Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Vision (3/17/11): God's Sovereignty: From Judas to Japan

In our mid-week Bible Study in the Gospel of John this week, we reached the end of John 6 (which we have dubbed “the bread chapter” for the “bread” imagery throughout, from the loaves in the feeding of the five thousand to Jesus’ declaration in v. 35, “I am the bread of life”).

After Christ’s teaching on God’s sovereignty in salvation in v. 65 (cf. vv. 37, 44), we read in v. 66: “From that time many of his disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” Jesus then asks the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” (v. 67). Simon Peter answers, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (v. 68). Peter continues, “Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 69; cf. Matthew 16:16; Mark 8:29).

Of interest is what come next. Jesus answers, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (v. 70). The apostle John explains in the next verse: “He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve’ (v. 71).

The question raised in our discussion was why Jesus chose Judas to be among the disciples. Clearly, Jesus shared in the divine omniscience. He knew that Judas would betray him: “For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him” (v. 64). Again, why then did he allow Judas to be among the twelve?

This touches upon a basic theological issue that is sometimes called “theodicy,” the justification of God’s ways in the face of the reality of the existence of suffering and evil. The questions pile up:

Why did Jesus allow Judas to be among the disciples?

Why did God allow the earthquake and tsunami in Japan?

Why does he allow diseases like cancer, diabetes, and m.s.?

Why does he allow wicked men to gain the upper hand in some temporal circumstances?

In the end, our answer must rest in the affirmation of God’s sovereignty. Why did Jesus choose Judas? Because the role of Judas in betraying Jesus fit the perfect plan of God for the redemption of man. As Peter declared at Pentecost, the cross of Christ was “according to the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23).

Nothing takes the Lord by surprise or is outside his control. He is bending all things to his own glory and the good of his saints (Romans 8:28). The prophet Amos long ago declared, “If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?” (Amos 3:6). Joseph says to the brothers who sold him into slavery: “you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:21). Martin Luther said that even the devil is God’s devil. He does not do anything that the Lord does not permit him to do.

This is the thing we should remember when we see divine permission of suffering and evil, from Judas to Japan. As the hymn writer put it, “What’er My God Ordains is Right.”

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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