John 18:1-2 “When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples.”
One of the greatest tragedies ever recorded in Scripture is documented in the words above. Here we see Judas, as he prepared to betray the Lord, and we learn Judas knew the garden (of Gethsemane) well, for “Jesus often met there with his disciples.” Over the course of the three years that Jesus spent daily with the disciples, often, we are told, they met with them there. How many times did they hear Him teach in that place? How many times did they hear Him pray? But for Judas, of what benefit was all this to him? Obviously, not much. Here was a person who had heard Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom time after time. He had seen how Jesus answered the questions of the disciples, and of non-believers as well. He had been privy to the greatest wisdom to which man has ever been exposed, and he learned absolutely nothing from it all. He exited each experience with Jesus no better than he came, and one could argue he got worse over time. His heart just became harder and harder with each exposure to the gospel – just like the Pharisees and other religious leaders of the day. Jesus’ love-filled teaching bounced off them with no effect.
That’s the way it is for anyone who is exposed to the gospel repeatedly, yet doesn’t respond. The Bible calls it a “hardening by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). Apparently, churches are filled with these kinds of people. How else could it be that in the end Jesus will say “Many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:22-23).
Note these are professing Christians – people who speak of Jesus as their “lord.” These are people who had likely sat in church week after week, perhaps for years, yet they had never really come to know the real Jesus. They had never confessed their sins to Him and pleaded with Him for forgiveness. Like Judas, despite repeated exposure to the Word of God and true believers, they had never been changed. They left each week from some house of worship the very same people they were when they entered, with the exception that perhaps their heart had become a little harder each and every time they went.
Do you know anyone like that? Do you know anyone who attends a church but, in their language, behavior, and attitude they are indistinguishable from those who never attend one? “Why is that?” – you might ask. Someone asked me that once, i.e., why did I attend a church, since it didn’t seem to affect my behavior in any way? That, to me, was a great wake-up call. What about you? Have you ever been asked that? Have you ever asked yourself that question? May the example of Judas be a wake-up call to us all.