Friday, March 28, 2003

Judas Iscariot

This is the third post in a series that examines the life of Judas Iscariot. To start at the beginning, click here.

What can we know about Judas Iscariot? There are only a handful of scriptures, but they are sufficient to provide important information.

Basic Facts

Iscariot = Ish Kerioth

The "Iscariot" in Judas Iscariot is not a last name, but a place of origin. It is a transliteration into Greek of the Hebrew Ish Kerioth or "Man of Kerioth" In other words, the place from where Judas came was his main distinguishing characteristic. We sometimes refer to Jesus as Jesus of Nazareth and that is the same concept.

Judas being from Kerioth is possibly important. At least ten out of the twelve disciples were from Galilee, which is north of the Samaritan region. Kerioth was a town in Judea, which is south of the Samaritan region. Geographical displacement and enmity between Jews and Samaritans led to a  separation between the Judeans and Galileans that can be likened to hill folk and city people. The Judeans were near Jerusalem and, therefore, tended to be more educated and part of the ruling class. So, Judas may have had a sophistication about him that the other disciples did not have. Note the attitude of the Judean leadership in the following verse:

They replied, “You aren’t from Galilee too, are you? Investigate carefully and you will see that no prophet comes from Galilee!” (John 7:52, The Net Bible)

The Pairings of the Twelve

Let's look at how the twelve were paired when Jesus sent them out:

Jesus called his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits so they could cast them out and heal every kind of disease and sickness. Now these are the names of the twelve apostles: First, Simon (called Peter), and Andrew his brother; James son of Zebedee and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (Matthew 10:1-4)

The other gospels list the names of the twelve, but Matthew's wording strongly implies that these were the pairs that Jesus sent out. The list gives us another clue regarding Judas' origins. This is because, the pairs are not haphazard.

  • Simon Peter and Andrew were brothers
  • James and John were brothers
  • Philip and Bartholomew (aka Nathanael) were good friends. They are frequently mentioned together.
  • Thomas and Matthew (aka Levi) were possibly brothers1.
  • James the son of Alphaeus and Thaddaeus (aka Judas the son of James)  were possibly father and son2.
  • Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot were also possibly father and son3

I acknowledge some speculation here, but it is not far fetched. Please note the footnote links in the above list. You can click on them to get a fuller explanation of the reasons for my assertions. When you are at the footnote, you can click the number to return.

If Judas was the son of Simon the Zealot4, Judas may have shared his father's political leanings. We can also infer that Judas was one of the youngest of the twelve. Even without the father and son connection, the pairing of the two in Matthew suggests a political affinity. As zealots, Simon and Judas would have had a distinct preference for overthrowing the Roman rule of their country.

How the Gospels Introduce Judas

If there is one bit of evidence to suggest that Judas does not warrant sympathy, it is how he is introduced in each of the four gospels:

Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (Matthew 10:4)

and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (Mark 3:19)

Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (Luke 6:16)

(Now he said this about Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for Judas, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.) (John 6:71)

Someone reading these works for the first time and who does not know the story, learns from the get-go that Judas must be watched. The gospel John hammers the message home by referencing Judas as a betrayer in 6:71, 12:4, 13:2, 18:2, and 18:5.

At the same time, none of the gospels suggest that he was a traitor all along. Matthew and Mark simply say that Judas "betrayed him." Luke clearly tells us that Judas "became a traitor." John lets us know that, at the point where he introduces Judas, seeds of betrayal exist. I will have more to say about this last point.

Judas Viewed Jesus Differently from the Others

Matthew records the following:

And while they were eating he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” They became greatly distressed and each one began to say to him, “Surely not I, Lord?” He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go as it is written about him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would be better for him if he had never been born.” Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus replied, “You have said it yourself.” (Matthew 26:21-25)

Matthew records how Jesus announced His betrayal. Each disciple except Judas responded, "Surely not I, Lord?" Judas, however, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?" To which, Jesus said, "You have said it yourself." Jesus draws our attention to Judas' words and the only difference between Judas and the others was the use of the designation "rabbi" to refer to Jesus instead of "Lord." And yet, from Jesus' perspective that made the difference. The eleven viewed Jesus has having authority and possibly discerned His divine nature. To Judas, Jesus was still just a teacher. This is not the response of a man who has come to faith. This fact adds a certain chill to Mark's record of the moment of betrayal:

When Judas came, he went to Jesus immediately and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. (Mark 14:45)

That Judas was not a saved man is indicated by these words of Jesus:

So Jesus said to the twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God!” Jesus replied, “Didn’t I choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is the devil?” (John 6:67-70)

Judas Lived a Lie

Compare the following two passages and see if Judas did not somehow put on a good show among the disciples?

Then Peter said to him, “Look, we have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” (Matthew 19:27)

(Now Judas said this not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief. As keeper of the money box, he used to steal what was put into it.) (John 12:6)

While the others had left jobs, family, and friends to be with Jesus, Judas was stealing and somehow depositing money from the ministry account.


With a few verses and some analysis, we can perceive Judas to:

  1. Have come from Judea and may have felt superior to the Galilean disciples.
  2. He may have had strong feelings about overthrowing Roman rule.
  3. He may have been young.
  4. He never knew Jesus for who He was.
  5. He lived a lie.

With this foundation, we have enough to put together a plausible story of the life of Judas. And that I will begin with the next installment.

Monday: The Good Years

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

1 The reasoning goes like this. 

  • Matthew is also known and Levi. 
  • Mark 2:14 identifies Levi as being the son of Alphaeus. 
  • Mark 3:18 and Luke 6:15 refer to James as being the son of Alphaeus as well. So Matthew and James are brothers. 
  • Mark 3:18 and Luke 6:15 both list "Matthew, Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus" together. Since the first and last names in this group are demonstrably brothers, the middle name is possibly a brother as well.

2 The reasoning goes like this. 

  • The list in Luke 6 does not mention Thaddaeus, but does mention Judas the son of James (Luke 6:16). 
  • So Judas the son of James and Thaddaeus are the same person. 
  • Thaddaeus is either the son of James the son of Alphaeus, the son of James the brother of John, or the son of some other James? 
  • Proximity of reference suggests James the son of Alpaheus.

3 The reasoning goes like this:

  • John 6:71 refers to Judas as being the son of Simon Iscariot. 
  • Matthew, Mark, and Luke all refer to Simon the Zealot, but do not refer to Simon Iscariot.
  • The gospel of John refers to Simon Iscariot, but does not refer to Simon the Zealot.
  • Simon Iscariot could be Simon the Zealot and that would make him the father of Judas Iscariot.

Note that John's gospel reveals other facts about the disciples missing from the other gospels. For example, it is from John that we know Thomas as Didymus or doubting Thomas.

4 This also suggests why Jesus included Judas into the close knit group. He came with his father.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Judas Iscariot

This is the second post of a series that looks at Judas and his betrayal of Jesus. To start at the beginning, click here.

What causes one friend to turn on another? Obviously, there will not be a single answer. Betrayal can be unpremeditated, premeditated, or part of a sting, in which friendship is feigned. Peter's denial was not premeditated. With strong language, Peter denied that he ever knew Jesus. That was a form of betrayal, but Peter was in harm's way and was weaker than he imagined. Judas' betrayal was premeditated. He conceived the project and systematically carried it through. In this lesson, I plan to lay the groundwork for understanding the nature of Judas' betrayal by looking at what, I believe, are two similar circumstances.

David and Ahithophel

Ahithophel was the father of Eliam, one of David's "mighty men." Ahithophel was also David's advisor. And he was good:

In those days Ahithophel’s advice was considered as valuable as a prophetic revelation. Both David and Absalom highly regarded the advice of Ahithophel. (2 Samuel 16:23, The Net Bible)

Ahithophel stayed loyal to David until David's son, Absalom, revolted against his father:

The king replied to him, “Go in peace.” So he got up and went to Hebron. Then Absalom sent spies through all the tribes of Israel who said, “When you hear the sound of the horn, you may assume that Absalom rules in Hebron.” Now two hundred men had gone with Absalom from Jerusalem. Since they were invited, they went naively and were unaware of what Absalom was planning. While he was offering sacrifices, Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s advisor, to come from his city, Giloh. The conspiracy was gaining momentum, and the people were starting to side with Absalom. (2 Samuel 15:9-12)

Absalom had the upper hand so David gathered his family and left Jerusalem. During the exit, David learned that Ahithophel had joined the other side:

As David was going up the Mount of Olives, he was weeping as he went; his head was covered and his feet bare. All the people who were with him also had their heads covered and were weeping as they went up. Now David had been told, “Ahithophel has sided with the conspirators who are with Absalom." So David prayed, “Make the advice of Ahithophel foolish, O Lord!” (2 Samuel 15:30-31)

The Lord did just that. He confounded the advice of Ahithophel, which led to his doom:

When Ahithophel realized that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and returned to his house in his hometown. After setting his household in order, he hanged himself. So he died and was buried in the grave of his father. (2 Samuel 17:23)

Clearly, this man understood the value of his own advice!

Why did Ahithophel betray David?

  • He judged David to be a lost cause. Absalom clearly had the upper hand. Ahithophel did not see a means by which David could escape and regain the throne.
  • He did not want to pay the price of being faithful. He did not immediately know that David would retreat, and did not want to be among the dead when Absalom prevailed.
  • He had a grievance. Ahithophel was the father of Eliam who was the father of Bathsheba. In other words, the woman David messed with was Ahithophel's granddaughter. 
  • He believed he could do better with Absalom. Ahithophel wanted to be on the winning and advancing side.

Many of these same points will emerge as this study looks at Judas.

Haman and Zeresh

This pair comes from the Book of Esther. Haman was the enemy of the Jews. Zeresh was his wife. When Queen Esther invited Haman to a banquet, Zeresh was pleased. Her husband was ascending in the court. She advised him to build gallows on which to hang Mordecai, his political enemy. 

However, the next day, Haman, at the command of the king, was paraded Mordecai around the city in honor. Zeresh concluded  the tide had turned against her husband. Look at these verses:

Before: Haman’s wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Have a gallows seventy-five feet high built, and in the morning tell the king that Mordecai should be hanged on it. Then go satisfied with the king to the banquet.” It seemed like a good idea to Haman, so he had the gallows built. (Esther 5:14)

After: Haman then related to his wife Zeresh and to all his friends everything that had happened to him. These wise men, along with his wife Zeresh, said to him, “If indeed this Mordecai before whom you have begun to fall is Jewish, you will not be adequate for him. No, you will surely fall before him!” (Esther 6:13)

Throughout every province and throughout every city where the king’s edict and his law came, the Jews experienced happiness and joy, banquets and holidays. Many of the resident peoples pretended to be Jews, because the fear of the Jews had overcome them. (Esther 8:17)

It doesn't say, but I connect Esther 6:13 and 8:17 and conclude that Zeresh pretended to be a Jew. How quickly and completely she turned on her husband.

Why did Zeresh betray Haman?

  • She judged Haman to be a lost cause.
  • She was not willing to pay the price of being faithful.

Why a Friend Might Turn

A friendship can be based on a commitment to the person and/or commitment to common goals. Both are likely present, but one will be stronger than the other. When friendship is primarily based on perceived common goals rather than the person, it is at risk of betrayal for these reasons:

  • A change or endangerment to the common goals will test the friendship.
  • The emergence of personal risk will also test the friendship.

The situation between David with Ahithophel and Haman with Zeresh show this. Ahithophel shared David's goal for a united kingdom of Israel's tribes. The emergence of Absalom endangered the goal and created personal risk. Ahithophel failed the test. Haman and Zeresh shared the goal of political advancement. The emergence of Mordecai endangered the goal and created personal risk. Zeresh failed the test.

The other reason a friend might turn is the presence of bitterness that leads to a sudden and catastrophic change of heart and attitude. This may have contributed to Ahithophel's decision.


Clearly, I intend to establish a three-fold reason for Judas' betrayal of Jesus. I believe that he concluded that Jesus was a lost cause, that he was not willing to pay the price of being faithful, and that he had a root of bitterness. In the first lesson, I have presented what betrayal is and feels like. This lesson explored why a friend might betray a friend. Tomorrow, I will look at what the scriptures tell us about Judas. Following that, I will construct a plausible story of Judas, Jesus, and betrayal.

Friday: What we know of Judas.

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Judas Iscariot

Films depicting the life of Jesus tend to portray Judas Iscariot as one who made a mistake. The popular device has Judas betray Jesus to force Him to reveal Himself as the king. A tragic mistake, to be sure, but just a mistake. I have never understood this approach. Why not show Judas to be evil at the moment of betrayal? After all, Jesus said, "The Son of Man will go as it is written about him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would be better for him if he had never been born.” (Matthew 26:24, The Net Bible) I fail to see Judas sympathetically.

So what can be known about Judas? This is a difficult, but not impossible, question. There are not that many passages that tell us about him. Nevertheless, there is material to piece together a plausible story. That is what I will attempt to do in this series.

Betrayal -- A Friend Worse than an Enemy

What was the nature of this betrayal? Did Judas pretend to be a friend or was he a friend who changed? The first clue to piecing together Judas' betrayal of Jesus comes from these words of Jesus:

“What I am saying does not refer to all of you. I know the ones I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture, ‘The one who eats my bread has turned against me.’ (John 13:18)

Jesus quoted from Psalm 41. Here is the relevant section:

My enemies ask this cruel question about me, ‘When will he finally die and be forgotten?’ When someone comes to visit, he pretends to be friendly; he thinks of ways to defame me, and when he leaves he slanders me. All who hate me whisper insults about me to one another; they plan ways to harm me. They say, ‘An awful disease overwhelms him, and now that he is bed-ridden he will never recover.’ Even my close friend whom I trusted, he who shared meals with me, has turned against me. (Psalm 41:5-9)

Psalm 41 is not directly prophetic. It was written by someone who was sick and possibly would not recover. He was not surprised that his enemies  rejoiced over his calamity. He was on guard for them. His grief came from an unexpected place; a close friend who abandoned him. His enemies pretended to care. They gossiped. They could not wait for his undoing. To learn that his friend also planned to harm him was grievous.

Lets compare this to Jesus' last week. The Judean leadership was clearly his enemy. Jesus had "seekers of truth" who came to Him with questions by which they hoped to trap Him. He had no lack of people plotting His undoing. But it was a close friend that brought success to His enemies' plan. 

Psalm 55 tells us what Jesus must have felt:

Indeed, it is not an enemy who insults me, or else I could bear it; it is not one who hates me who arrogantly taunts me, or else I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like me, my close friend in whom I confided. We would share personal thoughts with each other; in God’s temple we would walk together among the crowd. (Psalm 55:12-14)

There is no suggestion in any of these texts that we are to seek a measure of sympathy regarding the motives behind the betrayal of a friend. The heartbreak of Psalm 55 comes from the intimacy that makes us vulnerable. This is what makes betrayal unbearable.

So the first thing that we must conclude is that Jesus and Judas shared an intimacy. I realize that Jesus' foreknowledge makes this matter complicated. The best that I can suggest is that Jesus hoped and acted as if the tree would not bear fruit. We cannot forget that Judas had a real choice in spite of  Jesus' foreknowledge and the fulfillment of prophecy. So until Judas made his choice, the friendship was real and shared. I believe that the foundation on which Judas based his friendship was faulty.

Such is the nature of betrayal. Tomorrow, I will look at two betrayals recorded in the Old Testament with a view toward defining motives behind betrayal. The two incidents involve David with Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15-17) and Haman with Zeresh (Esther 5:14 and 6:13). The situation between David and Ahithophel will be the most instructive, because of the prophetic link between David and Jesus.

Thursday: Friends who betrayed.

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

The Upper Room Discourse

This is the sixth and last post in a series that explores the Upper Room Discourse recorded in John 13 - 17. To start from the beginning, click here.

Our Resources

As noted yesterday, we have enemies and we will suffer at their hands while the Church advances against the gates of hell. However, such fortitude is requires inner resources. From the Upper Room Discourse, we can identify several of these.

Faith, Peace, and Truth

When trouble comes, it is natural to sink into distress and worry. Jesus told His disciples that faith could stay the heart and move it to confidence.

Do not let your hearts be distressed. You believe in God; believe also in me. (John 14:1)

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you, I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father residing in me performs his miraculous deeds. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me, but if you do not believe me, believe because of the miraculous deeds themselves. I tell you the solemn truth, the person who believes in me will perform the miraculous deeds that I am doing, and will perform greater deeds than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:10-14)

Faith is a mystery thing. Verses like this suggest that it goes beyond an intellectual affirmation of some thesis. The head can rarely control the distressed heart. More often it is the heart that controls the head. Jesus here, talked of trust and dependence. We must come to understand, as Job did, that the apprehension of God's sovereignty and control of all life's circumstances is a source of courage to rise up and move on. (Side note: For those who like to say that Jesus never claimed to be God, Jesus here equates belief in Himself with belief in God.)

Faith coupled with prayer also offers hope for works of power to change the situation. This is especially true as we do our Father's work here on earth. Jesus has promised that His people would do works greater than He did. There is no time constraint on this promise, but rather it is to "the person who believes in me." (Note again the bold implicit claim to being one with God. What mere mortal can promise that you can do miraculous works by believing in him.)

The effect of faith coupled with prayer is the ability to have peace in any situation:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage. (John 14:27)

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but have courage—I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)

The first century Christians experienced this peace, as have believers through the centuries. Here are several more verses:

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be seen by all. The Lord is near! Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, tell your requests to God in your every prayer and petition—with thanksgiving. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

But remember the former days when you endured a harsh conflict of suffering after you were enlightened. At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and afflictions, and at other times you came to share with others who were treated in that way. For in fact you shared the sufferings of those in prison, and you accepted the confiscation of your belongings with joy, because you knew that you certainly had a better and lasting possession. (Hebrews 10:32-34)

My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, (James 1:2)

And God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

I have been especially challenged by the Hebrews passage above. It is one thing to suffer martyrdom, on the other side of which is the home Jesus promised. The confiscation of home and property puts you on the street with nothing but mouths to feed. Before I read the "accepted ... with joy," I would have counted on patience, endurance, and hope. But joy? Could I really stand in the street and sing? Many have done so. This is the external evidence of the peace that "surpasses all understanding."

One key component of Faith and Peace is Truth:

Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I set myself apart on their behalf, so that they too may be truly set apart. (John 17:17-19)

The Father will set us apart "in the truth." This Truth includes doctrine, but goes way beyond that to being able to apprehend a knowledge of the Father and His love. This is Truth that changes our lives and is part of bringing peace.

The Holy Spirit

But beyond faith, peace, and truth, Jesus' return to the Father has provided the Holy Spirit by whom He manifests His presence and continues His work on the earth.

Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)

But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment— concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. (John 16:7-11)

Jesus told His disciples, "it is to your advantage that I am going away." Clearly, Jesus knew that the Holy Spirit was superior to His presence on the earth. There are several reasons for this. 

First, Jesus' ministry was constrained geographically. The Holy Spirit within us expands the scope of Jesus' work to all places whereat a believer serves. As Acts 1:1 begins, "I wrote the former account, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach" (Acts 1:1) The presence of the Holy Spirit continues the work of Jesus on earth.

Second, the Holy Spirit provides an access to the Father unknown to the Old Testament saints. In the Old Covenant, the High Priest, once a year, could enter the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the nation. According to Hebrews the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle was "a shadow of the good things to come but not the reality itself" (Hebrews 10:1) But all believers now have direct access to the real thing:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the fresh and living way that he inaugurated for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in the assurance that faith brings, because we have had our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. And let us hold unwaveringly to the hope that we confess, for the one who made the promise is trustworthy. (Hebrews 10:19-23)


Jesus spoke of many things on this night before His betrayal and arrest. Great trials lay ahead for Himself and His disciples. The disciples, who still argued over who was greatest, would scatter to the hills in despair and defeat. The next days would be dark, lonely, and frightening.

But they did not leave Jerusalem! That might have been the safe thing to do. Jesus arrested and crucified should have marked the end of this small band. Jesus words had some early effect on them. They stayed and waited to see what would happen.

Jesus soon rose from the dead and eventually returned to the Father. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came in power and the gospel began spreading across the globe. Through the centuries, many have tried to stop it, but all efforts failed and will continue to fail. 

Jesus taught us about our destiny to be with Him in eternity. He gave us the command to love one another. He warned us about the world system. He promised and sent the Holy Spirit. This night represented the bottom of Jesus' descent from His heavenly home. He came down, saved us, gave us everything we need to serve Him here, and promises to return and take us with Him. I have nothing but praise and thanksgiving over this.

Wednesday: Judas Iscariot

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

Monday, March 24, 2003

The Upper Room Discourse

This is the fifth post in a series that explores the Upper Room Discourse recorded in John 13 - 17. To start from the beginning, click here.

Our Challenge

As I have begun each of these studies on the themes in the Upper Room Discourse, I begin with its beginning:

Just before the Passover feast, Jesus knew that his time had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that he should betray Jesus. Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself. He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself. (John 13:1-5, The Net Bible)

As you should now be seeing, these introductory verses set the tone and foreshadow much of what was to follow in the next 5 chapters of John's gospel. This lesson is foreshadowed by these words, "the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, that he should betray Jesus."

Simply put, Jesus had enemies and, by association, we do too. Jesus told His disciples:

“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you do not belong to the world, but I chose you out of the world, for this reason the world hates you. Remember what I told you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they obeyed my word, they will obey yours too. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. But they no longer have any excuse for their sin. The one who hates me hates my Father too. If I had not performed among them the miraculous deeds that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen the deeds and have hated both me and my Father. Now this happened to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without reason.’ (John 15:18-25)

The truth of Jesus' words was brought home to me in an interesting way, when I embarked on a study of humanism. The works of Francis Schaeffer had introduced me to the term. I certainly could derive what Schaeffer meant by humanism, but I was interested to see if there were people who would call themselves humanists. In other words, did Francis Schaeffer coin a useful term or was he using a term defined by others? 

I quickly discovered the Humanist Manifesto and the Humanist Manifesto II. I was struck by several things. The signers of the documents, for one thing, included Julian Huxley, John Dewy, Alan Guttmacher, Andre Sakharov, and others. These are very prominent and influential name. For another thing was the express purpose to restructure society along non-religious lines. Take for example, the thirteenth affirmation in the first manifesto:

THIRTEENTH: Religious humanism maintains that all associations and institutions exist for the fulfillment of human life. The intelligent evaluation, transformation, control, and direction of such associations and institutions with a view to the enhancement of human life is the purpose and program of humanism. Certainly religious institutions, their ritualistic forms, ecclesiastical methods, and communal activities must be reconstituted as rapidly as experience allows, in order to function effectively in the modern world.

The manifestos are roadmaps, signed by prominent intellectuals, to engineer a world without religion in general and Christianity in particular. In them, you will find the seeds of gender feminism, sexual freedom, socialism, and internationalism. 

I continued my study by subscribing the The Humanist magazine. This magazine is obsessed with Christianity. I did not receive a single issue, in the years that I subscribed to it, that did not have some article or opinion telling its readers how bad this Christianity and Christians were. To put this in perspective, imagine if every issue of Christianity Today were to have a diatribe against humanism. Imagine, also, that a humanist reading Christianity Today would quickly realize that no effort had been made by any of the authors to read and study humanism as humanists see it. The Humanist magazine creates a caricature of Christianity that is hardly likeable, and then bashes it.

And so I remembered Jesus' words, "If the world hates you..." and "If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own." I also deduced at least two things from those who strive to remove Christian expression from modern culture. The first is that they understand the power of our message, perhaps, more than we do. They fear it. Second, they will not succeed. I have said on several occasions that the most significant revival of Christianity could be happening outside the CNN center, and it would go unreported. It is neither good nor correct nor wise for us to assess our strength from the media. These thoughts have been recently born out by three recent editorials: Recovering Secularist, God in the News Room, and God, Satan and the Media.

Jesus also said this in the Upper Room Discourse:

“I have told you all these things so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue, yet a time is coming when the one who kills you will think he is offering service to God. They will do these things because they have not known the Father or me. But I have told you these things so that when their time comes you will remember that I told you about them. “I did not tell you these things from the beginning because I was with you. (John 16:1-4)

Humanism represents an outside enemy of Christianity. It is overt in its disdain. But there is a covert system that is just as problematic to the truth: highly legalistic forms of Christianity and near Christian cults. They have a two fold danger. They can directly trap people within their sphere and they deflect others from considering the real claims that Christianity has.

As John records, Satan put it into the heart of Judas to betray Jesus. Satan also empowers the world system. He is ultimately behind the external and internal fronts against the truth. And so, we have suffered down through the ages and continue to suffer today. In this, we must rejoice and seek to become strong and able to stand firm. In the USA, we have it pretty good. In China and other places, being a Christian carries a clear and present danger and one for which they gladly suffer. Their reward will be great. But let us not think that it will not happen here, nor that it could not be in our lifetimes. Jesus warned us, so that we can be prepared.

Fortunately, we have help.

Tuesday: Our Resources.

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>