Alfred Place Baptist Church

14:17-21 The Son of Man Betrayed

Mark 14:17-21 “When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me.’ They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, ‘Surely not I?’ ‘It is one of the Twelve,’ he replied, ‘one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.'”

The Lord Jesus Christ enters the room which Peter and John had prepared for the Passover. We know from John’s gospel that the first thing our Saviour did was to wash the feet of his disciples. It was a beautiful scene, the humble Servant of the Lord on his knees before each of his friends, and then reclining in their midst eating the lamb, the bitter herbs and the unleavened bread. We know something of the dynamics of eating a meal with friends, the enjoyment of the splendid food, the conversation and the happiness we share together. It is a picture of what heaven is going to be like. We use meals as an effective means of assisting our evangelism; we overcome people’s suspicion and we show our affection by sitting down with them for an hour or two and eating with them. I think we have some biblical grounds for doing that, for example, think of the Lord Jesus in Emmaus talking and eating with the two crestfallen disciples and making their hearts burn with hope.

Then in the Upper Room the Host takes control of the whole conversation. He listens to their questions and then answers them but it is his Passover. He is going to institute the Lord’s Supper. He is going to speak at length (John chapters 14, 15 and 16); then he is going to pray the greatest prayer men ever heard (John 17). He will teach and act with such clarity that they will never forget what happened, and ultimately one of them there, John, will write down much of it for the future comfort of the church.

1. THE SAVIOUR SPOKE ABOUT SINNING.

Jesus didn’t flatter them by telling them, “Lads, I need you now.” He didn’t say that if they didn’t give themselves to working for him they’d be cads. He didn’t begin by putting before them the ‘challenge’ of the Christian life. He didn’t appeal to their heroic instinct; he didn’t say, “You’re about to start out on a great adventure, a glorious crusade. What a privilege to take your stand for God!” No, he began by showing them the potential enormity of sin. Isn’t that significant? I don’t mean by this that he turned to them and said, “It’s a terrible world, isn’t it lads? Don’t awful things happen?” “Yes. Yes. Yes,” they’d all mutter nodding their heads, “Bad things happen; in fact we think it’s getting worse.” Nothing like that at all; Jesus spoke to them about personal sinning, in other words about their own sins; “‘I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me”” (v.18). He brought it home as close as that. There’d been this lovely atmosphere of friendship and kindness; he’d bowed so low and washed their feet; they were having a great meal together; they all felt loved by him, and then Jesus seems to spoil it all by talking about their sin. Why didn’t he proceed to meet their frustrations? Why didn’t he talk to Judas privately and say to him, “Judas, you’re tearing yourself apart aren’t you? That’s no good. Don’t you know that most conflict is rooted in unmet needs?” No, not one word of psychobabble came from Jesus. Here is the great Seeker, the good Shepherd.

In this passage we are privileged to witness the technique and approach of God’s Wonderful Counsellor. We are watching the personal evangelism of the loving Son of God, the One who doesn’t break a bruised reed, whose wish it is that none should perish. In other words, here we see the seeking sensitive Saviour, and he is the one who begins the Upper Room discourse by talking to these fellows about their sins. The reason is this, that Jesus didn’t come into the world, and he does not come here today, to meet our unmet needs. He once came, and he continues to come, to save us from our sin.

They had to be made aware, experientially, of the state of their hearts. Their first need as Christians on Good Friday Eve was to learn about sin. If you haven’t know about sin you can’t understand yourself, or your fellowmen, or the world in which you live, or why God’s Son had to become the Lamb of God and die on Golgotha. You won’t make head or tail of it all unless you understand your root problem is your sin. The Bible is an exposition of God’s answer to the problem of human sin. Unless you’ve got that straight you’ll keep missing the point of Christianity. The first two chapters of the Bible set the stage, and then the real subject of every other chapter of the Bible is what God does about our sins. Lose sight of this theme and you immediately lose your way to Scripture. One thing would make these twelve men prick up their ears, and not doze off after supper, and pay heed to everything that the Master said to them, and that was to be challenged about their own sinOtherwise they’d have listened to Jesus speaking and marvelled at his beautiful concepts, his eloquence, and what a loving man he was and yet missed the whole point of his life and work. He had come to lay down his life a ransom for many. He had to begin by addressing the consciences of the Twelve, and telling them about their sin. They must get clear views of sin, and so must you.

The Lord Jesus was soon going to say to them at that table, “Let not your hearts be troubled,” but it was not enough that they be troubled about their own weaknesses and the wrong things they had done. He didn’t want them merely to feel miserable about themselves and that they’d fallen short in meeting life’s demands. It was not enough for them to call on the Lord to come and stroke their affections, and cheer them up, and make them feel confident again. Christ didn’t say to them, “Now boys are you happy? Are you satisfied? Do you want peace of mind? Do you feel that you’ve failed? Are you fed up with yourselves? Do you want a friend? What needs do you have? Come to me for the purpose-driven life, and wonderful things will happen to you.” The Lord Jesus is no fairy-godmother or super-psychiatrist. No, they had to go deeper than feeling that they were all round flops. Their sense of inadequacy was not their first problem; it was the burden of their own guilt and shame.

Jesus wanted them to realize that even with all the privileges they’d had with him for three years, all the sights they had seen, the gifts they’d been given, the teaching and counselling they’d received, they were still capable of serious sin. They were able to offend the Son of God, flout his authority, going against him and betraying him. He wanted them to know that all the privileges and experiences they’d had wouldn’t save them from that. He wanted them to feel this, that they could be changed by listening to his words and going to him for redemption the first great definitive time, and then moment by moment

“One of you will betray me. Though you’ve seen Lazarus rise from the dead, you’ll betray me. You’ve heard the Sermon on the Mount, but you’ll betray me. You’ve seen me speak and the winds obeyed me, but you’ll betray me. You’ve been exposed to my power, and wisdom, and love but you’ll betray me.” Betrayal is a wife who’s vowed to be faithful to her husband who yet sleeps with other men behind his back. Betrayal is a high ranking official in the government passing on state secrets to the communists in Russia. Betrayal is a man who claims to be a friend and yet whispers his contempt for that man to other people. Betrayal is a man who smiles in your face but who is plotting your downfall behind your back. Betrayal is a preacher who has promised to uphold the confession of faith and standards of his church undermining them from the pulpit. All the privileges in the world are not enough to deliver a man from that. We must be convicted of how wicked betrayal is, and feel the pain, and confess it to God with a broken heart, and cry mightily to God for forgiveness. There’s no other way.

Why did Jesus talk of this sin now? Because of his love for Judas, that it was not his desire that he should perish but that he should be saved. It was not too late for Judas to change. Think how late one thief on a cross left his cry for mercy, to just a few hours before he died. It was then that he turned from his sin to the Saviour. Was he rejected because he had done horrible things even worthy of such a death in his own eyes? No. Was he turned down because he had nothing to offer the Saviour except his own sin and need? No. Did the Saviour say that the day of grace had ended for him? No! Jesus said, “Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise.” He and Christ walked hand in hand through the gates of heaven, and the angels praised the power of the blood. That is why Jesus began by raising the matter of our sin, that Judas might repent and turn from his schemes of betraying Jesus with a kiss, and remain in the Upper Room humbled and repentant to enjoy there the whole of the Lord’s ministry and prayer.

If anyone is to profit from the Lord’s Supper it has to be in a spirit of repentance. The bread that we eat, and the wine we drink there has no power to do good to our souls unless it is mixed with repentance and faith. The man officiating at the table might be the holiest man in the world but that will do us no good unless we eat and drink in repentance and faith. So the apostle tells us to examine ourselves, to see whether we have truly repented. Are we intent on leading a new life? Are we trusting in the merits of Jesus’ blood alone to cover our sins? Are we full of thanks for his dying love for us? Is there anyone we ourselves have betrayed and for that sin don’t we need forgiveness and new life? Let no one come to the Lord’s Supper without thought, as if it were a mere formality. If you are unfit for the Lord’s Supper then you are unfit to die, and unfit to stand before God. The only way is to come is as a sinner whose hopes are all in Christ, that he loved you and gave himself for you, and with full purpose of heart you will live henceforth for him. So the Saviour began by speaking about their sins.

2. THE SAVIOUR’S DISCIPLES RESPONDED WITH GRIEF.

“They were saddened,” Mark tells us (v.19). They weren’t scandalised. They were not indignant, as if to say, “Who? Us? What do you think we are? Who are you accusing of betraying?” There was nothing like that. Their three years with him had transformed their thinking. Now if Jesus said something to them then they were prepared to listen . . . “one of us could betray him? That’s terrible,” and they were all grieved at the thought. But more than that, one by one they turned to him and round in a circle they pressed him, “Surely not I?” Peter said, “Surely not I?” Matthew said, “Surely not I?” Then John said, “Surely not I?” And Andrew said, “Surely not I?” In turn they all interrogated him, even Judas asked him if it were him.

Jesus simply affirmed that it was indeed one of them sitting with him at that moment, and dipping bread into the bowl with him (v.20). Their hands would touch going into the bowl as they reached for a piece of lamb at the same time. Jesus would take a prize piece of meat and put it in a disciple’s mouth. Think of how cold Judas was. Imagine that he could bear to have Jesus wash his feet, Jesus’ hands washing and drying his feet. He could even bear Jesus taking a piece of food and put it into his mouth. The holy hand that had washed his feet now more intimately touches his lips, but Judas could bear that too. The morsel of food doesn’t scald his lips. But then a time will come when Judas will even kiss Jesus. The washing of the feet – the least intimate; the hand brushing the lips as a piece of food is put in his mouth – more intimate; and then, most intimate of all, his lips kissing Jesus’ lips, and that is the end. How hard was Judas. How hard you are. How hard am I! Jesus so close, and yet I can go on determined to sin.

How can I turn this question of the disciples, “Lord is it?”

iii] Firstly like this: how many of us would think under my preaching of sin, “Surely he is speaking about that man in that pew over there,” or you’d be thinking, “I am so glad that she is here today,” but we’re not told that Peter said, “I’m sure it’s Levi,” and Levi didn’t say, “I think it’s Peter.” What a sign of grace when we are more distrustful of our own hearts than the hearts of others. What a mark of redemption when we know our own weaknesses, and our own tendency to sin better than we know the sins of other church members. When the preacher preaches on a sin in the Bible we determine to apply the word first to ourselves. “Lord, is it I?” Not “Lord, is it him or her?” I remember Dr Oliver Barclay talking to me about sitting in Westminster Chapel in the 1950s listening to Dr. Lloyd-Jones. “He really got under your skin,” he said, the word penetrating your soul.

ii] Then to say this, that all of them, except for Judas, knew they had no intention of betraying him, but they were beginning to know their own hearts, what tinder boxes they were, and one spark would be enough start a conflagration; in other words, they had come to realise that they were capable of betraying him. The seeds of every sin were in their hearts. They knew that even the betrayal of the Son of God wasn’t impossible. In other words, the grace of Jesus Christ was really beginning to affect them. They were all growing disciples, and so they weren’t resentful at being searched by our Lord’s words. They were men who were willing, even longing to be searched by the Lord. They would pray with the psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24). We want to open every door to God if we are Christians. There are no rooms in our hearts we keep locked to him. There’s no corruption we keep hidden from his eyes. We don’t want him to be ignorant of anything evil in us. Though our hearts are often in a mess and we are saddened by our imaginations and lusts yet we’ll fling open wide our souls for his kind but searching glance. We make no excuses when we deal with God. That is a mark of being a true Christian, that we want to have genuine dealings with the holy God, especially when we meet for worship. We want the Holy Spirit to be present and convict us of sin and righteousness and judgment. We don’t want our own prejudices to be rearranged week by week. We want to sit under the most searching ministry we can find. “Lord is the sin being preached on mine? Is it I?”

Look at yourself this moment. Look within! Look at everything represented by that word ‘I.’ Who are you? I say again, who are you? Face yourself. Speak to yourself. Challenge yourself today. Do you say, “I am a Christian”? I spoke to a lady on my way to Africa who asked me why I was going to Zambia, and when I told her she said, “We are Christians too, my husband and I.” I’m sure it did her good to tell someone, “I am a Christian.” Can you say it? “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief;” “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me;” “He loved me and gave himself for me.” Is that what the ‘I’ that is you is saying by the grace of the Lord Jesus?

iii] Let me turn it this way that the wonder is this, that the Lord who comprehensively knows the evil within us is the Lord who graciously hides that evil from the eyes of others. He has hidden so much of my evil from you, and so when men grumble at me for sins they can see, I say to myself, “If only they knew the whole truth about me they’d want to kill me.” But God seems to say, “I see my child’s sins,” and then he covers it with his hand and adds, “but no other eye is going to see it, only mine.” He veils our evil from others that others may not despise us as we often despise ourselves. Who but the Lord would act like this? Who but the God of grace would hide our sins from others? But we must remember this, that he also knows all the good that he has planted in our hearts. All the fruit of the Spirit, so often very tiny, he sees. All that grace has done for us, often faint and flickering, the breath of prayer, the groan of repentance, the humbling of ourselves – none of that goes unnoticed to God. God is hearing us humbly saying in our hearts at this moment, “Lord is it I?”

iv] Let me turn their question in this way, that none of them said, “It is Judas.” None of them suspected Judas at all. His outward character was blameless. Not the slightest speck defiled his life that anyone could see. He didn’t boast like Peter might. Judas never said, “Though all men forsake you, I will never leave you.” He didn’t ask to sit at the Lord’s right hand in glory. It was another disciple also called Judas who asked idle questions. Thomas and Philip would pry into deep waters, not Judas. He received the truth that Jesus taught and never argued back. He didn’t indulge in the lusts of the flesh or the pride of life. He kept following Jesus. If you had asked the disciples who they thought would be standing with the sheep on Jesus’ right the first name they’d suggest would be Judas, competent, quiet, capable Judas – he’s definitely be there. So these disciples said, “Is it I?” None of them said, “Is it Judas?” Actually, we know he’d been filching for months, but little by little, and no one suspected him of doing anything wrong. This was an unsuspecting brotherhood of love. They were more afraid of themselves than Judas. But Jesus knew it was Judas from the beginning. We can hide our sins from one another, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do. Let me ask you what you are doing with the sin that so easily besets you, that you are hiding so successfully from those you depend upon the most? Have you thrown that bag of money away that you are stealing from? Judas sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Are you selling him for 30 nights of love? For 30 years of reigning over the whole world, with all the trees and animals and clouds and stars bowing down to you? For 30 film stars wanting to be your husband? For 30 rock singers singing outside your window? For 30 million pounds, 30 beautiful homes all over the world, 30 expensive cars? Whatever it is I tell you this, it’s a bad bargain. It were better for you never to have been born.

v] Let me turn it like this; one of you is going to leave this place today rejecting Christ as much as when you came. “Surely not I?” One of you having refused the love of God before is going to refuse it again. “Surely, not I?” One of you is going to out with a harder heart than when she came in. “Surely, not I?” One of you who limps between two opinions is going to go on limping. “Surely, not I?” One of you almost persuaded to become a Christian is going to remain almost persuaded. “Surely. not I?” One of you, a real disciple of Jesus will go on refusing to confess with your lips that you belong to Jesus. “Surely, not I?” One day men and women, we will breathe our last, and we will enter a glory far beyond words to describe. We’ll say, “I used to sin. I used to be so weak. What dim eyes I had to the Saviour’s glory. What dull ears. Now I see! Now I love! Now I am with the Saviour for ever. Here is fulness of joy. I am in his lovely presence for evermore.” Lord is it I? Is it I?

3. THE SAVIOUR CONFIRMS HIS PREDESTINED GOAL.

“The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him” (v.21). Do you see the triumph of Jesus Christ in these words? One of his own small circle of friends, someone on whom he has lavished such exquisite pastoral care for years, turns out to be a traitor. At that very moment Judas was in the midst of plotting Christ’s betrayal to men who were going to abuse and whip and crucify him. Our Lord knows this, and so what does he think? Does he say that the Son of Man will go just as Judas has planned? No. The death of Christ is not in Judas’ hands. “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him.” What God said in Genesis 3 about bruising the head of the serpent will happen. What the Psalmist wrote about the Messiah in Psalm 22 is going to take place. What Isaiah said about him in chapter 53 is going to occur. That is God’s plan from eternity. Christ is the Lamb of God slain in God’s decree from the beginning, even before the foundation of the world.

Now one of the Puritans said, “What God sovereignly decrees in eternity, man will always demand in time.” Jesus’ protection when a friend betrayed him was the sovereignty of God; he could say, “A sovereign Protector I have.” A man named Frederick Nolan was being hunted like a partridge in the desert. He slipped into a cave exhausted hoping to hide there from his enemies. As he sat behind a rock in a corner a spider began to work spinning a web across the entrance. Then he heard his hunters getting nearer and nearer until they arrived outside the cave. One of the men noticed the web, pointed it out to the others and so they hurried on. Nolan’s life was spared. Because God is sovereign a spider’s web is like a wall. If God weren’t sovereign a wall would be like a spider’s web.

Yes, but man is also responsible. No one is being strangled by his genetic code. None is a slave to her own personality, or to his environment. We may all, according to our light and power, make a choice. Consider the last hours of the Lord Jesus. We meet one person after another and each one is denying any responsibility for Christ’s death. Judas himself tries to escape from his own action. He pleads Christ’s innocence and returns the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, but they look at the money and say to him, “What’s that to us? It was your decision.”

Or consider a court of law. Shouldn’t any court ensure a fair trial? Shouldn’t these judges have seen to it that an innocent man didn’t die? Of course! Then it seems that Pilate was never persuaded of the guilt of Jesus of Nazareth, and he tries different means of delivering him, and when they all fail he calls for a bowl of water and washes his hands of his responsibility for the whole sorry business, but this Pilate was the official who handed over Christ to die. Pilate bent before the mob as it shouted “Crucify him!” Remember the crowd had the power to choose anybody they wanted released. It was entirely up to them, but with their free will they knowingly and deliberately chose a notorious criminal named Barrabas and demanded the death of Jesus. Over the protests of his wife, his conscience, and both Roman and Hebrew law, Pilate refused stop the injustice. He caved in to the shouts of the crowd. The people yelled, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” Who could be more guilty and more responsible for their actions than those Jerusalem sinners? Yet what God had written in the Old Testament concerning the destiny of the Son of Man was going to happen to its very jots and tittles – in spite of a thousand free choices of these men and women.

Jesus speaks in the Upper Room and he tells his disciples two thing, firstly that one of them was going to betray him, and then, secondly, that “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him.” It is an amazing juxtaposition of man’s responsibility and the divine sovereignty absolutely typical of all of Scripture. What had been written about our Lord? That he would be put to death. Exactly what did that crowd vehemently demand to take place? The death of Jesus of Nazareth. What God sovereignly decrees in eternity, man will freely choose in time. Jesus tells them, “one of you will betray me,” but he never felt he was a pawn in the hands of Judas, or the victim of the hatred of the chief priests. The hand of his heavenly Father had guided the writers of the psalms and the prophets to predict his death, and now that same hand was guiding Judas and the chief priests and Pilate and the mob so that the Son of Man was going to go from the world just as it was written about him. His Father was in control and that was Jesus’ peace.

What was the only thing that could satisfy the holy rectitude of a sin-hating God? The death of his only begotten Son. What was the only thing that would satisfy the hate and bloodlust of the mob? The death of the only begotten Son of God. What God sovereignly ordains in eternity, man will choose by his own free will in time. If the wicked seem to prevail it is only because God has purposed to use them for his own glory and for our good.

Peter was listening to everything that Jesus said, and thinking something like this, “So one of us is going to betray him, nevertheless the Son of Man is going on just as it was written about him. Christ holds one man responsible for taking a free decision of selling the Son of man for 30 pieces of silver, but still God’s will is going to be done.” Peter saw it; he saw sovereignty and he saw responsibility, and six weeks later on the day of Pentecost he gets up and vigorously preaches both of these truths to the same crowd who had cried, “Away with him! Crucify him!” He tells them two things in Acts 2:23, firstly, that Jesus Christ was “handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge.” The only way they could have laid a finger on the Son of God was that God had first permitted it. The death of Jesus had been the purpose of God in sending him into the world. So you can imagine some men in the crowd heaving a sigh of relief and saying, “We thought we were guilty, that God would hold us responsible for murdering his Son. Now we know we’re not. God planned it, not us.” They would love to get that monkey of responsibility off their backs, and sleep better in the wee small hours of the morning. But as those thoughts of relief were flashing through their brains, Peter went on with his sermon saying, secondly, “and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23). God’s sovereign purpose was the death of the Messiah, yes, he had written it in the Bible, but that in no way excused them. They’d acted out of the hatred of their hearts, and his blood was on their heads. Peter’s words could not have been clearer. Jesus had taught him well. God used Judas, and the chief priests, and the bribed witnesses, and Pilate, and the soldiers, and the Sanhedrin, and the mob, and the execution squad to accomplish what God had written, nevertheless God held those very men responsible for their wicked deeds.

That is the hope of Jesus; that is his confidence as he faces his last 24 hours. As believers, we can be sure that everyone is under God’s control. When we pray for him to teach us something God will often answer by sending odd people into our lives who actually teach us what we need to know. Jesus had Judas for three years, and deep in Judas’ heart there was contempt and hatred for Christ, but our Saviour didn’t rebel against God having sent him such a ‘teacher.’ If Jesus had rebelled against him, calling fire down from heaven to consume him, then he would have been rebelling against the God who said, “Via Judas you are going to go.”

You say that if a Sovereign God is responsible for what all that happens to you how can you pray in times of tragedy, when, for example, your best friend is taken from you? I tell you that you address this holy loving Sovereign. You throw yourself right into the teeth of his Omnipotence. In Harry Ironside’s house there was a bearskin rug complete with a stuffed head. It lay on the floor of his parlour. He had a beloved grandson who would visit him, and he would love Harry Ironside to dress up in the bearskin, look out through the teeth, roar and chase the little boy around the room. “I’m a big bad bear and I am going to eat you up.” The boy would scream at the top of his voice as his grandpa got nearer and nearer. Then at the last moment he would throw his arms around the bear’s head and say, “You’re not a big bad bear, you’re my grandpa, and you’re not going to hurt me.”

That is the way we meet the sovereign God in times of tragedy. Our friends betray us and death is ahead of us, and the devil is taunting us to challenge the wisdom and love of God, but we throw ourselves right into the teeth of God’s sovereignty and say, “My heavenly Father has committed himself to bring good out of every situation I’m in. I am going on just as it has been written about me in his book.”

4. THE SAVIOUR GIVES A FEARFUL WARNING.

“It would be better for him if he had not been born” (v.21). It would have been better to have been stillborn, to have died in the womb, never to have taken his first breath, never to have sucked milk from his mother’s breast, never to have taken his first steps, never to have seen the blue sky and wide ocean, never to have married and become a father, never to have succeeded in his career and lived to old age in the bosom of his family, and held in respect by the community. Better that none of this had ever happened; better if that sperm and that egg had never fused and the cell never started to divide and divide and divide than we betray the Son of God.

Better not to have been than to have been born to betray Christ. Better never to have existed than to become a byword for wickedness for the next 2,000 years. Men won’t even call their dogs ‘Judas.’ Better never to have existed than to have known conception and then start a journey that would last for ever in hell. Do the damned in hell wish they had never been born? Yes. How many of them? Every one of them. They gnash their teeth in the darkness and wail, “Why were we ever born? Better if that night my father had never shared a bed with my mother, to beget me so that my eternity were spent in the company of the devil and his evil spirits.”

Once William Haslam was once speaking to his congregation in Cornwall and he said to them, “There is a clock in hell with all twelve numbers on its dial, and a great pendulum that swings back and fore, but there are no hands on that clock, and as the pendulum swings it says, ‘For ever . . . for ever . . . for ever . . . for ever . . . for ever.’ And the inhabitants of hell cry, ‘We wish we’d never been born.'” Later on he noticed two women walking slowly up a hill and as they passed him one said to the other, “I wish I’d never been born,” and the other woman agreed with her. So Haslam lengthened his stride and caught them up. His house was at the top of the hill and he invited them in for a cup of tea. Then he said to them, “I overheard you talking as you passed me. Do you really wish you’d never been born?” The woman burst into tears and she poured out her heart to William Haslam, about her wretched marriage to a drunkard soldier and so on. Haslam said to her, “We can be sure that troubles never spring up from the ground. The God who permits them does so for the good of his people. If we humble ourselves under his mighty hand he has promised to lift us up. He will make all things work together for the good of those who love him. Have you given your hearts to Christ?” So he pressed them both, saying further, “God has hedged your path; he has brought you here today. Do you believe that Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? Do you believe that he has taken away your sin?” And he urged them both to trust in Jesus Christ, and they did.

No life without Christ. No hope without Christ. Better never to have been born than to die without Christ and without hope. Listen, the Lord Jesus Christ said of one man that it were better for him that he’d never been born. What if that person were you? But you are still doing nothing about it. You are not going to let a preacher frighten you with such a primitive bogey-man as this. You do not, and you will not accept that there is a hell and that you are heading for it. I tell you, all those who are now there once thought as you did. None of them believed in hell. They believe now, because they are in it for ever, but their faith and sight have all come too late.

It is not too late for you. That is why God brought you here today. This is your providence and no one can take that from you. God brought you here to save you from yourself and the destiny that lies before you if you won’t neglect these words. How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? Are you really determined to ruin yourself? The Lord Jesus is pleading with you now. As you sit here he is beseeching you; he is calling you to himself, commanding you to turn from the sin that brings only destruction. How kind he is and patient with you. Years you’ve spent in vanity and pride without a thought for him, but now if you turn in faith to him, and entrust yourself to his welcoming arms, all you are and all you have to him then he will receive you. He will save you from yourself. You will save you from your sin. He will save you from the devil. He will save you from hell. He will keep you safe for ever, and your burden of guilt and failure will be taken from you. You will be happy and holy finding you can fulfil God’s great purpose in giving you birth, to glorify and enjoy him for ever. You will bless God for the day of your birth, and you will bless him more for the day of your second birth. Today if you will hear his voice, do not harden your heart!

10th April 2005 GEOFF THOMAS