So today is Good Friday. I’m not exactly sure how to greet you- it’s not like we say, “Happy Good Friday!” or “Merry Crucifixion Day!”
But it is an important day – a day we often take to think and ponder the wonder of the cross, the death of the Messiah, the wrath of God poured out on an innocent man (who also happens to be fully God), and the great sorrow that comes from our sin.
My head and heart have been struggling lately with the whole Judas Iscariot part of the story. I am studying Luke right now, and I was copying out chapter six the other day. I was struck by verses 12-13…
In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. Luke 6:12-16
Jesus went to the mountain to pray and he prayed through the whole night. The next morning he set apart the 12 apostles, including “Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”
The part that nags at my consciousness is where Jesus prays all night for guidance, and gets good guidance, but it looks very, very bad in a short time.
We all know the rest of the story. Jesus continues in ministry for a few years. Then, Satan entered Judas (Luke 22:3), he agreed to turn Jesus over for money (Luke 22: 4-5), Jesus went to the mountain again and prayed for any way but this way, but resolved to continue in obedience (Luke 22:42), Judas betrayed him with a kiss (Luke 22:47-48), Judas killed himself (Matthew 27:3-8; Acts 1:16-19). Jesus was crucified (Luke 23:26-46).
I don’t have a problem with the historical account. I know God was in control the whole time, and the verses about Jesus praying all night and knowing to choose Judas Iscariot to be one of those closest to him serve to confirm God’s sovereignty all the more.
And it’s not even like this is inconsistent with what we see of God throughout scripture – often people obeyed God and things looked really, really wrong. We know the end of the stories, but the people who were following God had to walk through it without knowing the ending. As they obeyed, things got worse.
- Job was going about his business, living a life glorifying God, and God let Satan attack him. He lost his property, his children, his wife, and became an outcast even scoffed at by his friends.
- Moses went back to Egypt to free the Israelites, following God’s instruction, and Pharaoh’s grip tightened.
- Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, according to God’s command, and they were trapped on the shores of the Red Sea.
- Daniel obeyed by praying and was thrown into the lion’s den.
- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego worshiped God alone, and were thrown into the fiery furnace.
- Joseph honored God in Potiphar’s house, and he was slandered and thrown into jail on false accusations.
- Joseph honored God in jail and was forgotten.
- David was anointed King of Israel, trusted God’s timing and protected King Saul, and he was hunted and persecuted.
I could go on and on with examples from scripture as well as examples from extra-Biblical history.
I think what I struggle with is me.
When I am following Jesus and things look really, really bad, do I trust that God is good?
Am I convinced that he’s working all things together for my good and his glory?
Or do I think there is some mistake?
Do I start to wonder if I’ve been on the wrong road or misunderstood his call?
Do I keep following him even when I cannot see where we are going?
C.S. Lewis, in his tale The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, describes Aslan (his allegorical character corresponding to Jesus) in this way,
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
For me it always seems to come back to this: I know God is sovereign, but will I trust him with his sovereignty? Do I really believe he is good? Do I find rest in his sovereign and good will? Will I obey him regardless of how things look?
If God allowed a perfect man to suffer terribly, why should we think that something like that could never happen to us? — Timothy Keller
Good questions to wrestle with on Good Friday.