Home >> Previous Sermons >> March 17, 2013

Little Sins

Luke 22:1-6

If we know one thing about Jesus from the New Testament, it is that his companionship was a means for common people to become uncommonly faithful. People not known for faith became full of faith and faithful to Jesus. Even to the point of death. And that is why Judas Iscariot remains the most interesting human story among the disciples. The gospel writers are blunt. They refer to him as “the one who betrayed Jesus.” He betrayed Jesus. He broke a promise, broke a confidence, violated the fellowship of the Twelve. As we’ll read, Luke’s gospel gives free rein to the deeds and motive of Judas:

Betrayed with a kiss

Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and waited for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present. Luke 22:1-6

Judas provided a way for the leading Jewish leaders to rid the region of Jesus. With Satan firmly in the story and in Judas, Judas agrees to hand Jesus over away from the crowds. At this point we’re ready for a grand plan to capture Jesus and turn him over. How? Maybe a long walk down a dark alley and they grab him. Or maybe he enters a home and the place is crawling with temple police. No, the betrayal of Jesus is not that sophisticated. It was a very simple plan built on a common exchange among friends, and, except for Jesus, no one seemed to know what Judas was actually doing. That would include Judas who, with his later remorse, did not see such a horrible ending on the horizon.

While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Luke 22:47-48

What we have in the kiss is a common act among friends in the ancient world. And what the kiss does is reveal to the crowd which of the twelve gathered men is Jesus. How simple. Yes, betrayal, but all Judas had to do was kiss Jesus, no more than a handshake in today’s world.

What should grab us here is that Judas had to do so little.

In fact, let’s consider all that he didn’t do:

  • Did not arrest Jesus
  • Did not mock and beat Jesus
  • Did not blindfold Jesus and demand that he prophesy who hit him
  • Did not lead him to Pilate
  • Did not argue against Pilate’s inclination to release Jesus
  • Did not call for Barabbas’ release over Jesus’ release
  • Did not yell “Crucify him! Crucify him!” with the crowd
  • Did not crucify Jesus
  • Did not cast lots to divide his clothes
  • Did not stand at the cross calling for him to save himself

All Judas did was kiss Jesus. It was a small act in a larger plan of Satan. It was a small act of affection hiding an act of betrayal. And it would lead to his own suicide (Matt 27). But were we to ask, “What did Judas do?,” in many ways he did so little.

This is the answer to the question we take too lightly:

“Does it really matter if one person disobeys God?”

In Judas we find the answer to be Yes.

Look with me at verse 1. We see that Jesus’ popularity with the many would protect him short term, but his unpopularity with only one would cost him his life. It only took one person disobeying God in the unique station of life Judas found himself to bring about the death of Jesus. We might consider it this way. No one is so protected that he is immune to another person’s sin. There is no such thing as a crowd so big or a reputation so strong when it comes to the power of one person’s disobedience to God. As with Judas, one person’s disobedience is enough to bring down even the most virtuous friend or enemy.

This is a message for us. We are all in unique stations of life, and we all have the capacity for using these stations to hurt people. We hear things, we know things. Maybe we think that some people are so embedded in their strengths that we cannot hurt them with idle stories or careless comments. But we can. Rumor and insult are powerful. Remember that Jesus was called Lord by some, but he was also called demon-possessed by others. He was also called Mary’s son instead of Joseph’s son—a truth, but a slur nonetheless. Small words, often couched as “opinions,” are often the most powerful way to kill someone’s reputation. Be sure that some people did not follow Jesus because of the rumors they heard about him from the simmering rumor mill.

At least Paul the apostle would tell us this. The whole of Second Corinthians is in some respects a defense of himself and his ministry, and the cue is in chapter 10, verse 10 when he shares what he has heard of himself in the chatter in Corinth: “His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.” For some these are opinions, but for Paul they undercut what he sees as his life’s work at Corinth. It was only a kiss, Judas might say. No one is so protected, so secure, that words cannot bring him down. Maybe you only call someone fat or dumb or a failure once. But let ten people call you that once a day every week of your life and that becomes a reason to give up on yourself. Or even kill yourself. It was only a kiss, Judas might say. It was only a word, we might say. The exit wound is always the problem with little sins.

A second idea: A little kiss in the hands of Satan is more than a kiss. What Judas sees as a matter of scaring Jesus with an arrest becomes much larger. Who knows that the whole of the crowd that returned home after the death of Jesus also believed they, too, had done little. They under-estimated how one more voice in the cursing crowd only added to the misery of Jesus on the cross. If everyone does a little sin with Satan’s help, Satan does a lot. The exit wound of a little sin is always larger than we see.

A small sin in Satan’s hands changes you. And if you are changing for the worst through small, quiet, private sins, the lives of people around you are changing for the worst. We are not the judge of little, God is. And any moment of yielding to temptation of sin brings about change. This is why Jesus’ time in the wilderness when he turns down the offer of sin looks so large in the rear-view mirror. The No of Jesus to temptation was always a Yes to God and to us.

There are no little sins. This is why Jesus is near to help us. From the book of Hebrews: For since he was tempted in that which he has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted (2:18). As in the case of Judas, he knows that sin casts an exit wound far larger than we see. And so he is there to guide us through our own struggles.

Well-placed people play Judas every day with little deeds, and as long as you’re well-placed you will be in a position to watch small sins become big problems.

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