Fuller

So Many Unanswered Questions

March 8, 2021 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Luke 22:3-6 (NRSV)

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.

Focus

The Gospel of Luke shows us how Judas conspired with leaders in Jerusalem to betray Jesus. But the Gospel does not answer many of the questions we have about this, such as what motivated Judas besides satanic temptation. In fact, so many of our questions about God and his ways cannot be fully answered to our satisfaction in this life. In Lent, we remember our limitations, including our limited knowledge. We recognize how much we need a Savior who can restore us in all ways. We get ready to celebrate the salvation that comes on Good Friday and Easter.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.

Devotion

Today’s scripture passage marks a turning point in the Gospel of Luke. Though Jesus had predicted his death (9:51) and knew it would happen in Jerusalem (9:51), and though leaders in that city wanted to kill him (22:2), if we were reading Luke for the first time, we would not know how this would unfold. Luke 22:3-6 reveals the beginning of the specific plan that would lead to Jesus’s death.

The narration is straightforward. Satan “entered into” Judas, who is identified as “one of the twelve” (Luke 22:3). This identification underscores the closeness between Judas and Jesus. Judas plotted with “the chief priests and officers of the temple,” coming up with a plan to “betray” Jesus to them (22:4). They were pleased and promised to reward Judas financially. So he agreed and began to seek a way to betray Jesus “when no crowd was present” (22:5-6). That final comment reminds us that the vast number of Jews in Jerusalem were drawn to Jesus and had no desire to harm him.

As I reflect on this passage, many questions rise up in my mind. I wonder that it means that “Satan entered into Judas.” Was this a description of extreme temptation? Or some kind of demon possession? If Satan entered Judas, was he still able to control his actions or was he subject to the control of the devil? I wonder why Judas sought to betray Jesus, in addition to whatever satanic influence was at work. Did he lose confidence in Jesus and his mission? If so, why? Did he come to believe that Jesus was a risk for the Jewish people, as did the leaders in Jerusalem? Or, could it be, as some scholars have suggested, that Judas was attempting to force Jesus’s hand, believing that his actions would lead Jesus to lead a revolt against Rome? How much was the offer of money a factor in Judas’s decision making? Was he motivated by greed?

If you dig into commentaries on this passage as I have done, you’ll find various answers to most of these questions. But the wisest commentators generally agree that most of these questions must remain unanswered. Why? Because Luke doesn’t answer them for us. (And, for that matter, neither do the other Gospels.) The prudent response to all of those questions I have asked is: We really don’t know. It’s not wrong to speculate, imagine, or hypothesize, but, in the end, we really just don’t know.

So, as I reflect on today’s passage from Luke, I’m reminded of something that is true about Christian faith. Though God has revealed to us all we need to know to be saved, and though God has given us ample guidance for how to live for his purposes and glory, and though God has allowed us to glimpse spiritual realities beyond what we could see on our own, there is still so much we don’t know. There are so many unanswered questions.

In the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians we read: “For we know only in part . . . but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. . . . For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:9-12). Paul underscores the incompleteness of our knowledge. We see God truly, but as in a fogged-up mirror. Yet there is for us the promise of fuller knowledge in the future. Someday, we will know God fully, even as we have been fully known by God now.

One of the things we don’t know now is whether, in God’s future, all of our questions will be answered. Will I be able to bring my list of questions about Luke 22:3-6 to God’s heavenly throne and get answers? Maybe. Maybe not. But I have a sneaking suspicion that when we see God face to face, we’ll be so satisfied in our souls that many of our questions won’t matter anymore. Or maybe we’ll just know the answers. Or . . . . We really don’t know.

In the season of Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday, we take seriously our mortality and hindrances. We recognize how sin has corrupted us, including our knowledge. Perhaps in Lent, we should acknowledge our limitations, remembering how much we need, not just divine revelation, but also a Savior who can restore our whole being, including our thinking. With gratitude, we recognize that Jesus is that Savior, and that what Judas devised was, in the end, redeemed by God for our benefit.

Reflect

As you read this passage from Luke, what questions do you have?

How do you feel about the fact that so many of our questions about God cannot be fully answered in this life?

What other kinds of limitations, in addition to limits in knowing, are you especially aware of in this season of Lent?

When you imagine seeing God face to face, how do you respond? What thoughts do you have? What feelings?

Act

Take some time to write down some of your biggest unanswered questions. Don’t try to come up with answers. Just record your questions. Then offer your list to God in prayer. Ask the Lord to reveal to you what you need to know, even as you acknowledge that there are many things you won’t know in this life.

Pray

Lord Jesus, as I read this story about Judas and the leaders, I have such different responses. My heart aches for Judas and his desperation, even though I am repulsed by the evil of his actions.

Yet, as I consider this passage, I have so many questions, Lord. There is so much I would like to know. But I realize that most of my questions will go unanswered, at least in this life. That’s true, not only for my wonderings about Judas, but also for my wondering about you and your ways. Though you have revealed to me all I need to know for a relationship with you, there is so much I don’t understand, so much I can’t understand.

Help me, Lord, to accept my limitations. Help me to remember that I need so much more than knowledge. I need a Savior, one who will restore me to full wholeness in body, spirit, heart, and mind. You are that Savior! Thank you for all you have done for me and revealed to me. Thank you for the promise of someday seeing you face to face. Amen.

P.S. from Mark

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