LOVE’S LAST APPEAL
When evening had come, Jesus was reclining at table with the twelve disciples. While they were eating he said, “This is the truth I tell you–one of you will betray me.” They were greatly distressed and began one by one to say to him, “Lord, can it be I?” He answered, “He who dips his hand with me in the dish, it is he who will betray me. The Son of Man is going to go away, as it stands written concerning him, but alas for that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been bom.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Master, can it be I?” He said to him, “It is you who have said it.”
There are times in these last scenes of the gospel story when Jesus and Judas seem to be in a world where there is none other present except themselves. One thing is certain–Judas must have gone about his grim business with complete secrecy. He must have kept his comings and goings completely hidden, for, if the rest of the disciples had known what Judas was doing, he would never have escaped with his life.
He had concealed his plans from his fellow-disciples–but he could not conceal them from Christ. It is always the same; a man can hide his sins from his fellow-men, but he can never hide them from the eyes of Christ who sees the secrets of the heart. Jesus knew, although no other knew, what Judas was about.
And now we can see Jesus’ methods with the sinner. He could have used his power to blast Judas, to paralyse him, to render him helpless, even to kill him. But the only weapon that Jesus will ever use is the weapon of love’s appeal. One of the great mysteries of life is the respect that God has for the free will of man. God does not coerce; God only appeals.
When Jesus seeks to stop a man from sinning, he does two things.
First, he confronts him with his sin. He tries to make him stop and think what he is doing. He, as it were, says to him, “Look at what you are contemplating doing–can you really do a thing like that?” It has been said that our greatest security against sin lies in our being shocked by it. And again and again Jesus bids a man pause and look and realize so that he may be shocked into sanity.
Second, he confronts him with himself. He bids a man look at him, as if to say, “Can you look at me, can you meet my eyes, and go out to do the thing you purpose doing?” Jesus seeks to make a man become aware of the horror of the thing he is about to do, and of the love which yearns to stop him doing it.
It is just here that we see the real awfulness of sin in its terrible deliberation. In spite of love’s last appeal Judas went on. Even when he was confronted with his sin and confronted with the face of Christ, he would not turn back. There is sin and sin. There is the sin of the passionate heart, of the man who, on the impulse of the moment, is swept into wrong doing. Let no man belittle such sin; its consequences can be very terrible. But far worse is the calculated, callous sin of deliberation, which in cold blood knows what it is doing, which is confronted with the bleak awfulness of the deed and with the love in the eyes of Jesus, and still takes its own way. Our hearts revolt against the son or daughter who cold-bloodedly breaks a parent’s heart–which is what Judas did to Jesus–and the tragedy is that this is what we ourselves so often do.
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