The Distortion of Sin
Matthew 26:36-56

(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg

Matthew 26:36-56

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. 41 "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."
42 He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"
Jesus Arrested
47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: "The one I kiss is the man; arrest him." 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" and kissed him.
50 Jesus replied, "Friend, do what you came for."
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus' companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
52 "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?"
55 At that time Jesus said to the crowd, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

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
People have long wondered what it has meant to be created in the image of God. They have looked at humanity, what it means to be human and they have found the image of God to be reflected in many different ways, such as; the capacity to reason, creativity, the capacity to love, emotions, volition, conscience, imagination, moral responsibility, worship and language, each of these demonstrated with the quality of true righteousness and holiness. But as we look at the disciples, and then especially Judas, we find these qualities of the image of God still there, but distorted by the defiling influence of evil in ever increasing measure.

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 too late.
There are very few things in life that we will be able to hold on to till the very end. Possessions will deteriorate, rust, wear out, relationships will move on, loved ones will pass away, we can't hold on to them. But one thing we ought to hold on to with uncompromised tenacity is a clean conscience. How often have I, you, let the little things slide. "Its not that important." "I won't hurt anybody." "No one will find out." Our conscience each time becomes a little quieter until we repent. How often have you and I seared our consciences, maybe in small steps, compromised what we knew was right?

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.
We find this true throughout this world. We have found that language not only communicates, it also hides truth. Entire cultures, political systems and world views are shaped by language and the meaning of symbols within a specific language. I could spend a lot of time talking about world dynamics and the influence of language on those dynamics.
Isn't this also true between people. So often we say one thing, and mean another, we misspeak, we blurt out things in ways we had maybe momentarily intended only to find out how damaging our words were in wounding others. How often has the image been distorted in me, in you, through our words misused, abused?

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.
What is God to us? Do we love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, or do we demonstrate in our lives that he is worth a lot less, maybe an hour a week and a few coins in the offering bag? Maybe we have demonstrated that he is not worth naming or identifying with in public at our own personal expense like the disciples, like Peter. What worth have we given to God?

I suspect as you have reflected on your life this morning, you have seen how the image of God has been distorted in you. I invite you to join with me in a prayer of quiet confession, and then as music ministry responds with our song
I invite you to once again sign the cards and bring them forward as an act of turning from your sin and choosing to once again faithfully reflect the image of God to those around you.

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.
Even when Judas came into the garden, with dishonest words said "Rabbi, it is so good to see you!" and then gave Jesus a betraying kiss, Jesus, knowing full well what Judas was up to responded with friendship - Jesus said "Friend, do what you came for."
Jesus was responding in a way that was consistent with the image of God, offering grace to the last even though in Judas grace could no longer be received, he had gone past the point of any turning back.
Jesus offers to us this same grace. When we come in repentance and trusting faith, God's words to us in Christ are "friend, loved one, child, my sheep." The terms of endearment in scripture are endless. His love knows no limits. God says to us through Isaiah

18 "Come now, let us reason together,"
says the LORD.
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
(Though there be blood on your hands)
they shall be like wool.

Forgiveness is to all who come.
During our final song, prayer ministry will be available at the front of the sanctuary to all with need. If your hunger is for more of the image of God to be faithfully and truly displayed through you - come. If you have a special need, come to receive prayer ministry.

(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.

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