My wife loves deleted scenes. Every movie has them. Not all material that is filmed makes it into the final movie. Sometimes it’s clear why a scene was “deleted”; it added nothing to the story. Sometimes, though, a deleted scene offers a bit of insight into the story, but was cut solely for the sake of time. I find a similar thing happens with a sermon.
Every text of Scripture is rich with meaning, rich with references and allusions to other Scriptures. Every text could be a word study and could be a biblical theology and all sorts of rich truths could be brought out—but not in a single sermon. For this reason my sermon prep involves three questions.
- What does the text say?
- What is God saying to us through this text?
- What is the best way to say it?
Because a text can (and usually does) say multiple things, I must pray and seek God for the message he has for this church. A text says lots of things and so God could say something different through it to one group than he does to another group. Lots of good stuff, then, ends up on the “editing room floor”.
Consider last Sunday’s sermon. (If you were not able to assemble with us you may watch it or listen to it here.) In this text Jesus is sharing a meal with his twelve disciples. He has washed their feet, illustrating for them the servitude necessary for him to go to the cross. He calls them to wash one another’s feet, to be willing to serve one another. He then quoted Psalm 41 and declared that one of them will betray him. The disciple “whom Jesus loved” asked him which one of them would do this. Jesus told him that it was the one to whom he gave a bit of bread. He proceeded to dip the bread in a common dish and then handed the bread “to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot”. It is as this point we read,
Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”John 13:27 ESV
Because God’s focus was on loving one another in Sunday’s sermon, there was not time to address this verse in greater detail. What is happening here? It’s important to understand what has been occurring. Jesus had known from the beginning who would betray him (see John 6:64). This means Jesus knew Judas would betray him before he ever called Judas to be one of his disciples! When Jesus traveled with and taught the disciples and when he performed miracles and gave them authority over demons, he knew that Judas would betray him. Yet Jesus pursued Judas. When Jesus called the people to faith and repentance, he was also calling Judas to faith and repentance. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he was also showing Judas his power to save even one as spiritually dead as Judas. When Jesus washed his disciples’ feet he declared that they were truly clean for having been washed by Jesus—but that not all of them were—he was telling Judas that a complete and thorough washing was available even to him, if he were just willing.
Jesus knew that Judas was not willing, yet he continued to show him kindness. At the Last Supper—yes, that Last Supper—Jesus gave Judas a position of honor right next to him. When he was asked which disciple would betray him, Jesus honored Judas yet again by offering him a bit of bread. Such an act by a host at an important feast was a sign of great honor. Jesus knew Judas would betray him, yet he honored him as a final appeal to him through his act of kindness. It was at this point that John tells us Judas took the act of kindness, receiving the honor Jesus gave to him, and “Satan entered into him”.
The “disciple whom Jesus loved” was probably John, and he was to the right of Jesus. This means Judas must have been to his left. Since Jesus was reclining on his left arm he would not have been able to reach any farther to hand someone bread. This also means Judas likely heard both John’s question and Jesus’ answer. Instead of responding to Jesus’ repeated service to him and Jesus’ acts of kindness and appeals to him to repent and believe, Judas fully and completely surrenders to his own sinful desires, and therefore to Satan himself. When he received the bread from Jesus he was resolved to go ahead with his betrayal, thus rejecting Jesus’ final appeal to him.
It isn’t reflected the English Standard Version, but the Greek text of John 13:27 says, “Therefore Jesus said to him, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly.'” Because of Judas’ final, decisive rejection of Jesus, Jesus tells him to get on with it. The time for appeals was over.
So what does it mean that “Satan entered into him”? It means that Judas had completely and utterly surrendered himself to evil and so Satan had full and complete sway over him. Satan was not making Judas do anything; Judas has surrendered his will to Satan. He was fully engaged in following Satan’s guidance. Nothing would stop Judas’ treachery now. No amount of love and patience and kindness from Jesus would change his mind. He would follow Satan’s leading. Satan had “entered into him”.
There is both encouragement and a warning here. It is encouraging that Jesus continued to pursue Judas, calling him to faith and repentance, granting him time to do so. He showed him great kindness even though he knew the outcome of it all. We should be encouraged to show kindness to even the worst of sinners, and we should be encouraged to pursue them by calling them to faith and repentance. However, we should also recognize that the time for believing is limited. The time will come when God offers his final appeal. After this time is up, the individual will be completely given over to Satan and will only face judgment.
God’s greatness is seen in his justice and holiness. This means his glory will be revealed through judgment. But God’s greatness is also seen in his mercy and grace and patience. This means he is willing to save all who will come to him. As Jesus himself declared in John 6,
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.John 6:37 ESV
We don’t know those whom the Father has given him, but even if we did we should continue to pursue all people, for Jesus pursued Judas until the very end. The promise we cling to is that Jesus would never turn away any who comes to him. No matter how great a person’s evil is, Jesus’ offer to Judas for full and complete forgiveness was a real and genuine offer. Our God is a great Savior.