A worship talk given in the General Conference chapel.
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matt. 6:24).
These two men were appointed by Jesus as members of the twelve. Each of these twelve possessed individuality and character. All but one made a real contribution to the newborn community of God. It is interesting to consider them one after the other. Today we shall deal with two of them who started together in the Gospel record.
At first one of them, John, was proud, ambitious for honor, hasty, and resentful under injury. He was one of the "sons of thunder"—always ready to harbor revenge and to see that justice came his way.
Judas was the other man, and at this starting point the report on him was promising. .We can gather that Judas was a man of commanding appearance and keen discernment. Probably his intelligence quotient was high. When the Galilean appeared upon the national scene, Judas was able to recognize in Him the cause of God and he had the courage to cast his lot with it. He probably was a natural-born administrator. Apparently his presence among the disciples added prestige to the group.
Both Judas and John responded to the Master's call. We find them together through the period of Christ's ministry, though each responds very differently to the Master's training. The last time we find the two together is at the end of Christ's career. The disciples had gathered in the upper room to celebrate the Passover. Jesus had worked hard to transform their characters and to prepare them for the responsibilities He must place upon them. At this moment of precipitant disaster they argued about who would occupy the highest position in the kingdom they expected Christ to set up. These were decisive days and the definite positions were being occupied.
While the argument went on, one of the number stole secretly into the place of honor at the table. On the Master's left he would be served first. If there was to be a higher place, he, Judas, would have it.This was the natural end of his day-by-day response to the Master's teaching. Unobtrusively another disciple reclined on a couch to the Master's right. He was willing to be last now, if only he could be near Jesus. This was John.
Now, did you ever stop to inquire as to how these two men arrived at this end result? How did they? The answer is simple.
On the one hand, Judas continued to love self above everything else. His ambition was to be served. The pattern of his existence had congealed in selfishness, and Judas refused to have it disturbed. On the other, there is John's submission to the Master's touch. He yielded to the transforming power of the Master's life. He opened his heart without reserve to Jesus, and between him and the Master there developed a more intimate friendship than the others knew. This was not because Jesus was partial, but because John responded with all his heart.
Meanwhile Judas stoned up his heart's door and remained in the gloom of his self-worship. He gradually grew insensitive to what he considered to be the Master's irrational views on economics and His poor political timing. He came to consider everything, including the work of the Messiah, through a human optic. He became oblivious of the surge of the supernatural and the love in the Master's conduct. In short, John was willing to be molded. Not so with
Judas, whose heart eventually turned to stone.
The lesson is for you and me in this office and in the work of God. The decisions we make, the attitudes we take, will determine our progress and development, or our failure. What happens to us day by day is of secondary importance. As a matter of fact, it is quite irrelevant. What really matters is the attitude we take toward what happens along the way.
"If men will endure the necessary discipline," we are told, "without complaining or fainting by the way, God will teach them hour by hour, and day by day."-—The Desire of Ages, p. 251.
God will teach us and mold us according to the excellency and power of His grace— if we will but submit to His teaching. So was it with the son of thunder who became the apostle of love and devotion. Shall this be the story of our life as day by day we do the work entrusted to us? Or shall the record be different—a tale of a bitter failure?
And let us not forget that the story one day will be written up in full. It could be the tale of either of two men. The choice is yours and mine.