Saturday, September 16, 2017

Feeling Sad about Judas

As we draw ever closer to the harrowing last week and triumphal victory over death, I've been doing a lot of thinking about Judas lately. He's often seen as such a one dimensional character, I felt sure there was more to it than that.

He is so often called "Judas Iscariot" that people often think Iscariot is his last name, so to speak.

It's not.

Iscariot means "the one from Keriot," a small southern town in the lower part of the country.

And all the other disciples seem to have come from the Galilee, which is in the North.

Was it something they called him to tease him?

Did it grate on his nerves, as constant teasing tends to do?  Make him feel "less than", not included?  Did it stick in his throat and fester?

Things that fester have the unhappy attribute of spreading a bitterness in your heart that taints everything.  Perhaps his heart became super-sensitive, taking offense at the smallest thing.

Is that why he stole money?

It couldn't have gotten him anything - Judas would know if he suddenly started throwing cash around, everyone would know exactly where he got it.  So the only thing he could have done with it is bury it, or put it somewhere "safe" for use later, when they got to be big man on campus for the new kingdom.

And then there's the fact that Jesus, Who knew he was money hungry, had selected him to carry the funds.

I think He was giving Judas an opportunity to learn how weak he was, to choose right instead of false security.

I always wonder how 30 pieces of silver could have been enough money to buy a field. Did the money he pilfered go into paying for that field too?  As a potter's field, it wouldn't be good for much else - the potter would have scraped every bit of useful clay from the topsoil to make his pots- if there had ever been any topsoil to begin with.

Perhaps he realized that Jesus knew every penny that should be in that moneybag.

And perhaps there should have been enough to feed the 5000 and then some. If he had piped up and offered the $$ to feed people, would Jesus have multiplied the money instead of the bread and fish? Or done some other miracle that would have blessed Judas and changed his heart.

Every phrase having to do with money became a billboard for Judas.  Many times quotes are attributed to "Peter said" or "John said" - the words about money are rarely so noted.

And their inclusion in the Word is interesting.  Nothing is there by chance.  Every word is there for a reason.

Maybe Jesus was showing us that He warns us subtly when we begin making wrong choices.  His response to remarks about money bears study.  Was He speaking to Judas about his wrong choices?

And then there's the kicker.

When Mary of Bethany brings her precious carved marble bottle of nard to break for the purpose of anointing Jesus, Judas loses it.  All that lovely money - wasted!  He can't control himself.  I hear him in my head, speaking in a derogatory tone - "this could have been sold for a hundred denarii (100 days wages) and the money given to the poor."

Those reporting this incident add as a side note (all paraphrases mine) "Judas didn't give a fig about poor people.  He said that cuz he was a thief."

So they knew.

They all knew.

The question is, did they know before or after?

I can't imagine they knew before. Judas wouldn't have been a beady-eyed shifty character they could all recognize -or he never would have gotten the moneybag in the first place. At the same time, I can't believe that Judas was tight with the other guys. Did they trust him?  Like him even?

Jesus was always taking Peter, James and John with Him for special things.  To raise someone from the dead.  To be transfigured.  Always those three.  Peterjamesandjohnpeterjamesandjohnpeterjamesandjohn. Never him.

So when the nard was poured out and he didn't have a chance at all that dough, he couldn't stand it.  Jesus didn't seem to care about any of the things he thought were important.  This wasn't working out the way he'd thought it would.

Jesus went up on that mountain and prayed all night and the next day He chose him to be one of His special 12 followers.


And Judas thought there would be a lot more...well...prestige in the position.  But it was Peter, James and John who got all that stuff. He did get the moneybag.  And he knew how to take the most out of what he'd been given.

And did.

So when he lost the money, his disappointment made itself known.

And what did Jesus do?

In front of them all, all the people at this feast, Jesus rebuked him.
Put him down.

And all because of a woman. How embarrassing!

He couldn't bear it.

The next paragraph always stood out to me in chilling tones.  It reads, "Then Judas looked out for an opportunity to betray Him."

And even then, Jesus gives Judas more than one last chance.

He tells the whole group that one of them will betray Him.  And  they all ask "Is it me?"

Can you imagine how Judas felt at that moment?

Everyone was saying "is it me?"  He couldn't say that, and he knew he had to.

I always thought they said it dramatically, one at a time.  But thinking of Judas, I changed my mind.  If they had, they all would have heard Jesus say "You know it's you (my paraphrase again).  Instead it's recorded that when Jesus told him to do quickly what he had to do, they all thought he went to buy something needed for the Passover.

I think Judas panicked.

It is recorded that the Pharisees did not want to have Jesus killed @ the Passover.

Did not.

I think he ran out of the upper room straight to the Pharisees.

"We have to do it now!  He knows!  He knows!  We have to do it NOW!!"

The pharisees must have scrambled to get enough people together to hold a "court" and a mob big enough to take Him from the apostles and disciples and all His followers, even if they wanted to fight to protect Him. How they must have celebrated in their hearts. "We've got Him now.  We have the power.  Not this ragged Galilean."

So Judas leads the mob to where he knows Jesus will be. When Passover came, the city grew to an estimated million or more people. Remember, the men were required to come to Jerusalem three times a year.  And there were not that many places to buy lodging.  Often the Mount of Olives was a camping place - the families would find a piece of ground to make a fire and cook dinner, to sleep - it lasted a week. And since Jesus didn't have so much as a hole in the ground to sleep in, He would take His disciples with Him to the place across the street from the Temple.

And how heartbreaking it is that Judas betrays Him - with a kiss.

And even then, even then, Jesus gives him another chance.

"My friend!  Why have you come?"

Judas knew He knew why he'd come.  He knew this was his chance to distance himself from this act of betrayal.

And then Jesus asked the mob who they were after.

When they said His name, He responded with "I AM." (the "he" in your Bible was added.)

And they all fell down.

Power went out from Him and dropped them all to the ground. All the cheap ruffians with their clubs and rough ways.  All the guard from the Temple that had heard Him teach and yet could ignore the memories that had so impressed them.

What would you do if you were going to beat up on someone and they turned to you and whoop! You were laid out on the ground?

I should think you would pause and reconsider what you were about to do.

Then Peter chops off some one's ear and blood spurts everywhere and this guy is screaming and grabbing his head - and Jesus calmly picks it up and sticks it back on!

The screaming stops.

The blood stops.

The guy is perfectly healed - no muss no fuss. But with a soggy, bloody garment all could see.

Again, a subject to ponder and a chance to re-evaluate your plans.

But no one even seems to notice.

Doesn't this seem a bit odd to you?

It does to me.

And all I can think of is how Satan blinds you - the further off track you go, the less you can recognize things as being "a bit odd."  And these folks were white-cane-and-dark-glasses blind.

I think Judas had a moment of clarity here..

I think he re-evaluated.

Perhaps he thought to force Jesus' hand and make Him declare Himself king - but surely he would know that his betrayal would disqualify himself from being a BMOC in the new regime.

Was it really because he got in a snit and had a hissy fit? Seriously?

We'll never know.

What we do know is that Judas, indeed, had second thoughts. I think he realized, finally, that Jesus did love him, that He was his friend.  And that he had betrayed very innocent blood.

But, true to form, Judas never humbled himself. He could not repent.  He felt he had to fix it himself.  So he ran to the Pharisees and to show he was really serious, he threw the money at them.  Money!  He willingly threw it away.  Perhaps he thought they'd let Jesus go, and he could undo what he had done.

"Sorry 'bout that Jesus.  I don't know what I was thinking!  But we're ok now, right?"

But the Pharisees laughed at him.  "That's not our problem, buddy - you did it, not us. And what's done is done."

So Judas is left guilty.  He couldn't undo it, though he tried.  He couldn't fix it.  And the ones he thought would value him for giving Jesus into their power laughed at him.

Everyone would know he did it.

Perhaps someone from the twelve would discover and spread it around that he was a thief, too.

There was no place to go, no place to hide.  He'd done an awful thing that he couldn't undo.

Jesus would never forgive him.  Never.

There was nothing left.  He couldn't bear being exposed like that.  He couldn't repent - he couldn't get close to Jesus to talk to him.  Perhaps he tried.  Another thing we'll never know on this earth.

So, he killed himself.

And suicide is always a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Satan whispers incessantly that it's the only way out.  You can't endure it. Your name will be everywhere.  You'll be laughed at and never trusted again.  You'll have to do the meanest of manual labor just to survive.  No new reign and no prominent position. Nothing. No way out.

And yet, when he died he faced something a thousand times worse than exposure.  He sought out peace on his own terms. He didn't go to the Father Jesus had taught him about for 3 years and ask forgiveness. He remembered only too well Jesus saying the Son of Man would be betrayed - and woe to that man doing the betraying.  "It would be better for that man to have never been born."

The evil one blinded him to repentance, stirring his guilt so much he actually thought it would end with death, and he would have peace.

And got hell instead.

In the end, I think Judas worshipped only himself. His pride couldn't take the blows he himself had dealt - he willingly gave himself to the love of money, which the Word tells us is the root of all evil.  It puts you at the center of your existence, it gives you a false sense of power, it makes you think you need no one and nothing else.

So you do things that, at first, singe your conscience.

And then they don't.

So money, and the person behind it, become what you worship.

And salvation something you laugh at.

And you forget, if you even ever knew:

"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God."


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The LORD be with you

My great-nephew left today.

He has been living with us the past few years, going to school, falling in love, making a life for himself. Within a short period of time, he had a group of friends from church that I called his "posse", and shortly after that, a girl that lit up his eyes and heart and became his constant companion.

And then he joined the army.

He is in love with helicopters, and can find and fix its problems. And the army needs men who can fix helicopters. Only two weeks from completing Basic, they got 2 weeks off for Christmas. He went to his sister's house for Christmas, and then spent the next week here.

His sister lives in Redlands with her hubby and 1 and 1//2 year old little son.  They have always been very close.

Well, that's not entirely true.  She did not like the little interloper to her family for the first 10 or 12 years of her life.  One Christmas in particular, she was 6 and he had just passed 1 year old, he wanted to see what she got, too - with the endless energy of a toddler, he circled and circled and never gave up. She did NOT want his fingers "all over her stuff!"

After  almost melting down with exasperation, she gathered it all together, to make it easier to guard ,
but still he could reach it.

So... she sat on it.

Mission accomplished.

But I digress.

At the age of 11 her girlfriends thought he was soooo cute -  so she granted a truce.

And then the most wonderful thing happened.

She accepted Jesus Christ into her life.

And her heart grew 10 sizes that day (Sorry Mr Grinch - got you beat, hands down!) From that day on, she and her brother grew closer every day. They hung out together and she counseled him and they shared their hearts.

And still do.

So at Christmas she invited the entire family to come for Christmas dinner.

Of my original family of 4 kids, 2 parents and a grandmother , only myself and one brother are left.

And he, curmudgeon that he can be, refused to go to Redlands - a mere 3 hour drive.

And I could not find it in my heart to leave him alone on Christmas Day.

So my niece had one less person to bother with, and he and I shared a frozen lasagna for a few hours.

And after that I was alone.

But this kind-hearted young man called me on Christmas to tell me about a special present he ordered for his grandmother and me, checked how my day was, and then told me, "Everyone here loves you,"  ending with "Merry Christmas!"

Quite a lad.

Somehow, after his call, the alone feeling left me. (pausing here to clear my throat and blink my eyes a bit - think I got a piece of something in one…)

My usual New Year's meandering is spent deliberating on my word for the coming year, a thought to concentrate on, day by day.

This year, I've decided on "considerate."

I want to put others first with a heartfelt letting go of my "self".

To train my heart to walk with Jesus and pray for my Father's eyes to be my eyes, my hands to be His hands, my heart to belong fully to the love He offers to one and all, and to let it be poured through my hands and heart - daily, without a moment's hesitation, without withholding a second's worth of energy or a teaspoonful of affection.

I want an open heart, open hand, and arms open continuously to anyone who needs a hug   - or can't move fast enough to escape one.  I want to think up the small things that are really big things when put in the proper perspective, and make sure no one ever suffers that "all alone on Christmas Day" feeling on whatever day it happens to be. To look for those little things that mean so much to curmudgeons and  non-curmudgeons alike. And to drop-kick that "me first" attitude that so easily creeps in thru the cracks in the walls of my heart.

In short, to have an attitude that says, "Everyone here loves you."

I'm gonna miss that boy.