Tremendous issues are at stake in the times of this generation. Indeed, we might ,well repeat the oft-made statement, "It is later than you think." The great time issues of eternity are crowding in upon us. All the swiftly moving events of our day are going forward according to the divine timetable set forth by our God long centuries ago.
"Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. . . . He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night" (John 13:27, 30). This text is the record of a bitter disillusionment. It is a text written out of one of earth's most tragic experiences. It is a text of bitter defeat, a text written in tears, a text of stark tragedy. It is the final notation of a man's life that had been lost in the labyrinth of social and economic bewilderment. It is the tragic conclusion of a life that had become confused because of improper reasoning and fallacious conclusions. It was about a man who was very close to Jesus, and this is what makes it more tragic than ever. It is one of the last accounts of Judas' life.
This record of the climax of Judas' life is the sad picture of one so close to Jesus and yet actually so far from Him. The obvious reason for his distance from Christ was the level of his sight. He was looking to situations and conditions about him. The economics of his day, the financial concerns and the pecuniary responsibilities that rested upon him, consumed within him every other consideration. The material things of life had assumed an abnormal proportion in his thinking. The true concept of Christ's kingdom and the work that Christ had for him to do was far from him. The essence and the deep sense of Christ's challenge had never really gripped his heart.
In this present age and generation there are so many countless multitudes about us who are walking along the same treacherous road, some even professing a nearness to the Saviour, and yet not realizing the first basic principles of truly being united with Him in the mighty challenge of this age.
"How few of us are heart to heart with the Redeemer in this solemn, closing work! There is scarcely a tithe of the compassion that there should be for souls unsaved. There are so many to be warned, and yet how few sympathize with God sufficiently to be anything or nothing if only they can see souls won to Christ!"—Gospel Workers, p. 116.
Here, indeed, lies a very moving challenge to the church. "How few sympathize with God." He is the wounded Lord. He is the one who gave His only-begotten Son that all mankind might live. Yet, how few really sympathize with God sufficiently to be anything or nothing if only they can see souls won to God!
Around us today there are tragic examples of millions who are licking the deep wounds of disillusionment. We are quick and prone to condemn Judas for betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Small as such a price may seem to us, and terrible as such a betrayal was, yet how many there are today who betray Christ for even less! A strange fatalism seems to abound on every side; and in many lands of the earth millions sit in stoic silence as they stare blankly into a future that holds nothing but sorrow, tragedy, and bitterness.
"Our Last Chance"
We all remember how the General of the Army, Douglas MacArthur, in a dramatic moment of history, stood before the United States Congress and reiterated his conviction that "we have had our last chance." The full statement has in it every element of urgency:
"Men since the beginning of time have sought peace. Various methods through the ages have been attempted to devise an international process to prevent or settle disputes between nations. From the very start workable methods were found insofar as individual citizens were concerned, but the mechanics of an instrumentality of larger international scope have never been successful. Military alliances, balances of power, Leagues of Nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war.
"The utter destructiveness of war now blocks out this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door—the problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all the material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh."
Addressing the students of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Prime Minister Winston Churchill asked the significant question, "Is time on our side?" Frequently one hears on every side the comment from newsmen, public leaders, statesmen, diplomats, writers—all asking the. same question: "Shall we win our race against time?"
Time has always played an important function in God's scheme of things. "When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law" (Gal. 4:4). When Jesus began His ministry on earth He went about declaring that "the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:15). Paul's appeal to the Romans in the thirteenth chapter was, "Now it is high time to awake out of sleep" (verse 11); and even the apocalyptic message declared "that there should be time no longer" (Rev. 10:6). All of this has a most significant bearing upon our great task today, a task that becomes a mighty privilege when we accept it as an urgency from God.
Speed Is Urgent
There is something most significant in this text, "That thou doest, do quickly." One cannot read it without sensing the deep moving conviction of what Christ meant by urging Judas to go forward and to fulfill his part in the great drama of salvation. Christ was not urging Judas to do what was wrong, but He was urging him to do quickly that which in his heart he had definitely settled to do. Certainly we might draw the parallel right here—that either we have settled in our hearts to go forward to do quickly the task God has assigned us to do to bless and serve mankind, or else to go on and join the mad throng in its iniquitous betrayal.
The primacy and the immediacy of the hour in which we live are encompassed in the sentiment of this text. We are not given to the disposal of our challenge in some distant, elusive, faraway time. It is not given to us to thrust into the misty, vague tomorrow that which we are to do now. We are not commissioned to thrust into the uncertain waters of time's future ocean our participation in the last swiftly moving triumph of the church. Men of feeble resolve are never heard of. Those who are not moved by any urgency accomplish nothing.
Christ was ever conscious of the urgency of the time. "That thou doest, do quickly." Long had the Saviour sensed the weight of the world's guilt. Now the given moment had come; the time was at hand—that time that was actually set millenniums before in the councils of heaven, as the moment of His sacrifice, had now arrived. Relentlessly the river of time had rolled on, and the hour had now come. All heaven was watching the drama in that little room where twelve men gathered around the Saviour of the world. All the ramparts of heavenly hosts were watching the sweep of the centuries and millenniums as the great struggle was being enacted in a tiny room in a little village. The urgency of the prophecies had now come to fruition; and in that dramatic moment Jesus, realizing that the hour had come, simply turned to him whose heart was purposed on betrayal, and recognizing that the moment for His sacrifice was at hand that all the world might be saved, said, "That thou doest, do quickly." The intensity, the urgency, and the earnestness of that simple charge grip our hearts today.
That same sense of urgency has been handed down through the subsequent centuries to our day. Those words of Holy Scripture stand out before us in sharp and bold relief across the lowering skies of our present generation:
"For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth" (Rom. 9:28).
"The night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9:4).
"They [the fields] are white already to harvest" (John 4:35).
"Behold, I come quickly" (Rev. 22:7).
"Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20).
"Redeeming the time" (Eph. 5:16).
"In such an hour as ye think not" (Matt. 24:44).
All of these and multiplied additions tell us of the urgency of the times in which we live. The world needs today, not better legislation, but better legislators; not better business, but better businessmen; not better banks, but better bankers; not better medicine, but better physicians; not better farming, but better farmers; not better teaching, but better teachers; not more laws, but better interpreters of the law; not better preaching, but more consecrated preachers. This, then, brings before us the challenge of our day.
To this church, therefore, comes a tremendous appeal from God to move forward now in a great campaign and crusade for our Christ; not just an ordinary campaign, for these are extraordinary times; not just an ordinary con,secration, but an extraordinary one. The world, indeed, is waiting for someone to step forward with the light of truth and to give a certain _rvoice in an uncertain hour. Let me quote from an editorial in the Washington Times-Herald of July 28, 1951:
"Congress of late has become sufficiently alarmed by the state of affairs to discuss just how it might draw up a code of morals for government.
"The Times-Herald has run across some excellent remedial material on this subject in a very old book, which we are glad to pass along to Congress for consideration. The Book is available at any book store and is titled 'The Holy Bible.' In the Book of Exodus we are told that Moses, the leader of the Jews, was called to the top of Mount Sinai by God. When Moses returned from the top of Mount Sinai to his _ people, he carried with him the Ten Commandments. They are: [here the writer included the full text of the commandments]."
Continuing, he said:
"We make bold to suggest that men in public of-,Ace, and in private life as well, might reflect upon the code set forth in those Ten Commandments and recognize that whoever lives by the same needs no _pew advice from Congress or elsewhere on good behavior."
This truth Seventh-day Adventists have been proclaiming to the world for years. This is the time to herald the message of hope. What an hour this to heed Christ's message, "That thou doest, do quickly"!
"It Was Night"
There is another aspect to this text that we should examine before leaving it. The Scriptures say that after Judas received this message from Jesus, he "went immediately out: and it was night." Sober words, indeed—solemn in their implication. When he went forth from the presence of Jesus he went out into the blackness of night. It has always been so. All you need do to test the validity of these words is to look about you today and see the tragic examples of those who lie disillusioned in the slough of despair after having gone forth from the presence of Jesus. It is always so when one goes out. It is night, and there are millions of people in the dark night about us today.. It was a dark night for Judas; it was a dark night for his soul. It is a dark night for many a sinner today. Despair, fear, hopelessness, uncertainty, distrust, have gripped the hearts of multitudes.
This is the inalterable law of life. No one who has ever left Jesus has escaped this experience of the night. Our world is now in the midst of the night agonies of the last, last hour. And what we do must be done in the night. For that which the church has failed to do in her moments of prosperity and opportunity must be done in times of greatest distress and perplexity.
In Scott's Heart of Midlothian we meet the beautiful character of Jenny Deans, who walks all the way to London to secure a royal pardon for her wayward sister. She gives us these beautiful lines: "When we come to the end of life, it is not what we have done for ourselves but what we have done for others that will be our help and comfort."
Thus it is that we would, indeed, make an earnest appeal today for all to enter into a new and larger experience of going out into the dark night about us, not as the disillusioned, but going forth to the disillusioned and handing to them the torch of light and truth.
Remember this: while Judas went out as a disillusioned, broken, and bitter man, eleven others went forth to save a sin-cursed world. From that little embryo has sprung forth the mighty Christian church of today; and it is to us as Seventh-day Adventists in this twentieth century that God has handed a torch to illumine the path to every man who will come and hear and heed the truth. It is not our responsibility to light the torch; it is our task alone to carry it. God needs no defense; He needs only someone to proclaim Him. The truth needs no buttress; it needs only to be told. The truth needs no apology; it needs only a messenger.
A few summers ago in Canada a little threeyear-old girl strayed away from her parents' home. A searching party started out to find the child. They looked everywhere for her—all that day, that night, the next day, and the following night. Finally, the leader of the searching party, exhausted and weary, announced that the search would have to be abandoned. But the distracted young father couldn't think of it, and pleaded again earnestly; through his tears he begged that the searching party would this time join hands and move down through the meadow just once more. Although the searchers were weary beyond the point of endurance, they could not turn aside the plea of the young father: so they joined hands and started down through the meadow. Presently one of the searchers stooped clown in the tall grass and brought up the little girl, but she was dead. He handed the lifeless form over to the young father. The father took his little girl and held her close, and as the tears coursed down over his cheeks, he turned his eyes to heaven and cried out, "Oh, my God, why didn't we join hands sooner?"
Should we not at this very moment move forward, joining hands with God, determining that what we shall do for Him will be done and done quickly?