“When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them…and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” (Luke 6:13, 16)
In recent weeks, two celebrities ended their own lives (truth be told, I knew neither). Suicide is heart-breaking!
The US Center for Disease Control claims that the suicide rate in our nation has risen by 25% in the last two decades. Among people aged 15-35, it is the second leading cause of death. 45,000 people killed themselves in 2016. This is a huge problem. Why? More broken homes? Has the growth in technology led to less real personal interaction? I have no idea.
I can honestly say that I have never felt so hopeless that suicide sounded like a good idea. And since I don’t know what that feeling is like, I don’t want to sit in judgment on people who are struggling in this area. But I AM Spirit-filled believer. I may not be able to relate…but by the Spirit’s power I can recognize and minister to those people. We ALL can. The trick is seeing them.
I thought of this as I was studying one of our disciples for this week’s sermon – the infamous Judas Iscariot.
His name is the Greek form of Judah – Israel’s famous tribe of worshipers – leaders of the nation. The name itself means “God leads.” I’m sure his parents prayed about that name and gave it to him with high hopes for the future. The surname, “Iscariot” is a compound word ish-Kerioth. It means “the man (ish) from Kerioth (Kerioth was a region in the south of Israel).”
If you’ve been digging into the disciples with us in our sermon series “The Twelve,” you know this little fact jumps off the page. Jesus, and all eleven of the other disciples, were from the region of Galilee in the north. Only Judas came from somewhere else.
Did Judas feel like an outsider? Did he feel like the others looked down on him or judged him? I have no way of knowing. But I bet he did. And what we’ll discover on Sunday is that Judas did nothing to change that. Rather, he took advantage of this isolation. He intentionally stayed aloof and unconnected because he was up to no good (he stole from Jesus and the disciples and, of course, betrayed the Lord). The whole time, however, he wore a mask. The other disciples saw someone exactly like themselves. He played the role of a happy disciple. They were shocked to discover later that he was the one behind such thievery and dark plans.
How many times of late have we heard from neighbors of school shooters: “He seemed like a very normal guy.”? Too many times.
Judas remains solely responsible for his actions. Still, maybe the disciples could have been more inclusive or friendly. Maybe they should have noticed his struggles. Regardless, Judas is to blame for his betrayal.
Nevertheless, I think it’s an important reminder for us in this day and age. You never know what’s going on in a person’s life…unless you ask. Unless you invest the time to talk to them. Unless you care. But even more importantly, the Spirit of God knows. Ask him to show you people who are suffering…who are battling demons. And then, in his power, get in there and help!
“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path…. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.“ (Galatians 6:1-2, NLT)
And if you need help, please give me a call!