(This is my second time writing this blog as I managed to delete all of it last time...RAGE....so hopefully it is good!)
This week I have been contemplating the relationship between Judas Iscariot and Jesus. For how all this started see my previous blog.
It has been quite a journey and I have ended up somewhere I never anticipated that I would. So after 7 days of prayerful meditation, here are some of my musings on the relationship between these two famous figures:
1. Judas loved Jesus. Judas was one of the twelve disciples first called by Jesus. They gave up everything - their jobs, homes, family, everything - to follow a man who called them to something greater. They lived side by side for three years. Judas was one of those sent out to preach in Jesus name, to heal and to cast out demons. He was part of an intimate circle of men who shaped our religion and changed the face of the planet. After thinking deeply about Judas, and trying to stand in his shoes a little, I reckon that Judas probably, at some point, loved Jesus. Maybe it wasn't completely, or maybe it faded, but at some point Judas would have believe in what Jesus was doing, would have followed him willingly and, more than likely, loved him to some extent. You don't wander around after someone for three years if you don't think they might be on to something or if you don't give a crap about them!
2. Judas gets a rough deal by historians. The first time you are introduced to Judas, he is introduced as the one who will betray Jesus (spoiler alert much!). Peter is not introduced as the one who will deny Jesus. None of the others are introduced as those who left Jesus to die by himself. All of these are pretty massive betrayals but that is not how the others are painted. Judas is a villain before he even gets a word out. In fact, this is highlighted in most bible movies or stories where Judas is always portrayed as the kind of shifty-eyed weirdo on the outskirts of the group. But nothing in Scripture should lead us to believe that. He was a part of a group that was bringing the gospel to villages and towns. He was just another one of the boys. None of this is remembered by anyone though. HIs act of betrayal covers everything else he ever may have done. The writers do not want you to forget who the baddy is in this story, and so forever Judas will be known as the betrayer.
3. Judas may have been disillusioned. When Judas gave up everything to follow Jesus. the common belief of a Messiah at the time was one who would come and destroy the Romans and give Israel back to the people. We don't know if this is what he was expecting, but no one was expecting what Jesus showed. Maybe it is not so hard to understand that Judas may have become worried that he was following a blasphemer, a heretic. Maybe he began to worry that he was actually betraying God and not following him. Maybe the temptation of the money along with his own doubts propelled him into action. I am not saying that this is what happened, but it is a potential that Judas became disillusioned with Jesus' ministry after walking around for three years and not really seeing the change everyone wanted to see.
4. Judas may have been forgiven. One thing that I feel most people forget (in fact I did!) is that Judas tried desperately to undo what he had done. It is probable that Judas had no idea what he had started when he betrayed Jesus. Maybe he thought Jesus would get a beating and then be sent on his way. But what the bible does tell us is that after Jesus is condemned to death, Judas tries to undo what he did. He takes back the money in a vain attempt to persuade the Jewish leaders to stop what was happening. When he was denied this, he was overcome with guilt so strong that he killed himself!! Can you imagine being that guilty, that desperate that you would go to that extreme? Can you imagine the grief and pain that he must have been in? In my mind I can see him weeping as he ties a noose, calling out to God to forgive him as he does the only thing he feels he can do and leaps to his death.
The crazy thing is that Jesus did forgive him. As he was hanging on his cross he said "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do". In my mind this includes Judas. He didn't know. He didn't realise until to late what he had done. I am not making a statement about Judas' salvation, I am simply stating that in the face of Guilt and Shame, Jesus offers us all Grace and Mercy. Including Judas. He held out love as hate was poured upon him. He offered forgiveness to those who had fallen so far away
What I have realised during this last week is that I relate to Judas so much. I feel for him. I feel sorry for him in his loneliness and his guilt. I know what it is to have your guts so twisted by guilt that you think death will be the only release. I know what it is to wish for death because life is to hard to face. I know what it is to betray someone who you love and to see the hurt that you have caused them.
I have realised that I am Judas. That we are all Judas. That we are capable of giving our whole lives to something, only to fail and to betray what we love so much. We are all capable of so much love and so much hate. We are all capable of staring Jesus in the face as we betray him.
With this realisation I have found that my black and white thinking around people who have hurt me is too simple a way of understanding who they are. They are people who are capable of great love and great hurt. If I am to live as Christ then I must extend to them the grace and love that he extends to me and Judas. It is a grace that says "I know you have hurt me, I know that you have done wrong, but I know you are capable of so much beauty and I choose to see that, I choose to forgive the ugliness and to focus on the greatness."
This is a hard worldview shift to make. It hurts to let go of the pain. But will I be like Jesus, who forgives, or will I be like Judas, who holds on to the hurt until death? Will I let the pain people have caused, or that I have caused, be the legacy that follows them and me through history, or will I let grace and love be what people remember?
Will I allow myself to learn to forgive as I have been forgiven? Or will I let the darkness consume me?
My prayer is that it is the former.
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