Messiah Is Coming, pt 2

God promised Abram that he would become a great nation. The only problem was that he and his wife, Sarai, didn’t have any children, and they were well past the child bearing age. God eventually made good on the promise and blessed the elderly couple with a son named Isaac, meaning laughter. God has a sense of humor.

Isaac became the father of Jacob. Jacob became the father of 12 sons whose own offspring would become the 12 Tribes of Israel. Before that, though, they all ended up in Egypt through a series of betrayals, backstabbing, double crossing, and famine. They never intended to stay in Egypt, but that’s just what happened. They never went back home. The subsequent generations, known as the Hebrews, continued to grow in numbers and in strength until a Pharaoh came along who didn’t know about these outsiders. They became enslaved by the Egyptian government, forced into years of hard labor under brutal conditions.

The people cried out for a deliverer, and God heard their cries. God raised up Moses to free his people and lead them to the promised land. They escaped Egypt through a series a plagues. They encamped at the base of Mount Sinai. They ate manna in the wilderness. They were made to live as nomads, wandering the Sinai peninsula for 40 years because they didn’t trust God.

Finally, they were on the edge of entering the Promised Land, the land they had left so many years ago when they were just a small family. Now they are a nation on the brink of seeing God’s promise fulfilled.

But Moses was old. He wasn’t going into the land with them. What would they do without this leader who has guided them for the last 40 years? Who would speak the words of God to them?

Moses gives them this promise:

The nations you’re going to displace seek guidance from people who practice divination and predicting. But the Eternal your God doesn’t want you to do that. He will raise up from among your own people a prophet who will be like me. Listen to him. This is just what you asked Him for on the day you gathered at Mount Horeb: “Don’t make me listen to the voice of the Eternal my God anymore! And don’t make me look at that blazing fire! I’ll die!” The Eternal told me, “They’re right. I’ll send them another prophet like you from among their own people. I’ll put My words in the mouth of this prophet who will tell them everything I command him to say.” (Deuteronomy 18:14-16 | The Voice)

The Prophet is coming.

Moses died and passed the torch on to Joshua who led the people into the land of Canaan. They divided the land and laid down roots. But there was no king, so central government, no true leader. So God raised up a series of Judges who led their tribes in military, religious, and legal matters.

But the people wanted a king. They wanted to be like all the other nations. God warned them what would happen. God wanted to be their King. But he relented and gave them what they wanted. God, through the prophet Samuel, anointed Saul to be the first great king over the united tribes of Israel.

Saul did well for a while, but would ultimately break God’s commands and end up losing his kingdom. Through Samuel again, God anointed a young shepherd boy named David to become the next king after Saul. David was from the town of Bethlehem, of the Tribe of Judah. David was a “man after God’s own heart.”

To David, God made this covenant:

“More importantly, I, the Eternal swear to you that I will raise up a dynasty from your family. When you come to the end of your days, and you leave this life to lie down with your fathers, I will raise up from you a descendant, your own flesh and blood, and I will make his kingdom and family sure. He will be the one to build a temple honoring My name, and I will establish the leadership of his kingdom for all time. I will be to him a father, and he will be to Me a son. When he crosses the line and acts badly, I will teach him with a rod used by people for correction and a lash for discipline. But I will not withdraw My love from him as I did from Saul, whom I set aside in favor of you. Your dynasty, your kingdom, will stand perpetually in My sight; your descendants will rule continually.” (2 Samuel 7:11-16 | The Voice)

The King is coming.

The people of Israel would spend the next thousand years awaiting the Prophet of Deuteronomy and the King, the Son of David, promised in 2 Samuel. The people thought they were looking for two different men. Little did they know this Prophet and King would be one and the same.

The Messiah is coming.

rCQ: Did Judas believe Jesus was the Son of God?

I’ve been browsing the r/Christianity subreddit. Some of it is weird and a bit out there. But there are also some people asking great questions. I am a sucker for good questions, so I decided to begin a series on my blog called r/Christianity Questions (or rCQ for short).

Recently I came across this question:

Did Judas believe Jesus was the Son of God?

Here’s my answer.

[TL;DR version – No, Judas didn’t know Jesus was the Son of God like we know him to be. No, I don’t think Judas really knew what he was doing because he didn’t understand Jesus’ mission. Yes, I think Judas could have been forgiven had he not hanged himself.]

It depends on what you mean “Son of God.” The phrase is a Messianic title taken from Psalm 2, which God actually quotes at Jesus’ baptism. The Messiah would be hailed as “God’s Son” in a kingly sense, not necessarily in a divine incarnation sense. In that regard, I’m not sure that any of the apostles truly believed to the fullest extent. Even when Peter confesses that Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God (Matthew 16:16), he has Psalm 2 and maybe Daniel 7 in mind.

He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have become your father. (Psalm 2:7)

What happened with Judas, in my understanding, is that he was trying to force Jesus’ hand at overthrowing the Romans. He saw an opportunity to make a little money, get Jesus arrested, and maybe beaten. I don’t think he realized the lengths to which the Jewish leaders would take the whole thing. And I think Judas believed Jesus would defend himself in some way. It makes some sort of sense. If Judas had devoted the past few years of his life to following someone who was going to be the Messiah, Israel’s deliverer who would overthrow Roman rule and establish an independent Jewish state as the heir to David’s throne (see John 6:14-15), then maybe Judas was simply trying to start the ball rolling. It’s clear from James’ and John’s question about sitting at Jesus right and left when he came into his kingdom (Mark 10:35-40) that this was the vision the other apostles had for the kingdom.

It’s not until Jesus’ trial that we hear “my kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my followers would fight for me” (John 18:36). Judas wanted a fight. Peter wanted a fight – hence the sword in the garden (John 18:10). James and John wanted a fight. But that was not the way of Jesus.

What really gives away that Judas didn’t actually think Jesus was going to be killed because of his betrayal is this:

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”
So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)

Judas assumed (rightly) that the leaders wouldn’t have enough evidence to charge Jesus, much less convict him of anything. Judas also assumed (wrongly) that Jesus could and would defend himself against any accusations. Sometimes, it’s even the wrongful arrest of a movement leader that gives said movement legitimacy. Maybe Judas wanted to thrust Jesus into the spotlight for all to see. Little did he know just how well his plan would succeed in doing that.

There’s also the question: Could Judas have been forgiven? And I think the answer is yes. All the other disciples were forgiven. Saul (aka Paul) was forgiven. Jesus cried out for God to forgive the very people who nailed him to that cross because they (like Judas) didn’t know what they were doing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not defending Judas’ actions. What he did was greedy at best (John 12:4-6) and pure evil at worst (John 13:2). But Judas also wasn’t the only one who betrayed Jesus that night. All the apostles ran. Everyone deserted. Peter denied even knowing Jesus at all.

It wasn’t until after the resurrection that Peter and the other apostles began to really know what it meant for Jesus to be the “Son of God” in the fullest meaning of the phrase.