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The Suicide of Evil (Matthew Sermon 144 of 151)

The Suicide of Evil (Matthew Sermon 144 of 151)

May 19, 2013 | Andrew Davis
Matthew 27:1-10
Bible Prophecy, The Power of Sin, Sovereignty of God, Total Depravity

sermon transcript

 

Introduction

Turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 27, looking this morning at verses 1 through 10. And as we come to this very sobering text, come to the text that I just mentioned, ordinarily we wouldn't choose necessarily to study, choose to preach a sermon on. But we come here in this text to the shocking end, the tragic end, of Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve. And we can picture him in our mind's eyes swinging on at the end of a rope, dead. Lifeless, alone. The suicide of a truly evil man, who was richly blessed by the proximity of his relationship with Christ, richly blessed, but never believed, never trusted, and turned him in for 30 pieces of silver.

And we can see those 30 silver coins, we can almost picture them clattering on the stone pavement and rolling until each one of them came to a stop. You can see the hypocritical priests kneeling down to pick each one of those 30 silver coins up, the very coins that they had paid out to Judas just a short time before, to effect the betrayal of Jesus into their hands. Now no one wanted those coins. They seemed like poison coins. No one wanted to touch them, no one wanted to do anything with them. And this whole tale is really a warning to us in many ways, a warning to all of us, a warning from the life of Judas of the proper valuation of life and money, and especially the proper valuation of Jesus. Jesus is the most infinitely valuable man that ever lived. The only infinitely valuable Son of God, Son of man who ever lived.

And in this account, we are brought ever closer, as we're going verse by verse, passage by passage, through Matthew's gospel, brought ever closer to the cross of Christ by which he will save his sheep from their sins. And poignantly, also we have a timeless warning of the self-destructive nature of evil. So I entitled this sermon, “The Suicide of Evil.” How evil is self-destructive in the end.

Judas' so-called friends, his new allies turned their backs coldly on him and had no interest whatsoever in comforting or counseling with him. But he, Judas, in some mysterious way indwelt by Satan himself and Satan, who was a murderer from the beginning, driving him to his death. And how ironic is it that at that same time, Satan was committing suicide by killing Jesus? Using the weapon of death to bring with his own hands, bring his own kingdom down around himself.

And so in the end, though this is a dark story and a warning, yet for us who see the evil in the world, very encouraging. Because everything that happened here was according to God's eternal plan, and his plan for us as Christ's sheep is good. And in the end, sin and death and darkness and evil will be destroyed, really ultimately by its own hand, and we will be free at last. And what a joyful thing that is.

Jesus Condemned According to Plan (vs. 1-2)

Final Aspect of the Jewish Trial

So we begin our account by looking in verse 1 and 2, as Jesus is condemned according to plan. Look at verses 1 and 2, “Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. They bound him and led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.” So this is the final aspect of the religious trial of Jesus before the Jews. The wicked, illegal religious trial before the members of his own people now comes to its final end, its final phase.

Now, the whole effort, this wicked hypocritical sham had been to kill an innocent man with at least an outward semblance of justice. The false witnesses could not harmonize their story sufficiently to give that semblance of justice. So you remember the high priest charged Jesus under oath, “By the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” And he answers simply in Mark's gospel, “I am,” God's name. And he says in Matthew, as we studied, “In the future, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” And at this the high priest tore his robes, and they condemned him and abused him.

The Jewish Council Met Once More to Confirm Jesus’ Condemnation to Death

And here in chapter 27, the final phase, they meet one more time to make it official, completely illegal. They “took counsel together,” it says in one of the translations, this refers to the carefully laid plans to execute him without a just cause. Contrary to Rabbinic law, they hurried him off now to the Gentile trial before Pontius Pilate.

Ordinarily, as I've said, they would have had to wait another day to fast and pray and be sure that what they were doing was just and merciful, but they didn't wait, they were in a hurry to kill Jesus. And so they met one more time to condemn him to death, this perfectly innocent man, and they bound him and hurried him off to Pilate.

All of this Was Exactly According to God’s Sovereign Plan

Now all of us was exactly according to plan, but whose plan? Now, certainly it was their plan, everything had gone as they had desired. In Matthew 26:3-4, it says, “Then the elders and chief priests of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they took counsel together to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him.” This had been their plan, their plot, their scheme. But infinitely above their wicked heads was God's sovereign plan. Amen? Infinitely above all of their plotting, infinitely above all of their scheming was God's intention in all of this. As Peter would preach on the day of Pentecost, in Acts 2:23, “This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge, and you with the help of wicked men put him to death.” And so all of this is according to God's eternal plan.

The Binding of Jesus

And so Jesus is bound in verse 2 and led away and handed over to Pilate, the governor. Jesus had already been bound earlier in the evening on his arrest in John's gospel, John 18:12, “They bound him in Gethsemane.” But apparently they unbound him when he was on trial. Now, they bind him again and lead him away. This led me to think about Samson being bound. You remember how he was bound and how his bonds couldn't hold him, because Samson was so powerful when the Spirit of God came upon him.

What was it then that held Jesus' hands together? Was it not his determination to do the will of his Father? Was it not his love for us, his sheep? Was it not his desire to glorify God and go to the cross for us? Jesus says in Luke 12:50, “I have a baptism to undergo. A baptism to be baptized with.” And he says, “How straightened I am.” That's in the KJV, “How straightened I am, until it be accomplished. I'm in a straight jacket, I'm bound in until at last, I die on the cross.” Bound in by the will of God, bound in by the plans of God, and that's what kept Jesus's hands together. I can assure you, if it was not his will to be bound with those leather straps, he would have been able to rip them free, because he is far greater, far more powerful than Samson ever was.

Also, the binding of Jesus fulfills a prophetic type. You will remember how God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, his only son, Isaac, on a particular mountain, and on the third day, God showed him Mount Moriah, where later the temple would be built. And when they reached that place that God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there, arranged the wood on it, and he bound his son Isaac and laid him there on the altar on top of the wood, and he took out a knife to slay him. But the angel of the Lord stopped him. And so the binding of Isaac I think a picture or a type of the binding of Christ. And also the leading of Jesus, a direct fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 53:7, “He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.” And so all of these things are indications of the perfect plan of God to give his Son in our place for our salvation.

Judas Condemned According to Conscience (vs. 3-5)

Judas “Saw that Jesus Was Condemned”

Now, in verses 3 through 5, we have Judas condemned according to conscience. Look at the verses, “When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the 30 silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘For I have betrayed innocent blood.’ ‘What's 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.”

So this part begins with the words, “When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned.” It implies somewhat of a surprise on Judas' part, which is almost incomprehensible to me. How could he not know what the betrayal would lead to? It's possible that, like Peter, he could see Jesus being led away at this particular moment, could see him and this trial was unfolding and it, in some strange way, hit him what was going to happen. It's hard for me to understand that.

“Seized with Remorse”

But at that moment then, he's seized with remorse. Which is a good translation, I think, for what he's feeling. He feels guilty, he feels bad for what he did. It was a bad feeling that's come over him as he sees this. Now, the Greek word translated here, “remorse” is different than the word ordinarily translated for “repentance.” Repentance. Judas did not repent, but he did feel terrible for what he had done. It's important for us to make that distinction. Some have asked concerning the case of Judas, “Didn't he repent here?” No, there's no indication in the original that he repented, he just felt badly for what he did.

And I think 2 Corinthians 7:10 shows us that there are two different ways to feel badly for sin, two different ways. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret.” - Isn't that marvelous? Friends, that's your future. You'll have no regrets in heaven, perfect memory of everything you did in life, I believe, but no regrets. Now, that's a mystery, and we can talk about that, but other than that, we're all lobotomized in heaven and have no idea what grace is. And “Thank God, Jesus saved me from my sin, from our sins.” We will remember, but no regrets. It leaves no regret. - “But worldly sorrow brings death.” And I think Judas is a very good example of worldly sorrow that produced death.

So there are two different ways to feel badly for sin. Peter felt terribly for what he'd done, and these accounts follow one right after the other. And so you have Peter weeping bitterly and he feels terrible for what he's done, but there's no doubt in my mind that God, through the Holy Spirit, led him step by step into a healthy, wholesome repentance, reconciliation with Jesus, with God and a life of service to him, leaving no regret.

But how different is Judas? Judas felt remorse, sickness, over the wretchedness of who he was and what he had done, but this led directly to death, not to God. It didn't bring him to God asking forgiveness. It didn't bring him to run up to Jesus, falling in front of him and saying, “Forgive me for what I did.” It just led him to death.

“I Have Sinned… For I Have Betrayed Innocent Blood”

And so he says these words, “I have sinned, for I have betrayed innocent blood.” This is an amazing realization by Judas. First of all, his sin. What was his sin? Well, he bore false witness against a neighbor. Jesus was innocent, he never sinned. Deuteronomy 27:25 says, “Cursed is the man who accepts the bribe to kill an innocent person.” Sounds like Judas to me. And so he was cursed by the law for this sin. 

But we have to go deeper than that. We have to go deeper. To whom much is given, much is required. And much had been given to this man, Judas. He was one of the 12. He had astonishing access to Jesus, the incarnate Son of God. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we have seen his glory.” Judas was an eyewitness to the glory of God in Christ, in ways we can scarcely imagine.

John MacArthur said this about Judas, "No man could be more evil than Judas Iscariot. Only eleven other men in all of history have had the intimate personal relationship he had with the incarnate Son of God. No man has ever been more exposed to God's perfect truth, both in precept and example. No man has been more exposed firsthand to God's love, God's compassion, His power, His kindness, his forgiveness and grace. No man had had more evidence of Jesus' deity or more firsthand knowledge of the way of salvation. Yet in all of these three indescribable blessed years with Jesus, Judas did not take so much as the first step of genuine faith. In a way that defies comprehension, Judas persistently resisted and rejected God's truth, God's grace, and ultimately God's Son. Also, in a way that defies understanding, he managed to completely conceal his wicked rebellion from everyone but Jesus.” He was a thoroughly wicked man. So at this moment, his wickedness has led him to feel bad. And he feels badly for what he's done, but not with the conviction that leads to salvation.

Even more amazing is this testimony to the innocence of Jesus. I’ll talk more about this, I think, next time. But he says, “I betrayed innocent blood. I have betrayed innocent blood.”

The sinlessness of Jesus is essential to my salvation and yours. Jesus committed no sin. There's no deceit in his mouth. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. By his wounds, you have been healed. Friends, it is innocent blood that saves you and me from sin. Innocent blood, the blood of Jesus shed on the cross for us. I plead with you, trust in that. Every week, we are reminded that people assemble here today that are outside of the grace of God, they're not Christians yet, unregenerate. You're listening to me right now, you're in an unregenerate state. I plead with you, trust in the innocent blood of Jesus. It was shed for sinners like you and me.

This sermon has a lot of potential hopelessness in it, as you look at Judas, as you look down a dark tunnel of hopelessness, but it doesn't need to be that way for you. Don't leave here hopeless. Don't leave here without hope and without God in the world. Come to Christ, and if you're already a Christian listening to these words, then memorize them and then say them to some lost person this week. We are surrounded by people that are wrestling with despair, they are without hope and without God in the world.

There is an answer, and his name is Jesus. And so I love that phrase, “innocent blood,” because that's what saves me from my sins.

Jesus’ Enemies Had No Heart to Listen

And so Judas testified to it to his enemies, but Jesus's enemies had no interest in listening to that. “‘What is that to us?’ They replied, ‘That's your responsibility. It's on your head.’” The incredible coldness of these new friends and allies of Judas. There's no honor among thieves, dear friends, and there's no friendship in hell. Friendship is a gift of God's common grace, isn't it? Isn't friendship a reflection of the Trinity, how two persons can be one, can be friends? That's where we're heading in Christ. We're gonna be as one as the Father and the Son are one. We're gonna have perfect and consummated relationships in heaven, friendships in heaven. Every marriage is just a dim reflection of the perfect unity we're all gonna have in Christ in heaven.

Friendship is for heaven, not for hell. So do not be deceived if you're outside Christ and you think you're gonna have a good time with all of your lost friends in hell. They'll be there, but they won't be your friends. See, there’s no friendship in hell. And the coldness of what's going here: They don't care about Judas at all. Satan doesn't care about Judas at all. He wants to kill Judas. He'd like to kill all of us.

Jesus diagnosed these cold-hearted sinners, these chief priests and elders of the people very well. He said in Luke 11:46, “You experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry and you yourself will not lift a single finger to help them with those burdens.” That's what they're doing here. They don't care, “It's your burden. You bear it yourself.” 

Godly ministry, godly pastors, godly elders, they're in the business of lifting burdens. That's what we're here to do, we're here through the preaching of the gospel to lift burdens off people, but these cold-hearted religious experts, all they do is crush people with burdens.

The Tragic End: Judas Hangs Himself

And so it's over for Judas, now, it's over. He has nowhere to turn to. He is empty, he is bereft of all hope, bereft of all light. And so verse 5, “He threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.” He is completely alone. Those coins, they're repulsive to him now, it's like they're on fire. It's like they're covered with some malignant virus or something like that. No one wants them, they're evil, wicked things. I wonder if Judas in hell can see a matrix of 6x5, 30 coins. If he sees them forever, was it worth it? 30 silver coins. 30 silver coins. Is it worth it? Was it worth it? 30 silver coins for Jesus?

He didn't think so at that point. He threw them away from him, he hated them, already hated them, hates them still. And he's completely alone. He left, he goes away without a friend in the world, and he hangs himself. Matthew Henry, Puritan commentator said this, “Driven by the horror of God's judgment against him, he jumped straight into that judgment. Seeking to escape the licking flames of guilt, he plunged into the roaring fire of hell.”

The Chief Priests Counsel According to Prophecy (vs. 6-10)

The Chief Priests: Wicked Legalists to the Very End

Verses 6-10, then the chief priests take counsel according to prophecy. “The chief priests picked up the coins and said, ‘It is against the law to put this into the treasury since it's blood money.’ So they decided to use the money to buy the potter's field as a burial place for strangers. That is why it's been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled. ‘They took the 30 silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter's field, as the Lord commanded me.’”

So here are the chief priests, wicked legalists to the very end. These are the ones of whom Jesus said, “You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.” Later this very morning, they're gonna refrain from going in Pilate's house lest they be defiled, so they could celebrate the Passover. And Jesus is the reality of the Passover, and they wanna kill him, doing everything they can to kill him, but they don't wanna be defiled according to the law.

They Take Counsel Together: What Shall We Do With the Thirty Silver Coins?

It's amazing too because those 30 silver coins came from their hands, probably out of the temple treasury, and now they don't want any part of them, nobody wants them, and so they counsel together, they take counsel together, “What shall we do with the 30 silver coins?” And so they decide to use them to buy the potter's field as a burial place for strangers. And Matthew says this is in direct fulfillment of a prophecy, which he ascribes to Jeremiah.

The Mysterious Fulfilled Prophecy: Jeremiah or Zechariah?

Now, I'm doing scripture memorization now in Zechariah, and it sounds an awful lot like Zechariah 11:12-13. So let me read Zechariah, 11:12-13. There it says, “I told them, ‘If you think it best, give me my pay, but if not, then keep it.’ So they paid me 30 silver coins. And the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’ - The handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the 30 pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord to the potter.”

Amazing points of context. In that chapter, the Lord has called Zechariah the prophet to act as a shepherd to a rebellious people, the Jewish nation. And it's in the context of false shepherds who are not doing what's right. But the people love the false shepherds, and they don't love his true shepherding, so they hate him and turn on him. So he says, “Fine, give me my severance pay.” And so they weighed out for him 30 pieces of silver. He says, “That magnificent price at which they priced me.” And then the Lord comes a second time and says, “Throw it to the potter.” And he does throw it into the house of the Lord and it ends up at the potter.

There's a lot of similarities there, aren't there? Shepherding, false shepherds, potter, 30, silver, coin, throne, house of the Lord. Lots of connections and frankly, more connections on this prophecy than you'd find on many of the allusions that Matthew says, “This was to fulfill this or that.” And yet he ascribes it to Jeremiah. What do we do with that? Well, we skip it and don't talk about it. So let's just go on to the next part and just say, “I don't know.” So that's gonna be kind of my ultimate answer is I don't know, but there are some decent explanations.

John MacArthur says that the law, the writings and the prophets sometimes referred to by the chief writer in those categories, law equals Moses or Moses equals law, David would be the writings, and Jeremiah the chief prophet sometimes chosen for the prophets. That was John MacArthur's explanation.

We'll reject the idea that Matthew wrote an error into the scripture, because once you start saying there's an error, then you never know where that ends, and it's just gonna unravel the entire garment. And you know when it's gonna unravel is when the scripture convicts you of your sin. And you say, “Well, I don't know. I think that's an error right there.” So we don't want to allow the concept of error to creep in here, it's inerrant.

Don Carson gives another explanation, and he goes over to Jeremiah 19, and that's where the Lord commands Jeremiah the prophet, to go and buy clay from the potter and to make a clay jar and smash it in a particular field in the valley of Ben-Hinnom. So the focus there is on the clay in the field and the field in which this thing was smashed, and the prophecy ends up being about the field where the wicked of Israel will be buried after the slaughter.

So I think we ought to think at a higher level, what Matthew is doing is he's saying, the real deal here is about the ultimate end of these coins and the ultimate end of Judas, and I don't doubt, frankly, that Judas might have been the first stranger that was buried in that field. Why do I say that?

The Ultimate End of Judas

Well, in Acts 1:18-19, it says, “With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field.” Judas bought a field. What does that mean? Well, “There he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language, Akeldama, that is Field of Blood.” It could have been that some people put it together, that Judas hanged himself on a tree, on a cliff or something like that, and the branch broke and then he gets dumped into a field which ends up being the same field that they bought and they buried him there as the first stranger. Outsider, outside of the grace of God, outside of redemption, eternally lost.

And I think that's probably a more sophisticated answer ultimately to what's going on here. This was a conflated prophecy between Zechariah and Jeremiah and just ascribed in the end to Jeremiah.

Applications

The Proper Valuation of Christ

Well, that's the exegesis; what application can we take from this text? Well, let's start with valuing Christ properly. Shall we do that? Peter tells us, “You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold, that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you by your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the foundation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”

How precious is the innocent blood of Jesus to you? How precious a substance is that blood to you? I tell you right now, you may be the most mature Christian in here, you undervalue the preciousness of the blood of Christ, I guarantee you do, and you'll spend eternity properly valuing it. For eternity, you will study the value and worth of the innocent blood of Jesus, and you will celebrate what it has done for you. You are not redeemed with silver and gold, you are redeemed with the precious, the infinitely precious blood of Jesus. If you have been redeemed.

If you haven't been redeemed yet, then let the Spirit do a work on your heart right now. Let the Spirit show you the value and worth of the blood of Jesus. Do not try to stand before God's judgment seat without it. You will be condemned as Judas was. But you don't need to have that happen. There is time for you. Today is the day of salvation. 

So I urge you, value Christ properly. Don't be like Judas who traded Jesus in for some part of the world that then was worthless to him. Worthless to him. He threw it away because he learned too late how worthless it was. What would it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? Or what would a man give in exchange for his soul? So don't trade Jesus for 30 pieces of anything. Love and follow and believe in Jesus.

“Taking Counsel”: The Sovereign Plan of God Cannot Be Derailed

Secondly, and this is so precious to me, see the value of the sovereign power of God over the evil plans and plots and schemes of people. There's all this “taking counsel together” in this text. In verse 1, the chief priest and the elders “took counsel” against Jesus to put him to death. They “took counsel” together in verse 7, and bought with the 30 silver coins, the potter's field. So they're conferring together and they're taking counsel together. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans of a man's heart, but it's the Lord's purpose that prevails.” Nowhere has that ever been more true than when it concerns the taking counsel that wicked people did around the death of Jesus. They meant evil, but God means it for good for you, if you are one of his.

The church, when they assembled together after the Jewish authority started persecuting the church, started opposing the gospel, and Peter and John were arrested for doing a miracle, and they bring them in and they warn them and release them. So they go to their own people, they go to the church, they gather the church together and they start to pray, and they pray Psalm 2, “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples conspire or take counsel together against the Lord and against his anointed one?’ Indeed, Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire to take counsel together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had determined beforehand should happen.”

Now, friends, this is a mystery but it's so precious, so precious. When I was writing this sermon, the events of the Boston Marathon bombing were fresh in my mind, and I was thinking about how destabilizing bombings can be. You just never know when something's gonna just erupt, a trash can, a locker in a train station, and it just plays into our fears, and people don't know what to do with that nameless fear of terrorism and of plots and schemes.

Maybe some people are led to trust the government, the CIA or the FBI, or the drone program or something like that, and wire taps and cell phones, be able to listen to cell phones, and have super computers keeping us all safe. Some people are worried about the encroaching government, worrying if the government's what we need to fear after all that. How do we find refuge and protection against the evil plots and schemes of sinners?

Find it here, dear friends, find it in the sovereign power of God. There are terrorist cells that meet together and plot the death and destruction of many people, it's happening probably right now, but they are under God's sovereign power and control. God is restraining their evil for his own purposes. I know that brings us into difficult questions about, “What about when it does break out and people lose life and limbs and health?” and those are serious questions, but still in the end, aren't you comforted to know that God sits on his throne above the circle of the earth and all its people are like grasshoppers and only his purposes and plans prevail?

Now, I entitled this sermon, “The Suicide of Evil,” and isn't it comforting to know that God has ordained that Satan would pull his kingdom down by his own wicked plot and scheme? Isn't that marvelous? Doesn't that bring you joy? That evil is self-destructive to our glory and our salvation. Satan killed Jesus, and in killing him destroyed his own kingdom, and we are the recipients of the grace and mercy that came out of that. We are rescued, we are living stones quarried out of Satan's dark kingdom, and we are put into a beautiful new living temple, rising to glorify God, and so it's beautiful to see the suicide of evil.

Understanding Guilt, Despair, and Suicide

But this brings me finally in terms of application to the question of suicide itself. Suicide itself. I'm an expository preacher, I just take the next text and preach it, and I preach whatever's in it, and it takes us to the question and the issue of suicide. And it's not something, as I said, that I would choose if I were a topical preacher to preach on because it's so painful and difficult, maybe one of the most painful topics there is in this life. But it's only addressed three times directly in the Bible, there are only three people that kill themselves in the Bible.

King Saul in the midst of a battle with the Philistines, surrounded by the Philistine warriors about to die, did not wanna die by their hands, so he fell on his own sword and killed himself. Ahithophel who was David's counselor, betrayed David, turned his back on him, helped David's son Absalom to revolt against him, gave excellent counsel like he always did, but Absalom didn't listen to it, and Ahithophel knew the writing was on the wall and there was no way that Absalom was going to win, and so he put his affairs in order and hanged himself. And then this one, Judas.

Now, we must acknowledge that Judas' suicide is utterly, completely unique in redemptive history. There's never again gonna be the circumstances like what happened with Judas. The proximity to Christ, the three years of seeing the incarnate Savior, being indwelt by Satan, all of the circumstances that'll never happen again. Utterly unique. And yet, there are some aspects of it that are worth our study in our education, our training theologically, so that we can understand this dark issue of suicide.

Judas knew he had done wrong, guilt came upon him like waves. Guilt is to the soul, what pain is to the body. Tells you that there's a problem. Now, it's not inerrant, it's not true that every time you feel pain, there's a significant problem or any problem at all, but usually there is. As a matter of fact, people with leprosy can't feel pain, and that's why they destroy themselves 'cause they don't pull their hand off the hot plate quick enough, or they don't feel the pain and they're not able to stop.

So when we feel guilty, it's probably because we are guilty. When we feel a sense of shame, it's probably because we've done something shameful. A healthy person takes that pain and addresses, they take their hand off the hot plate, they stop doing that action. Or they go see a doctor and they address the strange pain they're feeling in their chest cavity or something like that, they try to deal, the pain is telling them something's wrong. Well, guilt and shame should lead us to the cross of Jesus Christ, that's where it should bring you.

We shouldn't deny it, say, “I haven't done anything wrong,” instead, we should take it to the cross. Even as Christians, we feel guilty and we should because we do wrong things. We feel ashamed and we should because we do shameful things. But we have learned the grace of God is limitless, and where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. And we are able to bring our dark feelings of despair and guilt to the cross of Christ and be healed by Jesus.

Now, why do people commit suicide? Why does it happen? Well, there are a variety of reasons. Retaliation, some people do it just to get back at loved ones, they feel hurt, they feel abandoned. Maybe a spouse leaves someone and marries someone else, and then the jilted spouse commits suicide just to get back. It seems to be the case a lot of times in terms of teen suicide, that the teenagers are trying to get back at their parents and make them hurt. And it does hurt. There are a few things as painful as being there after the suicide and having to pick up the pieces, and the guilt and all of the things that the survivors of the suicide have to deal with. It's a very selfish thing for the individual to do it, it leaves a wreckage, it leaves a world blown up.

Some people do it because they wanna be with departed spouses, perhaps elderly people, and they lose their desire to live and they don't eat and they don't do what's necessary to keep healthy and keep strong because they just want to be with the departed loved one.

Some people do it for religious reasons, especially in other religions, like Buddhism and Hinduism, Jihadists in Islam think they've got a short route to paradise, they do it for that reason. Some people do it for the sake of atonement 'cause they've done something so hideous and so horrible that they think maybe if they kill themselves, they can make up for it, that's why sometimes prisoners hang themselves in prison.

Most people I think do it because circumstances in life become so overwhelming that they just can't face them anymore. It could be a financial crisis, it could be that they've committed a crime and they don't wanna face the repercussions. Could be a medical situation, they're in so much pain that they just can't face it anymore, other circumstances.

So what does the Bible say about it? What can we learn? How do we think about this? Well, first thing I want you to know is, it doesn't mean that God isn't sovereign. I know it's hard to think it through, but there's a particular passage that God showed me, I think a number of years ago in 1 Chronicles 10, it was talking there about King Saul, and remember I told you he's one of the three suicides in the Bible, but in 1 Chronicles 10:13-14, it says, “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord. He did not keep the Word of the Lord, and even consulted a medium for guidance and did not inquire of the Lord.” Listen, “So the Lord put him to death.” Ponder that one. The Lord put him to death. Other than that, we'd have to say, you know that passage in Psalm 139, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Unless I take matters in my own hand and grab the last three pages of the book out, rip them out. No, that doesn't happen. God's sovereign even over this painful topic of suicide.

Secondly, suicide is a sin, it is self-murder, and we are not to murder, and it is very selfish, total self-absorption, not thinking, “What would this do to my wife or husband? What would this do to my children? What would this do to the people who knew me and love me?” Those aren't the thoughts at that particular moment.

Lesson number three, great guilt can produce great desperation and can change your views of God. Despair can be like a drug and make you think differently about God than he really is. Satan's selling you a different view of God, a harsh tyrant who just wants to crush you and destroy your life, that's not the God of the Bible, but Satan is able to deceive people.

The remedy must be the scripture. Go again to the passages that talk about the attributes of God, is Exodus 34, where Moses says to God, “Now show me your glory,” and he puts him in a cleft of the rock and hides him, and the glory goes by and he pronounces these words, “The Lord, the Lord, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding and lovingkindness. Maintaining love to thousands, forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” Meditate on those words when you're depressed. Feed on those words.

Lesson number four is that God is merciful. And whatever has brought you to the edge, God can forgive and restore and bring you back away from the edge. Some people think and I think it's probably true, is that Judas' biggest sin was despair that did not lead him to repent. It's that in the end, he didn't think God could or would forgive him, and that the best thing for him to do would be to kill himself.

But Jesus said, “Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, even those who speak a word against the Son of Man.” I think Jesus would have forgiven Judas if he had run and thrown himself on his mercy and called on his name, but he wouldn't do it. And so let's know the marvelous, infinite matchless grace of God.

Lesson number five: fear what happens next. Fear what happens next, you don't know what happens from this world to the next. Are you so sure that you're in Christ as you're thinking these dark thoughts of self-murder? Are you really ready to die? Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing to you, but I'll tell you who to fear, fear the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Can a True Christian Commit Suicide?

But this brings us finally to the hardest question of all. Is it possible for a genuine Christian to commit suicide? Is it possible to go from suicide to heaven? The medieval Catholic church said no, it was an unforgivable sin. Suicide could not be forgiven, because they distinguished two different types of sins, mortal sins and venial sins, the only way you could be forgiven for a mortal sin was to do penance and confess to a priest and all that, there wasn't time for that, when you committed suicide, you're definitely in hell, no doubt about it. They think that they get this from 1 John 5, “There's a sin that leads to death, you shouldn't pray for that,” etcetera, mortal sin's unforgiven.

But can you imagine the grief of those that are left behind if this were true? And I think it's going beyond what we have the right to say, it's going beyond what scripture gives us permission to say, as though we are the judges and we're able to say, “We know in this case, everybody who commits suicide goes to hell.” How do you know that? So, to say, “No, it is not possible to go from suicide to heaven,” is to make an absolute statement that logically leads in every case, you can go and be the messenger and saying, “Well, you know they're in hell. We know that with absolute certainty.” Well, I don't know that.

But to say “yes” brings us to all kinds of thorny issues as well, doesn't it? Suicide is a paradox, very difficult. Is it possible to go from suicide to heaven? Yes, it's possible. Well, we are saying, “This is a genuine Christian, they're born again, their sins are forgiven, all of them, they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit will filter their temptations, will not allow them to be tempted beyond what they're able to bear, but with the temptation will make a way of escape so they can bear up under it.” It's hard to imagine how someone can be indwelt with the Spirit and kill themself. Very hard to understand that.

But let me ask a question, what is the difference between that and all sins by Christians? Aren't we the weirdest things in the universe, we sinning Christians? We are. We are the weirdest thing there is in the universe. Everything else behaves just like it is, we are conflicted, deeply conflicted. We are indwelt by the Spirit and indwelt by sin, and they battle, Galatians 5, against each other so that we do not do what we want.

In Romans 7, “The very thing we hate, we do.” It's insanity. So are we ready to say, “Yes, all forms of insanity but that one.” I don't think so. I think it is irrational for a Christian to sin, and I think it's irrational for a Christian to be depressed. I don't say it's irrational for a Christian to be sad. I think we should be sad, there are a lot of sad things. I think it's better though, that we be sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. How about that? Sometimes sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.

So in the midst of all of our sorrows as Christians, we still have the joy of the gospel, don't we? We still have the fact that we're going to heaven when we die, our sins are forgiven. We have friendship with God now. I love the hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” I love the starkness of the statement, “We should never be discouraged. Take it to the Lord in prayer.” I love that. Don't ever be discouraged, that means you just, you're depressed, you're down and you have nowhere to turn to, you always have somewhere to turn to, always.

Christians have struggled with thoughts of suicide. In Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Christian and Hopeful are in doubting castle, Giant Despair beats them up every day and gives them the implements of their own demise, a knife, some poison, a rope, and is leading them to kill themselves, and only by finding the key of promise, the Word of God, that they're able to unlock the door and get out, and Giant Despair stop beating them up at last. Do you think Bunyan might have been writing out of his own discouragement and imprisonment? Tempted with thoughts of suicide?

William Cowper, great Christian hymn writer of the 18th century, struggled with mental illness and suicide every day of his adult life. Michael Card wrote a song about suicide called “The Edge,” you could look it up and listen to it, it's very powerful. In that he says, “Before I ever come again to that dark place where I might make the choice for life to end.” Very few Christian song writers will write about that topic.

Psalm 88 seems to be appropriate for that. Psalm 88 doesn't end on a high note. Psalm 88, very discouraging, very depressing, and at the very end, verse 18, “You have taken all of my companions and loved ones from me, darkness is my closest friend,” end of Psalm. But what that does is, it speaks to me that sometimes that's how the day feels. Live for the next day. The next day, his mercies are new every morning. Sun rises, he refreshes, he renews and you are restored.

So I'll say one final thing and we'll be done. I believe there can sometimes be a physiological side to suicide as well. In 2 Corinthians 4:6, it says, “God who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” That's regeneration, God speaks light into the darkness of a heart. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay.” Let me simplify. What's the treasure? Knowledge, the knowledge of God in Christ. We have this treasure in jars of clay. What's a jar of clay? Well, where do you keep your knowledge? Do you have your knowledge in your pinky? Do you have your knowledge in your foot? Is it in your knee perhaps?

It's right in here, this is your jar of clay. And we were made out of the dust of the earth, amazingly. This is amazingly complicated clay, but the jar of clay image is a fragility that it can be broken. Cracked. So what about Alzheimer's or people with dementia? And all their lives, this woman, this man were sweet-tempered, pleasant and patient, and now they're maybe openly cursing or blaspheming? Don't recognize loved ones? What is going on there? Have they lost their salvation? No, their jar of clay has been cracked. God still knows who they are.

And so for us to say it's impossible to go from suicide to heaven, underestimates how fragile that jar of clay can be. Sometimes the world, the flesh and the devil can overwhelm it, and darkness can come in waves and for his own purposes, God permits that darkness to latch on. So what comfort can we have for those that are left behind to take up the pieces? Turn to Christ, turn to the Scripture, turn to prayer, turn to the church. Don't face this alone.

And what about if you're the one depressed and discouraged? What if you're asking, “Will God forgive me if I kill myself?” Do you realize what an odd question that is? How paradoxical? "Will the God who can't help me now welcome me into heaven?" That's weird. The God you wanna spend eternity with in heaven can help you right now. Turn to him and trust in him. Let's close in prayer and then we'll get ready for the Lord's Supper.

Father, we thank you for the time that we've had in the Word. Thank you for the depth of the Word in dealing with a very painful subject. I pray that you bring comfort and consolation to any that have been touched and brought to great pain through this topic. I pray, Father, that you'd bring them the comfort and consolation of the gospel. And now as we turn our attention to the Lord's Supper, we pray that you pour out through your Spirit, the grace of God on all of us who have trusted in you. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen. Deacons, if you would come, please.

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