Take a look at your day-to-day life. How much of your time is spent functioning more or less unconsciously doing this or doing that? How much of your time each day is just reacting to whatever comes up? How often do you let your ego get tied up with one thing or another which is of little importance? The fact is that most of us poor untold amounts of energy into things which in the scheme of the universe are of little consequence.
Then suddenly, something goes wrong. We get sick or injured. We lose our job or spouse or friend. Whenever these misfortunes happen we instantly turn to God and ask for HELP.
What we all need is an intentional life, not a reactive one. We need to be regularly reminded that we need God whether things are going right or not. We must admit that without frequent and regular injection of Divine Love and Divine Wisdom we will spiritually starve. Years of experience have made it clear to me that I need to kneel daily before God and admit from my heart that without God's guidance I'm going to mess things up sooner or later - usually sooner. When I believe that I can go it alone without help, it doesn't take long before I find myself embarrassed by the stupid and selfish things I have done.
With all the complexity of Swedenborg's writings, regeneration is in large part an issue of overcoming sin. Yes, sin. Sin is not a popular topic today. It's not often that you hear people talking about sin. In this church we do not believe in the traditional Christian belief that everyone is born into the sin of Adam and Eve. Swedenborg explains that there really is only one sin. To sin is to do what you want to do instead of what you full well know God wants you to do.
Let's look at the one character that no one likes to look at - Judas. Judas may be the most unpopular name in the world. Have you ever met anyone named Judas? Would any parent even consider giving their child the middle name of Judas? The name Judas has in fact such a completely negative connotation that I wager none of you have ever even used it as an expletive in the heat of anger.
Yet, Judas was invited to the Lord's table and his sin is no different than any of ours. That's right! You and I have been as sinful as Judas. It is the consequences of the actions of Judas that were so horrible. I suspect that none of you have ever thought of yourselves as being as bad as Judas. Close examination of the story may reveal that Judas was not really that bad. He was, after all, chosen by Jesus to be a disciple, but he did what we all do. He put his wishes above the Lord's and for this his name lives in infamy.
Swedenborg tells us that a person is not judged for actions but for motives. Now ask yourself, have you ever done anything that was hurtful to someone even though it was not your intention to hurt them? Have you ever thought that you knew what was best for someone else? Have you ever put your will above the Lord's?
As we look at the story we must conclude that the rest of the disciples were unaware of the intended actions of Judas. Undoubtedly Judas would not have escaped with his life if the others had gotten wind of his plot. But Jesus knew all along what he was up to. So it is with us. We may fool everyone, even ourselves, but the Lord always knows our inmost desires and thoughts. Jesus could have stopped Judas dead in his tracks, but He used the only weapon He would ever use to persuade him away from his mission - love's appeal.
For centuries people have asked why Judas betrayed Jesus. We might ask ourselves the same question. Ask yourself, "Why have I betrayed Jesus?" Say that with me aloud right now. "Why have I betrayed Jesus?"
You may protest, "I haven't betrayed Jesus." But the fact is that you have. Every time any of us choose to do something other than the will of God, we betray the cause of Christ. Jesus said that He came to save those in sin. He knew that the so-called "righteous" could not be saved. The righteous were not willing to acknowledge that they needed to change. The sinner acknowledges that change is needed and that without God those changes cannot take place.
I find it fascinating that so many people are willing to believe that Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. I cannot for a moment believe that it was for thirty pieces of silver. William Barclay [17th century Quaker] suggests that Judas was trying to force the Lord's hand. He wanted Jesus to take action. He wanted Jesus to use His divine powers against the Romans and the Pharisees. He did not intend for Jesus to die. This would explain why Judas was not at the trial, threw the thirty pieces of silver at the priests in the temple and then committed suicide.
Whatever theory we may invent to explain the actions of Judas, the real tragedy is that he did not accept Jesus as He was. Instead of trying to become what Jesus wanted Judas to be, Judas tried to make the Lord become like himself. Does that sound familiar? Have you ever been afraid to do what you knew the Lord wanted you to do? Have you ever said, "Lord, I'll get around to that some day"? We cannot change God. When we put our will above the will of God, then we become Judas. Instead, we must submit to His will and do His will even if we don't like it. You won't find anywhere in the New Testament the Lord saying, "I cam to make you comfortable." Communing with the Lord is putting His will above our own.
After the last supper they went to the Mount of Olives where Jesus prayed and the disciples slept. It is curious that when Judas arrived he kissed Jesus to identify Him. This doesn't make sense. The temple guards must have known the man who had only days before driven the money changers and the sellers of doves from the temple. Jesus had often taught in the temple cloisters. Could it have been that Judas kissed Jesus with the pride of a disciple kissing his master? William Barclay points out that the text uses the Greek world phileiin when Judas tells the armed mob that he will identify Jesus with a kiss. But when Judas actually kisses Jesus, the world kataphilein is used. "Kataphilein is the world for a lover's kiss and means to kiss repeatedly and fervently. Why would Judas do that, except to show his love?"
I think that he kissed Jesus with pride and meant it, and then stepped back and waited for Jesus to act the way He had in angry mobs many times before. But this time was different. Judas had miscalculated. Never have the consequences of sin been as dramatic as that night. But it stands as a reminder to all of us that the consequences of our sin may always be far worse than we ever dreamed. Swedenborg's words, "the consequences of every action are felt to eternity," can jar us into the realization that this life we have been given can indeed have profound effects upon the whole world, and, yes, even to eternity.
Then He came to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand."
While He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived: with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, "The one I will kiss is the man: arrest him." At once he came up to Jesus and said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" and kissed him. Jesus said to him, Friend, do what you are here to do." Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and He will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way."
...When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." But they said, "What is that to us? See to it yourself." Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.
Matthew 26:45-54, 27:3-5
Reading from Swedenborg:
The Lord calls Judas Iscariot:
A devil (John 6:70);
It is so said because Judas Iscariot represented the Jews, who were in falsities from evil, and therefore from evil he is called a "devil," and from falsities "Satan." Wherefore it is said that "the devil put into his heart," "to put into the heart" meaning into the love that is of his will. Also it is said that "after he had taken the sop Satan entered into him"; "to enter into him with the sop" meaning into the belly, which signifies into the thought, and falsities from evil belong to the thought.
Apocalypse Explained #740