Title: Judas – An Answer to Prayer Text: Luke 6:12 – 16, Date: April 24, 1966 ( by Ray S Anderson)
It is a common occurrence to read of some person’s extremity and find that this pushed them to prayer. In fact, the most indifferent and ungodly person will usually give testimony to the prayer of desperation when his life is in danger or when some affliction or tragedy strikes. We should not thus feel surprised to find that Jesus also was driven to prayer in times of great crisis.
There are at least four crises in the life of Jesus that are especially related to prayer. These can all be found in the Gospel of Luke. In chapter 3, verse 21, at the baptism of Jesus we see that it was while he was praying that the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove, and in vs 22 a voice came from heaven saying, “Thou at my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”
We have just read the account of the calling of the twelve apostles after a night of prayer; this would be the second crisis in the life of Jesus; especially related to prayer. Luke also tells us in the 9th chapter, verse 28, that while Jesus was on the mountain with three of his apostles, during prayer he was transfigured before them; thus we call this the Mount of Transfiguration, but it could well have been called the Mount of Prayer. It was while he was praying that he was transfigured, as if moving into proximity with the glory that he had had with the Father, this erupted almost spontaneously into this transfiguration experience. Certainly this was a crisis in his life as he saw from that mount of transfiguration his own destiny, and it was on that mount that he talked with Elijah and Moses concerning his death.
The fourth crisis, of course. is the garden of Gethsemane. Luke 22, verse 41, tells us that in the garden of Gethsemane he went a stone’s throw beyond those closest to him, and there he knelt down and prayed. Thus we are discussing in the calling of the 12 apostles one of the four great crisis events of Jesus’ life. He went out into the hills to pray, a solitary, seeking figure – a restless night, a wakeful night, a night of anxiety and conflict and spiritual struggle. He prayed the entire night, and when it was day he immediately called the twelve disciples, whom he called apostles, and I think it is obvious to us that the critical hours spent in prayer were a preparation for this most critical decision involving the very foundation of his ministry – the calling of twelve men to be his disciples.
In our mind’s eye we can see him, this solitary figure out in the hills praying, and with the ear of the spirit we can hear him as he audibly names one by one his friends in prayer before the Father and discusses with God the Father their potential, their weaknesses, trying to form in his own mind these critical decisions. We hear him discussing John and talking to the Father about what a great spirit John has, the son of thunder – what great passion, what noble character, and yet how love needs to soften this great passion of John, and will love be sufficient to soften John into an apostle – thus he prays.
Perhaps he mentions the names of some who were not included in the twelve; perhaps he prayed about Nicodemus – Father, Is Nicodemus the one? An important man, a crucial man, – a strategic man, a disciple, and yet there is something uncertain about him; we talked about the things of the spirit, but only secretly. So on through the night – and then somewhere in the night we would hear him take the name of Judas – Father, here’s Judas, certainly one of the most exciting men that I have found, a man of great potential.
And it is at this point that we would run and cry out a warning to him and interrupt him and say – Not Judas, no, please; Nicodemus, possibly, but not Judas! Better a furtive disciple than a malicious betrayer! Can we believe that God the Father knows as much as we do and will not interrupt? Will He not send some intuitive thought of terror at the name of Judas? Is it possible that after a night of prayer he can emerge in daylight and openly and freely choose Judas as an answer to prayer? Rather difficult, is it not? We can draw some conclusions from this thought – Judas, an answer to prayer! The first one is this, that no man can be excluded from the possibilities of love – not even Judas! You see, the problem of a betrayer included in the twelve is intellectual only, and it is only an intellectual problem for us because we know the ultimate destiny of Judas as worked out in the history of his life, and we read it back into that dynamic relationship that Jesus had with his Father through prayer.
The one thing that we cannot see is the Judas that Jesus knew before he became a betrayer, because you see Judas was first of all a man, and then a betrayer; and as a man he was not to be disqualified from the love of God, even by his destiny, for no man’s destiny is an irrevocable thing. No man’s destiny is a pre-disqualification from the possibilities of the love of God, and we are to understand here in Judas as an answer to prayer that every man has a place in the love of God no matter what his destiny, for no man’s destiny is fixed until he finally and unalterably fixes it himself in response to the love of God.
It is true that Jesus said of Judas in the 6th chapter of John, verse 70, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” It is true that the Scripture says of Judas that he had a demon from the beginning, and yet it is also true of Judas that Jesus treated him like a man, not a devil. Up until the very end Judas was not slighted in the love of Jesus. At the very end Jesus seemed to make a special appeal to the manhood of Judas despite the fact that there was a demon in him, almost as if Jesus with his love would reach past the demonic quality of Judas and appeal to that childlike heart that every man has.
You see, redemptive love is an investment in the potential of man, not a wager on his perfectibility, and the possibilities of love are human potentials. The love of God can only bring to fruition that potential that is already in man by virtue of being created in the image of God – and Judas was a man, not an animal. Judas was a man created in God’s image and had the full range of human potential when Jesus chose him after a night of prayer. We are to learn from this that no man can be excluded from the possibilities of love, and though there seem to be disqualification written on the face of some men, love dare not recognize that disqualification.
I read recently a rather revealing and somewhat plaintive little episode concerning Charlie Brown and Lucy. On this occasion Lucy was at her best; she was confronting Charlie Brown and saying, “Charlie Brown, you are the world’s worst failure; in fact, you have failure written all over your face; it’s there; I can see it – it’s failure written all over your face.” In the last frame Charlie Brown looks at his dog Snoopy and says, “Just look at my face don’t write on it!”
And we have no right to write on the face of Judas prematurely. We have no right to disqualify him ahead of time simply because we know his destiny.
There are disqualifications that love will not recognize. There is the disqualification of race that love refuses to see, and if race becomes a stumbling block for us in our human relations, we ought to recognize that we are not walking in love. There are disqualifications of indifference, so that many times we say of a person – he has apathy written all over his, face; he is useless; it is futile to love that person. Not true! Even a person indifferent to the things of God or to human values is not excluded from the possibilities of love.
There is the disqualification of bitterness, and a bitter person seems to be the most intractable and unredeemable, but it could well be that the most bitter person, a bitter young person, a bitter adult, is not so much hopeless as desperate; and while we see large segments of humanity today caught up in bitterness and rebellion and anarchy, we in love dare not exclude them from the possibilities of redemption.
There is the disqualification of guilt, self-rejection; and if a man comes to us and says – leave me alone, I have no right or place in the kingdom of God – the uniqueness of redeeming love is that it just might be the prerogative of love to choose such a man for a disciple. It might well be within the providence of God that just such a man is the answer to prayer. No man can be excluded from the possibilities of love.
Secondly, we can draw this conclusion, that no love is free from the risk of failure. We need to learn this lesson, for here we have in the love o£ Jesus for a man the highest capacity of love itself. Who would question the quality of Jesus’ love – who would say of Jesus – another man could have saved Judas? Thus in the inability of Jesus’ love to absolutely and completely prevent failure, we have a lesson to be learned that love does risk failure in order to redeem, and Judas represents the unknown quantity in life. He was potentially both a disciple and a betrayer, but so were the other eleven, let us not forget that. All twelve were only potential and had the potential of betrayal as well as the potential of discipleship.
You see, we stumble at the name of Judas in the list because he failed, and somehow we get our wires crossed and think that the all night in prayer by Jesus was a guaranteed infallibility in life, that there were no unknown factors left after he prayed. The fact is that there were unknown factors left after he prayed, and Judas is simply a reminder to us that there was in the heart of every man that Jesus chose an unknown factor. Jesus grasped that unknown quality in man with love and risked betrayal and failure in doing so.
I suppose that we equate love with success and prayer with guaranteed protection many times. Maybe this is our problem. Maybe the reason we cannot put Judas into the framework of Jesus’ prayer is because we want prayer to be the answer at the end of the book. When are we going to learn that prayer is not a peek at the answer, that prayer is not some supernatural insight that makes our life infallible? Jesus could not control the heart of Judas; he could only embrace that unknown quantity with love. I have suggested this before, but I think one of the things we need to remember is that we have a tendency to share only the prayers that work. Far too often we are guilty of giving the impression that true prayer is only the prayer that produces some obvious and of course favorable result. How would Jesus give testimony concerning the value of prayer in his life concerning Judas? The quality of love was not invulnerable to betrayal. Only genuine love can be betrayed, and Judas could only become a betrayer after he was loved.
A thought came to me as I studied this portion of Scripture this week that, having had one Judas, how would Jesus pray the next time? Having spent a night of prayer and having trusted the Father to give wisdom and then ending up with the very man who betrayed him as part of his closest band, would he pray with the same confidence and courage next time? How do you pray the second time when you got a Judas for the first? This is where we live. Is it not?
You know how Jesus prayed the second time? He prayed for Peter and said – Peter, when you have been converted I have prayed that you will strengthen your brethren; I pray for you that your faith may not fail – and when Peter denied Jesus, what kind of answer to prayer was that? Jesus said to Peter – I am going to pray that you do not fail and within hours perhaps Peter said – I do not know the man and Jesus walked out of inner room and looked full into the face of Peter with sorrowful eyes.
How, how do you pray after both a Judas and a Peter? This is how you pray. Jesus appeared to Peter after the resurrection and said – Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me – and when Peter was able to affirm this, Jesus said – feed my sheep. That’s how you pray if you have faith; not allowing the hurt of betrayal to rob you of the power of love. But how often do we not shrink back and refuse to love again, or if we love again we love with reservation because we do not want to be hurt again and we say – we have every right to be careful; we must not be rash; we must use prudence because we have been taken advantage of.
I ratter think that the majority of emotional sickness can be traced to a loss of capacity to risk love, so careful not to be hurt that the capacity to risk love is shut off, and that is a distortion of life. There is a great lesson we can learn in Judas as an answer to prayer that no love is free from the risk of failure. So love, dare to love! You cannot protect yourself from failure, and only in love will you find the joy and peace and fulfillment that life brings.
Let us tie in quickly a third conclusion. We have said that no man can be excluded from the possibilities of love and that no love is free from the risk of failure. Now we should conclude that no failure is a contradiction to the grace of faith. Make no mistake about it – Judas, if he was an answer to prayer, was also a great failure. What is Jesus’ attitude to his Father in heaven after Judas had betrayed him? John 17 states an amazing thing concerning Jesus and his relationship to Judas and his relationship to the Father. In John 17 when Judas already had made his transaction to betray Jesus, in verse 6 Jesus says to his Father in prayer, “I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gave me out of the world; yours they were, and you gave them to me ..” At this stage Jesus can look at Judas, seeing what he has become, and say to the Father, you gave him to me. There is no failure that contradicts the grace of faith, and he did not say that with rancor or bitterness. He said that with the utmost of serenity – Father, you gave me Judas. From this I gather that his night of prayer was not so much for a perfect choice, but for the power to receive, and that the results of his night of prayer show up in John 17. Father, you gave these men to me, and even, Judas is within the providence of your grace and love and therefore does not cancel out my faith in you, my trust in your plans.
We marvel at Judas as an answer to prayer, but what of the cross? What of the cup that Jesus must drink? Our problem over Judas reveals again a vested interest in the outcome of prayer, revealing that we have used prayer and perhaps even a night of prayer to somehow turn the scales in our favor, to give us the advantage in life. The implication is that the Christian, because he has access to God somehow has the scales of life tipped in his favor, that he never ends up with a Judas, that other men go bankrupt, other men’s plan fail because they don’t have the answer at the ‘end of the book’.
So what happens when a Judas turns up in our lives – the answer is obvious. Far too many people shake their fist at God and say – God, I trusted you all this time, now what have you done to me. God, what are you trying to do? Not long ago I received a letter from a woman who was confessing the shame she felt because she had written to someone else accusing God of not answering her prayer concerning employment for her husband. In the interim her husband found work, and suddenly her threats against God lost their validity, and she revealed in this the fact that this was really only a tantrum against God.
Who of you has not questioned God’s will? Which one of you at one time or another has not challenged the integrity of God simply because life has not worked like you wanted it to work or needed it to work. No, his prayer was to receive Judas, not merely to choose him. Is it possible that when we enter into the valley of prayer that we emerge still with an unknown quantity in life which we must receive from the Father’s hand? Yes, it is. Our need is to pray for the grace to receive life as given to us by God, to pray for the courage to risk love, to love a Judas who does not have betrayal written across his face.
There is an unknown quantity in our lives – and the name is Judas. We are to learn from Judas as an answer to prayer that prayer is a far greater dimension of man’s experience than a tool to identify the Judases ahead. It is far more important that God gives us through the spirit of prayer a capacity to embrace life for what it is and to accept it as the life that God has given us, to be able to say at the end – that life, God, which you have given me I have kept; only one is lost, Judas, the son of perdition. Learn to love without reservation; learn to pray without demanding; learn to receive without bitterness – this is the quality of Jesus’ love and faith. Jesus was a friend of God, and he said to us – I do not call you servants, but I call you friends – and in the friendship that we have with Jesus we are to learn again how to pray, how to receive, and how to love.