Forgive – click to play the audio
Mark Chapter 11, looking at verses 25 and 26, “And when you stand praying, forgive, if you ought against any, that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
If I were to ask you, “What is Jesus’ first teaching on prayer?”, I wonder if you would be reminded of Matthew 5:44 in the Sermon on the Mount, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you. And when you stand to pray, forgive.”
Years ago, a Fuller Seminary Professor named Ray Anderson was eating at a restaurant and he slipped in to the restroom. When he came to wash his hands he noticed up on the mirror were these words, with a marker felt-tipped pen: “Judas, come home. All is forgiven.” Judas, come home. All is forgiven. Ray Anderson looked at those words and he wondered momentarily who could have written this? He first thought about maybe some prodigal son who’ve left home in a huff. He is out sowing his wild oats in San Francisco, and maybe had a longing in his heart to go home.
Then as Ray Anderson looked at those words perhaps, he thought, it was a father, a father who had spoken in haste to his rebellious son as he walked out the door and called him Judas. Now, in desperation, he’s going from restaurant to restaurant, leaving a message that perhaps his son will see it, “Judas come home.” Being in San Francisco and being a seminary professor he thought of perhaps a seminary student, a theological student going from restaurant to restaurant, from restroom to restroom leaving this gospel graffiti: Judas, come home. All is forgiven.
Dr. Ray Anderson looked at those words and he began to wonder, “Could this even be true? Would Jesus have forgiven Judas?” Do you recall when Jesus was resurrected? For forty days He ministered and walked about. Do you ever wonder what He was doing? Well, one of the things He was doing was going back to those who needed forgiveness. He came to the disciples who had deserted Him, left Him to hang on the cross. He wanted them to know He has forgiven them. He came to Peter personally. He wanted Peter to know, “All is alright, Peter. I’ve forgiven you.”
He came to Thomas just so Thomas could know that in spite of all of his doubts Jesus wanted him to know he is forgiven. He came to Paul; Paul, with all of his defiance, with all of his rage of persecuting the Christians. He came to Paul, who was then called Saul of Tarsus, just to let Saul know, “I’m alive and you are forgiven.” He came to his brother, James, who for years did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. He came to James just to let him know in spite of his disbelief he wanted him to know he was forgiven.
Would Jesus have forgiven Judas? That’s really a subject that I’m going to share with you tonight – What is betrayal? Because Judas betrayed Jesus. What is betrayal? Betrayal is love turned against itself. Betrayal is love turned against itself. The illustration in the Scripture is that of leprosy where that leprosy begins to eat away at its own body. This is sin; a sin perhaps at its worst is betrayal. I think it’s one of the hardest sins to forgive. Let me share with you why.
First of all if you have your outline you’ll notice the first insight is love contains the seeds of betrayal. Love contains the seeds of betrayal. Only where love and the bound of commitment exist is there a potential for betrayal. So when Judas would say to Jesus, “I love you,” and gave Jesus a kiss, it was a kiss of betrayal.
Before we go much further you and I need to realize in our saying to Jesus Christ, “I love you,” it has the seeds of betrayal in that statement. You see when we see betrayal in someone else we call that person a Judas, but when we see that betrayal in our own heart we call it as a Simon Peter. There’s not a lot of difference between betrayal and denial. Simon Peter denied Jesus. Judas betrayed him.
When we went to Chelm, Poland in Krakow, we visited Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. One of the great lessons that God taught me there in that extermination camp is that the Holocaust shows us, shows what man is capable of doing. It shows what we are capable of doing. It shows each one of us, what I am capable of doing. For until you see what your heart is capable of doing you’ll never understand betrayal. Betrayal is love turned against itself.
Matthew 27: 1-5, “When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.’ And they said, ‘What is that to us? See thou to it.’ And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”
The disciples only gave Judas credit for remorse and not repentance. You see what’s the difference between remorse and repentance? Remorse is the regret of having gotten caught. Let me say that again. Remorse is the emotional regret of having gotten caught. It’s the Jimmy Swaggart alligator tears rolling down his cheeks, only months later to turn around and do it again. It’s the Bill Clinton trying to play fancy word games instead of being broken – only remorse of having gotten caught; whereas repentance, repentance is that change of character that includes reformation. There is a change that takes place when you repent genuinely. There is a retribution. You’re wanting to restore financially back to someone that you have taken something from them. There is reconciliation, a desire to be one with that person you have offended. True repentance means a change of character. With Judas, because he went and hung himself, we don’t know if there’s a change of character or not. He went and threw down the money and acknowledged he had betrayed innocent blood. But was there a change? We don’t know.
I wonder what would have happened to Judas if the disciples had forgiven him? We’ll never know, will we? Because where were the disciples? Hiding. They had deserted Jesus and they were hiding for fear of the Romans that they, too, might end up on a cross. Did not Jesus say, “Take up your cross and follow me”? And now they are hiding. No room for repentance. No room to receive Judas and forgive.
But I want to you to see a second insight tonight and that is that love chances the shame of betrayal. Love changes the shame of betrayal. To love is to risk betrayal. In some ways it’s like a fatal attraction. When you love you risk. Remember Jesus spend all night in prayer to the Father asking the Father to send him some disciples? The next day Jesus started calling the disciples. The Father answered his prayer, gave him his disciples including Judas. Jesus accepted these disciples including Judas, and in doing so he risked.
Do you remember the Lord’s Supper – and I shared this about a month ago – when Jesus said, “One of you shall betray me”? Did you notice in my message I did not say they all turned and looked at Judas? Because they didn’t. They all looked within their own heart that to love is to risk betrayal.
You ever notice in the Scriptures the list of disciples? I get tickled when I look at the list of disciples. It states after Judas’ name, it says, “Who betrayed Jesus.” Wait a minute. Why don’t you put after Peter, Simon Peter, who denied Jesus or put after Thomas, Thomas, who doubted Jesus? Why don’t you put after James and John who connived and maneuvered so that they could have the chief seats when Jesus entered into his kingdom? You see the disciples never would forgive Judas. Every time they wrote his name on the list of disciples they would write down, “Who betrayed Jesus.” Love risks. It changes that shame.
Thirdly, I want you to see that love cancels the sin of betrayal. Love cancels the sin of betrayal. Love overcomes the consequences of betrayal. At the very moment when Judas was hanging himself Jesus is on his way to be crucified. His death, Jesus’ death, his blood on the cross would cancel out that betrayal. His blood would pay the price of Judas’ sin. Betrayal has the tremendous power to destroy, but love has a greater power to heal and to restore. 1 Peter 4:8, “For love shall cover the multitude of sins.” Proverbs 10:12, “Love covereth all sins.”
When I come to this message and I come to this area of betrayal I see in the Scripture seven areas that are very, very difficult to forgive. There on your sheets you’ll notice those seven areas. I want to touch on them just momentarily. The first is sexual betrayal. Sexual betrayal of love turned towards somebody else. Adultery, pornography, homosexuality, can these sins be forgiven? In John 8:1-11, they brought a woman caught in adultery. Jesus gave us the example. He said, “Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more”. He didn’t cover up the sin; he recognized it was sin. But there was forgiveness in the heart of Jesus.
Luke 7:36-50 is the story about a rather loose woman who came to Jesus with an alabaster box and anointed his feet and dried his feet with that ointment, her tears with her hair. Jesus said unto her, “Your sins, which area many, are forgiven.” The story of the prodigal son there in Luke 15:11-32, the whole story is about a prodigal son who’s coming home. His father doesn’t wait for him. He is looking for him. He’s on the path. Perhaps he had a daily route walking out on the path, hoping on the horizon he would see his son. In the story Jesus tells the son comes home. His father immediately forgives him, puts shoes on his feet, ring on his hand, put clothes on his back, and told him to get a fattened calf and get it ready, “We will celebrate tonight.” Forgiveness.
Then you have financial betrayal: stealing, exhorting, running a scam. Perhaps you’ve been a victim of it. There is still that bitterness in your heart. Jesus, in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:12, says, “Forgive us our debts.” Forgive the financial betrayal that is there. In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus told of a parable of a king who forgave an enormous financial debt, a debt that could never be repaid in a multitude of lifetimes. It was sending a message that God the Father is ready to forgive.
Then there’s the physical abuse, the physical betrayal, whether it is physically beaten or perhaps verbal. You have that betrayal. Matthew 5:38-48. It’s in the context when Jesus said, “If someone smite you on the cheek, turn to him the other,” that Jesus gave that teaching. Love, bless, do good, and pray for those. When Jesus was on the cross being physically abused, verbally abused, he said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
Then there’s the resentful betrayal. Perhaps some disability there, genetically or through an accident, hard to forgive, to blame God for what has happened. John 9:1-3, Jesus was asked about a man that was born blind. Jesus said, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest.” There needs to be forgiveness. And then there’s Psalm 103:3, “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.” Sometimes there is that need for this betrayal and this forgiveness to take place.
Then there’s the heretical betrayal. When a family member, a friend, embraces false teaching, goes off and gets involved in a small cult or maybe even gets involved in the occult. Mark 3:28-29, “All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies.” God can forgive even the heretical embracing of false teaching.
Then there’s the disgraceful betrayal: slander, scandals, rumors. Maybe somebody said something about you that was untrue. Maybe it was even true, but they spread the scandal and rumor anyway. 2 Samuel 19:18-23 is a story about a servant who came seeking forgiveness because of the slander that he had committed. Revelation 3:1 and 2, the story about the Church of Sardis who had a great reputation, but as a reputation of being alive when it was dead and Jesus told it to repent; willing to forgive.
Then there’s the continual betrayal; the repetitious, continual addictions, habits when these keep reoccurring and they come and they’ll cry and they’ll ask forgiveness and you forgive and next month here they come again and then they come again and they come again and they come again. In Matthew 18:21 and 22, Peter asked Jesus how many times, how many times shall I keep forgiving this person? Jesus said seven times seventy. Keep forgiving, keep forgiving.
I find in the Scriptures that these are seven very, very difficult areas in our relationships with others to forgive. Perhaps you remember the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves where Snow White stood in front of her mirror and said, “Mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of them all?” Sometimes we shape our questions by the answer we want. Why didn’t Snow White stand in front of the mirror and say, “Mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the ugliest of them all?” We don’t want that answer to come back to us. So who’s the prettiest?
Do you ever go to the fair and you see those distorted mirrors and they show us all twisted, overweight, skinny? You choose the one you want. You get in front of that one mirror that makes you look 800 pounds. You say, “Well, that’s not me.” You go to that one that looks like you weigh 75 and you say, “That’s me!” Distorted reflections. There’s something inside of us that’s twisted as much as that distorted mirror. It’s called iniquity. We have embraced some lies and it shaped our life and we need forgiveness.
I wonder tonight if there’s a Judas inside of you that needs forgiving tonight. Jesus has asked this servant to come and to give you the message of forgiveness. God wants you to know you are forgiven. He loves you. He’s paid the price for that forgiveness. Perhaps there’s a family member who needs forgiveness. I wonder tonight if you’ll take this message, you’ll go home and pray it through. Leave your gift at the altar and go and be reconciled. Go to that person and say, “You are forgiven.” Perhaps someone you haven’t spoken to for years. There’s a hurt there. I know there’s a hurt. Go and forgive.
Judas, come home. All is forgiven. Jesus said, “And when you stand praying, forgive, if you have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
One of the songs we sing and we love to sing it What a Friend We Have in Jesus.
Are we weak and heavy- laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? (Can I change the word slightly?)
Do thy friends betray thee and forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer! In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there— A place of peace, a place to be still.
Would you bow with me for a prayer? We’re human all of us. There’s none that is without sin. Jesus wants you to know you are forgiven tonight. Not the just the past sins, even the present sins and even the future sins. He paid the price for all sin. He wants you to come home. Come home. Come back to him. Maybe that you’re here and you need to become a Christian, to receive his love in the first place; He want you to come.
Thank you Father for your grace, your love; you’re so ready to forgive. You overflow with grace and mercy. It’s astonishing, Father, how you could love us. We’ll never completely understand it, but we relish in it. We treasure it. For an eternity we’ll thank you for it, in Jesus name we pray. Amen.