“What Is That To Us?” — Lenten Vespers Sermon by Pr Rolf Preus

“What is That to Us?”
2018 Lenten Midweek Sermon B
February 21, 2018
Matthew 27:3-5

Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by ‘betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. Matthew 27:3-5

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) So says Jesus. Judas heard these words when Jesus preached them, but he didn’t understand. He didn’t understand because he loved his treasure too much to consider where that put his heart. The affection that we give to the things we own can never be reciprocated.

Perhaps Judas is too stark an example for us. We may like the stuff we have but we certainly wouldn’t betray our Lord Jesus for a few dollars more than we already have! We need to understand that Judas did not set out to betray Jesus. He knew right from wrong. He had a conscience. Judas knew that what he had done was wrong. “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” Judas did not first learn the difference between right and wrong after he betrayed Jesus to be condemned. But his love for money blinded him. He was blind to what he knew to be good and right. He gave his heart to the false god of more money. When he tried to get his heart back he couldn’t. He was helpless.

Being helpless is not the problem. In fact, being helpless is the only way we can be helped. God helps the helpless. The old saying that God helps those who help themselves is not found anywhere in the Bible. God helps the helpless. Judas’ helplessness wasn’t his undoing.

“I have sinned by betraying innocent blood!” What a terrible sin! Don’t try to sugarcoat it. The rock opera, “Jesus Christ, Superstar,” portrayed Judas in a sympathetic light as a disillusioned revolutionary who had lost his faith in Jesus because Jesus failed to do what Judas believed the Messiah should do. That may have made for good theatre, but it was a total misrepresentation of the historical figure, Judas Iscariot, whom we know from the accounts in the four Gospels. Judas eas a greedy thief. He loved his money more than he loved Jesus.

Judas lost more than his greatest love. He lost his faith. You can lose what you love and you can mourn and it hurts. We all learn to deal with that as we lose our loved ones. In fact, We keep on loving the ones we lose as they live on in our hearts. But when you lose your faith you are both helpless and without help.

Judas trusted in a false god and when he looked to that god for comfort the god didn’t care. Judas gave his life in service to a false god and when he looked to that god to help him the god refused. Judas did not die and go to hell because he sinned against innocent blood. Judas didn’t die and go to hell because God couldn’t or Wouldn’t save such a helpless sinner as he. Judas died and went to hell because the god in Whom he had trusted couldn’t save him in his time of need. His god could only say, “What is that to us? You see to it!” He could only watch Judas go out and hang himself.

“What is that to us?” When you trust in the god who tells you to see to it yourself you must then see to it yourself. Right? You obey the one you trust. So Judas went out and he saw to it himself. He hanged himself. No one but the holy God loves a sinner. An irony, for sure! The One who lives in that unapproachable light that no sinner can stand to see is the only one who cares about the sinner who is suffering in the helplessness of his sin. Everyone else will say, “What is that to us?” They don’t care.

Only Jesus can deal with guilt. Only the sin bearer can forgive you your sin. No one can help you. Everyone else will finally say, “What is that to us? We gave you what you Wanted. What else do you want? You want more money? You agreed to the price. Go find someone else to betray if you want more money, our business with you is concluded.”

One thing needful, this one treasure,
Teach me Savior to esteem.
Other things may promise pleasure,
But are never what they seem.
They prove to be burdens that vex us and chafe us
And true lasting happiness never vouchsafes us.
This one precious treasure which all else succeeds
Gives joy above measure and fills all our needs.

The promised pleasure is all you get. Then there you are. The pleasure is gone, the sin remains, and you don’t know what to do with it. You’re stuck with it, and you can’t get rid of it no matter hat you do. The guilt remains on you and not even death will take it away because your death is no more than what you deserve. When your god is more stuff to spend or use your god can only give you more to spend and use. He cannot give you your life back. Your youth, your middle age, your golden years will flash before your eyes. When you have trusted in the god that Judas trusted you will face despair at the end of life. Your god will not be able to save your soul from hell.

If we are going to place our heart’s assurance on the gods of money, pleasure, power, and whatever else purports to be the good life, when it comes to the end of life we will be helpless with no one to help. When we cry out to our gods we will see that they die with us. Naked we came into this world and naked we will leave it. We brought nothing into this world and it is certain that we can carry nothing out.

“What is that to us?” We cry out to our God, and he answers “what is that to us?” by telling us what it is. We are everything to him. Our sin, our guilt, our failures and our helplessness are his concern. “What is that to us?” The answer is on the cross. There we see what our sin is to God. We see the judgment against it. We see the burden of guilt borne by the One who knew no sin. We see

Jesus confronting our guilt with his own innocence and we see his innocence triumph. We see, from the wounds he suffers, the love of God revealed. It is love for those who have sinned against God by their own fault, by their most grievous fault. It is love for those who could not see to it themselves because they were helpless to do anything for themselves.

What is that to us? It is not only that our God would lay all of our sins on Jesus to bear them. It is also that God would raise him from the dead. It is that Jesus, our risen Lord and Savior would keep on coming to us in the here and now whenever we gather in his name. It is Jesus who says to us, “though [your sins] are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1: 18) It is Jesus who gives us to eat and to drink of his body and his blood. Yes, Judas was right. It was innocent blood! And it was shed for us for the forgiveness of sins. And this same innocent body and blood by which all of our sins are washed away are given to us to eat and to drink in the Sacrament of the Altar.

“What is that to us?” It depends on which god you are asking. It is either nothing or it is everything. The chief priests and the elders served the god who cares nothing for sinners and so neither did they. Thank God for the holy Christian Church in which there is grace for undeserving sinners like us! Here we are washed and made saints. Here God serves us by bringing to us the blood and righteousness of Jesus. Here we meet our God. Here God plants into our hearts that faith that will stand when sins accuse us and doubts assail us and death claims us.

Judas wept bitter tears but he had killed his own faith by false worship. His tears weren’t tears of confession and sorrow offered to God. They were the tears of a man who had lost God. False faith is deadly, but you don’t know it until it’s too late. Now is the time for our hearts to be filled with the treasures of God’s grace. Where our treasure is, there God will keep our hearts and he will be our strength when we lie helpless before him. He w0n’t fail us in our hour of need. Amen.

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