Decisions Determine Destinies

A wayward disciple's bad choice seals his eternal fate.

by J. Grant Swank, Jr.

Our decisions determine our destinies — for earth and eternity.
When Judas betrayed Jesus, he knew what he was doing; his choice was conscious and gradual. The Bible states that Judas “was betraying Him . . .” (John 18:2). This means that the wayward disciple made his connections with the enemy, plotted knowingly against Jesus, and then carried out his dastardly deed.

When Jesus walked into the garden that Passover evening, one disciple was missing: Judas. Jesus’ heart broke. The scene, thus far filled with laughter and fond memories, now turned extremely sad. One of the fellows had purposefully decided to opt out. It was Judas.

Rapid decline

The same verse states that Judas “knew the place.” True. But though he knew the garden environs well, he knew not the person Jesus. Could it have been that when the true identity of the Carpenter sprung upon the brain of Judas, that in itself propelled his suicide? Judas had counted on a lesser god in Jesus. The fellow knew the place, yes; but he knew not the God-might wrapped up in the thirty-three year old from Nazareth.

Judas “having received the Roman cohort [battalion]” went forth to undo Jesus (v. 3). Judas cozied up not only to the governmental powers, but also to the corrupt religious powers. The chief priests and Pharisees were there in the night shadows as well. Judas liked numbers; he felt secure in counting heads. He cuddled up to the cadre of clout and strut.

Selfish choices

It is said frequently today that persons are known for their choices. Some make bad ones that lead to disastrous conclusions. This is what was going on in Judas’ life those awful days. Selfish choices spun around in his conniving head so as to undo his soul.

In receiving the political clique and religious prance, Judas rejected the Lord himself. It is that way with each person alive today. Each conscience every moment is either choosing for God or self. How determinedly the individual decisions determine destiny. In that, each stands alone. Judgment then becomes not only future but also present tense.

Judas climbed the status ladder with the then-mighty to preen his power stand, his prestigious lot, and his prideful demeanor. All of this was extremely attractive to a nobody from Galilee. He had now come into his own, he thought. His future was certain. He was with those who mattered most. And in that, Judas slipped closer and closer to the cliff’s edge of the soul.

Confronting the Light

The enemy brought in hand the “lanterns and torches” (v. 3) to snuff out the Light of the world. How frequently has that plot been set in motion. Worldlings have forever attemped to douse the Light that can never go out. They try with one torch or another, but it never works. Only the truly humble realize that there is burning a Light from eternity that cannot be extinguished. Sad that Judas had not come upon such a truth, but his decision had chosen otherwise — tragically.

How ironic that there in the dark of Passover night stood the Forever Light. There stood the very One who brought into existence the suns, moons, stars, and galaxies. He was the source of all that was shining and bright.

Yet with the meager display of hallway lanterns and palace torches, the gilded soldiers sought to wipe out the origin of being: Light.

Attention deficit

As Jesus was questioned regarding His identity, He verified that He was Jesus of Nazareth. When the inquiry persisted, He responded with the same truth: “I am He” (v. 5). Why is it that after His responses, there is once again a telling sentence referring to Judas: “And Judas also who was betraying Him, was standing with them”?

The answer is that the Bible tries to reveal to the reader that Jesus was still attempting to get Judas’ attention concerning His actual identity. Jesus was saying in effect, “I am the true God, the Mighty One. Do not betray yourself, Judas.”

Yet Judas still did not get the clue. He was too far gone in his damning decision for the lost soul. However, Jesus was loving to the end. He was reaching out, as He always had, trying to rescue, to save, to embrace.

Judas could not get it. Jesus’ answer to the inquirers was not so much for them to understand reality as it was the Shepherd’s aching heart wanting to snare a lost lamb.

Flat in the soul

“Judas . . . was standing with them” (v. 5). He was standing all right, but in his soul he was flat down, done in. How one can appear to be standing, alive and well, while all the time spiritually flattened, almost gone, just about to slip over the dreadful edge?

Standing physically is one stance, but standing in the soul is what will count for eternity. It was the standing on the convictions of truth that Judas found missing in his soul. And it was that position he could have grasped hold of at the end had he made the right choice. His decisions were indeed setting forever his destiny.

Jesus vs. ‘them’

Judas stood with “them.” And so it is with all of us: Each stands either with Jesus or with “them.” The “them” always outnumber God, but with God one is with the majority.

Truth spells that out time and again in the Bible. Judas stood with “them,” concluding he was on the side of savvy, street smart, and winning out. How duped Judas had become. And how fast he had succumbed to the destiny choice that has sealed his fate forever: lost.

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible.