Today is Easter Sunday. The day Christ rises from the tomb. It is a very good day, but our reading schedule has us only at 27:1-14, where Judas takes his own life and Jesus is on trial. While we will celebrate the risen Lord in worship this day, the daily reading will continue through the week of Easter.
Today’s reading is a dark one for Easter Sunday. It is difficult for me to read with any attention all that follows these words about poor Judas: “Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself”. Again I want to refer to a portion of our Good Friday service two nights ago. I believe Judas deserves a deeper look than he often gets. He is often painted so two dimensionally, as just a mere tool to get Jesus to that cross, that his humanity and, I believe, true three dimensional character is lost. Here is what we talked about on Friday:
There may be no character in the Scriptures for whom my heart breaks more than Judas. Poor Judas. The scriptures are hard on him. In Matthew and Mark he is “the betrayer”. In Luke, Satan enters into him. In John, he is darkness and has the devil in his heart. History too has been unkind. His name has become synonymous with “traitor”. But there is something we often forget about Judas and something we often miss about him. We forget that at one point Judas left his life behind to follow Jesus. Just like with many of us, something about Jesus inspired him enough to follow when many did not. We need to remember that about Judas. He followed. And we often miss a key phrase in this passage. We hear “betrayer”, we hear “hanged himself”, and we hear “pieces of silver”; but do we hear, “he repented”? Do we hear the admission of sin, do we hear the word repent, a form of which literally means “to have regrets about something in the sense that one wishes it could be undone”? I don’t know about you, but there have been times in my life where I have had “regrets about something in the sense that I wish it could be undone”.
Have you ever felt that way? Do you feel that way today? Has the weight of your actions toward God or another caught up to you that you feel, like Judas, that you are unworthy of Jesus and his sacrifice? Or maybe it’s not something you did, but something some one else did to you that made you feel unworthy. Judas was in utter despair about what he had done. If the devil had entered his heart, I wonder if it was manifested not in as much what he did, but more so in what he thought of himself for having done it. When he looked in the mirror what he saw was what the scriptures label as him as: “betrayer”. It was true. He did betray. But there was something about him which he couldn’t see, and which was even more true. 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known”. The mirror into which we often look is dim. And in it we see things like “betrayer”, “sinner”, “unworthy”, “not good enough”, “dirty”, “weak”, “unholy”. But on the cross the deceiving steam on the mirror is wiped away and we see ourselves as God sees us. God who fully knows us. It is there in the sacrificial love of the Christ on the cross that what is most true about us is revealed. And what is most true about us is not things like “betrayer”, “sinner”, “unworthy”, “not good enough”, “dirty”, “weak”, “unholy”. What is most true about us is that we are “forgiven”, “beloved”, “righteous”, “holy”, “free”, “alive”, “strong”, “enough”, “beautiful”, “risen with Christ”, and a whole host of other glorious words which God ascribes to us. If only Judas could’ve seen himself in this way.