Certainty In Uncertain: Luke 21:1-6 – Cautions For Christ-Followers

Grace For The Journey

We are coming to the last three chapters of Luke.  There is a certain order in these chapters of the synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – that makes it easy to remember where to locate a few things.  In chapters 22, 23, 24 Luke deals with the Lord’s Supper, the crucifixion, and resurrection (the same is true for Mark 14-16, 14 is the Lord’s Supper, 15 is the crucifixion, and 16 is the resurrection; and Matthew 26, 27, 28; the Lord’s Supper, the crucifixion, and the resurrection.

As we enter these last three chapters of Luke’s Gospel one of the truths we will be focusing primarily upon will be Christ’s death.  Only two Gospels give us details of Christ’s birth, but all four Gospels give us many details about Christ’s death, because Christ’s death is the integral part of God’s crowning work of redemption.  Today’s study takes us through the first six verses of Luke 22.

Judas is something of a scary character in the Gospel narrative.  He is a striking illustration of what we mean when we speak of the doctrine of perseverance, or “perseverance of the saints.”  This doctrine teaches that all true believers persevere in their faith to the end.  Or to put it another way . . .

All who are

Chosen by God,

Redeemed by Christ,

And given faith

By the Holy Spirit

Are eternally saved. 

They are kept

In faith by the

Power of Almighty God

And thus persevere

To the end.

Some of you are familiar with the classic Christian allegory Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.  Dads, get a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress and read it to your family, a chapter an evening.  It is a great story that illustrates what it means to live the Christian life.  Bunyan tells of a dream he had of a man named Christian and he perseveres in his faith along with his friend Hopeful.  When the two reach the gate of the celestial city at the end of their lives, the symbolism continues as they present “certificates” which stand for the saving grace they had received when they trusted Christ indicating that they belonged to God.  Christian and Hopeful are then escorted through the gate into heaven by two angels Bunyan calls “Shining Ones.”  Bunyan says in his dream he then saw that there was someone else trying to make it through the gate of heaven.  His name was Ignorance.  He writes: “Now while I was gazing upon all these things, I turned my head to look back, and I saw Ignorance come up to the river” … “When he arrived at the gate” … ‘he began to knock, assuming that he would quickly gain entrance.  But the men who looked over the top of the gate asked, ‘Where did you come from?’ and ‘What do you want?’ He answered, ‘I have eaten and have drunk in the presence of the King, and He has taught in our streets.’  Then they asked him for his certificate, so that they might show it to the King; so he fumbled in his coat for one, and found none.  Then they said, ‘Have you none?’ And the man answered not a word.  So they told the King, but He would not come down to see the man. Instead, He commanded the two Shining Ones, who had conducted Christian and Hopeful to the city, to go out and bind Ignorance hand and foot and take him away” … Then Bunyan adds, “Then I realized that there was a way to hell even from the gates of heaven…”

Now that is an extraordinary statement, isn’t it?  Bunyan warns that not all those who refer to themselves as Christians are truly Christians.  Not everyone who uses religious language or does Christian work is necessarily a true believer.  In the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:12, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven.”  And such was the case of Judas Iscariot.  If we can learn anything from Judas we had better learn to examine ourselves as to whether we are truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).  We may also learn from Judas how we, too, may be guilty of betraying Christ in a number of different ways.  Let’s consider that possibility as we study these verses a little more closely and then I will leave with three cautionary considerations. 

Verse1 says, “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover.”  The very fact that Luke tells us that the Feast of Unleavened Bread “is called Passover” is another reason we know Luke, himself a Gentile, was writing primarily to Gentiles.  If he were writing to Jews – like Matthew was in his Gospel – then he would not have explained that this was called Passover, because his audience would be like, “Well, duh!”  It would be like telling you Kentucky is part of a larger country, which is called America. 

The question that we do need to answer is, “What is the Passover?” The Passover was the “opening-day feast” beginning the seven-day “Feast of Unleavened Bread.”  The Passover was a Jewish festival to be observed just once a year, a special time when the Jews would recall their miraculous deliverance from Egypt.  You will remember from reading through Exodus that the final plague sent by God to Pharaoh was the death of the firstborn.  The Jews protected themselves from the plague by smearing the blood of a sacrificial lamb upon their doorposts so that the Angel of Death would “pass over” their homes.  Unleavened bread was eaten to remind the people of their haste in fleeing Egypt, the bread did not have time to rise.  By the New Testament times thousands upon thousands of people would enter into Jerusalem for this annual feast. 

Verse 2 tells us, “And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people.”  This is not the first time we have read of the envy and anger of the religious leaders towards Jesus (See Luke 19:47, Luke 20:19).  They have now made their mind up that Jesus must go.  He must be killed.  The chief priests and the scribes, however, “feared the people.”  Remember this is Passover and there are a lot of people in town.  The Jewish historian Josephus estimates there may have been as many as 1-2 million people in Jerusalem during this observance.  Jesus has grown in popularity.  The religious leaders are looking for some way to kill Him without creating a riot (Mark 14:2).

Matthew and Mark, in their Gospels, underscore the conniving nature of these religious leaders, both of them writing, “… (plotted) sought how they might take Him by deception and (kill Him) put Him to death” (Matthew 26:4; Mark 14:1).  Who could have guessed that the answer to their dilemma would come from the very inner circle of Jesus’ followers? 

Verse 3 says, “Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve.”  Numbered among the 12, was Judas!  One of the 12.  It is not by accident that he is always listed last in order when you read the lists of the 12 disciples in the Gospels.  In fact, in their references to Judas the Gospel writers often append the statement, “Judas – who was to betray Christ.”  Judas had never really believed that Jesus was the Christ and Jesus knew this ahead of time.  The Bible says in John 6:64, “But there are some of you who do not believe.  For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.”  The Bible also tells us in John 6:70-71, “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?’  He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.”

Of course, the other disciples did not know this about Judas.  Later in Luke 22:23, when Jesus announces one of them will betray Him, the Bible tells us, “Then they began to question among themselves. Which of them it was who would do this thing.”

Verse 3 begins with the words, “Then Satan entered Judas.”  As we learned in Luke 4:13, “Now when he (Satan) had ended every temptation, he departed from Him (Jesus) until an opportune time.”  Now is that opportune time.  Satan is back.  Satan entered Judas, finding a comfortable place there as Judas’ sinful heart made him welcome.   Satan influences Judas to go to the religious leaders and agree to betray Jesus.  The Bible tells us in John 13:27 that Satan will “enter Judas” again at the time of the Last Supper. 

Verse 4 then says, “So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them.”  Judas “went his way.”  It is not as though Judas is an unwilling pawn in a chess game played by God, a robot with no decision in the matter.  It is disturbing to hear that Judas welcomed Satan’s entering into his heart.  But that is the power of our sinful nature.  It is never turned to go God’s way.  We never read anywhere in the Bible that Judas had no control over his actions.  He made a willful choice.  Yes, there is a mystery here.  God has a plan and is working it out.  He is sovereign.  Jesus Christ had to die, but Judas did not have to be the one to make it happen.  He did not have to be the traitor.  But because he willingly chose to be the traitor, he opened the door and Satan came in.  His sinful heart made a welcome invitation for Satan to enter in.  Judas had already been under the influence of Satan.  Now he would be under an even greater influence of Satan.

Verse 5 says, “And they were glad, and agreed to give him money.”  Judas and the religious leaders negotiated a sum of money for Judas’ betraying Christ into their hands.  Matthew puts it this way in chapter 26, and verses 14-15, “Then Judas” … “went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?’   And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver.”  And, incidentally, this amount fulfills the Old Testament prophecy in Zechariah 11:12 as noted by Matthew. 

Verse 6 tells us, “So he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.”  We will read, of course, that the “opportunity” will come in the cover of darkness (Luke 22:53).  It is nearly always easier to sin in the dark.  So Judas seeks an opportunity to betray Christ and we can imagine Jesus quoting from Psalm 41:9, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” 

What are to make of these six verses?  Are they preserved by God in Scripture only to serve as introductory remarks about the imminent death of Christ, or is there more here for our profit?  One of the benefits of going verse-by-verse through books of the Bible is that by doing so God provides for us not only easy sayings, but hard sayings, good and bad, pleasant and not-so pleasant. 

Sometimes God’s Word comforts us,

At other times it convicts us. 

Sometimes it challenges us

And

Other times it cautions us.

We have here some cautionary principles that surface from this passage.  The are three cautions for Christ-followers.  How many of you would say, “I’m a Christ-follower?” Three cautions for us . . . 

1)  Beware Of The Danger Of Religion.

Look at all the characters in these six verses.  You have the chief priests and the scribes on the one hand and Judas on the other.  All of them are religious.  But not one of them is a true believer.  Do not you find that remarkable?  Is that not a caution to us today?  You can be really close to Christ and be lost.  This could happen in our own household, in our own family.  The chief priests and scribes new a lot of Scripture, they knew religious language, but they were lost.  Judas was one of the 12 disciples, but he was lost.

We often say that . . .

Christianity is not a “religion,” but a “relationship.”

Christianity is about receiving Jesus Christ into our lives,

Believing He died on the cross for our sins,

Bearing the punishment we deserved,

Rising the third day so we may be declared

Righteous, justified by faith and therefore

At peace with God. 

Christian faith is not so much a religion, but a relationship – a living, vibrant, day-by-day relationship with God through faith in Christ.  Beware of the danger of religion – man’s attempts to please God and get right with Him.

2)  Beware Of The Danger Of Satan.

Never underestimate the influence of the one who “entered Judas.”  I am afraid we are often guilty of too quickly dismissing what happened to Judas as “demon possession,” something that can come only to an unbeliever and that is the end of our discussion.  But whether Judas was “demon possessed” in the technical sense of that term misses a greater point and blinds us to the very real possibility that when your heart is bent toward evil, evil will find you.

The Bible says in Proverbs 11:27, “Evil comes to him who searches for it.”  This is the way we ought to think of Judas.  It is not, “poor, old Judas,” as though Judas had no choice in the matter and Satan came along and entered in and took him over against his will.  No, Judas’ heart was bent toward evil.  It is not unlike what we read in Genesis 4 with Cain killing Abel.  How many of you think Cain made a choice when he killed his brother Abel?  Me, too.  In fact, the warning from God in Genesis 4:7 is, “Sin is crouching at your door (lying at your door).”  The truth Cain needed to understand was, “Sin desires to rule over you, Cain, but you must rule over it.”  Sin was crouching at the door and Cain opened the door.  He sinned.  He sinned willingly.

Peter does not underestimate the danger of Satan.  He writes in 1 Peter 5:8, “The devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”  Sin crouches at your door.  If your heart is inclined to sin, Satan will do his level best to come to you and pave for you a lovely road for you to walk down.  Beware.

Sin crouches at your door all the time.  Sin crouches at your door, men, in the form of lust and internet pornography.  And you make a decision whether to open the door when you decide whether to click that link.  Ladies, sin crouches at your door when you look at that man who is not your husband and you are looking for the wrong reason.  Sin crouches at your door, young people, when you are tempted to cheat on that exam.  Sin crouches at your door when you envy another person’s stuff, another person’s position, another person’s popularity – this can happen in ministry and often does – seeking the approval of others, forever expecting others to applaud your efforts.  And just in case you feel you would never stoop as low as Judas, the Bible warns in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

Beware of the danger of religion, beware of the danger of Satan, thirdly . . .

3)  Beware Of The Danger Of Money.

How frequently we have read in Luke’s Gospel the warnings about money and the lure of riches. 

  • We read the Parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21),
  • The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31),
  • And the Parable of the Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18:18-25).

Judas seems obsessed with money.  In John’s Gospel we have that story where Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with costly oil.  Judas complains, “Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor?”  That sounds real spiritual, but remember John adds, “He said this not because he was concerned for the poor, but because he was a thief and kept the money box and stole from it as he had need” (John 12:4-6).

He agreed to receive 30 pieces of silver in order to betray Christ.  This was an amount worth only about 4 months wages.  That is not really much when you consider who Christ is.  But it is an awful lot to a person who is greedy and whose god is money.     Judas loved money.  The love for money ensnared him, proving true the Bible’s warning in 1 Timothy 6:9-10, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Judas is one such example, an example of a person who “strayed from the faith in his greediness and pierced himself through with many sorrows.”

Yes . . .

It is possible to have money without loving it,

But

It is equally possible to love money without having it. 

Both rich and poor alike may be ensnared by money.

The problem is love placed on the wrong thing.  Being a true Christ-follower means we love Him more than anyone or anything.  He must be number one, the love of our lives!  The desires of your heart are to be like pieces of metal drawn like a magnet to the Lord Jesus.  Anything less is idolatry.  Beware, Christ-followers, beware of the danger of money.

Those are the warnings.  And how fitting that they should come in this passage in the context of the Passover, the annual event where a lamb was sacrificed as a reminder of God’s salvation.  Each lamb sacrificed at the Passover pointed forward to another Lamb, the one John the Baptist called, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), the One Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Christ our Passover (who) was sacrificed for us.”

Christ’s death was the ultimate fulfillment of the Passover.  Like the blood of the lamb which saved God’s people from death in Egypt, Jesus Christ shed His blood to save us from spiritual death.  Have you received Him by faith into your life?  Is He your “Number One Love?”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.