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"Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because
of me this night; for it is written, I will smite the Shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock shall be
scattered abroad."—Matt. 26:31 .
WE ARE NOT to understand this Scripture to teach that God directly smote the Shepherd, but rather that he permitted the Adversary to smite him. As our Lord said, "The Son of Man indeed goeth, as it is written of him, but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed." Judas was a free moral agent, and only by entertaining evil thoughts respecting the Master did his heart get more and more out of the way until the last barrier of his will surrendered, and then "Satan entered into him" in the sense of having full control of a willing tool.
Little is told us of Judas, except that at heart he was selfish and mercenary. Doubtless he became a follower of Christ with more or less of sincere motives. He saw the miracles; he knew of their genuineness. He was one of the twelve whom Jesus sent forth endued with power to heal diseases, to cast out devils, etc. He knew there was no fake connected with it, but that the power of God through Jesus had for a time exercised itself through himself and the other Apostles miraculously. But apparently his heart was less attracted by our Lord's purity of life and holiness of teaching and self denials, and more attracted by the glorious prospects which Jesus held forth in the promises that those who followed him in his time of trial and rejection of men should ultimately sit with him on his throne, ruling and judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Judas allowed the natural selfishness of his nature to specially covet the honors and glories promised, rather than to appreciate the principles of righteousness and truth illustrated in our Lord's life and teachings. Note the difference in the sentiment expressed by James and John. While not forgetting the honors promised, their especial thought was love for the Lord and a desire to be near him and to be associated in the glorious work of the Kingdom, in the uplifting of Israel and all the nations. The loving disciple who leaned on Jesus' breast at the Memorial Supper evidently thought less of the glories of the Kingdom than of the nearness to the Master when making the request that he and his brother might sit on the throne of the Lord, the one on his right hand and the other on his left.
The selfish propensities are generally larger in proportion than the nobler ones in all mankind, and consequently under present conditions they are likely to be the more active ones in all of us. Hence our need continually of setting our affections on the higher things, the nobler things, and to this end the necessity of having before our minds continually the glorious character of our Lord and our heavenly Father—their justice, their love and mercy—that we may be copies of God's dear Son, and like unto our Father which is in heaven. Judas failed to develop such noble qualities, and, instead, cultivated the baser qualities in connection with his calling to discipleship. [R4487 : page 299] He thought of the throne and the honors attached thereto until everything else seemed of little advantage.
This being so, he was critical of the Master, and fault-finding. From his standpoint, Jesus was carrying on the campaign for the throne in an improper manner; he should have been more worldly-wise; he should have done this, and should not have done that. Instead of reproving the Pharisees he should have cajoled them, or at least have said nothing against them. Instead of criticising the multitude that desired to make him a king, and withdrawing himself from them, to meet Judas' conception of wisdom he should have spoken sympathetically to them and made capital out of the occasion. Instead of speaking to the multitudes in parables and dark sayings, he should have come down to their comprehension and explained to them about his Kingdom, and how he intended to establish it.
Judas could see no sense, we may be sure, in our Lord's dark saying, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." After that saying many of his followers remarked, "This is a hard saying, who can believe it?" and walked no more with him. Surely Judas must have been offended on that occasion. From his standpoint Jesus was balking all of his prospects, and the hopes of the Kingdom were going glimmering more and more every day. The Lord was becoming more pessimistic, and instead of talking about the Kingdom and the throne was telling how the Jews would shortly take him and crucify him.
Judas began to feel that if he had been deceived in this matter, and was not to sit upon the throne as at first expected, he had best be "feathering his nest" financially in advance, so that however matters might go with the Master and the others, he would not have made such a failure as they. With this in view, doubtless he had sought to be the treasurer of the little band, and had appropriated to his own profitable uses whatever surplus was from time to time contributed. The basis for this assumption is found connected with the story of the anointing of Jesus at Bethany, when Mary produced a very costly perfume and therewith anointed our Lord. It was Judas who murmured at this waste, and remarked how much good might have been done with this money in providing for the poor. Not that he cared especially for the poor, but that he was a thief and carried the treasurer's bag for the disciples, and appropriated to himself from what was put therein.—John 12:6.
This selfish spirit not only led him to rob the Lord and his fellow-disciples, but eventually led him to think of how he could obtain money from the priests for the betrayal of the Master. And of course there must have been some reasonable philosophy in his mind in connection [R4488 : page 299] with the matter, and not merely a cold-blooded deal to put Jesus to death—not merely cold-blooded murder. When selfishness has control of the heart it works all manner of deceitfulness to the mind as respects motives, intentions, etc. And this is true whether the ambition be for money or for name and fame. Doubtless Judas reasoned that he could make the money out of the transaction without working any injury to the Lord. Jesus could again, as on previous occasions, "pass through their midst" without any daring to touch him. Perhaps Judas reasoned further that his course would awaken the Master and bring matters respecting the Kingdom to a head, one way or the other; that Jesus, finding himself in the hands of his enemies, would either assert his great power and assume his kingly authority, or else his weakness and fraudulent claims by which he had deceived his disciples and others would be exposed.
By such subtle reasonings and deceptions the Adversary was able to lead the disloyal mind, the selfishly ambitious heart, into wrong paths. As we realize this, and how the same Adversary still operates along similar lines, we may well fear to come in any degree under his power or misguiding influence. Not many of us would dare to find fault with the Lord and his methods directly, but we could still do so indirectly. He who then supervised the affairs of himself and his disciples on earth, now supervises the same from his glorious heavenly station. While fault cannot be found with the words of Jesus directly, fault can still be found with his message through those whom he uses as his mouthpieces. And while the Master himself cannot be betrayed to his enemies, for pieces of silver or other earthly advantages, or in satisfaction of other earthly ambitions, "his brethren" can thus be dealt with.
We have the Master's word, that whatsoever injury shall be done in word or in deed to one of the least of his little ones, it is the same in his estimation as though it were done to himself; and it were better for that man that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he had been cast into the depths of the sea; better because in that event there would have been a future prospect for him during the Millennial Kingdom, whereas, having been once enlightened, having once tasted the heavenly gift, having once been under the influence of the holy Spirit, and then to completely fall away, there would remain no more for him an interest or share in the heavenly gift—in the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. Having received his share of it, he misused it, and can have no further interest in it.
Judas was thus made acquainted with the heavenly gift and the powers of the age to come, not by direct reception of the same as experienced at Pentecost, but by the indirect blessing which came upon the twelve through our Lord's special impartation to them of the power of the holy Spirit, by which they were enabled to work miracles in his name.
We must never lose sight of the fact that the harvest of the Jewish Age was completely under Divine supervision and control. The Lord willed that severe testings should come to the sheep through the Master whom they loved and revered. Those testings were necessary. "Through much tribulation shall ye enter the Kingdom." The way to glory must be the way of the cross—a narrow way—and there must be something permitted which would serve to make the way narrow; hence the permission of evil, the permission of a measure of liberty to Satan, and the permission of a measure of liberty to ambitious men.
It is not for us to become bitter toward Satan or any of those who develop an ambitious and injurious spirit similar to his. In so doing we would be cultivating in ourselves that which would be injurious to us. On the contrary, all the opposition of Satan and those who have his characteristics should exercise upon us an opposite spirit. We should pity them, while detesting their methods. We should be ready to do good to them, while loathing their course. We are not to render evil speaking for evil speaking, nor insinuation for insinuation, nor anger for anger, nor malice for malice, nor hatred for hatred.
On the contrary, as the Apostle suggests, even Michael, though higher in power, durst not bring against Satan a railing accusation, but merely said, The Lord rebuke thee! So it should be with us: Instead of attempting to take vengeance upon our adversaries, we should commit our way and theirs to the Lord's keeping, and trust that in due time he will rebuke the Adversary and all who have his spirit and follow his course. He will know how to make proper allowances for head and heart. He it is who has said, "Vengeance is mine, I will recompense, saith the Lord."
So far as our Lord's personality was concerned, we may be sure there was no cause of offense in him; he did nobody harm, but did everybody good. It was his doctrines that offended the people, and not his personality; nevertheless, their resentment was against his personality rather than against his doctrines, which were too strong for them to attack.
On one occasion we remember when they took up stones to stone him, Jesus expostulated with them, saying, I have [R4488 : page 300] done a good work and ye all marvel. Why, then, are you about to stone me? They answered that it was not for anything personal, but because of his doctrine. The Adversary deluded them, and made the words of him who spake as never man spake to appear false and God-dishonoring, whereas they were very true.
Our Lord said, "Marvel not if the world hate you; ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own. But now ye are not of the world, because I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." This implies that in proportion as we follow closely in the Master's footsteps our experiences will be proportionately similar to his. We shall be hated, not because of evil deeds to others, but because whoever is out of harmony with the truth of God's Word will be out of harmony with those who speak the truth, and verily think that they do God a service in opposing them.
Notice also that the world that will hate you is not the heathen world, not the Gentile world, but the worldly who pose as God's people. This was so with Jesus. He preached, not to the Gentiles, but to the holy nation of the Jews, God's consecrated people. And those who hated him and delivered him unto death were of his own nation, and even Judas of his own disciples. So we also should expect, in harmony with our Lord's words, that the worldly who will hate us will be the worldly-spirited ones, adversaries prominent in the Church, and some of them, perhaps, close to us as fellow-disciples.
Seeing these things in advance, being thus fore-warned, shall we not be fore-armed, so that none of these experiences may move us from our constancy and faithfulness? Let us remember the Apostles of old, and how the smiting of the Shepherd affected them, and scattered them, and confused them, so that of the two who followed him at all one in terror denied him with cursing, while the other, the loving disciple, viewed the Master sympathetically, but afar off.
Our Lord had forewarned them, and had instructed them how they might have been better prepared for this trial, but they had not heeded his words, "Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation." Hence in the moment of temptation they were overwhelmed, scattered. The lesson to us is that we should watch and pray, and by faith draw very near to the Master, and be full of confidence in the Divine plan, and remember the assurance that all things are working together for good to them that love the Lord, to them that are called according to his purpose.
Watching and praying will cultivate confidence and faith in God, and preserve us from the trepidation and fear and stumbling which will surely upset many others; because from this standpoint of faith we shall know how to apply in our own time and under our own circumstances our Lord's words to Pilate, "Thou couldst have no power at all over me except it were permitted of my Father." God is still at the helm, and is still working all things according to the counsel of his own will. It is for us to come close to the Lord and to wait for the development of his plan with absolute confidence and fearlessness—except in the sense that we should fear to leave undone anything directed in his Word.
Thus our Lord feared in Gethsemane, and in due time received Divine assurance and the strengthening of his heart, and the calm rest and peace which properly accompanied that assurance. So it will be with us "after that we have suffered awhile" and our faith has been properly tested, the Lord will give us succor and "grace to help in every time of need."