Distortion of Sin
(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg
As we enter in to the last hours before Christ's crucifixion, darkness becomes metaphor. It is not just the absence of light, darkness is the absence of good, the absence of beauty, the absence of trust, the absence of grace, the absence of everything that might incarnate a quality, an image of God.
We see this darkness in the disciples, we see it epitomized in Judas Iscariot. He was created in the image of God, just like you and I. Formed, knit together in his mother's womb, the beauty of the Godhead in a person, qualities of God potentially revealed through his character, through his abilities, through his humanity. But as sin gained dominion over his soul, the image became darker and darker, harder to distinguish, harder to see.
Let me give you some illustrations
In talking about the disciples in general lets first talk about our human capacity to make choices and keep them. The perfect image of God is flawless faithfulness. God when he makes a promise keeps it. His promises are "Yes and Amen" in Christ. The image in the disciples and us is broken, all to often distorted. The disciples said together that they would stick by their Saviour through thick and thin, but as the hours of darkness came, they slept while their Lord struggled, not once, not twice but three times. Their vows to faithfulness had no backbone, no fidelity. We too were created in the image of God, designed to be faithful to the commitments we make, but like the disciples, I too have not kept my commitments perfectly, my word is good, but it is not perfect. It is flawed by forgetfulness, by sloth, by weakness, by a lack of determination. And I suspect, like these disciples, you too have made promises that you have not kept, even though you have been reminded again and again.
Another aspect of the image of God in humanity, especially acknowledged in an age of reason is the capacity for abstract thought, rationality, imagination and creativity. We live in a culture where science applied in technology has shaped our lives well beyond the comprehension of those who lived a mere hundred years ago. This capacity to think through, design, create is part of the image of God who created this cosmos, and when it was done he stepped back and saw that what he had done was very good. Peter also had this capacity to reason. It led him to swing a sword and cut off an ear. Judas had this capacity to reason, but the image of God in him distorted turned into a rational plot, an imaginative creative scheme serving greed, to turn his Lord in for financial gain. How often has reason, creativity been distorted in me, in you? This might seem like something distant but think about it. When is the last time you have been in a heated argument? Is it not true that in almost all circumstances, it is in an argument that reason becomes distorted. It has been said that the first casualty of war is the truth. This is true not only for nations, it is true for people like you and me. How often have we distorted the truth for our own benefit, the image of God in us clouded by the power conflict of selfish desires raging in our souls?
With Satan in the mix, distortion increases, even our God given emotions become malformed by darkness. God, our emotional God has emotions that reflect the depths of his love for us and his intense value for what is good, beautiful, pure and right. Even when we see his wrath in scripture, God is reflecting these deeper values and so his anger is a righteous anger. In Judas however, we see the expressions of love an act of treachery, he betrayed his Lord with a kiss. Emotions, twisted out of shape reveal Satan's influence and control. How often have I, you, we let these emotions of ours, designed for expressing love, holiness and righteousness, how often have we let our emotions out of control wound those around us?
A sense of morality, or
right and wrong, a finely tuned conscience has also been understood as
the image of God in us. We serve a God who gives us
commandments that ought to shape our lives because those commandments
are consistent with his character and best for the people he has
created in his image. By living in obedience to these ethical commands,
we reflect the image of God in a practical righteousness and holiness,
a people of light living in a world often characterized by darkness. We
see this sense of right and wrong in Peter, after he betrayed Christ
three times and the rooster crowed, Peter went out and wept bitterly.
He had acted in ways inconsistent with his ethical values, he had
broken his promises, he was emotionally overcome by the power of the
image God created in him. Judas however, shows no such emotion. He had
been on a journey, according to the gospels, on occasion helping
himself to the moneys of the treasury, greed slowly becoming the habit
of his heart. And finally, his act, his kiss, is a mechanical act
defying every fibre of conscience within him. With a deadly sear, he
decimated his conscience only to recognize the consequences when it was
Linguists like to point out that
clearly, language, the capacity to communicate by the
structures of grammar, syntax, intonation, the capacity to communicate
ideas through the symbols of words is clearly a demonstration of the
image of God, a reflection of Jesus, who was the Word become
flesh, the syntax of the Godhead in human form communicating through
symbol the depths of God's love and character for us. How twisted words
became in Judas Iscariots mouth. He said "Greetings Rabbi!", literally,
"It is such a joy to see you, Rabbi!" but his words meant nothing more
than a tool to identify Jesus to soldiers who had little interest in
who they were arresting in the dark of the Garden of Gethsemane. Words
were twisted symbols, saying one thing, meaning another.
The last category I want to touch
on this morning is our capacity to attribute worth to another.
We get our word Worship from the old English word
Worth-ship, the capacity to attribute worth to God. Scripture calls us
to be people who love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength
for the very reason that that is how God has loved us, with all his
heart, soul, mind and strength and he demonstrated that by giving us
himself through his son to die in our place on the cross in our place.
When we see the cross, we see how much we are worth to God. Worth-ship,
attributing worth to another, is part of the image of God in us. When
we see Judas, who like us was called to love God with heart, soul, mind
and strength, instead he regarded his Lord as only worth 30 pieces of
silver, nothing more than a slave or a worthless piece of land. God to
him was not worthy of love or value except to satisfy his greed.
There is one truth I want you to
notice, and this is true for all four gospels. Not only does Jesus
extend his resurrection grace to the disciples, and to Peter but notice
the grace that was even extended to Judas. All the gospels point out
that Judas was one of the twelve disciples. He was part of the
community, he was embraced by Christ and the disciples. He belonged to
the body. Grace was for him.
18 "Come now, let us reason
Forgiveness is to all who come.
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.