Sermon delivered December 18, 1999

by Pastor Kent Crutcher

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

It Was Night

It seems like there's always trouble at my house. Not so much the occupants, but with the house itself. My house is around 50 years old. It has a wood-burning stove inserted into the old fireplace. I don't know how old the chimney is, the house has been added on to over the years, and the fireplace has had fires in over the years. So, I've been a little timid starting a fire. When we bought the house there was a fire actually laid ready to start in the wood-burning stove. I looked at the newspapers that were there, and they were about six years old. Evidently it has been several years since the previous owners had built a fire in that place. We have not dared to start a fire not knowing the condition of the chimney.

Well, with January 1, 2000 coming, I decided that it might be wise to check things out just in case Y2K turns off the heat. We might wish to build a fire. So, this week, I began the process. I went outside and looked up. It looked pretty good. I could have stopped with that, feeling pretty good about how my chimney looked, but I decided that maybe I should go up on the roof and look down. The chimney looks fine, from the outside. I could go with first appearances. It sure would be easier! But, thinking better of it, I decide to climb onto the roof for a better look. It still looks fine. Maybe I should quit. But, then again, I can only see about three feet down the chimney. Maybe I should use a light. So I ran some extension cord and got a light bulb and lowered it down inside the chimney. And what to my wandering eyes should appear? Ashes, soot, creosote, dirt-dauber nests chimney swift nests and broken egg shells from the babies were heard peeping there this spring as their mother flew down there to feed them. What a mess!

As I was working on cleaning that chimney this week I was thinking about one of Pastor Getty's sermons from a few weeks ago: "The Tallest Disciple," the sermon about Judas. How much my chimney was like Judas. Fine looking on the outside, but if we bother to look in we see blackness and dirt.

He was bright, intelligent, well educated, and cultured. He was liked and even loved by those with whom he came in contact. He had followed Jesus intimately for over three years. The other disciples respected him and knew that he would be great in the kingdom that they were expecting Jesus to set up shortly. He was the type of person that any mother would have been proud to name her son after.

It was the night of the Passover, the last Passover that Jesus was to partake of with His disciples. It was the night that Jesus had washed the feet of His disciples. It was the night that Peter found out about true humility. It was the night that Jesus shared with His disciples the emblems of His broken body and shed blood. But it was also night in the heart of this one respected disciple. After this night, mothers would no longer be eager to name their son after this man. How many men have you met with the name of Judas?

I've been to the hospital many times to greet new-born babies, and never once has a mother said, "Here, hold Judas." I've not experienced that. Please don't let me.

Yes, Judas was there in the upper room that night. His feet had been washed by Jesus Himself. He had eaten next to Jesus. Jesus had handed him dipped bread, a Middle-Eastern gesture of special friendship. All the while, Judas dwelled upon his own dark purposes.

Jesus knew the plans Judas had made for His betrayal. But even with this knowledge, Jesus gave Judas several opportunities that night to repent. While washing the disciples feet, Jesus gave proof that He understood the character of Judas for in John 13:10 He states: "You are not all clean." These words convinced Judas that Jesus knew His secret purpose. While sitting at the table, Jesus spoke out more plainly. In John 13:18 He says: "I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill Scripture: 'He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'"

Even now, the disciples did not suspect Judas. But they saw that Jesus appeared greatly troubled. As they ate in silence, Jesus said, in John 13:21, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me." At these words, the disciples were seized with amazement and disbelief! Yet they realized that what Jesus said always happened. Who could do such a thing?

Even at this time, the others did not say: "Lord, is it Judas?" Rather, they looked at their own hearts and asked, as in Matthew 26:25 "Lord, is it I?" But as each disciple asked this question, Judas remained silent. John, in deep distress, at last asks the question, "Lord, who is it?" Verse 23. Jesus replied, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."

The silence of Judas draws all eyes to him. Amid the confusion and expressions of astonishment, Judas had not heard the words of Jesus in answer to John s question. But now, to escape the eyes of the disciples, he asked as they had done, "Rabbi, is it I?" To which Jesus answers "Yes."

In surprise and confusion at the exposure of his purpose, Judas rose hastily to leave the room. In John 13:27, Jesus says, "What you are about to do, do quickly." But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some though Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor." Even then, the disciples had such a high regard for Judas that they did not believe he would betray their Lord.

John 13:30 says, As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. It is always night when we turn away from Jesus. Many people are more worried about the lights going out for Y2K than are worried about the Light going out in their hearts today!

Notice something in the passage from Matthew. Each disciple asks "Lord, is it I?" But Judas asks "Rabbi, is it I?" Jesus was not Lord of the heart of Judas. No matter how much time we spend with Jesus, no matter how good we appear, no matter how highly others think of us, if Jesus is not Lord of our hearts, we too will betray Him!

The instructions for my wood-stove say that I should clean my chimney yearly so that the fire will burn freely and safely. Our hearts need to be cleaned by the Master daily so that His fire will burn freely there.

As we enter the foot washing and communion service today, let s allow Jesus to become the Lord of our hearts which are made clean by His life and presence.

Opening Hymn: #143, Silent Night
Scripture: John 3:16,17
Closing Hymn: #133, Now is Born the Divine Christ Child

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