lessons He taught to the others. But somehow He often applied them in such a way as it made me uncomfortable. It was almost as if Jesus was trying to suggest that my sacrifices would not be rewarded. His teachings confronted me with things in my life that were in conflict with His ideas.
I went out with the disciples and preached. He gave me the Holy Spirit so that I too could heal the sick. That was awesome! Imagine being able to do miracles like Jesus! I was always encouraged to do the right thing when I was with Him, but something inside me would not let me forget why I was there. My mission was to help Him establish His earthly kingdom.
Since I was so good with finances, I was given the moneybag, to manage the small resources that would come to us from the gifts of friends. I didn’t like it, but I was often instructed to give money to the poor from our rather restricted resources. We never seemed to have enough and it always bothered me that we would never get paid. We had all things in common. I felt that at least I should be paid for my efforts. After all, I was quite valuable to the group. So I would use some of the money for my own needs in payment, as it were, for my services. After all, Jesus Himself said that “the labourer is worthy of his hire.” Luke 10:7.
I was a man who had a spiritual cancer growing inside. Let me illustrate. Back before the apocalypse, we had creatures called butterflies. They were glorious winged creatures that came from caterpillars. Not all caterpillars became butterflies. Scientists said that a certain type of fly would lay an egg under the skin of a caterpillar. When the egg would hatch, the larvae would feed on the developing butterfly. The caterpillar felt no pain and went right on living the life of a caterpillar with the worm eating him out inside.
The wings never appeared. The grub destroyed his capacity to advance, and the beautiful winged creature that might have been was gone.
The trouble with me was that there was a grub inside of me keeping me from being the man I might have been. What was it that kept me from being what I might have been?
I’ll tell you. It was worldly ambition. I had been associated with patriotism, power and freedom. I was an ardent enthusiast for Jewish independence. When I first observed Jesus I saw a man who was fearless. He had qualities of a good leader. Really, considering everything, He was the answer to my dreams and I was ready to follow Him to victory. I was ready to fight by His side. I wanted to get to the top of His new government. Imagine Jesus, soon to be the King of Israel! I was overjoyed. I would be His most trusted and closest counselor. I would oversee the treasury and would make sure that no one undermined Him.
One day Jesus announced secretly to us disciples that He was in fact the Messiah. Read it in Matthew 16:15-17, 20.
Jesus asked us disciples a question. “But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’ And Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven…’ Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.”
Well, it was obvious all along that He was the Messiah. I knew that, but Jesus was not making a lot of public statements about this fact. He was doing things that only the Messiah could do. But every time I would suggest that maybe it was time to start setting up the national temporal kingdom He would change the subject. That upset me. I wanted to move forward and it seemed that Jesus missed every opportunity.
When I joined Christ, I did not know that I would have to give up my cherished hopes for a worldly kingdom. To Jesus, being the Messiah meant one thing, but to us disciples, it meant another. To Jesus, being the Messiah meant the cross. To us, it meant a sword and an earthly crown. Eventually the others came around to His viewpoint, but not I. If His kingdom did not include glory, power, riches and honor, His cause was not for me! But I kept hoping that what I was really seeing was His humility. I could not believe Him when He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36. I brushed it off because of my preconceived ideas. I kept hoping, almost to the end that everything would work out according to our long-held interpretations of prophecy. I could not imagine or fathom any other alternative. Hadn’t God promised that the Messiah would restore the kingdom to power and glory? Little did I realize that instead of the present, Jesus was talking about a future, heavenly kingdom, the new earth and the New Jerusalem that you see right over there.
But everything always seemed to go wrong. Take John the Baptist, for instance. I had it all worked out. When Jesus would proclaim Himself king, He would deliver John from Prison. After all, John had been so loyal and had been the one to baptize Him.
But alas, John was beheaded. What a tragedy! Jesus missed a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate His power. He let John languish in prison. Even John was discouraged and sent His disciples to ask if Jesus was the promised Messiah, or should they look for another.
I wanted aggressive warfare. And as I watched the increasing enmity of the Jewish leaders and saw their demand for a sign unheeded, I wondered why Jesus was so discouraging of pursuing any temporal advantages. Why did He predict trials and persecution? Why did He insist on humility when He could be king? The truth is I personally never did make an irrevocable decision that Jesus was the Son of God. I just kept on watching.
Several events led me to question whether Jesus would ever assert His Messiahship. Do you remember the time when we fed 5,000 men plus women and children? What a king He would have made! The whole multitude knew that He was the Messiah. The conviction had been growing all day. Look, He could supply every need. Food would be no problem. He could “make Judea an earthly paradise, a land flowing with milk and honey. He [could] satisfy every desire. He [could] break the power of the hated Romans. He [could] deliver Judah and Jerusalem. He [could] heal the soldiers who were wounded in battle. He [could] supply whole armies with food. He [could] conquer the nations, and give to Israel the long-sought dominion.” DA p.377
The people were enthusiastic and wanted to crown Him king. I was the one who led out in this. I had been advancing the idea that Christ would reign as king in Jerusalem. I even helped the other disciples pass out the food. I helped them bring the sick to Jesus and I witnessed their happy relief and joy. I felt the satisfaction that always comes in the service of Christ. I might have comprehended Christ’s mission, but I willfully clung to my own. I cherished selfish desires. So I set on foot the movement to take Him by force and make Him king. My hopes were high and my disappointment was bitter when Christ sent us away and disbursed the crowd in the very act of taking Him.
But the turning point was Christ’s discourse in the synagogue about the bread of life. You can read about it in John 6:53. When I heard the words, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you” I saw for the first time that Christ was offering spiritual goods instead of temporal treasures. I regarded myself as farsighted, and I could see that Jesus would have no honor, and that He could bestow no high position upon His followers. I determined not to unite myself so closely to Christ but that I could draw away. I would watch, secretly hoping that this would be the true Son of David, a leader like David for Israel. DA p.719
I began to express doubts to the other disciples that confused them. I introduced controversies and misleading sentiments, repeating the arguments of the scribes and Pharisees against the claims of Christ. I exaggerated the difficulties and hindrances we endured and made them appear as evidences against the truthfulness of the Gospel. I tried to make all my statements appear that I was conscientious and was working in the best interests of Jesus and His mission. I was continually leading them imperceptivity to distrust Jesus. And in distrusting Jesus, they also distrusted each other. DA p.719
I was able to get them into disagreements over which one of them would be the greatest in the new kingdom. It was I who encouraged them to be ambitious for preferential treatment.
When Jesus told the rich young ruler the conditions of discipleship, I was greatly displeased. Here was a great mistake. Jesus should have recognized how helpful this young man could be to the cause. I thought I was wiser than Christ and that all this self-denial was not the way to go. I saw something to disagree in everything Jesus taught.
My hopes brightened enormously at the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem. I can still hear the children shouting “hosanna.” I can still see the palm branches waving in their hands. I saw something important when Jesus took the initiative to cleanse the temple single-handedly. The moneychangers fled in terror. Now things were beginning to move. It was as if Jesus was now exerting Himself as the authority that He was. Here was the Messiah I wanted; one who would rule by the rod of iron. But then Jesus didn’t follow up with it. He let the opportunity slip away.
Then came the feast at the home of Simon the Leper. It was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” We were all sitting there following the meal when that woman came in.
You can read about it in Mark 14:3. “And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the Leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard, very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.”
You remember that anointing was very significant to the Kings in Old Testament times. If this grand and lavish gesture was a step toward the kingdom you wouldn’t know it. Little did I realize that she was anointing Jesus as king of her heart.
I was shamed by what she did. It was so lavish, so extravagant. I would never have done such a thing. I was even convicted of my own selfishness. She respected Christ and loved Him much more than I did. I was very displeased. My greed sprang up. I needed a few more shekels for my own personal use.
But I had to disguise my feelings, so I quietly said to the other disciples near me, “Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor.” I also wanted the others to think that Jesus had done the wrong thing by letting her do this to Him.
But then Jesus made a remark that quickly dashed my hopes and all my fantasies of the future. “Let her alone; why trouble ye her?” He said. “She has wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could. She has come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.”
I was shocked. Jesus’ words stung. I thought her anointing was to point Him to a crown, not a cross! Well, I guess she was pointing Him to a crown, a crown of thorns as it turned out. The crown of gold that Jesus wears now is not an earthly crown. If you look carefully you can see her up on the wall over there, kneeling at His feet.
Jesus’ words rankled me. I was exposed, unmasked. My stark naked soul left me angry at Christ. He seemed to read my thoughts. For the first time, Jesus rebuked me directly. My hypocrisy was open to all. Yet, how can I forget that look of Christ, lovingly, pleadingly reaching out to me?
But it was always the same. Jesus continually turned away from earthly glory, and then reproved those who objected. At Simon’s house, I was fed up! I’d had enough. The game was over as far as I was concerned. I felt I was wasting my time. There was no hope for any national kingdom, no hope of a good position in the new government, no hope of reward for all my sacrifices. I couldn’t stand being there any longer with that motley group of fools. They were headed for bankruptcy. The wreck wasn’t worth supporting any more.
I wouldn’t go along with this charade another minute. I was angry and wanted revenge on Christ for saying what He did.
Then I had an idea. Jesus never answered any of those Pharisees who asked for a sign. So, here was my chance. I would make Him prove His divinity. I could force Him to make a choice. He would have to work some miracle to save Himself. Then everybody would know if He was the Christ.
I reasoned that if Jesus was to be crucified, the event must come to pass. If I turned Him over to the priests, it would not change the result. If Jesus was not to die, my plan would only force Him to deliver Himself. And in the end, I would make a little money at it as well. All will end well. The end justifies the means.
I could not fathom that Christ would permit Himself to be arrested. In betraying Him, it was my purpose to teach Him a lesson. I intended to play a part that would make Jesus be careful in the future to treat me with respect. But I did not know that I was giving Jesus up to death.
I knew in my heart that Jesus could escape them. He had done it many times before. In Nazareth, after reading and applying the scriptures in a rather pointed way, too pointed in fact, they were going to throw Him off the cliff, but He just disappeared. There were other times when His truths had been brought home to the hearts of the leaders and they had taken up stones to stone Him. But He just slipped away. He often escaped the deadly snares of these wicked men. Why not this time?
So, I decided to put the matter to the test. If Jesus really was the Messiah, the people, for whom He had done so much, would rally about Him, and would proclaim Him king. This would forever settle many minds that were now in uncertainty. I would get the credit for having placed the king on David’s throne. And naturally, I would have the position next to Christ in the new kingdom. I had it all planned out. Never did I realize that I was about to make an eternally fatal mistake. DA p.721
I went straight to the High Priest. I was surprised to find the high council was assembled. Amazingly they were discussing what to do about Jesus. I offered to help them find Jesus at night to take Him secretly. I would lead them to His usual haunt where He and His disciples would rest and pray.
I was so selfish and greedy that I bargained with them for money. In the end we agreed on 30 pieces of silver, the price of a slave. Joseph was sold for 20 pieces of silver by my namesake, Judah. That was also the price of a slave way back then. Now I was doing the same to Jesus. Joseph was the savior of His family and of the whole world really. I suppose he was a type of Christ. And now I was fulfilling what Judah had done prophetically, many centuries before. The only difference was that Judah repented and was eventually reconciled to his brother Joseph. I could have done the same. Had I done so, I would be up there on the city walls today. But I couldn’t stand to humble myself and confess my greed and selfishness.
There’s an old saying. “Revenge is so sweet.” Don’t believe it. I had my revenge, but it was not sweet. I chose a kiss as a sign to His enemies. The kiss was a feigned sign of my friendship and love for Christ, but in reality it was a betrayal to His relentless foes. And the revenge wasn’t sweet. When He turned to me and said “Friend, wherefore art thou come, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss? I felt the heavy pangs of guilt.
When He looked at me, even in the dark I felt the bitterest gall in my soul. Nursing feelings of resentment, vengeance or spite will never satisfy the soul. Only forgiveness will bring happiness and peace. I didn’t learn that lesson. My selfishness fostered a spirit of resentment in my soul. I couldn’t forgive. I could not let go of my selfishness. Now I’m doomed. I didn’t forgive Christ, so now He cannot forgive me. It is too late. Now I will never know true peace. That’s why I’m going to suffer the second death instead of being with Christ in the New Jerusalem. An unforgiving spirit is the road to hell. I know from personal experience.
There is an old poem that goes something like this,
“O Laddie, my laddie, with quick-flashing eye;
With boyish cheek crimson and pulse beating high,
You say you’ll get even, no matter how long,
It takes you to pay for a slight or a wrong.
But tell me, O laddie, just whisper it low,
The secret I long have been wanting to know:
When after you hurry and flurry and fret,
At last you get even, just what do you get?
Is it something that gives you a glad thrill of joy,
That makes you a better, a manlier boy?
Is it something that conscience may whisper, ‘well done,’
And bring you sweet peace at the set of the sun?
O laddie, the whole world is waiting to know
The secret that puzzled wise men long ago;
If, after you worry and flurry and fret,
At last you get even, just what do you get?
There is nothing to get, but emptiness and a smitten conscience. I learned way too late, that forgiveness is the only way to have peace and happiness. Revenge or vengeance is the fruit of ambition, because sooner or later someone or something is going to stand in the way of that ambition. And that will make you angry and resentful.
The other disciples had worldly ambition too. You may remember John. He wanted to sit next to Christ in the new national kingdom. You know who put him and his mother up to that? It was me. I was the one who encouraged the disunity that this caused. But John eventually learned to yield to the will of God. Christ became His master, something I could not bring myself to do. I thought I knew better than Jesus Himself. Now look at me. Here I am about to be eternally destroyed. There is still no repentance in my heart, even though I have confessed my sin openly to you today. That’s why I’m lost. That’s why my life will soon end again.
I could have been like John. We lived at the same time. We walked under the same sky. We experienced the same temptations. We fellowshipped with the same radiant personality. We both listened to His stories and parables. We both had the privilege to listen to His lessons and see His miracles. We shared the same apostleship. I might have been like John if I had only surrendered my worldly hopes like he did. I never accepted Him as my Savior and as my Master. I never let myself be molded by His teachings and example.
I remember very well His appeal. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24.
I could have also been like Simon Peter. His sin, base as it was in denying Jesus with an oath, was not unforgivable because he repented. He sinned against the most wonderful person that ever lived. Did that make his case hopeless? Just the opposite, Jesus forgave him freely. I even watched Him forgive an adulteress. “Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
He forgave the thief on the cross. He promised him life. “Thou shalt be with me in Paradise,” He said. He never refused forgiveness to those who sought it.
If I would have repented, He would have forgiven me too! Wasn’t He trying to tell me that in the garden when He said, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” He called me friend. He saw me at my worst. He did not denounce me, but loved me. He spoke tenderly.
Why didn’t I repent? Perhaps for the same reason many people don’t. Repentance requires humility. It requires self-abasement and a change of heart. You have to be willing to turn around and face resolutely in the opposite direction. It is the hardest thing a man or woman ever has to do. It was so hard that I refused to do it. Yet it is the only way to have peace. It is more than an inner loathing of yourself. It is a longing for Christ and His love and forgiving grace that changes the heart, and I wouldn’t let it happen. It is more than an over-excited conscience terrified of retribution. It is more than confession. I confess today what I did, but I still don’t have repentance. Repentance is a surrender of the heart to Christ. It is a clear intention to obey Him in all things. It is Jesus who gives repentance. Acts 5:31 says, “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”
How can I describe the scene! There I stood believing that Christ would free Himself. But I saw Him let them bind Him securely. I apprehensively followed Him to the trial before the Jewish leaders. Anxiously, I looked for Him to reveal His divine power. But He did not. I watched in amazement as hour after hour He submitted to every abuse, every mockery, every slap in the face, every vicious threat. I hoped against hope that He would surprise them and appear as the Son of God in power and glory and foil all their plans. DA p.721
Suddenly, I was filled with a terrible fear. “What I have done?” I thought to myself. He doesn’t deserve that! They will kill Him! And He’s going to let them. Then I realized a terrible truth. But it was too late. It suddenly dawned on me that I was a traitor. While His enemies were torturing Jesus, I was being tortured by a guilty conscience for what I had done. I could stand it no longer.
Suddenly my hoarse voice rang out in terrible agony, terrorizing the whole crowd in the Judgment hall. “He is innocent; spare Him, O Caiaphas.” But my testimony made no difference to them. I was speaking to my partners in crime. They could never comfort me. They were involved in the very same conspiracy against Christ that I was. My cry was earthward, not heavenward.
As the crowd fell back, I ran forward with the filthy money my greedy heart had cherished and threw it at the feet of the High Priest. I fell at his feet and grabbed Caiaphas’s robe and begged him to let Jesus go. “He has done nothing wrong!” I cried. But Caiaphas just shook me off, even though he didn’t know what to say. I had exposed him. Everyone now knew that he had bribed me to betray the Lord.
“I have sinned,” I cried, as I wept aloud, hoping for some words of relief, “I have betrayed innocent blood.” But Caiaphas regained his composure and answered in scorn. “What is that to us? See thou to that.” (Matthew 27:4). He was willing to use me, but unwilling to restore me. They despised me for my baseness.
I turned and fell at the feet of Jesus and pleaded with Him to deliver Himself. “Please Jesus; don’t let them do this to you! You have the power. Free yourself,” I begged. “You are the Son of God. Don’t let it happen.” My torment was so great that large drops of sweat ran down my face and mingled with my tears in my anguish.
Oh, I wish I had repented to Jesus, but it was too late. Oh, that I had allowed God to fill my heart with heart-breaking grief for betraying the spotless Son of God. Oh, that I had begged for a new heart, for a cleansing, for a renewing, for conversion of my soul. But I was proud. I was haughty, and cherished greed and selfishness. And now I could not humble myself, even if I wanted too. My confession was forced from my guilty soul by an awful sense of condemnation and a looking for of judgment, just like all these millions of people here today surrounding the beautiful city that has come down out of heaven. They confess that Christ is the Lord, but there is no repentance. Even now they are plotting to take the city by force if they can.
Suddenly, there at the feet of Jesus, with the whole court looking on, I realized that it was all over. There was no hope for me, and no hope that Jesus would escape His persecutors. I saw that my entreaties were in vain. Screaming in agony I rushed outside, “It’s too late, it’s too late.”
I’m sure the scene brought conviction to many who were watching that they were doing something terrible. But they were so determined to do their dirty deed that they quickly brushed it off, and went about their business of condemning Him.
I ran out into the dark, blinded by sorrow and anguish. Somewhere along the way, I don’t know where, I found an old frayed cord. I just wanted to end it all, to hang myself. In an out-of-the-way spot I found a tree. I didn’t realize that it was a dead tree, a fitting symbol of my dead soul. I climbed way up into its branches. There I stepped out on a limb and tied the cord around a higher branch, and then around my neck. I stepped off the branch at my feet and that was the end of it all. I can remember no more. I have learned that sometime during the night the weight of my body broke the old frayed cord and my dead body fell to the ground mangled and torn by the other branches on the way down. In the morning, dogs began to eat my flesh. It was a most disgusting, but symbolic sight.
I wish now that I had gone to Pilate’s judgment hall and begged him for mercy; or to Herod’s throne room where Jesus was abused and pleaded His case. I wish I could have begged them not to put that terrible crown of thorns on His head.
But most of all, I wish I had begged Jesus for forgiveness! I know He would have granted it. Oh, that I had gone to the cross and cried for help. He would have heard me.
But instead, my mangled and bloody body was lying on the ground along the road where Jesus was to pass the next day, at the foot of a lifeless tree.
I paid the price of revenge with a broken cord and a broken, mangled body. Jesus paid the price of God’s vengeance against the sinner with a broken heart, tortured, mangled, beaten, and hung on a cross, so that repentant sinners could be free of the guilt I still have today.
I might have walked the streets of the city you see over there with Peter and the other disciples and with Jesus. But it’s too late. There is really no difference between my sin and Peter’s. The difference is in what we did afterwards. The difference was deep inside our hearts.
Peter and I both came to a crossroad. He took the road to the right and repented and received forgiveness and became a powerful witness for His Lord. I took the road to the wrong, and refused to repent. This road led me to a dead tree in a valley were I hanged myself in my anguish. And today I am here, about to receive my final eternal punishment.
My name, once known as the “praise of God” is now known throughout the ages as a warning from God to unrepentant souls. My life, in a strange sort of way, was an appeal to obstinate sinners. Jesus could use my experience to help them see their own destiny if they refused to repent.
My former colleague, the apostle John wrote this in 1 John 2:16-17. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. and the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” That is the only way to live forever. John was a man that I might have been.
Mark, another former colleague, wrote, “Therefore, what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world (or just 30 pieces of silver), and lose his own soul?” Mark is over there in the city. He is a man I might have been.
My life was a warning to all against the bitter emptiness of greed, selfishness and revenge. It was also a warning against impenitence. These sins don’t ruin you. They didn’t ruin me. What ruined me and what will ruin you is not seeking forgiveness. Impenitence is what is taking my soul to hell. Failing to repent is what takes anyone to the lake of fire. It is the only sin that spurns the Holy Ghost. It is the only unpardonable sin.
You are in a dream. When you wake up, you will recognize it. I am in reality. If you hesitate and delay as I did, if you put aside the still small voice, if you act as if you know more than God, you will end up like me. But if you repent and seek God’s gracious forgiveness, you too will be a man I might have been.
The prodigal son got it right. He said, “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee.” You can get it right too. With whatever time you have left, my friend, you can reconcile with your Father, through Jesus Christ. If you want to be over there in that beautiful city, you still have a chance to make Christ your Master and be the man I might have been. Don’t delay.
Before the cross of Him who died,
Behold I prostrate fall
Let every sin be crucified
Let Christ be all in all.
Let every thought and work and word
To thee be ever given;
Then life shall be thy service, Lord,
And death the gate of heaven.
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