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Friday, January 1, 2021

How Much Like Jesus Do You Want to Be?

By Gerald Cowan

   How Much Like Jesus Do You Want to Be? Are you REALLY like Him? How do you feel about Judas, and Jesus' treatment of him?
    I’ve been attending church assemblies regularly for about 64 years, been a Christian for 63 years and a preacher of the gospel for nearly 63 years. “What would Jesus do?” was a popular question and saying some time ago, though it isn’t heard or seriously asked much these days. Why?  There was a time when I heard people in church assemblies sing, “Oh to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer; this is my constant longing and prayer.” Another favorite song was, “I want to be more like Jesus...More and more like Jesus.”  A common ‘invitation’ song was, “Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.”  I thought, and still think, these songs ought to be the theme of every Christian, sung often in witness of our faith and our relationship to Him and to God. But I do not hear them sung often any more. Why?  Is it because we really do not want to be like Him? Do we think Jesus is no longer an effective and satisfying guide and role model for us?  Are we afraid the world will shun us if we are like Him and not enough like them? Do we really want to be master of our own life and destiny rather than submit to someone outside ourselves? Maybe we just feel that somehow it would be hypocritical to sing something we do not whole-heartedly attempt to do or to be.
    I was reading recently an article about the events of Jesus’s last meeting with all his apostles, the time he spent with them between his betrayal to his enemies and his death on the cross.  One of the paintings of his last supper showed him washing the feet of his disciples (mentioned only in John, chapter 13). I noticed only eleven disciples were depicted in that painting. On further investigation I found that many or maybe most depictions of Jesus washing the feet of disciples show only eleven present with Him. Who is supposedly missing from that group, and why?  No doubt we are supposed to think Judas is the missing one. Is it reasonable to assume Jesus did not treat Judas the same as He did the other apostles? This prompted me to think of what Jesus did and to compare myself with him. Here are several questions that came to mind. How would you answer if they were asked of you?

    WOULD YOU WASH THE FEET OF ONE WHO HAD BETRAYED YOU?
    WOULD YOU SHARE YOUR OWN FOOD WITH YOUR ENEMY?
    WOULD YOU SHARE COMMUNION WITH AN APOSTATE?
    WOULD YOU PROTECT THOSE WHO ABANDONED YOU?
    WOULD YOU ADDRESS AN ENEMY AS YOUR FRIEND?
    WOULD YOU FORGIVE ONE WHO DENIED YOU?
    WOULD YOU PRAY FOR YOUR BETRAYERS?
    WOULD YOU LOVE YOUR ENEMIES?
    WOULD YOU DIE TO SAVE THEM?
    JESUS DID ALL THESE THINGS.  HOW MUCH ARE YOU LIKE HIM?

I confess that my first impulse – maybe yours too? – was to say no to each one and say it emphatically. “NO, not I.  I would not do those things, not ever!” I suppose I was thinking that I am not like Judas, not even like most of the other disciples at that meeting. Not like Judas who had already betrayed him to those seeking his life, and would lead them to him after the supper. Not like cowardly Peter who boasted he would go to prison with Jesus or for Him, even die with Him or for Him, and would never deny his association with Him, but within a few hours denied with an oath that he even knew Him.  Not like any of those twelve who jockeyed for position at the right or left hand of power in the coming kingdom and squabbled incessantly about who was greatest and most deserving of the highest place.  But if Jesus said in my presence that one of us in that group would deliver Him up to those who would then kill him, would I have answered incredulously as the eleven did, “Lord am I the one? Please don’t think I’m the one.”  Or would I, knowing my own failures, say with hypocritical Judas, “Am I the one, Rabbi? Surely you don’t think I would do that.”  I suppose that I wouldn’t want to ask or answer the questions about my faith and fidelity – I worry about what would be revealed and what the consequences might be for me. Yes, yes – you don’t have to say it; I know it. Worry is a sin!  Everybody knows or should know that – we hear it often from preachers and philosophers – they are also frequently wrong about other things. I will tell you this: It is a sin to say that worry is a sin!  But that is not the point here – I’d be happy to expound upon it at some other time if requested. This essay is about being like Jesus. Let’s get back to the point. Before you continue reading this, please take time to read Matthew 26:1—27:66,  Mark 14:1—15:47, Luke 22:1—23:56, and John 13:1—19:42. Do not come back here until you have read all these passages which will help you find answers to all the questions we have asked, and more.
    Did Jesus know that he would be betrayed and sold in a way that would lead to his death on a cross? Did he know those who plotted and planned to kill him?  Did He know who would betray Him and sell Him? Did he know how he would die and when it would all come together and be accomplished?  Did he know why he would have to die, and did he agree to have it so?  Yes to all of that. Even under the stress and agony of that knowledge his pledge to God was, “Let Your will, not mine, be done.”
    Did he wash Judas’ feet and did Judas accept it? There is no indication that Judas refused it or that Jesus did not do it. It came before the supper, Judas was present through the supper though he left before the Lord’s instruction and before that great prayer – truly “the Lord’s prayer” – of John 17.
    Did He share his food with Judas? Judas’ hand dipped bread into the dish Jesus held.
    Did he offer the communion to deniers and betrayers? Did they accept and share it?
    Did he ask the arresting mob to let his disciples go free?  Did they do as he asked?
    He forgave Peter for denying him and, by implication, those who deserted him and ran away. You may wonder, would he have forgiven Judas if he confessed and repented what he had done.
    He prayed that his persecutors and killers could be and would be forgiven, since they didn’t really understand what they were doing.
    He prayed for his apostles before the climactic betrayal, though he knew what they would do.
    Did he love his weak and errant disciples, and even his declared and active enemies? He loved them even to the end, in spite of their weaknesses and failures – he prayed for them to win.
    Did he agree to die for the sins of all, his friends but also his enemies? That is why he came, that is the agreement he made with God and he never reneged on it.
    What caused the failure of the disciples, especially the action of Judas? Why did Judas do what he did in betraying Jesus?  For money?  Not likely, though it is a plausible and all too common crutch given to Judas and to the multitude of unscrupulous people who sell out the Lord and others for personal gain. Doing such a heinous thing for a little money doesn’t seem to make much practical sense.  If it was for money why stop with 30 pieces of silver – a meager price for an enemy’s life, much less for the life of a true benefactor and friend.  We may never know or understand Judas. We just know we don’t want to be like him. That’s OK. That’s good.
    But if you are not like Jesus, and if you would not and will not do what Jesus did and what he and God ask you to do, here’s another question for you to answer: WHY?  Why are you not like Him? Why are you not obedient to Him? Why do you compromise the Lord and His way rather that stay loyal to Him in His appointed, though admittedly difficult, narrow and restricted way? (Matthew 7:13-14).  Do you not worry about your future and your eternal destiny as a rebel, betrayer, and seller of the Christ? Yes, yes, I know.  Too many questions.  Too judgmental (in your definition of “judging”)?  Not loving enough (by your definition of love)?  Not Christ-like (by your definition of what it means to be like Christ, of Christ, with Christ)? Why do you resist and resent my questions?  I still have one more question for you: Are you ready for the questions Christ will ask you in the judgment, when your answers will determine your forever placement in your forever condition?
   Sorry, I have to add one more question, and this is the last: Are you worried yet?
- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com


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