Today, my pastor preached on Deuteronomy 18:9-22, where we find instructions to Israel regarding how they are to know God’s will for them as a people. They are not do what the Canaanites do. When the Canaanites wanted to know the will of the gods or attempt to manipulate the gods to get the outcome they desired, they engaged in all sorts of abominable practices. Israel was not to listen to these people and follow their ways. Rather, God would provide something simple. Instead of sorcery and incantations or brutal sacrifices, God would tell His people what they needed to know. He would raise up a prophet like Moses and this prophet would speak the Words of God to the people. He would tell them God’s will for their lives. In verse 19, God gives a warning of judgment for any those who would not listen to God’s prophet. They would be held accountable for not listening and obeying the prophet. What was laid before the people is God’s way, or their own. One way led to life, the other led to judgment.
In my Bible reading this past week, something jumped out to me that I had never noticed before. In Matthew 27, when Judas realizes his guilt, he goes to the temple to return the blood money he received for betraying Jesus to the religious leaders. The response of the religious leaders leapt off the page. “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” See to it yourself. What a cruel and indifferent response to a confession of sin? And what does Judas do? Wracked with despair, he hangs himself. A few verses later, Pilate is failing miserably at satisfying the mob’s bloodlust. And when it becomes clear that he cannot sway them, he declares that he is innocent of Jesus’ blood and if they wish to see him crucified, “see to it yourselves.” There it is again. See to it yourself. The cruelty ratchets up. Jesus is flogged and then crucified.
The end of “seeing to it ourselves” is always death—whether our own or another’s. Judas changes his mind and goes to the religious leaders and confesses his sin. Will there be forgiveness for him? Will there be an atonement? No. He is guilty before the Law and deserves death. And so, Judas dies. Pilate, raging in frustration at the mob in front of him, knows that killing an innocent man won’t change a thing for these people. But desire fully grown cannot be contained. So he relents, and Jesus dies. Likewise, we who seek to “see to it ourselves” will be tainted by death—either our own and of those around us. But there is another way.
The miracle of the gospel is that death does not have the final say. Jesus does not stay dead. He is the Prophet promised in Deuteronomy 18. He has the Words of God. But not only does He have the Words of God, He came to fulfill the Word of God. He came to redeem those who could not redeem themselves. He came to pay the debt of death we all owe and since he had no debt himself, death could not hold him. He rose from the grave in power to save to the uttermost those who could not save themselves. He did not coldly leave us “to see it to ourselves.” No, he stooped down into the muck of the world we broke to make all things new.
We have a choice. We can “see to it ourselves” and give up in despair or hopelessly grasp at power—seeking to manipulate the gods of our day (and maybe even get what we want for a while). But that way leads to death. Or we can seek out God’s Prophet and listen to him. For only in his words—the Words of God, will we find life.
“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” – John 6:66-69, ESV