Lent MW 0119 (Ash Wednesday) – “Judas Iscariot” – Luke 22:1-6

Lent MW 0119 (Ash Wed.) – “Judas Iscariot” – Luke 22:1-6
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St Luke the 22nd Chapter.

“1Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. 2And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. 3Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. 4He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray [Jesus] to them. 5And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Have you heard of the term “Judas Goat”? The Judas goat is a trained goat used in herding animals such as sheep or cattle. The animal may also be a Judas cow or pig. The animal calmly leads the animals that trail behind to the location they need to go. It is released to repeat the process again. It is used in the stockyard to lead other animals to the slaughter while its life is spared. Hence, the name Judas.

When we hear the name Judas we immediately recall the betrayal of Jesus. One of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, leads Jesus’ enemies to the garden of prayer and betrayal to arrest the Son of God. What may we learn from Judas Iscariot as we begin our Lenten journey? We learn that Judas led a life of disregarding warnings and refusing help.

Judas Iscariot is a called servant of Jesus. Judas served the Lord and the group of disciples as the treasurer of the group. Judas received the same honor from Jesus as did the other disciples and was chosen to be a part of Jesus’ inner circle of twelve. Judas has access to Jesus in a most personal manner. His Lord and Teacher handpicked these men for a special purpose. They were to be guardians of the Truth and the foundation of the Church after Jesus ascended to the right hand of His Father.

Our Lord had great love for each of the men he called to apostleship. Judas was one object of that love of Jesus. Jesus knew Judas from before the beginning. There was warning given in the psalms, “May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it” Ps 69:25, and “Let another take his office.” Ps 109:8. Jesus knew Judas would betray him and even spoke a warning in the presence of all His apostles. “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil. He spoke of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, for he … was going to be tray [Jesus].” John 6:70-71 “He that eats my bread has lifted up his heel against me.” John 13:38

In other places, Jesus taught the frailty of this world’s treasures. Moth and rust destroy such things and thieves steal such things. True treasure is not of this world but of the world to come. Jesus also warned against the desires of the flesh which lead one to covet earthly treasure at the expense of eternal life. All these words Jesus spoke in the presence of Judas and the Twelve.

We may well ask why Jesus chose Judas Iscariot to be his disciple and an apostle. Was there something in Judas that led Jesus to make such a decision? Was Judas Iscariot better at handling money than the other disciples? Why was Matthew the tax collector not chosen to be the keeper of the money bag? Such questions miss the point of Jesus’ choosing. Jesus chooses sinners to be His servants and heirs of eternal life. Each of the twelve apostles was a sinner. They all had sinful weaknesses that became apparent over time. Neither one nor the other was better or worse suited for apostleship.

Think of the disciples gathered around the table during the final Passover celebration. What troubling words did Jesus speak? Jesus pointedly said during that meal, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” What was the response of the Twelve? They each asked of Jesus, “Is it I Lord?” However, Judas asked, “Is it I rabbi?” Thus betraying his unbelief and rejection of Jesus as Lord. Judas does not believe the dire trouble his choices will bring on both Jesus and himself. Judas’ vision is clouded by the greed and covetousness that fills his heart. The warnings of Jesus fall on deaf ears. The helping hand of Jesus is pushed away. Judas rejects the grace of God that calls him to eternal life.

Perhaps it is best to consider your own life measured not against the Twelve but against the will of God. Which of you are worthy to be a disciple, let alone an apostle of Jesus? We are neither worthy of God’s grace, nor have we deserved it. Rather we must join the apostles as fellow sinners and ask as they did, “Is it I, Lord?” Dr Luther guides us to heed this question and examine where we have fallen into the maelstrom of sin.

In the 5th Chief Part regarding Confession and Absolution there are two questions the sinner must ask, “What sins should we confess?” and “Which are these?” In order to lead us in confession of sins this is written.

“Consider your place according to the Ten Commandments: Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?”

Indeed, we will answer yes to these questions. Like the apostles before us we are sinners. Like Judas we have chosen, at times, the fleeting treasures of this world over the eternal treasures of God’s Kingdom. Like Judas we chose not to call Jesus our God. Like Judas we have gone our own way and denied the need for the true gifts Jesus gives to us by grace.

By grace is the means and motivation of Jesus choices. Jesus chose the Twelve to be the bearers of this message of grace. Especially, Jesus chose Judas to be a recipient of God’s grace. Judas was given many opportunities to repent of his sinful ways. Jesus specifically warned Judas of his deceit and betrayal. Jesus warned Judas that gold and silver do not compare to forgiveness and eternal life.

Jesus chose you for these same reasons. His desire is to give you His redemption, salvation and forgiveness of sins. His desire is to wash you in the water of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit. His desire is to feed you the foretaste of the feast yet to come which is His Holy Supper. His desire is to gather you with the apostles and all believers in the kingdom yet to come. His desire is for you to believe the life Jesus gave for you brings you the fullness of God grace and mercy.

We learn from Judas Iscariot a warning against denial of God’s grace and rejection of God’s living Word. We learn God calls sinners to repentance even to the last day. We learn that no matter what sin we commit, that repentance and faith in Jesus brings forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus continued to call Judas eternal life, and He will surely continue to call us to eternal life. By God’s grace we will hear and heed this call.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen